Sat
Jan 1 2011 1:00pm
The Tea is Getting Cold

This is a post in the Tor.com Twelve Doctors of Christmas series. Click the link to peruse the entire series.

The Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoyPeople say “you never forget your first Doctor,” and I’m sure they’re right—I wasn’t even five years old when I met my first Doctor. I do mean “met.” When you’re that young, the people in your television are your friends and teachers, and the Third Doctor taught me a lot. But he wasn’t my Doctor. Neither was the Fourth, or the Fifth (although I did spend a few years with a massive crush on Peter Davidson).

Number Seven, on the other hand…that was my Doctor. If I wasn’t sure from the moment he stepped onto the screen, I knew it when I saw “Battlefield.” He was Merlin. He traveled with a teenage girl who was like the teenage girls I knew—Ace, whom I desperately wanted to grow up to be—and he kept secrets and he knew stories, and he was my Doctor.

I’ve always had a thing for Trickster figures, and while the argument can be made for Doctor Who as a modern and abiding Trickster archetype, we didn’t get the darker side of the Trickster until Seven. Not only that, it was presented as a good, if ruthless, thing. He was willing to sacrifice allies and enemies alike to achieve his goals, and while he might be sorry, he wouldn’t let that change his actions.

It helped that Ace was the first companion I really identified with. She was frustrated, angry, smarter than anyone wanted to let her be, and just wanted to have some adventures and figure herself out. The Companions are ostensibly there to give us an entryway to the Doctor’s vast, confusing world, a hand to hold while this eternal madman shows us the stars. Well, if Seven was my Doctor, Ace was my Companion, and I have never stopped being grateful to either of them.

The Seventh Doctor’s tenure was marked by a deepening darkness, an increasing feeling of “this shit is getting real.” Listening to the descriptions of the stories that were never filmed, I can’t help feeling that the dark would have gotten a lot deeper before the dawn. Without Seven and his demonstration that Doctor Who can survive a little shadow, our “modern Doctors” might never have existed.

Watching Doctor Who in the United States meant I was always behind the times—PBS didn’t get new episodes until two years after they ran, and I was aware of the show’s cancellation before the characters themselves knew, at least in my corner of the world. I cried while I watched the end of “Survival,” because I was only thirteen, but I understood that some things, like cancellation, are forever.

The Seventh Doctor was my Doctor, and I will never forget him. I love Eleven—he’s the Doctor I’ve been waiting for since Sylvester McCoy walked down the Perivale road, telling his brave Companion about all the adventures yet to come—but he’s not my Doctor.

That position has already been filled.

There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea’s asleep, and the rivers dream. People made of smoke, and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea’s getting cold. Come on, Ace. We’ve got work to do.”—Andrew Cartmel, “Survival.”

Doctor Who comic by Seanan McGuire


Seanan McGuire’s novels include the urban fantasies Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, and An Artificial Night, all from DAW, and (under the byline Mira Grant) the postapocalyptic thriller Feed, published by Orbit. She is also a well-known filksinger whose albums include Stars Fall Home, Red Roses and Dead Things, and Wicked Girls. In 2010 she won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her essay “Mathematical Excellence: A Documentary,” appears in the essay collection Chicks Dig Time Lords.

This article is part of The Twelve Doctors of Christmas: ‹ previous | index | next ›
10 comments
Ashe Armstrong
2. AsheSaoirse
I don't sleep with a bag packed...but I do listen for the TARDIS sometimes...I can't help it.

My only real experience with Seven is the little bit before he turns into Eight but I liked him. And then I saw one of the Confidential specials where McCoy talked about walking away from that explosion and not knowing whether he had a backside anymore but he knew that was the only take they had so he just kept walking.
tarbis
3. tarbis
Seven is definitely my Doctor. The ruthless acts combined with the self doubt, humor, and tenderness to Ace made him seem more real and effective to me. (It also didn't hurt that many of the serials were designed almost like magic tricks.)
tarbis
5. Time Lord at Large
I agree completely with Seanan McGuire. The 7th Doctor was my Doctor as well.

Sylvester McCoy & Sophie Aldred had brilliant on screen chemistry, & worked with some excellent stories & scripts (Remembrance, Fenric & Ghost Light are in my top five of favourite Doctor Who ‘classic’ stories). The ‘Cartmel Master plan,’ darkened up the Time Lord & added an air of mystery to the character of the Doctor. This was continued into the Virgin Range of Books, & the Big Finish Audios, & touched on again by RTD in the Waters of Mars – Time Lord Victorious is an obvious play on Times Champion.

But what I most loved about the 7th Doctor’s era , was that it showed you could make a good Sci-fi without flashy star ships (all the aforementioned stories, are period pieces, which of course the BBC is supreme at – Remembrance of the Daleks 1960’s, The Curse of Fenric, WWII & Ghost Light is set during the Victorian Period).

True good CGI effects add icing to the cake (I would love to see Remembrance with modern CGI, say a Saucer shaped Imperial Dalek Kill Cruiser, from modern ‘Who,’ a better designed attack shuttle & more Daleks on the Imperial Flagship & battle scenes), but script & imagination are most important.

Finally, I would love to see other 7th era writers, script modern ‘Who.’ A Ben Aaronovitch penned Mat Smith story would be fantastic!
Joseph Blaidd
6. SteelBlaidd
The Happyness Patrol has always been one of my very favorites and the line "There are no other colors without the Blues," seems particularly apropreate, to the idea of the Doctor needing just a little darkness.
tarbis
8. makeda
Yes, this was definitely the Doctor where the writers continues the hint from "The Trial of a Time Lord" that there was a lot more power hidden within that he chose to display.

I am finally coming out of the daze of watching too much Doctor Who on BBCAmerica this weekend. Wow! I was surprised to find out how addictive the shows were. And I was pleased to see how well the writers interwoven various episodes together.
tarbis
9. Karshtakavaar
Excellently written and praise for Cartmel's desire to take the Doctor in a more complex situation. I won't say 'darker', because that implies he's all blacks and whites, whereas a properly fleshed character is shades of grey.

Thanks from a devout Seventh Doctor fan!
Jacy Clark
10. Amalisa
I haven't bothered to pack a bag - I mean, the TARDIS' wardrobe is prepared for anything, right? But if I ever have a chance to score a key to the bigger-on-the-inside blue box, they'll have to pry it from my cold dead fingers to get it back.

Awesome, awesome quote at the end!
tarbis
11. SF.Fangirl
Yes. Yes. Yes! Seven is not my first Doctor, but he's my favorite. In a very large part because of Ace and his relationship with Ace, and also those very well written sci fi adventures you mention.

I still retain fondness for my first - Four (especially the early long serials) and Three, Two and even One. I would now probably pass on viewing Five and Six episodes and I ignore the whole movie because of the pandering to the non-DW fans. I liked all the new Doctors, but the Doctor and Ace remain my favorite. I can't believe the series was cancelled with them.
tarbis
12. Sean Holland
Ace was one of my favorite companions as well. Thank you for sharing your memories.

My father and I both agreed that if we had the chance we would travel with the Doctor, alone or together. If we left alone we would do our best to contact the other.

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