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Whoblogging 9

When we discussed the possible return of Doctor Who at a panel at the first P-Con back in 2004, I was sceptical that anything much would come of it. And a few weeks later I recorded here my surprise at the choice of Christopher Eccleston, who I hadn't heard of. I feared that the new show would be as embarrassing as Remembrance of the Daleks, The Two Doctors or Vengeance on Varos, which were the most recent Old Who I'd seen.

So it was with trepidation (and two guests) that we sat down on that Saturday in 2005 to see what this new, leather-jacketed, northern-accented Doctor would be like.

And, well, he was fantastic.

I've written earlier of my appreciation of the most alien Doctors, W Hartnell and T Baker. While the Fourth Doctor will always remain my favourite, Ecclestone brought that quality of alienness to the part better than anyone since 1981. He also brought a sense of loss and tragedy: the death of his people, the scars of the Time War. The past was gone, irretrievable; but not forgotten. The new Doctor was trying to build himself a new life; borrowing what he could from the rest of us.

My favourite Eccleston moments are not the grand set-piece confrontations, though he did those well enough. Although I concur with the Hugo voters in picking The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances as my favourite story, it does not contain either of my two favourite Ninth Doctor quotes.

My second favourite line is from Dalek, the first story which links to the Doctor's past (the Autons of Rose appear to be under different management from previous appearances, and invading a London which has forgotten their two previous attempts). Sorting through the equipment which Van Statten has accumulated but is too unenlightened to use, the Doctor tosses weapon-like objects casually aside: "Broken... Broken... Hair-dryer..." We have a moment of alien wizard disguised as Northern man with a leather jacket. It's great.

But my favourite line is quite different: it suggests that the Doctor is not only alien, but occasionally jealous of us humans who aren't burdened by his cosmic responsibilities. It comes in Father's Day, when Stuart and Sarah are explaining to the Doctor how they met, and asking if he can save them, even though they are not important:

Who said you're not important? I’ve traveled to all sorts of places, done things you couldn’t even imagine, but you two. Street corner, two in the morning, getting a taxi home. I’ve never had a life like that. Yes, I’ll try and save you.

It sums up what the Doctor is there for, but also gives a rare glimpse of why he is doing it all. It's also a huge difference from the previous incarnations. I can't imagine any of them regretting that they didn't have the opportunity to miss a taxi at two in the morning, though there is probably a good party game in doing imitations of how they would have dealt with the situation. (Actually I've just been watching Hartnell in The War Machines, where taxis do feature prominently; but more of that anon.)

I haven't done the calculations, but I suspect that there is less Ninth Doctor spinoff material than for any of the others. There's a slim volume of comics, a half dozen books (all original fiction - no novelisations for New Who), and that's it. Eccleston and Tom Baker are the only living Doctors who are not still performing in the role. I imagine that Eccleston will want to let the dust settle (and Tennant's successor get safely in place) before he thinks of getting back into it. (Though I am intrigued by the rumours about this week's Christmas special.)

But for the foreseeable future, all we have are those thirteen episodes from 2005, when the saviour of humanity returned to us on Easter Saturday. As Graham Sleight remarks, with his dying breath the Ninth Doctor describes himself (and Rose) as fantastic. And he is right.
Whoblogging index: One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 23rd, 2008 08:46 am (UTC)
I think your last sentence would perhaps be improved if it lost the second comma. As it is, it reads at first glance in a way rather alarming to those of us who hold Graham amongst our dear friends!
Dec. 23rd, 2008 08:52 am (UTC)
Point taken!
Dec. 23rd, 2008 08:52 am (UTC)
That's one of my favorite Nine moments, too.

Man. Now I want to watch that season all over again. And I just /did/, this summer!
Dec. 23rd, 2008 08:59 am (UTC)
Can I start by issuing the traditional pedant's scream for all the uses of 'Ecclestone'? (And you avoided Davidson a few days ago, too)

I'm surprised you hadn't heard of him before he was cast in the role - did The Second Coming not make it over the Channel?
Dec. 23rd, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
My favorite line comes from The Doctor Dances, because to ME it was the moment in which the Doctor completed the healing process that started at the end of Dalek:

"Just this once... EVERYBODY LIVES!"
Dec. 23rd, 2008 09:53 pm (UTC)
IMHO, he didn't actually complete the healing process until PotW, when he took the Time Vortex out of Rose. There's such peace on his face after he releases it back into the TARDIS, and I think it's because a life begun in war and devastation is now coming to an end through an act of love. That's what heals him.
Dec. 23rd, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
The taxi reference recaps a scene from Bob & Rose.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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