Hi there and welcome to the last installment of 10 Years of Doctor Who Reborn. This has been a long journey since I began these posts back in June, looking back over Doctor Who since its return to the airwaves back in the Spring of 2005. Over the previous 10 installments, I've looked back over each year of the returned Doctor Who, examining the merits of each season's episodes, the stories that soared and the ones that sadly did not but still have a special spot in the heart of Whovians.
Today's finale of 10 Years of Doctor Who Reborn looks at this decade's worth of adventures as one whole. How did the new Doctor Who move forward from the classic series? How did the new show honor its legacy? What worked? What didn't? And what was the best of the best? Particularly, as I wrap up today's post, I want to crown which year of the reborn Doctor Who I consider as...
Except for the Dalek story in the 21st season and the entirety of the 22nd, classic Doctor Who was a half hour show based on a serialized model. Russell T Davies wisely moved from that model. By going to hour long episodes, it announced the show was grown up. It took the show away from the constant artifice of setting up a cliffhanger every 1/2 hour with its inherent reliance on padding and placed the emphasis more on creating stronger, faster paced stories.
The new show changed for the better how we view companions. The classic series did not delve too deeply into the lives of the companions except for the when they were introduced and when they were written out. One significant exception to that was Ace who travelled with the 7th Doctor. The Curse of Fenric was as much a story about Ace as it was about the latest alien monster trouble the Doctor found himself in. Not completely unheard of in classic Who but certainly the exception. With the new series, the life of the companion was important on a consistent basis.
This emphasis that new Who put on companions also altered the dynamic of the relationship with the Doctor. Companions became less of a sidekick and more of a partner to the Doctor in his travels. Even the best companions of the classic series such as Jamie, Jo and Sarah Jane were basically assistants to the Doctor. This difference was addressed in School Reunion when Sarah Jane refers to Rose's age, saying, "I must be getting older, the Doctor's assistants are getting younger", an observation that Rose does not take kindly to.
For all the changes from the classic show to the new show, the re-launched Doctor Who wisely did not disregard the past. That bullet headed man in the black jumper in 2005 was the same man with the wispy white hair we met in 1963 and with every face in between. The look of the show was different but the heart was still the same: a strange man in a blue box travelling through time and space, having adventures and saving worlds. That history, that legacy was important to long time fans to embrace this new show. But it was also important to new fans, to embrace this wild, amazing new thing with a connection that transcends our present.
It was a relief to see the show move beyond the Doctor as some kind of costumed space hero. The predilection for outrageous designs and bright colors gave way to ensembles that looked distinctive and eccentric but easily could be imagined coming off some one's closet rack.
It took a bit of time for us classic fans to get used to a Doctor who looked so young. With the exception of Peter Davison, classic Who cast actors of a certain age to play the Doctor. Particularly David Tennant and most certainly Matt Smith shifted that take on the Doctor. When Peter Capaldi came on board, new Whovians were a bit taken aback by his age; fans of the classic show were thinking, the Doctor's supposed to look like that. Over the last 10 years, we've had 4 actors of varying ages and styles portray the Doctor. If anything, this has shown us that with the new Doctor Who, anything and everything is possible.
Below are some assessments of different things I have found to be the best of Doctor Who over the last 10 years. So let's get cracking on that.
Best Dalek story:
Asylum of the Daleks
Best Doctor-Lite story:
Best Slap in the Doctor's Face
Into the Dalek (Clara slaps the 12th Doctor)
Aliens of London (Rose's mom slaps the 9th)
Best Punch in the Doctor's Face
The Big Bang (Rory punches the 11th Doctor)
The Idiot's Lantern (Government agent punches the 10th)
Best Two Part story:
The Stolen Earth/Journey's End
The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
Best Appearance Of Someone From Classic Who:
The Day of the Doctor (Tom Baker)
School Reunion (Elisabeth Sladen)
Best Entry Story for a New Companion:
Partners In Crime (Donna)
The Bells of St. John's (Clara)
Best Exit Story for a Companion:
Angels Take Manhattan (Amy and Rory)
Best Entry Story for a New Doctor:
The Eleventh Hour
Best Exit Story for a Doctor:
The Time of the Doctor
The Parting of the Ways
Finally, over the last 10 weeks I've looked back over 10 years of Doctor Who Reborn. Each year had its ups and downs. More ups than downs and that's not just my bias as a Doctor Who fan talking. But over all I think there is 1 year that particularly stands out as an extraordinary achievement over the course of an entire season. When I looked back at that particular year, I was hard pressed to put episodes in any kind of order in terms of quality. Yes, some were better than others but even the ones with any shortcomings were stronger than other episodes from seasons both before and after it.
So to wrap up this series of posts, I will now announce my pick for...
And that choice is....
Discounting the 2007 Christmas Special, Series 4 did not disappoint at all. As with any season of any TV show, some episodes were stronger than others but there were no outright failures, no episodes that I could say unequivocally crashed and burned. And then there were the episodes that were truly brilliant like "Midnight", "Turn Left", "The Silence in the Library" two parter, "The Planet of the Ood" and the epic two part season finale.
A lot of this owed to some really strong writing, particularly from the main man himself, Russell T Davies. But it helps when you have a strong character dynamic being brought to life by two actors, David Tennant and Catherine Tate, who were at the top of their game.
This is not to make light of the accomplishments of actors and writers in years before and years after. But for a level of consistent high quality from episode to episode, Series 4 is hard to beat. And this is why I declare 2008 as the Best Year Ever for 10 Years of Doctor Who Reborn.
Next week, I post the debut of my new fan-fiction. Here are random samples of dialogue from the first installment.
- “Shut up! I’m saving your life!”
- “I don’t care about your laws. All I want is my revenge!”
- “No! Don’t you dare leave me!”
- “Hello, Doctor, my dear old friend!”
- “Oh, Miss Oswald! We’ve been expecting you!”
- “Someone! Please help me! Doctor!”
And five weeks after that....
...the real deal, coming September 19th!
Everybody, be good to one another.