Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Original Doctor Who: Who is Dr. Who?

The following biography of our favorite Doctor was originally published in the 1966 Doctor Who Annual, which can itself be found as a bonus on The Web Planet DVD. It's an interesting glimpse into how little was known of the Last of the Time Lords back in the beginning... even that he was a Time Lord hailing from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation Kasterborous.

Reading this, it is astonishing to consider still how little we know about the early years of the Doctor, verging on 50 years since. Some apocryphal sources tell of genetic looms and Gallifrey's ancestral houses, but otherwise we have caught only glimpses. We know that the Doctor, whose college nickname was Theta Sigma, fled his planet with a Type-40 TARDIS he barely knew how to operate, though he did so to mask his mission to hide the mysterious Hand of Omega. The Eighth Doctor was somehow under the false impression that he was half-human. The Tenth Doctor recalls how he was always trying to be old, grumpy and important like the young always do, and that when he peered into the temporal Vortex as a child, he fled in terror.

We still know so little about him, about Susan, about why they fled, about how long he lived on Gallifrey, about anything really. In a way, it's almost for the best. We're always left craving adventures of the First Doctor, but it's nice to simply imagine what his very first adventures must have been, what were behind those tantalizing pictures on the viewscreen or snippets of dialogue that suggested at alien worlds and World War I Zeppelins. It's also nice to think that he isn't really all that special, no reincarnation of Gallifrey's greatest reformers or anything like that. Rather, just that he's a genius underachiever, a rogue and a renegade only so far removed from the likes of the Master, the Rani and the Monk, who made off and made good, rising to greatness through guile, wit and being just clever enough.

Who is Dr. Who?

After Sir Isaac Newton came Dr. Albert Einstein. After Einstein came Dr. Who. His is the master-mind that spans all spatial infinity and all temporal eternity in his strange small ship, the Tardis.

No one knows where he came from. He is human in shape and speech and manner. He appears to be old and feeble and at the same time young and strong and active, as though the normal processes of ageing had passed him by.

Inclined to be absent-minded and forgetful, he is also very subject to fits of impatience whenever his will is thwarted and whenever his ideas are doubted, He likes his own way all the time and can sulk like any baby when he doesn't get it. He is, after all, a citizen of all Space and all Time and that must make a man feel there's nothing much he doesn't know.

He is mostly very gentle and kind-hearted and he has the utmost respect for life of any kind, small and feeble or monstrous and mighty. He has seen more specimens of living creatures than any other person in the history of all the worlds and his heart is big enough to respect every one of the countless forms life has taken in all the ages and all the worlds.

A planet in our galaxy would seem to have been his original home, but he has journeyed so many millions of miles and covered so many millions of years back into the Past and forward into the Future, that perhaps even the good doctor himself does not much remember his origins.

To us on Earth, the good ship Tardis appears to be an ordinary, homely blue police telephone-box with its familiar flashing top light. But when the great door is opened, it is seen that in the Tardis our ideas of dimensions of length, breadth and thickness, of inches, and feet and yards, must be forgotten. The interior of the Tardis does not exist in our normal world of size. The small square box contains a great space-ship-laboratory, equipped with all the marvellous electronic instruments and engines with which it materialises itself wherever its pilot commands, passing, like a ghost, through all material objects which happen to be in actual existence at any spot in space or moment in time, through which its strange 'voyages' take it. It can travel to any corner of the Universe, no matter how unthinkably remote, to any time-sphere in the remotest Past or the unimaginably distant Future. It travels instantaneously and a journey of a million miles or a million years is accomplished in a micro-second.

The Tardis holds within itself many marvellous inventions which would be scientific miracles in many of the spheres Dr. Who has visited. To him, they are commonplace tools and instruments, methods of doing what he wants to do.

Headlong he passes, in his Tardis, through all of Space and all of Time. Where is he going? What is his objective? What goal draws him on through the endless spheres, the millions of ages? No one knows. Perhaps he himself has long forgotten, so distant, in our years, is the time when he first set out on his odyssey. Are his voyages haphazard and merely satisfying the urge to travel everywhere and see everything, or is he seeking something definite? Again, no one knows.

Ceaselessly and restlessly he moves on, along the infinite strands of Energy that criss-cross all Space-Time. There is the deep and always unsatisfied curiosity of the scientist in him. There is the love of all life which fights against its surroundings.

Strange as his many adventures and experiences have been, how strange will be that time and place, no matter how far away or how distant in time, that point, in Infinity-Eternity when, at long last, Dr. Who will reach his final goal and find that for which he has been searching.


C.K. Dexter Haven said...

Yes, I love the precious little we know about the Doctor! It's much better than being rigidly tied to continuity and the fact that we've only had tantalizing glimpses makes him all the more fasinating. It inspires the imagination, doesn't it?

Just found your blog and am enjoying it immensely. Happy New Year.

Cory Gross said...

Doctor Who is one of the shows that made me give up on continuity properly speaking (that and Leiji Matsumoto's work) and just worry about whether or not it's any good.

Thanks for the compliments on the weblog! And a Happy New Year right back at you! Hopefully our coming year and keep you interested!