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  1. #1
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    Default Steven Moffat's favourite (old) Doctor....

    Just found this interesting article written by Steven Moffat in 1996, for the CMS 'In-Vision' magazine No.62 (reposted on DWF by poster Ryanzavier). I wonder if it'll have any bearings on the next Doctor, if he gets a hand in choosing the successor....

    ================================================== ====

    THE ONE (OUT OF SEVEN)

    Steven Moffat, author of the BAFTA and Montreux Award-winning series PRESS GANG and JOKING APART, recalls how Peter Davison brought a new quality to the role of the Doctor — and almost saved a twenty-something fan from embarrassment in the process...

    Back when I was in my early twenties, I thought Doctor Who was the scariest programme on television. I had one particular Who-inspired nightmare which haunts me to this day — except it wasn't a nightmare at all, it was something that happened to me on a regular basis. I'd be sitting watching Doctor Who on a Saturday, absolutely as normal... but I'd be in the company of my friends!!

    Being a fan is an odd thing, isn't it? I was in little doubt — though I never admitted it, even to myself — that Doctor Who was nowhere near as good as it should have been, but for whatever reason I'd made that mysterious and deadly emotional connection with the show that transforms you into a fan and like a psychotically devoted supporter of a floundering football club, I turned out every Saturday in my scarf, grimly hoping the production team would finally score.

    Of course my friends all knew my devotion to the Doctor had unaccountably survived puberty and had long since ceased to deride me for it. I think (I hope) they generally considered me someone of reasonable taste and intelligence and decided to indulge me in this one, stunningly eccentric lapse. And sometimes, on those distant Saturday afternoons before domestic video my nightmare would begin. I'd be stuck out somewhere with those friends and I'd realise in a moment of sweaty panic that I wasn't going to make it home in time for the programme—or worse, they' d be round at my house not taking the hint to leave — so on my infantile insistence we'd all troop to the nearest television and settle down to watch, me clammy with embarrassment at what was to come, my friends tolerant, amused and even open-minded.

    And the music would start. And I'd grip the arms of my chair. And I'd pray! Just this once, I begged, make it good. Not great, not fantastic —just good. Don't, I was really saying, show me up.

    And sometimes it would start really quite well. There might even be a passable effects shot (there were more of those than you might imagine) and possibly a decent establishing scene where this week's expendable guest actors popped outside to investigate that mysterious clanking/groaning/beeping/slurping sound before being found horribly killed/gibbering mad an episode later.

    At this point I might actually relax a little. I might even start breathing and let my hair unclench. And then it would be happen. The star of the show would come rocketing through the door, hit a shuddering halt slap in the middle of the set and stare at the camera like (and let's be honest here) a complete moron.

    I'd hear my friends shifting in their chairs. I could hear sniggers tactfully suppressed. Once one of them remarked (with touching gentleness, mindful of my feelings) that this really wasn't terribly good acting.

    Of course, as even they would concede, Tom Baker (for it was he) had been good once — even terrific — but he had long since disappeared up his own art in a seven-year-long act of self-destruction that took him from being a dangerous young actor with a future to a sad, mad old ham safely locked away in a voice-over booth.

    Which brings us, of course, to Peter Davison (for it was about to be him). I was appalled when he was cast. I announced to my bored and blank-faced friends that Davison was far too young, far too pretty, and far, far too wet to play television's most popular character (as, I deeply regret to say, I described the Doctor). Little did I realise, back in 1982, that after years of anxious waiting on the terraces in my front room, my home team were about to score — or that Davison was about to do something almost never before seen in the role of the Doctor. He was going to act.

    Let's get something straight, because if you don't know now it's time you did. Davison was the best of the lot. Number One! It's not a big coincidence or some kind of evil plot, that he's played more above-the-title lead roles on the telly than the rest of the Doctors put together. It's because-get this!-he's the best actor.

    You don't believe me? Okay, let's check out the opposition, Doctor-wise (relax, I'll be gentle).

    1. William Hartnell. Look, he didn't know his lines! (okay, fairly gentle. It wasn't his fault) and it's sort of a minimum requirement of the lead actor dial he knows marginally more about what's going to happen next than the audience. In truth, being replaceable was his greatest gift to the series. Had the first Doctor delivered a wonderful performance they almost certainly would not have considered a recast and the show would have died back in the sixties.

    2. Patrick Troughton. Marvellous! Troughton, far more than the dispensable, misremembered Hartnell, was the template for the Doctors to come and indeed his performance is the most often cited as precedent for his successors. Trouble is, the show in those days was strictly for indulgent ten-year-olds (and therefore hard to judge as an adult). Damn good, though, and Davison's sole competitor.

    3. Jon Pertwee. The idea of a sort of Jason King with a sillier frock isn't that seductive, really, is it? In fairness he carried a certain pompous gravitas and was charismatic enough to dominate the proceedings as the Doctor should. Had his notion of the character been less straightforwardly heroic he might have pulled off something a little more interesting. His Worzel Gummidge, after all,is inspired and wonderful.

    4. Tom Baker. Thunderingly effective at the start, even if his interpretation did seem to alter entirely to fit this week's script. (Compare, say, THE SEEDS OF DOOM and THE CITY OF DEATH. Is this supposed to be the same person?) I think I've said quite enough already about his sad decline so let's just say that it's nice to see him back on top form in Medics. Well, is was while it lasted.

    5. Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. Miscast and floundering. Neither made much impression on the role and none at all on the audience. Or at least on me.

    ----------------------------------------------------------



    (continued in following post, too many words!)
    “If my sons did not want wars, there would be none.” - Gutle Schnaper Rothschild

  2. #2
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    (continued....)

    -----------------------------------------------------

    So what makes Davison — for me — the best, and his episodes the ones I wouldn't mind watching in the company of my most cynical and sarcastic friends? I'm certainly not claiming the show was suddenly high art or great drama — it was after all, the adventures of space man in a frock coat who lives in a flying telephone box — but for a brief three years it seemed to take the job of being an entertaining, adventure-romp for kids of all
    ages with just the right mix of seriousness and vivacity, the way Lois And Clark does so adroitly now and the leading man, bless him. was really delivering.

    It's become traditional to say that the Doctor is not an acting part — I think Tom Baker started it and he certainly seemed increasingly determined to prove it true. This is, of course, nonsense. Like any other heroic character in melodrama, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes,Tarzan — he has his motivations and fallibilities. In fact, the Doctor's are rather well defined — perhaps unusually so, for a "Hero'.

    We know him to be a sort of academic aristocrat who one day, on a simple moral imperative, erupts from the cloisters and roars through time and space on a mission to end all evil in the universe, unarmed and,if possible, politely.

    Consider for a moment — as you would have to if you were casting this part — what kind of man makes a decision like that? He's profoundly emotional (it's a profoundly emotional decision), he's idealistic (unarmed?? Not even a truncheon??), he feels the suffering of others with almost unbearable acuteness (or he'd have stayed at home like we all do when there s a famine or a massacre on the news), he's almost insanely impulsive (I don't think I need explain that one) and he is, above all, an innocent — because only an innocent would try to take on the entire cosmos and hope to persuade it to behave a little better. Now look at the seven Doctors. Which one best fits the picture? Which one could you see acting this way? Be honest — it's number five.

    It wouldn't surprise me, given the meticulous actor Davison is known to be, that some of the above was actually thought through and consciously foregrounded in his interpretation. Certainly, he seemed to reject the theatrical eccentricity of his predecessors (leading to the ridiculous criticisms that he's 'bland' and 'wet') in favour of a more visceral, emotional performance, emphasising the Doctor's anxieties and escalating panic in the face of disaster.

    Davison's Doctor is beautifully unaware that he is a hero — he simply responds as he feels he must when confronted with evil and injustice, and does so with a very 'human' sense of fluster and outrage. In one of the comparatively few perfect decisions in Doctor Who, Davison is allowed to finally expire saving, not the entire universe, but just one life. This isn't to show, as has been suggested, that he's any less capable or powerful than the other Doctors —just that, for him, saving one life is as great an imperative as saving a galaxy. This, then, is the Doctor as I believe he ought to be — someone who would brave a supernova to rescue a kitten from a tree.

    But that's not the whole picture, is it? A terrific central performance — but what about the stories? Astonishingly, they were pretty damn good too. Only Twice in the whole run did the show lapse into the embarrassing (TIME-FLIGHT and WARRIORS OF THE DEEP) which, given my team's previous propensity for own goals, showed amazing restraint and there were whole runs of straight-forward but corkingly well realised yarns (THE VISITATION, FRONTIOS, MAWDRYN UNDEAD, RESURRECTION OF THE DALEKS, ENLIGHTENMENT, THE AWAKENING, THE FIVE DOCTORS and quite a few others). And there were some real stand-outs, weren't there? EARTHSHOCK, for instance, while having a story crafted almost entirely out of gaping plot holes had some cracking set pieces, thumping good direction, and some real 'moments' (Davison's first sighting of the Cybermen being my favourite). THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI, while again needing some tightening up on the plot front (I mean just where was the Doc during episode 3) was also superbly directed, had a terrific guest villain (Christopher Gable) and Davison's all time best Doctor performance as his heart-breaking doomed innocent gives his all to save a woman he's only just met.

    Best of all, of course, there was KINDA and there was SNAKEDANCE and if you don't know those are the two best Who stories ever you probably stopped reading after I slagged off Tom Baker anyway.

    I find it genuinely surprising that Who fans don't routinely consider the Davison era to be their finest hour. It's only serious competition in terms of consistency and quality are the early Tom Baker stories and those, being largely a set of one-note Hammer hand-me-downs, lack the same variety and ambition.

    Is it because Davison doesn't fit the established, middle-aged image of the Time Lord — even though, with twelve regenerations the Doctor must be a rather young Gallifreyan with, we know, a definitively youthful, rebellious outlook? Is it that some fans had actually latched on to tackier, more juvenile style of the earlier seasons and actually missed that approach? Whatever the explanation, if it's possible for anyone to watch something like KINDA and not realise the show was suddenly in a whole different class then I find that slightly worrying. Perhaps — no definitely — there's something about being a fan that skews your critical judgements.

    Still, never mind all that. Back when the Eighties were young, and I was still one of those fans, all I cared about was that my show was suddenly kicking sci-fi bottom and I was proud and renewed in my faith. And once, on a visit to London, I persuaded my smart and cynical (and now slightly older) friends that Doctor Who really was a new and better show — respectable, intelligent, well made. And I persuaded them, for the first time in a long time, to watch an episode with me. I wasn't forced to, this time — I had a VCR recording at home, I could always see it later — but I wanted to surprise them with just how much better my team was playing.

    So after much persuasion from me, we all sat down together and watched the panto horse episode of WARRIORS OF THE DEEP.

    ================================================== =====

    “If my sons did not want wars, there would be none.” - Gutle Schnaper Rothschild

  3. #3
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    I remember him being pretty scathing about Tom Baker after season 12 in an article in DWM many years back. he said Tom pretty much stopped acting and just did what he wanted after his first season once he realised he was a success. Or something.

    He's probably broadly right, but that doesn't mean that any of them were necessarily bad- just not acting a part- being themselves broadly instead.
    Poor old Colin and Slyv though. How many times have we heard that same old miscast thing trotted out?

    Si xx

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  4. #4
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    Interesting. Though Snakedance is, and always will be, crap.

    I can see what he means about Tom, but he still could deliver the goods when required - Horror of Fang Rock, Image of the Fendahl, the opening episodes of The Invasion of Time, the confrontation in The Pirate Planet, The Creature from the Pit ("Have a care yourself") Warriors' Gate, Logopolis...

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    IYO, of course Pip! I really like it.

    Si xx

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  6. #6

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    Oh, haven't read this for some years now, cheers for putting it up, Perry.

    I suspect he'd be a bit more tactful if he was writing that now though.

  7. #7
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    I absolutely hated Sylv's time as the Doctor - rewatching it I've come to appreciate more what he did, but both Colin and Sylv suffered from not having anything really classic story wise.

    We remember Davison fondly for Earthshock, but erase Timeflight from our mind! You remember the highs and not the lows.

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    It's a shame he has to slag off six other Doctors in order to make his point. To call Pertwee's five, long, multi-layered years in the part "uninteresting" (is his performance in Episode 6 of "Inferno" or Episode 6 of "The Green Death" really not worth more comment?) or to make the astounding conclusion that the man who held the series together for it's first four years was good only for being so bad it enabled him to be replaced is just ignorant, and in my opinion makes him sound no better than the intolerant, raving fanboys I'm sure he sniggers at when he sits dreaming up how best to piss them off in his new series.

    Si.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Si Hunt View Post
    It's a shame he has to slag off six other Doctors in order to make his point. To call Pertwee's five, long, multi-layered years in the part "uninteresting" (is his performance in Episode 6 of "Inferno" or Episode 6 of "The Green Death" really not worth more comment?) or to make the astounding conclusion that the man who held the series together for it's first four years was good only for being so bad it enabled him to be replaced is just ignorant, and in my opinion makes him sound no better than the intolerant, raving fanboys I'm sure he sniggers at when he sits dreaming up how best to piss them off in his new series.

    Si.
    I agree entirely!

    I happen to think that Davison is one of this country's most under-rated actors, but that doesn't necessarily diminish the talents of all the other Doctors!

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    Quote Originally Posted by SiHart View Post
    Poor old Colin and Slyv though. How many times have we heard that same old miscast thing trotted out?
    If what BF productions I've heard are anything to go by, I wouldn't say that Colin was miscast; more his incarnation was badly thought-out. And if Sylv could've been allowed to play the Doctor as he did in Remembrance more often...

  11. #11

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    In my opinion the first four Doctors are so far above all the rest (good though they are) that they're almost incomparable!

    Tom at his laziest is still far more watchable and entertaining than Peter Davison! And Hartnell is magnificent.

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    It's besides the point anyway. He's welcome to think they are miscast - but for a Doctor Who producer or, even if you take into account the time of print, at the very least an industry professional, to opinion it in a Doctor Who publication is just mean-spirited and nasty. I mean, by all means give your opinions but present a reasoned argument. To make stupid sweeping statements akin to "Hartnell - good for nothing, Troughton - ok, but it was a kids show, Pertwee - boring" etc. just makes him look petty. If he had any dignity he wouldn't say anything if he didn't have anything nice to say about those gentlemen, who all gave our show a new lease of life in different ways when they played the part. This is why he makes me not like him I'm afraid.

    Si.

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    Thinking about it, with a name like 'Moffat' it's no wonder he likes Peter Davison so much...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Si Hunt View Post
    is his performance in Episode 6 of "Inferno" or Episode 6 of "The Green Death" really not worth more comment?
    Why, what does he do in those that's different?
    “If my sons did not want wars, there would be none.” - Gutle Schnaper Rothschild

  15. #15

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    Moffat has since admitted that he was being rather full of himself at the time. In fact he expressed himself in a much more extreme and opinionated fashion in a fanzine interview or something around the same time (basically saying the 60s stuff was rubbish, and the series mainly inept, and how Davison was virtually the only Doctor who could act), and in apology for which, he said this, last year (ish):

    I think I did say that some time - but as a joke. Possibly it was for a fanzine - can't remember its name, but I think it was New Zealand based and the interviewer was definitely David Bishop. Paul Cornell and Andy Lane were the main interviewees, cos this was over ten years ago and they'd written New Adventures - at the time I had no real connection to Doctor Who at all (goodness, was the world ever so?) If I'm right, it's available somewhere on the internet, and oh God, it's vile. Well, I'm vile. Full of myself, pompous, and dismissing all the writers of the old show as lazy hacks. Dear God, I blush, I cringe, I creep. I walked out of the interview, high on my own giddy genius, and wrote Chalk, one of the most loathed and derided sitcoms in the history of the form. The thing about life, you can always rely on it to administer a good slap when required.

    Find it, read it, hate me - I did.

  16. #16
    Captain Tancredi Guest

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    I don't think tact has ever been one of Moffat's strongpoints, but as a fan writer aiming your material at the fanzine level, you have the luxury of being able to say some fairly wounding things about people in the confidence that they probably won't read them and don't know who you are. It's not something you have as a TV professional where everybody networks with everybody else and things catch up with you. Fandom in the first half of the 1990s had been particularly scathing about the Pertwee era, pretty much until his death, and at the same time the Davison era was being rediscovered as being a bit more in tune with the ethos of the New Adventures. If he criticised Tom Baker's performance at the time (and I seem to recall it being along the lines of "in Season 12 he's still paying attention to the other actors") then nowadays as a successful writer-producer he probably has the professionalism to realise that by not paying attention to the other actors, Tom was creating an iconic portrayal which raised the series' profile and was (at least until recently) what most people would identify as the Doctor.

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    Why, what does he do in those that's different?
    Those are just two episodes that come to mind in which Jon Pertwee's performance is urgent, affecting, and certainly not uninteresting. I was thinking of the manic desperation as he wakes up in "our" Earth again and knows he must save it, after realising that "things matter" after all. And I'm surprised you've forgotton his tearful moment at the end of "The Green Death" - the Doctor downing his drink in one and then looking at the glass to say "that's life my friend, now I've got to move on" is, I think, a brilliant moment of unspoken sadness, and a surprisingly human gesture. We've all done similar at some time or another.

    Jon's tenure is full of little moments like that, but those two were just the ones that sprung to mind.

    Si.

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    This is old news (over a decade old). Get with the program.

    Quote Originally Posted by Perry Vale
    Why, what does he do in those that's different?
    Look less like an old woman?

  19. #19

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    Hmm. I'd certainly agree* with him that Hartnell is the most over-rated of all the actors. Not because he was awful, but because nobody ever seems to have a bad word to say against him (probably because he was the first and most fans these days won't have been born, or at least have been wide-eyed kids, when he was around). And also because most of the other are UNDER-rated half the time.



    *although he didn't actually say that.

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    I walked out of the interview, high on my own giddy genius, and wrote Chalk, one of the most loathed and derided sitcoms in the history of the form.
    I quite liked Chalk.

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    Hmm. I'd certainly agree* with him that Hartnell is the most over-rated of all the actors.
    ?!? He's come in the bottom two Favourite Doctors in just about every fan opinion poll of the last 20 years!

    Si.

  22. #22

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    Weeeell that's slightly different in a way. I'm sure he doesn't get many votes as favourite Doctor, because everyone's too busy voting for Tom Baker or Jon Pertwee (or the later Doctor's if they're a little younger). So he probably would come quite low in a poll, but if you actually ask for opinions on him nobody ever really seems to have much of a bad word about him, and he certainly seems to be regarded as "higher quality" than any of the 80s Doctors, almost by default. Well at least this is the impression I've got over the years.

  23. #23

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    Apologies for bumping this thread but for the world's most angriest Scot who keeps sharing this thread on other sites to show how Moffat was bullied by social justice thingies, get some therapy.
    Seriously get some therapy.

  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dino View Post
    Apologies for bumping this thread but for the world's most angriest Scot who keeps sharing this thread on other sites to show how Moffat was bullied by social justice thingies, get some therapy.
    Seriously get some therapy.
    Yeah cause that's mature. How will I ever respond to such a nuanced argument of telling me to get some therapy. You got me there. Why not try going through my points and debunking them.

    Tell me did the right on crowd, whatever you want to call them not slander Steven Moffat? Is there not proof of him saying that it bothered him? Has there not by a bizarre coincidence been pandering to them since 2014 with things like Missy, anti men comments, cringey anti Trump remarks, culminating in Jodie's casting?

    Go on tell me how I'm wrong except you can't so you just do what all people without an argument do and attack the person.

    You know its people like you who have killed DW as much as the Social Justice Warriors.

    You are spineless. You know damn well there is an agenda behind the new series. Lets face you'd have to not have a head to not notice it.

    But you are so scared of being called sexist, racist, homophobic etc that you not only don't call it out, but you insult other people who are willing to do it like me.

    When Jodie's Doctor fails miserably I'll be back here again. You'd think I wouldn't have to considering the failure of Missy but alas you people are so spineless it'll take the destruction of the entire series to convince you.

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    Well, reading your post doesn't give us a whole lot to go on really. It's full of opinions, where are you facts?

    You say Missy was a failure. How so? In what way?

    You say Jodie will fail. That's just your opinion, that's not a fact. She's had two minutes on screen so far, nothing else. We don't know how she will go down, but you've obviously judged her already and decided.

    I hope Jodie does well and proves you wrong and Doctor Who goes from strength to strength. It's a programme all about change and renewal and being open minded and tolerant. It's something of a shame that some of its fans can't embrace that.

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

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