“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.
Emmet 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.