A new generation of fans has enjoyed the exploits of the Doctor since the reboot of the show in 2005. We all know that the current Doctor is a mad man with a blue box, but to really appreciate him, you should get to know his previous incarnations. So much can be said about the Doctor and his lives (all 11 of them at this point), but here’s a little introduction to get you started:
The First Doctor: William Hartnell (1963-1966)
Although his appearance was of an elderly man, this Doctor was the youngest of all the incarnations. He tended to be grumpy, sarcastic and irritable (especially if he didn’t get his own way) and was often patronizing towards his human companions. Although petulant, he was also loveable and had a strong sense of morality. He wore an Edwardian ensemble complete with a frock coat, tartan trousers, cravat and a walking cane. (Looks like he upgraded the cane in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’) Instead of a sonic screwdriver, he had a blue signet ring with special powers.
At the end of his time as the Doctor, Hartnell was too ill to continue filming so instead of ending the series, the producers decided to ‘rejuvenate’ him into the Second Doctor.
TIDBIT: In a clip from “The Vampires of Venice” the Eleventh Doctor shows his library card (instead of his psychic paper which he meant to show) containing a photograph of himself as the First Doctor and the address of 76 Totters Lane (the address of the junkyard where we first see the TARDIS and the Doctor in the premiere episode ‘An Unearthly Child’)
The Second Doctor: Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)
The Second Doctor was much more personable and younger looking than his predecessor. By this time, he enjoyed having companions travel with him. He was very clever and oftentimes would act like a child so that his adversaries would underestimate him. He was very good at manipulating people but in the end would always follow his moral obligation to fight evil at any cost and to help the oppressed. He always saw the bigger picture of the situation weighting the need to sacrifice a few to save a million (similar to the 10th Doctor’s dilemma in ‘The Fires of Pompeii’). This Doctor had a fondness of hats (although I don’t think he ever wore a fez) and instead of the cravat used in his first incarnation, he wore a bow tie. One of this Doctor’s catch phrases was “When I say run, run…RUN!” (First word the 9th Doctor said to Rose was “Run!”). This was also the Doctor that introduced us to the sonic screwdriver.
The grueling schedule and the fear of being typecast lead Troughton to his decision to leave the role as the Doctor. He was then replaced by Jon Pertwee.
TIDBIT: In ‘Tooth and Claw’, the 10th Doctor introduced himself to Queen Victoria’s guards as James McCrimmon who was his companion during his incarnation as the 2nd Doctor.
In the February 2010 Doctor Who Magazine, Matt Smith commented that to prepare for his role as the 11th Doctor, he watched Troughton’s version of the Doctor and thought it “rather wonderful.” He has also stated that Troughton’s Doctor is his favorite. Many of the silliness of the reboot Doctors are similar to this Doctor.
The Third Doctor: Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)
The Third Doctor appeared after the Time Lords placed the Second Doctor on trial for breaking their Cardinal rule to only observe the events of the universe and never to become personally involved. They exiled the Second Doctor to 20th century Earth and forced him to regenerate. During his exile, this Doctor joined UNIT as an unpaid scientific advisor (in ‘The Sontaran Strategem’, UNIT has informed the 10th Doctor that they still had him on staff).
This Doctor was the James Bond of all the Doctors. Unlike his other two predecessors, he was a man of action who wasn’t afraid to use his knowledge of Venusian Aikido if needed. He had a love of gadgets as well as vehicles. He was often seen in his canary yellow roadster, Bessie, and later in the Whomobile. Although this Doctor was ever the gentlemen, he had little patience with bureaucrats and other authority figures. (This attitude seemed to continue on into the 11th Doctor). He was a skilled diplomat and was usually seen in filly shirts, velvet smoking jacket and either a bow tie or cravat.
After 4 years of playing the Doctor, Pertwee decided it was time to move on. His decision was based on the departure of then producer Barry Letts and the death of his close friend Roger Delgado, who played the Master.
TIDBIT: The Third Doctor’s catch phrase was “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.” Although Pertwee only said it twice during his stint as the Doctor, it seemed to stick. In the ‘Almost People’, you can hear this phrase in Pertwee’s voice as the ganger Doctor goes through all the regenerations until it fully became the 11th Doctor.
The Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker (1974-1981)
This Doctor is undoubtedly the most recognizable of all Doctors with his trademark hat, long coat (whose pockets were bigger in the inside as it held numerous souvenirs from other planets) and wool multi colored scarf. He was often off beat and erratic and was the most alien-like of all his regenerations. Oftentimes he could be aloof and somber and towards the end of his time, seemed to like being alone with no companions. Like his incarnations before him, he had a keen sense of intellect as seen by how fast his mind would jump from one thing to another and had little patience with those he saw as evil to the point where he can be ruthless. This Doctor had a playful teasing side with his companions and had a fondness with jelly babies, often offering them to whomever he meets.
Tom Baker has played the Doctor the longest of any other actor. During his tenure as the Doctor, the series had taken on a more light hearted tone and by the end of the 70’s, the producers wanted to make changes to the show and return to the more scientific and serious format of years past. It was at that time that Baker decided it was time to leave the show.
TIDBITS: Bernard Cribbins (Wilfred Mott – Donna Noble’s granddad) was up for the role as the 4th Doctor before producers decided upon Tom Baker.
His affinity for jelly babies is akin to the 11th Doctors love for jammy dodgers. His catch phrase, “Would you like a jelly baby?” was also heard in ‘The Almost People’ during as the ganger was trying to stabilize as the 11th Doctor.
The Fifth Doctor: Peter Davison (1981-1984)
The Fifth Doctor was much more of a pacifist and much more human than the previous one. He was more serious and often reacted to situations rather than initiating them. He was willing to make enormous personal sacrifices simply to keep his word and help those in need. He was happier to let someone else take the authoritative lead. The Fifth Doctor could construe things just by tasting. He wore a cricket outfit with celery on his lapel which would turn purple when gases he was allergic to would be present. If that happened he would eat the celery to help his allergenic reaction. He would also occasionally use glasses when trying to figure out a problem and was not dependent on a sonic screwdriver as his past incarnations.
Davison left the role of the Doctor after 3 years for fear of being typecast. It has also been said that Patrick Troughton (the actor who played the second Doctor) advised him not to stay more than that.
TIDBITS: Steven Moffat said that “this Doctor takes the emphasis off the eccentricities and turns it into a pained heroism of a man who is so much better than the universe he is trying to save but cannot bear to let it stand.”
In the episode ‘Cold Blood’, the 11th Doctor asks if there is any celery handy after being subjected to a decontamination process intended for humans.
The 10th and 11th Doctors both inherited the acute sense of taste first seen in the 5th Doctor.
In ‘Time Crash’, a short film made written by Mofatt for the ‘Children in Need’ telethon, the 10th Doctor fondly told the 5th Doctor all the idiosyncrasies he kept from his former incarnation like his voice going squeaky when he shouted and the use of the “brainy specs” (eye glasses) which really wasn’t to aid in the Doctor’s eyesight but were used just to make him look clever.
The Sixth Doctor: Colin Baker (1984-1986)
The Sixth Doctor was unpredictable. Dressed in a mishmash of colorful clothing, his look was contradictory to his volatile personality. He tended to be arrogant, stubborn and condescending much like his first incarnation. He had a biting sense of humor and tended to be melodramatic. He was egotistical and considered himself superior to everyone he encountered. Although he could be funny at times, his overbearing attitude and use of deadly force against his enemies made him very unpopular with the viewers. He was, however, able to fix the chameleon circuit in the TARDIS allowing it to change shape for a brief period of time.
The 6th Doctor has often been labeled as the least likable one. BBC at the time was not happy with Baker’s portrayal of the Doctor and he was fired from the role. Baker did continue to portray the 6th Doctor in audio plays after his dismissal and although his Doctor was not well-liked on the small screen, his portrayal in the audio plays changed many fans’ opinion. He is now considered one of the best Doctors in the audio versions of the show.
The Seventh Doctor: Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989)
In the beginning after his regeneration, the Seventh Doctor was similar to the Second Doctor in that he was a little silly and jovial. However, as the series went on, he grew darker. He became a cunning manipulator and began to see the battle between good and evil as a game of chess with everyone around him as pawns to be utilized in the pursuit of stopping evil. He had no qualms from hiding the truth from his companions and would only reveal select information leaving others to come to their own conclusion. He could be ruthless and devious but also detested violence and firearms. This Doctor’s suit changed as he changed in the series going darker in color as he grew darker in character. This is also the Doctor that lived in the time of King Arthur as Merlin.
Unlike his predecessors, McCoy’s tenure as the Doctor was cut short in 1989 due to the series being cancelled by the BBC. Many fans were distraught as this was the last time they thought they would ever see the Doctor after being on the television for 26 years.
TIDBITS: The secretive nature of keeping information from companions and the need to know attitude is seen often with the 11th Doctor. For example, he kept the information that Amy was a ganger from Rory.
In ‘The Pandorica Opens, the 11th Doctor says, “You know fairy tales. A good wizard tricked it.” To which River replies, “I hate good wizards in fairy tales. They always turn out to be him,” referencing to this incarnation when he was Merlin.
The Eighth Doctor: Paul McGann (1996 TV Movie)
The Eighth Doctor made his first and only television appearance in the 1996 Doctor Who television movie ‘Doctor Who.’ He was much kinder and nicer than his previous self and his humor seemed more reminiscent of his 2nd and 4th selves. He had a boyish glee towards life with an occasional glimpse of the old soul that he was. He also enjoyed giving people he met hints about their future in a sense seeming to know them better than they knew themselves. He wasn’t afraid to show emotions and was the first Doctor to seem to have a romantic involvement with a companion.
Although McGann was only seen in the TV movie version as the Doctor, he continued on playing the character in many books, comics and audio plays.
TIDBIT: Although the nothing was ever seen about the Time War, it is generally accepted in the reboot version of Doctor Who that the events of that War occurred during the 8th Doctor’s time and he regenerated sometime during or after the end of the War.
The Ninth Doctor: Christopher Eccleston (2005)
After 16 years of no Doctor Who on television, the appearance of the Ninth Doctor was met with excitement and anticipation. The Ninth Doctor was a bitter, melancholy and hard-edged Doctor. Being the sole survivor of the Time War, he was laden with the guilt from his actions that caused the Daleks and Time Lords to be trapped in a time-lock forever. He had eradicated two empires (one of which was his own people) and was paying the consequences with this conscience. His loneliness and sadness was often masked by his manic and jovial behavior and the as well as the use of his catch phrase “Fantastic!” Like his 7th incarnation, he could be violent and ruthless as seen in the episode ‘Dalek’ but at the same time showed a caring side especially towards his companion. Rose. He was similar to his 1st incarnation in that he would be exasperated towards humans often calling them ‘stupid apes’. By the end of his time, however, he was beginning to come to terms with his actions in the Time War.
Speaking to a master class at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, Eccleston stated he left Doctor Who after one season because “because I could not get along with the senior people. I left because of politics. I did not see eye to eye with them. I didn’t agree with the way things were being run. I didn’t like the culture that had grown up around the series. So I left, I felt, over a principle.”
TIDBIT: His 10th incarnation referenced his former self in ‘Journey’s End’ stating that his violent and reckless behavior in his meta version clone will be made a better person just as Rose made him a better man through their travels together.
The Tenth Doctor: David Tennant (2005-2010)
The Tenth Doctor joins the Fourth Doctor as one of the beloved Doctors in the history of the show. This Doctor was more light-hearted than his former self. His fast talking, easy going, playful mannerism masked a ruthlessness and unforgiving streak when pushed. This incarnation had a great respect for the human race and often represented himself as their protector. He was selfless and would think not think twice to sacrifice himself for a greater cause. He was less merciful than his prior incarnations. Although he was willing to give his enemies an opportunity to change (hoping for the good), his strong sense of right and wrong made him quick to anger giving his enemies no second chances. He still carried the loneliness of being the last of the Time Lords and guilt of his actions from the Time War. This weighed heavily on his conscience along with the losses of his companions. A big part of the 10th Doctor enjoyed the adventures and at the end, until he couldn’t hold off the regeneration any longer, he exclaimed, “I don’t want to go.”
After 3 seasons and 4 specials, Tennant decided to leave the show. He stated, “I don’t ever want it to feel like a job, so I want to move on when it still feels exciting and fresh.”
TIDBITS: Many of 10’s mannerisms (too numerous to count) can be attributed to each of his prior personifications. For example:
- like the 7th Doctor, he often responded that he was “fine” even when he wasn’t and he continued to have an aversion to guns
- like the 2nd Doctor, he would use a stethoscope to diagnose people and objects
- like the 4th Doctor, he would take various objects out of his bigger in the insides pockets
- see 5th Doctor tidbits
Tennant has stated he was a big ‘Doctor Who’ fan growing up and his love of the show is evident in his portrayal of the 10th Doctor. He was so knowledgeable about the history of ‘Doctor Who’ that he asked producers to change the ending credits to have his character’s name changed properly to “The Doctor” instead of “Doctor Who” as it was during Eccleston’s time.
The Eleventh Doctor: Matt Smith (2010-present)
Our current Doctor exudes with youthful enthusiasm. He is both young and old at the same time. He acts more alien-like than his predecessor and is not afraid to let people know about his feats of knowledge and exploits to the point of boasting. Like his former persona, he is selfless and has been known to willingly sacrifice himself for his friends or for the greater good. He is much more ruthless as seen in his interactions with the Daleks and the Silence. He likes to keep things on a need to know basis similar to his 7th persona. Although he hasn’t totally recovered, his guilt of the Time War has lessened but he still contains the loneliness and sadness of being the last of the Time Lords.
TIDBITS: In the episode ‘Almost People’, while the ganger Doctor is going through all the regenerations, you hear him say “Hello, I’m the Doctor” in the voice of the 10th Doctor. To which the ganger then states, “No! Let it go! We’ve moved on!”
Charlie Jane Anders has compared the 11th Doctor persona to that of Batman saying, “Just like Batman, it turns out the Doctor has created his own adversaries, by fostering his own dark legend. It’s been a major theme in the Bat-comics…the idea that Batman is such an extreme figure, who inspires so much fear, that maniacs like the Joker cannot help springing up in response.”
With close to 50 years of history, the Doctor is more than just a mad man with a blue box. While this only scratches the surface of his character, it’s nice to know there is so much more we can learn from this man from Gallifrey.