As far as Doctor Who fans go, I’m still pretty much a newbie. It’s only been in the last few years that I finally decided to give the show a watch. I became a fan with the new era, and really had no knowledge of the classic episodes.
I figured I ought to change that, but it’s a difficult undertaking, especially considering many episodes are forever lost due to the BBC managing to destroy episodes with archive purges. I didn’t really know how to tackle a solid Classic Doctor Who binge-watch without investing mad dollars in the process.
Luckily for me, Britbox solved a lot of that problem. Seriously, though, if you don’t have Britbox, get it. It feeds a lot of my growing Anglophile jam. Also, for some weird reason, my first impulse is to call it Brexit, not Britbox. I really don’t know why.
At any rate, I threw myself into the mother of all binge-watches and introduced myself to Doctors One through Eight. It’s a pretty interesting ride, overall. My impressions are random and varied, so I’ll share my thoughts here.
The First Doctor (William Hartnell)
Numero Uno. He’s a rather tough Doctor to get into when you’re a 40-something year old woman rocking the 21st century, especially with so many gaps in story. It’s hard to connect. The gender roles are ishy at best and the obvious lack of technology and budget make it a foreign landscape to settle into.
Hartnell is truly the most alien alien in the franchise, I believe. I think that’s his real value as a late-to-the-game viewer like me. The disconnect actually works in the character’s favor, because he isn’t one of us, and we’re a rather tiresome lot for a Time Lord to deal with, anyway.
Susan Foreman is the OG companion, traveling with her grandfather through space and time. Susan is the one who named the TARDIS, having no patience for the full name of Time and Relative Dimension in Space. You go, girl.
Ian and Barbara are teachers who time travel in a manner only stuffy teachers could. They’re rigid yet talkative. (Seriously, there’s a lot of time wasted on greetings and bickery stuff.) Ian is a mansplainy nightmare at times, quick to talk down to Barbara and Susan, and even the Doctor. Barbara still managed to bring out the lust in the occasional alien and even got to be a goddess, so hey, she had some game.
Due to BBC butchering, I didn’t really have time to have a real experience of other companions like Steven, Polly or Ben. There was a DoDo in there, too, but I can’t get behind a character named DoDo. Sorry, I can’t.
The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton)
I did NOT expect to like Patrick Troughton’s take on the Doctor. I was terribly wrong, and I’m also terribly annoyed that Mr. Troughton is also a major victim of the BBC purge. I would love to see more.
Troughton brings whimsy and a fun eccentricity to the Doctor. But he also brings the drama. In The Enemy of the World, he takes on a dual role of Salamander and the Doctor and it’s pretty dang awesome, y’all.
The companions I had real experience with while viewing were Jamie McCrimmon, the heroic Highlander, and Zoe, a genius who, naturally, somehow managed to become a doe-eyed pretty girl who needed the intellectual guidance of the Doctor to show her the way. That was pretty annoying, but I enjoyed the Jamie/Zoe dynamic in general.
The Troughton era brought us Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, and that’s practically enough to sing the praises of Troughton’s reign.
The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee)
Jon Pertwee was the Dandy Doctor. At the end of the Troughton era, the Doctor was to be exiled to Earth with a new face. With that narrowed playing field, drama had to be stirred up by the addition of UNIT, the Unified Intelligence Taskforce.
The Brig doesn’t truly count as a companion, I suppose, due to the inflicted relationship the two share, but I count him. This ended up being a truly brilliant, long-term love/hate working relationship that spanned regenerations.
Liz was the first countable companion, and honestly, kind of easy to dismiss. But I have to give her props for basically not feeling the urge to be a dedicated submissive to the Doctor’s flares of arrogance.
However, because of Liz’s ill fit, we get Jo, who spent a lot of time fetching tea for the Doctor. But Jo’s hippy-dippy vibe was a delight, and when she found her true love hippy-dippy guy, it clearly walloped the good Doctor to have to leave her behind.
And then, and then, and then…SARAH JANE SMITH arrives on scene. The gorgeous, brilliant, sassy, saucy, feminist reporter with a heart of gold. Sarah Jane is simply the companion all other companions will never really live up to.
The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)
The Fourth Doctor brought us back to the oddball Doctor persona, but also brought a new level of rebellion. He is back to traveling in time and space, leaving UNIT behind and really not digging the annoyance of occasional Time Lord intervention.
Sarah Jane really blooms as a companion, and the close friendship between the pair is simply the best. For a time, they travel with Harry, who was a bit of a train wreck, but a fun one. Then he took a train home, and it appears the train stayed on the track. Good on ya, Harry.
Sarah Jane is kind of unceremoniously dumped due to those damn Time Lords summoning the Doctor back home. It starts to get pretty 70s with the addition of eye-candy Leela and disco tin dog K-9. But Leela was at least pretty bad ass, despite the constant cleavage.
Romana the Time Lady, both incarnations, brought a little equality and conflict into the mix. Romana the first was edgier and more likable to me than Romana the second.
Adric was…well, he was kind of a pain in the ass. And Nyssa and Tegan were…there. Felt like a bit too much of a crowded house at times.
The Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)
Poor Davison. Can you imagine having to be the actor to follow up the dynamic Fourth Doctor era? He tried. Bless. The chalkboard was wiped clean, it seems, and the effort was made to really leave the Fourth Doctor behind with a new boyish lead, and a change in tone overall. Unfortunately, while trying to be less silly than Baker tended to be, they accidentally purged a little too much joy.
Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric were there for the Fifth Doctor’s new incarnation, still feeling like a crowded house. Adric suffered a pretty brutal end, Nyssa had a noble disembark, and Tegan took her Pat Benatar-esque wardrobe and stormed off, presumably to belong to the light, to belong to the thunder. Vislor the weasel was too weasely to forgive, in my eyes. Kamelion the android should have just been turned into a more useful Roomba, or something. And Peri. Ugh. Peri to me is the 80s version of Clara, and that’s just not a good thing.
The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker)
Change, my dear. And it seems, not a moment too soon.
Thus begins the Sixth Doctor’s reign.
Ahhh… a noble brow. Clear gaze. At least it will be, given a few hours sleep. A firm mouth. A face beaming with a vast intelligence. My dear child, what on Earth are you complaining about? It’s the most extraordinary improvement.
Oh, the arrogance. That’s what I like most about this Doctor. He is just so full of himself. So brash and self-assured that of course he’d pick that outfit to wear. It’s clear though, that Baker was a victim of TPTB taking the show in some pretty weird ass directions that didn’t serve the history or the current Doctor. At all.
Still encumbered by the whiny Peri at the start of his new life, I can fully understand the desire to nearly kill her with his own two hands. Sadly, Peri was then replaced by a screamy, shrill Mel with the Good Hair and the Let’s Get Physical kind of thing that just makes me want to ask Six to strangle her, as well.
The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy)
Hoo boy. I could NOT get into the Seventh Doctor’s jam. It’s a shame because I really think there was potential for me loving him. I mean, I didn’t hate McCoy, I didn’t hate his persona, but writers sure can kill the wrong darlings, can’t they?
There was some salvation in the offloading of Mel and the onboarding of Ace. Poor Ace. She got a poorly timed gig that treated her badly. Ace and The Doctor was the first enjoyable travel-mates relationship for me in some time, but damn it, TPTB mishandled it again. The Curse of Fenric was pretty damn amazeballs, but it was an exception to the rule, rather than the guideline. Seriously, that story just popped for me. But then suddenly we have cats. Cats, cats, cats. And the death of the Classic era. Terribly sad. If they could have fed off Fenric and kept going, I bet McCoy would have had a better fate.
The Eight Doctor (Paul McGann)
I don’t know if Doctor Who: The Movie truly counts as classic era, but I guess it has to be talked about since it was part of the mega-binge.
All I can say to sum it up is that casting Eric Roberts as The Master is just the most shark-jumpy thing TPTB could have ever done. If Doctor Who had never come back, I feel we could all solidly blame Eric Roberts for it for ever and ever.
McGann himself is a noble addition to the Doctor line-up. It’s just…that movie, y’all. It hurt. It hurt real bad. Ultimately, he kind of became the Doctor that Never Really Was, But Really Should Have Been.
I feel like we should just totally mentally unmake the movie and rely on the Night of the Doctor short as showing everything the Eight Doctor was and could be. Because that Doctor right there is pretty damn glorious.
So, there ya go, folks. My binge has ended. I’ll soon be back on solid footing with modern era Doctor Who, but I’m glad I took on the enormous task of exploring the rich backstory of the Doctor himself. It will certainly enrich my future experience with the show, and hey, I still have a whole new universe of story to tackle with Big Finish. Looking forward to that as well. Until then, onwards and upwards into wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff, while impatiently awaiting the arrival of Thirteen. Sonic on, my friends.
–Primary Bitch Has Spoken.