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First Doctor: “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”
A trick often used by wily senior citizens when they need a second to gather their thoughts, or just to ignore the fooling thing someone has just said. The First Doctor never skimped on being brash or rude when he could help it, so possibly he really was a little hard of hearing, or slow to work out what to do. Either way, his need to slow a conversation down, or obfuscate an awkward line of inquiry, stood him in good stead, and served to reinforce the misleading idea that he was just a doddering old gipper, before he delivered the coup de grace.
Second Doctor: “When I say run, run. (pause) RUN!”
Never the most confrontational or macho of Doctors, unless faced with interior decor that was not to his liking, the Second Doctor had a knack for skipping out the way of trouble, and ensuring his companions were safe as he did so. It’s a tactic which all of the Doctors have utilized over the years, but never quite as flamboyantly.
Third Doctor: “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”
This isn’t just a catchphrase for the Third Doctor, but became an in-joke for the show itself, between the script-writers and the audience. Ironically, it was only spoken by the Third Doctor twice, once during his ‘lifetime’ and once again during The Five Doctors, with a certain amount of pregnant giggling. However, it also speaks volumes about the Third Doctor’s loftiness that he would have a sentence of scientific psychobabble ready to go, just to confuse and impress anyone within earshot.
Fourth Doctor: “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
You may be able to detect a theme developing now. Each of these catchphrases is used by their respective Doctors to keep people at arm’s length (literally, in the case of the Second Doctor) while they try to figure out what to do next. And there’s nothing wrong with confusing people with irrelevance and charm while you work out what’s going on. It’s the Doctor’s primary weapon in the battle against the obvious, and if you remember the Fish Custard episode, you’ll realize it’s one he uses all the time.
Fifth Doctor: “Brave heart, Tegan.”
Being an altogether more human sort of Time Lord than any of his previous selves, the Fifth Doctor is not overly weighed down with memorable catchphrases. Behavioral tics, yes: the celery on his lapel, the glasses he doesn’t need, the fetish for cricket – but not catchphrases. This, however, is a nice thing he says to Tegan to keep her spirits up, because he’s a nice man.
Sixth Doctor: “Mmm I wonder…Aha!”
And there we have the Sixth Doctor in a nutshell. Curious, engaged, and keen to show off his superior knowledge to anyone who will listen. And I’m only including this because the catchphrase of everyone who ever laid eyes on him ever (“OW MY POOR INJURED FASHION SENSE!”) was only ever said internally.
Seventh Doctor: “Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, somewhere else, the tea’s getting cold.”
The Seventh Doctor would routinely answer any query as to his health with a biffed back claim to be “fine,” which might count as a catchphrase were it not what most British people do at all times, even when dying. Of more interest (although only said once) is this handy mission statement. High drama, inflamed passions, and everyday nonsense all rolled into one. How very Doctorian.
PAUSE FOR EIGHTH DOCTOR, WHO BARELY HAS TIME TO SAY ANYTHING, MUCH LESS DEVELOP A CATCHPHRASE
Ninth Doctor: “Fantastic!”
Never far from the lips of the hardest-bitten Doctor, the one who carried the traumas of his recent past on his face, and tried really hard not to. Although if you had to pick one single line which defines the Ninth Doctor’s surly brand of positivity it would be his protest at Rose’s impudent question as to how he is a spaceman if he talks like he is from the north of England: “lots of planets have a north!”
See that? Not ALL planets, just lots of them. There speaks the voice of experience.
Tenth Doctor: “|’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Look, I wanted “allons-y” as much as everyone else, and it would’ve definitely won if this was just about memorable phrases that stick in the mind. But there’s something about the way the Tenth Doctor delivered his trademark bad news line. Every time it was as freshly-minted as if it was the first time he’d ever said it, and every time you realized that he must have said it hundreds upon of hundreds of times before.
Eleventh Doctor: “Bow ties are cool.”
Always delivered with a certain wounded pride, usually to a skeptical audience of either River or Amy. It was occasionally stretched to include fezzes, but basically this is the catchphrase of a man who knows his own mind, but worries slightly that he’s out of step with everyone else. Then decides that’s the way things ought to be after all. A moment of characteristic pretend-doubt from one of the more rock-solid Doctors.
What’s your favorite Time Lord catchphrase? Tell us here:
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic