50 Reasons to Love Doctor Who – Part One

Paul Cockburn
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Oh my god, oh my god you guys it’s finally here! The weekend where we celebrate 50 years since The Tardis, The Doctor and a variety of other things beginning with The made people start fantasising about getting into a box with an older man. To celebrate lets look at 50 reasons to love Doctor Who. If you can name the episodes the quotes are from you win a Mars bar or something.

1: “Have you noticed how people’s intellectual curiosity begins to decline the moment they start waving guns about?”

To quote Scots-born US chat show host Craig Ferguson, Doctor Who’s “all about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism”. And defeating the monsters under the bed, obviously.

2: “Alright, it’s a Jammie Dodger, but I was promised tea!”

Even the Daily Mail believes that the Doctor is a much-needed clever, non-violent male role-model for little British boys. They just don’t want him to turn into a woman–ever!

3: “Right. Fine. I’ll just go get married then, shall I? See how you like that. Marilyn! Get your coat!”

Let’s be honest, for most of the show’s run, the Doctor has been an unusual-looking, asexual nerd, more interested in having adventures and saving the universe than fiddling with a woman’s private bits. Which, to an extent, is all of us, right?

4: “Well, you’re a beautiful woman, probably.”

On a few occasions, though, the last of the Time Lords has felt it appropriate to do drag–for example, the Third Doctor sneaked about enemy territory for a while disguised as an office-cleaner in ‘her’ marigolds. (The Green Death, 1973.) “I like your handbag,” indeed!

4: “It’s never easy being the only child left out in the cold.”

With the Doctor, we have a hero who knows what it’s like to be the outsider, despised and hated. (The Empty Child, 2005.) What’s not to love?

5: “I think you’ll find that I’m universally recognized as a mature and responsible adult.”

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The show’s successful return in 2005 proved to many silly people that a gay man such as Russell T Davies was perfectly capable of writing a mainstream family-friendly show.

6: “It’s a fez. I wear a fez now.”

6 It's a fez

For most of his lives, the Doctor has always gone for a vaguely Edwardian look, at least involving waistcoats. While some incarnations have cared more about their clothes than others, none have ever worried about what other people might think about their choices. What a role model!

7: “Miss out the metal dog, why don’t you?”

Given his choice in companions over the years–boys, girls, humans, aliens, robots, and even (in some comic strips, obviously) a shape-changing alien who opted to become a penguin “for personal reasons”–the Doctor clearly accepts people regardless of their shape, size, gender, age, sexuality, species or phylum.

8: “Shut up! Not like that!”

8 shut up not like that

Historically, fashion has tended towards being increasingly revealing. So, especially when the makers of Doctor Who go “all futuristic” (or “all Roman”), they generally know that a young man looks good in a ridiculously short toga. Check out the good-natured Altos (The Keys of Marinus, 1964) or hot boy Quintus (The Fires of Pompeii, 2008).

9: “I think, quite possibly, the word you’re looking for right now is ‘Oops’.”

9 I think

Who would you choose to play a hard-nosed, 25th century space freighter captain? A Sigourney Weaver-look-alike? Back in the early 1980s, producer John Nathan-Turner opted for Beryl Reid. Dressed in leather. Whatever would Sister George have thought? (Earthshock, 1982.)

10: “Yeah, I came first in jiggery pokery, what about you?”

On the whole, the Whoniverse is remarkably mono-sexual; apart from humans, most races we encounter appear to be all-male, though we’ve seen occasionally some feminine societies–the cloned Drahvins (Galaxy 4, 1965), the Sisterhood of Karn (The Brain of Morbius, 1975), the Cryons (Attack of the Cybermen, 1985) and Carrionites (The Shakespeare Code, 2007).

11: “Neither. She is an It.”

Ah, but let’s not forget the mild-mannered Alpha Centauri (The Curse of Peladon, 1972, and The Monster of Peladon, 1974). The one-eyed, six-tentacled “hermaphrodite hexapod” essentially resembled a six-foot cock in a cloak. This was considered acceptable family entertainment back in 1972.

12: “That’s all human-y, private stuff. It just sort of goes on…”

Time and again, in the numerous “bases under siege” that the Doctor has visited over the years, the generally all-male crews never seem to notice that a pretty young girl has suddenly appeared within their midst. Not even when she takes over the all-important coffee-making duties; or strips off her clothing one layer at a time. One can’t help but wonder… (The Moonbase, 1967; Terminus, 1983; Cold War, 2013; etc.)

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13: “If you have a tool, it’s stupid not to use it.”

Doctor Who scripts have been filled with innuendo, intentional or not, but what gay man could possibly resist this opening line spoken with absolute conviction by a post-Dynasty Kate O’Mara: “Leave the girl, it’s the man I want!” (Time and the Rani, 1987.) A close runner-up, though, must surely be this opening Jamie/Doctor dialogue: “Look at the size of that thing, Doctor!” / “Yes, Jamie… it is a big one.” (The Two Doctors, 1985.)

13: “By everyone else’s standards, red’s just camp.” 

According to the Doctor, the universally-recognised colour for danger is mauve: only humans think it should be red. “Oh, those misunderstandings, all those Red Alerts, all that dancing.” (The Empty Child, 2005.)

14: “You’re such hard work” / “But worth it.”

Captain Jack Harkness. An omni-sexual male character who kisses the Doctor goodbye, played by an out and proud gay man by the name of John Barrowman on prime time BBC One on a Saturday night. Pardon the pun, but who’d have thought we’d ever see the like? (The Parting of the Ways, 2005.)

15: “If you call that being nearly killed, you haven’t lived yet.”

Talking of Mr Torchwood, he was apparently once sentenced to death–but, somehow managed to end up in bed with both his executioners: “Lovely couple,” he said. “They stayed in touch. Can’t say that about most executioners.” Bless. (The Doctor Dances, 2005.)

16: “That could blow a hole in the space-time continuum, the size of… actually, the exact size of Belgium.”

Being science fiction written (for the most part) by people with little or no scientific background, Doctor Who has come up with a hell of a lot of silly technology over the years, along with some equally ridiculous technobabble to describe it. For instance, when we first meet the Daleks in 1963, they use “vibroscopes” to see beyond their city. Whatever could those be?

17: “Playing with so many peoples lives, you might as well be a god.”

Basic Doctor Who Fashion Rule: the more god-like a being–say, the Keeper of Traken, Time Lords, or the Guardians of Time–the more likely it is they’ll wear long dresses. (Possibly with some absolutely ridiculous headgear too.) (The Celestial Toymaker, 1965; The War Games, 1969; The Deadly Assassin, 1976; Mawdryn Undead, 1983; Enlightenment, 1983, etc.)

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18: “Oh, I should have realized. He’s into musical theatre.”

It’s reassuring to know that the future’s gay. In Day of the Daleks (1972), for example, the 22nd century Earth controller (Aubrey Woods) flutters around in silver makeup, while the otherwise single-minded guerrilla fighter Boaz (Scott Fredericks) appears to still have time to apply eyeliner.

19: “I’m surrounded by idiots!”

The show’s best ‘human’ villains have tended to be somewhat camp: eg, Harrison Chase (The Seeds of Doom, 1976), the Graf Vynda-K (The Ribos Operation, 1978), Count Scarlioni (City of Death, 1979), or nigh on any incarnation you care to mention of The Master.

20: “Why have I got to keep pretending I’m a boy? Why can’t I be a girl again?”

20 why have I got to keep pretending I'm a boy

When visiting pre-20th century Earth, the Doctor’s young female companions have often done Drag: see Polly (The Smugglers, 1966), Sarah Jane Smith (The Time Warrior, 1973-74), Leela (The Talons of Weng Chiang, 1978), Romana (The Leisure Hive, 1980) and Ace (Ghost Light, 1989).

22: “I made some cocoa and got engaged.”

Yes, there have been lesbians in Doctor Who! The 100th serial (The Stones of Blood, 1978) featured a rather “butch” elderly archaeologist by the name of Amelia Rumford, who shared a cottage with the sultry, feminine Vivian Fay. The latter turned out to be the villain of the piece, but clearly couldn’t bring herself to kill Amelia, despite having no qualms about getting rid of anyone else. Bless.

23: “I’m not taking any chances.” 

To be honest, episode 1 of the Peter Davison serial Arc of Infinity (1983) starts like a retro gay porn video. It’s about two young men journeying through Amsterdam. It’s shot on cheap video, with a cheesy electronic score. And what happens? They end up spending the night in a “Pump House”…

24: “There’s no point being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes.”

24 there is no point in being childish

Some might argue whether Matthew Waterhouse was actually ever “acting”, but he remains one of the few regular cast members who is openly gay. And Adric, in his (rather revealing-when-wet) pyjamas suit, did seem to spend a lot of time in rather kinky situations with villains of the same gender. (Castrovalva, 1982; etc.)

25: “When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all… Grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.”

What else is there to say? (Love & Monsters, 2006.)

About Paul Cockburn

Edinburgh-based magazine journalist (freelance) specialising in arts & culture, equality issues, and popular science. Of an age now to prefer theatre to film. Lifelong Doctor Who fan; favourite episode being “the next one”–not least because, for too many years, it looked as if there never would be another. @paulfcockburn

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