THE END OF THE BEGINNING   Leave a comment


We’ve finally come to the end of our epic trek through the First Doctor’s character arc (or have we?) as represented by his changing ways of addressing Ian. What have we discovered?

The first thing the Doctor called Ian way back in the Totters Lane junkyard was “young man”. The last thing he called him at the end of “The Chase” was “my dear boy (I could kiss you)”. Along the way, in speaking to our action-teacher hero, the Doctor has used 26 different modes of address. At the top of the list, we have 59 instances of “my boy”, beating “Chesterton” into second place with 51. At the end of “Web of Fear”, these two were level pegging on 45 each and it’s only in the last three stories that the rather old fashioned use of just the surname lost ground. Perhaps the most significant change occurs around the time of “The Sensorites” where the use of two or three-word variations of “my dear boy” really seems to take off.

However, what allowances should we make for the First Doctor’s notorious habit of getting his lines wrong? Because there are a further 8 examples of him getting Ian’s surname wrong. From “Chesterfield” to “Charterhouse” via “Chesterman, Charlton, Twester and Che’er”. Surely it ought not to matter whether this represents William Hartnell fluffing his lines or the writers deliberately writing in the wrong surname as part of the Doctor’s absent minded old man characterisation. Even when in “The Romans” the Doctor calls him Chesterfield quite clearly as a deliberate joke, all of these are examples of an intention to call Ian by his surname alone. As a result, “Chesterton” and “my boy” end up tying for first place with 59 each. I omit from these the Doctor’s single use of “Mr Chesterton” in “Edge of Destruction” as there’s clearly a world of difference between “Mr Chesterton” and simply “Chesterton”.

We have to take into account that the use of the simple surname “Chesterton” can mean different things. It can be an expression of authority and distance on the Doctor’s part or simply what an Edwardian gentleman would in fact call a close friend (remember the chummy uses of “Higgins” and “Pickering” in “My Fair Lady”).

A late rush of 14 separate instances in “The Chase” alone pushed “dear boy” into third place with 49 while “my dear boy” languishes in fifth place with 32.

When I started out on this journey, I vaguely imagined that we would see the thawing relationship between the two men mirrored by a gradual change from “Chesterton” to “Ian”. But what’s perhaps extraordinary is that, out of 241 different instances we’ve taken into account over the course of 16 stories, the Doctor calls Ian by his Christian name on a mere 4 occasions. And 1 of those occurs when he’s wandering through the caves in “Marco Polo” trying to find Ian and joining in with Susan calling out “Ian”. Presumably it wouldn’t have helped if they’d been calling out different things.

The very best that Ian gets occurs in “The Crusade” when the Doctor once calls him “Sir Ian”.

What then can we deduce about the Doctor’s character arc as represented by his different modes of address for Ian? Not much, it turns out. However, not to be disheartened, I was sufficiently intrigued by the Doctor’s use of several variants when talking to Steven on Mechanus to continue this trek and see whether we find any indication that Steven gets a better deal than Ian did. Hopefully, by the end of “The Massacre”, I’ll have thought up an excuse to carry it on into Sailor Ben’s time in the TARDIS. It’d be a shame to end my first ever complete run (in order) of “Doctor Who” purely out of the absence of any clear motivation.

Onward! In “The Chase”, the Doctor calls Steven: young man x 1, dear boy x 1, Steven Taylor x 1.

Ian List

Posted March 8, 2016 by docwhom in Name Dropping

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