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Doctor Who Firsts

By: Brianna Noll

Over the winter holidays, I was in Pennsylvania visiting my family, and we experienced back-to-back snowstorms that kept me housebound for a few days. I burned through the books I’d brought with me pretty quickly, so I started flipping through the channels on the TV, and I came to BBC America, which was showing a Doctor Who marathon. I’d never seen Doctor Who before (I know, I know), but I know a lot of devotees, so I thought I’d give it a go.

One of the reasons I’d never watched before was that, because it’s been on the air for about fifty years (save the period between the 8th and 9th Doctors), I thought I wouldn’t be able to just “jump in”—wouldn’t I be missing, oh, fifty years’ worth of context?

Luckily for me, the first episode I watched began with some context: The opening credits began with the voice of character Amy Pond saying:

When I was a little girl, I had an imaginary friend, and when I grew up, he came back. He’s called ‘the Doctor.’ He comes from somewhere else. He’s got a box called ‘the TARDIS’ that’s bigger on the inside and can travel anywhere in time and space. I ran away with him, and we’ve been running ever since.

Well! That was context enough for me. The episode was “A Good Man Goes to War,” and I was hooked.

A few days later, after the snow cleared, I met up with a friend who told me she’d just started watching Doctor Who, too. She was currently watching the third series, with David Tennant as the 10th Doctor, and she told me he was “her” Doctor. I bristled a bit—which is rather unlike me—but I laughed and said, “Well, Matt Smith is my Doctor.”

Brianna's Doctor, Matt Smith

Brianna’s Doctor, Matt Smith

My Doctor”? I’d only ever watched Matt Smith episodes—how could I be so quick to choose? The strangest thing about this is that typically I’m not one for favorites. Ask me my favorite band, my favorite movie, my favorite poem, and you’ll find me hard pressed to name less than ten of each. This likely stems from a larger problem I have with indecisiveness, but in any case, having so aligned myself with one Doctor to proclaim him as my favorite—as mine—was rather uncharacteristic of me. But I was quite certain.

I went back and started watching episodes from the 2005 reboot of Doctor Who (which some fans lovingly call “New Who”), and I devoured all six-and-a-half series, plus specials, in a matter of weeks. I texted my friend about episodes I loved starring the 10th Doctor, and though I think David Tennant was incredible in the role, my favorite Doctor did not change. Nor did my friend’s. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my favorite series remains the sixth, which I’d watched that day at my mom’s. My favorite episode comes from that series, though I didn’t see it until later: “The Doctor’s Wife.” I won’t say anything about it—“Spoilers!”—but Neil Gaiman wrote it, so maybe that’s enough to entice new viewers.

doctor who through history

It seems that for a lot of Doctor Who fans, their favorite Doctor is the first they’ve watched. (Though the first few comments disprove this claim, the discussion on the Doctor Who subreddit here is particularly relevant).

So, fellow Whovians, is your favorite Doctor also your first Doctor? Which is your favorite season/series? (We could also talk companions, but I have a much harder time choosing a favorite there).

Looking forward to this! (Did you see? Another Neil Gaiman episode! More here.)

About the Author: Brianna Noll is a PhD candidate in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Recent poetry and prose can be found here. Her interests include poetry (of course), magical realism, the fantastic, Japanese language and art, anime, Harry Potter, and puppies. Brianna is a recurring guest contributor to Have You Nerd and has been featured as HYN’s ‘Nerd of the Week.’

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5 thoughts on “Doctor Who Firsts

  1. Doctor 9 was my first Doctor. Doctor 10 was my favorite.

    I think it has to do with Russell T. Davies vs. Steven Moffat more than Matt Smith vs. David Tennant. The Doctor 9 to Doctor 10 transition seemed seamless, where the 10-11 transition introduced a whole new cast of characters and kept none of the recurring cast from the previous two Doctors. I want more Captain Jack and Oods!

    Doctor 11 has a really fairy tale feel compared to the high-action science fiction that 9 & 10 led me to expect from the show. #11 is still great fun to watch, it’s just not -quite- what I expect out of Dr. Who really.

    That said, I’d rather the show change than stagnate.

  2. My first doctor was the eleventh. I thought that he was the best until I watched the ninth; then I was torn between the two. After that I watched the tenth doctor. Now I’m in thirds.

    BTW: The articles on Wikipedia about the characters and monsters/aliens are surprisingly interesting.

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