The Definite Article You Might Say: The 4th Doctor

By Last Updated: February 25, 2024Views: 2731

Its Doctor Who Week on DaddyElk! The Series 9 premier is coming this Saturday and to celebrate we’re going to be doing all kinds of Who-related content starting with revisiting some old articles written for the 50th anniversary highlighting my take on the 3rd, 4th,  5th, 6th & 7th Doctors. In addition to regenerating (see what I did there?) this old content there will be tidbits and trivia scattered throughout the week. Allons-y!

What they say in fandom is that the first Doctor you see, the one who is in place when you first start watching, is your Doctor; the one that all other Doctors are judged by. For me this is true and more so. You see, for me the fourth Doctor was the first doctor and the only Doctor. I didn’t know there were any others or that there was going to be any others.

So, when Tom Baker changed into Peter Davison at the end of Logopolis I remember confusion, “What the heck?” I screamed at my TV (actually I was a kid growing up in Philadelphia at the time so my language was probably a bit stronger, but I’m trying to keep this family friendly). “You can’t just change the main character to someone else!” I raged, “Well I’m just by-golly angry!” (Again, imagine stronger language).

So how could this happen? How could someone, albeit a kid, call themselves a fan and watch a program for years and not know one of the most basic facts about the programs history? I will attempt to explain.

First off Doctor Who in the late 70s was not exactly a popular show. Perhaps there were other kids in my neighborhood who watched the show as religiously as I did but I did not know of them. We didn’t talk about it, we didn’t play Doctor (Doctor Who that is), and we didn’t wear t-shirts or have Who lunchboxes. For all intent and purpose Doctor Who was mine, my secret show that I enjoyed and did not share. And to be honest I didn’t want to share. My peers would make fun of how “cheap” it looked, they wouldn’t understand. I kept it to myself.

There was a way for me to learn a bit of trivia and history, the PBS pledge drive. Now for those of you unfamiliar with American Public Television, it’s a bit like the BBC in that it’s publicly funded, has a mandate for cultural or educational programming and contains many programs from the BBC. Unlike the BBC it is woefully underfunded and is forced a few times a year to hold a pledge drive in which highly qualified and educated men and women are forced to beg for money for hours at time in order to provide American with cultural and educational programming.

During these pledge drives the hosts would occasionally provide the viewer with the history and trivia of the program you were just watching. Had I watched these pledge drives I would have learned a wealth of information about Doctor Who. Including the fact that Tom Baker was not the first person to play the Doctor, he was in fact the fourth person to play him. This and other information would have been really helpful and interesting. I did not watch the pledge drives.

And so in the end I was not spared the shock of having my favorite character suddenly changes into someone else. I suppose the shock would have been alleviated, but not the disappointment. The Fourth Doctor was, for me, the perfect hero.

Tom Baker’s Doctor was big and exuberant and funny and intense and mysterious. But most of all he was smart. He was unlike any other hero I read about or watched. He wasn’t the perfect looking model; he didn’t punch or shoot his way out of trouble. Instead he talked his way out and he used his intelligence to think of a solution. And he did it all while wearing a floppy hat and a ridiculous scarf and being bold and brash.

In time of course I came to enjoy all the incarnations and the actors who played him; embracing (for the most part) each one’s unique take on the character. But when I think of the Doctor I think of him wearing a long multi-colored scarf and a tin dog and, yes, occasionally mugging for the camera with a big toothy grim. The Fourth was my first, he is my Doctor. He is a part of my childhood and a part of my present. Not a Doctor but the Doctor. The definite article, you might say.

My Favorite Fourth Doctor Episodes

I could just list them all, but instead I will just narrow it down to 10 (in no particular order):

  1. Brain of Morbius: Frankenstein meets the Doctor
  2. Genesis of the Daleks: Do I have the right?
  3. The Arc in Space: Bugs in space!
  4. The City of Death: Douglas Adams, say no more
  5. The Pirate Planet: Again, Douglas Adams
  6. The Deadly Assassin: Gallifrey, the Matrix and Robert Holmes
  7. Warriors’ Gate: Just crazy fun
  8. Robots of Death: Name says it all
  9. The Talons of Weng-Chiang: If you get past the racism its actually quite good
  10. Terror of the Zygons: The Doctor, the Loch Ness Monster and the Brig

This article was originally published on November 17th, 2003

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