Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

The Zealotry of The Doctor

Collapse
X
Collapse

  • The Zealotry of The Doctor

    Have you ever heard of the Zeal of the Convert? This phrase comes from the perception that converts to a new religion are frequently more fiercely devout than those who were born into it. Of course, not all converts are aggressive zealots – I wouldn’t even say most of them are. Despite the negative implications of this stereotype, l believe it is logical and perfectly understandable that someone who reached an epiphany about their own existence would be very excited about their new awareness and passionate about traveling down the path they just discovered. They might even try to convince you to go with them!

    This phenomenon isn’t limited to religion. You can find examples of it among people of all kinds wherever someone adopts a new idea or way of thinking. There’s the ex-smoker who becomes fiercely anti-smoking or the new vegetarian that proselytizes about their food choices – no matter what way of thinking you are talking about, it seems like you can find examples of new converts that are vigorous in their zeal.

    Now what does all of this have to do with Doctor Who?

    The First Doctor, Barbara, Ian, and SusanThe quick and dirty (and pertinent) about Doctor Who – it was and is a British science fiction serial program that ran for 26 seasons until it was cancelled by the BBC in 1989, only to be revived as a television movie in 1996, and more successfully resurrected in 2005. This new Doctor Who is still airing today, and while the show remains a cultural icon in Great Britain, it has earned a level of popularity in the United States that the classic series never achieved. If you’ve read this far, I’ll bet you already knew all of that.

    I have no idea about numbers, but I think it is safe to say that a large portion of fans of the new Doctor Who have never seen an episode of the classic series. They are available on streaming services, but twenty-six seasons with dozens of missing episodes is a daunting task, especially when the production values of the classic series were very different from those in the new. The truth is: many American fans are in the dark about the Doctor’s life and personality prior to Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor.

    This is important because the Doctor today is characterized by his extreme humanity. This alien, the Doctor, embodies the pinnacle heroic human ideal. He is selfless, wants to preserve life at all costs, stands up for the downtrodden, despises ignorance and cherishes wonderment. He is compassionate and empathetic, in his own alien way. His devotion to these traits could almost be described as fanatical. He’s a zealot. And, whether you realize it or not – he is a convert. Many of today’s fans aren’t familiar with the character traits of the earlier incarnations of the Doctor, and don’t realize that we didn’t start seeing this kind of ultra-humanity until he was a more than a few incarnations in. If you haven't watched any Classic Doctor Who, you may be shocked at the personality of the Doctor you see.

    Those of you who have watched Classic Doctor Who, particularly episodes of the very first serial will recall a very different Doctor. Originally, the First Doctor was very similar in personality to what we saw from other Time Lords later in the series. He was arrogant and dismissive, distrustful of the inferior humans. He was a rude elitist who was willing to kill to save his own neck. He saw humans as inferior and did not shy away from making this opinion known. This was a Doctor who delighted in kidnapping two unsuspecting humans and taking them away from their native time just to teach them a lesson for being so impertinent. This Doctor tried to take a pacifist race and make them go to war against a superior warlike enemy – all to make up for one of his own dishonest schemes gone wrong. This was a typical Time Lord, not the paragon of humanity we have come to know in the new series.

    If the Doctor is a convert to humanity, his first two human companions – Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright – were his proselytizers. If you look at their actions in An Unearthly Child, you will find a pair of teachers who are very concerned about one of their students (the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan Foreman). They visit her “home,” only to find that her address on file is a junkyard. Unable to find Susan, they eventually meet the Doctor – who to them appeared to be a strange and evasive old man who could be a danger to Susan. And when they discover that Susan herself is hiding in what seems to them to be a small Police Box? What else would any decent human do but force themselves into the situation, refuse to accept the Doctor’s deceptive and dismissive explanations, and try to protect one of their charges? In the Doctor’s first real experience with humans, he was the villain, and ended up the victim of that sort of aggressive compassion that eventually came to define him.

    Doctor: Murderer?Over the next several stories, Ian and Barbara began to mold the Doctor. Their early relationship was very confrontational: after all, the Doctor had taken them from their home against their will, placing them in danger time and time again. Despite their frustrations, despite being exposed to a fantastic reality they never-before imagined, they held on to what made them decent human beings and insisted that the Doctor behave the same way. They chided him for his lack of compassion, berated him for his unwillingness to put others before himself. They treated him with justifiable suspicion and refused to let him out of their sight – after all, he was perfectly willing to abandon them if it meant he could safely escape a situation with Susan. One particularly impactful moment came when Ian had to stop the Doctor from murdering a wounded caveman with a rock, all because Ian and Barbara’s insisted that they keep their enemy from dying. That act was costing them their opportunity to escape. Despite all the universe threw at them (including the Doctor), Ian and Barbara remained examples of honor and compassion, and showed the Doctor that their way worked.

    Barbara and Ian forced the Doctor to behave with decency, and eventually he started to come around. They prevented him from being truly evil through aggressive supervision, and as he continued to travel with them, he eventually grew to accept and love them, behaving like a decent human being would. His demeanor became softer – he was less the grouchy alien and became more the lovable grandpa. Ian and Barbara fought against him less, because he stopped giving them reasons too. He was learning to behave, learning to embrace humanity.

    There was still conflict to him, but he slowly learned to cope with those scenarios where human morality could not apply to the wider universe of time travel. In The Aztecs he remained firm in his opposition to Barbara’s attempts to change history, yet sympathized with her rationale and remained compassionate when she eventually was forced to admit he was right. In The Sensorites, we see the first glimpses of him as the Protector of Humanity when he tries to save Captain Maitland and his crew from the telepathic Sensorites.

    The Doctor has continued to evolve throughout his different incarnations, but in his very first we see how he transitioned from a Time Lord view on morality to something that a human might find admirable. He is still a long way from The Oncoming Storm that began with the Ninth Doctor at this point, but his faith was only growing. Today, more than fifty years after we first see William Hartnell’s Doctor, he’s finally become a Zealot in the church of humanity – and this is the Doctor that most American fans know and love today.

    I wonder if she will continue to be in the coming season?

    Watchlist:

    Doctor Who Season 1
    • An Unearthly Child (Episodes 1-4)
    • The Daleks (Episodes 5-11)
    • The Aztecs (Episodes 27-30)

    • Blake M. Petit
      #1
      Blake M. Petit commented
      Editing a comment
      Admittedly, I haven't seen a lot of Classic Who, but I like this interpretation of the character. It even fits in a bit with some of the ways the Tennant through Capaldi Doctors struggled to find themselves. Capaldi in particular seemed compelled to define himself.

    • Craig Reade
      #2
      Craig Reade commented
      Editing a comment
      Capaldi did a really good job bring the "alien" back to the character. Matt Smith was ok at this, but he ended up being just a little awkward, as opposed to alien.

      I think that is one thing I really liked about the Classic Series more than the Modern - the evolving Doctor. Sure, we get different base personalities, but at the end of the day, all of the stories end up being the crusading Doctor saving humanity. Watching the Doctor evolve from the crotchety, selfish First Doctor to the highly manipulative Seventh is a lot of fun. Not that it wasn't hard to get caught up, but I found it worth it.
    You must register in order to comment!

What Do You Think?

Collapse

Latest Articles

Collapse

  • The Cure For Fatigue-Modern Mytholgy
    Blake M. Petit
    Strap in, guys, I’m about to hit you with a revelation that will gut you to the core. Robert Downey Jr. will not be the only actor to ever play Iron Man. And that’s okay. It’s actually part of what superheroes are. It’s part of why we love them.

    The Cure For Fatigueis an irregular feature in which we’ll gather around the campfire, take a look at something that people may be feeling burned out on, and talk about what makes it so great in the first place. Today, let’s talk about one of the reasons superheroes, in all their forms, endure.

    I’m going to make an observation that’s older than Aunt May’s wheatcakes recipe, something you already know, but I need to say it to make my point: superheroes are our modern mythology. I know, it’s nothing you haven’t heard before. But have you ever really thought about what that means? Superheroes have power like the gods of ancient myth. They go on adventures on the scale of Perseus, Odysseus, and Jason. They are divided into...
    Yesterday, 01:25 PM
  • The Sound of the Doctor - Silenced
    Craig Reade
    The “Whoniverse” has lost a very important figure this week in Graham Strong, who passed away at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer.

    Strong never acted in an episode, nor did he write, produce, film, arrange, or direct an episode. In fact, he wasn’t involved with the production of Doctor Who at all. Graham Strong was a fan – he was one of us. And we owe him a lot.

    Younger geeks may not understand this, but in the days before the internet (and instant access to everything), we were at the mercy of broadcasters. If we wanted to watch something again, we couldn’t just pull it up on iTunes or Netflix – we had to wait for it to be broadcast again. That, or tape it!

    When I was young, I can remember taking episodes of Star Trek on a VHS recorder, so I could watch them again whenever I wanted. That is probably familiar to most geeks over a certain age - fans at that time commonly recorded episodes of the programs they enjoyed. They did this well before...
    05-18-2018, 08:39 AM
  • The 2018 Superhero Watch: Reflections on the Marvel Cinematic Universe
    Blake M. Petit
    As both a movie lover and a ginormous geek, I like to periodically set movie-watching goals for myself. I’ll try to tackle the films in a certain genre, or featuring a certain character, or built around a certain theme. And as a writer and a ginormous geek, I also tend to document some of these challenges. In the past, I’ve done film study projects about the history of horror, the legacy of horror/comedies, my favorite TV Christmas specials and, one memorable December, 25 different incarnations of Ebenezer Scrooge. That I missed out on that Family Ties episode where Alex P. Keaton plays the part is my one regret in life.

    Like so many other things, though, my movie watching habits had to evolve when my wife and I had a baby. It simply wasn’t feasible to set aside an entire month to watch slasher movies and write a detailed analysis of each one. So in 2018, I set a different kind of goal for myself: to watch as many superhero movies as possible, and in the case of those I’ve...
    05-16-2018, 02:55 PM
  • Three Wishes: Release These Comics!
    Blake M. Petit
    Having several friends who own or work in comic stores, I get a lot of good opportunities to talk about trends in the business. One thing I’ve heard almost universally over the last few years is that the comic book back issue market has completely tanked. Even though selling old comics is what the comic shop industry was built on, shop owners now have to turn to alternative sources of revenue like collectibles, toys, cards, clothing, and appearing on AMC network reality shows. With the exception of rare issues, first appearances, and other things that hold serious monetary value, there’s simply no need to hunt for back issues anymore. In the Oughts, publishers began to grow much more aggressive with their bookshelf program. What once had been reserved for “special” storylines or archival reprints soon began to apply to virtually every comic book published. Nowadays a reader can be fairly well assured that any comic book appearing on the shelf will see print in a paperback or hardcover...
    05-14-2018, 02:18 PM
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. Feels the Force of Gravity!
    Craig Reade
    There are SPOILERS ahead, but dear not - Talbot will show the world that he can indeed fix this!

    Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5 Episode 21 - The Force of Gravity (IMDB)
    Directed by Kevin Tancharoen, Written by Drew Z. Greenberg & Craig Titley

    The episode cold-opens with Daisy, who has seemingly just woken up in the council chambers of the Confederacy. Before her is Tarian, Kasius’s father – who tries to convince her that she should become his disciple. He is very interested in the inhumans on Earth (as he continued to be in the future), and insists that they deserve a better life. When she refuses but fails to use her powers to break free, he reveals that none of this is real, she is still unconscious, and he is supremely confident that he will break her very soon. Daisy doesn’t have time for this nonsense, so she shows Tarian how unprepared for her he really is. She channels her abilities inward, shatters the device keeping her unconscious and starts...
    05-14-2018, 12:06 PM
  • Justice League: No Justice #1: Crazy Configurations and a Strong Start
    Blake M. Petit
    Justice League: No Justice #1 (DC Comics)
    By Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Francis Manapul, Hi-Fi, and AndWorld Design

    In the aftermath of Dark Nights: Metal, the Source Wall at the fringes of the DC Universe has been breached. From the cracks comes something dark, deadly, and dangerous… so dangerous that the insidious Brainiac has taken it upon himself to create a new Justice League from members of the old, some Titans, the Suicide Squad, and a few surprise guests. The four unconventional groups will have to work together against the threat of the Omega Titans, with all life in the universe hanging in the balance.

    On the surface, there are a lot of things about No Justice #1 you could be cynical about. The four teams Brainiac has assembled seem in some ways tailor-made to capitalize on characters that are in the zeitgeist right now, and outfitting each of the squads in color-coded uniforms could be taken as a plot to crank out a new...
    05-10-2018, 02:25 PM
Working...
X