DOCTOR WHO - What makes the character of the Doctor so popular? - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

DOCTOR WHO - What makes the character of the Doctor so popular?

Tom Pheby addresses the question, what is it that makes the character of the Doctor so popular?

There I was lounging around the house with random thoughts popping up like slices of toast, when my mind turned to the subject of Doctor Who and what it is that makes the character so popular. Could anyone play it with any type of script? Are there key traits for playing the time hopping hero? Coffee first I thought.

I recalled the Doctors I was particularly fond of, I must admit to being a Tom Baker fan. It's generally accepted that each individual Whovian will have a stand out favourite, others he likes, some he possibly tolerates and those that he feels just hold on to the role until someone else suitable comes along. Tardis caretakers if you like.

In 2005 I was desperately keen to see the Doctor again after a lengthy absence, and Christopher Eccleston manfully acted out the role with wide eyes and a smile that could only be an endorsement for a competent dentist. Dressed in a leather coat and with a degree of Northern cockiness, not too dissimilar to Liam Gallagher out on a bender before clouting the paparazzi, he buzzed from story to story affirming the morality of the Doctor. There was a sort of boyish charm about the way he acted out the part but not enough to deflect you away from the thought that this Doctor probably hot wired the Tardis and inadvertently borrowed it.

Some people were upset that Eccleston left after such a short spell but I wasn't one of them, he had rejuvenated the franchise, bought the Doctor up to date and manned the position until a suitable actor could be found and I'm certainly grateful for that but had he stayed on, I think the acting may have got so hammy that he could have swapped the Tardis for a deli counter. So I grudgingly suffered through the Ninth Doctor's era, as well as Paul McGann's, Sylvester McCoy's and Colin Baker's time as caretakers.

I have grown to like both David Tennant and Matt Smith incarnations. Tennant and Smith took the energy of the new Doctor and managed to develop the likeability of the Time Lord even further. I'd have rather Tennant kept his soft Scottish lilt instead of adopting a fake London accent (Mockney), but both he and Smith are fine actors and were much more comfortable with the subtlety of the Doctor's troubled soul, the task of making the ridiculous believable and delivering excellent comedic moments throughout their individual reign.

Anyway, I digress, what makes the character of the Doctor?
Of course there are props, trench coat, fez, scarf, jumper and a glorious bow tie. Then there's the giant prop of the Tardis, various assistants and menacing foes but essentially it's the persona of the actor and the script. I tend to think once the version of the Doctor is realised by the actor, scripts are then tailored to them, with the actor very much in the writers mind, often more than the character.

The best versions of the Doctor for me are Patrick Troughton, Tom Baker, David Tennant and Matt Smith. They all portray the genius quality of the man with a child like curiosity and sense of fun. The Doctor has the ability to confuse and bemuse, yet bring a smile to the most perilous situation. Yes I'm sure, I will alienate thousands with my choice of Doctor's but that's the fun of this global phenomenon, we all have our own vision, it's personal and we in a way are part owners of the franchise.

The actors I have named all share similarities in their performance and there are those amongst you out there, that can be heard shouting other names whilst chewing on the arm of the chair, but for now I completely ignore those claims on the understanding that 'my Tardis' with 'my Doctor's' are the most important (because it's all about me!). I'm sure that in many years to come my list of actors I enjoyed in the role will expand, and this is one of the main reasons the series continues to flourish. Regeneration was once an excuse for the BBC to rid itself of an actor they no longer wanted, but now it's accepted that it brings a sense of excitement and an opportunity for the Doctor to develop for future generations.

Peter Capaldi's version of the Doctor is soon to hit the screens, and I hope that this highly skilled and acclaimed actor can crawl under the skin of this television masterpiece and find the same elements others have before him.  

So to answer the question, what makes the character of the Doctor so popular?
Although the scripts themselves need to be excellent with enough tension and excitement to propel the show along, and there needs to be enough tech talk to let us understand that we are in the presence of a time hopping genius, plus we need the quirky humour to remind us that no matter what the Doctor will prevail. I think the main ingredient is that of the actor. He needs to make us believe, to enthrall us and entice us back week after week.

Tom Pheby from The Third Star of Ancralon in the Varis System.

If you can't make it to the Varis System you can follow Tom Pheby on Twitter

Got something to say on Doctor Who or anything else in the wide world of geek?
Want to be a guest contributor for Warped Factor?
Well we want you!
See our Geeks Wanted page for more details.

Post Top Ad