Wed
Jan 5 2011 4:06pm

“My Doctor Could Out-Sonic Your Doctor!”—A Plea to Fellow Whovians

Who is your Doctor?

“He’s my Doctor.”

How many times have we heard this phrase? Why do we feel the need to express it? What does it actually mean?

When I first became a Doctor Who fanatic, I was surprised at the insistence of many fans as to who the best Doctor was, which one had captivated them to the point where they felt the need to claim that particular version of the character as their own. In my mind, he was the same figure all around. Vastly different takes on a theme, certainly, but liking one face over all the others seemed akin to liking one specific chapter of a book and dumping the rest of it. I have my preferences, but how could I really decide that one was so definitive, so much more than all the others?

Then, on the first of day 2010, the Tenth Doctor regenerated. While I was wildly excited by the prospect of a new Doctor and a showrunner change up, I was struck by the unexpected sense of loss I felt. As though a dear friend had passed, which should seem so silly; I had watched regenerations before. Why was this one different?

Ten is my Doctor.

But here’s the thing: I love the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond (and Rory, don’t forget poor Rory). I love Verity Lambert and Terrance Dicks. I love rubber alien suits as much as a computer generated flap of skin. I love the Doctor stuck on Earth with UNIT as much as a Doctor out in space or chilling with ancient Aztecs. I love an orchestral theme and a minimalist one. What kills me about the Doctor Who fandom is how many people vehemently don’t.

It seems it is the curse of long-running fandoms to be forever divided. Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings easily fall under this category as well, and it is slightly schizophrenic watching debates unfold in any kind of public setting. Different types of fans usually want different things from the show and, in my experience, people who read and watch science fiction and fantasy are often incredibly opinionated. (Admit it, you are. It’s okay when you’re in such good company.) It leads to some pretty cruel bashing all the way around. This Doctor is ugly or too young or mean or too bouncy, that showrunner is a terrible writer, this companion is useless and annoying, that villain is so much more important to the show than the others. Especially in online formats, where people have far less fear about being unforgivingly honest (and often rude), Doctor Who fans argue more than they celebrate together.

But we have so much to celebrate.

If there’s one thing that is true about the fans of this impossibly magnificent show, it is that you cannot make a generalization about us as a group. I remember being at the U.S. launch for Series 5 in New York City, and one fan told Matt Smith that he thought Eleven had the potential to become the Doctor that everyone in America forever associated with the show—much like Tom Baker was to Stateside fans. A rumble broke out in the theatre and the meaning was clear: it was not okay to insinuate that one Doctor had a bigger impact on American fans than the others. It would have been funnier had it not been so serious.

There are so many things I do not say on forums or sitting in a room with Who fans. We’re a decisive bunch and not liable to change our minds with ease. So I lean back and watch some fans insist now that Matt Smith is the best Doctor in decades, and that David Tennant really would have done better to play the part more like that. It’s heartbreaking, because in all honesty the idea of regeneration should really be a clue in for all of us. If our hero is such a diverse being, capable of so many different aspects and ready to renew his sense of wonder and awe with every corner he turns, then why aren’t we? Why can’t we appreciate Four’s trailing scarf as much as Seven’s umbrella and Ten’s chucks? Why do we have to insist that a universe before the Time War is better for story building than a universe struggling through the aftermath? Why can’t we appreciate companions who are in love with the Doctor just as much as the ones who give him a hard time?

My name is Emily. I adored Rose Tyler and Donna Noble both as companions. I like Russell T. Davies as showrunner every bit as much as Steven Moffat. If you ask me my favorite villain, I will tell you that the Master beats out the Daleks and Cybermen any day of the week. My favorite classic Doctors are, in fact, Troughton, Pertwee and Davison. I don’t think that we should ever be allowed to see the Time War on screen. I do think we should be allowed to see more of the TARDIS. Benedict Cumberbatch has my vote for the next Doctor. Ten is my Doctor. I am immensely proud to be a devotee of the longest running science fiction show on television.

And if you only agree with that last statement, that’s just fine. I will continue to disagree with you on all the others, but I will also be happy to have found a kindred spirit. For a moment, let’s stop arguing about it. We have so much to celebrate as Doctor Who fans. We have all of time and space to choose from, a taste for adventure and a kindly, brilliant, utterly mad—and at times a little bit foxy—alien to show us the way.

Provided he doesn’t accidentally drop us off at Aberdeen.


Emily Asher-Perrin cosplayed as Rose Tyler at San Diego ComicCon 2010 with a fantastic Ten—yes, it was awesome. She writes for Starpulse.com and Examiner.com and likes tweeting just as much as you do.

This article is part of The Twelve Doctors of Christmas: ‹ previous | index | next ›
27 comments
Lynne Thomas
1. Lynne Thomas
THIS. THIS, this, this, this, THIS.

Splendid chaps, all of them.
Lynne Thomas
2. Dr. Thanatos
At least there's one thing we can agree on; what we say to those who disagree with us about Who is the best and we all know it's Four...]:

Let's say it together, now:

Exterminate!!!!!
Lynne Thomas
3. Leah Hansen
I think you're a kindred Whovian-spirit, Emily! I identify and agree with every single sentence in that second-to-last Whovian Declaration paragraph of yours. I too loved both Rose and Donna. Heck, I loved Martha too. I don't prefer the Russel T. Davies show over the S. Moffat version---they're both marvelous. And Benedict Cumberbatch for the next Doctor? YES. PLS. KTHNXBAI.

In fact, my favorite thing about the show is its ability to renew, morph, change, reinvent, and still stay true to its heart. Bravo, Doctor Who.
Lynne Thomas
4. RanchoUnicorno
Thank you for this. As I discovered the immense quantity (and quality) of Doctor Who coverage here, I began to realize I didn't have a "my Doctor" that I considered my favorite.

My "first Doctor" was the Ninth, streaming at 2:30 am while I had some insomnia, who I watched until it was time for me to get ready to go to work. I enjoyed the work of Ten enough that I decided to begin at the beginning. The missus and I have since worked through One and Two and are halfway through Three and almost done with Eleven. Yet, I've enjoyed all of them. Sure, I find some of the stories a bit dry, and I find that some writers are more my style than others, but I haven't hated anything.

The only issue I might take with our position is that there is no reason to care less for one Doctor/companion/writer/showrunner/etc than another. To do so would deny natural instincts to prefer things. What we can't lose sight of is the fact that all of them were needed to reach to point where we are now - together in Whoville, arm in arm, hand in hand.
Lynne Thomas
5. JCHicks
Nice. I agree completely. And Benedict Cumberbatch as the next Doctor ... Yes! I will hate it whenever Matt Smith decides to hang up the bow tie, but having Mr. Holmes in the role would ease the loss considerably.
Lynne Thomas
6. Dr. Thanatos
Unicorno@4,

Whoville! I love it, especially right after a Christmas episode.

As a red-blooded whovian, I would pay cash money to see Amy Pond as Cindy Lou Who...
Lynne Thomas
7. Packet
I've been saying to friends that Benedict Cumberbatch would make an absolutely phenomenal Doctor. I'm glad I seem to be far from alone in this opinion!

And now, while everyone else argues over Four, Five, Ten and all the other indisputably wonderful incarnations of our favorite time-traveller, I will go sit in the corner and hug poor unloved Eight.

(Seriously, if you haven't heard McGann in the audio dramas, you haven't really experienced the Eighth Doctor. The TV movie did not do justice to McGann's portrayal of the Doctor, and there's a hint to Eight and Charley's relationship that's expanded on by Ten and Rose's later association.)
Warren Ockrassa
8. warreno
They're all the Doctor. Sometimes he's funny, sometimes he's serious. Sometimes he's angry or moody. Sometimes he's manic. Sometimes he's even maniacal.

As with every single living person, he changes with time. His appearance shifts. His personality shifts. His learning and wisdom alter his worldview and, in turn, he alters the world he interacts with by those changes within himself.

They are all the same Doctor, in precisely the way that we are each of us the same person that we were when we were eight years old, eighteen, eighty. The same, and yet not. Changes wrought by time and other energies, with the only continuity being awareness acting to string all those disparate parts together into one whole, more or less coherent, narrative.

The Doctor is the ultimate Buddhist unstringing of the concept of an independent, eternal Self. Attachment to one aspect of the Self always leads to dissatisfaction.

There is a lesson to be learned here.

I wonder if the Doctor was responsible for making me receptive to Buddhist philosophy.
Lynne Thomas
9. beket
I love Eight! "My Doctor" is two of them-- Eight and Ten (this doesn't mean I dislike others). I remember as a kid trying to watch Doctor Who (Tom Baker and the next ones), but my PBS station showed them very late at night when I was struggling to stay awake and it seemed to be out of order and I always felt like I was forever missing something. Then Eight showed up in that 90 minute thing, and suddenly, I got it (and felt really dumb for not getting it sooner). Yeah, they got things wrong in that one, but I loved the Doctor at last. And still do.
Lynne Thomas
10. Maren T
I'm glad someone else thinks there too much of the "my Doctor" thing out there. This surprised me a lot when I first discovered Doctor Who, that there were so many different opinions and that people disagreed that much about it. (It shouldn't have surprised me so much really, I've seen some of the so-called "shipping wars" from the Harry Potter fandom. I still was, though.)

I see the different Doctors as different characters, in a way. Don't get me wrong, I know they're really the same man (and it shows, too), but in some ways, they're so different, so easy to keep apart. Which is why I can say that I prefer Matt Smith's Doctor, or, as they say, that he's "my" Doctor. (I always put that my in quotation marks, because no Doctor can ever be mine. I don't own him. I haven't met him. But he is, and will probably be in the future, the one I will think of when someone mentions "Doctor Who".)

I can also say that I prefer Donna to Martha, in the same way that I like Sam better than Frodo from The Lord of the Rings. I can say I didn't like Martha or Rose, in the same way I don't like Arwen or Harry Potter (the character, not the books). I can say that I like Rory much better than Amy, just like I prefer Nynaeve to Egwene in the Wheel of Time series. I don't dislike Amy or Egwene (well, except Egwene, for a couple of books), I just like them less than I like Rory or Nynaeve. I like the Daleks better than the Slitheen, and I like Morgoth from The Silmarillion much better than Harry Potter's Voldemort.

But despite all my preferences and likings, I think it's okay if you don't agree with me. I think that should be the default opinion, "we disagree, but that's okay, we can still discuss Doctor Who in a civil way, and I'll be really interested to hear why you prefer that Doctor." The default today seems, from what I've seen, to be (and definitely not just in the Doctor Who fandom) that "you have a different opinion than me! I am right, and you are WRONG!"

But then, maybe that's just the people who shout the loudest.
Brent Longstaff
11. Brentus
Ten is my doctor, but I think nine and eleven are great too. I'm a newcomer and I just caught up with the 2005+ series and have yet to go back to the old ones, so no comment on 1-8.
Alex Brown
12. AlexBrown
I haven't bonded with Eleven as much as I did with Ten and that'll never happen. I do enjoy Matt Smith as The Doctor; he is a very different Doctor than those before, and rightfully so. A regeneration should be different from the old. But he isn't *my* Doctor. Ten will always be *my* Doctor.

Eleven/Matt Smith is great and all but he isn't one I'd commit to a tattoo for - unlike, say, Ten:


Also, YES on Benedict Cumberbatch. How fabulously DR would that be? And if you haven't seen this http://bit.ly/ebbalJ then prepare to have your life shattered by WIN.
Lynne Thomas
13. Dr. Cox
I always interpreted the phrase "My Doctor" as whichever Doctor is in the show the first time one watches it, thus providing a template for the character in one's memory.
As I mentioned in another post, Five is mine on the basis of only the last twenty minutes of "Logopolis" but, the next week, all of "Castrovalva" (tho' I still, years later when I learned to crochet, made a very very long scarf . . . all those earth-toned colors of yarn . . . whatdya do with it except crochet a very long scarf ? ;0).
I suppose a regeneration episode is a good place to start.
Lynne Thomas
14. Space Gandalf
Oh yes. I'm always annoyed when a essential question for all fans is "Who is your favorite Doctor", because I don't want to pick.
Ashe Armstrong
15. AsheSaoirse
I remember seeing that Moffet once said that his favorite is the one that's on TV now. Or something to that effect. And I love that. I feel that way quite a bit cause it's the Doctor and I love the man and the character and all his faces and all his styles. Nine started me, Ten held me, Eleven is dancing like a monkey with me. It's fantastic, it's brilliant, it's phenomenal. He's the Doctor.
Lynne Thomas
16. Alsatia
Thank you!! This is exactly how I feel. You almost have to wait to lose them to figure out which ones mean the most to you. All-time favorites? Most of us have 'em. (Mine: Four, Seven, Ten. I also love Eleven now, just as many of us always love the one that's currently in the role.) This does not mean that we should love Five and Six and Three, or any of the others not on our personal best list, any less. I have reasons for loving them the best, but they're just my reasons. Another fan may dislike my favorites for the very same reasons I love them. And that's okay, because as the Brigadier very nearly said, they are all the same splendid chap: they are all The Doctor.
Lynne Thomas
17. Mike Zeidler
I've been a fan of most of the Doctors (sorry 6, 7, & 8) but after reading "The Writer's Tale" I can no longer watch any of 9 & 10's episodes. RTD is probably one of the least professional show runners I've seen. During his last "season" he began writing at least one of the episodes after they had already started pre-production!

It was refreshing to see that so much could be done with a smaller budget during 11's first year just by having scripts done on time. Mr. Moffat even had time to create, write and produce another show while doing Doctor Who! RTD could barely remember to watch another show during his term.
Lynne Thomas
18. Saerwen
Thank you!!! I'm always sick of hearing people say that one Doctor is better than another, to the point where they're insulting and they won't watch it. I mean, I have favorites too. I far prefer Eleven to Ten, and as for the Rose or Donna debate, I'll have to go back and say that Jamie was the best companion ever. But as much as I love 11, I love 9 (my current least favorite), just as much. When asked who is my Doctor, I don't say 11 (my favorite), or 3 (my first, on DVD), or 10 (the one I grew up with), I say The Doctor is my Doctor. Whichever incarnation he shows up in, he'll always be my Doctor.

And yes, someone needs to hire Benedict Cumberbath to play the Twelfth Doctor!
Lynne Thomas
19. a-j
Also agree. Like all the various incarnations, even Peter Cushing's all human Doctor Who in the two '60s dalek films, which a lot of UK fandom used to be very leery of. If you've not seen them they're worth checking out if only to see where SM got the new-look TARDIS and dalek designs from. Are we going to get a post on Mr Cushing's interpretation?
James Goetsch
20. Jedikalos
All it means is that this is I the doctor I prefer. I am not egotist enough to think just because I like something more that means it is objectively better! (That could, of course, be true, but it is not necessarily so). It's more like asking: Which doctor do you have the most fun watching?
Lynne Thomas
21. MatthewD
Hear hear!

One of the most startlingly amazing things about Who is its immense diversity. When it comes to fiction, it's likely that no matter what suits your fancy there's an era of Doctor Who for that (well, with some exceptions but you hopefully get my point)

It's natural that people will pick up on particular Doctors or eras that suit their tastes and interests and who speak to their minds and hearts

But seeing the whole picture, all of Who, and admiring it as a whole is very important to me. I love every one of the 11, each in very different ways and for very different reasons. 4, 5, 7, 9 and 10 may be my favourites among them, but 1, 2, 3, 6, 8 and 11 are awesome too :~D
Amber Poore
22. Razorgirl
I am in complete agreement with your article!

My first Doctor, and hence I guess, "My" Doctor is/was Tom Baker. I watched repeats of his episodes eagerly, late into the night on my local PBS station when I was a kid. Early on in my fandom of the Doctor, Baker's was my focus. I wanted that scarf & hat, and did come to find that he made Jelly Babies look far tastier than they actually are. I also found that often I would get eyerolls from other Whovians when professing my then preferred Doctor, as if Baker's Doctor was too common a "favorite" for them. It was distressing at the time, and still leads me to wonder why they took such a stance. To me it was not what the idea of the Doctor represented.

Nowdays, sure, I still have a super soft fondness for the 4th Doctor but I have grown up, and grown into seeing all of the Doctors, as the Doctor. They all provide facets of one whole character. It is hard for me to say Doctor # such and such is my favorite, because I see wonder in them all.
Lynne Thomas
23. Gene Bannister
I agree with you on this matter. Too many people have already succinctly put into words the feelings I personally have about the subject. Although I enjoy each and every actor to take over not only the role of The Doctor, but his companions also, it does seem that whomever currently fills the role has me on the edge of my seat throughout the program and waiting, albeit not patiently, for the next episode. My first Doctor was Tom Baker, of course that gives away my age, but I followed him here in the States on PBS when I was young. Afterward, it would be years before I was able to rediscover him as Paul McGann in the TV Movie and still almost another decade before he returned in the form of Eccleston. However, I watch each incarnation with zeal and enjoy my time with that particular Doctor (and companions).

On the companion front I would have to agree with others; Rose was a favorite (at first, after she left & was brought back in, it seemed forced), as was Martha & Donna. Now Amy, little Amelia Pond (the girl who waited) is easily the new favorite.

I won't offer any casting choices, it seems the powers to be always ignore what fans think they want and give us what we actually need. I like the work of Cumberbatch on Sherlock, but I do not think he would make a good Doctor. He would make an excellent Master, however.

Thanks for the article and thanks for letting us know there are more of us out there that try to get past the petty differences of opinion and just enjoy The Doctor.
Lynne Thomas
24. MatthewD
#22 - Regarding your statement of "they all provide facets of one whole character. It is hard for me to say Doctor # such and such is my favorite, because I see wonder in them all.", you said it better than I managed to myself. How very true those words are! :~D
Lynne Thomas
25. Dormouse
I'll admit I'm a relatively new Who fan, I only know 3 Doctors 9,10 and 11.
I've only seen David Tennant, Matt Smith and Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor, so I've not got a lot to base anything on, but *my* Doctor is the 10th, David Tennant, because he was the first Doctor that I watched and he will always be the first Doctor that I came to "know". I love all three though Eccleston was sarcastic and awesome, Tennant was less obviously sarcastic but every bit as intelligent and willing to do what needed to be done to protect those he deemed needed protected and not someone to be messed with, Smith is also clearly a doctor not to be messed with (something you see lurking right under the surface) but he's also the happy go lucky kinda bouncing from one thing to the next Doctor at least until the last episode before the Christmas special. Each incarnation of the Doctor is different and special in their own way, and as a fan (in my opinion) you should be able to apreciate each and every "version" of the Doctor that comes with each regeneration, granted each fan will always have their favorite but personally I can't pick from the 3 that I actually have watched. As for the Companions I don't have a true favorite I liked Amy and Rory but then again I could tell you different reason for each one being a better companion. As far as "villains" go I personally like the Weeping Angels best mostly because they truly freaked me out, but I also loved the Master, he was a brilliant villain in my opinion.
Lynne Thomas
26. Arafelsedai
Brilliant article and quite heartfelt. As a long time geek and lover of all the shows mentioned...I've seen much of the same angst and bickering.
Like yourself; I adored them all...and all for different reasons. I grew up watching Tom Baker with my dad on the couch every Saturday night...then kept watching all the way until the 8th took his bow. I now sit and watch Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith with much the same passion.
I love them all...and mostly, I love all of the companions. Maybe for different reasons...but my heart encompasses them ALL.
I suppose Tom Baker was originally 'my Doctor' and I was quite bitter as a child when Davison first came along. But oh...David Tennant just has something that warms my heartstrings ...even as Smith makes me grin like an idiot.
I'm as excited to see Daleks as I am to see the Master...and the list could go on and on.
Doctor Who is ongoing, everchanging, and absolutely the same show it was in the 60's. What other brilliant set of ideals in a character could capture so many for so very long.
So..in response to your article I raise a pint in celebration to some darned fine acting and writing amongst some rather silly special effects!
Cheers!
Lynne Thomas
27. Teagan
I agree completely with most of your statements, though I subscribe to 'it's all the same guy' philosophy. The Master is awesome. So incredibly awesome words cannot say it.
Aaannd I'm Master -fangirling again.

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