Friday, November 22, 2013

In the Name of the Doctor - But Doctor Who?

The 11 Doctors.......So Far

This week marks the 50th – yes, 50th! - anniversary of 'Doctor Who'. 'Doctor Who' is a British sci-fi show with a cult like following world wide. The special 50th anniversary episode screens on the 23rd , with rumours and speculation as to what it will contain causing excited anticipation among die hard fans (or Whovians) for months now.

Historically the show didn't have a huge special effects budget like other shows of the genre, and so it was it's unique creativity and imaginative story lines that attracted viewers. The last of his race, the Doctor travels through time and space in the TARDIS (time and relative dimension in space) space ship that is disguised as a blue police box. Part of the reason the show has been able to endure as long as it has is because The Doctor has the ability to regenerate each time he dies, each time providing viewers with a main character who remains essentially the same, but with a different personality and quirky style for each regeneration.

While he travels with many different companions, many of whom are beloved by fans and have received their own spin off shows, the true heart of the show is the Doctor, making the actors who have portrayed him household names. If you're a keen 'Doctor Who' fan, perhaps you may like to honour your child with the name of your favourite Doctor.

William Hartnell (1963-1966)
He was the first, and played the Doctor as an “amiable-yet-tetchy patriarch”. William is an enduring classic – and very popular, currently #5 in the U.S. Meaning 'resolute protection', there are plenty of Williams (and Wills') to inspire parents. Hartnell however has never charted so would be very distinctive, and comes with great short form Hart.

Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)
Thanks to St Patrick's day, Patrick feels very Irish although it's a Latin name. It has never fallen out of the top 200 in the U.S and is currently ranked at #142. It has the benefit of feeling equal parts friendly and warm and equal parts preppy and noble. Patrick Troughton's portrayal of the Doctor was as an endearing “cosmic hobo” version of Charlie Chaplin.

Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)
Born John Devon Roland Pertwee, Jon seems to be a contraction of John and Devon. During Jons' stint as Doctor the character was exiled to Earth, a plot line developed due to budget constraints that made it difficult to create sets of other planets. His scientifically minded Doctor has been described as “an active crusader with a penchant for action and fancy clothes”. The name Jon is much less popular than long form Jonathan or the more traditional spelling of John, but also feels the sleeker and more modern option.

Tom Baker (1974-1981)
Tom Baker is one of the more beloved actors to play the Doctor – his trademark long striped scarf is iconic amongst Whovians. He was the longest serving Doctor, often brooding and aloof but also with an eccentric style and whimsical charm. Tom Baker has delighted fans by leaking that he'll appear in the 50 year anniversary special episode. Tom is a short, friendly feeling name which has consistently ranked in the top 200 in the U.S until 1969, when it began to fall rapidly. Longer form Thomas has never been out of the top 100. Surname/occupational name Baker deceptively feels more current, but is much less popular than Tom. It would be great to see either or both rising through the ranks.

Peter Davison (1981-1984)
At the time, Peter was the youngest actor to play the role (a record now held by Matt Smith), and he embodied a more vulnerable, sensitive and reserved Doctor. The name Peter means 'rock' and is currently at it's lowest ebb in the U.S, ranked at #205 in 2012. Peter is nonetheless an enduring classic and will likely remain in popular use for years to come. While Peter has been in regular use for centuries, surname Davison (meaning David's son) first appeared on the SSA charts in 1980 and is rarely used.

Colin Baker (1984-1986)
No relation to Tom, this Baker's stint as the Doctor was marred with an 18 month hiatus and an insinuation by BBC management that Colin was unpopular with viewers. His Doctor was flamboyant, brash and overbearing. As a name, Colin is a Gaelic name meaning 'pup' and has a steady history of use, slowly climbing for a number of years. Irish actor Colin Farrell has likely been the biggest influence in recent years.

Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989 & 1996)
It's hard to hear Sylvester without thinking of whiskers and tweety birds or the muscled action hero, both seemingly at odds with a name meaning 'wood or forest'. It has been falling in popularity in recent years, eclipsed by the fast rising McCoy in 2010. This Irish name meaning 'fire' is benefiting from a current love of all names Mc, and the positive association with the phrase “the real McCoy”. As the Doctor, Sylvester McCoy was at first somewhat comedic, but later became known as one of the darkest and most manipulative of the Doctors.

Paul McGann (1996)
Another actor with a Mc name, although lacking the panache that McCoy has. While McGann is not a likely choice for a given name, Paul has been in use since ancient times. It means 'small' but the number of influential Pauls to look up to is anything but. Paul has been a steadily popular name and while it has never been in the top ten on the boys SSA list, it has also never been out of the top 200. Although that may change in 2013 if it doesn't start regaining some ground. This Doctor was debonair, with an enthusiasm that hid an old soul.

Christopher Eccleston (2005)
Christopher Eccleston was the actor chosen to bring the Doctor back to television screens in 2005. He embodied an intense yet enigmatic leather-jacket-wearing Doctor. The name Christopher is another well loved classic on this list. In the U.S, he was a top ten name for four decades. The variety of possible nicknames help to keep Christopher feeling current – Chris being a classic choice, Topher a modern feeling one and Kit and Kip funky ones. Although it's hard to imagine this man with the name Kip....

David Tennant (2005-2010)
David Tennant is the actor that most often tops the polls as viewers favourite Doctor, his charismatic, witty and light-hearted portrayal causing his Doctor to be voted the “coolest character on UK television” and winning legions of new fans for the show. Tennant has the makings of a good modern hero name – currently it's associated with just the one, very well known actor. But as a word name it's meaning will probably mean that if parents really want to use it they'll leave it in the middle position. David however suffers no such problem. A Hebrew name meaning 'beloved', David has long been a popular favourite.

Matt Smith (2010-2013)
On this list of popular, classic boys names, Matthew (or Matt) can certainly hold his own. Almost everyone knows a Matt – he's familiar and likeable, like an old friend. Smith has a different feel, a little more mature, preppy and serious. Actor Matt Smith has brought a uniquely youthful exuberance to the role of the Doctor – and helped to make bow ties and fez hats cool.

Peter Capaldi (2014)
We're yet to see what fresh spin this Peter will bring to the role, and speculation is mixed among an audience that has become accustomed to the recent younger Doctors. He may have big shoes to fill, but many feel he is up to the challenge. Maybe in the next few years we'll start to see the name Capaldi pop up in birth announcements if he does the role justice.

Are you a fan of the show? Who is your favourite Doctor, and would you honour them in your child's name? And if (like me) you're one of the millions of people tuning in for the anniversary special, I hope you enjoy it!


  1. My sister absolutely loves David Tennant, and she's pretty much decided that her first son is going to have David in his name somewhere.

    I've only watched "New Who," so I'm only familiar with Nine, Ten, and Eleven. I'm not a fan of the writing for Eleven, although Matt Smith does an excellent job with what he's given. Ten is my favorite, but Nine is seriously underrated.

  2. I confess David Tennant is my favourite, although Tom Baker was very endearing. If we ever use the name David somewhere, it will be for family reasons though! :)

  3. Name-wise, I think Sylvester is pretty cool and quirky. My favorite is Colin.