Travelling to the past with the Doctor
By: Darian Maduruh
On November 23, a long enduring British icon celebrates his 50th Anniversary.
“Doctor Who” will return to television screens in late November with “The Day of the Doctor,” starring the current lead actor, Matt Smith, as well as his predecessors David Tennant and John Hurt. While in the States, “Doctor Who” has maintained a cult following, in the UK, the show is massively popular.
Created for the BBC in 1963, “Doctor Who” was created as a family show that presented the exploits of an alien named The Doctor. Initially a runaway from the planet Gallifrey, The Doctor spends much of the series traveling through time and space in a time traveling machine called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space). The Doctor is usually accompanied by a human companion in his travels, and they often save people’s lives from monsters, criminals and all sorts of threats. To date, there have been 11 actors to portray The Doctor, with another actor prepared to take over the role from Smith after this Christmas.
William Hartnell (1963-1966): This veteran actor was hired as the first incarnation of the Doctor, who was portrayed as an old man who wore Edwardian-style clothes. At the beginning, The First Doctor was often harsh to his initial two companions, two Schoolteachers and his granddaughter Susan. By the time Hartnell left the role, due to ill health, his character had softened in personality. During his era, we are introduced to the most popular villains of the series, The Daleks, aliens who are locked into miniature tanks and have one goal: to dominate and destroy the universe.
Patrick Troughton (1966-1969): Troughton had the unenviable task of replacing the man who laid the groundwork for the character. Producers decided to explain Hartnell’s departure with a new concept, When the Doctor is near death, his alien physiology can repair his body, resulting in a changing of face and personality. This concept is now referred to as “regeneration.” With a Beatles-style haircut and a fondness for playing the recorder, Troughton has become one of the more popular actors to play the Doctor, even though most of his episodes are missing due to the BBC destroying copies of their reruns.
Jon Pertwee (1970-1974): Taking the Doctor into the 70’s, and color, was Pertwee, whose Doctor was stranded on Earth by the Time Lords, the Doctor’s race. The Third Doctor is often described as being James Bond- esque, with a penchant for using gadgets and cars. During this time period, we are introduced to The Master, an evil version of the Doctor.
Tom Baker (1974-1981): Possibly the most recognizable and iconic version of the character. Tom Baker’s memorable performance in the role brought about big ratings and controversy due to the horror film-inspired nature of the stories during his first three years. The Fourth Doctor’s long scarf is still an easily identified aspect of the character. For many years, Tom Baker was the most popular actor to play the role, portraying the character for seven years, the longest stint in the role.
Peter Davison (1981-1984): Davison’s Doctor was known for being more vulnerable than his predecessor’s in the role, notably having one of his companions die in a story. During this era, the program becomes increasingly violent. Davison’s last story, “The Caves of Androzani,” remains a favorite among fans.
Colin Baker (1984-1986): The Sixth Doctor is very polarizing among fans of the series. His Doctor was known for his highly disliked multicolored outfit and his unstable personality, a result of the regeneration of his last incarnation. Colin’s first story had him choking his own companion. During Colin’s era, the show was being criticized for poor content, with the Controller of BBC deciding to put the show on an 18 month hiatus. Colin was eventually fired by the BBC as it was believed his portrayal of The Doctor was a reason for the show’s declining quality.
Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989, 1996): The last Doctor before the show’s 16-year hiatus, McCoy’s Doctor started off as a friendly figure before his characterization was changed into someone who manipulates the people and situations around him.
Paul McGann (1996): In the 90’s, an attempt was made by the BBC, Fox and Universal Studios to revive the show for both American and UK audiences. McCoy came back to have his version regenerate into McGann’s. His Doctor is notable for having the normally “Asexual” character kissing his companion. This is McGann’s only televised appearance in the role to date, though he has continued portraying the character in audio books.
Christopher Eccleston (2005): When the show came back nine years later, Eccleston played a very different Doctor. His incarnation was a man who was forced to kill both The Daleks and his own race, and because of that he suffered from guilt and anger. Instead of eccentric outfits, he wore dark clothes and a leather jacket. Surprisingly, Eccleston only spent one season in the role, but his portrayal of the Doctor helped bring back credibility to the series.
David Tennant (2005-2010): For modern audiences, Tennant’s incarnation is one of, if not the most popular. His Doctor was very human in attitude, showing off a full range of emotions. He is easily identified due to his brown or blue pinstripe suits, a brown trenchcoat, and converse sneakers. Tennant’s tenure in the role had him regularly placed into romantic situations, and often dealt with the character’s sense of loneliness. Tennant’s Doctor will once again be seen this November.
Matt Smith (2010-2013): The current incarnation of the role is an old man dwelling in a young man’s body. Known for wearing bowties and tweed Doctor’s, Smith’s version of the character has brought back some of the whimsy of his predecessors, all while taking the character to some darker places. In June, Smith announced that he will be leaving the role; his last episode to air is on Christmas.
The 50th anniversary episode is expected to be simulcast on television screens and movie theaters all around the world. As with the anniversary episode, the show hopes to continue pushing into the future.