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Doctor Sue?
The Doctor. An immortal alien genius with a time machine who has save the universe so many times that it seems that the cosmos was constructed just to plague/amuse him. He is the centre of everything, he is very nearly always right and all the people around him (including himself) wax lyrical about how he is amazing in-a-can. He has amazing powers that he just seems to pull out of his Deus Ex Machina, and the entire universe recognises his authority. If you have a skill you can be certain that The Doctor has it too and he is a million times better at it than you and always will be.

How does he manage not to be a Mary Sue?

I have a theory. Please feel free to add your own, but here is my impression of how the Doctor has managed to coat himself in Mary Sue replant.

He cares.

He genuinely cares about others. Just listen to the way he talks about people. While everyone looks at him with awe he looks at us with the same respect. While a Mary Sue is a black hole that sucks up all the admiration and gives nothing in return The Doctor always is excited and impressed by our efforts, because he just knows one day we’re going to be fantastic. And if a man as awesome as him can have hope for us, maybe we do have a chance.

Anyone else have an opinion?

I think part of the reason that The Doctor is tolerable is because, despite being so great at almost everything, he is constantly humbled by the sacrifices of those around him, people who, unlike him, only get one life and have everything to lose. He can never save all of the people who deserve to be saved, except in very rare Everybody Lives situations, and that wears on him. You can sometimes see the cracks in his fascade, see him processing the enormous weight of what the people around him have endured: how many people died for him this week?

At least, that's why I like The Doctor. He knows he's good, but he also knows that sometimes he's not good enough, and he loves us for taking up the slack.
comment #2185 Dracomicron 9th Apr 10
While I've never seen Doctor Who, (yet), I do have some thoughts on the nature of Mary Sues. In my opinion, Mary Sues are people who have more powers (I'm using powers as a general term, it could be popularity, skills, magic, plot importance) then personality. Batman may rarely lose and he may kick tens different kinds of ass, but he's still an interesting person that would be fascinating even if he didn't have these powers, and that's what's important. If the doctor would be just as interesting even if he wasn't the never wrong, ass kicker he is. Like the page for Villain Sue says, if you're watching just to see the building blow up, and not to see their plans unfold, you've got a Mary Sue.
comment #2208 Phrederic 10th Apr 10
If the Doctor were a typical Mary Sue, I have to imagine that The Waters Of Mars would have ended rather differently. Just my two cents.
comment #2210 clockworkspider 10th Apr 10 (edited by: clockworkspider)
My response as to why he's not a Sue? S Imple. He's batshit insane.

The main trait of a sue, I feel, is not so much their personal traits and characteristics, but the way the rest of the cast responds to the character: people always gravitate towards them and let them get away with more than normal characters would, I've heard this called the "Aura of Smooth", and though we've seen the Doctor having this effect in so many instances, we've also seen the incredible impact of what happens when it goes wrong. We've seen him mistrusted, threatened and gobsmacked by humans being bastards. We've seen people die for him without justification, there are, as another commentor said, cracks in his facade. We see him go into blinding rages that override his rationality, we've seen him screw up just because he thought he understood a situation, got smug about it, and turned out to be totally wrong.

He also committed genocide, that kinda sways the bar a little.
comment #2443 92.23.16.208 5th May 10
Another thing is that the Doctor gets Character Development, which Sues rarely do.

He starts out as a scary near Anti Hero in the first season, and warms up gradually. For the first six seasons of the show, he's on the run from his own people, "cut off without friends or protection". You get the impression that he was really quite sheltered on Gallifrey, and it's only after he's run away and seen the Universe that he sees the evils that must be fought. We get hints about his checkered past, and in the sixth season finale this comes back to bite him β€” the Time Lords put him on trial and execute him, then exile him and neuter his time travelling powers. His impassioned speech in defence of his interference is the first time we really see him take a stand for the Universe, and it's a result of all the development he's undergone over the past six seasons. The next few seasons show why he takes the Earth as his favourite planet (although he already liked it) β€” he was stuck there and grew to love it. And that's just the first 10 years of the program. He wasn't always a hero β€” we get to see him become one. And he almost never succeeds completely; "everybody lives" is an exceptional outcome for a story, and the body count in Logopolis is probably in the trillions or hundreds of trillions. In the '80s, he is by turns maudlin (Tom Baker's final season, which at times turned nearly as angsty as Tennant's), The Woobie Chew Toy Destroyer Of Worlds (Davison), quick-tempered and impulsive (Colin Baker), and an Obfuscating Insanity Manipulative Bastard Chessmaster (Mc Coy). Eccleston and Tennant had angst-driven character arcs, and Smith's Doctor (much like Tom Baker's) is far too alien and unpredictable to be a Sue.
comment #2446 Roccondil Rinon 5th May 10 (edited by: Roccondil Rinon)
The Doctor isn't always right. People seem to miss this, especially in the RTD era, so I thought I'd emphasize that point. While an ostensibly noble character, he has many moments when he is petty, indecisive, irrational, vindictive, or just downright thick. He's not human, and while he loves humans, he often doesn't quite "get" the human perspective on things, and his idea of right and wrong is often hampered by his rather alien and all-encompassing perspective. Good companions temper this, pointing out and helping The Doctor understand things from the limited perspective of the individual person. (note Amy Pond in The Beast Below and Victory of the Daleks)
comment #2452 63.95.218.254 6th May 10
If there is a Doctor Sue in this series (and there is!), surely it is the other Doctor, Doctor Riversong. Look at these identifying characteristics as taken from the main wiki page: Mary Sue "has a similarly cool and exotic name. She's exceptionally talented in an implausibly wide variety of areas, and may possess skills that are rare or nonexistent in the canon setting. She also lacks any realistic, or at least story-relevant, character flaws β€” either that or her "flaws" are obviously meant to be endearing. She has an unusual and dramatic Back Story. The canon protagonists are all overwhelmed with admiration for her beauty, wit, courage and other virtues"

Also: "She has some sort of especially close relationship to the author's favorite canon character β€” their love interest, illegitimate child, never-before-mentioned sister, etc. Other than that, the canon characters are quickly reduced to awestruck cheerleaders, watching from the sidelines as Mary Sue outstrips them in their areas of expertise and solves problems that have stymied them for the entire series"

She flies the Tardis better than the Doctor, and knows not to make the 'whoop whoop" sound. I cannot see as anything other than a (from the main wiki page again) "female character in a fanfic who obviously serves as an idealized version of the author mainly for the purpose of Wish Fulfillment."

comment #2478 86.25.214.199 10th May 10
Are you saying Steven Moffat wants to be River Song.
comment #2481 wellinever 11th May 10
Basically, yes! He can't be happy writing stories and dialogue for Doctor Who, he has to introduce a character who's better at being the Doctor than the Doctor is himself. That's one of the best ways to tell a bad fanfic writer from a good real one.
comment #2486 86.25.214.199 11th May 10
^^I feel the same way with the Doctor's new companion actually. She seems to be one step ahead of even the doctor.

And in Blink, still one of my favourite episodes, the Doctor was seen in a surprisingly helpless situation.

I feel like Moffat almost wants to knock the Doctor down a notch.
comment #2488 iwintheinternets? 11th May 10
^^ The thing is though I love the idea of the doctor meeting a person out of sequence. Maybe that's why the Doctor is so annoyed with River all the time too. She does know more than him, she is better at some things than him and without the build up she comes across as a know it all which pisses the hell out of both the Doctor and us. I have a feeling when we meet her for the first time all the stuff she does in these episodes will be awesome in retrospect. Hopefully. Don't let me down Moffet.

^ Yeah, now that you mention it The Doctor has been slightly off the ball recently, particulary in The Beast Below. But then again they did a similar thing with Donna during The Fires of Pompeii and that really help to change her Scrappy image. Then again again that was a moral decision rather than a mental one like in The Beast Below with Amy figuring out the space whale thing before the 907 year old alien whose mind is so huge it will melt your brain if it gets stuck in your head for too long. Maybe he does want to take the doctor down a peg. Retreat a bit from the whole alien tinkerbel Jesus thing that RTD had going. However that could be dangerous. If it was still Tennant I think that would be fine but now it's Smith it could come across that the Eleventh Doctor is less able than the Tenth, and that would not bode well with the new audience. However from what I've heard about the latest episode The Doctor does some amazing brain work so I don't think it will come to that.
comment #2523 wellinever 15th May 10 (edited by: wellinever)
I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the numerous recurring villains that fucking hate his guts (and kick his ass many times), dying on more than one occasion, being a genuine asshole in the early Hartnell serials, and his careless adventuring being deconstructed to the core in Flesh and Stone/Family of Blood and Amy's Choice. I did read the part where you say why he's not a Sue, but the fact that you could even suggest that he is on the sole basis that he is a competent protagonist brings out the hateful elitist in me. I'd ask you to excuse my lack of courtesy, but I find this article so completely offensive in its stupidity that I'm just gonna be an dick.
comment #2874 76.69.84.193 15th Jun 10
Edit: I had a rant here but decided to remove it. Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with their experience.
comment #2882 wellinever 17th Jun 10 (edited by: wellinever)
He's not a Mary Sue because the setting and characterization grounds him. This is why simply listing traits without context is worthless in labeling characters as Sues.
comment #2928 Rebochan 19th Jun 10
As the above commentor mentioned, what makes a character a Mary Sue, in my opinion, is not so much their specific traits (the Doctor fulfills many of the boxes you'd tick on the litmus tests, as do many protagonists, but that doesn't nessecarily make him one) but how the other characters respond to them: the universe bends to accomodate them, their opinions are considered more valid than others or they are downtrodden but eventually proven right and everyone else is shame faced: I heard the Mary Sue trait to warp the universe in their favour called the "Aura of Smooth", once... not sure when or where, but it seems to fit. Often the Doctor has the unvierse completely against him...
comment #3501 92.3.176.255 22nd Jul 10
I think riversong can be justified because she once knew the doctor and was taught a lot of things him. She is who she is today because she met the doctor
comment #3640 BlackKing 31st Jul 10
I think riversong can be justified because she once knew the doctor and was taught a lot of things him. She is who she is today because she met the doctor
comment #3641 BlackKing 31st Jul 10
He is Sue-ish, often saving the day and being the man that knows the most, but writers are not afraid to show that he needs people to keep him from getting a batshit crazy God complex (Waters of Mars, 'nuff said) and generally treat him like a person rather than the most fantastic thing that ever walked the earth. That's the difference.
comment #3708 supernova 3rd Aug 10
Either way, Tropes Are Not Bad and if he is a Mary Sue, he may be one of the few positive examples.
comment #4002 Popette 15th Aug 10
... erm, besides what everybody else said... he's hilarious?
comment #4012 Sen 16th Aug 10
First, Tropes Are Not Bad. One of the most annoying things about fanfic Mary Sues is the way they eclipse the characters you're there to see. A Canon Mary Sue (if very well written) can be tolerable, even likable. Percy Blakeny from Scarlet Pimpernel and Ayla from Clan of the Cave Bear are prime examples.

Second, a Mary Sue is a perfect character - good at everything, challenged by nothing, never makes mistakes.

The Doctor is none of these - he is VERY good, but he doesn't always win. He makes mistakes. (Time Lord Victorious, anyone?) He's fallible - and therefore not a Sue. If he was, he wouldn't have lost Rose. Or Donna. Or Adelaide. Or Sara. I could go on, but the list would fill the entire page. And then some.
comment #5009 VorelLaraek 2nd Nov 10
No actually, Mary Sues are allowed to lose. It's usually only fan-fic Mary Sues that win 100% of the time.
comment #5012 150.212.50.121 2nd Nov 10
Mary Sues being allowed to lose does not invalidate the above points: the universe doesn't always bend to accomidate the Doctor: THAT'S the trait which ultimately decides if a character is a Sue, in my books, and even that is up for debate depending on the kind of story you're reading - granted sometimes it does, especially when he has that "oh god oncoming storm we're sorry we won'tdoitagain!' thing going, but just as often we see him being dissected, and his faults are frequently thrown at his face.
comment #5303 Scarab 30th Nov 10
Related: Ironically for a show that's been compared to fanfic several times, the spinoff Torchwood really shows that the world doesn't bend around the Doctor whims.
comment #5320 OldManHoOh 2nd Dec 10
Can we just Subverted this?
comment #6830 luff 15th Mar 11
So I think we can all agree: Either the Doctor is not a Mary Sue, or he is the one and only case of a Mary Sue done right.
comment #7187 dontcallmewave 5th Apr 11
Edit: Never mind, that wasn't me.
comment #7199 OldManHoOh 6th Apr 11 (edited by: OldManHoOh)
I can't see the Doctor as a sue, mostly because of Amy's Choice. "Then what is the point of you?" Just digest that episode for a minute.
comment #7826 ThatChickWithPurpleHair 30th May 11
He's not a Mary-Sue because all those traits are merely symptoms, not the cause of Sue-ness. The heart of what people call a Mary Sue is not merely infallibility or remarkable skills or an unusual backstory: it's the implausibility, the breaking of suspension of disbelief, the point where the character doesn't seem like a person, but fictional.
comment #8599 Laura 13th Jul 11
Look. A Mary Sue is an example, hands down, of bad writing. If we can all agree it's a well-written but powerful character, he's not a Sue.

Tropes Are Not Good either. Especially tropes coined entirely to describe bad writing.
comment #8895 Rebochan 26th Jul 11
Obviously there has been much comment already... and I've only seen the new series... but to me he's not a Mary Sue, because it's clear that all that awesome carries a huge cost. Yes, sometimes he's cocky about his abilities. Rightfully so. But just as often he seems pretty burdened by who he is and what he has to do. Mary Sue has it all. The Doctor has the curse of the Time Lords.
comment #10659 arrowyn 8th Oct 11
He locked Older Amy Pond out of the TARDIS for her to die. That is not something a Mary Sue would do.
comment #11555 Jobbeybob 26th Nov 11
If he's not a Mary Sue 100% of time, he's a Mary Sue 20% of the time.

And I don't mean that in a bad way. Writing is always about ingenuity and a negative trope used to describe bad writing can be done right as weird as it sounds. Think of the amusing troll fics.

There are many episodes were the charm of the Doctor, the driving force of the episode and the humour all extend from his Mary Sueness. Look at the Doctor wondering into history solving all histories problems for him! Look at him being charming ingratiating himself into a group, strolling into problem areas and solving all the problems! It's even a major part of the charm of the series. The Doctor is at so many times like the main character of self-insert fanfic going around having his wild adventures, patting Winston Churchill on the shoulder and so on...

But this is why Doctor Who is lightning in a bottle. No-one can quite pin down why it isn't bad, no-one can quite explain why anyone else should watch it. But we all love it. Normal conventions of tropes don't apply here.

And like all good things, the writers are careful to remind us that he's not always a Mary Sue, that sometimes it's serious and even that the Mary Sueness is a facade the Doctor deliberately wears to disguise the horrors of his life. It's a joke and a joke clever enough to show you that something more impressive is going on behind it, that's it's not bad writing because they're bad writers, but bad writing because they are amazing writers with such an amazing concept that they can use bad writing for brilliant affect.
comment #11569 Tomwithnonumbers 27th Nov 11
I wouldn't call him a Mary Sue, because whilst the entire universe seems to revolve around him, most of the writers make some effort to keep the Doctor from stealing all the limelight. The doctor doesn't always lead, and is often relegated to support roles, whilst the side-kicks or some new character becomes the focus of the story. The better episodes tend to downplay the Doctor.

That said, I do think Doctor who is a space fascist. He always assumes a moral authority, and in one episode, even claims "If you want to take it to a higher authority, then there isn't one. It stops with me." Bullshit, who elected him leader of the universe? Oh wait, no one did. No matter what situation he runs into, he can't abide anything that doesn't follow his line of thinking. So he meddles in things. He overthrows governments, kills aliens, and subverts authority figures. He'll basically waltz into a situation, and won't leave until he has done everything possible to make things suit his world view.

Having an indominatable, forthright hero might work for adventure, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. To me, he feels less like a hero, and more like an ugly tourist, who can't stop mouthing off at the locals.
comment #15615 maninahat 1st Aug 12
Okay, wait. This isn't REALLY connected to this, but I have a question. Can anyone tell me The Doctor's abilities, the ones that people keep mentioning to eb Mary Sue-ish? Oh, and he's not a Mary Sue because he is flawed. He makes mistakes, and tries to learn from them. He also is heavily weighed down by the consequences of his actions, and is incredibly respectful towards people that he believes deserve it. He is a rounded character, and thus, feels sorta 3-D. Mary Sue's often feel more like events or forces of nature than actually people.
comment #21109 MHMhasf1998 13th Sep 13
Interesting explanation.

Personnally, I think that actually qualify him as an Escapist Character, which is exactly the trope for this.
comment #21112 Theokal3 13th Sep 13
^^ His natural abilities involve:

  • The ability to Regenerate, allowing him to cheat death (He even says so when he regenerated into the tenth)
  • A long lifespan and more knowledge as a result.

Those granted by his TARDIS are:

  • Infinite holding space (But then again Bag of Holding has that as well)
  • Time Travel
  • and the power to go anywhere in the universe (and on fewer occasions than fanfic would have you believe, different universes)

Though I think he's not a sue because he has flaws and a Guilt Complex regarding the Time War, and because he makes mistakes. If he was a sue than:

  • A: The Waters of Mars, Amy's Choice, The Snowmen, Midnight and a bunch of other episodes would had ended differently.
  • and B: he wouldn't wind up losing his companions (Rose, was in another dimension, Martha essentially quit because the Master traumatized her family, Amy and Rory died in a time before they were born, Clara became a Dalek, and Donna Noble is forced to forget all the time she spent with the Doctor or else she would die. And those are only the New Series companions)
comment #22335 MorningStar1337 1st Dec 13
Also, some times are "time-locked" like the Time War between Daleks and Time Lords (and factions of about every other classic Who monster, but that's brushed over), and in historically important events that significantly affected the modern world, such as WWII or the life of Vincent Van Gogh, The Doctor cannot interfere in a way that would alter the timeline significantly.

The Shakespeare episode may seem to have forgotten this rule, but The Doctor was just there to spectate and got drawn into a mess involving aliens and helped to preserve the timeline by accident. There are one or 2 happy accidents like this, but The Doctor never goes and directly tampers with the timeline, for better or worse, because the effects could be disastrous.
comment #22344 MrMallard 1st Dec 13
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