I’m going to preface this by saying that it’s getting a tiny bit embarrassing that Erin’s answers have been somewhat varied by era, whereas I seem to be stuck in the early 1970s. However, if I wasn’t still stuck there today, my answer wouldn’t be completely honest.
My first Classic Doctor, and, in fact, my first Doctor altogether, was Jon Pertwee.
I didn’t know that at the time, though. I saw the show by accident as a small child, and I have no memory of when or where or how I saw it. The only channel that broadcast Doctor Who when I was a kid was PBS, and to my knowledge our station never showed the Jon Pertwee stories. But I have a very clear memory of having seen The Three Doctors before because I remember these guys:
Omega’s Gell Guards are a thing of beauty, are they not?
I suspect I probably saw it at the home of one of my mother’s friends, because the friends of hers we used to travel to visit were the sort of people who would’ve watched Doctor Who. Exactly how they would’ve got hold of a Pertwee story in the States during or before the mid 1990s is beyond me, but I’m almost positive that’s where I saw it. But never mind that.
Anyway, because the story I remember was The Three Doctors, I could reasonably say that it’s a tie between both Pertwee and Patrick Troughton, and possibly even William Hartnell. And while I do vaguely recall being aware of the Second Doctor, I have no recollection whatsoever of the First. The only one I remember vividly is Three. So he was my first Doctor.
But I was just a kid then. I couldn’t have been more than eight years old, I don’t think. And I didn’t start watching the show seriously until it had been back for quite awhile, and it took me a while to realize it was actually the same show I remembered from hazy images of my childhood. So if you want to be really technical about “proper” watching, my first Doctor would actually be this guy:
I can’t imagine why I didn’t immediately put it together that this was the same show.
Anyway, because I do still have those vague childhood memories, perhaps that’s part of the reason I enjoy the Pertwee era so much now. In fact, when I actively went back to start watching the Classic era as an adult, I started with Pertwee. For casual or comfort watching, I do tend to gravitate towards it. I like that it had a larger regular cast. I like the stories and the music. I like the action sequences that Pertwee became so famous for.* I like that he was different from both of his predecessors and took the show in a completely new direction without losing the most important things about the Doctor–and in fact created some of the important things we still hold onto today.
If you don’t believe me on that last point, ask Peter Capaldi because I’m pretty positive he’ll tell you the same thing.
When you think about it, they were taking another enormous risk when they cast Jon Pertwee. When William Hartnell became too ill to continue playing the part, they took a shot in the dark by casting Patrick Troughton to take on the same role but make it different. They had no idea if it would work or not. By the time Troughton was finished, they knew that it COULD work, but had no way of knowing if the gamble would pay off a second time. Throw in the fact that the Doctor would now be confined to Earth due to real-life budget restrictions, thus causing the format of the show to change COMPLETELY, it was another HUGE risk to take. And on top of that, they had spent ages competing with shows like The Avengers and The Saint, which were much more action based. They even went so far as to give him a car and some other toys to play with. It would never have worked without Jon Pertwee.
Loads of people are still frequently comparing Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor to Pertwee’s Third Doctor, and it’s no wonder. Even though he frequently says that he’s not trying to channel one Doctor or another, there have been some pretty obvious nods to Three (and his era) recently. For instance, that red velvet jacket is gorgeous and I completely approve. But I think my favorite moments of all came from the women in the cast. For instance Kate Stewart explaining her escape from the Zygon with “Five rounds rapid” had me shouting for joy and sobbing simultaneously. The other was Clara reversing the polarity of the neural block, which gave me the exact same reaction.
Maybe those little (and not so little) references to the past irritate some people. But I’m not one of them. Judge me if you will.
Who was your first Doctor? Classic or New? Let us know in the comments!
* Except for that one in “Planet of the Spiders.” That one is just ridiculous.