Monday, November 5, 2012

Doctor Who?

Three things spring to most people's minds when you say "Doctor Who," depending on their age, I think. The first is the TARDIS, the blue box what travels in time and space and is bigger on the inside.

...if that holds true for this, too, I should be able to get an extra large pepperoni and 2 liter of Pepsi in it, no probs.
 The other two are just about equally split between the most popular actors to play the character.

Tom Baker was the Fourth Doctor, and he had the longest run of all so far. John Pertwee regenerated into Tom Baker in the cold winter of '78 and the Fourth Doctor ran his floppy hatted, long scarved, widely smiling, Jelly Baby handing out Time Lord ass all over the entirety of Time and Space (and E-Space) until the spring of '81, when he handed the reins over to Peter Davison. He was a madcap, and it showed in almost everything he did.

"A sonic PROBE, you said?" asked Davros.
 David Tennant roared into the role as the Tenth Doctor in 2005, taking over from the very able Chrisotpher Eccleston, and making it entirely his own. He had some very memorable adventures as the Doctor, and ran into all manner of beastie, even some from the Classic Series which had changed, like the Macra and Cybermen, or which had stayed largely the same, such as the Daleks or even the Master. (No goatee, though. For shaaame!) He stayed until 2010, when he passed the role on and Matt Smith took over.

Ugh. You know where that's been? Look up.
One of the things I like about the 2005 version of the show is its reverence for the Classic Series. Every once in a while, you'll see a "roll call" of the previous incarnations of the Doctor, and in particular when the Eleventh Doctor shows his library card, and ooh! Guess who's there?

"Take the picture, will you, my boy, HMM? I haven't got all of time and space to wait for you to find the button."
 That Doctor, the definitive article, as you might say, was played by William Hartnell from '63 to '66, briefly reprised for a one-off appearance with his two successors in "The Three Doctors." He was an irascible old man, and he made a lot of mistakes in his early adventures. The First Doctor was a scientist and a grandfather, and an exile from his people.

Now... hold on a minute. I'm going to put something here that should describe him nicely.

"He was a tall, elderly man, all dressed in black, with slick white hair pulled back, except for a rebellious lock on his forehead. He was smiling an all-knowing, mephistophelean smile, such as Milton could have given to his Lucifer. His eyes were of a penetrating blue; they never wavered..."

And another...

"An old man, dressed all in black. He was tallish, wrapped in a cloak and wore a fur hat and a long, striped scarf. His silver hair was slick and long in the back, with a rebellious lock tilting upward on his forehead. His eyes blazed with intelligence, and a prominent, beaky nose gave his face an arrogant and somewhat aristocratic look."

That's pretty accurate, yeah? Except... it isn't. That's not a description of the First Doctor, but of another character, someone out of French pulp fiction. The person being described is Doctor Omega, from a novel written and published in 1906 by Arnould Galopin about this person who is cut off from his own people and, with his three companions, travels through time and space in his ship, which is like nothing else on Earth.

"Oh, dear me."
 The best part about all this is it's all a coincidence. Sydney Newman, the creator of Doctor Who, had never heard of Doctor Omega and Galopin's book, which isn't all that far-fetched.

After hearing all this the first time, I was skeptical. Now, having read the translated-from-the-French and slightly-revised Doctor Omega from Black Coat Press, I'm more convinced the similarities are mere coincidence. That's not to say some of the revisions made to the novel by the brains behind Black Coat Press weren't made with the mind of making the story closer to a First Doctor adventure. If anything, the ties between the two have been strengthened by this, and by the frequent use of Doctor Omega as the First Doctor in several volumes of Tales of the Shadowmen, a series of anthologies featuring a cross-pollination of French pulp fiction characters and others from around the world.

I'm proud to say one of my own Doctor Omega stories, "What Doesn't Die," is in the collected volume Doctor Omega and the Shadowmen, where Doctor Omega and Nikola Tesla do what they can to deal with a terrifying version of the Bride of Frankenstein.

The reason for this whole thing is, I've been watching Doctor Who from the beginning. It's easy to see where the writers were starting to hit their stride, where they realized, "Hey. We can do... anything!" I thought it would be nice to take a little time and string some bits of the Whoniverse onto the blog for all those interested, and maybe spark some interest in those who haven't any. Doctor Who is a brilliant show, and it's one of the few that has gotten all the air time it deserves, and will hopefully continue to do so for a good long while.

Also, buy my books. All of them. HAHAHA!!!!

Next time, I'd like to talk a little about Star Wars and the Bible and how I've found peace.

-Thom Brannan


  1. Perhaps this man in black is no figment of fiction at all! Perhaps such a man traveled to France in 1906, and then half a century later visited England?

  2. Great piece, Thom! :-) (y)

    It's articles like this one that made me want to bring Doctor Who (at least the First Doctor) into the Wold Newton Universe, or a reality-based crossover universe.

    Oh well... Maybe one day... I'll keep you posted.

  3. By the way, Sydney Newman may not have known about Doctor Omega, but I wouldn't put it past him to have employed people who did. In particular, Donald O. Wilson and Cecil Edwin Webber. Especially, Webber. As I have said on several of my posts on Facebook, I believe Doctor Who to be a televised fusion production that incorporated elements Arnould Galopin's Le Docteur Omega and H.G. Wells's short story, The Chronic Argonauts, published in a periodical of the Royal School of Science in 1888. Whether or not this was intentional, we may never know. However, the could be circumstantial evidence to substantiate this claim.