I’ve read a lot of forum posts about how Doctor Who has gone downhill. I’m not surprised by those who complain it’s not as good as “Classic” Who – that there would be those who would dislike the changes was as inevitable as the changes themselves. But the charge is that this year’s Doctor Who is not as good as last year’s.
I think it’s nonsense. I’m still hugely enjoying Doctor Who, it’s a great pleasure to be watching it at its best. Sure, it has flaws (over use of Monster’s-Eye-View-Cam, stories crammed into too little time, deafening music) but it’s better now than it has been at anytime since the Troughton era (the flaws are minor compared to the acting, writing and rubber monsters of many “classic” serials).
I really have no complaints, but still, in the interests of science: let’s compare the first Eccleston stories with Tennant so far…
Round one: Introducing the New Doctor
Rose vs. The Christmas Invasion.
Well, there’s no contest here. Rose suffers terribly from being crammed into 45 mintues, the Autons are wasted, and the ending is daft (antiplastic?), while The Christmas Invasion is almost the best episode to date and Tennant absolutely rocks, even though he doesn’t really appear until right at the end of the episode and defeats the Sycorax in his pyjamas.
Result: Tennant 1, Eccleston nil
Round two: This is the Future
The End of the World vs. New Earth
A little bit closer, but here the entirely studio bound Season 27 episode wins out with better writing, more effective effects and lovely interplay between the Jabe and the last of the Time Lords. The Season 28 episode is more ambitious but lacks the polish and the soft ending compares poorly to our first glimpse of the 9th Doctor’s hard edge in his first encouter with the Lady Cassandra.
Result: Eccleston equalises, it’s 1 all
Round three: Victorian Wales/Scotland
The Unquiet Dead vs. Tooth and Claw
These are both great episodes and there’s not much to choose between them. The more recent episode has Kung Fu monks and Pauline Collins, while the earlier one has ghosts and Simon Callow. It’s a narrow victory for The Unquiet Dead which has the edge in the terror stakes. Spooky, spooky, spooky.
Result: Eccleston 2, Tennant 1
Round four: Back to the Present
Aliens of London/World War Three vs. School Reunion
Not much contest here: the Season 27 double stinks. While School Reunion is overly sentimental and doesn’t make too much sense, it does have a companions’ catfight, K9 and Sarah Jane Smith (looking great at 58); and crucially doesn’t have farting aliens.
Result: Tennant equalises, it’s 2 all
I still think Tennant is a terrific Doctor, up there with Baker and Troughton (though I’m coming to appreciate Eccleston more an more). But only The Christmas Invasion so far has given him a proper chance to strut his stuff. Otherwise, the quality across the seasons is comparable – although this season has been more consistent: while it hasn’t hit the heights of The Doctor Dances (the best episode ever) there haven’t been any Slytheen (yet).
Let’s see who’s the winner after tonight’s The Girl in the Fireplace (the Tardisode‘s great), up against Dalek.
Update: Wow. Dalek got totally trounced. That’s 3-2 to Tennant.