Imagine a man with two hearts inside a blue box traveling through space, jumping through time like an intellectual child of Marty McFly, the hero of the Back to the Future film series, and Sybil, the film character who suffered a mild case of multiple personalities in the 1976 film of the same name. He travels to exotic places like Adipose 3, a breeding planet; Alfava Metraxis, home to the Maze of the Dead; and Demon's Run, the asteroid base of the Anglican Marines. He champions causes and solves mysteries, and he's saved the universe on more than one occasion.
But he's not alone in his blue box tumbling across the Milky Way. He's hosted a revolving door of companions -- mostly female -- in his seemingly small blue box. (It's quite comfortable on the inside with vaulted ceilings, a central control panel and hidden compartments like the ones in the Millennium Falcon.) Some of them are more memorable than others. Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), a Scot who rocked the kilt; Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), a physician who becomes a secret agent; Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), the girl out of time and the mother of Doctor Who's wife; and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Clara Sladen), the longest-serving companion, a fan favorite and now a legend since her passing in 2011.
He's known as a "Time Lord" but calls himself "The Doctor" -- and he's immortal ... well, he's more like a cat with 13 lives instead of nine. Like the hands of clock slowly ticking away, 11 doctors have assumed the mantel of Doctor Who through a process called "regeneration," but they all are essentially part of the same character.
Since its inception in 1963, Doctor Who has become something more than just a sci-fi TV show. It's a way of life. Coffee mugs, T-shirts (and socks), and action figures are just some of the ways we honor the Doctor. He's appeared on dozens of posters, games and postcards. Typing "Doctor Who Merchandise" into a Google search bar reveals more than 28 million results. Words from the popular TV series tattoo college campus dorm halls and general academic buildings across the country. "Silence will fall" can be found scrawled across bathroom walls or atop staircases like a silent mantra that only "Whovians" -- as fans are called -- would understand.
Whovians held the first meeting of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society in the late '70s, followed by the North American Doctor Who Appreciation Society, which later became the Doctor Who Fan Club and then Friends of Doctor Who in the '80s, and the Doctor Who Information Network in Canada, which later spawned the Doctor Who Society of Canada. In 2012, they infiltrated the Google Map network, making it easier for fans worldwide to find Doctor Who fan clubs.
Whovians also organized the first Doctor Who convention in 1977 in the United Kingdom, and soon dozens of "Who Fests" appeared worldwide. November 21-24, Who Fest takes place at the Crowne Plaza Dallas in Addison. It promises to be an unforgettable day filled with cos-play, Doctor Who merchandise and drunken elf girls.
This month marks the show's 50th anniversary.
Since some of you won't be able to attend Who Fest unless you possess the TARDIS -- it's sold out -- we've decided to travel through time and pay homage to Doctor Who's various incarnations in honor of his half-a-century celebration, the Twelfth Doctor's impending arrival, and the upcoming Christmas holiday, which is full of miraculous rebirths as fantastical as his regeneration process.
The First Doctor (b. 1963, d. 1966) The first incarnation of Doctor Who was older in appearance than the rest of his incarnations but younger in actual Time Lord age. He was a grumpy old man -- the Scrooge of the Universe instead of its savior -- and more frightening than the rest. During his early run on the series, the Cybermen and Daleks -- both future reoccurring baddies -- were introduced as well as his TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), which was disguised as a police call box, and his regeneration ability that changes his appearance each time its used. Doctor Who's initial transformation into the second incarnation of the Doctor in the "Tenth Planet" inspired a generation of Whovians to believe that maybe a man in a blue box traveling among the stars could appear on their front lawn one day.
The Second Doctor (b. 1966, d. 1969) The second incarnation looked like a former member of the Beatles with his mop-top black hair. In line with the Fab Five, he evoked humor and preferred to be nice. He was the Johnny Depp of doctors minus the actor's good looks. He's odd but doesn't ask you if he's odd, as the Eleventh Doctor was rumored to say, and he quickly becomes known as the "Cosmic Hobo" for his disheveled attire. But, more important, the Second Doctor establishes an attitude that future doctors continue to exhibit in one form or the other. Upon his demise, he experiences all 13 stages of the regeneration process like an old Dead Head suffering a flashback as he changes into the third incarnation of Doctor Who. Darkness, first, followed by four or five severed heads floating in the air around him as strange chimes echo through distorted speakers; it's a fitting ending for a time traveler.
The Third Doctor (b. 1970, d. 1974) Exiled to earth, the third incarnation brought a bit of flamboyance to Doctor Who's attire. Large collars, ruffled shirts, velvet coats, he dressed like a Cosmic Disco Dancer spinning through the night but exuded assertiveness and power. He's the first doctor to save the universe with his fists, fast cars, a three wheeler and a speed boat. The third incarnation was a creature of action and enjoyed proving his superiority over the human race. And when a floating dwarf monk surrounded by a iridescent light appeared to discuss the Third Doctor's demise and a Time Lord's regenerative process with Who's companions, hope for a return to a quirkier doctor washed over Whovians. It took the little asshole longer to explain the process than his hand-job to kick start it. But with a flick of his wrist, a quick up-and-down motion, the arrival of the longest-serving doctor to assume the Time Lord's mantel revealed a doctor who had captured the best of his predecessors, including Two's quirkiness.
The Fourth Doctor (b. 1974, d. 1981) The fourth incarnation looked younger than his predecessors, and had a strange weird alien logic about him. He was the perfect fit for a decade that provided us with Sesame Street, Mister Rogers and Star Wars. The Fourth Doctor was a big kid. And with a rainbow scarf wrapped around him, he used humor to defeat his enemies. It was frightening and surprising when this doctor's regenerative process involved a cocoon. He looked more like a vampire or some other horrid monster writhing inside than a Time Lord being reborn. His transformation into the more handsome fifth incarnation left many Whovians questioning who was in charge of Whoville.
The Fifth Doctor (b. 1981, d. 1984) The fifth incarnation may have been more dashing than his predecessors, but his choice of wearing a cricketer's outfit with question marks on his collar and a celery stalk pinned to his lapel left many Whovians wondering what the hell was happening in Whoville. This doctor was more passive and more indecisive -- often using a coin to determine his course of action -- but protected and treated his team as if they were equals. It's no surprise this doctor's regeneration sequence delved too far into the paranormal soap opera realm as he passes out and vomits floating heads and shoulders that resemble his former companions while a crazed madman, whose goatee and mustache spark memories of another psychotic questioner living in the nine hells, laughs maniacally. Psychedelic lines next cross the screen, and his sixth incarnation appears looking more like Willy Wonka than any of the other previous doctors.
The Sixth Doctor (b. 1984, d. 1986) The sixth incarnation was the first doctor to have a "I don't give a fuck attitude" about what people think. He wore an outlandish suit befitting of Willy Wonka but commanded ... no, demanded people's attention. But he showed a darker side of Doctor Who whenever he tried to strangle one of his companions. Soaring across the sky, the TARDIS crash lands on a beach. A strange woman holding a rather large ray gun enters the time machine without using a key. She spots the doctor's lifeless body on the floor and orders her ape-like insect minion to grab him. As the creature turns the doctor over, a strange ectoplasmic glow covers the doctor's face and then fades. The doctor's curly blonde hair begin fades into short black hair, and his boyish "I'm a little insane" features begin to resemble the seventh incarnation of Doctor Who.
The Seventh Doctor (b. 1987, d. 1996) The seventh incarnation acted more like a clown than his sixth predecessor, who dressed like one. He deplored the use of guns and kept violence at bay with his clownish attitude; yet there was a sadness behind his humor as if it were getting harder for him to hide his disharmony with the universe. More mysterious than his predecessors, he was a wizard of a Time Lord and used sleight of hand to keep his enemies at bay. Despite his magical bravado, his regeneration was the most shocking of the bunch. He's shot by a Chinese gang as he steps out of the TARDIS and dies on the operating table because his medical doctor doesn't know that a Time Lord has two hearts. Lying in a morgue, the doctor's corpse starts to yawn, initiating the transformation into the eighth incarnation of Doctor Who.
The Eighth Doctor (b. 1996, d. 2005) In 30+ years, Doctor Who never once shagged one of his companions. His relationship was purely professional. They were his helpers in his mayhem across the galaxy. What about Vicki? Too innocent. What about Liz? An annoying sister. Some of us Whovians like to think the doctor would sneak a shag from time-to-time, but his previous companions just didn't ooze sex appeal until Grace Holloway entered the picture. She looked like a Playboy bunny (and still does), which was fitting for a hero who was eight times the hero he was before. Their sexual tension was thicker than the blue walls of the TARDIS. It's no wonder the eighth incarnation's regeneration into the Ninth Doctor would be the most sexually charged to date, a euphoric explosion of Twilight sparkles while his annihilation of two alien races, the Time Lords and the Daleks, rains fire all around him.
The Ninth Doctor (b. 2005, d. 2005) The ninth incarnation was a killer, and the coolest universal surgeon this side of the Milky Way. His leather jacket and rebellious attitude established him as a force to be feared throughout the universe. (Well, that and he destroyed his home planet despite his mum and dad living somewhere in the metropolitan area.) He was the last of the Time Lords, and his confrontation with what appears to be the last of the Daleks is one of the coolest moments in the history of the show; his traveling to the edge of time is a close second. It's only fitting this rebel dies young. A year into his tenure as number 9, he absorbs a time vortex which causes his cells to regenerate and introduces fans to the coolest doctor to ever assume the mantel -- the 10th incarnation of Doctor Who.
The 10th Doctor (b. 2005, d. 2010) Pinstripe skinny suits, long heroic coat, and Converse -- the 10th incarnation wore Converse. It was an ode to our lady liberty and quickly established him as a doctor for a generation of young adult fans on both sides of the Atlantic. His brilliance and his charm, his unwavering loyalty to his companions and his willingness to stand up for his beliefs just added to his coolness. His companions were attractive and heroic, modern in every sense of the word. The 10th Doctor caused attacking alien races to flee from his intellectual might, and powerful politicians to lose their positions in government by simply whispering in a person's ear. He was the most interesting man in the galaxy, and it makes sense that his regeneration into the 11th incarnation of Doctor Who appeared more divine than his predecessors'.
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The Eleventh Doctor (b. 2010, d. 2013) The eleventh incarnation lost all of his predecessor's coolness. He acts like a child, misunderstands popular culture, and often embarrasses his companions with his attempts to be cool. And yet he uses this childlike persona to manipulate his enemies and his companions because he blames himself for ruining all of his previous companions' lives. Despite his self-loathing, his adventures through space and time are the most exciting to date, especially the Silence Will Fall series which introduces the creepiest villain since the Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All. Since this doctor's 11th hour has yet to fall -- he dies on Christmas Day -- his regeneration into his 12th incarnation of Doctor Who still promises to be unforgettable, especially after the epic conclusion to the Silence series.
The 12th Doctor (b. 2013, d. unknown) Is he the 12th, or is he the 13th Doctor? It's a mystery since "The Night of the Doctor," a seven-minute prequel to the upcoming 50th Anniversary show, revealed there was a Doctor known as "The Warrior" who appeared between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors. Either way, the 12th (or 13th) incarnation's attitude, dress and other Who-like qualities won't be revealed until the end of the year, but if his presentation is anything like his take on Malcolm Tucker in the movie The Thick of It, Whovians are in for the time ride of their lives.