Monday, June 28, 2010

(Sometimes) Rude and (Still) Not Ginger: The Three Faces of the Doctor

Admittedly, I’ve been pretty obsessed with Doctor Who for the past month or so since I watched pretty much the entire first series (of the Russell T. Davies era) while sick over a long weekend. So I’ve decided to devote some space on this blog to Doctor Who content, as you can already see from yesterday’s post. Our faithful guest blogger Sarah also recently discovered the fun of Doctor Who, so I’ve asked her to contribute a guest blog on the subject of the three modern Doctors. We were talking about this subject recently, and I thought she had some interesting analysis. I personally think I would rank the Doctors in the same order she would (from favorite to least, Ten, Nine, Eleven), although I think I liked the Ninth Doctor a bit more. Anyway, enough babbling from me- here’s Sarah.


Hey all. So I am dropping by today for a special Doctor Who post. I’m going to be comparing the three modern Doctors (9th, 10th and 11th) for your reading pleasure. For those who don’t follow the Who-verse very closely, I’ll give a very brief rundown of how there can be three Doctors in the span of 5 series (seasons). Every time the Doctor is near death, he can regenerate, changing every cell in his body and in essence becoming a new person. It’s a handy Time Lord trick but it only allows for a total of thirteen lives (twelve regenerations). So without further adieu, here are the three Doctors of the modern era.

Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)

The Ninth Doctor is the first one we see after the sixteen-year hiatus in Doctor Who. So you would think he would be around longer than one series. But such is the nature of TV and actors and directors/producers having differences of opinion. But really, that’s neither here nor there in terms of the character.

As a character, the Ninth Doctor was rather morbid. It’s clear the Time War still really eats at him. It’s quite raw. You see just how badly it hurts in “Dalek,” in which Rose resurrects a Dalek, the enemy of the Time Lords. Clearly, the Doctor is horrified to see it. He thought he’d left the Daleks all destroyed after the Time War. No such luck. The Daleks just keep coming back (and coming back…and coming back). And his horror shows by the end of the episode when he is entirely prepared to kill the Dalek. Rose stops him, which is what he really needs. He needs someone to keep him in check and help mellow him out.

While he did have a rather morbid time of it, there were times he would be smiling like a loon and deliver his lines like he was the most chipper thing in the world…or he was stuffed up with Botox. He didn’t really flip-flop emotions at any sort of quick speed. It wasn’t at the drop of a hat but he was at least capable of opposite emotions.

His wardrobe was rather blah, unfortunately. Leather jacket, black t-shirt. Who does he think he is, Angel? I mean seriously. I’m not saying the Doctor has to be super fashionable, but his signature wardrobe should have been memorable and it was rather boring. And boring wardrobe honestly, for this viewer, lead to failure to make a lasting impression in my memory.

Tenth Doctor (David Tennant)

As a casting choice, David Tennant was brilliant. He’d wanted to play the Doctor since he was a child. And I think that showed in his performance. He brought everything he had to the role. Plus, I really think Russell T. Davies enjoyed writing for him.

It may have been different if the Ninth Doctor had lasted more than one series, but the Tenth Doctor really took the role and ran with it. He took Nine’s raw pain from the Time War and amplified it. He suffered under the immense weight of losing his people, of being responsible for their demise, really. He had to accept the fact that he was indeed the last of the Time Lords (okay so the Master sort of debunked that, but it’s not the Doctor’s fault the Master had disguised himself as human). And he had to accept that he had a universe full of enemies. But he’s also got this wonderful companion who truly loves him to make it bearable.

I think the relationship and the dynamic between the Tenth Doctor and Rose was really great. They had amazing chemistry, far better than with the Ninth Doctor, and that helped to add to Ten’s character growth. I think with the Tenth Doctor, we see just how lonely he really is. He needs someone with him to keep him from feeling the weight of everything being 900+ years old brings with it. And even though at the end of “Journey’s End,” the Doctor and Rose aren’t happily ever after in the normal sense, I think on a level he is happy that she’s found a version of him that she can be with. Plus, I loved his interactions with Captain Jack. They had a much different dynamic from the Ninth Doctor and you could totally tell Jack thought the Tenth Doctor was cute (silly Jack flirting when he’s got Ianto back home).

I also found the Tenth Doctor’s other companions in general more emotionally moving, especially Donna. Losing Donna the way he did sent him over the edge. As a viewer, I felt the pain when she basically reverted back to who she was at the start of series 4 (well, okay, so who she was in “The Runaway Bride”). Having to take away everything she’d become sent the Tenth Doctor on the path that we saw him take in the Specials.

By the end of “Waters of Mars,” the Tenth Doctor was so pained and desperate that he literally didn’t care if he messed up or changed history. He was focused on the fact that he was the last of his people and that meant he was the winner. He’d beaten time and now he could do what he pleased with it, which led to the (mostly) wonderful ending in the “The End of Time” special. To see everything he thought he’d lost come back in a way really shook him back to reality. For a brief moment, he was no longer alone but he was also able to remember why he’d left his people so long ago. So many of the scenes in the four specials leading up to the Tenth Doctor’s death (and it really was) were beautifully acted by David. He had the skill to go from silly and goofy to menacing and dead serious at the drop of a hat. He made the Tenth Doctor everything he was. He brought in that undercurrent of anger and immense pain. He took the role and breathed new life into it.

For me, the Tenth Doctor is the most iconic. I mean who doesn’t love that brown pinstriped suit, chucks, glasses and coat. He looks sharp and confident. Plus, the suit and coat bring out his eyes which I think help portray the vulnerabilities of the Doctor. In this instance, the clothes really do make the man. The Tenth Doctor will always and forever be my Doctor.

Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)

The UK has just finished airing series 5 of Doctor Who. The US still has a few more episodes to go, but we’ve met the Eleventh Doctor. He’s got a new companion, and fun tidbit; he’s the youngest person to play the Doctor ever. And I have to say, you can really tell the character has changed because you can see it so blatantly in the writing. Russell T. Davies is no longer with the show and it’s obvious.

The Eleventh Doctor has only been around for one series, but it’s very obvious that he is not David Tennant. He plays the character a completely different way. He more often than not is goofy and happy. He’s lost the manic ranting of the Tenth Doctor. He’s lost the ability to switch from silly and joking to deadly serious and almost menacing at the drop of a hat. The Eleventh Doctor seems to have forgotten about everything that has happened in his past. The Time War, the Master, losing Rose. Heck, losing Donna and Martha. All of that weight is gone. And sure, that means he’s moved on but I think having that undercurrent of darkness is essential to making the Doctor who he is. Nine had it and Ten really exemplified it. Eleven’s falling flat. Perhaps I’m just overly partial to the Tenth Doctor and Matt Smith really is doing a good job in the role. I’m just having a hard time seeing any real semblance of the old character.

Eleven’s wardrobe doesn’t help matters any. I know they want a unique style for each regeneration. I’m quite fine with that. But going from Tenth Doctor’s fabulous suits to suspenders and a bowtie is not the way to do it. It’s kind of obnoxious. And no matter what the Eleventh Doctor says, bowties are NOT cool. Here’s hoping series 6 sees better wardrobe and a return to some of the stuff that made the Doctor legendary.

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