Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Other Doctors, Part One: On Stage and Screen

As the year has rolled on, I've gradually been writing articles on each of the main incarnations of the Doctor, including a couple of sidesteps. However, far, far more Doctors have appeared over the years than could possibly be covered in this way. Here are some who deserve a mention.

Edmund Warwick
Robot Doctor Who
The Chase, 1965

An inauspicious start to our exploration of the Doctors. The revelation of the “Robot Doctor Who” is one of the classic series' most marvellously crap moments. Edmund Warwick had stood in for William Hartnell in long shots prior to this, when the old boy was on holiday or had injured himself (quite a frequent occurrence in the punishing schedule of the time). This was something altogether different. The Daleks, on a mission to pursue the Doctor throughout all of time and space, created an exact robot duplicate in order to fool his companions. “IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DISTINGUISH FROM THE ORIGINAL!” says one, in a moment of self-congratulation. Hmm, not really. For some shots, Hartnell himself portrays the robot, while in others, it's Warwick, badly dubbed with Hartnell's voice. He doesn't even look like Hartnell; even Richard Hurndall made a better first Doctor than him. A big fail on the Daleks' part in this story. No wonder the Mechanoids duff them up so spectacularly.

Trevor Martin
The fourth Doctor
Doctor Who and the Daleks in The Seven Keys to Doomsday, 1974
The Stage Plays: Seven Keys to Doomsday, 2008

He is you, Doctor, somewhere between your eleventh and twelfth seasons... For a few weeks at the tail end of 1974, Trevor Martin was the Doctor, in the second Doctor Who inspired stageplay, (the first to feature the Doctor, after the sixties spectacle The Curse of the Daleks). Martin had already appeared as a Time Lord in the closing scenes of The War Games back in 1969, but no he got to portray the Doctor himself, wearing a hotch-potch of items taken from his first three incarnations' costumes. Martin's Doctor is an alternative fourth incarnation, hitting the stage before Tom Baker had his first lines on screen; he was even shown to regenerate from Jon Pertwee in a pre-filmed mock-up. Fans have long wondered how to fit the Martin Doctor into continuity (no, really, they have), the leading theory being that this was an aborted regeneration that existed briefly during the Doctor's mission home in Planet of the Spiders. Those of us born too late to see the play never expected to enjoy Martin's performance, until Big Finish produced adaptations of the plays for its audio range. This time, he regenerated from Nick Briggs.

David Banks
The Doctor
Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure, 1989

Another stage play, the third and final officially BBC sponsored one, The Ultimate Adventure was a gaudy panto with a selection of songs. For the first half of the run, Jon Pertwee returned as the Doctor, with Colin Baker taking over for the remainder. Except for one performance, when Pertwee was taken ill, and his understudy David Banks took over. This little-seen Doctor was as eighties as they come, wearing a Greenpeace T-shirt under his lounge suit. Years later, the Short Trips story “Face Value” made a vague attempt to fit the three versions of the Doctor seen in the play into continuity.

Rowan Atkinson
The ninth Doctor
Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death, 1999

The Curse of Fatal Death, the very first Doctor Who script by Steven Moffat, is quite simply one of the best things ever. I can probably quote the whole thing, but for now, let's just focus on the new Doctors we were presented with. With Paul McGann's eighth Doctor being the latest version at the time, Fatal Death took us forward with a new, ninth incarnation. Rowan Atkinson was perfect as a charming, sardonic, wryly superior Doctor – a sort of Blackadder with a heart. Plus – shock, horror! - he had a fiance! He was all set to marry his longterm companion Emma (played by Julia Sawalha), until he was forced to regenerate after a run-in with the Daleks.

Jim Broadbent
The eleventh Doctor
The Curse of Fatal Death

We've covered the vain tenth Doctor in the Richard E. Grant article already, so let's move straight on to his successor. Probably one of the best actors to ever play the Doctor, sadly Jim Broadbent got about twenty seconds of screen time, most of which he spent hiding his face because he was too shy of girls. Another regeneration quickly followed, all because he forgot to unplug the zectronic beam emitter first. Broadbent had already played the Doctor in a pisstake sketch for Victoria Wood's show back in 1987, and this was included on the Fatal Death video release.

Hugh Grant
The twelfth Doctor
The Curse of Fatal Death

The bumbling Broadbent Doctor regenerated into this uber-charming, handsome incarnation, with Hugh Grant reproducing his trademark English heartthrob persona for all of a minute before residual zectronic energy destroyed his body. Surly, not even a Time Lord could survive that?

Joanna Lumley
The thirteenth Doctor
The Curse of Fatal Death

Naturally, there had to be a female Doctor in there, and who else would it be but Joanna Lumley? Playing it with a jolly-hockey-sticks spirit of adventure, the revitalised lady Doctor might have lost her fiance but she did at least gain a new friend in the shape of Jonathan Pryce's camp Master. “Why do they call you the Master?” “I'll explain later...”

Mark Gatiss
The Doctor
The Web of Caves, 1999

Mark Gatiss has always been a bit of an obvious choice to play the Doctor, and while this will probably never happen for real, he did get the chance in this short sketch. One of three broadcast as part of 1999's Doctor Who Night, made with David Walliams and Paul Putner, The Web of Caves managed to amuse without actually offending anyone, unlike the other two skits. Gatiss's Doctor was flamboyantly well-dressed but emotionally reserved, polite to a fault and with more than a hint of Pertwee to him. This version of the Doctor clearly recalls some of his earlier adventures, but with no other links to his former selves, who knows where he fits? Perhaps this incarnation will come to exist some day in the Doctor's far future.

Michael Jayston
The Valeyard
The Trial of a Time Lord, 1986
Doctor Who Unbound: He Jests at Scars... 2003
The Trial of the Valeyard, 2013

Unlike the majority of Doctors featured in this article, Michael Jayston's version is inarguably canonical, but that doesn't mean he makes much sense. Quite how the Valeyard, an evil future Doctor apparently from somewhere between his “twelfth and final incarnations” can even exist is never made clear. A throwaway line from the Intelligence in The Name of the Doctor indicates that he may still come to be, one day. Jayston got the opportunity to revive his eloquent, intelligent but insanely vindictive version of the Doctor again for Big Finish, first for the “Unbound” audio series, and again for the upcoming subscriber special The Trial of the Valeyard, which pits him against the sixth Doctor once again. Although banned from appearing in the New Adventures, the Valeyard did manage to make a couple of appearances in the books, culminating in his exhaustive exploration in the unofficial novel Time's Champion.

Toby Jones
The Dream Lord
Amy's Choice, 2010

Clearly, the darker impulses of the Doctor's psyche still exist, deep within him. The wonky episode Amy's Choice stranded the eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory in a dream world, with the cruelly witty Dream Lord in control. It turned out that the Dream Lord was nothing more than an aspect of the Doctor's mind, given form by some psychic pollen. Not entirely unlike the Valeyard, and possibly a precursor to him, the Dream Lord naturally knew all the Doctor's secrets and took him to task for them. He's pretty feeble as a dark mirror to the Doctor, though, even with Toby Jones giving a fantastic performance; in anything, he is more a personification of the Doctor's own deep-seated self-loathing. Perhaps he will show his face again some day.

David Morrissey
Jackson Lake
The Next Doctor, 2008

In 2008, cheeky showrunner Russell T. Davies made the most of David Tennant's announcement that he was leaving the role of the Doctor. The first of the special episodes that bridges the gap between Tennant's last series and Matt Smith's first featured a supposed future incarnation of the Doctor, the “next, or next-but-one.” played by Tennant's old Blackpool sparring partner David Morrissey. Morrissey played the Doctor old-school, as the sort of Victorian, sexist adventurer the general public envisioned the character as. The two Davids took on the Cybermen in a 19th century Christmas, with the tenth Doctor surprisingly easily persuaded that this frock-coated man was his future self. Morrissey's Doctor turned out to be nothing more than a mere human, confused by absorbing the Doctor's own biography and projecting it onto his damaged personality. Still, Morrissey brought tremendous enthusiasm to the role, and played along with speculation that he would replace the star.

Jon Culshaw
The fourth Doctor
The Secret of Germany vs England, 2001
The Kingmaker, 2006

Jon Culshaw performed frequent impersonations of Tom Baker as the Doctor during his radio show Dead Ringers, making prank calls as the character to various people, including Tom Baker himself. When it came to the TV version of the show, he stepped up in full costume – including one sketch in which he played both the fourth and tenth Doctors, along with other impressionists as further incarnations. His greatest appearance in the role was, however, a strange skit aired during the qualifiers for the 2002 European cup, in which the Doctor and his nemesis, '”the Motty,” educated viewers on the history of the England-Germany footballing rivalry. It wasn't very good, but it did score extra performance points for the use of musical cues from The Mind of Evil. Culshaw would later make a semi-canonical appearance as the fourth Doctor with a cheeky cameo in fifth Doctor audio adventure The Kingmaker, five years before Big Finish got Tom Baker on board.

Lenny Henry
The seventh Doctor
The Lenny Henry Show, 1986

There have been dozens of Doctor Who sketches and parodies over the years, and to cover all of them would be a work of madness and dedication (so try DWM). Fondly remembered though is comedian and actor Lenny Henry's turn as the Doctor, in a sketch broadcast during the long wait between seasons 22 and 23. Shown to follow on from Colin Baker's sixth Doctor, the first black Doctor wore a long leather coat and Rupert Bear trousers – not at all out of keeping with the direction of the show in the late eighties. Lenny's encounter with Thatchos and Dennos showed his Doctor to be rather a cowardly character, but now that he's better known for straight acting, he might indeed make a decent Doctor one day.

Tony Garner
The Second-and-a-halfth Doctor
Doctor Who: Devious, 1995-?

There have been many, many fan productions of Doctor Who over the years, from the early eighties onwards, with the golden age of fanfilms occurring during the Wilderness Years following the cancellation of the original series. Rupert Booth, Jon Blum, Antony Sarlo and Barbara Benedetti were some of the more notable fan Doctors, but it was Tony Garner who secured a special place in fanfilm history. Devious began filming back in 1995, picking up from the point that the final monochrome serial, The War Games, left off. Due to his surprising resemblance to both Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee, Tony Garner became the 'Second-and-a-halfth' Doctor, bridging the gap between the second and third incarnations. Devious has gone down in history for not only securing the involvement of Jon Pertwee himself, in his last ever performance as the Doctor, but also for never, ever being finished. Theoretically, this film is still in production, eighteen years later. What does exist of the film did make it's way onto the DVD release of The War Games, so it is arguably canonical...

Nick Scovell
The Doctor
The Millennium Trap, 1997
Interalia Theatre productions, 1996-2007
Power of the Daleks, 2012

However, the best of the fan Doctors was Nick Scovell. First appearing on stage in 1996 in The Planet of Storms, and in the 1997 fanfilm The Millennium Trap, Scovell played the Doctor as frustrated genius – and gave us a bearded Doctor years before John Hurt came onto the scene. He then went on to play the Doctor for Interalia Productions in theatrical remakes of lost sixties serials. They produced The Web of Fear in 2000, Fury from the Deep in 2002, The Evil of the Daleks in 2006 and finally The Dalek Masterplan in 2007. I was in the audience of these last two, and Scovell made a mercurial, engaging Doctor. In the closing moments of Masterplan, the Doctor regenerated into... Nicholas Briggs. Thus, in my head, there's a theatrical universe in which the Scovell Doctor is followed by Briggs, then Trevor Martin (until, inevitably, becoming Colin Baker). Scovell returned with the excellent fanfilm Power of the Daleks, a remake of Troughton's debut story, in 2012, and another production is underway for the 50th anniversary.

Next time, a look at those Doctors heard rather than seen.

No comments:

Post a Comment