Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Doctors, rated

Having gone through the year reading a Doctor Who novel and short story per month, I've been giving some thought to the various incarnations of the character across the years. That being the case, I thought I'd post briefly about where they rate in my estimation. So, from the best downwards...

The 'Good' Doctors

While I don't think there's ever actually been a truly bad portrayal of the Doctor, it is true that some have been better than others. These, therefore, are the Doctors that I consider to be the particularly good portrayals of the character.

The Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker

Yeah, the inevitable choice. The thing is, Baker was both my first Doctor and also was the one who laid down so much of the groundwork for everything that followed. Therefore, he stands at the top of the heap.

The Tenth Doctor: David Tennant

And then, close behind, is the best of the four 'new' Doctors, David Tennant's Tenth. Although his tenure probably went on too long, and although RTD's writing became quite tired by the end, Tennant had some fantastic material to work with, and he embodied the character perfectly. A great Doctor.

The Eleventh: Matt Smith

Given the almost impossible task of following DT, Matt Smith took the character in a very different direction, and excelled in the role. Good stuff.

The Fifth: Peter Davison

More than any of the others, Davison was "my Doctor", and as such he ranks very highly in the order. His era also represents the last point where the 'classic' series was as good as it should be - unfortunately, what was to come was not all that might be hoped.

The Ninth: Christopher Eccleston

Given the big task of bringing the show back, Eccleston did extremely well with the role. By striking just the right balance of silliness and seriousness, he established the format of the show going forward, and gave it a really strong foundation from which to proceed. In some ways, it's just a shame he was followed by such strong Doctors, as it means he is rated relatively low amongst the 'new' Doctors despite an excellent portrayal.

The Third: Jon Pertwee

I'm not hugely familiar with this Doctor, as he's a little before my time, but what I have seen is familiar enough to fit right alongside the Fourth and the Fifth - you can see a clear progression from each to the next. And there's a clear warmth to the character which means there's no doubt about his placement.

The Doctors With Potential

There are two Doctors who showed a great deal of promise with their portrayal, but who barely got a chance with the role. So...

The Eighth: Paul McGann

The TV movie was terrible, but I was always left with the sense that, given better material, McGann could have been a great Doctor. And then came "Night of the Doctor" and, sure enough, he could. Still, he doesn't really have enough to properly be rated amongst the others, and so he fits here.

The War Doctor: John Hurt

Likewise, with only a single episode there's no real way to rate the War Doctor. Given the calibre of his other work, I have little doubt Hurt could have been a fantasitc Doctor (indeed, the BBC could do much worse then some War Doctor specials), but without more episodes to tell, he appears here.

The Weaker Doctors

Which brings us to the weaker portrayals of the character, the ones I don't rate so highly. Sorry.

The Twelth: Peter Capaldi

I really wanted to like Capaldi's portrayal. I can see why they felt the need for a new direction and I can see what they're trying to do, but... I'm sorry, it's just not for me. It's possible that this isn't Capaldi's fault - that perhaps Moffat's tenure has reached an end the same way RTD's did - but too much of the season we've just seen has been 'off', and too much has just been a mess. I'm sorry, but I'm not a fan.

The Sixth: Colin Baker

This portrayal was just killed by the first few scenes of the first episode. That and some truly woeful costume choices just destroys the character. It also didn't help that the show was visibly tired by this point, and so Baker never really gets a chance to show what he can do. He probably does the best job possible with the material he has, but it's really not enough to save this portrayal.

The Seventh: Sylvester McCoy

And, finally, there's McCoy. Just like Baker before him, I think he does the best job possible with the material he has, but that material just isn't all it can be. Worse, this portrayal just leaves me cold - too many of his stories seem to be running from one scene to another followed by some Machiavellian rant, followed by a happy ending. I may be maligning him, but alas I have much the same reaction to McCoy as to Capaldi, only with less good material to work with. (And whereas Colin Baker at least benefits from the excellent "Revelation of the Daleks" and "Trial of a Time Lord" stories, McCoy doesn't seem to have equivalent classic stories to point to. Hence their relative positions.)

The Missing Doctors

I haven't placed the First or Second Doctors in my ratings because, although they have plenty of material from which I could make a rating, I haven't seen enough of it to see where they would be placed. And so I've left them off entirely. Perhaps, one day, I might track down all the episodes and watch through them... but probably not.

So, to Recap

4, 10, 11, 5, 9, 3, 8, W, 12, 6, 7
Not rated: 1, 2


Kezzie said...

Wow, you are cruel! McCoy was great! I was scared stiff by several of his enemies. I don't think I could rate the doctors in order, truly, I couldn't!x

Steph/ven said...

Yeah, it wasn't an easy list to put together, though some bits were easier than others. In particular, the Baker/McCoy split pretty much does come down to "Revelation of the Daleks".

But, certainly, the top half of the list was much more fun to think about.