Thursday, 16 May 2013

Top Five Fictional Characters With No Name

After fifty years of mystery, it has been promised that this Saturday in the current series finale of Doctor Who, the Doctor's name will be revealed in the aptly-titled 'The Name of the Doctor.' To celebrate the occasion I thought I would draw up a list of other fictional characters that remain nameless (one of whom the Doctor may cease to be come Saturday). It's not so much a definitive list than a few characters from disparate strands of fiction that, I think, use their namelessness effectively. So, please, read on, whatever your name is.

Nobody Owens
Appeared in: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The protagonist of Neil Gaiman's excellent young adult novel The Graveyard Book, Nobody Owens, known as 'Bod', was made an orphan as a baby after a mysterious killer murdered his family. Instead, Bod was raised, naturally, by the resident ghosts of a graveyard he called home, with the novel following his adventures in and out of the cemetery. Technically, Bod may not count for this list as he is given a name by his surrogate spook-relatives but Nobody is only called such as his adopted mother says 'he looks like nobody but himself.' That's hardly a name now, is it?

 Captain Jack Harkness
Appeared in: Doctor Who and Torchwood, played by John Barrowman

If you only know of John Barrowman's flighty adventurer Captain Jack from Doctor Who, you may be a bit surprised by his placement on this list due to the fact that, well, he has a name. However, in his own spin-off series Torchwood, it is revealed that Jack stole the identity of the real Captain Jack Harkness, an American WW2 soldier, back in the days when he was a bad'un. It's a clear attempt to make Jack more like the Doctor and perhaps isn't mined to too large a degree but it does add to the character's enigmatic and very long life (he's immortal, remember).

The Joker
Appeared in: Batman comics and numerous film and TV adaptations

I'm sure you're all familiar with this fellow. Mad as a box of frogs, the Joker is Batman's arch-nemesis. Sometimes a fairly harmless trickster others a psychotic killer, whatever version of the character it is his past is reliably convoluted and unknowable. Apart from in Tim Burton's Batman where Jack Nicholson's Clown Prince of Crime is called, um, Jack, and in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke graphic novel, where his name is ... also Jack. Well, apart from those examples, the Joker is made all the more threatening due to his namelessness as the less we know of his origins and motives, the more we wonder. Which is far more potent; a large reason why he is such an effective and popular character.

Number Six
Appeared in: The Prisoner, played by Patrick MacGoohan

In the superb sixties series, The Prisoner, a man resigns from his (unknown) job returns to his London flat where he is gassed and wakes up in the Village. A surreal, remote town full of brainwashed individuals and run by the face-changing Number Two, he seems to have been brought there so 'they' may find out the reason why indeed he resigned. As each inhabitant of the Village is assigned a number, we never find out our protagonist's name as he, each episode, tries to escape the Village. The importance of Number Six's lack of a name and his constant refusal to back down to the powers behind the Village is summed up in his famous phrase: 'I am not a number, I am a free man!' The series itself I highly recommend; it's truly iconic and has influenced such modern successful series such as Lost and Life on Mars.

The Creature
Appeared in: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and numerous film, TV, literature and theatre adaptations

The greatest nameless character from all of fiction surely has to be Mary Shelley's sorrowful, passionate and volatile creation. We're all familiar with his story: the outcome of an experiment to create life by Victor Frankenstein, the Creature is shunned by his 'father' and forced to fend for himself upon which he learns humanity's best and worst qualities. Played by Benedict Cumberbatch, pictured left, who shared the role with Johnny Lee Miller in the fantastic Danny Boyle stage production, the Creature is defined by his lack of identity; constantly searching for his place in the world rather than being the inhuman monster that the people he encounters take him for. The Creature's story perfectly encapsulates why our names and identity, things we take for granted, are so important to how the world perceives us and how we view ourselves.

Talking of fictional characters.... Before we get too philosophical, this post acts as a forebear for an upcoming small blogathon I'm hosting concerning our Favourite Fictional Characters. If this interests you, have a read about it here.

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