Who is Doctor Who? The Definitive Guide (Part 2)
If you missed it, make sure you check out Part 1 of the series where we covered the Doctor’s background, the TARDIS, Regeneration and details about the first three Doctors.
The TARDIS may be the most important part of the Doctor’s gadgetry but it is not the only thing he relies on. The next most important part of his arsenal is the sonic screwdriver. The primary function of the device is for the writers to avoid plot holes by giving the Doctor a way to access technologies from any time or place. Within the show it has used as a lockpick, a medical scanner, a computer hacking device, a tracker for alien life and technology and a remote for other devices. The only notable weakness of the sonic screwdriver is it’s inability to manipulate wooden devices.
Initially use of the device was sporadic, first appearing during the era of the Second Doctor in War Games. It only appeared intermediately during the time of the Third Doctor before becoming a much more regular part of the series for the Fourth. When it was destroyed in the Fifth Doctor’s run it was left out of the series until the movie and the reboot. Since the beginning of the reboot it has once again become a staple of the show and features heavily in promotion and merchandising. Much like each Doctor’s unique costume the more recent Doctors have each had their own design of sonic screwdriver and it is used often throughout each episode.
Through the run of the series a number of other sonic devices have been seen. In City of Death a sonic knife is used to steal the Mona Lisa, Miss Foster carried a sonic pen in Smith and Jones and Sarah Jane made use of a sonic lipstick that the Doctor gave her. In his first appearance Capt. Jack Harkness carried a sonic blaster that could remove and replace obstacles through digitisation. River Song used a bulkier and enhanced version of the Doctor’s screwdriver in Silence in the Library and the Doctor used a sonic cane in Let’s Kill Hitler. When the Tenth Doctor faced the regenerated Master his foe used a laser screwdriver that, in addition to the usual features, could kill and age his victims. The Sixth Doctor opted for a sonic lance, which was frequently used to detonate explosive materials.
During the reboot series the Doctor also makes frequent use of ‘psychic paper’, a small piece of paper that shows the viewer what they need to see. The Doctor often uses this to gain access to areas he does not have permission to enter, which has on occasion lead to him being mistaken for the King of Belgium. The psychic paper has also been used to send a message to the Doctor by the Face of Boe, River Song and the Antraxis. When a person of exceptional intelligence or control of their imagination is presented with the psychic paper it can have no effect.
Many other gadgets have made one off appearances in the show, such as the Timey-Wimey detector, often needed to further a plot. Others become more integral, such as the fob watch engraved with Gallifreyan symbols. The watch can be used to house the Doctor’s essence and personality when he needs to disguise himself from outsiders, and was also used by the Master during one of his incarnations.
In the next volume of this seriesthe main enemies of the Doctor will be examined. For now it’s time to look at the Doctor himself!
The Eccentric Detective
Years Active: 1974-1981
Appearance: A very tall and broad shouldered figure his size was seemingly added to by his bushy hair, wild eyes and manic grin. Throughout much of his run the Fourth Doctor would wear a long red or grey coat over the top of a waistcoat, cravat and trousers. He’d top of his look with a floppy wide-brimmed hat and his iconic 16-foot long multi-coloured scarf (which he claims was knitted by Madame Nostradamus). His coat featured multiple pockets from which he would produce large numbers of seemingly useless items, including a rubber chicken.
Skills: At times the Fourth Doctor demonstrated skill at fencing and mechanical work, but this was not his forte. He’d prefer brains over psychical prowess and would use his skills of deduction to solve problems and trap his enemies in their own plots.
Catchphrase: “Would you like a jelly baby?”
Personality: The best way to describe the Fourth version of the Doctor is ‘barmy’. Although his thought process and line of reason for coming to a solution to a problem is never clear to an outside observer he follows an extremely unusual sense of logic that ultimately gets where it needs to be. He presents himself as being outwardly goofy, with loud and extravagant greetings and offers of jelly babies to those trying to kill him. The truth is that he had a darker side, openly taunting the Time Lords when they ask for help and Leela when she was confused by the advanced technology of the TARDIS. Often he would slip into quiet, brooding moods when given the chance to relax. When pushed he would resort to arms more than his previous incarnations, but only when no other option remained. He was fiercely loyal to his companions and would become a father figure to some even if he often lost his patience with them, demanding that they “just listen to him”.
Companions: After witnessing his regeneration Sarah Jane Smith remained with the Doctor for many more adventures before becoming weary and returning to Earth. The Brig would also remain in touch with the Doctor and acted as liaison for UNIT. Medical officer Harry Sullivan also joined the Doctor and Sarah Jane for a brief time but returned to UNIT. Leela was a savage warrior from an uncivilised race who provided the Doctor with a very different travelling companion, and together they met the robotic K9. Finally he was joined by fellow Time Lord Romana in finding the Key of Time. Before leaving the Doctor Romana would undergo a regeneration. Finally he met young mathematic protegee Adric, the aristocratic Nyssa and Australia flight attendent Tegan, who would remain with the Doctor through his next regeneration.
Key Events: During this time the Doctor travelled with some of his most significant companions, including Sarah Jane and Romana. In The Deadly Assassin the Doctor became the president of his home world Gallifrey, a title he would unofficially hold up until the Sixth Doctor. In addition to clashing with the Master and the Daleks the Fourth Doctor saw the introduction 0f new recurring foes. These included Davros, the creator of the Daleks, and the Black Guardian. In his first encounter with Davros the Doctor witnessed the events that led the people of Skaro to become Daleks.
Preferring to travel through space than through Earth’s history the Fourth did not meet many famous historical figures. He did adopt the personality of Sherlock Holmes in The Talons of Weng-Chiang and encounter Set and Horus in the Pyramids of Mars.
After being assigned the task of finding the broken pieces of the Key of Time by the White Guardian the Doctor and Romana embark on the season long quest to find each piece in different times and places, marking the longest plot arc of the shows history. Not long after they become stranded in E-Space for a trilogy of serials.
Regeneration: When the Doctor and the Master are forced to join forces to stop Entropy from leaking in from E-Space and destroying the universe it spells disaster for the time traveller. During the final moments of the plan the Master knocks the Doctor of the top of a crane. After seeing visions of his enemies and companions flash before his eyes the Doctor is joined by a white clad watcher who is revealed to be his future self. They merge together and transform into the Fifth Doctor while Adric, Nyssa and Tegan watch on.
The Young Athlete
Years Active: 1981-1984
Appearance: The most noticeable change in the Doctor in this incarnation is his youth, being almost half the age of previous incarnations. He is tall and thin and has light coloured hair. He chooses to wear white cricket pants, shoes and sweater, sometimes with suspenders designed with a question mark motif. Over the top he wears a long white coat with red trim and a white wide brimmed hat. He also opts to wear a stick of celery on his lapel, which he laters explains is to alert him to gasses that he his allergic to.
Skills: Rather than rely on his sonic screwdriver the Fifth Doctor prefers to be more hands on, spending considerable time fixing and improving the TARDIS. He has a strong interest in mathematics and would discuss the topic at length with Adric. He is also a keen cricketer, taking every opportunity to play a match during his travels.
Catchphrase: “Must dash!”
Personality: With the younger physical appearance came a younger, more energetic personality. The Fifth Doctor would often be dashing about the place rather than let his enemies stumble into a trap. He was noticeably more reserved than previous incarnations and would often let situations play out around him. Being more introverted he would sometimes hesitate to take on the responsibilities of other races and indecision would weigh upon him. That being said he was also incredibly courageous and trusting. He had little reservation about putting himself in the line of danger and took on companions who may have been risks to have around. He was more troubled than other Doctor’s, feeling the weight of the world and the problems of his companions on his shoulders.
Companions: Adric, Tegan and Nyssa stayed with the Doctor after his regeneration. After some time Adric was killed while fighting Cybermen and Nyssa left the TARDIS to set up a hospital for an enslaved race. Tegan remained with the Doctor much longer, eventually returning to Earth during her own time period. Turlough, an exiled alien stranded on Earth, would join the Doctor and Tegan under the manipulations of the Black Guardian, although he would later reject his masters control. Khamelion, a mechanical shape changer, would share a small number of adventures with the Doctor. Finally they’d be joined by the American Peri, who got caught up in a conflict with the Master.
Key Events: The death of Adric stands out as an early defining moment for the Fifth Doctor. Seeing one of his companions, especially such a young one, be killed during an adventure saw him take on a sombre attitude. During his travels the Fifth crossed paths with the Master, the Daleks, the Cybermen, Omega, the Silurians and the Black Guardian. His conflict with the Black Guardian came to a head when he met the young exiled alien Turlough and climaxed with a race through the galaxy on sail boats and a chance to obtain enlightenment. Amid the lesser villains the most significant is the Mara, an evil snake deity who infested the mind of Tegan for some time.
During one adventure an initially unseen enemy captured the Doctor and his previous incarnations and trapped them in the Death Zone of Gallifrey. During this time the Fifth was reunited with the First, Second and Third Doctors along with Susan, Sarah Jane, the Brig and others.
Regeneration: When both the Doctor and Peri get poisoned spectrox and only one dose of the antidode was available the Doctor sacrificed himself by giving it to Peri. Shortly after he collapsed and underwent a regeneration where he saw visions of his previous companions and the Master.
The Literary Egomaniac
Years Active: 1984-1986
Appearance: Whilst not as young as the Fifth he is still on the younger side of the usual incarnations. He is a stockier character with bushy blonde hair. After trying on different outfits he settled on a brightly coloured jacket in a rainbow motif, a bright cravat of different colours and yellow striped pants. He would also carry a rainbow umbrella and a range of different cat shaped broches.
Skills: This version of the Doctor brings to the table an impressive knowledge of classic prose and literary works, which he quotes frequently. He was also a more skilled engineer than previous versions and almost managed to repair the chameleon circuit of the TARDIS.
Catchphrase: “Hmmmm, I wonder…”
Personality: He was an abrasive and volatile character who remained unpredictable with drastic mood swings and violent outbursts, which were often out of character for the Doctor. The Sixth considered himself to be the best and most perfect incarnation of the Doctor and viewed the world around him in a condescending manner. He would talk down to his companion, Peri, and outright insult her at almost every turn.
Companions: Peri joined the Sixth Doctor for almost all of his adventures, with Mel stepping in for the final couple of outings.
Key Events: The Sixth goes through some standerd adventures for the first part of his run. He tackles Davros and encountered the Rani, an insane Time Lord scientist. During the second part of his adventures he was put on trail for crimes including genocide and interring with history. During the long trail it is revealed that the Time Lords played a hand in letting Peri die and his prosecutor would be revealed as the Valeyard, a future version of the Doctor created by his evil side.
Regeneration: While Mel and the Doctor continued their travels after his trail on Gallifrey the TARDIS is shot down by the Rani. Upon crashing the Doctor is killed and regenerates into the Seventh.
Years Active: 1987-1989 1996
Appearance: A smaller figure than the previous incarnations with shaggy, dark hair. He’s dressed in a white safari jacket with a red tie and scarf along with a question mark patterned sweater. Along with this outfit he’d wear a panama hat and carry a black umbrella with a handled fashioned like a red question mark.
Skills: The Seventh Doctor’s main talent lies in being a schemer, able to come up with manipulative plots to deal with his opponents.
Catchphrase: “I have made a graaaaaave error in judgement.”
Personality: The Seventh Doctor comes across a bumbling character, willing to play the fool to keep people off guard. His habit of doffing his hat to all who pass his way leaves people confused. He is a very secretive Doctor, often holding his true intentions back from his companions and manipulating people both directly and indirectly. He absolutely refuses to result to violence, opting to talk down those who threaten him and his companions.
Companions: Initially Mel, although she leaves shortly after to travel independently. The Seventh spends most of his time travelling with the delinquent and explosives enthusiast Ace.
Key Events: After combating the Rani, the Daleks and Omega once more the Seventh Doctor concerns himself with helping Ace come to terms with her past and the tragic events that befell her. This would lead them to many points of her live where she would learn the truth behind the ‘haunted’ house she burned down and meeting her biological mother as an infant.
After the Master was captured and sentenced to death by the Daleks he requested that the Doctor transport his remains to Gallifrey, an event that lead to his regeneration.
Regeneration: In an unusual turn of events the Doctor lands in L.A. in 1999 and is immediately gunned down by a gang. After surgery to remove the bullets is successful a cardiologist seeks find the reason behind his double heart beat but the Doctor dies during the procedure and later regenerates in the hospital morgue. Really.
One more edition of this series! We will have enemies and four more Doctors!