Jeff Grubb's Ruminations, Comments, and Other Nonsense
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Also Fifty Years Ago
[The Update: Writing this after seeing the 50th anniversary show and, while it had more loose ends and plot holes than an half-knitted sweater, it was truly a glorious, wonderful thing, the pacing and comparisons between the personal and macro plots weaving together, advancing the character entirely, and both providing a resolution and setting things up for the future. So I'd like to take that egotistic moment and talk about the various incarnations of the Doctor from a personal level. There are none I would truly hate, but a couple places where the entire operation has gone astray. In general, they are a pretty good group.
One, William Hartnell, was the archetype, and cannot be viewed save by through the black and white glasses of the past. I only saw a handful of his shows, and he plants the flag as the acerbic old professor, the type that every other Doctor plays against to some degree.
Two, Patrick Troughton, is a bit of a mystery to me, after all these years. I've only seen him in one or two versions (usually the one involving Cybermen), and in his team-ups with later Doctors. More comforting than patriarchal, he has always been one of the "funny" Doctors.
Three, John Pertwee, was such a creature of his era. The action hero Doctor, working for UNIT, confined to earth, and filled with all the things that made Britain so very British for me. This Doctor, the Avengers, and Monty Python explained what life was like in modern England. With Sarah Jane. And with Autons.
Four. Ah. You always remember the first Doctor you encounter, and in college, for me, it was Tom Baker, with a long stretch of episodes that we got out of the Chicago public TV station (and yet, whenever I happen to catch one these days, it is always "Giant Robot"). The Bohemian Doctor, with a slew of suitable and increasingly interesting companions - Sarah, K9, Leela, the two Romanas. Yeah, it went silly more often in the later span with Doug Adams, but still, this is the real Doctor to a lot of us.
Five. Peter Davidson, who was young and vulnerable and we had seen previously in the states as the feckless vet in All Creatures Great and Small. Often bewildered. In one of those wanderings astray, he had a pack of companions at once. Never understood the Adric hate, but I never cared much for Turlough for being the world's oldest schoolboy as well as the continual pawn of evil.
Six. The Colin Baker Doctor was not a fave at the time, but I am more willing to give this part of the series credit for attempting to be different. A dislikeable Doctor, darker stories, higher body counts, an American companion, more moralizing (often heavy-handed), non-linear storytelling. Yeah, the low point for that era was the Trial of the Time Lord, but C.Baker himself I could not really dislike.
Seven, with Sylvester McCoy, was a tonic in comparison. Patrick Troughton for the new generation - more elfish and amused with himself. A very comfortable Doctor, and Ace made the best of the later-day companions.
I fear I never gave Eight, Paul McGann, much of a shot, I'm afraid. An Americanized movie from Fox felt like cultural imperialism, and the shoddy way McCoy was regenerated just left me upset. Yet McGann kept the fires burning on audio and in other media during the dark years without new TV Shows, and I was glad to see that he got a proper sendoff in this clip. John Hurt, who is ... The War Doctor? Eight-point-five? The Missing Doctor? Probably he will be the New Nine and everyone else just shifts back one, fits neatly into the cosmology. He fills a required whole admirably, and in the 50th is just spot-on. He pulls off the miracle of walking into everything and making everyone believe he had always been there. Chris Eccleston, the Old-Nine-Now-Ten was a perfectly suitable reintroduction to the line. Closer to the Pertwee action hero end of the spectrum, the reboot gave him a dark past without overwhelming him David Tennant, Ten-now-Eleven is my personal fave among the new group. Bright and exciting, he was bolstered by good companions with Rose, Martha, and Donna. The stories got a bit much in magical timey-whimey pull-the-solution-out-of-the hat, love-will-find-a-way but he evoked a lot of T.Baker for me. And I liked the glasses. In fact, I think that's one reason I liked the anniversary show so much was his presence. Matt Smith rounds out the proper Dozen (nothing to say about Peter Capaldi's Doctor, as we haven't seen much), now that we close in on the end of his tenure, was an OK Doctor for me. His Doctor roiled through manic and clever and confused, and falls in the Peter Davidson era, particularly when he threatens to get overwhelmed by his own companions. River Song comes into her own here, along with the Ponds and now Clara, who stood in very well for the entire line of companions in the 50th.
So, yeah, the 50th Anniversary show is worth catching, even if you've drifted off in the past couple years. It does a good job sealing up a nice little chunk of Whovian History, and continues the team-up tradition of inter-Doctoral bickering. And four of the actors who played Doctor Who were involved in a very amusing, backstage, inside-production comedy right here, and you should check it out. Yeah, a lot of the jokes depend on you knowing about the actors involved, but the sight of Colin Baker standing on his riding lawnmower to get better cellphone reception is just worth it right there, Yeah, go check it out.]