A Retrospective: Part Four
Last time around we had our third look at DOCTOR WHO the long-running British science fiction series produced by the BBC. Known as The Doctor within the show itself he is an alien Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who travels through time and space in a blue box having wild adventures. As an alien his people have the ability to regenerate themselves when they die. This has enabled The Doctor to be portrayed by no less than 14 actors during its 57 years run. In part one of this retrospective we examined Doctor’s one – three. The second time around we examined Doctors four – six. The third time we took a look at Doctors seven, eight, and nine. This time we are going to take a look at Doctors ten, eleven, and the War Doctor. So fasten your seatbelts it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
The tenth Doctor was portrayed by David Tennat who took over the role from Christopher Eccelston when he departed the show. Tennant’s Doctor was charming and charismatic – perhaps more so that any of the previous Doctors. He had a likeable and laid back sort of personality but with a savage temper. He himself said in dealing with his enemies, “No second chances” – which was often scary.
The tenth Doctor changed companions more often than some people change socks. His first companion Rose Tyler – a holdover from the Ninth Doctor – was obviously in love with him and although it was never explicitly stated the feeling everyone got was that the Doctor was in love with her as well. Her departure from the series affected him and his relationship with subsequent companions. His companions coming and going so quickly, and the distress this caused him, made him attempt to travel without any companions.
But by this we learn that the Doctor needs companions. His traveling alone doesn’t cut it. His companions keep him anchored. They ground him and without them he becomes less. He makes mistakes and bad decisions. But by the time the tenth Doctor has learned this lesson he has become a sad and lonely man.
The tenth Doctor was notable for his changing hair. He had brown hair that he wore in different ways in different episodes. Sometimes it was unstyled, for a trip to the 1950s to see Elvis he had sideburns, other times it was spiky. He generally wore a dark brown with blue pinstripes or a blue with rust pinstripes four-buttoned suit, a shirt and toe, a light brown duster coat, and various colored pairs of Converse All-star sneakers.
The tenth Doctor becomes the Eleventh Doctor – sort-of – in the episode JOURNEY’S END in which the mortally wounded Doctor regenerates into . . . himself. He claims that he likes his present body and therefore regenerated back into himself. This throws off the numbering as he is allowed only twelve regenerations. Most of us didn’t catch this fact.
The tenth Doctor also meets the fifth Doctor in a min-episode TIME CRASH for the charity Children In Need. This was a special treat for Peter Tennant as the fifth Doctor happened to be his favorite Doctor while growing up and he had patterned his interpretation of the Doctor on him – hence the sneakers and putting on glasses to look smarter even though he didn’t need them.
During the tenth Doctor’s run we are also introduced to a woman who would prove very important to the Doctor – River Song played by the delightful Alex Kingston. Although she only appears once with the tenth Doctor she is a recurring character for the eleventh Doctor. The producers tried to keep it a secret as to who she is (forgive the pun) but Whovians have minds like steel traps and we figured out she was the Doctor’s wife. We’ll cover this in more detail when we discuss the eleventh Doctor.
Alas the tenure of the tenth Doctor came to an end. David Tennant decided to move on to other things and his extremely popular Doctor passed away and regenerated into the eleventh Doctor. For me this was especially sad as my favorite Doctor of them all is number ten.
Enter Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor – who then went on to teach us all how to cry.
The eleventh Doctor was the most youthful appearing Doctor – at least at first glance. But then you noticed his eyes and they were clearly the eyes of an old man who had seen and done too much.
The tenth and eleventh Doctors were similar in many ways. Both were youthful, energetic, spirited, friendly, and almost childlike. Both also had tempers and were dangerous when crossed. However, the eleventh Doctor had a need for companionship, he had a need for family which made him seem closer to those around him. When this Doctor loses a companion he really feels it and we cry with him.
Arguably the eleventh Doctor went thru more costume changes then any previous Doctor. At first he wore a brown tweed jacket with elbow patches, a bow tie, suspenders, blue trousers, and black boots. Later the bow tie and suspenders combination in red gives way to blue. A green overcoat replaces the Harris jacket. His original tweed jacket is replaced by a brown jacket. He also wears a “Prince of Wales” jacket and/or a military coat in black or green.
Did I say this Doctor taught us how to cry? He also taught us that bow ties, fezzes, top hats, and Stetson hats are cool!
The eleventh Doctor’s primary companions are Amy Pond and Rory Williams who eventually get married and have a baby. We are reintroduced to River Song who turns out to be Amy and Rory’s baby all grown up. The Doctor and River get married! Yes, I said married. She is Mrs. Doctor Who. I did say she would play an important part in the Doctor’s life.
It is ironic that the most youthful appearing Doctor would be the scariest as well. The tenth Doctor could be scary but the eleventh Doctor took it to new levels. In many ways he was the most dangerous Doctor and not a man you wanted to cross. But his being a champion of Earth and its people had its cost and in some ways he was the saddest Doctor as well.
Now is perhaps the best time to speak about the 50th anniversary special episode and the War Doctor.
The 50th anniversary special of DOCTOR WHO teams up the tenth and eleventh Doctors with a non-numbered previous incarnation of the Doctor. The War Doctor first appears in the episode THE NAME OF THE DOCTOR. The eleventh Doctor refers to him as an incarnation of the Doctor who lost the right to call himself the Doctor. To which the War Doctor claims he had no choice and did what he had to do in the name of peace and sanity.
In the mini-episode THE NIGHT OF THE DOCTOR we see how the eighth Doctor, for the sake of the universe, makes a conscious decision to stop being a doctor and become a warrior. The eighth Doctor then regenerates into the man who eventually becomes known as the War Doctor.
After years of fighting in the Time War, with the universe unraveling because of a war being fought every when, the War Doctor decides to use a super-weapon to destroy both sides in the conflict – the Daleks and his own people the Time Lords.
In the course of trying to use the super-weapon the War Doctor meets his future selves the tenth and eleventh Doctors.
When the War Doctor leaves to activate the super-weapon the tenth and eleventh Doctors go with him to help him having changed their minds about their previous incarnation and realizing he was the Doctor at a time when it was impossible to be the Doctor.
But by putting their heads together the three Doctors come up with a way – involving every previous incarnation of the Doctor plus the twelfth upcoming Doctor – and they only make it seem as if their home world Gallifrey is destroyed. In the process the Daleks kill themselves. The War Doctor is absolved of his guilt.
As played by John Hurt, The War Doctor is a weary old man who has seen and done way too much. He carries the weight of the universe on his shoulders and although bent he still manages to go on.
The War Doctor wore a herringbone scarf, a brown leather trench coat, green/brown waistcoat, and gaiters. He also wore a bandolier. For the first time one of the Doctor’s incarnations had a moustache and a beard. He is my kind of fellow.
Although this has been the only appearances of this Doctor on screen he has had novels written about him, he has appeared in comic books, and there are at least four audio books about him. Sadly John Hurt passed away on 25 January 2017.
Okay folks that takes us thru the tenth, eleventh, and War Doctors. Next we will talk about Doctors twelve and thirteen. Until then I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom. If you’re going to dream then dream big! And if you run into a Dalek – smile and run!