Yesterday, my husband and I were having a discussion about catchphrases (specifically, is it necessary when writing fanfiction to include a catchphrase to appease the reader?), and we wondered, just how often do the modern Doctors say their catchphrases? We picture them saying them all the time, but do they really? So, like a good obsessive, data-driven fan, I went through the transcripts of all the modern episodes (including webcasts) to see, and here are the results.
Ninth Doctor: “Fantastic!”
This was a little difficult to work out, because sometimes the Doctor uses the word “fantastic” as part of a sentence, rather than standalone, but I decided to include those instances because he tends to emphasize the word even in the middle of a sentence.
- Total episodes: 13
- “Fantastic”: 15 times in 10 episodes
- Episodes in which he doesn’t say it: “World War Three,” “The Empty Child,” “Boom Town”
- One instance is a repeat, in “Rose, before I go, I just want to tell you, you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I.”
Tenth Doctor: “Allons-y!”
This only counts the times that the Doctor used this standalone. It doesn’t count the time in “The Fires of Pompeii” when he describes a chase scene as a “Nice little bit of allons-y.”
- Total episodes: 49
- “Allons-y!”: 11 times in 9 episodes
- Once in series 2, in “Army of Ghosts.” Technically, he says it six times here, as he’s rambling on about liking the phrase and wanting to adopt it as his catchphrase.
- Twice in series 3, in “Evolution of the Daleks” and “42.”
- Four times in series 4, in “The Voyage of the Damned” and “Midnight” (two uses apiece).
- Three times in the four specials (not “The Waters of Mars”).
- Once in “The Day of the Doctor.”
Eleventh Doctor: “Geronimo!”
- Total episodes: 49
- “Geronimo!”: 12 times in 11 episodes
- Once in series 4, in “The End of Time.”
- Twice in series 5, in “The Eleventh Hour” and “The Beast Below.”
- Three times in series 6, in “A Christmas Carol,” “The Almost People,” and “The Wedding of River Song.”
- Six times in series 7, in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” “The Power of Three,” “Hide,” “Journey to the Centre of the Tardis,” and “The Day of the Doctor.”
- In addition, three companions say it: Craig (“The Lodger”), River (“The Pandorica Opens”), and Amy (“Asylum of the Daleks”).
Analysis and Conclusion
The Ninth Doctor’s catchphrase is by far the most useful, as it can be used in casual conversation and in any situation in which the Doctor is pleased. This is in contrast to the other two catchphrases, which are only useful in circumstances in which the Doctor is going somewhere or starting to enact a plan. Thus, the Ninth Doctor said it very often, in fact more often than the number of episodes that he was in. However, I think that the phrase is iconic not because of the frequency of its use, but because of the inflection and facial expression of the Ninth Doctor when he used it. It wouldn’t feel special to the Ninth Doctor if the phrase had uttered in an ordinary tone of voice.
Between the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor’s catchphrase is less recognized in general in the fan community, perhaps because “Allons-y!” is unusual for English speakers; “Geronimo!” while not a common phrase, is something that has been used before in English media, and outside the fan base is recognized as a battle cry. (It’s of American origin, so maybe a British person will find it more unusual than the American ears of this blog writer.) In fan art that I’ve seen, “Allons-y!” is represented very often, while “Geronimo!” is actually very rare. Comparing the two in the data, “Allons-y!” is used less often than “Geronimo!” but only by a very small amount. Another interesting trend is that it was actually used very sparingly throughout the Tenth Doctor’s tenure, and then suddenly appeared four times in his last five episodes (counting “The Day of the Doctor”).
In conclusion, the catchphrases were actually used a lot less than you’d think they were. The reason why they stick with us is because they capture the personality of the Doctor who uses them, and not because of frequency in which they were used. Another important conclusion to draw from this analysis is that this was an incredibly silly topic to write about, and I am such a geek. And proud of it.