Why Eccleston Is My Favorite Doctor

Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor in Dr. Who.

Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor in Dr. Who.

If you had asked me who my favorite Doctor was in high school when I first started watching Dr. Who, I would have told you what any teenage girl first introduced to Dr. Who would have told you: David Tennant. I mean…what girl wasn’t taken in by 10’s adorable charm? Tennant was funny, cute, and an excellent actor. It was going to be hard to imagine Dr. Who without him.

But if you had asked me in college who my favorite Doctor was, I would have told you Matt Smith. I was not prepared to like the 11th doctor, based on my undying loyalty to Tennant, but Matt Smith completely won me over. His Doctor was, too, funny, cute, and adorable. And Smith is also an excellent actor. His performance was amazing, and he truly proved that his Doctor could be as good as Tennant’s.

But upon watching Dr. Who again–third time, I know, I have issue problems–my favorite Doctor is Eccleston.

Eccleston and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler.

Eccleston and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler.

Eccleston is often overlooked and even forgotten when people think about all of the Doctors since the reincarnation of the British television show, even though he was the first. People got so swept away by Tennant and Smith, and Eccleston was only the Doctor for one season while Tennant stayed for three, that it became easy to forget Eccleston. But I think the main reason Eccleston was forgotten was because Dr. Who became a “fandom”. It became part of the geek world, a world mostly run by fan girls who like their men handsome, British, and adorable.

Eccleston is indeed British, but few fangirls would classify him as handsome, at least traditionally. And even fewer would label him adorable. But that’s why I love him so much as the Doctor. Eccleston’s Doctor is not adorable. Yes, he’s fun and adventurous and has a quirky sense of humor, but he’s not adorable. At times he’s dangerous and angry and unpredictable. Eccleston is the one actor who shows us that the Doctor is capable of dark things. He shows us the pain and anger that comes from losing your entire planet, all the people you love, and the loneliness that can plague the Doctor.

Doctors 1-11

Doctors 1-11

Even though I love shows like Joss Whedon’s Firefly or J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek reboot, I’m not much of a sci-fi person. I can only handle so much of aliens and UFOs and campy British television. It’s why I can’t binge watch Doctor Who–eventually I need a break from BBC special effects. But I love Doctor Who so much because the show is built on deep, heavy, palatable emotions. I mean, the whole premise of the show reeks of painful feelings: a man who has lost everything he loves–his family, his home, his people, his planet–is doomed to travel throughout time and space alone. I mean, that alone gives me so many feels. Of course, there are good feelings–the love the Doctor has for Rose, his friendship with Donna, his happiness with Amy and Rory. But at the end of the day, the Doctor has to say goodbye to his companions and continue alone.

Eccleston, better than any of the Doctors, captures the raw emotions of the Doctor. He’s the only one who seems truly dangerous, who can show in his face the anger festering under the surface. He gave the Doctor a bit of a dark side, and he reminded viewers of everything the Doctor had lost. That is why I love him so much, and why 9 is my favorite Doctor.

(Also, you never forget your first Doctor.)

(And 9 loved Rose first.)

Every Girl

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Kerstin Gier

Two words: time travel. You’re probably thinking Dr. Who, but I’m actually referring to German author Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red Trilogy—Ruby Red, Sapphire Blue, and Emerald Green. Ruby Red, the first novel in the series, was a best seller in Germany and is quickly gaining popularity in America, translated into English by Anthea Bell. It’s no surprise given the popularity of sci fi/fantasy YA novels featuring a female protagonist. But Grier’s Ruby Red stands apart from other YA novels because the heroine successfully fulfills the most important character trope of the YA heroine—she is both plainly normal and incredibly special.

ImageGwyneth Shepherd is the most normal heroine I’ve ever read about, and I mean that as the highest compliment. Gwyneth is the girl next door. She enjoys movie marathons with her best friend Lesley and playing with her younger brother and sister. She has no exceptional talents or interests. She is, in every way, normal. Her family, however, is anything but normal. The Montrose (her mother’s maiden name) family is the female line of time travelers, meaning that one girl in each generation carries the time traveling gene. The female time traveler works with the male time traveler, from the de Villiers family, traveling back and forth to different time periods under the instruction of the mysterious Count Saint-Germain. The girl time traveler from Gwyneth’s generation is supposed to be her cousin Charlotte. Charlotte’s spent her entire life studying languages, history, etiquette, and other similar subjects to prepare for traveling to other time periods, while Gwyneth has lived the life of a normal teenager. So it’s a big shock to everyone involved when it turns out that Gwyneth can travel back in time and Charlotte cannot.

Now Gwyneth is hardly normal—she’s a time traveler, and not just any time traveler, but the “ruby”, the last and most important traveler. Of course, Gwyneth is hardly prepared for everything expected of her, and it doesn’t help her that none of the Guardians, the time traveling inner circle, seem to trust her. Or tell her anything useful that could help her. All Gwyneth knows is that her cousin Lucy Montrose and Lucy’s husband Paul de Villiers stole the chronograph, the “time machine” per say, and are hiding in the past. Everyone seems intent on finding Lucy and Paul, and even more intent on “closing the circle”. But all Gwyneth has to go on are snippets of an old prophecy and the internet research of her best friend Lesley.

ImageMuch like in The Hunger Games, Twilight, Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, Kiera Cass’ The Selection, and other YA novels, Ruby Red is about a normal girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances—Katniss into the Hunger Games, Bella into a world of vampires and werewolves, Alina into the Grisha, and America into the Selection. This is the foundational premise of YA novels targeted a female audience, and not without reason. Books like these promise girls who feel ordinary that they are indeed special and are capable of great things. It’s an important and valid message. The whole point is that the reader can relate to the heroine and identify with her, because the heroine is supposed to be every girl. But how relatable are some of these YA heroines? It’s hard to see Katniss as “every girl”. How many of us can identify with what she went through? And hopefully real girls are a little more interesting than Bella Swan. Not every heroine really seems to quite fit with the “every girl” trope of the YA heroine, which makes her difficult to relate to.

But Gwyneth is different, perfectly representing the dichotomy of normality and specialness of the heroine. She has common interests—movies, books, music. She has a normal girl’s life—friends, school, family. She leads a remarkably typical teenage girl’s story, boy problems included. This makes her an incredibly relatable character, which makes the time traveling adventure part of the story even more exciting. Unlike other YA heroines, Gwyneth fulfills her promise to her audience that even the most normal girl is in store for an exciting adventure and is capable of greatness and courage.

ImageThere are other wonderful aspects of Grier’s story. The love interest storyline is up and down, keeping it more original than most YA novels. And rather than focus on the romantic relationship, Grier places just as much emphasis on Gwyneth’s relationship with her best friend Lesley and her family. The series reads more like one big book than three books, and it is full of delightful twists and turns. Grier weaves together character, plot, themes, and setting in a beautiful way that makes Ruby Red a fantastic read. And the heroine shines out in a sea of YA characters female protagonists. Gwyneth is you. Gwyneth is me. If I may, she’s the Martin Freeman of YA heroines. She’s the most extraordinary normal girl you’ll ever meet.

P.S. There’s a movie too. Trailer. Full movie.

A Long Expected Movie

Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson alike waited over ten years from the release of the first Lord of the Rings movie in 2001 to the release of Peter Jackson’s first installment of The Hobbit in December of 2012. After ten years of disputes with the Tolkien estate, Warner Bros. buying New Line Cinemas, changes in the director, and the splitting of The Hobbit into two and then three films, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey finally hit theaters last December. It came on a wave of high expectations, as Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy set Oscar-winning records and received excellent reviews from fans and critics alike. Now people waited anxiously to see if Peter Jackson could pull off Tolkien’s smaller, happier, yet still beloved story of a hobbit who travels with a company of dwarves to fight a dragon and regain their homeland and treasure.

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Peter Jackson on the set of The Hobbit

Even before the film was released, Jackson’s decision to split the story into three films raised a lot of doubts among fans. There were rumors of some kind of romantic relationship going on between Gandalf and Galadriel, and Jackson almost cut the dwarves from 13 to 8. Jackson, along with writers Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh added a new female character not created by Tolkien (Tauriel) and that also ruffled a few feathers. For these reasons, many fans were uneasy.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was not a perfect film, but this die hard Tolkien fan enjoyed it. Here is a quick run through of some of the things that I thought made the film worth watching.

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Martin Freeman as Bilbo

The acting was very good. Richard Armitage was an excellent Thorin, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with this. When I read the book for the first time in third grade, Thorin was my favorite character. Richard Armitage did a wonderful job embodying Thorin’s leadership, stubbornness, pride, and loyalty. The Thorin in the movie was the Thorin of the books, and Richard Armitage deserves credit for this.

I cannot say enough good things about Martin Freeman as Bilbo. He is the perfect hobbit. He was respectable yet quirky, unassuming and English. He portrayed Bilbo’s deep love for his home. He struggled with self-doubt but he managed to prove himself, which he will continue to do in the next two films.

It’s needless to say that Ian McKellen was fantastic as Gandalf the Grey, and just as needless to say that Cate Blanchett was superb as Galadriel. It was also quite excellent to see Hugo Weaving return as Elrond, not to mention Brett McKenzie (Figwit) as well. In Sylvester McCoy (Dr. Who) we definitely saw the animal loving wizard Radagast, but I hopefully look forward to seeing his badass wizard side in future movies.

It was incredibly heart warming to see Ian Holm and Elijah Wood return in the beginning of the film to set the story before “An Unexpected Party”. Gollum also made an appearance. There were also other elements that LOTR fans will recognize from Jackson’s original trilogy and the books. Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens included Tolkien’s original playful song when the dwarves crashed Bilbo’s home. Their subtle tributes to Tolkien’s original novel will endear this film to true fans. Dedicated fans will also appreciate the extra footage from the appendices of the Lord of the Rings, including the meeting of the White Council and Gandalf’s investigation at Dol Goldur.

Despite all the good things about this movie, there were a few things that I did not like about the film. The movie was longer than it really needed to be, but given Peter Jackson’s record with films, that shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Still, at times it felt like Thorin and company were traveling from one skirmish to the next. This is in part because they were being hunted by the orc Azog. While Azog is an original Tolkien character, he does not chase Thorin and company in the book. However, besides Azog, the plot was true to Tolkien’s original story.

In comparison, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is not Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. However, I think that fans of both Tolkien’s work and Peter Jackson’s work can enjoy the film. It features “Riddles in the Dark,” my favorite chapter in The Hobbit, and gives you a glimpse of the dragon Smaug. I look forward to seeing the next two Hobbit films, The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again. There is more to come in the Hobbit trilogy, including giant spiders, elves, a dragon, and a huge battle. So watch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on DVD and look for The Desolation of Smaug in December.

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13 Dwarves