Doctor Who at 10 years old: Classic versus New

New Doctor Who Tenth Anniversary

A decade in, how’s the bold New Doctor Who bearing up to compared to its Classic predecessor

10 YEARS. 10 YEAR’S ALREADY. 10 YEARS. THE TIN ANNIVERSARY. AND THEY SAY TIME IS RELATIVE. Since Doctor Who returned on 26th March 2005 we’ve heard more about fixed and immovable points of time than ever before. Sure, they haven’t been treated too consistently over the past decade, but if ever there was a point that had ultimate mobility it was one spring day 10 years ago.

Jokerside’s always been kind to the show’s prolonged hiatus. For all the shame that Who was cut down at the all too young age of 26, when it was reaching a considerable 1980s high, and clearly by decision makers who had little objectivity, the hiatus has proved crucial to the show’s legacy. True, we might have lived without the American TV Movie, although losing Paul McGann would have been criminal. More important was the throng of fan activity that quickly swung into place to continue the Doctor’s adventures and keep the Sacred Flame alive during the lean early 1990s; imaginations starved that quickly adapted to generating content for themselves.

Creative Explosion

Keeping the Sacred Flame alive

The New Adventures came about through the chance inquisitiveness of Peter Darvill-Evans at Virgin Publishing, before BBC books found repeating that magic wasn’t that easy. Among the roster of Virgin’s subsequent New and Missing Adventures were Russell T Davies, Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts, Paul Cornell… On screen, the wittily disrespectful Curse of Fatal Death gave Steven Moffat a chance to script Who that wouldn’t otherwise have materialised. At the end of the decade, Big Finish roared into prolific recording, reviving those would be soon called classic doctors thanks to Nick Briggs, Gary Russell et al – creators who would have a significant role to play in 21st Century Who.

While many were dragged into the world of New Who following their involvement in the above, reputations enhanced by proven success, there’s no doubt that the looser editorial control in the early 1990s (that is, from the BBC) allowed Who to diversify and deepen far more than it could on television. And the legacy of creative explosion on New Who is undeniable, even as it sits proudly back its traditional Saturday family slot.

Time Wars

Masterful appropriation of fate

More importantly, when all these events combine, the hiatus became the ideal metaphor for the perfectly vague Time War. A non-descript, highly destructive war of which few could speak and the Doctor would take no little time to recover from: Masterful appropriation of fate.

Who loves a birthday, but has rarely managed to hit the date. There may be something coming up in Series Nine to celebrate this anniversary, which would be a neat reference to the Classic series 10th anniversary special, which may have fallen in Season 10 but was almost a whole year early. Whatever happens, we’ll be very lucky to see Three Doctors team up this time around.

So if you took 10 key points of Doctor Who – how would these first 10 years of New Who compare to the Classic Series?

  1. THE TUNE AND THE TUNNEL

New Who has been lucky to retain Murray Gold for its entire run

1973

Delia Derbyshire’s distinctive arrangement of Ron Grainger’s theme stayed broadly unmolested for seven years from the moment her second version had rung out at 17:16 on 23rd November 1963, just as the highly influential work of genius in the key of E should. There were a few minor tweaks of course – such as the echoes that appeared during Patrick Troughton’s first season. With colour and overhaul to the title sequence that had managed to last one doctor without sporting the protagonist’s face, came the first big theme change. Jon Pertwee’s first season in 1970 saw extra sting to match its Quatermass horrors arrive during The Ambassadors of Death. But the Third Doctor also saw his tune lose some of the introduction, completely mislay the middle eight and take fright at fading, opting for a stutter and eerie chopping.
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Doctor Who: The New Series Whovember Recap!

New Whovember recap

 

New Whovember has concluded: Three Doctors, Two show runners and War Doctor in a right state…

The 50th anniversary saw Jokerside take on the 26 years of classic Doctor Who, so it was only a matter of time before the New Series came under the sapce-time visualiser.  

NEW WHOVEMBER FOUND ITSELF IN A VERY DIFFERENT UNIVERSE FROM ITS CLASSIC FORBEAR. So the Classic Whovember recap ran, that “monumental 26 year run stretching from Totter’s Lane in East London on a fog-bound night in 1963 to the sun-drenched, cat-stalked streets of Perivale” to Millennial San Francisco took its leisurely time and eight Doctors. When the show came back, the show needed to update and almost everything changed.

The 10th anniversary of the new series takes place at the end of this month, when Jokerside will take a long look at the how ten years of the new series compare with 10 years of the classic run. But first, a summary of the recently completed New Series Whovember. With its own Fourth Doctor at the beginning of a hopefully long run, it falls to a trilogy of Doctors who include one of the shortest serving and two of the longest running.

The spirit of the original Whovember remains, where each article took an individual Doctor and a different, crucial aspect of the show’s myth and viewed them through the prism of a plot arc or set of serials. It wasn’t an exact art then, but the new series posed new problems, with the most complicated and arc-based era of the show’s 50 years setting some stern challenges. As usual, a little seen episode or a fresh viewing would set the parameters…

The Ninth Doctor - Doctor Who

#9 – Slitheen – The Green, the Good and the Ugly

The return of the one giant and previously missing Who staple… The Cliff-hanger!

There was little steer when it came to the single series of the Ninth Doctor. But one idea seemed irresistible, albeit a little horrid. The Slitheen. These green and bulbous aliens managed to make quite an impression on the reborn show. They would spill out quite happily into spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures but while they never made the impression that the Weeping Angels would and have fallen away from monster montages they played a pivotal role in that first series. Not only were they the focus of the show’s first two-parter and therefore cliff-hanger, but they were also the first new ‘monster’ to earn a return appearance.

For all the other highlights of that first series, it’s a delight to find that the mini-Slitheen arc in Series One is solid and show advancing stuff. Running just before the series finale, Boomtown is the first of Who’s bottle episodes, something that would stretch ingenuity with incredible results in subsequent series. For its lightweight approach, it made room to tackle difficult issues:

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Doctor Who: Celebrity Histories – “I’m Going to be King. Run!” (Whovember #10 Omega)

Tenth Doctor and his Zygon 

New Whovember continues. The second of two Tenth Doctor retrospectives looking at the strangely linked world of his celebrity historicals. As the knocks tolled for this Doctor it was clear that he still had a thing for Royals. But would we ever find out what?

IN THE FIRST PART OF THIS RETROSPECTIVE WE VISITED THE SECOND AND THIRD SERIES OF NEW WHO – TACKLING WEREWOLVES, FIREPLACES AND BARDS. When Martha left, halfway through the Tenth’s chronological tour of duty, there was no way that trips to the celebrated past would leave with her. Series Four presented two historic adventures, both with celebrities of sorts and both landing in the top half of that year’s most viewed. While they proved to be excellent farewells to the Russell T Davies era of historical adventures but they left some plot strands… Although the Eleventh Doctor may have upped the stakes with Marilyn Monroe and River Song, the riddle of Queen Bess was asking for a conclusion.  And what better time than the Doctor’s Golden anniversary?

In this installment a look at:

A mixed bag of Fire, Myth and gold.  But are there any other patterns? “No, no, don’t do that…”

The Fires of Pompeii (Series Four, 2008)

Capaldi isn’t alone…

Series four still sticks out in the run of New Who. It’s resplendent, with only Series Eight matching its appearance. The fifth series would take a strange decision to mute the colour palette and it would take some time to return to this sheer variety. Companion-wise, initial disappointment that Donna reneged on her excellent choice not to join the Doctor gives way to undoubtedly the best character development seen in the show. And yet, it never quite hits the high-points of Series 3 despite serving up two celebrity histories.

Again, The Fires of Pompeii ramps up the production quality with astonishing set design thanks to BBC co-production Rome. Ancient Rome on Doctor Who once again, except it isn’t – it’s Pompeii and “it’s volcano Day”. Once again this is the first main trip for the Doctor’s companion and a rough ride of conscience and choice awaits. It may be the weakest grasp at celebrity, but its warranted. Lucius Caecilius Lucundus’s house still stands in Pompeii. And with the actor portraying him latterly rising to the rank of Time Lord it’s got to be a cert. Capaldi isn’t alone, sitting in a fine cast that also features Phil Davis, Phil Cornwall and Phil ‘The Power of Kroll’ Taylor. I might have made one of those up. Read more…

Doctor Who: Celebrity Histories – “Stepped through in either direction” (Whovember #10 Alpha)

Tenth Doctor and his future 

New Whovember continues with the first of two Tenth Doctor retrospectives. To begin, the strangely linked world of celebrity historical that prove, if nothing else, that there are few people the Tenth Doctor likes to hang around with more than Royals.

IT’S NOT EASY TO FORGET THAT THE DOCTOR’S FIRST ADVENTURE TOOK HIM BACK TO THE DAWN OF HUMANITY, BUT THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF TIME VORTEX UNDER THE BRIDGE SINCE THEN.  When it returned in 2005 the new series established a formula it’s virtually kept to of kicking off each series in the present day, then speeding forward in time before dipping back into the past for the third episode. While purely historical adventures may not have existed in the show since the early-1980s, the successful return has shown that they remain a crucial part of the show.  Indeed, few things sum up the Russell T Davies era of New Who like the celebrity history. And as the longest serving Doctor of both Davies’ tenure and New Who it seemed natural to look at the Tenth Doctor’s brushes with the celebrity shoulders of times past…

In this installment a look at:

Broadly, if you’re not royalty of the writing or properly regal kind you’ll have trouble getting in. Things have changed considerably since the Seventh Doctor couldn’t quite place Queen Elizabeth II’s face in Silver Nemesis. But are there any other patterns? “No, no, don’t do that…”

Tooth and Claw (Series Two, 2006)

A Victorian household named Torchwood

Tooth and Claw unmistakably kicks off in the Highlands. The setting for the Second Doctor adventure The Highlanders, where it was ably doubled by Surrey. Here it’s Merthyr’s turn to stand in for the timeless landscape. Timeless that is until… Slow-mo kung fu monks appear to commandeer a Victorian household named Torchwood. It’s a strange but thrilling start to the Tenth Doctor’s first historical, climaxing in a classic cage reveal pre-title cliff-hanger. The clue to cage’s the inhabitant is in the title you know…

Set loose from introducing this incarnation, Davies shows a playful and confident hand. Ian Drury makes an unexpected but welcome appearance aboard a TARDIS heading for 1970s Sheffield while Rose calls the Doctor a big old punk. But amid the fun of a vortex crash and the Doctor’s astute use of his Rhythm Stick, they end up in 1879. The Tenth Doctor’s first historical makes more than a nod to the Second Doctor’s 1966 Scottish outing – the last completely historical serial of any real length – when the Doctor introduces himself as Dr James McCrimmon. That takes in the PhD the Second Doctor once established that he’d earned and as a cover it gives David Tennant the chance to use his own accent (and then when Rose matches him, start the “Don’t do that” trope that will become very familiar). It’s fun but it’s also a sign that things are about to become a little too coincidental. The auspicious bump into Queen Victoria send the TARDIS crew into a tale of werewolves, long laid plans of revenge and assassination set mostly on the Torchwood Estate. Read more…

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