Favourite Doctor

Life Everyone of a certain age has their Doctor Who, or the timelord they grew up with. If I'm being honest mine was probably Peter Davison. I was too young to full appreciate Tom (beyond seeing all the hair and teeth) but most of the images I have from the time are from Davision stories, the snake in Kinda, the two Nyssas in Black Orchid, the Anthony Ainley Master. From there I stuck with show through Timelord Trials, the Rani and Ghost Light, right up until I saw Deanna Troi and Star Trek stole me away for a long time.

But your favourite Doctor? Companion? Story? They become a different issue. If you are a fan, you no longer just have memories because the whole of the series is at your disposal and having seen much of what's there you can make an appraisal. Fans do that, they make value judgements, it's a way of creating order in the chaos. It also means that when the inevitable questions turn up from the vaguely interested or non-fans, you've a stock answer handy so that they can't actually see you thinking.

So this week, the week I never thought would happen, I'm going to show you the thinking. If the rest of the media want to believe there isn't anything happening in the world, I'm not going to disagree with them and as usual join them. I'm going to try and answer the big questions. Here then is my ...

Favourite Doctor

It's got to be Tom Baker surely. The man was in the part for seven years and defined the role. That's why everyone who followed seemed blander somehow. Actually to me, giving to Tom as the best is like saying The Beatles are your favourite rock band. Yes, and? We love Tom. Tom is our hero. Tom is the hero. But even then, there are some stories were he's acting his socks off, doing everything he can to keep things moving and it just sits there. Season Fifteen might start out well with Horror of Fang Rock but by the end K9's been introduced and you're watching Leela being chased by a Sontaran in what looks like a leisure centre after hours.

Which is why whenever anyone asked I tell them it's Paul McGann. It's the interesting choice. It's the one which raises eyebrows, especially with the people who think he got back in the TARDIS in 1996 and didn't come out again. But I don't think I've heard or read an Eighth Doctor story I haven't liked or loved. With the shortest TV screen time of them all, he's become the experimental Doctor, a way for the many authors who've written for him to play about with the format, what a Doctor Who story is.

For the uninitiated, since his short burst on screen the McGann Doctor has appeared in a series of novels from BBC Books, in an ongoing comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine and on audio with Paul himself in a series of cd plays for a company set up by fans called Big Finish (there was also a brief comic strip moment in Radio Times and a few novellas too). Because many of the writers work across these formats, using the TV Movie and the actors previous film and tv appearances they hashed out a character for him, so that this one voice is heard no matter were he appears.

He's brash and unpredictable, he's nervous but clever, curious yet all knowing. He'll bound into a situation, make mistakes and then relish dealing with the consequences. Unlike Tom you're never sure if he'll really win and sometimes he really doesn't. In the novels, he's literally lost one of his hearts, destroyed his home planet and been exiled on Earth for a century with amnesia. In the comics he took as his companions, a cyberman and a fish-like woman who'd tried to kill him on numerous occasions. On audio, he caused a rip in time, became his own mortal enemy and banished himself into another universe in which time as a concept doesn't exist.

But what I really love is the sheer randomness of it all. Unlike the tv series were all the eras are carefully mapped out and you know were you are with whichever Doctor you're watching, you're never sure what the Eighth is going to do next. In a special moment at the end of the latest audio play, this non-reality he's been exciled to is caving in and his only escape route into his real universe is fading fast. But he stops for a moment or two to chide his two companions for not getting along and gets them to grudgingly to bury the hatchet because he doesn't see the point of carrying on if they don't see eye to eye. Life's precious but so is quality of life.

I'm happy the Doctor's back, but I'm sad to see the back of the Eighth. The fact the new man is being considered the Ninth perfectly commemorates the work done by the various writers, authors and producers who've kept this multi-media incarnation alive and much more than an hour and half of Americanisms. It'll be exciting to see Chris step out of the TARDIS on Saturday, but for me The Doctor's never been away. He's just been travelling elsewhere for while...

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