He is a traveler, a protector, and a force for good — the Doctor inspires curiosity, a love of science, and respect for the notion that brains thwart brawn. Premiering the day after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the show entered a new world where idealism had lost some of it’s innocence and for generations of children and swarms of adults Doctor Who has existed as a counter to that and as an escape and a safe place to imagine and reach for the stars.
As a cabal of nerds, geeks, fanboys, and fangirls, we are duty bound to be head-over-heals in love with the Doctor, and with a new season just days away, we felt like talking about how we found the show and who our Doctor is. I think it is safe to say though, that whether he be old or young, serious or goofy, accompanied by a companion or on his own, every Doctor is our Doctor… even when he’s wearing celery, or maybe a fez.
I remember watching a few Doctor Who episodes starring Tom Baker back in the 80’s and thought it was a pretty wild show with a cooky/loveable lead. I never really got into it, though. It was always on some weird time slot (at age 6 I couldn’t figure out the TV guide) and I was too invested in other programming. It wasn’t until the second season of the modern era that I became a “whovian”. It took me forever to get into the show. I started watching season two about a month after the last episode of season 4. At that point, it had reached cult status on the net. Who fever was everywhere. The buzz was unavoidable. I had to see what all the fuss was about…
I fell in love with the show from the get go. From the moment David Tennant emerged from the TARDIS in The Christmas Invasion, I was hooked. And, funny enough, I never thought I would be. I’m a sci-fi fan and initially thought it was too self indulgent. I mean, come on, an ancient man traveling space and time in a blue police box who fights aliens and woos companions? How ridiculous! Truth be told, the show IS inherently silly (i.e. the whole universe gets destroyed, but it all pops back into existence because Amy Pond remembers it). There are virtually no boundaries or limitations. Anything and everything is possible. You really have to suspend disbelief and just accept that everything is “Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey“. It’s more fun that way. And, that’s the thing that makes it great. The crazier it is the more exciting it is. The creative team doesn’t care about whether something works in terms of physics or science…only whether it works *as story* It brilliantly explores philosophical and ethical dilemmas in alien or future settings. Not to mention, everything is written and performed with conviction. That said, the primary reason to watch the show remains its entertainment value. It’s wild, fun and completely outrageous.
Favorite Doctor: Matt Smith. Look, I adore David Tennant, but the way he rolls his Rs and elongates the word “well” (sounding more like a “whell”) annoys me. Also, he acts like hip college professor. It’s fine but I prefer the manic, zany, brany antics of Matt Smith. He conveys a child-like wonder to everything. It’s really wonderful to have a character who is hundreds of years old, mind you, be so excited and awe-inspired. That resonates with me as a viewer. – Luke Gallagher
Doctor Who has an ethos. A life all its own…I started watching Who when I was three. I am now thirty. That’s twenty seven years of fandom, longer than the original run of the show! When I was five, I held a birthday party for William Hartnell, complete with cake. Nevermind the fact he’d been dead for a decade. He was the Doctor and he deserved his dessert! My love for the show has never diminished. Through cancellation, movie rumors, and Billie Piper, I’ve stuck by it. At one point I was the Lord High President of the Legion of Rassilon, the San Francisco Who fanclub. These days, I’m on the editorial staff of The Terrible Zodin, one of the premier Who fanzines.
I love the notion of a hero who is more apt to save the day using his brain than his fists. A show that values books, ever since the very beginning, and has inspired several generations of readers. A group of creators trying to make new universes out of cardboard and string. It fuels and is fed by imagination. There’s nothing else quite like it, and I suspect nothing will be.
Favorite Doctor: My favorite Doctor is Sylvester McCoy. Poor old Sylv often gets a bad rap from folk, but I think he’s perfect. Equal parts clown and pure alien. He injected a sense of mystery into the show that had been lacking for years. Season 26 is an almost perfect run of stories as you could wish for. He was the face of Who during the Dark Times. He kept fighting for the show long after most gave up hope. His Doctor featured in the New Adventures series of novels, which launched the Who careers of Gatiss, Roberts, Cornell, and Davies. His theme tune is my phone’s ringtone. I don’t think I need to go on from there! – Steven Sautter
I grew up stupid and apart from things like Doctor Who, failing to discover the show until sometime in 2010. In the beginning Christopher Eccleston was my Doctor and then he wasn’t, leaving only a leather jacket and a confused Rose Tyler. I watched “The Christmas Invasion”, saw how Eccleston’s coat looked too big on David Tennant’s knobby shoulders and then I put the show down for months and swore off this new jabbery fool who had replaced my Doctor. Some time later though, I found “Planet of the Dead” and saw a profoundly different Doctor.
Favorite Doctor: The Tenth, aka David Tennant. The Tenth Doctor wasn’t as brusk as the Ninth, but he had a hard edge and a weariness sitting barely on top of a hidden thrill that came out when he was surrounded by danger and long odds like a feared old warrior excited only by a genuine challenge to his supremacy. This Doctor also seemed to be as enamored with humanity as he was with danger, amused by us whereas the Ninth Doctor seemed — at times — to be annoyed.
I took to this new version of the Doctor and I wanted to see how he had gotten to this point — the hurt that he had felt, the loss, and the joy — I wanted to see an evolution and I got exactly that with Tennant’s run. From romancing Madame de Pompadour to fighting Satin, suffering through heartbreaking losses, taking down the Racnoss Empress, the Master, and the Weeping Angels, and facing “The End of Time” — through it all Tennant grew as a performer and the character showed vulnerability, pain, and an incredible lightness among a carnival of torture. It is that growth, that dimension, and the fact that we went through something while watching that Doctor that will forever make Tennant’s Doctor my Doctor. Oh, and I love the way he says “Whell”… “Oh yes!” I do.
Not that anybody asked, but I’ll take Russell T. Davies as my Doctor Who showrunner as well for many reasons, but mostly because he had such a clear respect for the older series and the confidence to reach back into Who lore and let his creation stand beside the brilliant, brilliant past. Moffatt is nice, but it’s Davies take that made me want to go back and explore older episodes of the show as well — something that I’m still working on. -Jason Tabrys
Like a lot of Whovians, I didn’t get into the show till the 2005 relaunch, and even then it took me a couple of years to make the full dive. I was always vaguely aware of the show. It was this weird British thing that looked super cheesy at the best of times on TVOntario (I’m Canadian, you see), so it was sandwiched between Polka Dot Door and Saturday Night at the Movies with Elwy Yost (father of Justified creator Graham, fyi). But in becoming a fan of the new series, I’ve gone back and reconsidered the older episodes and what’s interesting is that aside from the noticeable difference in visual effects, it isn’t that much different: zany aliens, impossible missions, and an ever rotating cast of human companions who become enamored with the possibilities offered by a madman with a box.
The thing I’ve found though is that the ever-growing popularity of the show in North America has rubbed off some of its quirkiness in my mind. If so many people “get it,” Doctor Who doesn’t feel as far-out-there as it once did. But ultimately, I will stick around for the show’s unabashed, throw anything at the wall to see what sticks concept of sci-fi. Old West cyborgs? Yes. Dinosaurs on a spaceship? Why not. Dalek’s using the Empire State Building of the 1930s as a base to promote the evolution of their race into a human-Dalek hybrid? Well that’s just good science. Plus, you have to respect a series that can get away with anything for 50 years, even switching out its leading man 11 times.
Favorite Doctor: Christopher Eccleston. Matt Smith’s Doctor may talk fast about how bow ties and fezes are cool, but Eccleston was a Doctor who genuinely came off as cool. The head to tow black suggested his Doctor was a little bit darker than past incarnations, but the leather jacket also said that this Doctor was a bad ass to boot. And why not? It is suggested that he’s now the last of the Time Lords and that the Doctor himself orchestrated it. It’s almost sad that Eccleston’s biker version of the Time Lord didn’t last more than one season (the actor didn’t want to be typecast after too long an engagement in the TARDIS), but I think the actor and his portrayal was the perfect bridge between bring a skeptical audience reared on cynical sci-fi like The X-Files and Battlestar Galactica back into the more ebullient world of Doctor Who. Tennant gets top marks for his more mad cap performance, but Eccleston deserves some credit for giving him the chance to make his mark. – Adam A. Donaldson
Trying to nail down when I had my first brush with The Doctor is like trying to remember what my favorite class was in fourth grade. It was probably history, I’ve always been a huge nerd like that. But if I try real hard and squish the memories in my brain around I usually come up with the Fourth Doctor adventure, “Ark in Space.” It was shown to me by a friend who knew I was mad for all things sci-fi and British, and well, Doctor Who really is the perfect example of mad, British science fiction. That particular story had The Doctor – this incarnation being Tom Baker with his scarf, hobo clothes, and the occasional Jelly Baby – plus his then companions, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan, arriving on a spaceship only to find the crew in sleep chambers and some giant bug monster roaming the hallways. Y’know, typical 70s Who. I distinctly remember how ridiculous the alien looked, especially when it went into a larvae stage or something and turned into an actor wrapped in bubble wrap, but I didn’t care. I was enraptured. This man, this Doctor traveling around in a “Police Box” had captured my heart, my mind, my imagination, and from that moment I was hooked.
I quickly gobbled up as much of Who as I possibly could. I sought out the original Doctor, William Hartnell and loved him in spite of his crankiness. The Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, I found whimsical and sadly too few of his adventures remain. Jon Pertwee, Doc #3, took himself a little too seriously and being stuck on Earth his adventures were lackluster. The Fourth Doctor was my first Doctor, but he’s not my favorite.
Favorite Doctor: That prestigious moniker goes to the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. From the moment I watched Baker regenerate into the younger, blonder Davison I knew I was gonna like this guy. He’s the second youngest actor to play The Doctor – the youngest now being the current Doctor, Matt Smith, who’s battling David Tennant and Paul McGann for the spot of my second favorite Doctor – and I love the blend of youthful energy and incomprehensible wisdom a younger actor brings to the role. I love that the Fifth Doctor runs around in cricket gear, because only The Doctor would love a sport so British and weird. I love that he goes about sans-sonic screwdriver, he’ kind yet curmudgeonly, and even if he wasn’t blessed with the best crew of companions he cared for each one. And, as of now, Peter Davison is the only former Doctor to reprise his role and interact with a current Doctor. It was in the Children in Need Special, “Time Crash” where the Fifth Doctor and Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS-es collided giving them a brief moment together. Of course, it’s even more mind-warping when you consider that Tennant is married to Davison’s daughter making him the Tenth Doctor’s father-in-law! Yeah, Timey-Wimey indeed. – Sarah Moran
Friends of mine introduced me to the BBC series back in 2005 when Christopher Eccleston was brought on as the ninth iteration of the famed Doctor… and I hated it. Blasphemy, I know, but I was young and stupid back in 2005. After some coaxing, I forced myself to watch the entire season and became enamored with the show. Watching the Doctor and Rose Tyler battle all kinds of beings became quite enjoyable and I finally began to appreciate the series – then I watched the Doctor die. It honestly broke my heart to see the lead actor sacrifice himself, absorbing the energy of the Time Vortex, but he regenerated and David Tennant walked his way into my heart.
Since then I’ve tried back tracking the series, either by watching the older Tom Baker serials or acquiring any DVD copies I can get my hands on at the time, but I’m more of a “current era” Doctor Who fan. I enjoyed the Eccleston era, but have much more of an attachment to both the David Tennant and Matt Smith generations. Not because the seasons feel like they’re written better or anything, but because I feel much more attached to the 10th and 11th Doctors, they’re more care free and open in my eyes, willing to take those risks the other Doctors may have been too inexperienced to take. If there is one thing that a viewer like myself can take out of a Doctor Who episode it’s that the unexplainable may always be the most reasonable answer – and bow ties are cool, always cool.
Favorite Doctor: It’s a bit of a tough decision because every Doctor has their own merits and talents, but David Tennant is and always will be my Doctor. Seriously, how can you bet a Time Lord that brought back a stolen Earth from Davros, team with Spider-Man to defeat an army of pig-men and took on the Devil himself? My vote is swayed though by the fact that David does have a dead sexy accent, lucky bastard. – Nick Bungay
I am one of those people who got introduced to the Doctor via the new series. I’d caught episodes of the old run periodically through my life thanks to the local UHF channels, but back then I never had the patience to sit through the sometimes hours-long serial format, especially when they weren’t always aired together and there was not a guarantee that I’d be able to track down the follow-ups the next day. A return of my attention to the series came when the 1996 made-for-TV movie came out. I thought it looked interesting, but it was just a one shot, so there was nowhere to go after that. Thus, my Doctor Who experience was limited to listening to other people talk about how amazing it was and wondering if they were right.
Once the new series popped up, it was easily accessible through the television or Internet. I heard about it and started watching it from episode one. Being limited in my Doctor Who knowledge, it took me a bit to get into the new series, but thanks to Russell T. Davies my attention was kept. It seemed to me that the series had been updated and had potential to be the next amazing thing coming out of Britain in the science fiction genre. Still, it wasn’t until Steven Moffat’s first two-parter, “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” that I was hooked. The darker edge that The Doctor was taking drew me in and I began to get religious about making sure that I watched every episode the day of airing. Like other series I have loved, I planned my entire schedule around it. Since then, I have attempted to go back and take a look at the original episodes, but still haven’t had the time to really delve into The Doctor’s past.
Favorite Doctor: I’d have to say my favorite Doctor so far is definitely Matt Smith. In certain circles this seems like the unpopular choice, but I must defend my position. Matt Smith, to me, embodies a combination of characteristics taken from all the previous Doctors (at least the ones I am familiar with). He is light-hearted, despite the darker themes since Moffat took over as executive producer of the show. His chaotic nature is fun to watch and he still manages to be clever and focused when needed. To me, Matt Smith was genetically engineered from birth to play Doctor Who and I hope to see him stick around for many more seasons. – Jason McAnelly
I had friends on my case to watch Doctor Who for years and years and I kept avoiding it and putting it off… Finally, one of my friends sat me down and said, “You are watching Doctor Who,” and so I started off with “The Eleventh Hour”, the first episode of the fifth series. And I immediately fell in love with the series. I love the sense of adventure and unlimited possibilities that this show does so well. I threw myself into everything Who for the next while after having been exposed to it and I have since gotten my nephews hooked on it, too. Doctor Who literally took over my life and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Favorite Doctor: I love David Tennant; he’s the best actor to play the Doctor, in my opinion. He had so much versatility and threw himself wholeheartedly into the role. He was phenomenal. The fact that he has a hawt Scottish accent also plays a big part in why I like him so much. But I will have to say that the Eleventh Doctor is my favorite Doctor… and for all intents and purposes, Matt Smith IS the Eleventh Doctor; he’s just so perfect for the role. I think that he’s the perfect mix of all the best qualities of the Doctor that we’ve come to love so far, he’s got this mad twinkle in his eye and all the whimsy and the genuine love for other beings. He’s literally an old man in a young body and I just love all of the little quirks he’s got. I swear he basically has stars trailing along behind him wherever he goes. His theme song is so much more whimsical and curious and light hearted and I enjoy seeing this side of the Doctor. While Ten was amazing, he definitely had more of a darkness and a sadness to him that he was still working through. By the time he becomes Eleven, he’s coming to terms with the past more and more and he’s all the more wiser for it. I’m a little confused about how he completely loses his social skills after that regeneration but I still love him nonetheless. He was also my first Doctor so I’m pretty biased. — Chris D.