My First Doctor

Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor by S Dawg.

My introduction to Doctor Who was in grade school, between 5th and 7th grades. It would have been somewhere between 1980 and 1982. Tom Baker had started playing the part. As the longest running Doctor, he was still playing the part. But PBS was importing the episodes from early on in his run. I watched it on a small black and white t.v. in the basement. I was instantly fascinated.

They say everyone’s favorite doctor is the first one they ever see. With all the people I’ve talked to over the years, I’ve found this to be true. Those of us who discovered the Doctor back in the day will often agree that David Tennant most accurately captured and portrayed the quintessential Doctor, the absolute soul and core personality of the Doctor, we will still say our first Doctor was our favorite. Tennant’s performance was simply outside the realm of favorites and disliked versions. It was to flawless, to superb, to be labeled.

David Tennant as the Doctor

There is a two panel cartoon floating around facebook where a young guy is sitting down to his computer to find out what all this Doctor Who hullabaloo is about. The first pane showed an average guy in a dark shirt with an average coffee cup. The second pane showed him in a light shirt, bow tie, and old style 3D glasses with a Tardis shaped mug thinking about what’s going to happen this week. The little details made it clear he was watching Matt Smith.

I’ve talked with people who were initiated into the Who-universe with Tom Baker. We all have a fondness for long scarves, robot dogs, and occasionally fedoras. I quite like Matt Smith. But then I realized he had a lot of subtle similarities to Tom Baker’s Doctor and the writers put in some subtle to not so subtle references to the Fourth Doctor in the entire Sixth Season.  Or is it Season Five?  I can’t remember how they counted Tennant’s last ‘season’ which was a series of Doctor who ‘movies’ rather than a full season. 

Matt Smith as the Doctor

Our first doctor shapes our perception of the show and how we interact with it.  We can still watch and love or hate other Doctors.   For example, I started watching at a time when there were a lot of episodes with The Master.  As a result, I was very disappointed in the only storyline involving The Master in the reboot.  People who stared watching under a different Doctor may have responded differently because they didn’t have the same emotional context for that villain. 

Another example are the Daleks.  The creation of the daleks was also one of the earlest episodes I saw.  So the modern Daleks seem to be lacking something.  As the Kaled’s were fighing a civil war of sorts and Davros was trying to create a superior race that would never be born this the condition that left him trapped in an unmoving body.  Davros was like an evil Steven Hawkings.  The most brilliant mind on the planet in a body that had almost no ability to move or control.  So a mobility unit had been created to let him get around and communicate.

Davros

Davros’ side won, hence the spread of the Dalek race.  I seem to remember a line indication the transition could be seen as a form of evolution.  Daleks actually have biological brains in them.  Or, more correctly, small amounts of brain matter.  They are twisted, stunted things as any area controlling or involving emotions, independent thinking, morality, compassion, ethics, were all eradicated.  Davros wanted a perfect race and his idea of perfection was total rationality and no emotion.  But he also tried to make them totally obedient to his control.  This is rather ironic because Davros himself was very emotion, quick to anger and losing his temper.

Of course, Tom Baker had a lot of villains and evil races with which to contend.  He was the longest running Doctor ever.  He could have gone longer if it wasn’t for his drinking problem. (or so I always heard, further info ahead)  It reached a point that it was interfering with his ability to do his job and he was asked to leave.  He played the part for 7 seasons and looked like he aged twice that in years.  He looked much younger than his actual age when he started older than his actual age when he finished.  It was a sad thing to lose him as the Doctor.  While I really liked his replacement, I have always missed Baker’s version of the part. 

This is the version I’ve always heard, that he was let go for alcoholism.  But if you look at Baker’s writing, he indicates he started drinking AFTER he was no longer the doctor.  The back story on his life would make an excellent movie itself.  Being the Doctor saved his life, in many ways.  But the new producer wanted to take the show in a different direction.  Tom didn’t get along with the man at all and hate the new vision so he decided to leave the show.  The aging in his last  years could have been entirely due to stress.  I know my own father started aging more quickly during a particularly stressful year at work when management had changed after the company was sold. 

Clearly, rumors can become canon and not have anything to do with the truth of the matter.  I think I want to get a copy of this book.   The more I research Tom Baker the more I want know.

I did like his replacement an awful lot.  He was a young Doctor for a change.  With the looks that would appeal to girls.  But he was never Tom Baker. 

Peter Davisdon as the Doctor with the Master.

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One Response to “My First Doctor”

  1. LIKE!!

    Tom Baker was my first too and I was astonished when he regenerated (because I had no idea what that was all about – I think I might have even cried a little) but I grew to LOVE Davison and I think of him as my favorite.

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