The ‘Doctor’ is in

Published 10:45 am Saturday, July 10, 2010

“Star Wars is adolescent nonsense; Close Encounters is obscurantist drivel; Star Trek can turn your brains to puree of bat guano; and the greatest science fiction series of all time is Doctor Who! And I’ll take you all on, one-by-one or all in a bunch to back it up!”

– Harlan Ellison

In the last few months my family has developed a Doctor Who night.

We meet at least once a week, eat dinner together and sit down for the Doctor Who that aired that week on BBC America.

For those of you not familiar with the British Science Fiction show, Doctor Who is a legend among sci-fi fans. It originally aired in November of 1963 and stayed on the air until 1988.

It was off the air for nearly two decades before returning triumphantly in 2005. Triumphantly may not even be the right word since it is once again a worldwide phenomenon.

It’s a television show about a traveler in time and space known simply as “The Doctor.” He has a myriad of companions along the way so that he can explain to the viewer through them what is happening. It keeps The Doctor more of a mystery, which is intriguing to audiences.

Doctor Who is original in that it is the only show I know of in which the lead character changes and it is expected. Thus far, 11 men have held the role of the Doctor. It began with Bill Hartnell in 1963. He was followed by Pat Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith.

When the lead actor changes, the show often changes as well. The new Doctor takes on a different personality, dresses differently and often interacts with his companions on the show in a much dissimilar manner than his predecessor.

The show has two distinct divisions. The old show was camp, funny and often low-budget. It was exactly what Star Trek was in the old days, only it lasted much, much longer.

If you want to start a fight in my house, all you have to do is take a clear, definitive position on which Doctor is the best. My person opinion is that I loved Colin Baker, but most of my family prefers Tom Baker.

For me, Colin Baker’s Doctor was quirky, funny and had an acid wit about him that made me laugh. Many found his sarcasm too much and didn’t like him for it, but it made him my favorite.

Most of my family members prefer the Tom Baker Doctor. He was most funny through traditional means – always busy with a gadget. He was great, but I still go with Colin Baker as the best.

The new series is exactly the same. I’m a big fan of Chris Eccleston, but my wife will fight you if you say David Tennant isn’t the best Doctor ever, much less the best one in the new series.

Eccleston was a lively and energetic Doctor – larger than life in many ways and a throwback in my mind to the days of Pertwee, who was similar in many ways. Tennant is a guy over whom all the women seem to fawn and he does have a great sense of humor.

The show is funny, exciting and one I wholeheartedly recommend.

Thadd White is Staff Writer and Sports Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached via email at or by telephone at 332-7211.