Saturday, 25 October 2008

Chracter Profile: The First Doctor

Hello, I've returned to this blog once again with a new idea.
I don't know how many people look at this blog but i do know of at least one or possibly two people who have in the past. I'm also aware that at least one of my two readers has no real knowledge of Doctor Who beyond the New Series. So I thought it might be fun to expand that knowledge a bit. My plan is simple: I want to write a charcter profile for all of the main characters (D0ctors, companions, villains etc) from the series beginnings in 1963 up to now.

So where better place to start than at the very beginning with:

The First Doctor

“Eh? Doctor who? What’s he talking about?”

“Old, grumpy and important.” Is how the Tenth Doctor summed up his earlier self. And, while this isn’t entirely inaccurate a description, in reality there is more to the First Doctor than that.

For starters I think one could easily add the word ‘mysterious’ to the Tenth Doctor’s description. OK so the Doctor has always had something of an air of mystery about him but that’s gradually been eroded over the years as we’ve learnt more about his background. But for the three years of his televisual existence we learn very little about the First Doctor.

We know that he’s an alien (but not the name of his people or his home planet). He tells us that he’s cut off from his own world “without friends or protection” which seems to imply that he was forced to leave his home as opposed to choosing to leave. At one point he even considers returning home “but I can’t, I can’t.”

The Doctor also says that he was “a pioneer once, amongst my own people,” and implies that he had a hand in building his TARDIS. Despite that, he still seems to be incapable of controlling where and when he’s going to arrive. Not that this particularly bothers the Doctor (though it does tend to bother his companions) as the First Doctor, particularly in his earliest stories, seems to be happy to just wander through time and space, being some sort of temporal tourist.

“Our destiny is in the stars. Let’s go and search for it.”

When we first encounter the Doctor, he is not the moral hero that he will later become. Throughout his first season of stories the Doctor is far more interested in being an explorer and an observer than battling evil and monsters. More often than not, at the first sign of danger his first action is to try and get back to his Ship. The only reason he gets involved in events at all is because he is physically prevented in one way or another from leaving.

I can think of two reasons why the Doctor isn’t, at this point, the hero that we all know and love. The first is that the Doctor, having apparently only recently left his people, is trying to stick to the Time Lord rules of not interfering in the affairs of other planets. Perhaps by keeping a low profile he’s hoping his people won’t catch up with him.

The second are more likely explanation is that he’s trying to protect his granddaughter, Susan, who is travelling with him at the start of the series. There has been much debate amongst fans as to whether or not Susan really is the Doctor’s biological granddaughter and several elaborate theories have been provided to show that she isn’t. But whether they are related by blood or not really isn’t important. The fact is that the Doctor treats Susan just as any grandfather would treat their granddaughter and that includes trying to protect her from anything that might threaten her.

That said, early in season 2 he seems to be more than happy to leave Susan on an Earth of the future, that has been all but destroyed during a failed Dalek invasion, in the arms of a man she’s barely met. Maybe he just got fed up of her whining which, to be fair she did seem to do quite a lot.

Whatever reason he had for dumping the only link he had to his family, the scene where the Doctor says goodbye to Susan provides one of the truly great speeches of Doctor Who:

“ One day I shall back…Until then there must no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.”

Once Susan has left the Doctor definitely experiences a change. He seems re-energized somehow and much more willing to become actively involved in events than previously. This is more than likely down to the influences of his travelling companions. First, there’s Ian and Barbara, Susan’s former schoolteachers from Sixties London. I’ll discuss these two more in a future post but what these two do is inject the Doctor with a bit of humanity and make him realise that he has a moral obligation to help people. Their influence seems to work and from the second season onwards the Doctor takes a much more proactive role in events. In 'The DalekInvasion of Earth' he makes bold statements like: "I think we need to pit our wits against them and defeat them" and "we have got to dare to stop them!" in reference to the Daleks. The sort of thing that you might expect from later Doctors but it's actually unusual to hear it from the First at this point in the series.

However I think the Doctor's attitude adjustment in the Second season is also partly down to the appearance in the TARDIS of a new travelling companion: Vicki the orphan girl from the future, rescued from a shipwreck by the Doctor in a story called, appropriatly enough, 'The Rescue'.

Unlike Susan, who appeared to dread every moment of her travels, Vicki is much more adventurous, always wanting to explore whereever it is that the TARDIS crew visit. This trait seems to rub off on the Doctor and, more often than not he and Vicki will go off exploring together, leaving Ian and Barbara to fend for themselves.

At this stage in the series, the impression that we get of the Doctor is that he is a slightly doddery sweet old uncle sort of a figure who seems to bumble from one adventure to the next and who, at times, barely seems to be aware of what is going on around him. A lot of this is an act. Old he may well be but his mind is far more active than the enemies he faces and he can give as good as he gets in verbal battles, delivering some stinging insults at times:

"I admire bravery and loyalty, sir. You have both of these. But, unfortunately, you haven't any brain at all! I hate fools!"

He's even not afraid to mince words when talking to himself. On meeting the Second and Third Doctors in 'The Three Doctors' his first words are: "So you're my replacements: a dandy and a clown!"

Mentally strong the First Doctor may be but it is his physical shortcomings that are ultimately his downfall. Though not above resorting to the "noble art of fisticuffs" as he puts it, the Doctor is aware of his limitations, preferring to use his brain to outwit his foes. In his final story, 'The Tenth Planet,' he doesn't get the chance to put his intellect to use as he finds himself physically drained by the Cybermen in their debut appearance. As a result, the Doctor plays very little part in the proceedings, spending much of the second half of the story unconcious.

Indeed, the most significant thing that he does is this story occurs right at the end, where, almost completely drained of energy, he collapses to the floor of the TARDIS and surrounded by his current companions he undergoes what will be the first of many regenerations...

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