(repost from October 2012)
This week two of my friends posted their Doctor Who rankings:
I really enjoyed both of their lists, despite Josh being completely wrong about Matt Smith. In return I thought I’d remind them about a few of the Doctors they missed. It’s inevitable, I suppose, when you’re dealing with a TV series spanning decades, that folks are going to forget about some of the various eras. Let’s take a look at how the forgotten Doctors rank in my humble opinion:
8.) Chester Ringbladder
I don’t hate Chester as an actor, per se. You just have to see him as a wise-cracking D.I. in the UK crime drama Investigative Scenario to appreciate the depth of his craft. The problem is that the Who writers didn’t know what to do with him. For the entirety of his 3-year run in the 1980s, he only left the Tardis TWICE. Once was to combat the Kwylar menace in “Energy Brand” and the final time was just before his tenure ended in the fan favorite episode “The Fox, The Leaf, and the Inkwell.” It was in this later episode that he nearly came into his own against Viceroy Miseron and his army of Pygmy Digitars. The rest of the time this version of the Doctor was inside the Tardis tinkering with the mechanics of the craft, insisting that he “could overclock the megaprocessors to get three more centuries on the upswing,” whatever that means. Those years have their share of fans, however, due to the adventures of Ringbladder’s wolfgirl companion, Forge McKay. Forge’s pluck and intellect carried the series as she was forced to defeat foes without the Doctor’s help. Who can forget all the times she stalked out of the Tardis in a fury with the Doctor’s voice trailing after her: “I can’t leave now, the quantum injector’s just arrived in the post!”
7.) Martin Unctuous
The cherubic Unctuous has always gotten a bad rap and I have to agree with consensus on this one. Lord knows what the producers were thinking when they signed off on this 1994 two-parter. Perhaps the Stateside success of the John Hughes-penned “Baby’s Day Out” convinced them that skewing younger was the next logical step? The piss-poor explanation of this incarnation — something to do with the remnants of the Master scattering across the universe at the end of “Survival” and poisoning the Doctor, thereby necessitating a regeneration?? — was bad enough but fans rebelled when the Doctor came back as a toddler with the infamous line “I’m vewwy sweepy. May I take a time nap, pwease?” He later traveled to the toy planet Funn-17 and bested the robotic demon Santa to free the planet’s timid elven race, who rewarded him with a new sonic screwdriver that squealed “Hooraayy” when he used it. The less said, the better.
6.) Jason Barrons
In the early 2000s the BBC began talks that would eventually lead to Christopher Eccleston’s stint as Doctor Who, but before that was this abortive series in 2003 that saw the introduction of the painfully trendy “Emo Who” (as the fans have deemed him) played by Barrons. Smug and morose, this version of Doctor Who lacked any of the good humor or wit for which the best Doctors are known. In the first episode he toys with the idea of taking on a raven-haired beauty named Denise as his companion after meeting her at a concert on Earth, but leaves without her when he discovers she’s “never even heard of the 100-string guitars of Sarris Prime.” The best episode is “Malachai Depths” where the Doctor appears on a freighter in deep space crewed by an ancient race known as the H’pothren who refuse to acknowledge the Doctor’s presence. As he explores the ship and finds out more information via the ships’ computer (played with surprising subtlety by Brian Blessed), he discovers almost too late that the H’pothren make their planet’s money by piloting old ships into a black hole to dispose of them, and since the race becomes more suicidal with age, the entire crew have volunteered for the flight and are calmly awaiting their demise. Quarantine droids have built walls around the Tardis and The Doctor narrowly escapes after freeing his craft, but is left with a feeling of guilt that he failed to convince even a single crew member to leave with him.
5.) Ryuichi Kitano
One of the more unusual outings for the Doctor was this non-canon film version licensed by Toei in 1984. This rarely seen movie involves a bright light falling from the sky into a forest near Tokyo, out of which walks the Doctor. Unaccustomed to Earth, he wanders into a school where he ends up accidentally walking into the girls’ locker room and being branded a pervert. He becomes a student at the school, taking on the companion Kohei, a likeable nerd who confides his belief that the teachers are being taken over by duplicates. Together they uncover a plot by the Cybermen (different from their UK versions) to replace each teacher with a robotic clone and then spread to the outside world. As they defeat each teacher they get different colored gems. Battling their way to the principal’s office, the Doctor confronts the leader of the Cybermen, Cybra, who grows to over 50 feet tall. The Doctor and Kohei join the gems together and the Doctor becomes the giant MegaDoctor. After a fierce battle, it looks like The Doctor is on the ropes, when at last Kohei can’t control his emotions and he involuntarily fires a psychic energy blast that destroys Cybra once and for all. The Doctor says he must leave Earth, but he gives Kohei his sonic screwdriver and tells him to harness his ESPer powers and become the Earth’s protector, Doctor 2. I might have ranked this higher except for the unnecessary lechery and the strangely dissociated personality of the Doctor himself.
4.) Carmen Dilling
When Ms. Dilling tried out for a role in 1979, she so impressed the producers that they gave her a spinoff series of her own as the first female Doctor, based in the 1940s. It’s never fully explained how the Doctor regenerated into this form but hints are given that she may be from a different timeline and could, in fact, be a young relative of the Doctor, or perhaps an anomaly caused by some incident on a planet referred to only as The Planet of Rage. She herself has only spotty recall of past events but knows that she likes the Earth and comes back to it again and again. Over the course of three series, this Doctor gets a companion in the form of Michael Grey, a dashing inspector with Scotland Yard. Standout episodes include “The Dragon’s Scale,” in which the Doctor travels to 1860s Hong Kong and outwits the alien Skweg who is disguised as an opium trader, and the 3-part “Garnet Star Trials.” In the popular trilogy of episodes, The Doctor and Grey are thrown off course and find themselves on a space station near the red supergiant star Mu Cephei, where the last surviving Cepheians are on trial for war crimes against the Relipadians. Grey agrees with the death sentence for the Cepheians while The Doctor is against it; however, the station’s stasis field begins to fail and The Doctor is occupied with fixing it before they fall into the star, giving the Cepheians a chance to escape using Grey as a hostage. When Grey is killed in the ensuing firefight before The Doctor can intervene, the Relipadians manage to capture his consciousness using the only technology available for the job, the machinery used for carrying out the death sentence against the Cepheians. After a tearful farewell, The Doctor turns her back on the Cepheians in a surprise ending, leaving them to be sentenced and killed by the machine that now houses Grey’s mind, and presumably Grey remains in the machine forever after.
3.) Felix Ash
I love Ash’s tenure as The Doctor for several reasons. One, his relaxed and gentle demeanor stands out amongst so many manic, action-oriented Doctors. Secondly, he has a more casual manner of dress that perfectly matches his patient approach to things. One of the more intellectual phases of The Doctor’s life, Ash’s time on the show was marked with more Earthbound storylines and some of the best companion interaction in the Mantis-headed alien Daniel. Together they take on the Daleks underground in “Below,” machines run amok in the future in “Dreams Of the Fallen,” and my personal favorite, “The Man of Doom.” In the end of the prior episode, The Doctor and Daniel meet Henry Cowle, a disheveled man who says he’s been watching them for some time. He says he’s being driven insane by an alien presence from the past that phased his grandfather out of existence when he was young. The trio take the Tardis back in time only to discover that the man’s grandfather is an older version of himself seduced by the alien Queen Pylithia who raised the boy and planted a mechanized seed in his brain that would grow when The Doctor was near, drawing them back in time to a trap while the Queen destroys the present. The three men escape and return to the present to find the Earth is a scorched wasteland. Incensed, The Doctor tracks the Queen to another timeline, nearly destroying the Tardis in the process. Henry attacks her and is killed when she triggers a self-destruct device, removing his presence from all timelines and preventing the destruction of the Earth. Daniel’s psychic powers shield himself and The Doctor while they fix the Tardis and make their narrow escape.
2.) The Faceless Doctor
The Faceless Doctor actually only appears in one episode of Jason Barrons’ time as The Doctor, a background presence in “Diamonds” that warns him of impending catastrophe. As the episode goes on, he returns again and again, each time blurrier, his voice and appearance more terrifying and bizarre. His origins were never explained except for hints that he may have been a product of The Doctor’s imagination as he was battling illness throughout the episode.
1.) George Northrop
Beating out William Hartnell as the oldest Doctor, George Northrop appeared in 1998 to universal acclaim, and it’s not hard to see why. With his fedora, weathered jacket and bowtie, sword-cane and easygoing humor, he seemed like the crazy older relative everyone always wished they had at family gatherings. Funny and quick-witted, this Doctor loved wordplay and was always ready with a bon mot, a pun, or a ridiculous portmanteau at the right moment and I love him for it. He rambles through his three series of adventures like some sort of Mr. Wizard-In-a-Police-Box. I could name highlights for miles, like his swordfight on the bow of a starship in “Shadow Vertices” or the time he cut The Master down to size with the word “plastic” in the BAFTA-winning “Moonlight”. But I think I might like “Onward Ho and Up We Go” the best.
In this ep, The Doctor and his companion Maizy end up on an alien planet in a deadly labyrinth — “never before has your name seemed so apt,” he tells Maizy — full of traps thanks to the machinations of a giant eye calling itself The Other. The eye tells the pair that they can have the Tardis back if they can survive the maze and get to its end. Some people live there in small groups, scavenging what they can and staying put, others attempt to reach the far-off “Easy City” which supposedly marks the end of the maze. Nobody has ever returned but that doesn’t stop our heroes as they progress from one part to the next, somehow managing to avoid the traps without even trying. When a scythe swings out to cut The Doctor down, he’s tying his shoe; when a pit opens up to swallow him, he trips and misses it completely. Word spreads far and wide, and soon an army of followers stretches out behind The Doctor and Maizy. Meanwhile they’re having this ridiculous discussion about the best way to eat a carrot, punctuated by some of the silliest lines ever. A sample from The Doctor, “The human tendency to cook a carrot is perpetuated by seventeen falsehoods, thirteen of which were put forth by the carrots themselves. Have you asked the carrots themselves what state of being is most conducive to essential carrot-ine vivacity? I have. Liars, every one of them! Carrot crunch creates a culinary confluence of cuspid curiosity and convivial craving. As the Terrapetitians say, ‘Let not the carrot lead the way’.”
It’s completely stupid stuff and Maizy remarks that they’re not just going in actual circles, they’re arguing in circles too. By the time they reach the end of the maze and find their way through the gate, their numbers are in the thousands. But it turns out they’ve only managed to find the beginning, according to a small sign. There isn’t a city, just a dense jungle. But as the crestfallen crowd looks around, someone spots berries. Another spots…carrots. There is much jubilation. Maizy looks tired and annoyed. “It took us ages to get here! Do you have any idea how long it’ll be, going back the way we came?!” she cries. The Doctor winks and holds his cane up, pointing the way back into the maze. “Each end is a beginning, each beginning an end. A maze to amaze Maizy! Onward ho and up we go!”
And so ends the tenure of my #1 forgotten Doctor. And so ends this list.