Throughout my various travels I’ve been surprised to find so many Dr. Who fans. Many years ago when I decided to start getting into Dr. Who with episode 1; I had absolutely no idea what the show was about. I didn’t know it involved time-travel, aliens or what a police box was. The only thing I did know was this was a British show and it was popular. I had no idea on the scope of its popularity outside America and it was something I was not prepared for.
The biggest discovery I made was the fact that many people did not start with episode 1. While a couple did begin the series as I, others were picked up along the way like so many of the Doctor’s companions and majority of my “Whovian” friends started with the recent series (9th Doctor). However with my discoveries, many Whovian friends found their own surprise in me; that some Hawaiian bloke was so keen on Dr. Who, but had no idea what a sonic screwdriver was. It was revealed that I am going through the series chronologically, so not current and don’t really like spoilers (still not current, suck in the 70’s with the 3rd Doctor). Ultimately I could not discuss Dr. Who with anyone. This fact seemed daunting, but we shared the common bond of Dr. Who and his vast universe of events.
Conversations began to flow, topics of what the more recent Doctors were up to and my “Classic Who” knowledge connected aspects which lead to the Doctors recent adventures. I ended up answering more questions my Whovian friends had because the answers were explained in Classic Who.
You never forget your first Doctor, but Whovians always have a favorite. The BBC America “The Doctor’s Revisited” special examines each incarnation of the Doctor starting with the 1st. As of this writing the 1st Doctor is still my favorite. But since day 1 of my epic Dr. Who undertaking, I could not figure out what the allure of the 1st Doctor was for me. I knew he was crafty, an incredible actor, but for me there had to be more. Plus I’m a firm believer that if you like something, you have to be able to fight tooth and nail to defend your decision. The Dr. Who special did the trick because it gave me the chance to isolate the doctor with current show writers and actors explaining their take on the show. So, here we go:
The Doctor was not the lead role.
The Doctors were granted interesting nicknames like: “The musician”, “the clown/magician” but the “Old Man” (1st Doctor) is my favorite Doctor because he is not the main character. The lead of Dr. Who was actually companion Ian Chesterton. Ian and his girlfriend Barbara Wright were kidnapped by the Doctor in the 1st episode “An Unearthly Child”. Ian and Barbara were the school teachers that everyone wished they had, they were smart, practical and not afraid to get their hands dirty. Their student was Susan, who seemed to be the Doctor’s granddaughter. One night Ian and Barbara followed Susan to a junkyard because they were concerned about her. In the yard as they saw Susan enter the TARDIS they were discovered by the Doctor as he returned to the TARDIS. Ian and Barbara assumed Susan was in trouble and barged into the TARDIS. The Doctor and Susan tried to explain the TARDIS to the school teachers but the Doctor had enough of things and activated the TARDIS to show them firsthand. From that moment Ian and Barbara were the Doctor’s companions.
Malfunctions and complications.
At this point the TARDIS was severely malfunctioning (which is why when they left London with Ian and Barbara the chameleon circuit finally failed, thus keeping the TARDIS looking like a police box for many adventures). Normally the Doctor and Susan would be somewhere/sometime, keeping their heads down trying to live peacefully while the Doctor attempted to make repairs with the items he could find. Because of the malfunction, the Doctor and Susan had no idea where or when they would end up. This is why Ian and Barbara were critical companions for the Doctor, because of their book smarts; they were able to figure out when and where they landed.
Visitors or time travelers.
It also seemed like the Doctor and Susan were from an entirely different dimension because when Ian and Susan would explain where they were, the Doctor and Susan would exchange uneasy glances possibly because of their dimension and knowledge of our dimension is completely different. Susan was reading a book on the French Revolution and she screamed out that the events of the history book were not right. However it could be pointed out that the Doctor and Susan knew the actual truth that was not explained in the book.
A science fiction Indiana Jones.
My vote for best companions would have to go for Ian and Barbara, because Ian’s attitude to things were very close to Indiana Jones, a school teacher who used intelligence to kick butt. Having the Doctor as a supporting role was great, because it added to his mystery. In this grouping, the Doctor was cool because his presence demanded that he be the star of the scene, however at the right moment, he’d cloak himself in his supporting role and observe, adding to his allure and feeding his “alien” demeanor.
With Scrooge McDuck.
While we have Indiana Jones, I realized that the Doctor is a lot like Scrooge McDuck from Ducktales. He was a stern old man, however he was incredibly cunning and once he liked you, he fought with all he had for you. However the Doctor was not a hero, he would stress the fact that everyone was not to interfere with past events. This “sit back and observe” aspect was very intriguing because as I said it added to the Doctor and Susan’s “alien” unknown background, it also made the stories revolve around them. I also feel that the Doctor was not complete because he did not have a functioning TARDIS, so he needed to be extra careful because he was vulnerable. These points were incredibly acted by the Doctor and Susan. But when the Daleks invaded Earth, the Doctor finally took up the mantle of Earth’s defender instead of observer.
Dr. Who: no future.
The first few episodes had to be good because they did not have much of a budget. They also had no idea that it would launch a series that would last 50 years with spinoffs. Casting and writing were amazing and I ended up remembering something that I used to always say when trying to explain Dr. Who to people. The first words out of my mouth were always, “it’s a smart show”. Across the board, from props to scripts, even technically speaking as a filmmaker it was really something else. For everyone on the project, there was no future; they were creating something that was the end. These were the only companions; this was the only Doctor that would ever be.
All good things.
Alas like all companions, they end up leaving the TARDIS. After Ian and Barbara left, a show writer said that the companions were never as intellectual as Ian and Barbara, who were in their own right on the same level as the Doctor. A couple companions later people started referring to the groupings as “The Doctor and the kids”. Susan’s contribution was a strong young woman who could also fight, but she grounded the Doctor, making him seem more human and familiar because he was a family man. This was needed because of his brash and eclectic ways. With the Doctor the only one left and no grounding, he naturally shed his cloak of mystery for the role of series lead.
The end of the beginning.
The writers stated that they were envious of the first people who got to see the TARDIS in the 1st episode because they had no idea what the show was about and what was going on. Thankfully I could be included in this small and dwindling collective. Though that moment may seem a bit comedic compared to our current standards. That first time in the TARDIS for me was an amazing experience which I still remember…
Here we are, “talking about a man from the future, 50 years later”…