Time has passed for our favorite TV Time Traveler. Next year will mark 50 years since the enduring BBC series Doctor Who first debuted on television. Through many cast changes and creative directions, the BBC is still producing new episodes after five decades and getting some of its highest ratings ever. It’s more popular in American now than it ever has been before. The show is so popular that, several years ago, there were rumors of a possible film version. Those rumors have cooled off now but considering that Doctor Who is reaching the half century benchmark, should there be a film version of the show?
The series follows the adventures of a brilliant, selfless and endearingly flawed traveler in time-and-space, born on the scientifically advanced planet Gallifrey. He is a member of the ancient race of Time Lords whose purpose is to observe and chronicle the history of the universe but not interfere. Our hero, however, defies his race’s non-interference directive and becomes an intergalactic crusader for justice, using his vast intellect to protect the innocent against all kinds of monsters, alien invaders and evil beings . The character’s name has never been revealed and he always travels under the alias of “The Doctor”. People naturally ask “Doctor Who?”, hence the title of the series.
There have been efforts to bring the show to the big screen before. Even Tom Baker, one of the most popular of the actors to play the character, has tried to peddle a Dr. Who screenplay but so far, no one has succeeded, much to the disappointment of fans. Plans for a film called Dr. Who and the Dark Dimension almost came to fruition on the 30th anniversary but ultimately fell apart. Parenthetically, there were two films in the 1960s featuring Peter Cushing, which were somewhat based on the TV show. Cushing played a human scientist named Dr. Who, the builder of a time/space machine who has adventures with his family. But aside from this non-canonical semi-adaptation, the cinema screen has evaded the Doctor. Still, taking the perennial popularity of the show into account, should the BBC celebrate the anniversary with a movie adaptation?
There have been 11 different actors who have portrayed the eponymous Time Lord hero on TV over the decades; some more popular than others. The first Doctor (Played by William Hartnell) was an aging, eccentric curmudgeon. He had little patience and he didn’t suffer fools gladly. He could be very intolerant and dismissive of his traveling companions (except for his beloved Granddaughter Susan) although he started to lighten up as the show went on, learning to enjoy a bemused chuckle once in a while.
When the series’ first star, William Hartnell, became too ill to continue on in the role, (He was suffering from arterial sclerosis) the writers came up with the ingenious concept of “regeneration”. Whenever the Doctor is dying, he can regenerate into a newer, healthy form. This explains the eleven varying actors, who not only don’t look alike, but have decidedly differing personalities.
Doctor # two (Played by Patrick Troughton) was a complete reversal. He was friendly, funny and frivolous. He liked to play his flute, wear disguises and use lots of puns. He was like a mischievous little imp. He would often show fear at a frightening moment and was not adverse to running away when the situation warranted it. He often played the fool, making himself seem like a bungler…but this was all an act, designed to make people underestimate him. And he knew when to stop playing games. When he was all business, he was very formidable. After three years, Patrick Troughton had become so popular as the Doctor, he was afraid that type-casting would damage his career. He decided to quit after year six. Radio comedian John Pertwee was chosen to play the Third Doctor.
Doctor Three was the most physical and action oriented of the Doctors. Although he was certainly not a young kid, Pertwee was very athletic. Doctor Three was a master of a unique form of Martian martial arts. This Doctor was a product of the James Bond era, relying on gadgets, like his cars “Bessie” and the Whomobile. He was elegant and classy looking, in his ruffled shirt and opera cloak. He exuded a sense of supreme confidence. He always seemed to be in control, no matter what the odds against him.
Pertwee decided to quit after 5 years due to personal reasons. The 12th year introduced audiences to the man who would become arguably the most popular of all the Doctors…Tom Baker. His long scarf, curly hair and big grin became the trademark symbol of Doctor Who for years.
Doctor Four was eccentric, unpredictable and maybe just a little bit crazy. There was no telling what he’d do or say next. He had a childlike enthusiasm and a sometimes a childish petulance. He would frequently enrage an enemy with his verbal barbs. Wrapped in his long, multi-colored scarf, he’d bound recklessly into danger, grinning that big boyish grin, as if the idea of defeat had never occurred to him. He was as fearless as he was curious.
Tom Baker stayed on for seven years until he got bored with the role. He was replaced by the youngest actor to portray the Doctor at the time, Peter Davison.
Doctor Five was a kinder gentler Doctor. He was patient, gentle, and displayed more vulnerability than other Doctors. His amiable nature was often put to the test, since he was saddled with the most disagreeable and argumentative group of traveling companions that any Doctor had ever been burdened with. He tried to play the adult and keep peace among his squabbling crew, but sometimes he just had to storm out and get away from these pests. He was a big sports lover and always dressed in a Cricketers outfit.
Peter Davison took Patrick Troughton’s advice about not staying too long in the role, or the Doctor would over-shadow his career. He’d told the producers that he would only stay for three years and he stuck to that mandate.
Doctor Six (Played by Colin Baker) was the most unlikable and irritating of all the Doctors. Six was the ‘Bad Boy’ of Doctors. He had no time to be polite–he had a universe to save! He was bombastic, boastful and belligerent. He showed little sympathy for his companions, and was quicker to use lethal force to defeat an enemy than any other Doctor.
Colin Baker’s era as the Doctor was not popular. He was not well liked by fans and critics at the time (although he’s had a resurgence of popularity in recent years) and he was fired after only two years worth of episodes.
Doctor Seven (Sylvester McCoy) began as a comical, impish fun lover, but soon revealed a darker side. He was the most enigmatic Doctor since Hartnell and displayed many layers of mystery beneath his smiling exterior.
The series was canceled in 1989 after 26 years. There were constant rumors of it being brought back. In 1996, an American television network brought the rights to Doctor Who and created a pilot for their own Doctor Who series. The film starred Paul McGann (They stuck with a British actor) as the 8th Doctor and it was a continuation of the classic BBC series. However, even though McGann gave a brilliant one-time performance as the Doctor, the TV film was not well written and did poorly in the ratings. The series wasn’t picked up by American TV and the rights eventually reverted to the BBC. The BBC finally resurrected the series in 2004. Once again, it was a continuation of the classic series. Popular movie actor Christopher Eccleston agreed to star in the premier year of the ‘New Who’ show as the Ninth Doctor.
Doctor # 9 was a morose Doctor, altering between grim darkness and fits of exuberant energy. In his long, black coat, this version of the Doctor was supposed to be suffering the equivalent of battle fatigue, having just survived the “Time War” which wiped out his home world.
Eccleston had only agreed to do one year, to get the new series started. He left after the premier season (Or the 27th season, depending on how you look at it.) Eccleston was replaced by David Tennant, who rivals Tom Baker for the role of most popular Doctor. The series took advantage of Tennant’s good looks to turn the Doctor into a space Casanova, irresistible to women. The tenth Doctor had a romance with his teenage companion. The producers were trying to make the series appeal to teen girls by using the Twilight approach.
Doctor 10 was a ball of manic energy. He was hyper active, fast talking and full of quirks. He had a lot of catches-phrases. He had a “geek-chic” look, with spiky hair. After the actress who played his love interest left the show, the 10th Doctor lost his young paramour. He then became lovelorn and melancholy (Yet still hyper.)
Tennant decided to leave after four years (Plus one year’s worth of TV specials) and was replaced by the youngest actor yet…Matt Smith.
Doctor 11 (Smith) comes across as an old soul in a very young body. He’s like a wacky college Professor who looks like a student. He seems more alien and odd than many of his predecessors in the role. He’s very laid back and yet with a zest for adventure bursting out of every pore.
Matt Smith is very popular in the role and he seems to have the talent and screen presence of carry a Dr. Who film on his shoulders. So the questions remains…Should the BBC produce a Dr. Who film for the upcoming 50th anniversary. What do you think?