Well, we have the 50th Anniversary Special behind us and the Christmas Special is only days away so what else could I possibly write this weekend? The Whirlwind had been awaiting the Anniversary episode with bated breath ever since John Hurt made his appearance at the end of The Name of the Doctor and the excitement is now building for the Christmas Special. The past few months has seen a whirl of Doctor Who related programmes, activities and lots and lots of Doctor Who Lego building!!!
Having taken in so much Doctor Who knowledge by osmosis over the past few years I started to ponder the similarities between the various regenerations of the Doctor and those of autistic individuals and to ask myself why IS The Doctor such a huge obsession with autistic children (and adults)? Maybe they see a kindred spirit…….
The First Doctor played by William Hartnell
The ‘grandfatherly’ incarnation and our first encounter with The Doctor shows the ultimate absconder – stealing a Tardis so he could escape an environment where he felt trapped and constricted. Hmmm, reminds me of The Whirlwind!
He was abrasive, patronising, and cantankerous towards his human travelling companions and this could be down to the social interaction difficulties that are such a large part of autism which can lead them to come across as rude or abrasive.
One quirk of the First Doctor was his tendency to become occasionally tongue-tied and stumble over words
The Second Doctor played by Patrick Troughton
In his first story, the Second Doctor referred to his predecessor in the third person as if he were a completely different person – again something that can be associated with autism.
The Second Doctor has been nicknamed the “Cosmic Hobo”, impish and unconcerned with how others view his appearance as long as he’s comfy. He was also mercurial in his moods and endearingly childlike.
This Doctor is associated with the catchphrases (echolalia anyone?) “Oh my giddy aunt!” and “When I say run, run!”, and is noted for playing the recorder to help him think. In early stories he also demonstrates a fondness for hats and other types of headgear, mainly sporting a distinctive stovepipe hat when outdoors.
The Third Doctor played by Jon Pertwee
The Third Doctor was a suave, dapper, technologically oriented, keen scientist who enjoyed working on gadgets in his TARDIS. In his spare time, he was fond of motoring, his favourite car was a canary-yellow vintage roadster that he nicknamed “Bessie”.
His courageousness could easily turn to waspish indignation, a common catchphrase of his was, “Now listen to me!”, how many times have I heard the Whirlwind say that to me?!?
This Doctor had a manner of dress that is the most ornate of his various incarnations, favouring frilled shirts; velvet smoking jackets in blue, green, burgundy, red, or black; evening trousers in colours matching those of his smoking jackets; formal boots, riding boots, dress shoes, and Inverness cloaks for his regular outfit; with variations and accessories including bow ties, cravats, and leather gloves. All of these earned the Third Doctor the nickname of “The Dandy Doctor.”
The Fourth Doctor played by Tom Baker
Baker portrayed the fourth incarnation as a whimsical and sometimes brooding individual whose enormous personal warmth is at times tempered by his capacity for righteous anger, unpredictable in terms of his emotional depth yet slightly more distant and alien than his previous incarnations.
With his eccentric style of dress ( that usually consists of a shirt, waistcoat, cravat, trousers, a frock coat – with pockets containing a seemingly endless array of apparently useless items that would nevertheless suit the Doctor’s purposes when used – a wide-brimmed hat and, most famously, his impractically long, multi-coloured scarf ), speech and fondness for jelly babies and his moments of whimsical charm and offbeat humour he is more aloof and somber than his previous incarnations and could be intensely brooding.
He also has a strong moral code, such as when he faces the dilemma of whether to destroy the Daleks in (Genesis of the Daleks) stating that if he did, he would be no better than the Daleks himself – I’ve found that many verbal and higher functioning autistics, Whirlwind included, have an extremely strong sense of right and wrong.
He often contemplates his outsider status to both humanity and his Gallifreyan heritage, as he seems more inclined toward a solitary existence and yet seems to long for companionship.
When taking charge, he could be considered authoritative to the point of controlling and egocentric, who among us autism parents haven’t heard so-called professionals accuse our children of being controlling?
The Fifth Doctor played by Peter Davison
The Fifth Doctor was far more vulnerable, sensitive, and reserved than his previous incarnations and often reacted to situations rather than initiating them, often displaying a tendency to be indecisive and frequently making decisions by flipping a coin.
He had an excess of nervous energy – tending towards hyperactivity.
He could decipher the ingredients of a drink by smell alone and rosemary made him sneeze – this could easily be attributed to the SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) or Sensory Sensitivities that are so common among autistics.
The Sixth Doctor played by Colin Baker
Again brightly coloured, mismatched clothes that he loved regardless of any social norms that may dictate them to be inappropriate and a brash and overbearing personality set him apart from all his previous incarnations,
Following his regeneration he initially considered going into a hermit-like existence which would parallel the autistics need or desire to be alone rather than coping with the pressures that society puts on them.
The Sixth Doctor was unpredictable, with mood swings, manic behaviour, bombastic outbursts and glib, unflappable wit. His personality also displayed occasionally fatalistic overtones – always expecting the worst to happen, constantly wondering ‘what if this goes wrong..’
The Seventh Doctor played by Sylvester McCoy
This Doctor was very fond of rambling, idiosyncratic speeches that would mix literature, ordinary places and even food and drink with the deeper and weightier concerns on his mind. He was empathetic and somewhat melancholic at times but placed great burdens upon himself, much like the burden to be ‘perfect’ that many autistics place on themselves.
Again the Doctor’s outfit displays a quirkiness and mis-matched quality although it is more subdued than previous incarnations.
Fiddle toys??? The Doctor carried all sorts of random items in his pockets and enjoyed using his hat, umbrella and the TARDIS key, amongst other items, as physical props much like the fiddle toys and myriad of, in our view useless objects but in their view, essential treasures that our autistic children hoard.
This Doctor also displays strange and ‘alien’ characteristics playing with the perception of his senses, as he listens to cheese, could this refer to Synesthesia that has recently been linked to autism?
The Eighth Doctor played by Paul McGann
Although up until recently he was only The Doctor in the TV movie, this incarnation displayed a wide-eyed, child-like enthusiasm alongside an excess of energy – flitting randomly from one topic to the next and with an eye to fashion that doesn’t necessarily match that of his peers.
The Ninth Doctor played by Christopher Eccleston
At the start of his tenure this Doctor doesn’t want or need friends, feeling life is easier if he’s alone and doing his own thing but a reluctant friendship with Rose grows into an enduring and deep relationship, echoing the struggle that exists for autistic individuals when making friends and also the way that once those friendships have been forged the friendships are often deeper and more enduring than the friendships that exist between neuro-typicals.
He avoids thinking about his past because “there’s some pain there” – and his only concern regarding the future is that “it’s there” much in the same way that an autistic lives mainly ‘in the moment’ with difficulty understanding, or caring, about the concepts of past and future.
Personality wise, this Doctor is often confrontational and inflexible and his clothing, which is the most ‘normal’ of all the incarnations gives the impression that he strides through the universe wearing a dark leather jacket saying “Don’t touch me”.
The Tenth Doctor played by David Tennant
The Tenth Doctor has a tendency to babble, mixing apparent nonsense with vital information and sometimes acting erratically. He is prone to making comments that to others might seem rude. He has a tendency to use technobabble to describe scientific concepts before substituting it with a simpler, analogous explanation, such as his description of non-linear temporal physics as “a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff” – in the way The Whirlwind will use ‘made up’ words and phrases to explain things when he cannot come up with the words he needs.
This incarnation also has a strong sense of justice which makes him quick to anger when he feels it is violated, he also rapidly switches moods, from mania to anger to nonchalance.
Another recurring theme in the Tenth Doctor’s stories is his intense loneliness, a feeling that although he’s in the centre of things he is still on the sidelines watching it all happen.
He also exhibits a remarkable sense of taste, again similar to the Fifth Doctor and SPD – able to identify the blood type of a blood sample or the presence of mistletoe oil just by licking
This Doctor also echoes certain phrases on various occasions, such as “Brilliant!”, “oh yes!” (used in an exuberant fashion, often when he has successfully done something), “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry”, and the French command “Allons-y” (“Let’s go”). The latter also shows the random thinking and rambling mind of the Doctor as he goes on to say that he would love to meet someone named Alonso so he could say “Allons-y, Alonso!” and again when he quotes the song “Circle of Life” from Disney’s The Lion King during a confrontation with the Sycorax leader.
The Eleventh Doctor played by Matt Smith
He is at times childlike, and yet can also become grumpy and solitary, refusing to interact with others. He attempts to be cool (including enthusiastic dancing) and . He even shows ignorance of adult activities such as sharing a bed, providing bunk beds in the TARDIS for the married Ponds purely because they are ‘cool’, and drinking wine before spitting it back into the glass after trying it.
Although the Doctor puts on a façade of cheerful arrogance, he secretly believes himself to be a bad person and often displays self-loathing for the things he has done throughout his life, as seen in the episode Amy’s Choice when he determined that the Dream Lord was a version of himself by surmising that there was only one person that hated him as much as the Dream Lord did.
Again we see a quirky, individualistic dress sense with a special affection for bow ties, often proclaiming “Bow ties are cool” progressing to include a love for fezzes, “I wear a fez now, fezzes are cool.”
So, in summary, we have an almost child-like at heart individual who although deeply loved by those around him feels like an outsider, a very unique dress sense preferring comfort over social norms, the ultimate absconder, a man who always speaks his mind and a few glimpses of synesthesia, echolalia and SPD. Ladies and gentleman I think you’ll all agree
- THE DOCTOR IS AUTISTIC.