Not too long ago, thanks to the miracle of Netflix, I revived my Doctor Who fan status. When I was growing up I would watch some of the classic series as I could, whenever I caught it airing on PBS and my parents would let me stay up long enough to watch it. Mostly I watched the 4th Doctor. But after surfing around YouTube a little as a refresher, I can also say I watched some of the 3rd and 5th Doctors too. I never saw the others, but I can imagine they didn’t stray far from the vein of the ones I’m familiar with.
I was told, prior to beginning the modern series, that Doctors 9 and 10 were a better reflection of the classic series and that 11 strayed too far in “reimaging” the Doctor Who franchise. It has no respect for the old stuff, one person told me. And fans of the old series prefer the 9th and 10th Doctors, whereas new fans prefer the 11th.
Well, I’m a fan of the old stuff. And I prefer the 11th Doctor. I disagree with those previous statements, and here’s why.
Let’s take a brief look at the old stuff. Doctor Who was always cutting edge sci-fi. They built a level of creativity in the writing that had not been seen before, and was mostly unmatched during its air time. This wasn’t some “future” thing like Star Trek. It was real people going on extraordinary adventures through time and space. It was about the adventure…the journey…the experiences. And audiences lived vicariously through the Companions.
And the Doctor was our guide.
Now with the 9th and 10th Doctors I’m not saying this wasn’t the case. In fact, it was quite obvious that the writers were trying to capture the look and feel of the old stuff, just modernized. But this doesn’t get us to the essence of the show. By trying to emulate the old stuff, it failed to be cutting edge sci-fi. Sure the writing was creative, but not cutting edge. And near the end of the 10th Doctor’s tenure the writing became sloppy and predictable. The weight of the show was no longer carried by the adventure and journey, but by the shoulders of a talented, and increasingly weary, actor.
For the first time in the history of Doctor Who, the writers felt the need to flesh out the background stories of the Companions. This pushed me even further away. Suddenly I wasn’t allowed to live vicariously because the Companions claimed that right. All I could do was watch. I couldn’t be absorbed anymore.
This all changes with the 11th Doctor. Suddenly the presentation is cutting edge again. They’re taking risks with writing and plot development, a reflection of the spirit of the classic series. The Companions are strong (Finally! A strong male Companion!), but we don’t know every detail about their lives. Their backgrounds are ambiguous enough that suddenly the audience has the window open again to step in and live vicariously. And the show is about the adventure again, and not an exhibition of one man’s acting strength.
For these reasons I say the 11th Doctor is a better reflection of the Classic series. The 9th and 10th Doctors were like a truly great and professional attempt to reproduce a Broadway play from twenty years ago. But the 11th Doctor is like a full-fledged Broadway revival of that play.
No doubt most of you will disagree with me. Go ahead. Let me have it. I’m ready.