Editorial: My Top 10 Favorite Classic Companions

The Companions represent the audience. They show us what it might be like to travel with the Doctor. In the 50-plus years Doctor Who has been on the air, several companions have joined each Doctor on his adventures. I’ve ranked the Doctors. Now it’s time to rank the companions. This editorial will focus solely on the “classic” period, starting with William Hartnell and ending with Sylvester McCoy. Next month, I will talk about the modern Companions starting with Christopher Eccleston and ending with Peter Capaldi (I will be skipping Big Finish because I’ve only met three companions.)

nyssa10. Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) Sarah became my favorite Fifth Doctor Companion by default. Tegan did nothing but complain. Adric was often too smug and arrogant. Nyssa was the only one who had any endearing qualities. She was a kind woman who had lost everything–her father was possessed by the Master, who had then destroyed her homeworld of Trakken. And yet, it rarely seemed to bother her.  She now had all of space and time. I still marvel that she had a positive attitude.

jo grant9. Jo Grant (Katy Manning) When I first saw Jo, I didn’t like her. She seemed somewhat clumsy and incompetent. Her predecessor seemed a good fit for the Doctor, as they seemed intellectually equal. However, Jo had the one thing Dr. Shaw didn’t–a sense of humor. She was great comedy relief, and even though she didn’t understand some things as good as Shaw often did, she was a fun character.

leela8. Leela (Louise Jameson) Leela at first seemed several steps backward from her predecessor Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane operated on with and pluck. Leela was a “noble savage”, more prone to violence than more rational decisions. But the Doctor needed someone like Leela, who would be more willing to do things he didn’t care to.  The Fourth Doctor would rather outwit his opponents than resort to violence.  He took pleasure in gleefully using his foe’s flaws to his advantage, but Leela could help in a pinch.

peri brown7. Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant) The Sixth Doctor was by far the most arrogant of the Doctors, someone who needed to be humbled.  The person who did that was Peri Brown.  She would not stand for the Doctor’s arrogance, turning them into a great comedy duo.

jamie mcCrimmon6. Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) I totally didn’t expect to like any of the Companions from the 60’s. So much of their adventures are missing. How can I like any of them based on what little is available? But what I saw was enough to convince me that Jamie is a great character. I liked Jamie’s brazen charging into battle with his clan’s battle cry. I laughed at how out of place he seemed with advanced technology. He was a loyal Companion and was undaunted. I call him the Don Quixote of Doctor Who.

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Editorial: How I Would Run Doctor Who

Well, not only do we have a new Doctor, but we also have a new composer and a new executive producer: Chris Chibnall. Chris is actually someone whose history with Doctor Who has been hit or miss. I’ve liked some of his stories, like “42”, and there were some that I didn’t outright hate, but I didn’t rank highly either, like “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. On the other hand, he also wrote many of Torchwood‘s best episodes.

While I do have faith that Chibnall will do the best he can, I can’t help but think of what I would do if I had the job.  Here’s some ideas I had:

  1. My Doctor would be either Eddie Redmayne, star of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, or my dream pick Liam Neeson. Both have shown they can do both dramatic and comedic performances, and I’d want a Doctor like characters they’ve portrayed.
  2. One idea that they’ve already addressed is extending the run time. As I said in my overview of the Capaldi era, the pacing was a big problem. Many episodes felt like they didn’t have enough time to flesh out their concepts. Chibnall has decided to add fifteen extra minutes to the run time, which for Americans like myself means the show will probably run about 75 minutes with commercials.
  3. No more leaks! Last season, we had too many things spoiled: Missy’s return, the Mondasian Cybermen, Rona Munro returning to write “Eaters of Light”, and the returns of John Simm and Matt Lucas. True, many of these did become great, but I’d much rather be surprised by their success. (Especially when the hype didn’t work out, as in the case of “Eaters of Light”)
  4. No spin-offs–Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures were fine.  We already have great spin-offs from Big Finish, we don’t really need more, especially when we have what happened with Class, where one of the big problems was that it was placed in a bad timeslot and it was barely promoted.
  5. I have two companion ideas. One is a female android named Ardra. On her planet, androids are forbidden, even though they are programmed with the laws Asimov concocted for his robots: Don’t harm humans, do what humans tell them, and protect themselves. Ardra is also a blank slate, something the Doctor would have to fix. Ardra is looking for her “Father”, her inventor David Nikola, who would be introduced at Christmas. I don’t have preferences for their actors/actresses because I’d rather whoever got picked be relatively unknown and become a success later on, like Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, and John Barrowman have.

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Editorial: A Masterful Ranking

In “Remembrance of the Daleks”, the Doctor muses “You can always tell a man by the quality of his enemies”. To me, the Master is the most definitive enemy of the Doctor.” He is everything the Doctor isn’t. He manipulates time and space for his own goals, while the Doctor would rather maintain the flow of time correctly, because he knows how dangerous changing events is. The Master manipulates people, either compelling them to do his bidding unwillingly, while the Doctor would rather respect the freedom of others.

As with Doctor, several people have played the Master since his appearance in “Terror of the Autons”. This editorial is my personal ranking of the Masters.

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Editorial: Big Finish’s New Ninth Doctor Chronicles

ninth finishBig Finish is a great part of Doctor Who’s “expanded universe”. It helps “fill the void” between series, when no new Doctor Who is on. I like that they’re even publishing stories featuring the Tenth Doctor, River Song, and more.

Yet there is one series of stories that I’m not comfortable with Big Finish publishing.  They’ve recently started releasing new Ninth Doctor adventures. This is actually not the first time they’ve done stories featuring the Ninth Doctor.  When Doctor Who turned 50, one of the many things Big Finish released in celebration was an eleven-part miniseries called Destiny of the Doctors, with one story for each of the eleven Doctors. These stories were all narrated by the companions. Because they could not get Billie Piper or John Barrowman, their Ninth Doctor story Night of the Whisper was entirely narrated by Nicholas Briggs. Briggs actually did a passable impression of Eccleston for the narration. I don’t mind this because it was the 50th anniversary, and Destiny of the Doctors was a celebration of every era.

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Editorial: What Doctor Who Means to Me

Doctor Who has been going on for over 50 years. We’ve had 12 Doctors, (13 if you count John Hurt), a successful revival, countless audio dramas from Big Finish, at least three spinoffs. I’m always surprised at how long this show has lasted. Even being cancelled didn’t stop it completely. Most shows don’t bounce back after a cancellation, and if they do get revived, it doesn’t last. So why has this show lasted? Why do people like me enjoy it so much?

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Editorial: Unlucky 13–My Problems With Jodie Whittaker

jodie whittakerWell, it happened. A couple weeks ago, the new Doctor was announced. And it’s Jodie Whittaker, the first woman to ever play the role. And what happened? Exactly what I predicted. This is why I didn’t want a 13th Doctor. This is why I said it would kill the show. Many fans are rage quitting, although some don’t care. And Radio Times is saying “If you don’t accept her, you’re not a real fan.” (Real smooth) Some fans like myself are claiming that Doctor Who is once again caving in to pressure from special interest people and giving in to the new gender politics. Some of my fellow Christian fans of Doctor Who have considered this the final betrayal and are giving up on the show entirely. I’m conflicted myself.  As I said, I didn’t want this. But I also said I’d watch to see if I’m proven wrong.

First, let’s refute some arguments. No, I don’t have a problem with a female lead. I currently watch Bones, Supergirl, and Jessica Jones.  And one of my favorite Star Trek spin-offs was Voyager.

I also don’t mind gender swaps when they work. The Doctor Strange movie had Tilda Swinton playing The Ancient One, who was originally male in the comics. That idea wouldn’t have worked in the movie, because he was stereotypically drawn to look like the typical Asian character–Fu Man Chu mustache, yellow skin, you know the look. That would’ve led to more problems, and Swinton was up to the challenge. Voltron: Legendary Defender changed Pidge into a girl named Katie Holt, who now uses Pidge as an alias. This was fine because the original Pidge was an androgynous effeminate boy, so I think making her a tomboy works better.

No, my problem is that I perceived the Doctor’s masculinity as part of his character. To all you women who love this idea, I want to ask you something. Let’s say they rebooted the Alien movies, and had Vin Diesel playing Ellen Ripley. That would be a bad idea because the whole point of those movies is that Ellen, a woman, is saving the day instead of a man. It’d reduce the movies to a generic sci-fi action flick and nullify its significance.

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Editorial: Top 10 Best Writers

In the 50+ years Doctor Who has been on the air, the show has had many great writers. While some have only made a minimal impact on the show’s history, others like Terry Nation and Russell T. Davies have made lasting contributions to the mythos.  For this editorial, I’ll be counting down the best writers.

Note: Writers must have written at least two episodes for the show. Also, I am not including writers such as Neil Gaiman who have a large body of work besides Doctor Who. In the case of Gaiman, his work is too vast to focus solely on his two stories for Doctor Who, no matter how much I like them.

sarah dollard

10. Sarah Dollard (Best stories: “Face the Raven”, “Thin Ice”)

When Peter Capaldi became the 12th Doctor, Moffatt wanted to take the show in a darker direction and hired several new writers. While Sarah hasn’t been on  the show as long as the others on this list, I really hope she sticks around.

whithouse

9. Toby Whithouse (Best stories: “School Reunion”, “The God Complex”, “Under the Lake/Before the Flood”)

Toby Whithouse seems able to take familiar formulas used in Doctor Who and use them in new unique ways, as seen in “The God Complex” and “Under the Lake/Before the Flood”.

mark gatiss

8. Mark Gatiss (Best stories: “Invaders From Mars”, “The Unquiet Dead”, “Robot of Sherwood”)

Mark Gatiss is one of the many writers that Russell T. Davies brought on from Big Finish, and while he’s not always written a good story (“The Idiot’s Lantern” is one of his less-inspired stories), he’s always managed to entertain and show Doctor Who‘s lighter side.

douglas adams

7. Douglas Adams (Best stories: “The Pirate Planet”, “City of Death”)

Douglas Adams is actually more well-known for his writings outside of Doctor Who, such as his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books. His unique brand of humor is still felt on the show thanks to the writings of Mark Gatiss and Russell T. Davies.

paul cornell

6. Paul Cornell (Best stories “Loup-Geroux”, “Human Nature/Family of Blood”, “Father’s Day”)
Another Big Finish contributor and he also worked for the show during Davies’s tenure as show-runner. I think what makes Cornell such a great writer is that he can combine both the human and alien aspects of the Doctor.

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Enough Complaining!

I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who since the 80’s, back when it aired in the United States on PBS affiliates. They’d do it different ways. Some did each episode of each serial in the actual 30 minutes, while others would run 2 or 3 episodes in a block, or even the entire story uninterrupted. For the longest time, this was the way to watch Doctor Who for Americans like myself. And it wasn’t just Doctor Who. PBS also ran other British programs like Blake’s Seven, Red Dwarf, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Black Adder, and Keeping Up Appearances.

These days, Satellite companies have BBC America, which is basically the same idea, when it’s not showing reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Doctor Who ran for quite a long time, starting in 1963 until it was cancelled at the end of the 80’s.

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Editorial: Why I Don’t Want a Female Doctor

It’s been revealed that series 10 will be Peter Capaldi’s final series as the Twelfth Doctor. I’ll be sorry to see him go. We’re also getting Chris Chibnall as the new show-runner, with Moffatt stepping down. I’m sorry to see both of them go (yes, I said it. I still like what Moffatt did. I’m entitled to that opinion.). As with every time the actor exits, we get speculation about who will take the helm next. Some even think someone who had the role originally might come back. And then there’s talk that we may get our first female Doctor. Here’s why I don’t think that’s a good idea.

First of all, it’s not a new idea. It’s happened before, in a Comic Relief sketch called “The Curse of the Fatal Death” (which was actually the first Doctor Who-related thing Moffatt ever wrote). It was all done for parody, and I don’t think we should take a cue from that.

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Doctor Who Starting Points

Doctor Who has been on for over fifty years. Starting a show that’s been on that long seems daunting, especially when you consider how many actors have portrayed the Doctor, and how many writers, producers, etc. have worked behind the scenes. For this reason, I’m presenting four possible starting points and the pros and cons of each one.

an-unearthly-child

  1. “An Unearthly Child”–starting with the first episode seems the most logical place. The problem is many of William Hartnell’s episodes are still missing. Also, some concepts that later defined Doctor Who’s mythos aren’t present, such as the Doctor having two hearts, the sonic screwdriver, or UNIT. Those come in later eras.

spearhead-from-space

2. “Spearhead From Space”–this is the first episode to be filmed in color, and starred Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. It’s a great starting point and will introduce you to UNIT and its commanding officer, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. (Although technically, both were introduced in Troughton’s era.) Of all the eras, Pertwee’s era has the most earthbound stories, as the show was finding ways to work with the limited budget. Beginning with “The Three Doctors”, the show becomes less earthbound. The Master is introduced in this era, portrayed by Roger Delgado, in the episode “Terror of the Autons”. While some of the episodes’ colorized versions are missing, the black and white prints still exist, and I hear some of those have been retouched so that they are now colorized.

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