Doctor Who Canon is a Myth

One of the most debated aspects of Doctor Who has been on the subject of canon. Sometimes these have been simple topics such as discussing what individuals count as canon on other arguments over weather something counts or not especially when trying to figure out Doctor Who’s complex timeline. For the record the people associated with Doctor Who, be that the BBC or any of the various producers and showrunners over the years have never defined what the actual canon is. There has been some comments towards it such as RTD assuring us that the new series was a continuation of the classic stating “this is the same Doctor who….” Followed by a list of adventures from classic who including the 96 movie. (Something that was a debate with some still not classing the story as part of their Doctor Who) But by the same token the New Adventure Novels that were produced in the 90’s following the cancelation of the classic era were seen by some as an official continuation of Doctor Who, likewise for the most part the Big Finish audios feature the original cast.

Some might say that it is the TV series only that is the canon of Doctor Who. If this is the case then there should be no queries over the TV Movie or even Dimensions in Time! But what about Night of the Doctor. This seven minute episode brought back the 8th Doctor and lead into the events of Day of the Doctor. It was available on the red button and then released on DVD, does this count as TV? If it does then what about the fact that the Doctor makes reference to his Big Finish companions? Likewise some of these audio adventures have aired on BBC radio. Likewise in Time Heist we see a shot of Abslom Daak from the comic strips. These are more like little Easter eggs, references that the fans will get but nothing that will impede the understanding by the average viewer. This is mainly the reason why the TV series doesn’t place heavy references on other media and is probably the same reason the MCU films don’t have agent Colson appear despite his resurrection in Agents of Shield or why heroes such as Daredevil or Jessica Jones don’t show up at the end of Endgame.

So there doesn’t seem to be an official canon and, over the years, areas of each media has made references to each other. Bernice Summerfield from the Novels have appeared in Big Finish as has Frobisher, the shape shifting penguin. Likewise Evelyn Smythe, a sixth Doctor Companion appeared in one of the novels. So we have a world where nothing really ‘counts’. There is no official history of the Doctor or the universe he inhabits.

So what we have is everything thrown into this big messy ball of wibbly wobble timey wimmy stuff. And it is a mess. While some of this spin off media has done wonders for filling in blanks and in some cases improving characters there is a whole lot of continuity errors. For example we finally get a proper sixth Doctor regeneration story, three times, twice in novels and once in audio (although the two novels can exist together). Likewise we have multiple returns of Peri, regenerated and the unregenerate Masters, the events of Human Nature happening twice (sort of). That said, the TV series itself contains contradictions such as Atlantis, Uniting Dating, the Doctors age, etc.

It is perhaps better then to look at Doctor Who more as a mythology then canon. A source that can be used as a framework. There are certain elements that are essential to this myth rather similar to say Batman or Spiderman. For example since 1989 there have been various Batman movies. The Tim Burton, the Schumacher which continued the franchise, the Nolan reboot and then the Batman in the DCEU. Likewise we had the Raimi trilogy, the Webb films and the the MCU. These all draw on the mythology of the characters created by the comics. So as we see in the Batman movies, Bruce Wayne witnesses the murder of his parents and works towards become a crime fighter, getting inspiration from Bats as a costume to install fear in his enemies, his greatest foe being the Joker. For Spiderman it’s him gaining his powers through a bite from a mutated spider and losing his uncle. Although both original movie and the reboots tell these origins its interesting to note that in both the DCEU and the MCU the characters appear already established. Their origins are a well-known part of their mythology that we no longer need to see it.

With Doctor who it is a little different, the series has never had a hard reboot. The revival is a soft reboot, a continuation but it’s in the same vain as you could say, season seven or series eleven. The basic framework however is simple. The Doctor is a alien time traveller who goes around in a time machine disguised as a Police Box, can change his appearance and whose most notable enemy is the Daleks. This is the basic mythology, it’s what is in the mind of the average viewer. We see this in Rose when Rose looking for the Doctor online searches the internet and getting answers by tying Blue Box. This leads her to Clive who shows that the Doctor has various incarnations and seems to be able to travel in time.

Even his origins are not that important. We can say that he is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey (or at least as far as we knew up to series 12) but that the Doctor was a Time Lord was not known until the end of the second Doctor in 1969, six years after the show had started. Gallifrey doesn’t even get named until 1973, ten years after we first saw the Doctor. In the new series Gallifrey isn’t mentioned until the 10th Doctor story The Christmas Invasion, after two whole series. There have been a number of reasons given for him leaving Gallifrey, none of them are really that important. Outside the basics the mythology of Doctor Who is basically what can be remembered. And after nearly sixty years of episodes, comics, audios and books that is a lot of information.

So there really isn’t anything that is off limit in regards to the Doctor. We believed there were a certain number of Doctors but the Brain of Morbius, The Day of the Doctor and The Fugitive of the Jadoon shows us otherwise. Arguments over the fact that The Timeless Children contradicts canon seem to rather silly if you take in The Brain of Morbius where the faces we seen were intended to be previous incarnations of the Doctor. That fans since have either ignored this or retconned it to be the faces of Morbius is neither here nor there. By sticking to a strict canon the Morbius Doctors are the Doctor. Chibnall has simply dipped into the mythology of Doctor Who and pulled this bit out and woven it into his story telling. A worse case of going against ‘canon’ would be the twelfth Doctor suddenly and unexplained problem with soldiers in series 8. The fact that he refuses to take Journey Blue with him because she is a soldier. One of his best friends was Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart! He had no problem with other UNIT personnel such as Sargent Benton or Ross from The Sontaran Stratagem! That’s just soldiers not taking in other companions who carried arms such as River Song and in the novels Roz Forrester. It’s a characteristic added to the Doctor here simply to have tension between the Doctor and Danny Pink. It ignores the mythology of the series.

Let’s look at another mythical figure. Robin Hood. Yes we’ve had the hero appear in Doctor Who and most of the iconic framework for him is there. But there have been numerous movies and TV series all that take this framework and puts their own spin on it. For the record my favourite is Robin of Sherwood, notable for adding a Saracen character. Something that was added to the mythos of Robin Hood that such a character would appear in later adaptations. It’s taking bits from the mythology and writing a story around them. I’m reminded of what Eddie Izzard said of Robin Hood in one of his stand ups.

 

‘And also Robin Hood is a myth. It’s a myth, it is not true. It’s based on bits of fact.’

So where does that leave us when we are talking about what we include or dismiss. Well this is the reason I prefer the idea of a mythology rather that a canon. We can decide. We can dip into it and form our own history for the Doctor, take the bits of facts that we like and add them. It’s personal to each person. So if you want to include the novels then great. If when talking about how Mel joined the Doctor then Business Unusual gives you the story. If you don’t include it then maybe you have your own background in your mind. Hell you don’t even have to include everything from one media. Maybe you include some of the novels but not others. It’s all good. As for all the contradictions. Well you can ignore them or come up with some theory to fit them together. For me that’s half the fun.

And that’s where the idea of mythology comes in most handy. When discussing aspects of the show the media outside the TV show can help as a secondary source. It can add to the overall story in our world. Why would you want a strict canon telling you what you can and can’t count when it comes to the Doctor. Even my own mythology is constantly changing. For example I never use to include the comics and short stories but now if I’ve experienced them I add them to the story. In my mind, at the moment, the ‘Ruth’ Doctor fits between the second and third Doctor, this may change depending on series thirteen. How everything fits together is my own mythology. That why I prefer to use the phase mythos instead of canon.

The similarities between Doctors

“He will become a new man”

 

doctor-who-best-and-worst-regenerations

Regeneration. One of the greatest concepts a show has ever come up with allowing us to follow the adventures of the Doctor for nearly sixty years. Thirteen incarnations (fourteen with the War Doctor) all completely different from one another. The first Doctor was like a Edwardian gentleman who could be quite crotchety sometimes, the second a cosmic hobo, underestimated by the enemy who sometimes showed a darker side.
Or are they? Certainly when the first Doctor first regenerated it was into a young, shorter version. At first it was likened to a renewal, as if the years had been stripped back. But it was clear very soon that this was not just a younger version of the Doctor. It was a different persona. Then it happened again. So the crotchety old man, the cosmic hobo, the Dandy, the bohemian madman, the youthful wonderer, the older crotchety Doctor, the cosmic hobo, underestimated with a darker side.

Doctor_Who__30_classic_episodes_heading_for_Horror_Channel
Already with the classic series we start to see repeats, throwbacks if you like to other previous versions. Some of them are intentional. Both Davison and Baker said they looked towards the first Doctor for inspiration for their Doctors. And the seventh Doctor although starting out very Troughton like developed into a darker version.
I actually began to think about this back in the nineties when I first became a fan. It seemed that after the fifth Doctor the incarnations started to echo earlier incarnations. The sixth was like the first, the seventh like the second.
There was even a theory at the time that the fifth Doctor was actually the thirteenth, based off the events of The Brain of Morbius and completely overlooking Mawdryn Undead. Had some sort of regeneration reset happened? Future Doctors would channel previous incarnations in order. No it’s a stupid theory.
Yet when the TV movie came along in 96 it’s interesting to see the similarities between the eighth and the third. While the young Doctor’s style emulates the firsts to a degree there is a lot in common with the third Doctor and his era starting with the logo itself.
Regenerating from a small mysterious man into a taller striking body, the Doctor ends up in hospital. Awakening he explores the hospital, stealing some clothes from a hospital employee. He manages to leave the hospital by stealing/ stowing away in, a car.
He luckily has assistance from another doctor. It’s not long before another of his race, the Master threatens the Earth. The Doctor and his companion races around on a motorcycle to try and save the day.
Ok they are very superficial similarities but it’s interesting to look at.

When the series returned it seemed that the spell was broken. The ninth Doctor was hardly anything like the fourth. But if the TV movie was a failed pilot and this was a second attempt, learning from the mistakes then what.
So from here in I’m going to look at the similarities between Doctors nine to thirteen compared to Doctors three to seven. Not merely in terms of character but also their era. Sorry it’s taken five hundred words to get here.
The ninth and the third are very different Doctors. A striking dandy working for the military, and a loner alien dressed in a leather jacket. But within the series itself we can find things very reminiscent of the third Doctor era.
For the most part the Doctor’s adventures take place on Earth. Out of ten adventures four take place on modern Earth (if we include Dalek which is set only a few years into the future at the time) and the final although set in the future has scenes set on modern Earth.
Another three are set in the past. And three in the future, End of the World, The Long Game and Bad Wolf/ Parting of the Ways and all three of these take place on a station orbiting the Earth. In short within the TV series itself the ninth Doctor doesn’t visit an alien planet, he is effectively for the most part Earthbound.

dvd175-.jpg
In his first adventure he encounters the Autons including an iconic scene of shop dummies bursting through shop windows and gunning people down in the street. His companion for most of his adventures is a young blonde haired girl. But there is also a feeling of a family here as there are regular characters that crop up when the Doctor is on Earth during the modern day adventures. The Doctor himself is considered by the government as an expert in alien encounters.

The tenth Doctor may seem at first to have more in common with the fifth Doctor then the Fourth, especially considering the conversation in Time Crash. However….
The first adventure of this new Doctor takes place on modern Earth. He starts of acting very erratic. Luckily there is someone on hand with a stethoscope to check on his hearts. By the end he’s recovered, more settled down and with his companion(s) takes off for new adventure in time and space. His adventures during this time include Sarah Jane Smith and K9. Gabriel Woolf provides the voice for one of his more powerful foes. Davros appears for the first time in the classic/new series with this Doctor.

davros
Donna in her final adventure gains the Doctor’s brain putting her on the same level as him, almost like a time lady companion of the fourth. There is a sober feel to the final few adventures of this incarnation as he feels his end is coming soon along with a premonition of sorts. (The Watcher/ Four knocks)
His adventures brings an end of an era. Over the course of his time the series has become the most popular it has ever been with the highest ratings, and this incarnation of the Doctor has been the most popular cementing themselves in the minds of many as the iconic version of the Doctor. There is doubt by some that the series might not survive the change, especially in light of the news that….

…….The new Doctor is the youngest actor to date to take on the role. Many wonder if they will be able to bring through the age of the character. The fears are misplaced. The actor is able to play the Doctor as an old man in a young body. During his era he travels with a number of companions at the same time although this returns to the one Doctor, one companion by the end. There is an anniversary story during this time with the Doctor meeting up with previous incarnations in an adventure that involves Gallifrey. In fact it is Gallifreyan technology that allows this to happen. We also have the death of companions during this time.

12th-6th-Peter-Capaldi-Colin-Baker-Sixth-Twelfth-2000x1125

 

If anywhere it is the similarities between the sixth and twelve Doctor that are the most striking. Both are showed at first to be uncaring Doctor’s. Note the sixth Doctor’s talk of how alien he is. “I am, in your terms, an alien. I’m therefore bound to have….
In Into the Dalek we have the Doctor talk about Clara. “Yes she’s my career, she cares so I don’t have to.” Over time however he mellows a bit. From notes at the time of the sixth Doctor this was seemingly the plan for his version of the Doctor and its something that has happened with his Big Finish adventures. He has one companion for the majority of his adventures and is extremely upset by her apparent death during an adventure. However it turns out later that she didn’t really die.

From the perspective of the show there is more, both actors playing the Doctor have appeared in a previous story as another character. (Arc of Infinity and Fires of Pompeii) It also does seem during this era of the show that it starts to decline and despite liking the Doctor many feel that a lot of the stories are not doing him justice. There is a feeling that maybe the producer/showrunner has stayed in the job too long and it needs to be refreshed. There is at least a story that teams up the current Doctor with a previous one in a non-anniversary way as they simply cross paths. For the first time in the series run there is a gap year before this Doctor returns for one last series.
Of course as mentioned above there is also a similarity between the sixth and the first Doctor and it’s interesting that the last adventure of the twelfth Doctor also involves the first.
Ok, I really have nothing with the thirteenth Doctor. In fact I’ve made many comments on various social media about how much this series and Doctor reminds me of the fifth Doctor and his era as well as noting points with the first Doctor era. But it is early days with Jodie only having one series under her belt. The first series is followed by a story involving Daleks and she travels with three companions, two males, one female.
However the show itself seems to be suffering. Its run has cut down on the number of episodes it produces a year. Many believe it has had its time and needs a rest and that Jodie could be the last Doctor before the show goes off the air again for a rest.
So the thirteenth Doctor seems to have broken the chain of following previous Doctors, or at least the order of previous Doctors. However the show itself still seems to be following the pattern. But a note of hope to finish. The next two series of the seventh Doctor started to show a return to form with the second series landing on an anniversary year. (The 25th of classic/ the 15th on New) In those days it was too late and the series couldn’t recover. Hopefully the next couple of series will help the series recover some of its former glory. It does feel different this time.

 

656471c504299f5426958a1a0a8f1cfc

Speaking of endings, this blog was written in the café where many of them have been over the last three years. It is also the last. After three years the café is closing down (27/9/19)
It’s rather sad. It is the place where I wrote my novel, (and started my second) spending many Saturdays typing away armed only with a pot of Assam tea. It was a chance to get away from the distractions of home and concentrate on my writing. During that time I’ve wrote posts from discussing issues from transgender to role models. I’ve spoken about changes in my life as I’ve explored myself and as I head towards new areas of my life it will be sad that this part is over.
So a thanks to Le Petit Hibou, its owners Barry & Jill and all its staff for allowing me to sit here for hours upon end even when closing.

The Doctor as a role model

rbezLEd.png

 

 

For anyone who has ready all the posts in this blog it should come as no surprise that the final role model on this list is the Doctor. Seriously I’ve been doing this blog for months, stating at the beginning that I’m a big fan and yet somehow I haven’t wrote anything about Doctor Who yet. He wasn’t even the last role model on my list. He was actually number four and on a list that had been written before the series returned. But I’ve saved him until last because he has more than any of the others been the biggest influence on my life. The main role model who has been there from when I was a kid in the eighties to today. And it is surprising how sometimes it has have had parallels with my life. For example the first Doctor novel I was reading back in 2007 Venusian Lullaby which dealt with the loss and remembrance of loved ones was the same time I lost my nan. The eleventh Doctor’s relationship with married companions Amy and Rory came to an end at the same time as my friendship with a couple I was close with. To this day I still haven’t seen or heard from her much to my sadness. And now the Doctor after being male for all his life is now becoming a woman in the same year I start to question my own gender identity. It’s not surprising that my dissertation in uni was based around Doctor Who. A Modern Myth for a Post Cristian society. The idea that Doctor Who could act as a replacement for religion.

a97c61ac973ee5be244ed2175442e40a
It’s hard to know where to start with the Doctor as a role model, there have been twelve Doctors so far, each with their own personalities and traits and I don’t really want to go through each Doctor listing their differences. Because basically, at heart, there is a fundamental Doctorness that comes through each incarnation. Even Eccleston who I though initially was not suited to the role had it and it’s why I have little fear that Whittaker will be able to pull it off.
There is a phase that has been used to describe the Doctor that writer Terrence Dicks came up with and that in recent years has been used by the Doctor himself. Never cruel, never cowardly. It is a good phase to live by. Not to be cruel to people and never to be scared of standing up for yourself and others even if deep down you are scared.
But there are other things I take from the Doctor. His sense of wonder at the universe, his love of exploring the unknown. His search for truth and knowledge. I have three favourite Doctors. Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy and Matt Smith. The fifth, seventh and eleventh Doctors respectively.
It was of course the classic Doctors that I grew up with and the fifth Doctor was the one from my childhood. Just to see his youthful energy and pleasure at life. The following exchange is the best example of this.
The Doctor: Emotions have their uses.
Cyber Leader: They restrict and curtail the intellect, and logic of the mind.
The Doctor: They also enhance life. When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well-prepared meal?
Cyber Leader: These things are irrelevant.
The Doctor:

5efe9d1bd6d69eb30d8e4e64ef000305--great-quotes-doctor-quotes

The fifth Doctor had an honest charm about him and would often hesitate before making rash choices always trying to find a better way to solve the problems usually trying diplomacy first. He is the Doctor that perhaps shows the most conscience. It is telling that unlike his bombastic incarnations either side he died saving just the single life of his companion, willing to sacrifice himself for his friend.

1000-eleventh-doctor-quotes-on-pinterest-hello-sweetie-81266
The type of passion and youthfulness that the fifth Doctor showed is one of the reasons the eleventh Doctor is one of my favourites from the new series. He too values the little things in life but is also willing to do what he can to help his friends and others. He has a great childish nature but this hides a calculating side of him where his enemies underestimate him. I find the eleventh Doctor to almost be a mix of both the fifth Doctor and the Seventh.

5f9c6480b1ab400491021a74ecfecfa4--great-quotes-doctor-who-quotes
Sadly the series went off air in 1989 with the seventh Doctor who continued his adventures in a series of novels. This made him become another favourite of mine. But unlike the carefree fifth Doctor who just seemed to get caught up in things the seventh Doctor was a master planner. He engineered plans to defeat his enemies and at times this caused conflicts with his companions but there was lessons to be learned here. I learnt that it is possible to make plans and to try and work out all the angles but at times things can go wrong and you need to improvise. But from the seventh Doctor’s flaws I leant that it is important to be mindful of your actions and to be careful not to hurt those close to you. To keep in mind the bigger picture but to also not forget the small stuff.
But overall there are aspects from all Doctors that are good with morals and lessons from all the incarnations.

c62dd5d7b182565008eed3226212f996

We see the first Doctor changed over time from a selfish suspicious alien to a character that dares to stop the villains he comes across. The second Doctor continues this, continuing to fight and to save the people he comes across and yet having the sense of fun with his adventures and touched with tenderness towards his companions. The third was all action and became part of a team. There was a lot of Buddhist themes during his era especially where he learns that his own thirst for knowledge can be seen as a greed and finally learning to let go of his old life in order to become a new man.
This of course was when he became the fourth Doctor and it’s interesting to note that after changing he abandons his old life, leaving behind his job and his ‘family’ and goes out to wonder the cosmos looking for adventure. A great lesson for those who want to change their life. With regards to the sixth Doctor the lessons learnt here are more to do with the aftermath of this incarnation. His predecessor comes to think of the sixth doctor in a negative light and it is only later that he comes to realise that his own memories are twisted and learns to forgive himself, a lesson in forgiving your past. The eighth Doctor regains his love of life again and living in the moment. His glee in his first adventure over a simple well-fitting pair of shoes is a great moment.
The ninth Doctor had some nice moments but above all when we meet him he is broken by his actions in the past and through his friendship with Rose he heals himself. Rose says it herself that the Doctor showed her a better way to live life.
That you don’t just give up, you don’t just let things happen. You make a stand, you say no, you have the guts to do what’s right.

 
The tenth had a story arch where his arrogance is eventually his downfall and the twelve questions whether he is a good man. So there is something that can be learnt from every incarnation

. Doctor-Who-TV-Show-Quotes

 

But my favourite quote concerning the Doctor comes from writer Lance Parkin.

No one can be The Doctor, he’s more than human, but we can try to be like The Doctor – peaceful, intelligent, witty, reasonable, aware of what is truly important.”
Take joy in life, plan the big stuff but take pleasure in the little things. Stand up for yourself and others when scared. Remember who you were but keep moving forward. Search for truth Hate is always foolish and love is always wise. Always try to be nice but never fail to be kind. Laugh hard and run fast. And be fantastic.

Jodie-Whittaker-First-Female-Doctor-Who