So far, it’s 4-3 Eccleston. This is how it’s happened:
Round one: Introducing the New Doctor
Rose vs. The Christmas Invasion.
Result: 1-0 to the new guy
Round two: This is the Future
The End of the World vs. New Earth
Result: 1-1 draw
Round three: Victorian Wales/Scotland
The Unquiet Dead vs. Tooth and Claw
Result: 2-1 to Eccleston
Round four: Back to the Present
Aliens of London/World War Three vs. School Reunion
Result: 2-2 draw
Round Five: The Old Enemy Audio Play Remake
Dalek vs. Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel
Result: 3-2 to the Ninth Doctor
Round Six: Space Station Crew Against Mysterious Controlling Enemy
The Long Game vs. The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
Result: 3-3 draw
Round Seven: Mid 20th Century Faceless Menace
The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances vs. The Idiot’s Lantern
Result: 4-3 Eccleston
So now, play on.
Round eight: Playing with Time
Father’s Day vs. The Girl in the Fireplace
Okay, it’s a rather tenuous link, but there’s a time paradox in Father’s Day and time windows in The Girl in the Fireplace, so here goes. Father’s Day was a great little piece of drama, and I love the idea of the reapers, and Shaun Dingwall makes Pete Tyler a brilliant reluctant hero, Christopher Eccleston conveys the sense that Rose has imperiled the Earth. However, The Girl in the Fireplace is just too excellent for Father’s Day to stand a chance. The wonderfully bizarre juxtaposition of 18th Century France and a 5th Millenium spaceship is enhanced by the futuristic clockwork and the horse. Tennant is just superb, the plotting is tight, and the Doctor gets to party with the French and sing songs from “My Fair Lady.”
Result: 4 All
Round nine: Er… Got References to Previous Episode(s) In It In Some Way
Boom Town v.s Love & Monsters
I’ve got to admit this is the most tenuous link of all. But in bringing back the Slitheen, Boomtown links back to the Bad Wolf season’s first two parter, just as the flashbacks in Love & Monsters link back to Rose, the Aliens of London double Boomtown links back to, and The Christmas Invasion. Despite the reappearance of one of the Slitheen, Boontown is relatively inoffensive, but it’s still not a patch on the wonderfully off the wall homage to Doctor Who fandom that Love & Monsters is. Yes, the romcom element sits a little uncomfortably an attempt to have a standard Doctor Who monster story too, and the ending is a bit…wierd, but there’s no doubt we want more episodes that take a bit of a risk with the formula, fill out some of the minor characters, and just have a bit of fun!
Result: 5-4 Tennant
Round ten: The Finale
Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways vs. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
Both of these doubles link back to the classic monster revival, with Army of Ghosts playing the extra card of having the Daleks reappear as well as the Cybermen. I have to admit, the Torchwood references that were starting to irritate me did help to give a bit of a build up to the whole Torchwood Tower setup, which was a great finale in its own right, even if there were no spinoff dedicated to the sort-of covert organisation. The appearance of the Daleks was superbly done, and the Dalek/Cyberman bitch slapping (Dalek: “We are not interested in design.” Cyberman: “That is obvious.”) was hilarious. The episode was a great send of for the character of Rose Tyler and her extended family; the visuals of the story were, as was typical for many of the Season 28 serials, absolutely stunning, from the pre-title sequence of the various planets to the Norwegian/Welsh beach on which Rose bade farewell to the Doctor. But the Bad Wolf and The Parting of the Ways had greater tension, and there was a real sense danger than none of the major protagonists would survive. The build up was more gradual, and the timing unimpeachable, piling on more and more suspense with every scene. This build up reflects the shape of Season 27 as a whole, where the episodes got progressively better and better, and the addition of Captain Jack as the third companion in the latter half kept the relationship between Rose and the Doctor from getting stale. Season 28 peaked too early, with The Christmas Invasion and The Girl in the Fireplace near the start and Fear Her, the weakest episode, coming at the end. But this is a tough one to call because they’re both top quality Doctor Who, and it’s hard to find fault. Bad Wolf is perfect, and The Parting of the Ways near perfect (opening the Time Vortex with a yellow truck just didn’t quite live up to the build up for me). Army of Ghosts loses points for bringing in the parallel world thing again, although Doomsday does good things with the idea. The latter almost goes on for too long. (I thought it should have ended with the Doctor and Rose trapped in different universes, but the beach scene persuaded me otherwise – Rose:”I love you” The Doctor: “And so you should”. However, they should have saved the Catherine Tate bit as an epilogue after the credits, as it just jarred following that.) In the end, I really can’t decide. I’m not going to call it. It’s a draw.
Final Result: 5-4 Tennant
As I’ve said, the first of the new seasons was better structured. The constraints of the budget were more obvious, but the writing in many of the episodes more than compensated. Also the music, which was the only thing Sylvester McCoy criticised in the first new season was actually far more appropriate in that season than this, where it frequently intruded to the point of drowning out the dialogue. This season opened out more possibilities, with the Doctor and Rose even straying out of the orbit of Earth. But it never reached the flawless perfection of The Doctor Dances. Instead we had consistency: poor though Fear Her was, it wasn’t as bad as World War III.
As for the Doctors themselves, well, since he’s been gone, I’ve missed Eccleston. I’ve missed his anger, and the profound sense of loss he seemed to bear, and most of all the sense of danger – that everything might not work out well in the end. Tennant has been far better at the lighter stuff – the humour and the eccentricity. He’s been more of a traditional Doctor – not that this is a criticism of Eccleston who did something quite original and shaped the role Tennant stepped into. Still, I miss the sense of danger. Of the two, Tennant is my favourite and I wouldn’t have had anyone else take over the part, but in a way I wish Eccleston had stuck around for another season or two because he was so good that 13 episodes with the 9th Doctor aren’t enough. Either way, Doctor Who has been consistently fantastic entertainment across the two series since its revival and any talk that this series hasn’t been as good is just piffle.
Another consistently excellent aspect of the show has been Billie Piper’s performance as Rose. She has redefined the companion, and although I have been sniffy about her once or twice she deserved the great send off, as I really think she’s been wonderful…
Goodbye, Rose Tyler.