It’s not a given…

So, there’s this TV show, right? About a character called Doctor Who.

You can tell it’s about a character called “Doctor Who” because the show is called “Doctor Who” and in the credits for the first eighteen years or so, the character is called “Doctor Who”. (Or sometimes Dr. Who. But I think we can safely put that in the same conceptual space.)

Some people think he’s called The Doctor, and calling him Doctor Who is incorrect.

These people are wrong.

Analogy:

There’s this character called Robin Hood.

He’s had many stories told about him, over hundreds of years.

And yet, somehow, relatively few people manage to get their knickers in a twist that his given name is Robin of Loxley. (Or, occasionally, Robert, Earl of Huntingdon.)

And no-one feels obliged to point out that his last name is not “Hood” and that therefore calling him that is somehow wrong, or silly, or incorrect.

So. Doctor Who it is then.

Because it’s his name.

15 thoughts on “It’s not a given…”

  1. Absolutely. And if his name in the credits pre-1979, or indeed the character’s name in the script for “An Unearthly Child” weren’t enough, here’s the clincher:

    Verity Lambert consistently referred to the character as “Doctor Who”. And if it’s good enough for Verity, it’s good enough for the rest of us.

  2. I think your Robin Hood analogy fails, I’m afraid.

    The earliest references to Robin Hood predate the “Robin of Loxley” ones, and refer to his name specifically as “Robin Hood” (or misc variants thereof). The “Loxley” element only dates back to the 16th Century. So yes, his “proper” name such as it is is Robin Hood.

    In fact, this is made doubly clear in “Robin Hood and the Potter”, one of the oldest extent modern English mentions of him:

    “Roben Hood was the yemans name,
    That was boyt corteys and fre;
    For the loffe of owre ladey,
    All wemen werschepyd he. “

    More importantly, of course, that’s how he’s specifically named in the stories. Whereas, unless I’m missing something, the only time that Doctor Who is referred to as “Doctor Who” is in the titles.

    Of course, it doesn’t matter – both are fictional characters, so don’t have “real” names. But I’m afraid saying “it’s his name” is as wrong as saying “it’s not his name” :)

  3. I agree with you about many things, but I can’t agree on this.

    It’s the name of the programme, not the character.

    Great for comic effect though, preferably written as “Dr. Who” and prefaced with “TV’s”.

  4. It’s a moot point. Surely his mum didn’t call him Doctor Who or The Doctor, did she? The midwives would have had a fit. What does it say on his birth certificate? Eric? Jimbob? Aloysius?

  5. Dr. Who was conceived as a FAMILY show. In families are children. That’s what makes them families, else said family would be a “couple” (or menage-et-tois if that floats your boat, whatevs, we’re all equal opps here).

    Anyways:

    Children the world over, including mine, call The Doctor “Doctor Who”. It’s perfectly logical for them to do this because the show is called this and kids don’t tend to over-think television show formats like adults are wont to.

    Ergo his name is Dr. Who and Piers is right.

  6. From the shooting script for “An Unearthly Child”, the character’s first appearance:

    INSIDE THE GATE WE SEE DOCTOR WHO. HIS CLOTHES ARE BIZARRE. HE STANDS, COUGHING FOR A MOMENT, POUNDING HIS-CHEST. HE MOVES ACROSS THE YARD. HE ENTERS THE SHED

    DOCTOR WHO APPROACHES THE POLICE BOX.

    SHOW CHESTERTON AND BARBARA’S REACTION TO DOCTOR WHO.

    Now, unless Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright are watching a new children’s science fiction series on a television set in the junkyard, I think it’s fair enough to call the character played by William Hartnell “Doctor Who”.

    And I haven’t even mentioned WOTAN yet.

  7. And he was definitely called Doctor Who in those films.

    Also, if the title of the show were a question there’d be a question mark at the end, by Lord Reith.

  8. I meant prefixed, not prefaced – apologies.

    The show, and it’s mythology, has evolved in so many ways over the years. Do we really want to tie it down to an action line from nearly fifty years ago?

    Either view is valid, we’re all entitled to our opinions, but WOTAN and script directions be damned he’s always going to be “The Doctor” to me.

  9. Fraid I’m with Rob on this one, Piers. Doctor Who is the show. The character is The Doctor.

    But what the hell, the important thing is it’s coming back all shiny and new!!

  10. A friend of mine was at a conference in Hong Kong. At the session immediately after lunch, at which a quantity of wine had been taken, the chairman announced the keynote speaker, a Dr Hu. Without any collusion or preparation, the various British delegates around the room welcomed him to the podium not with applause by with “diddly-dum a-diddly-dum a-diddly-dum wa-WAAAAA” etc.

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