Wednesday, 24 January 2018


Okay, here's a post I've been meaning to complete for quite some time, now. No doubt, I'm the only one who even remembers that I had promised a second part to this essay. But part of being a fan is being super-anal about stuff. 


Since it's been a while since I've written in this particular series, I thought I should re-state what exactly constitutes a Progressive Doctor. I'll cut and paste a section of that definition, here:

A Progressive Doctor is the result of a collaboration between the actor playing the role and the production team to move the main character through a series of changes that take place over an extended period of time. By extended period of time, I mean, several seasons or even the entire period of time that the actor played the role. The progression also usually moves in a positive direction.

If you would like a more detailed definition, click on this particular link:


In our first episode, we looked at how the original Doctor progressed from an uncaring, amoral character to someone who stood for justice and peace. This time, however, it's going to be a bit more of a psychological exploration rather than one of ethics. Like most "arrogant Doctors" the character does eventually soften and become more accessible. We're going to chart those points where that growth happens. Maybe, even, pinpoint a few spots where he regresses, too.


Again, we're going to cut and paste a bit from the first part of this essay on this particular Doctor:

 At the very beginning, the Doctor was far from likable. He was, in fact, a legitimate anti-hero.

Of course, the sequence that best shows us just how rotten of a fellow the Doctor is occurs in Episode Three of his first adventure. Lumbered with the inconvenience of an injured caveman that he does not want to help because it will slow down his escape, the Doctor actually appears to be making a move to kill him. That's the sort of fellow he is back when we first meet him. It's hard to believe he would ever be this way - given how high-principled and genuinely good-hearted he is, these days. But that's how he started.

His callousness doesn't stop there. In the next story, he campaigns to get a race of peace-loving people to fight on his behalf to recover his fluid link. In the story after that, he is ready to just fling Ian and Barbara out of the TARDIS into what appears to be a fairly hostile environment.

Basically, in his first few stories, he is just not a pleasant man .

If you want a better look at the first part of this essay - here's the link;

That first link, by the way, is an essay on the Twelfth Doctor. So I'm not posting the same link twice. These are other essays on Progressive Doctors for you to look at more intensely if you should so desire...


So now we're exploring a second stream in this Doctor's progression. We've seen where his moral compass develops and he becomes a legitimate hero. But the moral journey was only part of the growth we watched him go through.

In Unearthly Child, the Doctor - for the most part - doesn't like people. He's unpleasant to most strangers when he first meets them. Or, at the very least, standoffish. He's particularly rude to Ian and Barbara because he doesn't want them to interfere with the life of his granddaughter. But, in general, he's not very nice to anyone.

Had it not been for the presence of Susan in his life, the First Doctor would've been happy being a complete loner. He appears genuinely misanthropic. Others seem to just interfere with his enjoyment of life. It's almost like he would be happier with an empty Universe that allows him to explore its sciences - instead of a cosmos full of independently-thinking beings for him to interact with and learn from.

By the end of his reign, he is a very different man. Sure, there are still moments of tetchiness and he's never good at suffering fools - but the First Doctor does genuinely appreciate the company he surrounds himself with. At the beginning of his era, he is a protective grandfather to Susan. But, by The Tenth Planet, he seems to have become everyone's grandfather. He connects with people now and shows genuine care for them. It's masked by his harshness and, sometime, abrupt behavior. But we still see it.

How did he go through such a strong change in sentiment? We're going to chart that growth throughout the rest of this post.


It doesn't actually take long to see the first few cracks in the Doctor's hard shell. Every time he makes a mistake and apologizes for it, he allows himself to be that little bit more approachable. As if realizing that he's fallible makes him want to, somehow, connect that little bit more with the people around him. In the later episodes of The Daleks, when he confesses to the lie he told about the fluid links and apologizes for it, we see that first little bit of humility in him. Which, in turn, gets him to be just that little bit kinder to Ian and Barbara.

It is through his relationship with the two schoolteachers that we best see this process at work. How he interacts with Susan has an entirely different set of rules that we will discuss in a few paragraphs.The way he treats Ian and Barbara, however, best exemplifies how he responds to everyone he meets. Unless the person he's dealing with has something he needs or is threatening his safety, he's rather cold and impersonal. But as he learns to relate better to the two Coal Hill staffmembers, he seems to lighten up with everyone else, too.

While his apology in The Daleks does scratch away a bit at his harsh veneer, the real breakthrough happens near the end of Edge of Destruction. If you've bothered to read my 10 Most Pivotal Moments in the Doctor's Life essay ( - just in case you're interested!) you'll know I've attached a good deal of importance to this moment. It's a key point in the time traveler's life. He admits to a lot of culpability as he and Barbara sit together after the TARDIS has been repaired. He even makes a sort of promise to treat her and Ian better. This is a crucial sequence where the Doctor sheds much of his unpleasant anti-hero image and begins a consistent effort to be a kinder person. So far, it seems to be external forces that are prompting these moves. He has to make big errors in judgement before he feels prompted to change for the better. He doesn't just make these decisions of his own internal volition.

Still, his mistakes seem to be making him into a better person. Or, at least, someone who treats his company better.


By no means is the Doctor a complete island onto himself. As we first meet him in Season One, Susan is the one person that he shows tenderness to. But, because he's so cold to everyone else, it creates an enormous sense of emotional dependence on her. He is gentle and protective of her most of the time. On any number of occasions that Susan must face some degree of trauma, we see her running to her grandfather's arms. The Doctor always welcomes her embrace and offers her comfort. He also gives her endless encouragement and lets her know how proud he is of her. But no one else sees much of this sort of treatment from him in the first season. It is reserved only for Susan.

But there is a downside to being in her grandfather's Good Graces. Because she is the only person he has formed this sort of bond with, the Doctor desperately fears losing Susan. Should she show too much independence, the Doctor tries to bark it down. We see the best example of this in The Sensorites when Susan elects to go down to the Sense-Sphere on her own.  A furious argument erupts between the two of them as the Doctor insists she will not journey alone to the planet. He claims it's too dangerous but we all get the impression that there other reasons why he won't let her. Quite simply, such an act shows that Susan doesn't need her grandfather as much as she used to. And the Doctor can't stand that idea. He needs to be needed. The fact that he only wants that from one person can put tremendous stress on that particular relationship. Because of this dynamic, he also puts tremendous expectations on his granddaughter. The heavy scolding he gives her for the stumble that Susan has at the beginning of Dalek Invasion of Earth is a great example of this. He really comes down hard on her for such an honest mistake.

The First Doctor's need to always have a young lady in his life to protect and mentor is a drive we see throughout his entire era. He might travel with men or older women - but he needs that young girl. It's an important relationship that is vital to the way he shows tenderness. As creepy as that may sound taken out of context!


As we progress through Season One, the Doctor opens his heart more and more to the two schoolteachers that have been thrust upon him. One of the best examples of this is when he, at last, re-unites with the rest of the TARDIS crew in the city of Millenius during The Keys of Marinus. He is not just ecstatic to see his granddaughter again, he's just as happy to see Ian and Barbara. This is the first real hint of the Doctor becoming a grandfather to everyone. There is genuine love in him for someone outside of Susan. He has definitely become more warm-hearted towards his new companions. We also see a serious melancholy fall over him when he fails to defend Ian properly in court for the murder of Eprin. Because he's going to lose him, the Doctor truly sees how close he's become to Ian in these last few adventures. Already, we can barely recognize him from the fleeing coward who was ready to kill off a wounded caveman only a few episodes back.

Often, however, Progressive Doctors backslide. Particularly in their early days. We see a major one happen at the end of The Sensorites. Ian just happens to express himself poorly to the Doctor and hurts his pride. In a fit of pique, the Time Lord decides he will be throwing the schoolteachers off his TARDIS the next time they land. It's a huge over-reaction, of course. One almost has to wonder if being kind to others and socializing in a pleasant manner was getting to be a bit too much for him and he's looking to cast out the individuals that have been stretching him so much. It definitely comes off as something drawn  more from interior motives than external influences. Even if Ian set him off, it's almost as if the Doctor was looking for something like this to have an excuse for the actions he takes.

Fortunately, Ian tries to talk the Doctor into having one last drink with him and Barbara before bidding adieu. The proposal succeeds and the events of The Reign of Terror ensue. By the end of the adventure, the Doctor feels more close to his two new friends than ever. Casting them out of the TARDIS has been forgotten. Season One ends on a high note as the group of adventurers anticipate what might come next for them. They are a true team, now. The relationships are solidified. The First Doctor now allows three people to be close to him.


After a fun little runaround with Planet of Giants, we move on to a story that will bring about one of the greatest changes in the First Doctor's progression. As Dalek Invasion of Earth concludes, the unthinkable happens. Susan decides to remain on Earth with her new-found love: David Campbell. There had been "teases" throughout Season One that the fledgling might, someday, fly the coop. But now it's actually happening.

The Doctor is, of course, devastated. That moment at the beginning of The Rescue where he accidentally calls out to Susan and then remembers she's no longer there is especially touching (and far more effective than all the pining Ten did for Rose - sometimes, it pays to be economical!). It is fortunate that he has formed a bond with Ian and Barbara but they are still not quite enough to fill the void his granddaughter has left.

And then Vicki comes along and the Doctor finds someone new to be protective toward. There is a nice long scene in The Rescue where he comforts the young girl. It is a crucial character moment for both of them. Vicki steps in to substitute for Susan. It almost seems like a very conscious act. She sees the Doctor has need to take someone under his wing. She also sees the advantages he offers by looking after her and accepts the role. The Doctor feels he can function again and the two become as thick as thieves very quickly. It helps that they have stories like The Romans where the two of them go off on their own adventure without Ian and Barbara.


While the Doctor is happy to have a new Susan in his life, he also seems to recognize a need to reach out still more in his quest to get close to people. He can't just rely solely on the TARDIS crew, he needs to form bonds with people that he runs into in his travels.

A good chunk of the Doctor's character arc during Season 2 is based on this premise. Over and over, we see him being a warmer more approachable person to the people he meets. Even forming real friendships with many of them. Lady Joanna from The Crusade is a good example of this. Yes, she's a friend in high places and those are always handy. But a real bond does form between them. Look at the way he's willing to reveal Vicki's secret to the princess once he feels he can trust her. A Season One Doctor would've been more prone to concealing such a thing til the bitter end. But the Doctor is beginning to understand the importance of sharing trust with people. It's an important step in his need to attach more to the people around him. Had it not been for Susan's departure, this may have never happened. With her gone from his life, he needed to go out and genuinely connect with people. He could no longer rely on the social stimuli that she provided for him and had to emerge from his cocoon.

When Ian and Barbara find a way to get back home during The Chase, he doesn't take that news well, either. He claims that stealing the Daleks' timeship is just too dangerous - but we all know the truth. These were the people who first got him to come out of his shell - he doesn't want to lose them. Meekly, he submits to them, though. In the end, he loves his friends and wants to see them happy.

But perhaps the best display of the Doctor's growing tenderness is seen at the beginning The Time Meddler. As much as he needs the company, he checks with Vicki to be sure that she is still enjoying her travels. With this scene, we see the Doctor truly is losing his selfish streak and understanding what real friendship is all about. Regardless of how much it may hurt, he's concerned about Vicki's happiness more than his own personal needs.

The Doctor truly is growing...  


In much the same way that the Doctor's moral compass seems fully defined by Season Three, the same can be said about his interpersonal skills. There will always be moments where his temper becomes short, but his heart(s) of gold always manages to shine through. He continues befriending people where he can in his various adventures and values his closer friends that are travelling with him in the TARDIS. 

Those closer friends seem to start changing up quite quickly. But the Doctor is now at a point where he can take it all in stride. This is, perhaps, the best evidence that the misanthrope is truly laid to rest. When Vicki leaves in The Mythmakers or even when Katarina and Sara Kingdom die in The Dalek Masterplan, he doesn't let this stop him from going out and forming new bonds. He mourns his losses but doesn't wallow in them. Nor does he use them as an excuse to withdraw from personal interaction.

There is, of course, one more moment where the Doctor comes dangerously close to backsliding again. Those famous last few minutes of The Massacre, sadly, only exist in telesnap and audio format - but they are still very stirring to watch. When the Doctor and Steven seem to be parting ways, he legitimately contemplates giving up on his travels and returning to Gallifrey. But for the caprice of chance, that may have actually happened. Dodo just happens to wander into the TARDIS and this prompts a change of heart in the Doctor. He decides to continue his journeys through Time and Space. He also continues on his own personal journey.


And so, the Doctor continues on. Taking on new companions and saying goodbye to the old ones when the time comes for them to go (or, in the case of Dodo, he doesn't even do that!). He does seem to still be a bit functional in some of his relationships. In The War Machines, he senses something evil about the new Post Office Tower and feels he must do something about it. Immediately, he befriends the right sort of influential people who will enable him to investigate it. But we can hardly criticize him for it. He needed to get to the bottom of things and he does still seem to form real bonds with these people.

While this does not truly happen in his "proper era", we do see one last attempt at a sort of ultimate personal withdrawal. His refusal to regenerate in Twice Upon A Time definitely represents some serious anti-social behavior. But, again, the regression is short-lived. The Doctor is now someone who is not only fascinated by the sciences that affect the Universe, he also loves the many varied lifeforms that inhabit it. Other Doctors might come along and also have difficulties dealing with people - but we know, deep down inside, that he's a good man. And it's because of the personal journey we got to watch happen in his very first incarnation.

He really did become everyone's gentle grandfather.

Finally! I finished that particular thread of this essay. That loose end has been tied and I can get on with my life. Again, if you should want to see the first part of the series, here it is:

1 comment:

  1. You bring up some very interesting points in the way that Hartnell's portrayal of the Doctor changed over the time he was on the air. It gives us something to think about. Now, its time to see how Troughton's Doctor changed, if any, with the talked about changes between the War Games and the appearance of the Third Doctor.


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