Doctor Who: Survival Of The Fittest

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Christopher Morley looks at endings and new beginnings.


There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where 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.
With those words, Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor pronounced the end of the classic series of Doctor Who. What he and presumably those watching that fateful day in 1989 didn't know was that one day it would return, spearheaded by the man who had contributed Damaged Goods to the New Adventures novel range - Russell T Davies the man handed the challenge of dusting off the TARDIS & indeed her thief after a long battle to restore the series to the heart of Saturday teatime viewing, beginning by signing up Christopher Eccleston to portray this new Ninth Doctor.

As Jane Tranter, then head of BBC Drama Commissioning, said after Chris's casting was announced
"We are delighted to have cast an actor of such calibre in one of British television's most iconic roles. It signals our intention to take Doctor Who into the 21st century, as well as retaining its core traditional values - to be surprising, edgy and eccentric."
And if there's a better summing up of the Seventh then we've yet to hear it!


Closer examination of both the man the Doctor was before then and the one he would become as portrayed by Eccleston could lead us to the conclusion that Davies had learnt much from the little chap in the pullover during the long process of drawing up a Doctor for 2005! Where Andrew Cartmel had his Masterplan, dropping various vague hints that the spoons enthusiast was more than just another Time Lord, the man who in a sense took over his role had the Time War to contend with. Secrets aplenty for each, though only one had a hat to keep them under.
"Professor? Doctor? Who are you?"
And while we may be no closer to a definitive answer to the question, it didn't stop another streetwise female companion of his posing it again in a roundabout manner while he began the business of saving Earth from the Nestene Consciousness/ Autons once more following his latest regeneration.
ROSE: Who are you, then? Who's that lot down there? I said, who are they?
DOCTOR: They're made of plastic. Living plastic creatures. They're being controlled by a relay device in the roof, which would be a great big problem if I didn't have this. So, I'm going to go up there and blow them up, and I might well die in the process, but don't worry about me. No, you go home. Go on. Go and have your lovely beans on toast. Don't tell anyone about this, because if you do, you'll get them killed.
Clearly two changes of face, personality and indeed accent in the interim did little to remove the veil of secrecy around the man who may or may not at one time have been known as "The Other", according to the aforementioned Masterplan - this idea of a hidden self somewhere in his past later revisited in a sense through the War Doctor who would of course retrospectively become the Ninth. And the continuation of a long-standing battle with the Daleks would provide he & his rr-rrolling predecessor with what some might term their defining moments....
DOCTOR: The Kaleds were at war with the Thals. They had a dirty nuclear war. The resulting mutations were then accelerated by their chief scientist, Davros. What he created them he then placed them in a metal war machine, and that's how the Daleks came about.
ACE: So that metal thing had a creature inside controlling it?
DOCTOR: Exactly. And ever since the Daleks were created, they've tried to conquer and enslave as much as the universe as they can get their grubby protuberances on.
By the time Dalek aired, it quickly became apparent that that drive for conquest had proven their ruin, the Doctor and a sole surviving metal hate machine locking horns deep in a Utah vault long after Davies' Time War in narrative terms.
DALEK: You are an enemy of the Daleks! You must be destroyed!
DOCTOR: It's not working. Fantastic! Oh, fantastic! Powerless! Look at you. The great space dustbin. How does it feel?
DALEK: Keep back!
DOCTOR: What for? What're you going to do to me? If you can't kill, then what are you good for, Dalek? What's the point of you? You're nothing.
At this point it shouldn’t be forgotten that he'd also taunted Davros during an intervention in the conflict over possession of the Hand of Omega!



Far further back in time, the Ninth Doctor novel Only Human, set partly in the Neanderthal period of early human history, sees him revealing to Rose that he's met their kind before in a possible reference to Ghost Light & Nimrod the butler.

Even before all this McCoy had passed judgement on his successor in a review of Rose for the BBC's entertainment pages. Was it enjoyable viewing, or did it have him rreaching for the rremote?
"Christopher Eccleston was quite alien as the Doctor. He looked wonderful.

He had this manic grin which worried me. We were not sure if he was on the edge of insanity or not, which was rather good. He just ran into danger with such gusto, he galloped at it joyfully."
In other words, fantastic, then. Except for one small niggle!
"I was not so sure about the new TARDIS, however. I loved the one they made for the 1996 Doctor Who movie, a fantastic Jules Verne-type of creation. The inside of this one looked more organic, like a skull or a brain held together by a bony structure. I'll have to see whether it grows on me."
Whether it did, nobody knows. Perhaps he just missed the old girl the way he knew her.



Full circle from tea going cold to "you lot, all you do is eat chips, go to bed and watch telly, while all the time underneath you there's a war going on!" Regenerative process complete, you could say?

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