All righty, then. We've plowed through 7 incarnations, so far. Time to slow things down a bit. Only two more incarnations will get covered, today. But which ones?
Here is where we will be splitting hairs. The Doctors that sit in the middle of my range of appreciation are sooo close to each other in their rankings. I would even say that they can bump up or down this list depending on my mood for the day. But I committed to a specific placement of them when I decided to do these posts and I'm going to stick to it. But, in all honesty, these guys can easily fluctuate.
THE LOWER MID-RANGERS
While these two sit a bit lower than the other two that I will discuss in my next post, I really don't respect them less. The mid-rangers are all exceptional Doctors and Lower should definitely not be looked down upon in any sort of way.
7. THE TWELFTH DOCTOR
It's almost not fair to be ranking him, yet. His era isn't complete. For all we know, his next season (or more) might have such incredible things happen to him that it bumps him up to first place. But, at this moment, this is where he stands.
The announcement that Peter Capaldi would be playing the next Doctor brought me immediate joy. Two young, handsome Doctors in a row was just a bit distressing. It wasn't upsetting me as much as it was some other fans, but I was starting to think that the Doctor would always be a pretty boy from hereon in. I could live with that and understood that this might be the formula the show would need to stick to in order for it to remain "accessible".
But then, lo and behold, Peter Capaldi gets cast. He's the same age as Hartnell was when he got the role. Immediately, my hopes begin to soar. Doctor Who is going to feel a lot more like it did in the Old Days. Capaldi is even saying he wants to adapt JNT's "no hanky panky on the TARDIS" ideals.
Things are looking up...
I become even happier as I start seeing how the role was going to be played (I'm one of those evil fans that found the five scripts and the raw footage from Deep Breath that leaked on the internet - it gave me a wonderful sneak preview!). The Doctor is definitely tetchy in this new incarnation. Like 'Ole Sixie - he's still a champion for justice and always wants to do the right thing. But he doesn't care whether or not he makes friends along the way. In fact, he's downright rude to just-about everyone that crosses his path.
Now, I know Nine had a bit of a mean streak, too. Even Eleven could get a bit sulky and bad-tempered (but Matt Smith often chose for a more comedic interpretation of those moments), but Twelve is the first incarnation in the New Series that is full-on arrogant. And I adore him for that. To me, it's beautiful to see the show not worrying about "ticking boxes", anymore. We're going to have a fun anti-hero for a bit.
The strength of Twelve's stories has really helped. In the Forest of the Night is about the only one that comes close to being any sort of dud (in my opinion, at least). Everything else has, for the most part, been firing on all cylinders. Twelve's era has been New Who at its peak. The stories have been magnificent and Capaldi and Coleman have turned in amazing performances. I'm looking forward to seeing how the next companion fares. I have a feeling that, in Moffat's skillful hands, she'll do just fine.
In the grand tradition of all "arrogant" Doctors - the character gradually softens. This particular process has happened in a very beautiful and organic way with Twelve. Capaldi created a gentler and more comic portrayal in his second season that has genuinely endeared us to his incarnation. The sonic shades and electric guitar have quickly become iconic. He's shifted very nicely from being a "House" Doctor (referring to the popular American series about the extremely obnoxious-but-brilliant medical doctor) that we saw in the first series to the Rock'n'Roll Doctor that we see in the second. It's great fun the way he's hung on a bit to that Matt Smith interpretation of the part. He still can't quite master being cool. He comes a bit closer than Matt's Doctor does - but he's only so good at it.
Who knows for sure what the future will hold for Twelve. I hope he has more than just one more season left in him. Because I am greatly enjoying the adventure he has taken us on.
I hope we see the cue cards a few more times, too. What's written on some of the cards he hasn't actually read aloud are absolutely hilarious!
6. THE FIFTH DOCTOR
What a challenge poor 'ole Peter Davison had to face when he accepted that fateful offer from John Nathan-Turner. To have to follow up the seven year reign of Tom Baker is a task no one would want. Regardless of how low he is ranked on my list, Tom Baker's Doctor is a legend. A status he achieved even before he decided to leave the series. As he prepares to bow out, Doctor Five must follow an act the audience doesn't want to see end. How do you even take on the role of the Doctor when your predecessor is so dearly loved?
You take it on with boldness and courage. Not just in terms of how Davison plays the role - but the way the production team earns so much of my respect for the changes of direction the show takes as Doctor Five kicks in . The more sensible choice as we transition from Fourth to Fifth would be to keep things as similar as possible so that the audience accepts the new lead. But, instead, everyone chooses to be an artist rather than a marketeer. And the three-years that Davison inhabits the role are all the more beautiful because of it.
After nearly twelve years of Pertwee and Tom Baker dominating every scene they're in, it is so amazing to see a Doctor who is, once more, vulnerable. Or, as fandom prefers to describe him, fallible. Doctor Five (aka "Tristan with guts") cares about peoples' feelings again. So much so, that he frequently walks on eggshells to protect the sensibilities of others. He also gets bullied. Mostly by Tegan - but other supporting characters or even his enemies can sometimes push him around. Our Doctors from the 70s would have never exhibited such behavior. And, if you've read the beefs I had with the Doctors of that decade, you can see why I'm so happy with the changes that are implemented with Davison's arrival.
This, of course, is just a few of the deeply radical changes we see made to the character. And I, for one, loved these changes. It was great to see the Doctor suddenly being so sensitive. Particularly since I was such an overemotional artsy-fartsy youth when I was first introduced to him. But the actual change of emphasis in the story-telling is equally impressive. While Christopher Bidmead made some pretty radical alterations in Season 18, the sheer intellectualism that we see in the writing goes to even greater heights when Davison takes over the role. Particularly with the Mara stories in Seasons 19 and 20. The show is still being very cerebral like it was during the Tales of Bidmead, but Doctor Five's stories also remember to engage in some emotional stakes, too. Look at the way Hindle is sympathetic in Kinda as compared to the way insane characters are usually handled in any other period of the Classic Series (they're usually just very unpredictable antagonists). We don't just see a more delicate Doctor in Five - but the actual content is composed in a more sensitive manner, too. I really love the direction the show takes during this stage. There is some very beautiful television that is made with Davison at the helm. Even if some of it still looks a bit cheap in places (refer to giant snake at the end of Kinda!).
While all this high-browed lovey-dovey sensitive stuff is nice - I like that the production team still remembers to give us some straight action, too. We get stories like Earthshock and Resurrection of the Daleks where we actually see the Doctor toting a gun here and there. It's also nice that they make sure the Doctor really does show some serious backbone now and again. It's best exemplified in the way he stands up to his enemies. Not just the famous confrontation with the Cyberleader - but how about the way he tells off Striker in Ep 2 of Enligthenment? Poignant moments like that get us to remember that the Doctor is still down there, somewhere. Ready to rise to the surface whenever he's truly needed. But for the most part, we can enjoy the mild-mannered antics of a slightly awkward British gentleman who likes to tuck his panama hat into his coat pocket.
As it odd is may sound, Doctor Five is not my all-time favorite, but Peter Davison is my favorite actor to have played the part. After four greatly varied interpretations of the role, it seemed there was nowhere else you could take the character. But Davison made all kinds of fascinating choices that brought out such a beautifully-nuanced performance and made us see the Doctor in a whole new light. After his Doctor, actors did tend to base their performances on previous incarnations but with their own twist on them. Five still feels like his very own man. With a fresh new spin on him when it seemed there was nowhere else for the character to go.
Davison, himself, borrows a bit from the Second Doctor - but he takes the Doctor's humanitarian beliefs to their ultimate height. His desire to never harm anyone drives his interpretation in all kinds of new and interesting directions. Particularly when he fails. There is a sincere underlying pain as he proclaims: "There should have been another way." at the end of Warriors of the Deep. Other actors to have played the role would've nailed the line very nicely, don't get me wrong. But Davison says it like he's genuinely hurt. There are similar moments that are even more subtle. Watch his reaction as the Master gets burnt to a crisp in Planet of Fire. It genuinely pains him that his greatest foe has met such an untimely end. It's done quite beautifully.
As beautiful as a stick of celery on a red-piping lapel. Which you'd think would look odd. But, somehow, Davison gets it to work. Just like all the other odd quirks of Doctor Five.
And thus concludes the Lower Mid-Rangers. Upper will be along shortly. Sit tight...
Missed Part One? Here you go:
And here's Part Two: