I’ve been looking forward to writing this ever since I got four whole series of Doctor Who for Christmas! I’ve already reviewed Series 8, Series 9, and Series 10, but except for this very old (and slightly preachy) post from 2012 and an announcement back in 2017 that I’d started watching Series 7, I haven’t really talked about anything pre-Twelfth Doctor in much detail.
So let’s do this thing. We’ll start with the Russell T. Davies Era first (the Ninth and Tenth Doctors) and then next week I’ll share my thoughts on the Moffat Era (the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors). Worldview issues have already been addressed in the links above (especially the archived 2012 link), so I’m not going to spend much time there except to say that the disclaimer at the very bottom of my site’s page remains applicable.
Also: please remember that the Moffat Era did bring me into Doctor Who, so my personal views/preferences are colored by that. I mean no disrespect to any fans, actors, or writers. These posts are meant to be fun expressions of my Whovian thoughts. That is all.
Allons-y and Geronimo!
The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), Series 1
“Don’t skip Nine,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. So I didn’t skip Nine. In fact, I watched “Rose” and “The End of the World” on Christmas Day before consuming turkey and cornbread dressing, and I enjoyed both episodes! Over the next couple of weeks, I dutifully watched most of Series 1…until I finally wearied of the general campiness.
In its defense, Doctor Who was newly-rebooted at this point. I suspect Russell T. Davies and his team were just trying to find their footing. Where were they ultimately going to take the show? Would it lean more towards the goofball side (which one might’ve legitimately feared after observing the Slitheen), or be predominantly dramatic (as seen in “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”)?
This dissonance, in my personal opinion, carries over into Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal of the Doctor. While he can be as fun as he is mysterious, Nine tends to be all over the place. Ten is primarily emotional and angsty; Eleven is gentle and ancient; Twelve is gruff and logical. But Nine doesn’t have as much of an…emotional niche. Perhaps if he’d had more than just one season, he would’ve had the chance to develop more. I do like him! I just don’t feel like I got a chance to get attached to him.
That said, there were some episodes I really liked in Series 1. I’d even say that “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” is one of the greatest Doctor Who stories of all time. It has a truly frightening monster and/or disaster, a mystery that the Doctor and his companion must solve together, vividly-crafted supporting characters (Captain Jack Harkness, anyone?), an emotional, character-driven story…and last but not least, a happy ending. This is the prime recipe for a truly fantastic Doctor Who story.
The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), Series 2-4
When Doctor Who first came to my attention, David Tennant was still the Doctor. (Why yes, I have known about this show that long.) Tall, skinny, freckled, and almost always grinning from ear-to-ear, he’s clever, adorable, eloquent, and absolutely charming. And as soon as I watched “Christmas Invasion” for the first time back in late January, I leaned back with a gleeful sigh and thought, “Ah yes…this is the Doctor Who I know and love!”
For the most part, I greatly enjoy this era. Ten is at his most endearing in Series 2, from his quoting of the opening lines of The Lion King to his triumphant cry of “I’m the Doctor, and I just snogged Madame de Pompadour!” And in spite of the fact that Rose Tyler remains my least favorite companion, two of my all-time favorite episodes (“The Girl in the Fireplace” and “School Reunion”) do come from Series 2.
Series 3 was much more frustrating. I really like Martha Jones, the next companion, but Ten’s pining for Rose irritated me–not because he pined (that was understandable), but because, to quote a later (and very wise) companion, he left Martha feeling like “a bargain basement stand-in for someone else.” Martha was brilliant in her own right, but she had to compete with a ghost. Also: except for “Blink,” rightly considered one of the All-Time Greats, I found most of Series 3 too plot-driven and on the boring side.
Series 4, on the other hand, is RIP-ROARING GOOD FUN, and all because of these two dorks:
Ah, Donna Noble–my second-favorite companion of all time. She doesn’t put up with the Doctor’s nonsense. She doesn’t put up with anybody’s nonsense. But she’s also remarkably observant, brave, and compassionate. She probably would’ve stuffed the entire population of Pompeii into the TARDIS if the Doctor had let her. (Not that that would’ve been a great idea, when you consider the historical implications plus the unsavory reputation of the Pompeiian citizenry in general…but you get my point.)
Series 4 is chock-full of memorable episodes. My mom, much to my surprise, loved “Partners in Crime.” “Midnight” is a feat of both acting and storytelling, while “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” introduces the delightfully mysterious River Song (more on her in the next post). “The Fires of Pompeii” is definitely on the weird side, but it’s worth watching just to see a much younger Peter Capaldi playing a Roman nobleman who steals the TARDIS and then gets to have Important Conversations with the Doctor.
Overall, however, and much to my disappointment, I found David Tennant’s era a bit depressing. Ten started out so joyful and adventurous, but by the conclusion (especially in the five specials that led up to and included his regeneration), he’s morose and embittered by his many losses. It makes complete sense, given his story arc, but of the four Doctors I’ve watched, his regeneration is the saddest. Nine, Eleven, and Twelve all felt incredible peace at the end of their tenures, but Ten’s cry of “I don’t want to go” just made me feel like drawing a melancholy sigh…
Until POOF!–this uncoordinated baby giraffe appeared!
10 thoughts on “The Ultimate Doctor Who Review, Part One”
Ten is always my favorite Doctor, and his seasons–even the sad parts–ESPECIALLY the sad parts–are my favorite. I find him a kindred spirit, in a very comforting way. I like that the writers were honest about the depths of depression & loss, but they never allowed Ten to entirely lose hope or give up fighting. He was always saving people, up to the very end; even with a broken heart. I love that. ❤
He really is a dear. Like I said at the beginning of the post, I meant no insult or disrespect to ANY of the characters or actors whatsoever by any of my statements or opinions–and I do really like Ten! He had some fantastic stories, especially in Series 4. I ran out of room to mention it, but the whole “Turn Left/The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End” three-parter was downright excellent.
Oh, definitely! I know you really appreciate ALL the Doctors and that makes me happy ❤ I think it's fantastic that we DO get so many different personalities with the different incarnations of the character, so we can all find the one who suits us best while still enjoying the variety of the whole group. Honestly, what other TV show has so much built-in change and variation? None that I can think of! We Whovians are so lucky 🙂
Poor Tennnn… :”(
He really DID have it tough compared to a lot of the other Doctors’ regenerations, didn’t he? I always come back to his conversation with Wilf in that last special, where Ten describes what regeneration is like. “Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering off. And I’m dead.” One of my favorite scenes, actually, even though it makes me want to sob my eyes out.
And it was rather depressing… All that joy and vivacity he had when he started out, reduced to such brokenness in the end. Ten makes you really feel the plight of a lonely Time Lord, being the “last of his kind” and living so much longer than everyone he loved.
Not to go off on an unrelated tangent, but Ten’s fate makes me worry about Thirteen. In many ways, she’s extremely similar to Ten. Her enthusiasm, curiosity, the tendency to say “sorry” about everything — many of the quirks and mannerisms Jodie Whittaker adds to the role are clearly influenced by David Tennant’s characterization of his Doctor. A lot of fans are already worried that the similarities might continue throughout her life, leading her eventually to a crazed “Time Lord Victorious” moment and eventually just to sadness and despair. She certainly has the potential to fall into that darkness; though it has been noted by many fans that series 11 was actually very light and gave us barely a glimpse of the Doctor’s darker side that’s usually so prevalent in NuWho, I think there were moments in the finale and certainly in the New Year’s Special that gave us just a peek of the almost Master-like power she could wield towards her enemies, if she so chose.
But hey, Ten’s era gave us Donna Noble, and I can never complain about that!! Still one of my favorite ever companions!!
And WILF! Man, if I could choose just one past companion to return and meet Thirteen (River doesn’t count XD), it would probably have to be Wilfred Mott. Such an untraditional choice of companion, but he GOT the Doctor so WELL! He loved Ten so much, for what he was, what he’d been able to do for Donna, even though it was all lost in the end. He never blamed him for anything. He just wanted him to be safe. There are echoes of him in Nardole and Graham O’Brien, but Wiff was still something special. I really hope he was able to know that the Doctor did make it, and is still watching over him, down there in that little garden with the telescope. Ahh, I’m giving myself way too many feels just thinking about this!!
AND YAY FOR THE APPEARANCE OF OUR UNCOORDINATED BABY GIRAFFE!! XD
I really enjoyed this review! You have a great way of hitting all the points that need to be covered, but still keeping things concise and easy-to-digest. Something I’m, eh, still working on… 😛
I’m looking forward to the next part! 🙂
(Oh, also hopping back over here to add that I read your archived post from 2012 as well, because I was curious to know what Young Maribeth initially thought of our favorite dual-hearted alien’s adventures through time and space. Your exploration on the nature of time travel and how it lines up with a Christian worldview was super interesting!! You may know this already, but in some of the Eight Doctor’s audio stories, the idea of time travel and beings who exist outside of human constraints of linear time might be “playing god” and how that might fiddle with things like free will is addressed, and it’s fascinating! I’m assuming this topic is probably dealt with in more depth in other areas of the Whoniverse, possibly the Gallifrey audio series, but my only experience with it so far is those stories with Eight. Regardless, it’s quite interesting to consider the more philosophical aspects of these things that are considered “typical sci-fi” at such a level, and how the problems and answers to them change over the different eras of the story that we have so far. 🙂 )
I had to laugh a little shamefacedly at *this* comment, because I dithered over whether or not to even include that 2012 post. I don’t like the person I was in 2012 AT ALL; I find her waaaaaaay too preachy and arrogant. But the issues I brought up in that article do remain my primary worldview conflicts with Doctor Who, so in the end, I figured it’d probably be a good idea to include it.
(Also, that Christian Star Wars story I mentioned at the end of that article remains my “trunked novel” that will never ever ever see the light of day unless I put it through extreme revisions.)
On the other hand…ONE DAY I WILL LISTEN TO BIG FINISH! They sound like such good stories! I’ve heard the ones featuring the Eighth Doctor are excellent, along with the ones expanding on River Song’s adventures. Apparently there’s even one where River and Missy have an adventure together?! I mean…what did we do to be so blessed?! XD
LikeLiked by 1 person
Awwwwww, thank you–I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! I fretted over the length, haha–hence my dividing it into two posts (and then obsessing over every sentence, trying to cut each post down as much I could :P). But I’m so glad you found it “easy to digest!”
Oooh, that’s good (if unsettling) point about Thirteen. I’ve heard that she’s very similar to Ten as well, so it’ll be interesting to see where they take her character development. One of the things I’ve noticed about Ten and Twelve (something I won’t really have time to mention in the next post) is that their personality trajectories are kinda “Back to Front.” Ten starts out joyful and ends up morose; Twelve starts out morose and ends up joyful. It’s almost as if Eleven (bless his precious heart) was a restraining force on the darkness that had been bubbling up inside of Ten, and when he regenerated into Twelve, all the weariness and grief that had been building up inside of Ten came hurtling back. But it didn’t last! Of course it didn’t! Because deep down the Doctor is still good and still kind and “there’s good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for”– and you can’t truly believe that UNLESS you’re also cherishing and nurturing in yourself a hopeful joy.
Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I forgot to mention Wilf! He is such a darling character–too pure for this world, must protect at all costs. I, too, loved the sight of him in his garden, his own little patch of earth, just marveling in his own quiet happiness at the stars.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great review! I’ve been considering watching Doctor Who, but I read that there’s quite a bit of gay innuendo in the series, which has given me some pause. Is there a lot of that, or is it just with a certain Doctor or episode, so that I could skip it? Thanks so much!
Ahhh…now, see, here’s where my disclaimer at the bottom of the page comes in handy, haha. Yes, there are gay innuendoes and storylines in Doctor Who, and I do skip certain scenes (although not episodes–it’s never *that* extreme). It really depends on which supporting characters are involved, Captain Jack Harkness and Bill Potts being the most prominent examples. I don’t condone their lifestyles; I do want to be clear about that. But that said, Bill Potts is one of my favorite companions; she’s so admirable, hilarious, and endearing, and although it does come up a few times, there’s so much more to her story and her character than her sexuality. As for Captain Jack, his tendency to flirt with anyone is much more in-my-face, and therefore more irritating. Yet even with him, there’s still a lot I appreciate: he’s courageous, he learns how to put others ahead of himself, he affirms his friends and encourages them not to give up, etc.
This subject is just one of the reasons why my littlest siblings haven’t watched Doctor Who yet, and it remains one of my own complaints. But I think–and I want to word this well and carefully–we as Christians do tend to forget that gay people are more than their sexual orientation. I often think about Alan Turing when I’m pondering this issue. He was a brilliant mathematician whose efforts to crack the Nazis’ Enigma Machine were instrumental in winning World War II–and he was also a homosexual. Some might dismiss him and his accomplishments altogether because of that, but I don’t think that’s the appropriate response. I don’t support his lifestyle choices at all, yet God used him mightily and poured His common grace all over Alan Turing’s life, and I can be thankful for and appreciate that.
So as a discerning adult, I don’t mind watching characters who are gay/lesbian (Patsy in Call the Midwife, Valentine in Foyle’s War, etc.) so long as their sexuality isn’t their defining characteristic. I don’t and won’t applaud their choices, but I do think I can respect them as people (even if they’re fictional, haha) with fine qualities and well-written personalities. Interacting with these fictional characters has also taught me how to interact with IRL gay people as well: they are created in the Image of God, they have eternal value, and they have their own stories, and before I do or say anything else, I must always keep that in the forefront of my mind.
Sorry this ended up being a long comment, but I wanted to explain as well as I could! And if you ever want to know of specific scenes that I’d recommend skipping, just shoot me an email through the contact form and I’ll send you a quick list 😉
Thanks! I will definitely email you if I get around to watching it!