Who would have thought that one day, William Hartnell would be inspiring lesbian drawings. (Note: I’m not having a go at the person who did the drawing which is fine. Just the Fitzroy Crowd who created the absurd situation where Bill Hartnell can be a lesbian icon.)
In the previous two entries of this series we debunked the “Doctor Who is all about change, all change is good” arguments and established that there is an identity to the Doctor, and that continuity mattered in Classic Who to some extent (as continuity isn’t just a nerd obsession, but a facet of story telling.)
In this article we will be taking a look at how the 21st century series disregarded as many of the time honoured and defining traits of the Doctor from the start, until they have ultimately completely destroyed the Doctor as a character.
In the Classic era the Doctor it was established from the beginning was a rebel among his people. He had stolen a time machine and wanted to live life by his own rules.
When you think about it, the Doctor has the best life imaginable. Far from being a tortured, angsty character like Angel, the Doctor is the ultimate escapist character.
He lives in a magic box that has all the food, comforts and entertainment he could ever possibly need. He doesn’t need to worry about paying the bills, running out of food. It’s all provided for him by his marvellous TARDIS that will never run down.
On top of that he can visit any period of time he wants. He can hang around with all the cool people from history, stir up trouble wherever he likes and never have to answer to anyone.
On top of all of that when he gets too old, he can just renew himself and become younger and stronger again. (Well he can at least 12 times.)
In stark contrast to characters like Buffy and Spider-Man, the Doctor is a character devoid of all everyday worries. We’d all live his life if we could.
The Doctor also is a scientist who wants to explore the universe and discover it’s secrets. He want’s to be the first to set foot on new planets, to discover new species, new cultures.
Even before we knew about the Time Lord’s this was still the character’s main motivation for travelling. In the first Dalek story, the Doctor memorably risks all of his friends lives just to explore a city he knows nothing about.
Later stories similarly show the Doctor risking his, his friends and even in Susan’s case his family’s lives simply to satisfy his curiosity.
DOCTOR: What is it, Chesterton? We really must get back to
(From the edge of the petrified jungle they can see across a plain to a city)
DOCTOR: Most fascinating.
BARBARA: A city, a huge city.
(The Doctor puts on a pair of binocular glasses)
IAN: Well, Doctor? Can you see anything? Any sign of life?
DOCTOR: No, no, no sign of life. No, just buildings. Magnificent buildings, I
SUSAN: Oh, let me have a look. It’s fabulous. Here, you have a look.
(Barbara takes her turn)
IAN: What do you think, Doctor?
DOCTOR: I don’t know, I don’t know. Whatever it was destroyed the vegetation here certainly hasn’t damaged the city. But there’s no sign of life. No movement, no light, no. No, I shall know more about it when I’ve been down there.
BARBARA: Down there? Oh, no. We’re going back to the ship.
DOCTOR: Now, don’t be ridiculous. That city down there is a magnificent subject for study, and I don’t intend to leave here until I’ve thoroughly investigated it.
IAN: Well it’s too late to talk about it now. It’s getting dark. We’ll discuss it when we get back to the ship.
SUSAN: Yes. Whatever you decide, it’s too late to get down there now.
DOCTOR: Yes, yes, yes, all right then. But I assure you I’m determined to study that place.
IAN: You can do what you like, as long as you don’t endanger the rest of us.
DOCTOR: Very well then. I shall look at it myself, alone.
IAN: You’re the only one who can operate the ship. I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, Doctor. Your glasses.
(Walking back through the jungle)
DOCTOR: Yes, yes, that explains a lot of things, doesn’t it. A jungle turned to stone, the barren soil and the fact that we’re not feeling well.
IAN: Radiation sickness?
DOCTOR: Yes, I’m afraid so. The atmosphere here is polluted with a very high level of fallout, and we’ve been walking around in it completely unprotected.
IAN: What? But how do you explain the buildings? They’re intact.
DOCTOR: A neutron bomb. Yes. It destroys all human tissue, but leaves the buildings and machinery intact. Yes.
IAN: What? But how much radiation, and how badly?
DOCTOR: We need, we need drugs to be treated.
IAN: But where are we going to find them?
SUSAN: The Tardis will have to take us to another time and place where we can be cured.
IAN: But don’t you remember? We can’t move the ship until we find the mercury for the fluid link!
DOCTOR: For the fluid link, yes. Yes, I’m afraid I cheated a little on that. I was determined to see the city, but everybody wanted to go on and, well, to avoid arguments, in short, there’s nothing wrong with the fluid link.
SUSAN: What? Grandfather, do you mean to say that you risked leaving the ship just to see this place?
IAN: You fool. You old fool!
BARBARA: Oh, I ache all over. I have difficulty in keeping my eyes open.
IAN: Yes, I’m about the same. All his fault! Had to have his own way, see the city.
BARBARA: Oh, Ian, that doesn’t help.
In Tomb of the Cybermen the Doctor similarly walks into both the Cybermen and Kleegs trap because he was curious.
JAMIE: You know, Doctor, I have a feeling that man’s planned it all. He knew that that control wouldn’t open the hatch.
DOCTOR: So did I, Jamie.
JAMIE: You knew, Doctor?
DOCTOR: I wanted to know what he was up to.
KLIEG: And now you know, Doctor.
In The Caves of Androzani meanwhile, the Doctor get’s himself and Peri into trouble simply because he’s curious. It always makes me laugh when New Who fans cite Caves as an example of how selfless the Doctor is, when in actual fact it’s a prime example of his selfishness. The Doctor does go through hell to save Peri, it’s true, but that’s only to make up for dragging her here in the first place.
PERI: So you got a merit badge in tracking when you were a boy scout. I’m suitably impressed. Can we go now?
DOCTOR: Er, one moment. Looks as if the tracks lead to those caves over there.
PERI: Is this wise, I ask myself? Oh well.
(They follow the tracks some way.)
DOCTOR: Ah, blow holes.
DOCTOR: Now we’re near you can see they’re not caves, they’re blow holes.
PERI: Well, same difference.
DOCTOR: Not to a speleologist. And not if you’re stuck in one of those things at high tide.
PERI: High tide? I thought you said that
DOCTOR: It’s a figure of speech. You see, the core of this planet is superheated primeval mud. When its orbit takes it close to Androzani Major, the gravitational pull
PERI: Oh, I get the picture. Mud baths for everyone. Well, it’s a change from lava.
DOCTOR: Hmm. Presumably why the planet was never colonised. Androzani Major was becoming quite developed the last time I passed this way.
PERI: When was that?
DOCTOR: I don’t remember. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the future.
PERI: You’re a very confusing person to be with, Doctor, you know that?
The Doctor’s desire to simply play by his own rules somewhat paradoxically made him a straight forward character, yet also quite a complex one too.
On the one hand he isn’t a tormented, conflicted character. He enjoys his life, he knows what he wants out of it, he isn’t on a mission to rid the universe of evil etc. He never sets out to be a hero, but because he is deep down a good person, whenever he sees something unjust or wrong, he will feel compelled to stop it.
On the other hand however the very thing that motivates the Doctor to travel in the first place, can also make him somewhat selfish and unlikable too. His willingness to explore means that he is often willing to risk both himself and his friends lives. On the one hand he can be seen as a rebel, who want’s to live life by his own means, on the other he can also be seen as a lazy hedonist, who shirks all responsibility.
His selfishness can even get in the way of wanting to help people. In many stories the Doctor has to be forced into helping people. (Which is quite unusual for a hero in a mainstream series.)
A lot of the time the Doctor just wants to relax and have a nice time, but some higher power like the Time Lords, the White Guardian etc, will have to take control of his TARDIS, or threaten him with torture and even death to force him to do the right thing.
The 1st Doctor
BARBARA: Ian, wait a minute. The Doctor’s miles behind. I don’t know about you, but I felt terrible leaving that old man. We seem to be his last hope.
IAN: Yes, I wish there had been something we could have done for him.
SUSAN: Oh, come on, Grandfather.
DOCTOR: I’m coming, child. Don’t rush, I’m coming. Well, don’t just stand there, come along, come along. Keeping me waiting.
(He tries to put the key in the Tardis lock, but something is forming a barrier a couple of inches away from it)
BARBARA: What is it?
IAN: Well, it’s some sort of invisible barrier. What do you make of it, Doctor?
DOCTOR: I don’t know. I don’t know. There’s no substance here. Have a look round the side, child. Go along.
BARBARA: It’s like an invisible wall.
DOCTOR: Is it a circular barrier?
SUSAN: Goes all the way round. Can’t see a cause to it.
DOCTOR: No, of course, there wouldn’t be. The molecules would be at their weakest. Ha! It’s fascinating, Chesterton. Yes, I’ve got it, I’ve got it. You know, I think a force barrier has been put up around the ship.
ARBITAN [OC]: I am sorry you forced me to keep you from your ship, but your refusal to help me left me no alternative.
IAN: Arbitan, where are you?
ARBITAN [OC]: That is not important. If you help me find the keys of Marinus, I will let you have access to your machine when you have delivered all the keys to me. If not, you will stay on the island without food or water. The choice is yours.
IAN: Choice? What choice?
The 4th Doctor
DOCTOR: Messing about with my Tardis. Dragging us a thousand parsecs off course.
SARAH: Oi, have you gone potty? Who are you shouting at?
DOCTOR: The Time Lords, who else? Now, you see? You see? They haven’t even got the common decency to come out and show their ears.
SARAH: They’re probably afraid of getting them boxed, the way you’re carrying on.
DOCTOR: It’s intolerable. I won’t stand for any more of it.
SARAH: Oh look, why can’t it have just gone wrong again?
SARAH: The Tardis.
DOCTOR: What? Do you think I don’t know the difference between an internal fault and an external influence? Oh, no, no, no. There’s something going on here, some dirty work they won’t touch with their lily white hands. Well, I won’t do it, do you hear!
GUARDIAN: There are times, Doctor, when the forces within the universe upset the balance to such an extent that it becomes necessary to stop everything.
DOCTOR: Stop everything?
GUARDIAN: For a brief moment only.
GUARDIAN: Until the balance is restored. Such a moment is rapidly approaching. These segments must be traced and returned to me before it is too late, before the Universe is plunged into eternal chaos.
DOCTOR: Eternal chaos?
GUARDIAN: Eternal as you understand the term.
DOCTOR: Look, I’m sure there must be plenty of other Time Lords who’d be delighted to
GUARDIAN: I have chosen you.
DOCTOR: Yes, I was afraid you’d say something like that. Ah! You want me to volunteer, isn’t that it?
DOCTOR: And if I don’t?
DOCTOR: Nothing? You mean nothing will happen to me?
GUARDIAN: Nothing at all. Ever.
The Doctor only ever does things on his own terms, from travelling to saving the universe! Ask him to do anything and it becomes a chore. He will happily stop the Daleks if he feels it’s an old problem he needs to take care of like in Remembrance. He will happily save the world if he lands somewhere on his own violation. Send him on a mission however and he will refuse to do it.
This is what ultimately made the character unique. (How many heroes do you think would not want to help if they were told the whole universe was in danger?) The Doctor more stumbles his way into being a hero, unlike say Buffy who is the chosen one, or Xena and Batman who are on a mission to help the helpless.
The Doctor’s anti establishment nature can make him both an admirable figure, who on the one hand never bows to authority, yet on the other it can make him a childish, selfish git.
Sadly however in New Who they completely changed his motivation.
In the Davies era it is established that the Doctor’s people, the Time Lord’s were killed off in a war with the Daleks.
Right away this removed the Doctor’s status as a rebel among his people. Now he was travelling simply because his people were gone, rather than because he wanted too.
The Deadly Assassin (Classic Who story)
(Engin and the Doctor walk past a long case clock and on to the Tardis.)
ENGIN: You know, Doctor, if you wanted to stay (on Gallifrey), I’m sure any past difficulties could be overlooked.
DOCTOR: But I like it out there, thank you very much.
The End of The World (New Who)
DOCTOR: You think it’ll last forever, people and cars and concrete, but it won’t. One day it’s all gone. Even the sky. My planet’s gone. It’s dead. It burned like the Earth. It’s just rocks and dust before its time.
ROSE: What happened?
DOCTOR: There was a war and we lost.
ROSE: A war with who? What about your people?
DOCTOR: I’m a Time Lord. I’m the last of the Time Lords. They’re all gone. I’m the only survivor. I’m left travelling on my own ‘cos there’s no one else.
See what I mean? Right away a big part of what made the Doctor unique is flushed down the toilet.
As a result of being the last of his kind, in the revival the Doctor actually hates his life. He travels simply because there is nowhere for him to go. In contrast to the classic era, he would love to have somewhere to settle down and have children, but sadly there is no one he can do that with now.
DOCTOR: How did all this get started?
STUART: Outside the Beatbox Club, two in the morning.
SARAH: Street corner. I’d lost my purse, didn’t have money for a taxi.
STUART: I took her home.
DOCTOR: Then what? Asked her for a date?
SARAH: Wrote his number on the back of my hand.
STUART: Never got rid of her since. My dad said.
SARAH: I don’t know what this is all about, and I know we’re not important.
DOCTOR: Who said you’re not important? I’ve travelled to all sorts of places, done things you couldn’t even imagine, but you two. Street corner, two in the morning, getting a taxi home. I’ve never had a life like that. Yes. I’ll try and save you.
DOCTOR: Rose Tyler, Defender of the Earth. You’re dead, officially, back home. So many people died that day and you’ve gone missing. You’re on a list of the dead. Here you are, living a life day after day. The one adventure I can never have.
Now let’s compare that to the Doctor from the Classic era.
My truth is in the stars and yours is here
Steven Moffat would mess around with the Doctor’s motivation to an even greater extent in series 9 of New Who when it was revealed that the Doctor ran away from Gallifrey, because of a prophecy that scared him about a hybrid.
This makes no sense in relation to the rest of Doctor Who. Why did he never do anything about the Hybrid or the prophecy for years? Also why if he was so scared of dying, did he constantly throw himself into the most dangerous situations around the universe?
The worst retcon of the revival to the Doctor’s origins however came in the Chibnall era. Here it was revealed that the Doctor wasn’t actually a Time Lord. The Doctor was an alien from another universe, called the Timeless Child who had the power to constantly regenerate. The Timeless Child was found by a native Gallifreyan called Tecteun after entering our universe. Teceteun then took the Timeless Child back to Gallifrey, where after performing experiments on her (yes her) she was able to splice the power of regeneration onto everyone on Gallifrey, creating the Time Lords.
The Timeless Child would then be brainwashed into being part of a special agency for the Time Lords to fight evil across the universe. Every time the Child would reach it’s 13th life, it’s memories would be wiped and it would be regressed to being a child. Each time however it’s personality would be programmed to become a renegade. The cycle of 12 regenerations from Hartnell to Capaldi, was merely the latest in a line of several billion Doctors. (Rassilon states that Time Lord society is several Billion years old, and so therefore there have been Billions of Doctors.)
This completely robs the Doctor of any agency he had as a character. Ironically where as before he was an individualist character (in both a good and a bad way.) Now he is merely a brainwashed tool of the very establishment he rallied against. At the same time it also makes the Doctor too special in the wrong way.
Before the Doctor was always on the surface, just another Time Lord. He was a bumbling oaf in some ways who made mistakes, stumbled his way into problems, never knew when to quit. Ultimately however what made him special was the fact that he was more adventurous than other Time Lords, had a greater desire for discovery, and over the course of his travels had accumulated knowledge they lacked, and by necessity developed greater improvisational skills.
In short it was because of who he was, not WHAT he was. The same is true of every worthwhile hero. Batman is a hero because of how he chooses to react to his parents murder. Even characters like Buffy, Spider-Man and Superman who are heroes because of their powers, it’s still how they choose to use them. (Compare Buffy for instance to the two other Slayers around her, Kendra and Faith, both of whom are nowhere near as effective despite being as strong because of their personalities.)
Thanks to Chibnall’s ridiculous retcon however, the Doctor is now only special because of what he is, IE a mysterious alien from another universe with unlimited powers, whilst everything about his personality has been created by the Time Lords.
Everything that made the Doctor unique (the fact that he was quite a selfish hedonist, with a heart, or hearts of gold, the fact that he was a reluctant hero, the fact that he was an underdog who managed to be important simply because of his own curiosity etc.) Has been thrown in the bin, simply in order to make the Doctor a more conventional hero (the last of his kind, the chosen one etc.) Whilst ironically all of his agency and development has also been tossed out of the window, as now he was always brainwashed into being a hero by the Time Lords.
The Doctor was one of the few leading characters to be portrayed as an older man. Most action heroes naturally are younger, but even most cerebral heroes like Sherlock Holmes are still reasonably young.
It’s a cliche, but it’s still true that not many people want to see stories about older characters. In this respect Hartnell’s Doctor was quite a stand out, even by today’s standards.
Whilst the Doctor would later be made physically younger, (though not always. Pertwee was actually older in his last season than Hartnell when he started.) The character was still always written as an old man in a young man’s body.
As the Doctors were all meant to be the same person as one another, then naturally Troughton would still have Hartnell’s expeirences and outlook on life even if he was physically made younger. Even Peter Davison who was in his 20s still played the role as an old man in a young mans body.
It’s true that the Doctor could be immature, with both Pertwee and Tom Bakers Doctors stating that they like being childish. Still even then the Doctors immaturity in some cases could also be linked with his great age too.
When we first meet the Doctor in Hartnell’s time, whilst he’s still young for a Time Lord, by our standard he has lived a full life. He has been married, had a family, raised children, seen them go off have lives of their own, even have children on their own. He’s also been through the worst loss a person can live through.
It’s never outright stated, but it is strongly implied throughout the Classic era that the Doctors family died at some point before he left Gallifrey.
It’s the only explanation that makes sense based on the few scant details we know about the Time Lords life.
To start with his granddaughter Susan is in his care. Remember that Susan is just 15 years old in her first story, and is meant to have been travelling with the Doctor for many, many years. With this in mind it doesn’t seem likely that the Doctor would steal a small child away from his own son or daughter, and then never tell them what happened to her.
Furthermore whenever the Doctor goes back to Gallifrey his family are never mentioned. Fair enough he may be on bad terms with them, but still you’d think they would be interested when he is put on trial for, breaking the laws of Gallifrey, killing the President, carrying out a genocide etc. (Even more so if Susan’s parents don’t know what happened to her.) You’d think they’d be called forward as character witnesses at least, but they are never even given so much as a mention.
Finally the only time the Doctor mentions his family directly is in The Tomb of the Cybermen, where the Doctor talks about them in the past sense and relates to Victoria losing her father, which more or less confirms they are dead.
With this in mind it seems obvious that the Doctor always wanted to explore the universe, but like a lot of people, put his crazy dream aside when he fell in love with whoever his wife was, and raised a family.
He had a normal life for years back on Gallifrey that he loved, but sadly in some accident, natural disaster, revolution, or perhaps an alien invasion of Gallifrey, his wife and children were killed, and Susan fell into his care.
Afterwards the Doctor then decided to finally live out his crazy dream, as no one could replace his wife and children and his work in exploring the universe keeps him going. (Added to that many of his companions can also fill the whole left in his life from his children, and later Susan.)
It also explains ironically why he can be so childish, as ultimately the Doctor feels he has already lived a normal life, raised a family, and therefore should be allowed to just do what he wants now.
As a result of this the Doctor was a very mature character when it came to coping with loss, and life’s hardships.
Throughout the entirety of Classic Who, we never see the Doctor let his emotions cloud his better judgement (unless it’s his curiosity) or completely lose his cool.
He isn’t emotionless like Mr Spock. We do see him get angry, shout, get visibly upset, but he never completely loses his cool, and say risks everybody’s lives because of his seething hatred of the Daleks. Whenever he loses someone close to him, he never completely breaks down into floods of tears and loses the will to go on.
Examples of this include his reaction to Katarina, Sara Kingdom and Adric’s deaths as well as Jo Grant and Peri’s apparent deaths. In all instances the Doctor is devastated but keeps a level head. Peter Davison rejects his companions ideas of going back and saving Adric because it will change history, the Third Doctor turns Jo Grants final message that she left him into a weapon against the Dalek, and whilst in Katarina’s case the Doctor remains focused against the Daleks.
Much like his rebellious nature, the Doctors maturity and great age could be both a negative and positive trait.
At certain points it could make the Doctor feel like a safe, comforting presence such as in Tomb of the Cybermen. He was a character who knew all of life’s problems and hardships, and could help his younger companions and even to some extent the younger audience through coping with loss.
On the other hand however, the Doctors level headed, practical nature at times could come off as very cold and distant.
On the flipside of his touching moment with Victoria about her fathers death, is his callous reaction to Lawrence Scarman’s death at his brothers hands in Pyramids of Mars which both shocks and horrifies Sarah Jane.
Sadly once again this defining aspect of the Doctors character was all but jettisoned from the 21st century series.
The New Series Doctor is generally portrayed as an emotionally fragile, and very immature character. In stark contrast to his Classic series predecessor, he almost never keeps his cool, allows his emotions to constantly cloud his judgement and can never cope with loss of any kind.
Examples include, in Dalek when the Doctor goes so insane he plans to gun down a helpless Dalek mutant, and has to be pulled back by Rose. In The Runaway Bride, after losing Rose, the Doctor goes so insane that he carries out a genocide and had it not been for Donna, would have killed himself. (Bare in mind that unlike Adric, or Sara, Rose isn’t even dead. Yes it’s very sad for the Doctor that he can’t see her again, but at least Rose is living a fabulous life in a big mansion somewhere, unlike poor old Adric who was blown to a million pieces. Evidently however the 5th Doctor despite being younger is able to cope a lot better.)
The 11th Doctor is no better as after losing Amy and Rory he has a complete mental breakdown and quits being the Doctor for a long while, whilst the 12th Doctor after losing Clara, willingly undergoes 4 and a half billion years worth of torture and risks destroying the entire universe and shoots an unarmed man, simply because he can’t cope with her death.
In fact the new series makes a point of having the Doctor not being able to cope with death, from River’s “he doesn’t like endings” to 10’s trying to save Astrid when she is clearly beyond saving “I CAN DO ANYTHING” to 12 being lectured by Ashildr on how to accept loss.
This scene is literally the polar opposite to the Doctor comforting Victoria. Why is it that 12, who is thousands of years older than 2 is so much worse at accepting loss?
Overall it seemed to me like Russell T Davies was desperate to rewrite the Doctor into being a younger Peter Parker, Buffy style hero that young boys watching the show could relate to.
Hence the Tenth Doctor engaging in a romance with a young character like Rose, his telling Wilfred Mott that he would be proud if he was his dad etc.
A youtuber by the moniker of Channel Pup recently said that he feels a female Doctor would work as in his mind the character of Buffy was already a female counterpart to the Doctor.
Now Channel Pup is primarily a New Who fan. I’ve enjoyed some of his videos and I have nothing against him personally. (In fact I even invited him to write for my alternate sequel series, but sadly nothing came of it.)
I didn’t like Channel Pup’s attack on Bowlestrek. I feel it was nasty and hypocritical. (Channel Pup complained that the Doctor Who fandom, collectively wasn’t showing enough kindness whilst telling Bowlestrek he looked like a cinema masterbator!)
Still generally speaking I don’t mind Channel Pup, but the fact that he thinks Buffy is in anyway a female counterpart to the Doctor, to me shows how much New Who changed the character.
Buffy is the polar opposite to the Doctor in almost every way. (Not that that makes Buffy a bad character. Buffy is a classic character, and it’s good to have a wide variety of different types of heroes, but she definitely isn’t the same type of character as the Doctor.)
Buffy is young, at the very beginning of her life, deals with everyday problems, like working a terrible 9-5 job, fitting in at school, her mother dying of natural causes etc.
How is that comparable to an ancient alien, who has lived a full life, lives outside of the normal world in a magic box where everything is provided for him, has no real life worries at all?
These two quotes from both characters I think demonstrate the differences between them perfectly. Both involve the characters facing their own mortality (in Buffy’s case she has been told of a Prophecy stating the Master will kill her, whilst the Doctor is walking straight into a death trap.)
Giles: Buffy, if the Master rises…
Buffy: (yanks the cross from her neck) I don’t care! (calms down) I don’t care. Giles, I’m sixteen years old. I don’t wanna die.
TEGAN: Do you feel weird, Doctor?
DOCTOR 1: Full of strange fears and mysterious forebodings?
TEGAN: That’s it.
DOCTOR 1: No, as a matter of fact, I don’t. It’s all illusion, child. We’re close to the domain of Rassilon, whose mind is reaching out to attack us. Just ignore it, as I do.
DOCTOR 1: Fear itself is largely an illusion. And at my age, there’s little left to fear. Hmm. No, there’s nothing here to harm us.
Now again that’s not to say that Buffy is a poorer hero than the Doctor. As I said before it’s good to have a wide variety of heroes in fiction, but you see my point that as characters the Doctor and Buffy are polar opposites, yet someone raised on primarily the new series can actually think that Buffy represents the female counterpart to the Doctor? I think that shows exactly what I was saying is true that Davies turned the Doctor into a younger, more immature character all around.
As for Channel Pup’s other point that we have already seen a female counterpart to the Doctor, so a female Doctor could work, that is also bogus. No one ever said that there couldn’t be a female character like the Doctor, (I presonally resent the idea that I need lectured on female heroes by someone who only saw Buffy of all shows for the first time last year. I was watching Buffy before he even knew what Doctor Who was!) The point was always would a female Doctor follow on specifically from her male predecessors, which I’ll examine later in this series.
His Moral Code
Throughout the Classic era, the Doctor always had the same moral code. Whilst some Doctors might be more up front about it, and others more haunted by their actions, at the end of the day the Doctor would always react in basically the same way.
The Doctor prefers non violent solutions to problems. If there was a peaceful alternative he would take it. He will also never kill out of anger, or revenge or when an enemy is unarmed.
That said if he has no other choice, then yes. The Doctor absolutely will kill to protect himself, his friends and the universe at large, and he won’t think two seconds about it. Furthermore the Doctor will kill using any means necessary. Guns, knifes, blunt instruments, explosions, bio weapons, poison, fire, wild animals, the Doctor has used all of these methods to kill his enemies and never shown any reluctance or regret afterwards.
The Doctor is also not discriminate when it comes to the type of creatures he is willing to kill. He has murdered several human villains over the course of the series, such as Professor Solon, members of his own race such as the Master and Morbius (both of whom he was happy to kill) and of course monsters like the Daleks.
The only time the Doctors moral code is ever called into question is if he is dealing with an enemy that is so dangerous, their very existence is a threat to the universe at large. In these special circumstances then he may kill even when his enemy is unarmed, but he will always be shown to wrestle with it.
Examples include the 4th Doctor contemplating, but ultimately being unable to blow the Daleks up in Genesis of the Daleks at their point of birth when they are unarmed and helpess, the 5th Doctor contemplating gunning down Davros when he is helpless and unarmed, and the 7th Doctor blowing Davros up. (With the 7th Doctor being determined not to repeat his previous mistakes, but still being shown to struggle with the decision in the famous cafe scene.)
Once again this helped the Doctor stand out somewhat among other heroes. Most family friendly heroes will never kill their enemies, such as Superman, Spider-Man or even Batman (in most versions.)
Anti heroes meanwhile such as Avon from Blake’s 7, James Bond and Wolverine will often kill as a first resort.
The Doctor however fell somewhere in the middle in that he didn’t like violence, but was practical enough to know that sometimes there was no other way. His violent reactions were never out of anger, or malice. They were measured and because he had no other choice.
Sadly however New Who once again threw this element of the Doctors character away. In the revival, the Doctor has a totally unreasonable hatred of guns, specifically in his 10th and 13th incarnations.
The 10th Doctor refuses to let his companions use guns, even when aliens wielding guns are invading, when a horde of flesh eating cannibals are about to descend on them, or best of all in The Stolen Earth when Davros is about to detonate a bomb that will destroy every universe. The Tenth Doctor actually screams at his clone not to use a gun against Davros, seconds away from the reality bomb destroying everything. He’d rather everyone died than a gun not be fired?
The Tenth Doctors hatred of guns is not only hysterical, and as far away from the level headed, practical Doctor as you can get. It is extremely hypocritical too. He regularly uses weapons that are just as, if not more lethal. (I’m sure the alien you blew to pieces will appreciate the fact that you didn’t just shoot him.)
Ironically there are times when using a gun would be more humane than the method the Doctor uses to kill his enemies. A notorious example of this can be found in the 13th Doctor story Arachnids in the UK, when the Doctor refuses to let a bad Donald Trump parody shoot a giant Spider, (arguing that giant man eating Spiders deserve to be treated with respect.)
Instead the Doctor locks the giant Spiders in a room where they will either starve to death, be forced to eat one another, or be crushed under their own body weight.
What’s worse is that on top of all of this, the New Who Doctor regularly goes too far the other way.
In Human Nature/Family of Blood, the Doctor condemns a race of aliens to an eternity of torture. Now the aliens in question are evil, but still they are nowhere near the most evil creatures the Doctor has ever come into contact with. (Later that very same season, the Doctor goes on to hug a bigger mass murderer the Master, make of that what you will.)
The Doctors treatment of the aliens in Family of Blood is sadistic and totally unnecessary. He could have easily disposed of the aliens, yet he chose to torture them, simply for his own amusement.
All of this not only destroys a vital part of the Doctors character, but also makes the revival era Doctor a difficult character to root for in his, or her own right. Essentially we have a hero who will condemn people for using a gun in self defence, simply because they don’t like guns, yet indulge in a bit of torture when it amuses them.
Throughout the Classic era, the Doctor was almost always depicted as asexual. He never showed any interest in any of his female companions, and all of the actors who played the role, from Jon Pertwee to Sylvester McCoy all said the Doctor was firmly asexual.
It is true however that the series never explicitely stated that the Doctor was asexual, and indeed other members of the Doctors race were shown to sleep with, and even fall in love with humans (The Master, Susan etc.)
Added to that the Doctor did have a grand daughter and his family are mentioned at one point. Nevertheless the character never had any romantic relationships and for good reason.
To start with this helped Doctor Who to always remain focused on the sci fi and adventure aspects of the series. Sadly many other genre series I think end up becoming too obsessed with the lead characters love life, which eventually drags the show down into soap opera territory.
Buffy is a classic example of this during its sixth season, where the horror and fantasy elements were toned down and pushed to the background.
Furthermore as a character the Doctor just isn’t designed for love stories. He is constantly travelling, so there is no way we can have him settle down. He is an alien from the most advanced race in the universe, so advanced that even the most intelligent human would seem like a child to him. On top of that if he were to meet a nice Time Lady that he fell in love with, she would have to be ripped from him if they were really in love. (Either that or she would have to remain with him for the rest of the shows run, which would get stale.)
You could maybe get away with doing that once, but eventually if you keep doing it, then you are going to undermine each love interest as the Doctors one true love.
As to why the Doctor is asexual, I always felt it was more to do with the death of his family. The way I see it, the Doctor doesn’t want that kind of life again. No one can ever replace his wife and children who died, and he now as he said to Victoria, uses his travels to distract himself from their loss.
It’s as simple as that. (Also most of the women the Doctor travels with are not only human, but much younger than he is, and are often more surrogate replacement figures for Susan.)
Again however New Who threw this aspect of the character away. The New Who Doctor is in contrast a very romantic character, and what’s worse is that his love interests are often quite inappropriate for the character.
Rose Tyler is just 3 years older than Susan and younger than Ace, Jo Grant and Vicki, all of whom it would have been incredibly creepy for the Doctor to end up with. Sure David Tennant looks younger than William Hartnell, but remember he is still meant to be William Hartnell underneath his new face.
Added to that the New Who team often attempted to sex the Doctor up, by having him boast about his conquests, slap his companions across the bum, make jokes about “that’s how I pick up girls”, and snog just about every young woman he comes into contact with.
Not surprisingly the romance between the Doctor and his companions often helped to distract from the sci fi and fantasy elements of the new series and meant that they were often not as well developed as in the original series. (Though there other reasons for this, such as the focus on soap opera, shorter length of stories, but still the romance between the Doctor and his companions undoubtedly played a role.)
In the classic era all of the different incarnations of the Doctor were all meant to be the same person fundamentally.
In the classic era regeneration was really nothing more than an advanced form of healing. The Doctors body broke down and then repaired itself, but when it repaired itself, it changed appearance. It basically rebuilt itself from scratch.
The Doctors outer persona was given a shake up as a result, but his consciousness, core personality, memories, morals, motivation all remained the same.
This isn’t just my opinion, all of the most prominent people involved in the original series, Robert Holmes, Terry Nation, John Nathan Turner, Terrance Dicks, all held that opinion as did every actor from Patrick Troughton to Sylvester McCoy.
You only have to look at how the Doctor is written to see it. If all of the Doctors are totally different people, then why would Peter Davison feel guilty for not destroying the Daleks in Genesis of the Daleks and be determined to make amends now?
TEGAN: Where are you going?
DOCTOR: To kill Davros.
DOCTOR: I must. Davros created the Daleks. He must not be allowed to save them.
TEGAN: But murder?
DOCTOR: Once before I held back from destroying the Daleks. It was a mistake I do not intend to repeat. Davros must die.
That wasn’t him? Why feel guilty at something Tom Baker did? Similarly whenever he meets characters that know him through multiple lives, the Brigadier, Davros, the Master etc, he mentions old times with them (for better or for worse.)
Why would Colin Baker say to Davros “last time we met” when it was Peter Davison? Why would Jon Pertwee when he mets the Brig for the first time tell him that it was good to see you again old chap?
The only time the Doctor suffers a huge change in personality is in The Twin Dilemma, but this is meant to be because his regeneration has gone wrong due to the poison. His mind has actually been damaged for once, and the 6th Doctor is genuinely shocked to hear he attacked Peri in a psychotic fit, stating that he would never attack someone unprovoked. How does he know however? If he is a totally different person however, how does he know that’s not just who he is? Clearly he is basing his personality on his 5 predecessors.
With all of this in mind the Doctor was clearly meant to be the same person throughout all of his lives in the original series. None of his development, or relationships with other characters make sense otherwise. Added to that the Doctors being the one character, gives him an identity in popular culture and stops him from just being a title, or a legacy character.
Sadly however in New Who, Russell T Davies did retcon it that the Doctors are all different people after all in The End of Time with the 10th Doctors notorious exit. The 10th Doctor outright states that when he changes he does die and that only the memories go on.
This retcon not only made all of the Doctors development unimportant (who cares what happened to Jon Pertwee, as Tom Baker is a different person) it also undid all of his relationships with other characters too. Now the Brigadiers friendship is with 7 different characters rather than one, as is Davros’ feud with the Doctor.
Also it yet again took away something fairly unique about the Doctor, that he could change, yet still be the same character. Now the Doctor has been reduced to just being like the Slayers in Buffy, or the Trill in Star Trek, or the Van Helsing family, IE a line of heroes, or a title passed down through the ages.
Clearly the same character.
As you can see the revival really wasn’t interested in carrying on the character of the Doctor from the original series.
Even as far back as Eccelston’s time there were virtually no similarities between the 21st century version of the character and the original.
Everything that made the Doctor unique was jettisoned in the hopes of making him a more conventional hero. Clearly the new series writers either had no interest in, or perhaps disdain for the original core characterisation of the Doctor.
Even the more minor, but still strong characteristics of the Doctor that ran from incarnation to incarnation were abandoned in the revival. For instance physically the Doctor always tended to dress in more Edwardian, Victorian clothes, and his hair tended to be longer and bigger to reflect his bohemian nature. In the revival, Christopher Eccelston’s Doctor had short, almost shaved hair, and wore a modern leather coat. Tennant’s looked was also very contemporary and modern too. Matt Smith meanwhile did reflect the original Doctors appearance more with his tweed jacked, bowtie and long hair. Even then however I feel this was more on the part of Matt than Moffat who originally wanted to dress Matt in more modern clothes.
The Doctor was also depicted as being a highly skilled fighter in Classic Who too. All of the Doctors (save Patrick Troughton) did a fair bit of fighting, but in the revival save for a few times as Capaldi, and one sword fight with Tennant, he almost never does. (In fact ironically Chibnall said a defining feature of the Doctors character was that he never throws punches, completely overlooking the two longests serving incarnations Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee who regularly threw punches!)
Other than the very basic idea of the Doctor being a time traveller, everything about the character from the original was tossed out. (All of this is before we even get to the gender change which will explore in a later section of the series.)
In the next part of this series we will examine how New Who became so obsessed with rewriting its past it became stagnated in the present.