He is over 900 years old and has two hearts. He literally has 13 lives or “regenerations”, where not only can his body repair itself when it is near death or because of severe injury, but his appearance also changes. He can live for thousands of years. He has had countless companions over the years, as he travels through time and space crusading for justice and the rights of the oppressed in a battered old blue Police Box. Well, that’s what it looks like from the outside, but upon crossing the threshold of the doorway, it is infinite space inside. It is called a TARDIS, or Time and Relative Dimensions In Space; it can move through time as well as space, to any place in this Universe or others. He is the last of a mighty race that once walked among the stars and were revered almost like Gods until they destroyed themselves and many other races in the Last Great Time War.
He is simply known as The Doctor.
Since 1963, the BBC program “Doctor Who” has been the longest running Science Fiction series of all time. In all, ten actors have played the part since the show began; the most recent actor, the Tenth Doctor being David Tennant. The show had a continuous run from 1963-1989 when it was put on “hiatus” by the BBC. It was briefly revived for a telemovie by the BBC and Fox in 1996 in hopes of starting a new series, but the ratings never justified it being made into one. In 2005, the show was brought back with a bigger budget (a far cry from the early years of cheap chroma-key and models flying on a wire BBC Special Effects) and a new Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, in the title role. The show did so well, it was picked up for a subsequent season, but Eccleston’s contract was only for one year and that not only meant a change of actors but a new regeneration for the Doctor. David Tennant became the new (and current) Doctor in the last show of 2005 and the Christmas Special that year and will continue in the role until the end of 2009, when a new actor, Matt Smith (age 26, the youngest actor ever to play the Doctor), will assume the mantle of The Last Time Lord from the Planet Gallifrey, The Doctor.
I’ve loved this show from the first time I saw Tom Baker (the longest serving actor in the role- 7 years- who was the Fourth Doctor) when it was first syndicated in the States back in 1977. The following year, PBS stations across my area (NYC and its environs) picked up the show and even began to run programs from the first Three Doctors. Although I was in my late teens, I was absolutely hooked and became a HUGE fan of the show (as did my wife via her brother, who was my age and a huge fan as well). Once I saw my first regeneration scene in the episode “Logopolis” in 1981 (from the Fourth Doctor to the Fifth, played by Peter Davidson, then the youngest to play the role), I was a stark raving fan. I called my car the TARDIS; I even had a TARDIS key (a prop from the series) hanging on my mirror. I wore question marks on my lapels. I would routinely walk around in long frock coats (like the Fourth Doctor) in winter. Of course, I was in my early twenties and a raving drunk, but boy…was I a fan of the show. When it left the screens in 1989, I was quite upset; and just as upset when the new series didn’t materialize in 1996.
While we didn’t get that First Series (2005) here in the States on the Science Fiction Channel until 2006, I picked up the complete series on DVD from the UK. Having a multi-region/format DVD player, I was able to see just what was going on, and how absolutely special the program had remained and had become once again. When I got those DVDs, I decided I would turn my then 8 year old daughter on to Doctor Who, and she absolutely loved it. She devoured every DVD or tape we had of every Doctor sitting around the house and is becoming quite well versed in the show’s history and backstory. When David Tennant decided to leave the role this past October (after filming 4 special BBC Movies in place of a full 2009 Season) in order to do the National Theater in the UK, the hunt was on for a new actor. Rumors flew around the Internet; the possibility of a Doctor of a different race or a Doctor being a woman were bandied about. It was the most closely guarded secret (as most changeovers of the Doctor’s actor are) since The Manhattan Project. There was not one single shred of solid evidence or substantiated rumor until today’s announcement. My daughter and I have been on pins and needles until today, and it certainly looks as if the show will definitely be going in an interesting direction.
While it is always sad to see an actor leave the role, it is also an exciting time to see just what the new person in the role will do with it. Each of the ten actors who have played the Ten Doctors have had a different take on the role, but the core values of the Doctor (and core personality) have remained…as well as the ever present jelly babies. Below is a short 5 minute interview with the new Doctor, Matt Smith. Here’s much luck to you!
“One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine” – The First Doctor
“I am not a student of human nature. I am a professor of a far wider academy of which human nature is merely a part.” – The Second Doctor
“Courage isn’t just a matter of not being afraid. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.” – The Third Doctor
“There’s no point being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes.” – The Fourth Doctor
“I tried keeping a diary once. Not chronological, of course. But the trouble with time travel is, one never seems to find the time.” – The Fifth Doctor
“Planets come and go. Stars perish. Matter disperses, coalesces, forms into other patterns, other worlds. Nothing can be eternal.” – The Sixth Doctor
“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea’s asleep, and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, somewhere else the tea’s getting cold.” – The Seventh Doctor
“The world’s about to be destroyed, and I’m stuck in a traffic jam!” – The Eighth Doctor
“I’m a Time Lord. I’m the last of the Time Lords. They’re all gone. I’m the only survivor. I’m left traveling on my own, ’cause there’s no one else.” – The Ninth Doctor
“I don’t age. I regenerate. But humans decay; you wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone that you…you can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can’t spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on. Alone. That’s the curse of the Time Lords.” – The Tenth Doctor
THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR, MATT SMITH: