Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: The Doctor Himself

doctor who ninth doctor christopher eccleston russell t davies rose tyler billie piper joe ahearne series 1

This is what I wrote, way back when I first started on these reviews, months and months ago. Quite a long time ago really, thinking about it.

The Ninth Doctor is, for me, a bit of an oddity. He was the first Doctor I ever saw, true, but I only caught the very end of his tenure – Bad Wolf was my first episode, and then a week later the Doctor regenerated. So, I’ve not exactly got a big emotional connection to him.

As well as that, I don’t tend to watch his episodes very often, so I’m not all that familiar with them – I know the basic plot and sequence of events, but there’s lots of little things that surprised me when watching Rose for this review. 

That, coupled with his relatively short run, means I’m just not quite sure about him – sure, he’s a good Doctor, but how good? If I were to one day rank the Doctors, where would he stand on that list?

Here I am now, 13 episodes and several months later. I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on the Ninth Doctor now, as it goes. He’s not an oddity anymore; he’s a really fantastic Doctor.

One of the things I love is his story arc.

When we first meet the Ninth Doctor, he’s wounded. He’s carrying a lot of survivor’s guilt, and he’s not wholly comfortable in himself. He’s trying to be the Doctor again though, he’s trying to go back to how he used to be. That’s why he’s in the shop, trying to stop the Autons. That’s probably also why he stopped the Daniels family from getting on the Titanic – trying to save their lives.

Interestingly, this actually fits really well with John Hurt’s Doctor, now that I think about it. John Hurt gave up the title of the Doctor, he lost that name. He stopped being the Doctor. And now here we have Christopher Eccleston showing us the Doctor trying to settle back into himself, before we even knew that was happening. There’s all sorts of things like that actually, if you look back on the series, especially in RoseThere’s the Doctor’s initial reluctance to commit to anything other than being “nobody”, and a sort of wry smile where Rose first calls him “Doctor”. It’s a strange sort of backwards prescience, but it’s nice, and kind of fitting in a show about time travel.

In a few of these reviews, I said Christopher Eccleston seemed a bit at odds when he was trying to appear happy. Awkward smiles, not quite laughing at the jokes. I put it down to Christopher Eccleston not quite getting it right. That’s obviously a mistake on my part – I was missing the point. It was deliberate. It was the Doctor who was awkward and not quite happy. The Doctor, out of his element when he wasn’t in the midst of the action, because it’s been so long since he wasn’t always in the midst of the action.

Over time though, you can see this change and develop. You see the Doctor becoming more heroic again, and a little less callous. Towards the start of the series with his rather grim dispatching of Cassandra, stony-faced and determined; by the end of the series, he’s clearly troubled about the thought of doing similar to Margaret Slitheen.

It all culminates in one of my favourite moments of Series One, if not New Who as a whole.

In The Parting of the Waysthe Doctor is presented with a dilemma that mirrors the final moments of the Time War. He has the opportunity to destroy the Daleks, but it’s at the expense of the Earth and everyone on it – at this point, probably the closest thing he has to a home and a family.

When it was the Time War, he made that choice. He wiped out both Time Lords and Daleks, and he’s been living with that ever since. And here… he doesn’t. It’s a fantastic moment, despite how bleak it is. It’s the moment where he becomes the Doctor again. Finally, after all that’s happened… the Doctor is the Doctor.

(Of course, when you take John Hurt’s incarnation into account, on some levels it’s more tragic. He was always the Doctor, because he never did destroy Gallifrey. He just didn’t know it. It’s only now that he knows he’s the Doctor – on some levels, it makes the moment more poignant)

His regeneration too is part of this, part of this moment. The Doctor sacrifices himself to save his companion, to save the woman who helped him to become the Doctor again. It’s very fitting.

The Ninth Doctor is, I think, one of the few Doctors who has quite a concrete and obvious character arc like this. It really helps, I think, and it’s one of the reasons why I’ve come to like him so much. It’s a detailed, compelling story which is presented in this series, and it’s definitely worth watching.

So… what do I think of this Doctor? Well, having already used the “fantastic” joke, I probably have to say something articulate and intelligent, don’t I?

The Ninth Doctor is… well, he’s brilliant. He’s a fantastic creation, and Christopher Eccleston and Russell T Davies both deserve plaudits for bringing him to life. He was absolutely the right Doctor for the 21st century, for a group of people who didn’t quite know or wouldn’t quite accept the Doctors of old. He opened the door and set the stage for David Tennant and Matt Smith, but he should be remembered for much more than that.

The Ninth Doctor was fantastic.

(Some jokes are too good not to use twice)

Related:

Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor Reviews

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