I thought I’d share something originally written as a discussion idea for a thread on the SFX forum back in mid 2010. It was written in response to the Best 200 Sci-fi Characters Ever Poll which SFX ran online as part of the issue 200 celebrations. The thread idea was to gauge people’s thoughts about Doctor Who always winning these sorts of polls.
But I reconsidered. I didn't want to tread on Dave Golder’s toes, or raise the ire of Who fans everywhere, by seeming to torpedo a poll before it had even got off the ground. The idea became a letter, and then an email to Dave Bradley. In the end I put it away and moved on to other things. But like all things the subject of the Doctor winning polls has come around again and again, most recently over this past week in the SFX Factor competition which has been running on this site.
Here’s the letter as originally written;
“I did some thinking after reading through people's votes and comments on SFX 's current Best 200 Sci-fi Character Ever poll on the forum. The first thought was Doctor Who is a shoo-in here. The second thought was that he won last time SFX ran a poll like this. The third thought was who exactly are people voting for when they put " Doctor Who "? Are they voting for their favourite Doctor? Are they voting for the current incumbent? Or are they voting for some amorphous amalgam of all the Doctors? Would the voting look vastly different if voters were asked to pick a single iteration of the Doctor?
“See, in a poll like this, Doctor Who has a distinct leg up. It's 11 different actors each playing a different take on the same character. But it's the same man, isn't it? With each regeneration it’s a new face, a new man with new personality and quirks and mannerisms. So, it's the same but different. And if you don’t like the current Doctor, don’t worry another one will be along soon. The character of the Doctor is pretty unique in the sci-fi acting, if not the whole acting world. Doctor Who is unique within the sci-fi genre. Without even considering the poll Doctor Who is the best sci-fi character ever; the character that has longevity built in. It has rebirth and change built in. Regeneration is a brilliant concept; each face has a sell-by date and there is an automatic refresh button that is written in to the character. Everyone has their personal favourite Doctor actor but everyone also likes the character of the Doctor as a concept and that concept transcends the actors. It's a strange mix of actor and character and the interchangeableness of both that I think gives the Doctor a longevity that no other character can ever come close to matching. I wonder if back in 1963 the creators could have imagined that The Doctor would still be winning polls in 2010?
“I’m not trying to moan here, you can probably tell that I think The Doctor is a fantastic character and Doctor Who is a brilliant TV show. I just wonder if any other character even stands a chance with The Doctor in the running. Eleven very different men, over 50-odd years, all playing the same character getting the votes as one entity. I'm not saying that this unfair, I'm not saying I think The Doctor shouldn't win, I just think The Doctor is in a league of his own in this. As I said earlier; he's unique.
“And because of that I think I'll be a bit more interested in who comes second.
“Knowing my luck by the time anyone reads this Doctor Who will have come second in the poll and we'll be celebrating Jar Jar Binks as The Best Sci-Fi Character Ever and this letter will seem a bit silly.... My God! What am I saying?”
So, Doctor Who wins another poll… And again pretty much everything written in the letter above could be said again in regards to Doctor Who and the current poll. This one was, as stated above, an poll for television intro sequences and Doctor Who won with over half the votes.
Is second the new first?
Like I said in the letter this isn’t a complaint, it’s just a point about the fact that Who and all things Who related are pretty much a given when it comes to these polls. It doesn’t matter what is being voted for. Sexiest male, best show, theme tune; Who is lots of peoples go-to choice. I still think it’s down to the uniqueness of the character and the show and the number of fans who frequent the SFX world. The show usually deserves to win any poll it’s in because it is a one of a kind and as a character and a concept is always going to be pretty hard to beat. But the way it constantly comes top of polls – the only time it doesn’t win seems to be when those pesky Browncoats come out to play – means I pretty much discount it from any list.
I’m not trying to be negative or anti Who here. As I said in the letter I am a fan. I’m just not as big a fan as some people and so seeing the show winning all the polls has become a little boring and predictable for me. I’ve got used to the fact that as a poll entry Doctor Who is pretty much unassailable so even two years after writing that letter I’m still far more interested in who comes gets second place.
So, what do you think? Do you always vote Who ? Is the show and the character always the deserving winner or are you like me a little more interested in who comes in second?