Doctor Who: An Alternative History of 11 American Doctors
In 1993, Fox purchased the rights to Doctor Who from CBS, and decided to see if a television movie might help resurrect the show. The subsequent 90-minute big budget flop is not thought of kindly by fans, and the show went right back into hibernation until 2005.
Fox convinced Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame to return to sci fi leading man status. Though initially poorly received, Hamill's more romantic and dashing Doctor has gained a following in later years. Blame is laid at Fox's hamfisted treatment of Doctor Who rather than the man who played the Time Lord. Particular scorn was given to the casting of Englishman Tim Curry as the Commander, using a role that was traditionally a dig at the American industrial/military complex into a blatant Galactic Empire gag.
Hamill would continue playing The Doctor as a voice actor in the Emmy Award-winning animated series, and recently returned to do the same in the Dalek Asylum series of video games produced by Rocksteady Studios.
After the success of the animated series Fox decided that 2005 was a good time to try again, but recognized that Hamill was now too old to win over a young audience. Instead, they cast Robert Downey Jr., who was slowly working toward a comeback after severe drug problems had stalled his career. Downey feared being trapped in the role just as he was getting back on his feet, and producer Bryan Fuller, worried about a relapse on Downey's part, was equally uneasy. The two agreed to a one-season contract.
The show absolutely exploded. Paired with singer-turned actress Mandy Moore as Rose Tyler, The Ninth Doctor and his companion instantly reignited the series bigger than ever before. Downey's performance as a deeply hurt and disturbed survivor of the Time War resounded with post 9/11 American audiences, while Moore's energy kept the show from going grim. It was a great shock when Downey fulfilled his one-season promise by stepping down due to the success. Despite going on to be one of Hollywood's most prominent leading mans, he has said he regrets not doing more as The Doctor, and is rumored to be returning for the 50th Anniversary this year.
Jon Hamm had grown up idolizing Doctor Who, even writing about the show as part of a final examination while studying at the University of Texas. He'd auditioned at the same time as Downey, and was just barely passed over. Nonetheless, Bryan Fuller couldn't get the young, and yet strangely older, Hamm out of his head, and asked him to take over when it became apparent Downey was leaving.
Hamm cut a very debonair figure, losing the leather jacket casualness of Downey for a series of sharp suits. He was known to go on long philosophical diatribes that made for great television, and while he maintained a loving relationship with Moore's Rose and her successors he was also known for being extremely cruel and dangerous to his enemies. Hamm even managed to knock Alda out of the top spot as the fan favorite in many polls.
Michael Pitt was mostly known for his indie movie credits in things like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and was a fairly obscure player when he took on the part of the current Doctor. Whereas as his previous work often had him playing angsty, dark roles, Pitt decided to play the Doctor with much of the comedic style favored by his favorite Doctor, Paul Lynde. He ditched the modern suits of Hamm, and affected gangster dress of the 1930s with a cocked fedora as his signature fashion piece despite much mocking of it by other characters on the show.
Pitt mixes comedy and darkness in a way that hasn't been seen since Steve Martin handled the role, and ranks near the top of favorite Doctors. His strange relationship with his time-crossed wife River Song, played by Kristin Chenoweth, has been a particularly pleasant journey to watch as the two shamelessly flirt in the face of amazing danger.