You know, I was sitting there the other afternoon returning from a particular busy day at work, daydreaming, looking out the window. Thinking about Doctor Who. As one is wont to do. And I was thinking about the different “personalities” of the Doctor throughout the years.
We are all familiar with them, aren’t we? The first Doctor and his crotchety, yet warm and inviting warmth he displayed to his companions. The third Doctor and his dislike of authority figures. The fifth Doctor and his irritability, masking his keen intelligence. The sometimes violent sixth Doctor. And the mysterious, old beyond his years seventh.
I then spent a long time thinking about the eighth Doctor, and just what made his Doctor. What defines him. And you know what? I had a really hard time defining him with any characteristics that were absolute.
The difficulty arises due to a number of reasons. Firstly, we only have a 90 minute window of televised Doctor Who in which to assess him. And for most of that he is suffering from post-regeneration ailments. It is only once he discovers his shoes fit that the Doctor’s marbles start falling back into place. So there is very little in the 1996 Telemovie you can point to and say it defines the Doctor.
Secondly, the book range. Once the telemovie failed to materialise into an ongoing series he became the fodder for the BBC book range. Now whilst there are some great stories in this series (Vampire Science and Alien Bodies spring to mind) I don’t think there is much there to work with.
Thirdly, there is the Big Finish range. Again, like the books, there are some superb examples of Eighth Doctor stories, I am not sure there is much development or characterisation going on.
So, sitting on the train there that afternoon, I didn’t come up with many conclusions.
Now each Doctor, whatever the era, displays some common traits. Curiosity, intelligence, a love for earthlings etc. They are a given. What I was trying to work out was the unique traits that define him.
But trying to build on that for the eighth Doctor I found extremely difficult. I keep coming back to the telemovie, which I suppose in all of the eighth Doctor’s output, I am most familiar with.
So this is what I have so far.
Passion. One might almost say lyrical passion. A love for Puccini (though that might just be an affect of hearing it during his “death”). The indescribable joy at the acquisition of Brian’s shoes. The kiss. And the other kiss.
The jokester. The eighth Doctor doesn’t mind a bit of leg pulling. His jape with Professor Wagg about being “half human on his mother’s side”. His dreadful amnesia gag. He also has a constant twinkle in his eye, like he is about to share with you the most rib tickling joke.
His sense of wonder. After the seriousness of the seventh Doctor, McGann comes across as being quite childlike.
For the moment that is all I can come up with. My problem with the above characteristics, whilst looking quite impressive at first glance, aren’t ones I can permanently assign to the eighth Doctor because they might be the effect of post-regeneration issues, or they are traits that were never really carried on into the books or audios.
The biggest thing for me though is the strong inference at the end of the telemovie that everything returns to the way it was. The Doctor settling down with the book he was reading at the beginning, sniffing jellybabies and listening to Madame Butterfly. What do we make of that? Has the Doctor truly developed his own personality or is he just the seventh Doctor Mark 2?
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter over at our forums.