This is Dave-El and welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, the crunchy onions on the green bean casserole that is the internet.
In the aftermath of Thanksgiving Day here in the ol' U.S. of A., I decided to do a quick post for today's Doctor Who Saturday on the subject of things I'm thankful for from Doctor Who.
In honor of the show's 50th anniversary, I came up with 50.
So much for a quick post.
And that was after some considerable thought and LOTS of editing. There are quite a few people and things and events left off the list so this is just a broad cross section of Doctor Who stuff that I am thankful for.
So let us away.....
- Verity Lambert
- Without whom, there would be no Doctor Who. For more on their story put WAY better than I ever could, go see "An Adventure in Time and Space". Verity and Sidney, thank you!
- The otherworldly quality of the sound that haunts the air when Doctor Who comes on all started with this woman. The funny thing is that what Delia Derbyshire did can be replicated by almost any person with a modum of skill on their computer. But Delia built the Doctor Who theme from the ground up...and with her hands, not computer software. The amazing sound that Delia Derbyshire has informed everything from the work of Ron Gainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to Murrary Gold. Thank you, Delia. Your work endures!
- As the first person to play the Doctor, Hartnell had no template to follow. He laid down the foundation on which the next 50 years of the show would be built. I am most thankful that he did such a good job at it.
- The Daleks kicked this little educational adventure show for children to a whole other level that would excite viewers over the next 5 decades. Without the Daleks, Doctor Who would be an odd little footnote in the dustbin of television history. Thank you, Daleks!
- An actor leaving the starring role in a television program should be the death of that program. Instead, the concept that the Doctor's alien physiology would overcome the ravages of death to renew and change the body was ingenious and would be a significant element to Doctor Who's longevity.
- As the first actor to step into the role of the Doctor after it was created, Troughton faced a most daunting task: how to continue a character begun by another actor yet make the role unique. Patrick Troughton showed it can be done and with charm, skill and talent.
- Doctor Who has had the reputation of being a show made on the cheap, a reputation that is somewhat deserved back in the classic era. Yet "Tomb of the Cyberman" showed just what the show was capable of visually, even in the nascent black and white days. This is an episode that clearly adds a stamp of horror to the Doctor's science fiction world.
- Actor, writer, director and producer, Barry Letts was a well-rounded talented and perfectly suited for overseeing Doctor Who during the Jon Pertwee years. I'm citing Letts here because he is a prime example of the benefit to Doctor Who of having a leader with varied skills and firm vision of what he wants.
- Under William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, the Doctor was a thinker while others did the action bits like punching people. Jon Pertwee as the 3rd Doctor is also a thinker, a man of science, but he's quite capable of doing his own punching, thank you very much. Jon Pertwee was my first "other Doctor" (I began watching with Tom Baker as the Doctor) and I'm thankful that Pertwee was such a class act as my second Doctor.
- The Doctor has never been big on authority figures so it's with some irony that one of the most important persons in the Doctor's history would be Brigadier General Lethridge-Stewart. But as played by Nicholas Courtney, the Brig had a spark that other authority figures lacked. Yes, he had no qualms about asserting his authority but he also respected the Doctor's unique skills even if the Doctor himself got on his nerves. Ultimately, Nicholas Courtney made the head of UNIT a beloved figure over the much of the show's history.
- When I first saw an episode with Jo Grant as the Doctor's companion, I was admittedly less than impressed. So to was the Doctor when he first met this assistant that UNIT had foisted upon him. But over time, both the Doctor and I grew to appreciate Jo's gifts and it's a testament to Katy Manning that she so effectively conveyed Jo's strength and determination to be an able assistant to the Doctor. In the end, like the Doctor himself, watching Jo Grant move on with her life was a bittersweet moment.
- It has been said that a hero is measured by the quality of his enemies. If there was any doubt about Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, then Roger Delgado as the Doctor's arch nemesis The Master erased those doubts. Pertwee and Delgado played off each other masterfully (yes, pun intended). Anyone else who has played the Master, including Anthony Ainley and John Simm, owe a debt to Roger Delgado who established the best template for portraying the Master.
- As I came to become more of a fan of Doctor Who, I noticed one very consistent pattern: if the credits listed Robert Holmes as the writer, chances were very good I would enjoy the episode more than others. And the time that Robert Holmes served as script editor was one of the longest periods of sustained story quality in the history of the show. I suppose if the pattern of authority followed today had been followed back then, Robert Holmes would've been the Russell Davies or Steven Moffat of his day.
- My first Doctor and still in many ways the best Doctor. Distinctive in appearance and demeanor, Tom Baker's Doctor defied the expectations of what to expect from our science fiction heroes. Tom Baker distilled all that had gone before into a unique persona that still guides the actors who have come after him in the role, even through to the present day.
- Elisabeth Sladen's turn as Sarah Jane Smith is much beloved by fans of the show. Oh she could scream with the best of them but Sarah Jane came into the Doctor's life as a strong and determined woman with a career. There's a reason that in 2006, Russell Davies brought Sarah Jane Smith back as a direct link to the Doctor's classic era. And age had not dimmed Elisabeth's sparkle and wit as Sarah Jane, something that carried her well into the wonderful spin off series, Sarah Jane Adventures. Even now, it's still hard to countenance that Elisabeth Sladen is no longer with us, she was so integral to Doctor Who's legacy and it's revival.
- Phillip Hinchcliffe was the producer of Doctor Who has Tom Baker came into his own as the Doctor. It was under Hinchcliffe that some of the more Gothic horror elements of Doctor Who came into play with such classic episodes as "The Brain of Morbius" and "The Horror of Fang Rock". If you've enjoyed such modern stories as "The Unquiet Dead", "Tooth and Claw" and "The Crimson Horror", there is no doubt of Hinchcliffe's influence over those episodes.
- The first episode of Doctor Who I had ever seen and, to my eyes, the dumbest show I had ever seen on television. I quickly got over that.
- If I want to introduce a new Whovian to their first classic episode, this is my first and foremost go-to choice. A twisty-turny plot involving Paris art thefts, alien invaders and time travel coupled with some of Tom Baker's zippiest dialogue in the series makes this a stand out choice.
- It was American public television that was the main provider of Doctor Who programs to the United States. At its peak, some PBS stations ran Doctor Who twice a day Monday through Friday and at least once over the weekend. Doctor Who was to PBS in the late 1970's/early 1980's as Doctor Who is now to BBC America.
- A lot of bad stuff went down during Nathan-Turner's time as Doctor Who's producer, some of it could be rightfully placed on his shoulders while other things were beyond his control. But John Nathan-Turner was a passionate defender of Doctor Who in defiance of higher BBC management who held the show with contempt. And his concepts for branding and marketing the show were prescient and can be seen in action under the current production.
- Peter Davison was, at the time, the youngest actor ever cast to play the Doctor. For me, yeah, it took a bit to get used to. And sadly, Davison's tenure was saddled with too few good stories and too little strong creative direction. But those moments when Davison shined through were extraordinary. I'm glad he got to really show what he was capable of in his final story, "Caves of Androzani", written by the incomparable Robert Holmes.
|Patrick Troughton, Richard Hurndall (for William Hartnell), |
Peter Davison, a wax dummy (filling in for Tom Baker), Elisabeth Sladen,
Jon Pertwee, Nicholas Courtney.
Front row: John Nathan-Turner, K-9 and Carole Ann Ford.
- A total geektastic geekathon of Doctor Who history with not just Doctors interacting but companions as well AND a variety of threats including Daleks, Cybermen and the Master and a whole bunch intrigue on Gallifrey. Shame Tom Baker chose to sit that one out.
- I could be snarky and say that I'm thankful for Colin Baker as a bad example but that would be mean-spirited and, more to the point, wrong. Yeah, the outfit was horrible, the writing was weak, etc, etc. But in retrospect, Colin Baker was ill-served during these particular tumultuous times of the show and deserved far better. Colin was a fan of the show before he took on the role of the Doctor and has remained a strong advocate of the program even after his unceremonious exit. His performance in the Big Finish audios certainly attest to Colin Baker's true power and talent in portraying the Doctor.
- Brought in hastily to replace Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy seemed at first to be unfortunately heading towards Colin Baker's fate, another victim of ill considered characterization and unfortunate costume design. Thankfully, McCoy's malapropism prone cosmic clown gave way to a more nuanced and darker portrayal of the travelling Time Lord.
- For the first time since the time of Robert Holmes as script editor, Eric Cartmel brought a strong and viable artistic voice to Doctor Who with his overriding theme of the Doctor being the master manipulator, a Doctor with dark secrets and mysterious motives.
- Whatever one thinks of the Doctor Who TV movie from 1996, this much is certain: it would not have happened at all without the constant, tireless efforts of this man. Phillip Segal was an expatriate Brit working as a movie studio executive in the United States who was determined to rescue Doctor Who from the cancellation limbo it had been in since 1989. While the movie did not begat the ongoing series Segal had hoped for, it did give a very real and visible example of what a modern looking Doctor Who could be.
- Until the mini-sode in 2013, "Night of the Doctor", Paul McGann had only one on screen appearance as the Doctor: the 1996 Doctor Who movie. But while the movie did not lead to an immediate follow up project, McGann remained loyal to the franchise and the remained the face of the Doctor until 2005. His picture was on the books and his voice was in the audio plays. From the one brief onscreen adventure in 1996, Paul McGann's Doctor kept the franchise alive.
- While Doctor Who Magazine (DWM) has been a major promotional force for all things Doctor Who for years, it is in this period from 1989 to 2005 that DWM performed its greatest service to the Whoverse, keeping alive the memory of the show's past and the hope of the show's future. And with the magazine comic strip, provided an outlet for new adventures of the Doctor. A future for Doctor Who was not a sure thing in those days lost in the wilderness but DWM kept the light atop the TARDIS shining in the darkness.
- And in the deafening silence of cancellation limbo, Big Finish Audio made sure the tell-tale sound of the TARDIS continued to be heard.
- A silly parody done for Children In Need, this short episode poked fun at the conventions of Doctor Who but from a perspective of affection for the show and for the Doctor. Even as we laughed at the absurdity of Doctor Who's sillier tropes, we found ourselves realizing how much we truly missed the Doctor. In hindsight, some of the bits of that one-off featurette have found their way into modern Doctor Who. Perhaps it has something to do with the writer of that episode, somebody named "Steven".
- Let's be blunt: without Russell T Davies, we would not have Doctor Who today. OK, is that a bit over the top? Maybe but only by a little. Consider that other creative people wanted to bring back Doctor Who as well. But only Russell succeeded. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that sooner or later, someone else would've brought back Doctor Who eventually. But would it have been as good? Would it have been as successful? In Russell, we had a high profile creator of considerable talent backed by an over abiding love of Doctor Who that brought the Doctor back to our TV screens and it was very good and it was very successful and for that, I am very grateful.
- As the saying goes, behind every successful man is a great woman...pushing. And that probably sums up Julie Gardner quite nicely. With a level of enthusiasm for Doctor Who rivaling Russell T Davies, Gardner provided the strength and the support to help make Davies' dreams for Doctor Who a reality. If Russell ever felt overwhelmed by it all (and by all accounts, he frequently did), Julie Gardner was the firm and steady hand that kept Who flying.
- A revival of Doctor Who has to announce to the world that this show respects its past but its moving forward, breaking new ground, doing things that Doctor Who did not...could not...do before. And nothing made that message clearer than the casting of Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor. While clearly as irreverent as his predecessors, Eccleston forged a new path in how we viewed the Doctor. His time as the Doctor was too short but in that time, he established a very strong interpretation as our favorite wandering Time Lord.
- The companion can be a thankless role: run around a lot, scream a lot, ask questions a lot and did I mention scream a lot? But Billie Piper's Rose Tyler was a companion for the 21st century who saves the Doctor as much as he saves her. And Piper does a wonderful job bringing this character to life.
- Doctors and companions may come and go. The producer and head writer may change. But the one change in modern Doctor Who that I think I never want to see would be the loss of Murray Gold. Gold's compositions lend a motion picture level of epicness to every action scene and soulful depth to every moment of drama and sadness.
- Before Steven Moffat became the Producer and Head Writer of Doctor Who in 2010, he was making his mark on the revived Doctor Who. His two-parter in the first series in 2005 crackled with wit, energy, suspense. And then he did it again. And again. Now as the guy in charge, the Moff continues to push the limits of what Doctor Who can do. Sometimes it doesn't work. A lot of times it does. But all the time, I'm thankful for Steven Moffat for keeping us Whovians excited, enraged, enthralled, perplexed, bewildered and amazed.
- Fanboy made good, David Tennant brought Geek-Chic to the Doctor with a spirit of joy and wonder but still shadowed by the darkness of all that he had seen and done.
- Martha Jones is frequently not given her due as being the unfortunate "companion after Rose". But pity poor Martha Jones? No, not really. The companion put through hell by the Master, Martha was the one companion during the modern era who left on her own terms as a strong and self-sufficient woman. And Freema Ageyman did an excellent job bringing Martha to life in the thankless time of "After Rose". Well, Freema has my thanks for a job well done.
- How good can Doctor Who be? So good that it barely needs the Doctor. In the space of a single episode, we meet Sally Sparrow and become drawn into her world and invested in her wellbeing. In many ways, despite the Doctor not being in the episode that much, "Blink" is the epitome of a classic Doctor Who story.
- Donna Noble defied the expectations of what a typical Doctor Who companion should be. Loud and brash, yet Catherine Tate made Donna likeable with a level of depth and feeling that made Donna perhaps one of the all time great companions of the Doctor.
- The pinnacle of 4 years of Russell T Davie's contributions to the Doctor Who mythos with strong links to the show's history, it perfectly culminated in the ultimate Doctor Who team up of companions as the Doctor finally has enough people in the TARDIS to pilot her properly and bring planet Earth back home.
- David Tennant's last words as the Doctor: "I don't want to go." And millions of fans are screaming back at their televisions, "We don't want you to go!" Then this impossibly young, gangly man staggers out of the fires of regeneration and begins doing an audit of his body parts. Maybe the new guy would be OK after all. 4 years later and we're facing the end of the Matt Smith era and you know what? "We don't want you to go!"
- Early pics of Karen Gillan as Amy Pond showed us a gorgeous woman with fiery red hair and a propensity for short skirts, suggesting a companion writ from the text pages of Doctor Who Companions 101. But Amy quickly proved to be a more than just a pair of pretty legs but as a clever and confident individual who had the Doctor wrapped around her finger even as he tried to impress her with a universe of space and time at his command. But more than just Amy, we got a family with Arthur Darvill as husband Rory Williams, a lack of confidence receding before his growing strength drawn from his impossible adventures and his boundless love for Amy. Alex Kingston as River Song always had the Doctor's number (like mother, like daughter, eh?).
- Not since the glory days of PBS stations airing Doctor Who episodes have we seen such a full on embrace of Doctor Who by an American outlet. BBC America knew it had something special in Doctor Who and has done so much to let the rest of America know it too.
- The use of bonus episodes of a few minutes in length has done much to bolster Doctor Who's reach online, cultivating interest before and between episodes. These little snippets in the lives of the Doctor and his friends function to fill in little gaps in the overall narrative as well as give us something to hold on to in the wait between episodes and series. The most recent installment gave us something we thought we would never see: Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor again. Mini-sodes rule!
- Ever since Jenna fast talked her way into our hearts in "Asylum of the Daleks" and "The Snowmen", we have been fascinated by what she would do as companion for real, Clara Oswald. And Clara has proven herself to be more than simply "Not Amy Pond". Jenna Coleman has made Clara a unique and engaging companion.
- The pressure to produce a 50th anniversary special worthy of Doctor Who was enormous. The fact that Steven Moffat, Matt Smith and all the rest actually delivered on what I would describe as one of the best episodes ever of Doctor Who is just nothing short of astonishing. And the fact that this celebration has made news not just for being viewed on TV by millions and millions around the world but for also making box office news for the limited cinema engagements is just phenomenal. Doctor Who, beloved as a cultural icon in the United Kingdom and embraced by devoted fans around the planet, is proving itself a force to be reckoned with it.
- All we have are snippets of what Capaldi will bring to the role when he becomes the Doctor: the Hartnellesque grasping of the lapels when he was introduced as the new Doctor. Those intense eyes that cameo in "Day of the Doctor". But I'm thankful for Peter Capaldi less for his particular contribution might be than for what he represents. Doctor Who is 50 years old and we've seen it all, right? Except we have not. A television program 5 decades on and we have no idea what's going to happen next. There's a new era coming with all new possibilities. Isn't that amazing?
And that's that? Well, not really. Even at 50 items on the list, there is so much more to be thankful for when it comes to Doctor Who. But above all else, I'm thankful that Doctor Who is something that exists. Thank you for the joy of following this madman with a box exploring distant worlds and long-ago times. Thank you, Doctor Who.
Next week on Doctor Who Saturday, Whovians up close: We are not alone.