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Feature: Doctor Who

The Doctors, splendid fellows...

The Doctors

Our guide to the the Doctors, Doctor by Doctor…

The Doctor, as played by William Hartnell, starts out as a selfish old man who cares about no one but his granddaughter Susan, and treats unwelcome fellow travellers Ian and Barbara as, at best, Susan’s pets… Things only change when the travellers are trapped together in a malfunctioning TARDIS and the Doctor is forced to endure a vitriolic tongue-lashing from Barbara – whose insight then saves the day. As he comes to see Ian and Barbara as friends and (very nearly) equals, he develops into someone who values all life, and protects the underdog wherever he finds them.

When Patrick Troughton took over the role, it took a few months before he latched onto a notion that the Doctor’s current persona was itself a disguise, and created the template that let other actors follow in his footsteps. So Troughton’s Doctor is frequently manipulative, sometimes soft-hearted, and always knows more than he lets on…

Jon Pertwee’s Doctor was as close to the establishment figure as the character ever got… yet this incarnation had a desperate edge which sometimes made him dangerous, as he hinted that nothing was more important than recovering his freedom to travel in Time and Space.

Over his seven-year run, Tom Baker’s Doctor changes more than any other. He starts out as an effusive character given to brooding moods. In time, this develops into an almost comical mania that occasionally explodes into devastating anger. Then, finally, he becomes a brooding figure again – the first incarnation to grow visibly older in the part.

Writers focussed on the vulnerability of Peter Davison’s Doctor. In some ways it was a successful experiment, which made the Doctor more of a character role than he had been since Troughton’s time.

The scriptwriters’ attempts to bring out the mercurial qualities of Colin Baker’s Doctor came across as arrogance, and only after he left the series was Baker able to explore the character fully in a successful series of audio dramas.

Initially, Sylvester McCoy played a clownish Doctor, before something more interesting took over. The seventh Doctor took a proactive attitude to evil, luring it into traps and often using ancient Time Lord weapons…

Paul McGann instantly made the role his own in his one TV appearance. Some aspects of his Doctor shine through even on this limited acquaintance. He bounces with sheer energy, and once he recovers his memory, he has a taste for name-dropping unmatched since Pertwee’s time….

by Anthony Brown

Find out even more about each Doctor and his adversaries in:
Starburst Special #59

Doctor Who © BBCtv, Image © Visual Imagination
Feature © Visual Imagination 2003. Not for reproduction

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Starburst Special #59
Doctor Who 2003
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