Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Doctor Who (Belated)! Pt 2

Continuing on from my previous post, I'm moving onto the five most recent incarnations of the Doctor, in celebration of the series' recent 45th anniversary.

The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) - No relation to Tom, Colin Baker took over the role in 1985 in a bold fashion to say the least. The regeneration was the most violent and troubled to date, with the Sixth Doctor acting in a deranged and confused manner going so far as trying to strangle his companion! Subsequently, the Sixth Doctor revealed himself to be a bombastic and arrogant figure, a portentous yet eloquent egotist who wore a garish motley wardrobe. While this approach returned the character to his more anti-heroic roots, Baker's more challenging Doctor required strong writing in order to work. Sadly, this era was fraught with ever-shrinking budgets, formulaic, tacky scripts and rising levels of violence. The series was placed on hiatus for almost a year, then returned for one more season before Baker was unceremoniously fired by the BBC, which was a shabby way to treat the actor; his performance was often the best thing about the stories.

The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) - Initially, the Seventh Doctor's era seemed to be as doomed as his predecessor's. The Seventh Doctor was written as a buffoonish cypher with a penchant for malapropisms. In his second season, however, the generic clown persona was phased out in favour of depicting him as scheming master-planner that constantly hid his true motives and intentions. McCoy brilliantly played the Doctor as an increasingly dark and melancholy figure, with the weight of the universe on his shoulders and a willingness to deceive and manipulate even his companion, Ace. This resulted in his final season being among one of the best seasons in the show's history, although sadly, it was also its last. The series was cancelled by the BBC after 26 years on the air.

The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) - After the cancellation of the classic series in 1989, viewers would have to waitseven years for the Doctor's return to television. Following the Seventh Doctor's regernation, Paul McGann took over as the Eighth Doctor in a TV movie produced by the BBC and Fox. The resulting hybrid of British and American sensibilities did not mesh well, with concessions made to the American side that wreaked havoc with established continuity. However, McGann put in a lovely performance. After the dark and melancholic Seventh Doctor, this incarnation was a more Byronic figure. He exhibited a passion for life and the little things, with a more openly romantic and expansive personality. He was the first Doctor to share a kiss with a companion, and he also claimed to be half-human, although this was never definitively proven. Sadly, he would only make one appearance as the character, but McGann proved that the character could be revived.

The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccelston) - In 2005, the series returned once more, this time in a relaunch that effectively merged the classic series with modern sensibilites. Eccelston's Ninth Doctor was seemingly radically different from all of his predecessors; he was decidedly more working-class and gritty, favouring a low-key wardrobe and a more casual, familiar tone. However, he was still the Doctor. Like many of his predecessors, he exhibited manic mood swings and a propensity for joking in the face of danger. He was an improviser at heart, rather than a planner, and though he retained a sense of joy and wonder at his travels, he also hid a deep sense of melancholy and sadness. In the time between the TV movie and the relaunch, the Doctor had fought in a Time War alongside his people, which resulted in the extinction of the Time Lord race save for himself. Eccleston allowed a haunted sense of loss to permeate his performance, giving the character a weight and emotional resonance.

The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) - After Eccelston's short tenure, Tennant stepped into the role with great confidence, making it his own. On the surface, the Tenth Doctor appears to be an eccentric crackpot with a light-hearted, talkative, cheekily rude manner. But Tennant also emphasizes the lonely and remote qualities of the Doctor, resulting in a somewhat ruthless and dangerous character. Being the last Time Lord, it's clear that he has an absolute moral certainty, one that sometimes causes him to go too far in punishing his enemies. Still, his Doctor is one of the most nakedly emotional, conveying a deep sense of loss following Rose's departure, and openly weeping over the Master's body. Tennant will leave the role soon, and it is clear he will be missed, as he has given one of the most fully realized and popular interpretations of the character.

Happy Birthday, Doctor, here's to 45 more years.

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