Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Face of the Doctor

Sometimes I'm geeky for numbers.

Most of the times, numbers are just numbers. Try as you might, you can't make two and two add up to anything but four.*

*And I'm sure there's some smartass who will say, "Well, there is this special algorithm that if you insert the numbers using a base of seven and divide by Pi, two plus two can equal five." To which I say, "Shut up!"

But even when the numbers add to what they're supposed to, that final result can still be a surprise. Sometimes not a pleasant one ("I forgot to factor in taxes! OK, I now owe $200 more? Damn it!") and sometimes it can be a nice little surprise ("Oh, I didn't carry the one. Well, I have $17.34 more than I thought I did. Sweet!"). 

Hi, I am Dave-El, this is my blog that I call I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You and today is Saturday....and that means it's DOCTOR WHO SATURDAY! Yay! 

So what's all that number stuff at the beginning got to do with Doctor Who? I'll get to that. But first, a little recap.

Each Saturday, I've been posting something Doctor Who related to carry me through to the next NEW episode of Doctor Who which is the 50th Anniversary Special in November. For the last 4 weeks, I've been posting my version of a multi-Doctor storyline in which someone or something is causing the Doctor's regenerations to reverse. As of Part 4, the Doctor is back to his 8th persona. So I decided that would be a good time to take a break and do something else this weekend. (Part 5 of The Nemesis Who Stole Time will be here next week.)

Beside the dramatic end of Part 4 of my little drama, another thing came to an end last weekend: speculation on who would be the next Doctor. It was announced that Peter Capaldi would take role of the travelling Time Lord when Doctor Who returns next year. His age was given as 55 which swings the pendulum way over to other side of the age scale from Matt Smith who was cast at age 27. So I started wondering, where does that put Capaldi on the age scale of actors who have played the Doctor? I figured he might be up there, maybe the 3rd oldest possibly? So I went to the numbers and was quite surprised by what I found.

Peter Capaldi will be THE oldest actor to play the Doctor! And NO, I'm NOT counting whatever John Hurt is supposed to be. I'll see what Steven Moffat has sorted out come November.**

**And for more on my write up on Capaldi and the age numbers, click here.

And so numbers can reveal some interesting insights and perspectives.

Consider this question: Of the 11 actors to portray the Doctor, who was the Doctor the longest?

Answer: Well, that's easy: Tom Baker. OK, now give me a tough question.




Yes, Tom Baker was the Doctor for 7 seasons of Doctor Who, more than any other actor in the role. But the question wasn't, which actor was on Doctor Who the longest but who was the Doctor the longest. Being cast as the Doctor means more than a job on TV show (even if it is the COOLEST TV SHOW EVER! Ahem. Sorry.) That person becomes...The Face of the Doctor. Books, comics, merchandising, you name it. Whatever is tied into the current Doctor, your mug is on it. You're it.

OK, so let's try again: Of the 11 actors to portray the Doctor, who was the Doctor the longest?

Answer: Sylvester McCoy

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!



Sylvester McCoy, the 7th Doctor who was only in 12 stories over 3 seasons, was the face of the Doctor longer than anyone else.

And look who comes in a close second: Paul McGann.

How does that happen?

Here's how.

Now I'm starting with the original UK air date of each Doctor's first full episode as the transition point, not any regeneration scenes at the end of the previous episode. Why?

We'll have more consistent data. Not every Doctor has a hand off scene. We know we didn't see McGann regenerate into Eccleston but we also didn't see Troughton change into Pertwee. The first time we see the 3rd Doctor is when he falls out of the TARDIS in Spearhead From Space.

Now, when I get to David Tennant, I guess I could count the Children in Need prequel episode but hey, I said the rules are first FULL episode. So Tennant will start with The Christmas Invasion. I am such a pain in my own ass.

I imagine, also, that it takes time for the full transition of marketing and tie-ins to catch up to the next Doctor.

OK, let's get this started before everyone falls asleep out there.

William Hartnell     11/23/1963

Patrick Troughon   11/05/1966   
William Hartnell was the Doctor approximately 2 years 11 months 2 weeks.

Jon Pertwee           01/03/1970
So Patrick Troughton had been The Face of the Doctor for 3 years and 2 months
  • Again, this is for the exercise on which actor was the face of the Doctor. If we started with the date of Troughton's last episode 06/21/1969, his time would be much less, 2 years 7 months. But we never see Pertwee on camera until almost 6 months later.
Tom Baker        12/28/1974
If the BBC had waited just one more week, this would put Jon Pertwee as The Face of the Doctor for 5 years instead of 4 years, 11 months and 3 weeks.

Peter Davison   01/04/1982
Tom Baker's time as The Face of the Doctor: 7 years, 1 week

Colin Baker  03/25/1984
Yep, according to the rules (which I laid out so I have no one to blame but myself) Peter Davison was The Face of the Doctor for 2 years 2 months. But Davison was the Doctor for 3 seasons. How did hell did that happen?

I can't wave this off with wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey. Producer John-Nathan Turner wanted the next Doctor to get a jump on things and have an adventure before Colin's first full season. This not only cheated Peter Davison out of one more episode but also cheated Colin Baker of much needed prep time to develop the character of his Doctor. If JNT had just waited and let Colin begin at the beginning of his season, certain questionable choices may have been reconsidered (such as that awful coat).

Sylvester McCoy   07/09/1987
So this puts Colin Baker as the face of the Doctor at 3 years 3 months 2 weeks

Paul McGann 05/27/1996
Actually, the Doctor Who movie debuted first on 05/12/1996 in Canada and 2 days later in the US. But my rules said first UK airdate so there. (Man, I am such an ass about these rules, huh?) So...

This puts Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor for 8 years 10 months and 3 weeks. Now this whole "Face of the Doctor" business becomes important here because the actual UK airdate for the last episode of Doctor Who was 12/06/1989 but McCoy's was still on all the merchandise, the comics, the books. He portrayed the Doctor three more times on screen including the opening sequence of the movie.

Christopher Eccleston 03/06/2005
So Paul McGann, with only 1 movie credit to his on screen time as the Doctor, was the face of the Doctor for 8 years 9 months and 1 week. Because as of that movie, Paul McGann was the Doctor as far as the franchise was concerned and it was his face on the merchandise and comic books and what all. Wow!

Well, we've come too far now. How do the rest shake out? Let's find out, shall we?

David Tennant 12/25/2005
So no surprise, Christopher Eccleston is the shortest serving the Doctor, clocking in at 9 months 3 weeks. (If you do want to count the Children in Need special, 8 months 2 weeks.)

Matt Smith 04/03/2010
And the time for David Tennant as the face of the Doctor comes to 4 years 3 months 1 week.

Assuming Peter Capaldi's first episode airs in April 2014, that will put Matt Smith's face on Doctor Who for 4 years


So let's review. The actors who were The Face of Doctor Who from longest to shortest are:

  1. Sylvester McCoy - 7th Doctor - 8 years 10 months 3 wks
  2. Paul McGann - 8th Doctor - 8 years 9 months 1 week
  3. Tom Baker - 4th Doctor - 7 years 1 week
  4. Jon Pertwee - 3rd Doctor - 4 years 11 months 3 weeks
  5. David Tennant - 10th Doctor - 4 years 3 months 1 week
  6. Matt Smith - 11th Doctor - 4 years*
    *Assuming Capaldi's 1st episode airs April 2014
  7. Colin Baker - 6th Doctor - 3 years 3 months 2 weeks
  8. Patrick Troughton - 2nd Doctor - 3 years 2 months
  9. William Hartnell - 1st Doctor -  2 years 11 months 2 wks
  10. Peter Davison - 5th Doctor - 2 years 2 months
  11. Chris Eccleston - 9th Doctor - 9 months 3 weeks

Wow! This is the most words I've written on this blog and for the most geekiest of reasons: Doctor Who and numbers.

Of course, this was all calculated using the first air dates for each Doctor's 1st episode but no other data. Perhaps merchandise for a Doctor transitioned before the first episodes. I imagine, for example, Chris Eccleston's face may have been on Doctor Who stuff before March 2005. But I would be surprised if any adjustments had any effect on the rankings above.

OK, if you're still awake out there, thanks for dropping by. Part 5 of The Nemesis Who Stole Time is on it's way next Saturday.

Be good to one another.


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