Like my friend and blogfather [Orac][orac], I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who, and I’ve been
greatly enjoying its renewed life in the new series on BBC. In fact, the current Doctor, played by David Tennant, has become my favorite of all of the Doctors – better than the
usual fan favorite of Tom Baker, better than my own former favorite, Jon Pertwee.
The reason why I’m such a fan of Tennant is that his Doctor combines many of the personality
traits of the past Doctors, while giving it his own unique spin. Tennant’s Doctor has the
hands-on activity of Jon Pertwee, the exuberance of Peter Davison, the sense of *history* of
William Hartnell (the very first Dr), and the kind of goofy enthusiasm of Tom Baker.
But he’s more than just a mish-mash of past Doctors – he’s got those traits that connect his
character to his past incarnations, but he’s definitely his own person. His hyperactive
exuberance is quite different from any Doctor we’ve seen before. Now that’s partly just the
style of writing in the new series: the Christopher Eccleston Doctor had a similar
hyperactivity. But Eccleston’s hyperness was much more self-focused: his Doctor was almost as
egocentric as the Colin Baker incarnation. Tennant’s Doctor is just enthusiastic about the
universe, about humanity, about the excitement of living. But that’s also played in conflict
with the other major trait of this Doctor: he’s got a darkness, an edge of bitterness and
alienation just below the surface.
One of my favorite examples of this comes from last season’s episode “School Reunion” which
features the return of Sarah Jane Smith, the old companion of Tom Baker’s Doctor. Overall, Tennant’s Dr. in the episode is the bouncy happy silly doctor – particularly when he finally gets to admit to Sarah Jane that he is the Doctor, and when SJ shows him K9. But there’s
a scene, where he’s alone with the leader of the Krillitane, the villains of the episode. The
Krillitane tries to entice the Doctor to join forces with him, and Tennant sneers and replies
that in his youth he was so very patient, so very merciful, but *not any more*. Now he only
gives one warning, and this is it.
The reason I’m writing all this today is that I just watched a bit-torrented download of this
years special Christmas episode. Overall, it’s a rather goofy (if fun) affair – a rather
over-the-top monster story. But it’s got another really wonderful scene that is so typical of
what I like about this Doctor. He’s coming in to confront the monster, disguised as one of her
robots. After revealing himself, he shuts down the rest of her robots with great humorous
flair using the (extremely large) remote control hidden in his pocket (it’s larger on the
inside!); and he offers the monster one chance to let him move her and her children to some
other planet, where they won’t harm anyone. She refuses, and he replies “then this is *your*
doing”, reveals that he is from Gallifrey, and destroys all of her children. It’s a great
scene, and one that does a remarkable job of demonstrating just *who* this Doctor is.
At the end, the woman who appears to be the new companion doesn’t join the Doctor, but
tells him to find someone. He naturally replies, “I don’t need anyone”. She disagrees,
and tells him that she believes that he sometimes needs someone “to stop him” – and
in one of those perfectly played bits of alienation and loneliness at the heart of this
doctor, he agrees. It’s a subtly played scene, but it’s perfect.
Anyway, overall, this years Christmas special is good, but not great. As I said above,
it’s really a bit over-the-top and goofy. Definitely *not* the best writing of the
new series. But it’s got a few really tremendous scenes, and overall, it leaves me
with confidence that Russell Davies and crew are going to continue to do a great job
of keeping Doctor Who alive and kicking.