I think I mentioned in another post that a lot of people seem to list them 11, 10, and I don’t really have a 3rd favorite. I think they miss the beauty of the 9th.
If you are confused let me clarify. This is a post about my appreciation of the 9th Doctor. “Doctor who?” you might ask. This post might not be for you.
11 is pretty. 10 has a huge emotional range. But 9, for all his cowardice, lives for others even when he doesn’t want to and even when they don’t deserve him.
I won’t go on and on about each episode or the arc as a whole (because frankly I think the “Bad Wolf” theme was poorly executed, especially in the final episode). I could explore the line, “Just this once everybody lives,” or his last words, “You were brilliant. And you know what? So was I,” but instead I want to focus on the moment of acting that speaks to who the Doctor is, what he thinks is important, and what he is willing to do to protect it. Warning, spoilers big time below.
Dr. Who (not Classic Dr. Who), Season 1, Episode 13 “The Parting of Ways”, time 13:00-15:15ish
We see the Doctor trying to save the world. He is troubled because, being the incredibly smart man he is, he already knows that the delta wave needed to destroy the Daleks will also kill the humans on the station and the planet below. He mentions that they could run away. His and Rose’s exchange shows us that even though he would like to run from the seemingly unavoidable massacre he will do what is necessary, even if all he gains is more hate for himself.
We see that the delta wave isn’t building fast enough and he bows his head acknowledging the defeat. But the 9th Doctor is a strong man, a good man. Even if one death is preventable he will make it happen. It is partially due to his feelings for her, partially due to the promise he made to Rose’s mother, and partially because of his desire to have even a little control over what must have been a crushing life of despair where he eventually sees everyone he knows die, sometimes because of him as is the case now.
This is the moment that does it for me. This Doctor shows his loneliness, his despair, and the wear his life has taken on his soul. He does what he feels he has to do to deal with the loss and darkness inside of himself not by sitting in dark solitude like 11, or by yelling and a staring with a vicious, resentful hate, but by hiding it selflessly from the other person.
“You’re a genius!” he yells going convincingly through the movements of pulling off a brilliant plan to save the day. He smiles with a smile of hope and joy at the coming victory. His actions throughout the entire season have given Rose every reason to believe that his actions now are portents of a skillful and successful plan. He exudes an infectious energy, get’s her in the Tardis, and locks her in.
Only when she is going to be safe, whether she wants to be or not, do we see how drained emotionally he is. Immediately his face falls, his energy plummets, and he sends Rose off knowing that he will die shortly. He isn’t proud, or happy. He isn’t angry. He is resigned, knowing death to be a given. We see the face of a man who looked into the Time Vortex once and has been running ever since, a man who accepts the label of coward as if he deserved nothing better, a man who lives for others.
Perhaps this is why this particular Doctor wanted a companion, because he feels the way he needs to feel around that person and can escape the real dark depth of the character that is locked inside. He is a Doctor who runs away from minor things but doesn’t cower when he is needed. He earns the role with its complex back story and emotional weight in what I believe to be the perfect interpretation of an impossible man.