His Face, His Hair, Look at It: The Doctors Revisited (Patrick Troughton)

(67 comments)

It's not surprising that the Troughton era is, in effect, reduced to a celebration of Troughton's acting, and for the most part, this is a dramatic improvement over the standard narrative prior to this. It is, like the Hartnell era, still entirely about leading up to the present day - the main hook for Troughton is that Matt Smith based his performance on him. This is put up front and trumpeted. So celebrating Troughton for his acting is necessarily about glorifying the present.

All the same, it's not wrong. And it's worth contrasting with the previous official narrative of the Troughton era, in which Season Five was the high point of it because it had all the monsters. Sure, the Ice Warriors get center stage for a bit in what is, in hindsight, blatantly just a teaser for Cold War (with Moffat reflecting that we never see the actual Ice Warriors), but the previous take on the Troughton era where he was the clownish Doctor and it was good because it had Yeti isn't even alluded to.

Instead we focus on Troughton's acting, which is fitting, because it really is extraordinary, in a way that holds up today. He's astonishingly subtle and meticulous. He always was. And Tennant's statement that every Doctor is really just doing variations on Troughton now is absolutely true. And it's a triumphant moment to see Troughton himself get the credit for that, because he genuinely deserves it. He invented the part of the Doctor as we know it today.

The problem, if you think it's a problem, is that there's nothing to replace the celebration of the monsters. The Troughton era becomes almost entirely about glorifying Troughton's performance. Of course, this isn't entirely unfair. The era played the base under siege card too many times, and didn't do enough brilliant and weird stuff. It's not that the bases under siege were bad, but the mix was off on the era. And, of course, there's the problem of what survives in the archives (or possibly of what Phil Morris has turned over) that makes it tricky to valorize any particular part of the Troughton era except for Season Six, which is the toughest to glamorize in many ways.

Not that they don't give it a good try with an impassioned defense of Zoe that, watching it, also feels overdue. Moffat speaks with genuine conviction of the way in which Zoe was a triumph for young female audiences because she was made so competent, and it's true. She may have gotten gratuitous catsuit ass shots, but she was a bolder character than the show had tried with the female companion since Susan petered out.

(Also hilarious is John Barrowman's account of being excited to see Jamie debut and enthusiastically telling his mother there was a Scotsman on Doctor Who, since he would have been doing that from inside the womb.)

But for all of this, there is something frustrating about where the narrative focus ends up. The selected story for showing after this special was Tomb of the Cybermen, because of course it was. It really is hard to complain too much - for all the story's faults, and they are numerous, it does have some good visuals. Perhaps more to the point, it's pretty solidly acted. The script's naff and the casting's a bit racist, but everyone is trying on the day, and that really does help. Moffat admits to some of the faults in his introduction (though, of course, not the racism), and, look, I recognize I'm being a grumpy old man about Tomb of the Cybermen.

It's just that The Mind Robber was the right length too. And that's the thing. The official narrative is at least getting the high point of the Troughton era right, which is to say, Troughton himself. But the top-line executive summary required by a half-hour special can't really encompass the fact that Troughton's material was uneven, and so goes for the simplest triumph it has instead of emphasizing the weirdness. It's a better Troughton era than "the monster era" lets it be. But it's not allowed to be quite as good as the Troughton era itself was.

Comments

elvwood 3 years ago

It occurs to me that one reason for the "monster" view the Troughton era might be the age of the people talking about it when mainstream fan opinions were first being formed? I started watching Doctor Who during season 5, and when I finally saw The Enemy of the World again, I realised it had made no impression on me; I remembered absolutely nothing about it. Whereas I do remember the yeti, the ice warriors, and the foam from Fury of the Deep, which scared me so much I stopped watching again. In fact, my memory is so monster-orientated that I don't know if I started watching with The Abominable Snowmen or The Ice Warriors - and I won't unless the former is discovered somewhere, because it generally takes watching them again to bring back scenes. I'm almost positive I didn't see Tomb, because modern viewing didn't bring back buried memories and I'm sure I would have remembered the cybermen!

Plots? Who needs them! When you are three or four, it's monster action that's important...

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elvwood 3 years ago

the "monster" view of the Troughton era, of course. Curse you, lack of edit button!

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ScarvesandCelery 3 years ago

In fairness to Barrowman, maybe he's remembering watching Jamie on repeat or VHS. Or he's telling a slight fib, which is harmless enough really.

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ScarvesandCelery 3 years ago

I agree about the episode choice, though. "The Mind Robber" is streets ahead of "Tomb", way less offensive and much more interesting

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That Guy 3 years ago

Isn't "The Mind Robber" five episodes, not four?

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5tephe 3 years ago

And of course The Mind Robber starred both Jamie and the laudable Zoe, so they're two more reasons they should have chosen it.

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peeeeeeet 3 years ago

They all run slightly short, though, so it's close to a regular four-parter in total length.

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Nick Petrillo 3 years ago

On Netflix (in the US at least), the only Troughton story available is The Mind Robber. It's nice to see it get its due there, because it was the first exposure to Troughton for at least one person I know, who raved about it to me one night.

Of course, I could be cynical and say that only happened because they weren't willing to pay streaming fees to the Pedler/Davis estate for the Cybermen (which is why we get The Visitation instead of Earthshock... or any other good Davison story), but... I'll just pretend it was for that "face repair" scene. (My friend thought they actually went and killed Jamie off in the second episode!)

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Bennett 3 years ago

"He invented the part of the Doctor as we know it today."

The problem I have with this observation - which is not unique to this blog post - is the implication that Hartnell somehow didn't. And as Hartnell is my Doctor, I find it difficult to stop myself hamfistedly objecting to it. So I won't.

Perceived fan wisdom is difficult to shift, but I had hoped that if anything came from that post-Who Hartnell interview released in 2013 it would be the dispelling of the notion that his Doctor was anything other than a considered and consistent performance (that was, before AAiSaT played right back into it). And over three-and-a-bit seasons winning the hearts of a nation's children, he covers the gamut of what the Doctor can be. At times he is impish, mercurial, imposing, heroic, tender and aloof. His is a complete Doctor, no matter what your time frame.

Troughton's genius (which I am in no way trying to detract from) is not in inventing the modern Doctor, but taking an established and beloved character part and imprinting himself upon it without betraying or deriding what came before. His gift wasn't invention, but reinvention - which I think is the reason why he is so important to so many Doctor actors.

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John 3 years ago

The people who led the forming opinions stuff seem to have been considerably older than you, though. Ian Levine was 14 when Season 5 aired. I can't find how old Jeremy Bentham is, but he looks to be a similar age. Certainly we're probably not talking about people who were *adults* when the Troughton era aired, but we're not talking about four year olds either.

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John 3 years ago

Barrowman grew up in the US, right? Did they show any Second Doctor repeats on PBS in the 70s/early 80s?

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John 3 years ago

Hartnell's a complete Doctor who feels like a completely different character from virtually every later Doctor. I don't think it's an insult to Hartnell's performance to say that Troughton's portayal was much more influential on how later actors interpreted the part than Hartnell's was.

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David Anderson 3 years ago

It seems to me that Davison tries to base his character on Hartnell, when a script gives him the opportunity.
Also I think Pertwee largely does his own thing, and contributes something to post-Pertwee Doctors.

Though I agree that Hartnell's Doctor seems an outlier in terms of characterisation. I think that's as much because the show up to about Gunfighters is a different sort of thing from the show from the Moonbase and the Macra Terror onwards. Troughton stories are much more like post-Troughton stories than Hartnell stories are, and that affects the way the character acts.

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Bennett 3 years ago

Hartnell's a complete Doctor who feels like a completely different character from virtually every later Doctor.

See, I don't agree with the last part of that statement. Or rather, I think his Doctor is no more 'completely different' than any of the other completely different takes on the character. I cannot think of an underlying tenet of the character that is not shown in his Doctor (all that gubbins about hearts, species and address aside). He was what the Doctor has always been: an idiot. Just passing through. Helping out. Learning.

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Aaron 3 years ago

This is neither here nor there, but I've always felt that there are essentially three characterizations of the Doctor, that draw on the first four Doctors to varying degrees. They are (named after tarot, because that's as arbitrary a naming scheme as anything is):

The Magician: Essentially Doctors modeled on Tom Baker's characterization of the Doctor. The Doctor tends to warp the narrative around him by virtue of his charismatic figure. Other stories tend to go on until he arrives, at which point the narrative defers to him, and he becomes the prime mover. He's sharp, witty, always ready to attack those in power by being more in control, and more likeable, than others. The 4th Doctor, The 10th Doctor, and the 8th (when he's given a good characterisation) all fit this mold.

The Fool: Based primarily off of Troughton's performance, this type of Doctor blends into the narrative. Rather than take charge, he tends to question those in power, mess things up for the sake of it, and revolt against authority for the sake of it. Unlike The Magician, he doesn't warp the narrative around him and make others follow him; To use Phil's language, he's flits on the edge of the narrative and let's others take the spotlight. He's also clumsy, flustered, and often childish. The 2nd Doctor, the 11th Doctor, the 7th Doctor, and more or less the 5th Doctor all fit this mold, though the 5th is less questioning of authority though no less adept at hiding in the edges of the narrative rather than taking control of it.

The Heirophant: Finally, the last type of Doctor tends to be the grumpy aristocrat. This Doctor is hard to work with, thinks himself better than others, and walks the line between being mysterious and flat out unlikeable. He has trouble connecting with the people around him, but he tends to be the loyalist to his friends out of any of them (though he hates to show it). Most importantly, the narrative often doesn't focus on this Doctor at all, but instead focuses on those close to him, like Rose, or the UNIT team, or Clara. This characterisation seems to me to be a mix of later Doctors trying to evoke Hartnell and trying to evoke Pertwee. Thus, the 1st, 3rd, 6th, 9th, and now the 12th fit into this category.

I would say that Hartnell's influence on later performances is less obvious than Troughton or Bakers, since Doctors in this last category tend to be seen as radical breaks from what the Doctor is, not the norm. But I do think that very actor after Baker is drawing on these first four almost entirely, to the point that there are only three distinct Doctor templates.

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Froborr 3 years ago

If nothing else, this special and Tomb introduced my niece to Classic Who and her favorite Doctor. She likes every Doctor she's seen (come to think of it, I have no idea if she's seen any of Capaldi), but she *loves* Troughton and Smith. Pretty damn good taste for a five-year-old, I think.

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Froborr 3 years ago

Huh. Been a while since I've rewatched Nine, but he always felt more Magician than Hierophant to me. In particular, he's not a fan of authority at all, and always felt to me like he was trying really hard to be working class. (Not entirely succeeding, because the Doctor is always an aristocrat, but as Nanny Ogg said, it's not where you stand, it's which way you're facing.)

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encyclops 3 years ago

"Tomb" isn't my favorite Troughton story either, but it plays into the debate we're probably going to have about most of these choices: "best," "most interesting," or "most representative."

"Mind Robber" is arguably the "most interesting" Troughton story, sure, but I'm not entirely certain it's the "best." I know I'm on hallowed ground here as far as this blog is concerned :) but as a kid I remember seeing this one on PBS and being a bit bored, to be honest. The first episode's frightening enough, the last is pretty exciting, but the middle stuff I found a bit tedious for a lot of the same reasons I don't read Fables. I didn't like Jamie being played by a different actor. And then there's the repetition of "save yourself from this fictional thing by refusing to believe in it," which I still find unsatisfying, especially when it almost (but not quite) becomes the basis of two cliffhangers in succession. You could argue my childhood priorities were misplaced (and certainly today I'd rather rewatch "Mind Robber" than "Tomb") but I'm probably not the only one.

So then there's "best" -- strongest overall production, which isn't always the same as "most interesting." I don't know what I'd consider the best of the existing Troughton stories. I know I like "The Invasion" and "The Enemy of the World" an awful lot, but I don't know if that's quality so much as just a matter of what I happen to enjoy, and I don't know if I would have dug them as a kid. This might become more relevant in later years, where I'd cite either of the Mara stories or perhaps "Enlightenment" as "more interesting" but would be hard-pressed to argue that "Caves of Androzani" doesn't deserve to be called "best," even though it's not my personal favorite.

But I'd be surprised if "most representative" weren't a big part of the story of why many of these were chosen. Like "The Aztecs," "Tomb of the Cybermen" is if nothing else what most of the era was supposedly like: base under siege, the Doctor manipulating events from the sidelines, an "international" cast (for better and for worse), and lots of Cybermen (for a Doctor perhaps most strongly associated with them).

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encyclops 3 years ago

They did on my PBS station. That's how and when I saw them.

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Anton B 3 years ago

Without diminishing their performances, as unique and notable as the interpretations of all the actors to have played the Doctor are, it's important to also acknowledge the contributions of the various writers who have put the words into the Doctors' mouths. After all Hartnell, Troughton et al (apart from the odd cheeky ad lib) weren't making it up as they went along. I'm sorry to disillusion anyone but they were working from scripts.

The writers, of course, took their inspiration from each of the actors' decisions and choices as to characterisation during their initial episodes, refining and re-redefining how they wrote the part which in turn fed back to the actor who reflected this back to.the writers and so on.

It is in this respect that the endlessly mutable character of the Doctor is unique in drama. I can't think of another creative collaboration between actor(s) and writer(s) which has lasted fifty years and ongoing that has created such a singular (and yet multi-faceted) protagonist.

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elvwood 3 years ago

Scratch that theory, then. Or maybe they were just young at heart...

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tom jones 3 years ago

To be fair to Mind Robber, it was originally written as a four-parter. And they couldn't do anything about Jamie - I think they were just too short of time to re-write the character out of the episode completely.

And Tomb is for all its faults the most famous story, so they were always going to go with that.

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encyclops 3 years ago

Oh, I know there are reasons for those elements that I didn't like as a kid, and I do appreciate the story a lot more now than I did then. I'm just pointing out that even a relatively smart kid with idiosyncratic tastes might not necessarily appreciate that episode the same way a well-educated adult writing a critical blog would. :) That doesn't make the adult wrong, but it doesn't make the kid's tastes insignificant.

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5tephe 3 years ago

Anton B, you're obviously right. But I think Aaron's classification very neatly categorieses the Doctors.

I like your breakdown a lot Aaron.

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Ibu Profin 3 years ago

Speaking as someone who adores "The Mind Robber", I feel that watching all five episodes in one lump sitting does tend to bring out a certain repetitiveness. "Tomb of the Cybermen" is really just about the most logical choice to showcase this Doctor of the few available choices. "The Krotons" is the only eligible candidate, and just... no.

"Tomb" does have that lovely moment between the Doctor and Victoria though, so there is that, and if the Cybermen are considered one of the top three adversaries of the Doctor and you have a place for the Daleks and the Master, then this would be the obvious representative choice if it was felt to be important to include them somewhere in this marathon.

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encyclops 3 years ago

(I should clarify: the kid's taste may be insignificant in terms of judging quality, but they may be significant in terms of selecting a story with the widest mass appeal.)

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David Anderson 3 years ago

I think Pertwee is a thing distinct from Hartnell.
I would have said that Pertwee represents your magician archetype in its pure form. Pertwee is always either in charge of the narrative, or trying to take charge. Hartnell is not.
If you take Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee as the pure form archetypes, then most later Doctors are hybrids to a greater or lesser extent.
Tom Baker manages the paradoxical trick of hybridising the magician with the fool, and at the same time out-magicianing Pertwee.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years ago

Pity "The Enemy of the World" hadn't been announced yet (and, even when it was, it was deferred to and overshadowed by "The Web of Fear" and ITS triumphant return), because that would've been a CORKER of a story to showcase Troughton with; it probably feels even more modern today than it did in the '60s (not to mention it generally stays faaar away from the national stereotypes that "Web" so gleefully traffics in).

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encyclops 3 years ago

What do we make of the 12th Doctor's characterization of himself as "an idiot"?

We've had a "madman" in a box and now an "idiot." How do those labels compare with "fool"? Are they meant to point to the same idea, or are they something different?

Why "idiot" specifically? A Dostoevsky reference (seems unlikely, but I've never read it)? A "Kinda" reference?

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Sean Daugherty 3 years ago

Lionheart first offered the surviving complete Hartnell and Troughton serials for syndication in the United States at the same time they offered the first Colin Baker season, I believe, in 1985. Barrowman might have seen them then, but he's be around 18 at the time, for what it's worth.

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Sean Daugherty 3 years ago

The episodes run shorter than usual. The first episode clocks it at only around 18 minutes, I believe, making it the shortest episode of DW ever aired until "Dimensions in Time," I believe.

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nimonus 3 years ago

Aaron: I absolutely love this categorization scheme. It expresses something I've been feeling all series, which is that I deeply respect Peter Capaldi's performance and see it as extremely "Doctorish" but it often isn't showing off the aspects of the Doctor I most appreciate. Now I have a neat-but-genuinely-insightful frame to put that in, with a Tarot reference to boot! The Hierophant is simply my least favorite archetype for the Doctor.

encyclops: I am kind of hoping it implies a recognition on this Doctor's part that being the Hierophant is less fun than being the Fool. But I also love the Kinda reference, which would actually be in line with the Fool archetype in the Tarot which has some similarities to the ideal of Beginner's Mind.

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nimonus 3 years ago

Except, you know, Troughton in black-face putting on an unconvincing Mexican accent.

Don't get me wrong - I love Enemy of the World, and am truly impressed with Troughton's range playing essentially four different characters distinctly here. But I'm not sure comparing it favorably with a comedy Welshman really holds up.

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Carey 3 years ago

Aaron, that is a fantastic description of the Three Archetypes of the Doctor, and I agree with Nimonus here, it explains why I favour some Doctors over others: I prefer the Fool and the Magician to the Heirophant. My problem with Capaldi in the role so far is at least partly the same as the one I had with (C) Baker: Clara, like Peri before her, isn't enough of a sympathetic character to warm me to the stories. In short, Capaldi needs a Ian/Barbara/Steven/Vicki/Jo Grant/Rose Tyler to offset his emotional distance from the audience. It's genuinely for this reason that I hope Clara leaves at Christmas: it's not that I dislike her character, but Capaldi desperately needs a Katy Manning archetype to act opposite, not a Caroline John one.

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Jack Graham 3 years ago

"He invented the part of the Doctor as we know it today." I find this a baffling statement, given that Troughton plays the Doctor as a sweet, sociable, adept and clever man, and the Doctor as we know him to day is, generally, an arrogant and self-absorbed pratt who has trouble understanding basic emotions.

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Anton B 3 years ago

I found Aaron's three archetypes theory intriguing too. I'd suggest that no one Doctor has displayed a pure archetype though; each has mixed the three elements to create their own character. the 1st for instance, while I agree is mostly Heirophantic also displayed Fool attributes. He was often shown giggling to himself, forgetful and rushing into danger without thinking. (the Rider /Waite tarot depicts a literal cliffhanger as the Fool blithely steps toward the cliff edge while a little dog (his companion?) nips at his heels.) His Magician attributes are weak but no less evident. In his first adventure he brings fire, the various 'scientific instruments' and gadgets often produced from his coat on the hoof are a pre-echo of the 2nd Doctor's 'bigger on the inside' pockets.
One could refine it further and create a kind of tarot Venn diagram for each Doctor and I'm tempted to explore whether the minor arcana could be used also.
Also I don't really see the 3rd Doctor as the Heirophant, I'd suggest the Emperor as a better fit and then if we posit four archetypes rather than three (which would fit the first four actors being the standard) we could work with the four suits and the four elements too. Hmm.

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Wm Keith 3 years ago

Troughton also invented the part of the Third Doctor: watch him in The War Games impersonate Jon Pertwee's Doctor impersonating a German officer.

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tom jones 3 years ago

Oh yeah, I definitely agree with that.

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inkdestroyedmybrush 3 years ago

i'm also going to chime in with a big thumbs up to this catagorization of the Doctors, and for you taking the time to put this together.

@David Anderson -
"Tom Baker manages the paradoxical trick of hybridising the magician with the fool, and at the same time out-magicianing Pertwee." which is an excellent observation as well. I've long tried ot figure out part of why Baker's characterization rang true to so many people worldwide. If we buy this characterization, i think we see that his Doctor is a boundary crosser like no other, for to equally convey two different aspects of the Tarot so well is a rarity, with the added bonus of his sheer charisma as an actor on top of that.

@anton - "Also I don't really see the 3rd Doctor as the Heirophant, I'd suggest the Emperor as a better fit..." Excellent thought. Both hartnell and pertwee occupy different aspects of the Heirophant, so i know that i would be more comfortable with the Emperor as a designation for the 3rd Doctor.

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encyclops 3 years ago

I don't know if this is relevant in any way, but this discussion made me think of it:

Every time I've seen "Robot" (and since "my Doctors" were Pertwee, Baker, and Davison, due to what my PBS station showed and the books I could get for my first formative years of fandom, I've seen "Robot" a few times), I've always been a little scandalized by the Doctor's sudden insolence regarding UNIT. The Third Doctor is more like I actually am -- prickly and resentful of authority, but in practice more likely to respect authority than not -- and the Fourth is more like I'd rather be -- relaxed, fearless, utterly careless of authority. So I'm a little scandalized and thrilled when, post-regeneration, he acts as though he barely cares about the threat at hand and is just looking for the first opportunity to rush off. (Pertwee did that at first but quickly settled into a pattern of apparent responsibility.)

Then when Baker regenerates into Davison, it's a little bit of a bummer because that insouciant bohemian is gone, but there's also a little bit of relief because the new Doctor is so clearly caring and considerate even under the scolding paternalism. Again, a little more like I (think I) am, a little less like I'd like to be.

I bring it up because of this question of "why Baker's characterization rang true" made me think of the different ways I react to the three Doctors that comprise my "home row." I'm not sure what to make of it, but maybe it'll spark something for someone else.

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Michael Fuller 3 years ago

Probably the best explanation. Sound bites out of context.

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Michael Fuller 3 years ago

I'll go a step further and say I don't think "the Mind Robber" is all that great. Episode one is great - a trippy masterpiece with an admittedly sexist bonus at the (cough) end - the rest always leave me wanting. The sets are bad and wooden (literally) and the black and white leaves the fairy tale aspect very distant, even ancient. The question I always ask in my mind is just how messed up is the imagination at work in that story to create a nasty little world that doesn't seem to mean much. I have seen it many times and I'm sure Sandifer's entry if I re-read it would enlighten me, but that's my take from many, many viewings.

For me, I guessed it would be "Tomb" before I even knew. It was the only logical choice. And, I'll say this as well, I like it. It's not the best story ever, but I never had that "seeing it and being disappointed thing" ... it's as disappointing visually and logically as "The Tenth Planet."

And, so you realize what I'm responding to fully, this was selected as an average representation of the era ... "The Mind of Evil" is not that just as much as "An Unearthly Child" was for Hartnell.

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Aaron 3 years ago

Thanks everybody, I'm glad you found my characterisation interesting. I'm glad people aren't necessarily happy with who I labeled as what. I'm not authoritative by any means, first because with any ordering system there are going to be platypi somewhere, and secondly because my own readings of each Doctor are necessarily going to be different than someone else's, and that difference is going to be incommensurable to some degree. Originally, I thought that Davison as the Fool was going to be the most problematic for people, not Pertwee as the Heirophant.

However, I can certainly see some of the points people make. I was seeing the alienating aspects of Pertwee's personality- how he dismisses the Brigadier constantly, how he just leaves to Metebelis III during The Green Death because he's bored by the Brigadier. His farewell to Jo, as well, is so meaningful because of his nature as a prickly, hard to relate to Doctor, because he himself knows he can never be there for Jo like Cliff can. On the other hand, he does certainly have that air of authority to him, that makes him take control of a situation, like the Magician. But the Sixth Doctor does as well. I wonder if the division would best be put in how they take control of a situation? Four and Ten do it by being the smartest people in the room, and by implicitly being more trustworthy than any other natural leaders.* Three, Six and Twelve do it by pure force of personality. No one particularly likes them when they're in charge, but they've shown themselves to be effective.

But I also see the interesting point that while Hartnell is mercurial like the Fool at time, Pertwee is authoritative like the Magician at times, making them very much opposite spectrums of the Heirophant, as a category. As a curiousity, anyone who likes the idea of splitting into four designations, how would you define the Emperor as distinct from the Heirophant or the Magician? Would you move anyone else into that category? Maybe you wouldn't, since as Phil has said the Third Doctor's characterisation is unique in that few further actors really follow up on it. Personally, I see more similarity than difference between those I labeled as Heirophant, but your mileage will always be different than mine.

*barring Midnight, which was always meant as a deconstruction of the Doctor as magician archetype. Imagine Troughton or Capaldi in that same situation, and they just simply wouldn't face the same problems as Tennant did. Troughton would be too likable, and would never cause himself to be the focal point of the passengers' fear, while Capaldi's strength of personality and his methodical focus on the problem would banish the thought anyone had of crossing him. In fact, Mummy On the Orient pretty much plays out that scenario for Capaldi, now that I think of it.

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Anton B 3 years ago

So, while we’re on the subject of esoteric equivalences in Doctors and as there are twelve to play with now, I thought it’d be fun to see if I could fit each incarnation to a sequential zodiac sign. Well…If you’ll allow me to start with Taurus for the First Doctor (I’m sure an argument could be made for a Gallifreyan calendar) it turns out you can. In astrological order then here are the twelve Doctors. (The positive and negative key word descriptions are from Astrology.com). I think you’ll agree the results are convincing.
1st Doctor Hartnell –Taurus. Stubborn, argumentative, secretive, opinionated with a strong and persistent drive.
2nd Doctor Troughton – Gemini. – Energetic, clever, imaginative, witty, adaptable, impulsive, restless, and devious.
3rd Doctor Pertwee – Cancer. Loyal, dependable, adaptable, responsive, moody, over sensitive and self-absorbed.
4th Doctor Tom Baker - Leo. Confident, loyal, encouraging, pretentious, domineering, melodramatic, stubborn and vain.
5thDoctor Davison – Virgo. Analytical, observant, helpful, reliable, precise, sceptical, fussy and interfering.
6th Doctor Colin Baker – Libra. Idealistic, judgemental, argumentative, superficial, vain, unreliable and indecisive.
7th Doctor McCoy- Scorpio. Loyal, resourceful, passionate, dynamic, obsessive and manipulative.
8th Doctor McGann- Sagittarius. Independent, optimistic, guided by good fortune, vibrant, expansive reckless and irresponsible.
9thDoctor Eccleston – Capricorn. Responsible, patient, loyal, resourceful, dictatorial, conceited and distrusting.
10th Doctor Tennant – Aquarius. Witty, clever, humanitarian, inventive, original, sarcastic, rebellious and aloof.
11th Doctor Matt Smith – Pisces. Compassionate, adaptable, devoted, imaginative, oversensitive, indecisive and escapist.
12th Capaldi – Aries. Independent, optimistic, enthusiastic, courageous, moody, short tempered, self involved, impulsive and impatient.

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Anton B 3 years ago

@Aaron
how would you define the Emperor as distinct from the Heirophant or the Magician?
Rachel Pollack in Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom describes the Emperor as symbolising the Freudian 'father image' which takes the form of the laws of society and the power that enforces them. I Pertwee's Doctor is indeed unique in his close relationship with establishment power structures - the military, the government etc. even though he doesn't always agree with them.

Pollack suggests that the Emperor card
'represents a crucial test. In the process of growing up it is indeed the rules of society that most people find difficult to surmount...people who feel compelled to flaunt all laws remain as bound to those laws as the person who follows them blindly'
I think this reading fits Pertwee who, as the embodiment of the punishment of the Time Lords for his previous incarnations indiscretions, must be seen to be learning the lesson of that ruling.

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encyclops 3 years ago

As someone who only spent four years in literary academia, I never quite got a handle on the currency enjoyed in critical circles by people like Freud and Jung and by systems like the Tarot, the Kabbalah, astrology, and alchemy. This is probably an ignorant question, but could someone either briefly explain (or point me to a source for beginning to understand) why these systems of thought are valued as frameworks for looking at literature and other systems are not?

My assumption has always been that it's not that critics believe that, say, Freud's models for how the mind works or the predictions of astrology are "true" so much as that they are rich enough systems of symbols that they provide a useful means of organizing thought.

To put it another way, let's imagine that I invented my own deck of cards that I called the Encyclops Deck, and it had five suits comprised of 16 cards each with very different archetypes from those represented in the Tarot. Is there something about the Tarot that makes it carry more weight than my made-up deck? Is it that the archetypes have been carefully thought out over the years and have proven to be more useful than the ones I just made up on the fly? Or is there some empirical root the Tarot has that my version doesn't, and if so what is it?

Hopefully my questions make sense. Sorry if they're dumb.

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Scurra 3 years ago

@encyclops: Nope, I entirely agree with you. I think it's merely an accident of timing that means that one particular "set" of archetypal models was adopted over any other (having said that, Joseph Campbell surely has a lot to answer for as well...)
My own feeling is that tvtropes.org has done an awful lot for breaking the stranglehold of the limited models offered by constrained environments of things like the Tarot - even if it hasn't yet been accepted by academia...
(On the other hand, I too liked Aaron's triptych - explaining very much why I love 1, 6 and 12, with a side-order of 9.)

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encyclops 3 years ago

Oh, yeah, definitely not trying to take anything away from the schemes Aaron and Anton are proposing -- they're both very interesting and fun frameworks, at the very least. They just raised the question in my mind, that's all.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years ago

You're forgetting the execrable Jewish caricature at the start of "Web", as well -- THAT would've seriously poisoned the well without foreknowledge, I think.

But, as far as I know, you may be the first person on this entire blog to seriously complain about Troughton blacking-up and the accent; everyone else on here has nothing but glowing praise for the story, without reservations.

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nimonus 3 years ago

encyclops: There is an argument (and here is one of the few areas where I often find myself in disagreement with our host) that it isn't entirely arbitrary, but rather represent universal features of human existence which, at least in a certain sense are persistent precisely because they are "true".

What is arbitrary, perhaps, is the framing of that experience in terms of the particular symbols of Western esotericism as opposed to any of the other symbolic systems which aim to articulate the same experience.

But there are, I would argue, far, far too many similarities between accounts of mystical experience in traditions ranging from traditional Shamanism, to Christianity to Sufism in Islam, to Hindu and Buddhist and Taoist meditation to simply ignore. There are variations, certainly, but the central experience of a (both liberating and terrifying) loss of the ego construct and boundaries between conceptual categories is so similar as to demand attention. Likewise, there are also commonalities to be found in the various different degrees and shades of experience and the different paths to reconciling that experience with our daily lives, that are cross-culturally relevant.

How you interpret this experience, and whether or not you attach any metaphysical significance to it is another matter entirely. But I would argue we have essentially the equivalent of centuries of empirical research - some of it extremely rigorous - into the contours of human consciousness taking place in countless independent laboratories (monastaries, meditation halls, etc) which reliably replicate one another's results. I think that deserves to be taken seriously.

The Tarot is only one symbolic articulation of these states of conscious experience, and there are others sure to be equally as applicable, developed in other cultural contexts. But the idea that a random symbolic system any given person devises with no reference to either those centuries of practice and exploration or their own fluency with mystical praxis would be even remotely as useful simply doesn't hold up, IMO.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years ago

I'd note that, of the things listed, only Freud and sort of Jung have much cachet in humanities academia. The esoteric stuff that I favor has next to no cachet, which is part of why I favor it - because it puts me at what seems to me a useful remove from the humanities academia I've consciously departed from while still using one of their basic assumptions, which is that any theoretical system that produces interesting and productive results is one worth using.

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nimonus 3 years ago

Oh, yes, you are right, I am forgetting that (or perhaps blocking it out because it is so awful). Shame on me. But it is just one, absolutely horribly judged scene, whereas the comedy Welshman and Salamander both last the duration of their respective stories.

And again, I did add the disclaimer that I love Enemy of the World despite the slightly squicky racial aspects. Enjoying and appreciating something and recognizing the fact that it is impacted negatively by the racist culture in which it was created are not mutually exclusive.

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nimonus 3 years ago

The broader question, for me, is whether any theoretical system is equally likely to produce interesting and productive results as any other (to which I would personally answer, no). The fact that multiple different frames of interpretation each produce useful results doesn't necessarily imply that any frame is just as good as another. I tend to follow Gadamer in insisting that there is still a standard of coherence to experience that needs to be met, and even if many different interpretive can cohere equally well, there are also others which simply don't, and that that difference is instructive.

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encyclops 3 years ago

Philip: Thanks! That puts your perspective in perspective for me.

nimonus: So what I'm inferring is that there's been plenty of study of these different traditions such that, say, the interpretations of the Tarot and Christian theology have been found to correlate in ways that can't be ascribed either to having been shaped by people having access to both (e.g. interpretations of the Tarot having been influenced by Christian theology) or to confirmation bias. That doesn't seem implausible to me, but I'd be interested in a few pointers to the (probably considerable) areas of scholarship where that analysis has been done. I'm guessing "Gadamer" is one of those pointers, yes?

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years ago

Aside from the blacking-up, though, the story is really refreshingly progressive -- women taking charge, especially women of color -- that sort of thing. That really impressed me the first time I saw it. :-)

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nimonus 3 years ago

Yes and no.

Actually the Tarot as a symbolic system is deeply tied to the history of Hermetic Christian mysticism (which is not the only branch of Christian mysticism), so that particular set of ties is down to a direct influence.

The more interesting set of correspondences occur where there are no direct lines of influence. The Cloud of Unknowing, for instance, a seminal text of early Christian mysticism, or the poetry of Rumi were very unlikely to have in any way influenced or been influenced by Buddhism and yet describe a similar experience as do Mahayana texts.

Actually, Gadamer doesn't talk about any of this, though I would argue he is still relevant here*.

For a primer on the similarities (and differences) between various forms of mystical experience, there are a number of places to look. William James's classic The Varieties of Religious Experience is one. Rudolph Otto's The Idea of the Holy is another. For more contemporary sources, check out Newberg and D'aquili's "Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief". Even radical Atheist Sam Harris devotes a chapter to this idea in The End of Faith, and has a whole book on it published recently called "Waking Up", though he is basically just presenting Buddhism with all of the interesting mythological dimensions cut out. Ooh, and also check out Charles Long's "Significations" for a take on how Otto's Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans can be and has been a resource for oppressed peoples to assert their innate dignity over and against the culturally proscribed roles and definitions ascribed to them.

For a more philosophical take on this set of experiences and the way they are filtered though but ultimately transcend our cultural and conceptual frameworks (and one which illustrates why I believe Gadamer, who says nothing about it is still relevant here) definitely check out Paul Ricoeur's Figuring the Sacred.

Then just look at the primary sources. A fun game to play is to take quotations from mystics from many different religious traditions, remove any attributions and try and determine the religious background of each based purely on what they say. It's remarkably difficult, precisely because the experiences they describe are basically the same.


* Gadamer talks about interpretation of texts and more broadly argues for a hermenutic approach to truth. Multiple different interpretations can fit and help us to gain a greater sense of meaning from texts, and indeed, we each bring our own preconceptions, our own horizon of understanding to the act of interpretation which inevitably brings certain elements of the text into focus for us that may be obscured for others. But there are still bad readings, ones which don't fit or cohere to the text itself. For Gadamer, a "classic" is a text which speaks to us and in which we can find relevance across the divides between cultures and generations. When the horizon of the text fits with the conscious experience of many different generations, it is likely disclosing something "true" about the human experience as such - that is, something universal.

I would argue (drawing on Ricoeur) that much the same thing can be said of the literature of mysticism in many different traditions.

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David Anderson 3 years ago

Making up your own deck of cards with its own archetypes is arguably exactly what William Blake did. For good (his archetypes have more traction in describing early nineteenth century Western culture, and ours in so far as ours is closely related), and for bad (they're much harder to communicate with).

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elvwood 3 years ago

I have a pretty random collection of books on Tarot and related subjects, since most of them came from secondhand shops. My favourite is Jan Woudhuysen's Tarotmania. He sees tarot as a means of getting some conscious access to your subconscious mind through the use of symbols, a psychological argument which resonates for me more than more mystical versions.

Woudhuysen advocates creating your own tarot. He suggests basing this on the traditional set of cards, because he sees the symbols as eternal but the meaning of the symbols as very personal. The important thing, though, is that whatever deck you create should be rich in symbols that your subconscious mind can work with.

I like to play about with alternatives myself. I'm currently working on a deck using five suits instead of four, although it includes all the standard trumps together with a few extra to fill out a pattern. The key word here is 'playing' - I'm not claiming any mystical insight or planning to do serious readings using this set, but you never know - I might stick a webpage up if it seems to have some value.

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Anton B 3 years ago

@encyclops
I'll try and keep this simple. My interest in the esoteric and the occult is more aesthetic than spiritual. As others have noted, the traditions and imagery of Tarot have long and deep roots. Personally I am drawn to the Jewish Kabbalistic symbolism of the cards and the resonances of the illustrations of the traditional 'Rider Waite' deck, (named after its deviser and illustrator, both members of the Order of the Golden Dawn) which, for me, contain imagery that evokes both the illustrations from my childhood reading and a vague suggestion of a British/Northern European heritage. There are many other designs and the one that works best for you will be the one that resonates most with your own personal iconography and beliefs.

In that respect and to answer your question, yes it would be entirely possible for you to work with a set of cards of your own devising. They would not, strictly speaking, be Tarot cards unless they adhered to the generally accepted symbolism, albeit using your own imagery. Think of it this way. You could certainly write a Doctor Who novel without adhering to any of the accepted 'canon' but whether it would function as a successful Doctor Who novel would depend entirely on your own subjective criteria.

As to astrology; again, its appeal for me is more that I find the imagery, resonances and synchronicities aesthetically interesting and an effective meditation aid rather than for its debatable usefulness as a divination tool. The exercise I undertook above to match incarnations of Doctors to specific 'star signs' using a simplistic Astrology website found through a Google seach (I'd not visited it before and probably won't again) can, interestingly, either be taken as 'proof' that there are equivalences between astrological signs and the order of the Doctors or equally as 'proof' that it's all bunkum and you can make anything fit anything. I leave that to you.

I think of it like an analogue clock face. If my watch says it's five thirty it's not because it is universally five thirty throughout the multiverse. It couldn't be. It's merely telling me that in my own personal cosmology I, and a number of other people (most importantly my boss) agree it is time to leave work. Similarly just because you might draw the Fool card from a Tarot deck in a reading or be born under the sign of Aries this may only have limited universal resonance and have more meaning in your personal beliefs or in your agreed, shared universe.

I expect there will be a discussion of the creation of personal mythologies and belief systems when we get to the Grant Morrison section of Last War in Albion that deals with Chaos Magick.

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nimonus 3 years ago

David: True, but Blake also had visions. You can make a map of a given territory (in this case, the terrain of human conscious states and experiences) either by visiting that territory oneself and then jotting down what you remember, or by extensive study of reports from those who have surveyed it or some combination thereof.

Likewise, you can develop effective medicines either through extensive empirical testing or through fortunate happenstance, as happened with the discovery of penicillin. But I wouldn't expect *any* random chemical to work equally as well as another if I inject it into my body.

elvwood: Yes, I think that is also part of the picture too. Though the idea of the "subconscious mind" is itself probably best thought of as a useful metaphor. In any event, we are still talking about the continuum of conscious states and conscious experiences, of which mystical states are admittedly only one end.

encyclops: I realize I gave you a very intimidatingly large list there, probably more useful as a demonstration of the breadth of the field than as actual practical advice for what to read.

Probably the easiest and most accessible place to start (if not necessarily the richest), particularly for the argument that these convergent experiences correlate to universal features of human consciousness and particularly if you are scientifically minded, is Newberg and D'Aquili.

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encyclops 3 years ago

Thanks, nimonus, David, elvwood, and Anton -- this discussion is super helpful and I appreciate you answering the question in such detail!

I was deeply interested in astrology, mysticism, the paranormal, etc. at pretty much exactly the same time I was getting into Doctor Who (age 10-12 or so), but have never really been religious and today would consider myself a skeptic. But since I am skeptical even of my own skepticism, and since I'd agree with the general sentiment that there's a psychological reason (if nothing else) why humanity is drawn to these ways of organizing our ideas about our own consciousness, I'm definitely interested at that level.

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

"I was hoping for minimalism, but I think I came up with magician."

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nimonus 3 years ago

Yes, that is also true. I love Fariah!

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nimonus 3 years ago

Like I said, I think Newberg and d'Aquilli will make sense to those of a skeptical and/or scientific mindset, but if you want to hear the case made by an arch-skeptic, check out Sam Harris' chapter on Mysticism in The End of Faith or his new book "Waking Up". Or, if you want someone a bit more up front about the fact that they are basically just repackaging Buddhism for Atheists, check out Steven Batchelor's "Buddhism Without Beliefs", though obviously that doesn't speak to the notion of cross-cultural applicability.

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quislibet 3 years ago

I remember seeing "The Mind Robber," "Tomb," and "The War Games" on PBS as a teenager in mid-80s Ohio. But nobody was showing "The Highlanders" anywhere at all, surely -- isn't that one of the missing ones? Perhaps he was reacting to Jamie in one of the surviving stories.

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Seeing_I 3 years ago

@ ScarvesandCelery: Stop trying to make "streets ahead" happen.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years ago

Her and Astrid pretty much own the story, as far as female characters go -- they're so awesome. :-)

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