Friday, August 10, 2012

The Top Eleven Doctors

So the other night on Earth Station Who the subject of favorite Doctors came up.
Well, that comes up on almost every ESW podcast, but in this case it was more of a listing type of deal. We didn’t get too deep into it – it was more of a passing comment. But right at that moment it got me to thinking about how I would rank the eleven Doctors we have seen so far. Not necessarily a fun task, but something that gives me a post.
            Before I get down to the nitty gritty, let me be clear – I like every single one of the Doctors in some way. There isn’t a one I outright dislike – not even Colin Baker. What made putting this list together was not only that each of the actors that has portrayed the Doctor is so good, but the fact that there are so many different things to take into consideration. It’s not just the performance of each person that sways my opinion. I know maybe it should be, but I’ve never claimed to be objective. I’m going to use everything at my disposal to come to any conclusions.
So the fact that Colin Baker has been such a wonderful ambassador for Doctor Who over the years gains him favor. The fact that Christopher Eccleston has (until recently, anyway) not been so positive about his time as the Doctor kind of drops him down a bit, but the fact that the success of the franchise was squarely on his shoulders in 2005 and he pulled it off wins him points. As stupid as this is going to sound, the fact that Hartnell and Troughton were all black and white hurt them a bit, even though “Tomb of the Cybermen” is one of my favorite stories.
Also affecting my ratings is just how much of each Doctor I’ve seen. I have seen all of Pertwee, McGann, Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith’s stories. I’ve seen tons of Tom Baker, lots of Colin, a few Davisons, and a few more McCoys. I want to see more Troughton, and to be honest I’ve seen as much Hartnell as I care to for now (I know – go ahead and say nasty things about me in the comments you Doctor One fans). I like Hartnell’s Doctor, but the stories I’ve seen thus far are not exciting.
Then there are all of the audio productions, none of which I’ve heard. I’m talking here about the Big Finish original stories, not the audio releases of televised stories. I’d love to get into those at some point, but it’s a daunting task. There are an amazing amount to choose from and I just don’t know where to start. I think whenever I do I’ll start with McGann just because I’d really like to experience more of his Doctor.
Apparently McGann is quite beloved for his performances on the audio dramas. I totally get this because I thoroughly enjoyed him just in the FOX TV movie and it was pretty awful. Like Sylvester McCoy before him, he rose above his material.
So now it’s time to piss everybody off. Nobody is going to agree with my list and that’s okay because it’s my list. Trust me – this thing was tough. I had to finish once I started, but it turned into something I kind of didn’t want to do. I have always know who my favorite three or four Doctors were, but they kind of moved around and I never thought too much beyond that. But now I have. I was definitely a little dismayed at my treatment of some of the Doctors, but what are you gonna do?
11 – William Hartnell
I know. I’m a terrible person and probably a lousy Doctor Who fan. But If a deity showed up and told me I had to pick one Doctor whose adventures I could never again experience it would be Hartnell. This is not an indictment on the man or his performance as everybody’s favorite Time Lord. But somebody had to be #11 and Hartnell does the least to hold my interest out of all of them. I think it’s more the production of his stories and not particularly caring for his companions than it is anything about Hartnell.
10 – Colin Baker
As much as I like Colin Baker as a force for Doctor Who, his Doctor is still mostly awful. He’s off-putting, he had bad companions, and I don’t care how you look at it his costume was a nightmare. Throw in an awful lot of bad stories on top of that and it lands Mr. Baker in the #10 spot. But I do still thoroughly enjoy “Trial of A Time Lord”. Sorry – I just do.
9 – Paul McGann
McGann is another victim of circumstance. I just haven’t been exposed to anything other than the TV movie. But I liked him an awful lot in that brief performance I would like to see (or hear) more.
8 – Peter Davison
This is where things really started to get tough. I was a little surprised at where Mr. Davison ended up. But as I catch up on his stories, I realize I saw a lot of them when I was a kid and just don’t remember them very well. Or Davison’s performance. There was also the deadly grudge I held against Davison for replacing My Doctor. I didn’t hate the guy, but I certainly wasn’t overjoyed to see him every Saturday night. Don’t get me wrong – I am enjoying the stories now and it’s starting to seem like Doctor Five is Lil’ Troublemaker’s favorite, but #8 is just where he ended up.
7 – Patrick Troughton
I have only recently been exposed to any of Doctor Two’s stories, but I love the guy. If I do this list again two years from now he might be higher up. Each new Doctor has saved the show in his own way, but if Patrick Troughton hadn’t been the charismatic dynamo he was things would have turned out very differently. “Tomb of the Cybermen” is one of my favorite Doctor Who stories. Partially because the Cybermen are scary as heck, but also because it was the first Troughton story I saw and he dazzled me. I have a stupid resistance to most black and white stuff. Now, I prefer the B&W version of The Mist, Creature From the Black Lagoon is one of my favorite movies ever, and I really dig (Jim Jarmusch movie). But more often than not if I see something is black and white I am less interested in it. I essentially watched “Tomb of the Cybermen” the first time only because we had watched all of the other Doctor Who Netflix’s streaming service had to offer. And I absolutely loved it. Troughton sold me.
6 – Christopher Eccleston
Russell T. Davies may be the man that resurrected Doctor Who after a nine-year coma, but Christopher Eccleston is the man who did all the rehab and kept it healthy and running. If people had not connected with the man playing the new Doctor back in 2005, I wouldn’t be writing this list today. Well, I probably would, but it might be two entries shorter. And Eccleston doesn’t just get credit for reviving the franchise; he was also a fascinating Doctor. Every classic fan who tuned in was just waiting for any inconsistency with what they knew or flaw in performance to call this new Who a fraud. But Eccleston was wonderful right up through the end. Capable of McCoy’s intensity and Troughton’s humor, Eccleston had the range to pull off a universe-weary traveler who had just barely crawled out of Hell. It’s a shame he only lasted one season, because I think he had it in him to be one of the very best.
5 – David Tennant
Let’s just be crass for a minute and admit that if William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison (especially him), Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy all had a big orgy that somehow produced a Time Lord baby it would undoubtedly be David Tennant. In a way that was entirely original and not at all derisive, Tennant’s Doctor was a mesmerizing mishmash of all of the classic Doctors. Where Christopher Eccleston played a very different Doctor than we had ever seen before, Tennant paid tribute to all of the Doctors we had seen in a way that made his run on the show seem like an old friend to fans and was just a fun ride for newbies. Tennant is easily the most user-friendly Doctor out of them all. If it weren’t for the fact that I have seen his run more than any other Doctor and am suffering from a bit of Tennant fatigue – the specials are great but, man are they downers – I would have had a tougher time placing Doctor Ten in my top five.
4 – Sylvester McCoy
Out of the Classic Doctors, McCoy is my second favorite. Which means that for years he was my second favorite. Up until about two years ago, as a matter of fact. But we’ll get to that. For now I’ll just say that Sylvester McCoy is a dazzling and mesmerizing actor that made some truly awful stories not only watchable but engrossing. I still love where the producers seemed to be heading with Doctor Seven and Ace. It’s a shame we probably won’t ever find out.
3 – Jon Pertwee
Kismet! Doctor Three is #3 on my list – through no planning on my part, I promise you. Seeing Pertwee’s entire run as the Doctor a couple of years ago is the first thing that bumped McCoy down a notch – at the time to this spot. Pertwee is the James Bond of Doctors – stylish, smooth, and about as arrogant a fella as you could meet. Many of Pertwee’s stories went on for longer than was necessary, but his performance was always top-notch. It took me exactly three stories to decide that Pertwee was my second favorite Doctor.
2 – Matt Smith
And then Matt Smith really got me. I liked him just fine when he started. I had a bit of Tennant fatigue and was ready for a new face. There was none of that grudge-holding that I had with Peter Davison. Doctor Eleven won me over from the start as a worthy Doctor, but he started to become a favorite around “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone”. That two-parter is where I feel like Smith really stepped into the role and started to forge his doctor. It could be said that from the moment he confronted the Atraxi at the end of “The Eleventh Hour” was that point, but I didn’t fully appreciate his take until those later episodes. Everything after those just made me like him more. While David Tennant successfully combined basically every previous Doctor into one character, Matt Smith has extrapolated that into a character who is aware of those previous incarnations but not beholden to them. He is very much his own Doctor.
1 – Tom Baker
Doctors will come and go, but I think no matter who we see or how many regenerations happen Tom Baker will always be my favorite. And regardless of favoritism he will always be My Doctor because he’s the one that hooked me. It’s funny, because as I’ve mentioned before “The Five Doctors” was the first story I ever saw. Which means that I saw Davison and the first three Doctors (excepting Hartnell, but I didn’t know that at the time – I was seven) in action before I got a significant look at Baker. He was stuck in a time bubble the whole time.
Btu when I found Doctor Who again on the local PBS station it was all teeth and curls. I’ve written about my Saturday nights with the Doctor before, but Tom Baker accompanied me through years of my childhood. Baker just has this quality that is eminently watchable. I think it’s because when you are watching Doctor Four, you’re really watching Tom Baker. And Tom Baker is the Doctor.

So there you go. Say whatever you want in the comments. Give me your list, tell me mine’s dumb; whatever. All I really wanted to do here was have a good think about the Doctors and hopefully prompt some of you to do the same.
Oh, and speaking of various Doctors, be sure and come out to Titan Games & Comics in Duluth, GA tomorrow to see The Forgotten Doctor and the Earth Station Who Crew live and in person. The TARDIS will be materializing at 11 AM sharp, so stop by and have your picture taken with it and the Doctor (for a small donation to their fan project).
We’ll be recording a live episode of Earth Station Who and looking for fans to talk to, so come on out and say, “Howdy”.


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