Slipknot's Corey Taylor ranks every Doctor Who!

How much does Corey Taylor like Doctor Who? Answer: a lot. A fan of the iconic British TV show since he was a kid growing up in Iowa, the Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman finally realised a longtime dream when he got the chance to voice alien villain The Fisher King in recent episode Before The Flood. As the current series approaches its climax, we ask Taylor to explain his enduring fascination with the show – and more importantly to rank all 13 incarnations of the Doctor himself.

So how did an American kid from the mid-west become so enamoured of such a quintessentially British TV show?

The cool thing is that Iowa has been showing Doctor Who on PBS since 1974. It’s been on since the year after I was born, so I was exposed to it quite early on. Some of my earliest memories are of watching MASH reruns and Doctor Who episodes. My mom was an armchair Doctor Who fan, though not as committed as I became. Tom Baker was my Doctor, so just watching this insane tall person with a scarf that never quit, running around and saving the day, was so cool. It may be one of the reasons why I’m drawn to so much British entertainment, whether it’s humour or drama.

At the risk of destroying your fearsome reputation, have you ever been to any Doctor Who conventions or dressed up as one of your favourite characters?

No, though I’ve gone out of my way to find clothes that feel Whovian. Trust me, you can ruin my reputation all you want. We were playing a gig with Stone Sour – I think it may have been in Manchester – and right behind the venue was this little flea market, where a woman was selling custom handmade jackets. They were basically sports jackets onto which she’d sown her own patches. There was a tan corduroy jacket which had all of these amazing patches sewn to them – some of them looked like they’d been cut from pillowcases – and stitched to the lapel on the front was a puzzle piece from a child’s game. It was the weirdest coat I’d ever seen and I immediately had to have it, because for some reason it reminded me of something Doctor Who would wear. I bought that and a crazy scarf and, for probably a week, I walked around the UK without ever taking either of them off. I kind of secretly pretended to be Doctor Who. It was so fucking stupid, walking around in the land of Who pretending to solve problems as the Doctor.

What about collecting memorabilia?

I have most of the books and I have six of the Sonic Screwdrivers that are available. And most of them are still in their packaging, though I couldn’t keep my son from opening the Matt Smith one. He had to have it. I have Tardis keychains and a Matt Smith Sonic Screwdriver attached to my car keys. I have tons of shit, man. I have t-shirts and a Tardis robe that’s bigger on the inside, thank God. And I have the boxset of figures all the way up to Matt Smith, which I bought at Comic Con.

How did you get involved with doing the roar for Doctor Who character, the Fisher King?

We got an invite to go down to the Doctor Who Experience – which is totally rad and I’d advise any Doctor Who fan to go check it out – and also the studio at BBC Wales, where they shoot a lot of the TV show. I got to go in the Tardis and touched everything. I was a nut. Being in the Tardis is the closest I’ll ever get to being in the Millennium Falcon. Then they said to me: “Look. We have this new character this season and were wondering if you would provide growls and screams for it?” Dude, my heart burst. I was like, “Yes please! Yes!” So there was literally 40 minutes of me screaming into a microphone and the rest is history. They ended up using different combinations of the noises I made, just to give it that really stark alien vibe. The cool thing is that I didn’t see or hear anything more until the day that the episode aired. Me and the whole family were sitting in my house in Iowa watching it and waiting for the growl to come out. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever got to do. It was even cooler to see my name in the credits. That was just fuckin’ religious.

Can you rank your favourite Doctors?

Sure, but it comes down to this though: are we just talking TV series or do you want to delve into the serials or Peter Cushing and the two movies? Because I can talk Doctor Who all goddam day. That first Cushing movie, Doctor Who And The Daleks [1965], is a lot of fun. Peter Cushing was one of my favourite British actors and I think he played the role to the bone. If there was ever a person who I could’ve seen taking over from William Hartnell, besides Patrick Troughton, it was Cushing. But he made the left turn and kept doing the Horror movies.

Let’s stick with the TV series.

OK here goes…

13. Paul McGann

Before The Day Of The Doctor [2013’s extended fiftieth anniversary episode] there was so much debate about whether Paul McGann was officially a Doctor. Then they did that little short – The Night Of The Doctor – which officially made him part of the canon. I thought that was so classy. For all its faults, that TV special was really good and he was great in it. I loved the fact that they tied it all together. I’ll start with McGann because he only got the two official appearances. Nothing against him, but I just thought they could never really flesh out his character because of the lack of time involved.

12. Christopher Eccleston

I love him as an actor, but he only did the one series. The beautiful thing about Eccleston is that he did an independent movie [Jude, 1996] with Kate Winslet, where David Tennant has a bit role. It was cool to see the two of them briefly in the same scene together. It was like one of those minor Doctor Who moments that was incredibly fucking cool.

11. Patrick Troughton

He was almost like the 1930s hobo Doctor, running around and drumming his fingers, but always working things out at the last minute. It’s also to do with one of those cool things when I was younger, watching The Omen and realising he was the Doctor.

10. William Hartnell

I loved Hartnell because he was the first Doctor and kind of set the tone for what the story was. He built on the fact that this was all brand new and enabled people to get into it. Unfortunately, because his health wasn’t great, he didn’t get to continue playing the part. But I loved his scholarly, crotchety Doctor. He had a little bit of contempt for younger people and really couldn’t be bothered with them.

9. Peter Davison

I think Davison suffered, from my perspective, because he was the one who replaced Tom Baker. Though I’ve gone back and given him a fair shake in recent years. I thought he was a very ‘California’ Doctor, with the blonde hair and always being very active. He wasn’t the James Bond that Jon Pertwee was, but he was still very fun and amiable. And I didn’t really appreciate that until later on. As a kid I was like, “Well, who’s this guy? What’s that celery or broccoli on his shirt? I don’t care about this!”

8. Colin Baker

Colin Baker freaked me the fuck out. Everybody talks about Peter Capaldi being very dark, but a lot of people have to realise that Colin Baker, when he first regenerates, is so gnarly and dark that it wasn’t until halfway through his tenure as the Doctor that he suddenly switched. Then he became more light. But when he first regenerates and turns on his companion, it’s just his eyes and the way he comes towards her in the Tardis that freaked me out. He was pretty fucking crazy.

7. John Hurt

He was so perfect as the War Doctor. I love the regeneration scene in The Night Of The Doctor, where Paul McGann becomes the younger John Hurt. Then when you get to The Day Of The Doctor – which I think is one of the best episodes ever made – you see him later and he’s really embraced that role as the War Doctor. It’s incredible. Bringing in John Hurt was a measure of the respect with which people had begun to embrace the character. In the beginning it was campy and more people talked about the low budget than the stories, which was very frustrating as a fan. None of my friends understood why I was watching this show.

6. Peter Capaldi

I love what he’s doing and I love how his style has developed from his first year to now. It’s almost like a modern version of what Troughton was trying to do, just kind of throwing things together: “I have this coat, I have this hoodie, I don’t really give a shit what’s going on. I’m just me.” The only issue I have is I haven’t been able to get behind the Sonic Sunglasses yet, I’m still trying to figure that out. Maybe it’s because I’m such a cynical prick of a fan, I’m so used to seeing the Sonic Screwdriver. We sci-fi fans can’t embrace anything new, we have a very hard time with that.

5. Sylvester McCoy

Right around the time McCoy became the Doctor I’d kind of gotten away from Doctor Who. But when the show went off the air I was like, “Where the fuck did it go?” It was all repeats for a while, so I decided to catch up on some of this, including McCoy. I loved him because he embodied so much of the spirit of what the Doctor was when he started out. But having it in that modern setting - where there was more action, explosion and crazy shit going on – I think McCoy was really the precursor to what the modern series is. That’s one of the reasons why I loved the show so much when it came back, because it reminded me of McCoy when he was doing his thing. And I love the fact that he’s now having this kind of renaissance with his roles in The Hobbit movies [McCoy plays wizard Radagast the Brown]. He’s a fantastic actor.

4. David Tennant

I loved his take on the Doctor and maybe that’s because of how he is as an actor, because I’ll watch anything that he’s in. I even loved his bit parts in the Harry Potter movies and I loved Broadchurch, especially the first series. It was a very smart move to bring him in for the US remake of Broadchurch. It just showed his versatility. I would’ve loved to have seen him playing Hamlet when he was doing his stage run. As the Doctor he was boisterous and curious, but he could also go angry. He could play that rage that you could see bubbling up over the years, when he would see something that was so demonstrably wrong. I think he played that really well. Honestly, I was really sad to see him go. In that last episode, where he switches to Matt Smith, I was like, “How are they going to top that?”

3. Matt Smith

Smith is my son’s Doctor. My son has the green Screwdriver and we watch the show together all the time. In fact, when I told him that I was going to be doing something for Doctor Who, he was so jealous. He’s 13 now and that jealousy is really kicking in. I can remember us both watching The Day Of The Doctor over and over again, just really loving the fact you had Tennant, Smith and John Hurt and all this crazy shit going on. Matt Smith brought something different to the character for the first time. In a lot of ways, everyone else was kind of being themselves and playing the Doctor, or they were stealing little bits from past Doctors. I thought that Matt, for the first time, tried to go somewhere different with it, but in a way that still made it fun and exciting. It’s all about his eyes. Almost in the same way that Colin Baker was, as soon as he would lower his eyes you knew some shit was going to go down.

2. Jon Pertwee

He was the James Bond version of Doctor Who. One of my favourite moments of the Doctor Who Experience was getting to see the Whomobile. It was parked right there. Watching Pertwee run around in that was fantastic. He was a very physical Doctor, yet he could also play the brilliance of the character as quickly as anybody else, while keeping that hint of disdain he had for his companions. He was a lot of fun. And again, it’s one of those things where it’s only in retrospect that I’ve come to really appreciate him. Maybe it’s because he was the one who came before my Doctor.

1. Tom Baker

Tom Baker is my Doctor. Everybody else just pales in comparison. I remember being just fascinated by him, and the fact that he looked like he didn’t have a care in the world. That’s one of the reasons why I love Doctor Who so much. As dark as the show gets, when kids watch Doctor Who they know that they’ll be OK as long as the Doctor’s there. Because they know that the Doctor’s going to figure it out. I also remember Baker pretending to be Sherlock Holmes [Baker played Holmes in a 1982 TV adaptation of The Hound Of The Baskervilles]. I thought it was so wonderful from a pop culture standpoint. Tom Baker so looked the part in his deerstalker hat, it was just such a perfect mash-up.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.