My Doctor: How I Found Him the Long Way Around
A lot of people say that their first Doctor is “their Doctor”. That wasn’t the case for me. It took almost 25 years to find my Doctor.
When I had turned thirteen, my family moved from our home in a small town to a house in an even smaller small town. To have cable TV in the late 80s to early 90s was difficult to obtain when you were poor & living in the boonies. A small farm house in the sticks was unlikely to get that kind of luxury. So we were stuck with the Big 3 plus one – ABC, NBC, CBS (if the weather wasn’t too bad) and PBS.
My dad usually controlled the TV when he arrived from work, but Mom would take back the remote once he went to bed. She would watch the British comedy block with us on PBS, but on Friday nights at 10pm she would let my little brother & I have a treat by staying up late to watch Doctor Who. It was a ritual for us. At 10pm Jack Horkheimer Star Gazer would come on and this would signal that in five minutes time Doctor Who would start.
Unlike most UK viewers that originally watched Doctor Who when it aired, I didn’t see the Doctors in any kind of serialized order. We watched the omnibus versions of the Doctor’s adventures – which was fabulous for a kid trying to stay up two to three hours past their bedtime. I started out with Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor while he engaged the Silurians, then I would see him fight his way out of a miniscope with Jo Grant in Carnival of Monsters the following week. Next I would see William Hartnell traveling to discover the Keys of Marinus, then a week later I would watch as Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor and Leela do battle with a killer dummy and a rodent of unusual size. In my mind, the Doctor was just like James Bond. I didn’t know about regeneration. I knew he had different faces & it was just accepted. At the time Pertwee was my favorite of the Doctors, but I enjoyed all of them to varying degrees. I had yet to find my Doctor.
Then came Logopolis and my world was torn apart & rebuilt again.
I watched Tom Baker climb up the radio telescope. I watched him fall. I watched him die. I was shattered. Was this the end? Would there be no more stories? I sat on the floor and watched as he regenerated into the Watcher/Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison). It was astounding. It was mind-bending. It was something I had to learn more about. This was the moment I changed from a kid that enjoyed the show to a Whovian.
I went to the library, read any book I could that had the slightest blurb about Doctor Who and checked out the novelizations of the show. I’d go to the book store and scan the sci-fi mags for any reference to the series. And I kept watching on Friday nights until the final episode of the series aired on PBS – which just so happened to be Survival.
This was the beginning of the drought.
I had started to record a few episodes to re-watch when I heard about the 1989 hiatus. I would save up my lunch money to buy VHS tapes of episodes I hadn’t seen. And I would go to the rental store & rent the only episode of Doctor Who they had when I was really desperate: The Pyramids of Mars. In 1996 the TV Movie came & went. It was lovely. But it was fleeting.
By 2005, I heard the news that the Doctor was returning and I was ready. I found a way to watch Christopher Eccleston’s Nineth Doctor. I loved him, he was dynamic. He was amazing, but he wasn’t my Doctor. I watched him as he regenerated explosively into David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. Again, he was flirty and nice. I enjoyed him, but he wasn’t my Doctor. And the same went for Matt Smith. He was like a fluffy, big-chinned, excitable puppy, but still… not my Doctor.
Then came The Day of the Doctor.
That was exciting. He looked very intense. I started to wonder what kind of Doctor Peter Capaldi would be?
I watched Series 8 and I enjoyed it. I began to really like his interpretation of the Twelfth Doctor. You could see that the series was setting up a long game for the character’s development. I was interested to see where it was heading. I had almost found my Doctor.
At last, Series 9 came. It was sweeping. It was epic. The stories were dynamic & I watched as Capaldi’s Doctor not only grew but blossomed into an exceptional Doctor. The character was acted in one moment with perfect stillness and subtlety and the next with an over-blown enthusiasm that tried to reach the rafters. I was so close to finding my Doctor.
Then I watched Heaven Sent. There you are! There’s my Doctor. No other previous Doctor could have pulled off that episode. It was tailor made to showcase Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. I found him! I found him at last!!
Now that I found him, I needed to go back and re-watch Series 8. Confirm my suspicions. Confirm that I, at last, have found my Doctor. I was able to see the subtle & not-so-subtle cues he gave that informed the audience about his feelings about Clara. I watched as he struggled to find his identity. I watched as slowly, but surely Peter Capaldi stepped into the role, stretched it and made it his own. He became the Doctor.
He became my Doctor.