Doctor Who is the world’s longest running science fiction series. Over the past 50 years it has amassed a global following like no other tv franchise, with the possible exception of Star Trek.
However technically Doctor Who can be divided into two different series. Classic Who which ran from 1963-1989, and the revival often referred to as New Who by fans which began in 2005 and is as of the writing of this article, still going strong after 10 years.
In this article I am going to compare both series and decide which I ultimately find to be superior. All opinions in this article are of course merely my own. I can after all only speak for myself, but I will still try and be as objective as I possibly can.
Classic example of an Old Who fanboy and a New Who fangirl arguing about which is better.
Hitler sums up what many Classic era fans think.
In this the first of two articles I will be comparing how the Doctor was written in both series, and how major villains from the Classic Who such as the Daleks were handled in the revival compared to their portrayal in the original.
Not that Classic Who being shown on the Horror channel and New Who being shown the Disney channel says anything about the quality of both series overall of course. Lets take a more in depth look to see which is better overall.
1/ Classic Who Doctor vs New Who Doctor
The Doctor is the main protagonist across both series. He is a time lord from the planet Gallifrey, he has two hearts, and he has a time machine called the TARDIS (time and relative dimensions in space) which can allow him to visit any planet at any point in its history. The TARDIS is also bigger on the inside than the outside.
Whenever the Doctor dies he can come back to life, but his body and outer personality completely changes. He is still the same man underneath, the same consciousness, same memories, same core personality. Its just on the surface he is completely different.
This power is called regeneration, and it is what has allowed the show to endure for so long.
Originally it was said that the Doctor could only regenerate 12 times, allowing him to have 13 different bodies. This was changed in the 2013 Christmas special when the Doctor on his last life was granted more regenerations by his own people, the time lords allowing him to change once more.
To date 13 actors have played the Doctor on screen. They are, The First Doctor, William Hartnell (1963-1966), The Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton (1966-1969), The Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee (1970-1974), The Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker (1975-1981), The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison (1982-1984), The Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker (1984-1986), The Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989), The Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann (1996 TV Movie), The War Doctor, John Hurt (2013 special), The Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccelston (2005), The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant (2005-2010), The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith (2010-2013), The Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi (2013- Present).
Now before I start I want to make one thing clear this is not a comment on any of the actors who have played the Doctor’s performance. I think that every actor who has played the role has been fantastic. I wouldn’t say objectively that there has been either a best or a worst Doctor.
If you want to see what I think of every actor who played the role of the Doctor properly then please look at this article I did on them Why Every Actor Who Played The Doctor Was Awesome.
Rather than judge each individual actor from the classic era and the revival’s performance, I am going to look at how the Doctor was written across both series on the whole.
Now whilst every Doctor was unique I’d definitely say that the 7 classic era Doctors, Hartnell-McCoy are all believable as the same character.
The New Who Doctors meanwhile similarly as different as they all are I think all seem like the same character as each other too, but sadly if I’m completely honest then I don’t think that Eccelston, Tennant, Smith and Capaldi’s Doctors seem like the original 7 Doctors. Their 4 Doctors together seem in many ways like their own separate character from the 7 Doctors of Classic Who.
I am not saying that the New Doctors are totally unbelievable as the older Doctors, but I don’t think it can be denied that there is a huge difference between the way the Doctor is portrayed in the revival and the classic era overall. The new who Doctor often breaks many of the long standing taboo’s and traditions of the original Doctors.
So I am going to be comparing the Classic Doctor as one character against the New Doctor as one character. I wont be looking at either 8 or War. Its not that I have anything against those Doctors but I see them as more transitional Doctors. War was after all supposed to be a Classic Doctor who would pop up in the New Who, except he wasn’t an actual Classic era Doctor. Similarly 8 on television only appeared in one film and it was neither part of the classic series production or the new series production. Though it is still canon to both. On Audio I’d say that 8 definitely falls in line with the classic more, but on tv he is almost a weird cross between the classic and new doctors, as he is more romantic like the new Who Doctors, but looks more like the old Who Doctors.
So which is better then? Well I am going to have to say the Classic era Doctor was better for many reasons.
I feel that the Classic era Doctor was more unique, more consistent and ultimately more likable as a hero than his 21st century era counterpart.
To start with the Classic era Doctor was more alien than the new Doctor. The Classic era Doctor I think was actually among the few genuinely alien characters in all of science fiction. It can get a little frustrating in science fiction the way that most aliens behave in a very human way.
Take a look at the character of G’Kar from Babylon 5. Whilst I love G’Kar (he is easily one of the most well developed characters in anything) He is still a very human character. He is a womanizer, he likes fine food, has an appreciation for art, and he is passionate about the plight of his people the Narn.
All of his character traits could be transferred into a human character in modern day and you wouldn’t notice the difference.
The Classic era Doctor meanwhile does have the same morals as we do and he is able to form friendships obviously with many human beings. Still ultimately he is very unemotional in some ways. Its not like Spock who is meant to have emotions, but merely represses them as do all members of his kind.
With the Doctor its a bit more subtle. He does have emotions, we see him get angry, happy, sad, but he never loses his cool. There isn’t an instance where the the Doctor completely blows his top and shouts and screams and spits everywhere. He might get a bit short with people, but we never see him completely lose it or let his anger cloud his judgement at any point. At the same time we never see him cry at any point in the 26 year run of classic Who. Even when the worst tragedies befall him.
In Earthshock when his young companion Adric is killed by the Cybermen the Doctor looks sad yes, but he doesn’t cry, whilst his two other companions Nyssa and Teegan burst into tears. We also never see the Doctor show overt fear either. Again he does get scared, but we never see him let his fear overwhelm him. Indeed that’s often one of the defining aspects of the character, that he is often able to wander into the most dangerous situations completely unarmed and seem quite chipper and happy. He can talk to his captors, even torturers as though they were his friends like Jon Pertwee telling his torturers to stop being so childish, or Tom Baker getting a bit offended when his captor refuses a jelly baby he offers him.
We also never saw the Doctor fall in love throughout the entire series or even become attracted to any one either.
At the same time not only was the Doctor not as emotional as other characters, but the few emotional responses he did have where often completely different anyway.
The Doctor would often react to the most mundane and meaningless things to us with extreme enthusiasm and manic intensity. Former Doctor Who writer Terrence Dicks once said that you could say to Tom Baker’s Doctor “it’s a nice day outside isn’t it” and he would say really intensely and excitedly probably whilst grabbing you “Is it? Yes it is a nice day isn’t it!”
At the same time Tom’s Doctor in particular could be quite callous to things that were important to us. In the story Pyramids of Mars when the character Lawrence Scarman is tortured to death by his own brother Marcus, who has been possessed by the Egyptian God of evil Sutekh. Sarah the Doctors human companion is naturally horrified, whilst the Doctor doesn’t care at all. He is calmly doing something else and tells Sarah without even looking at her with no emotion whatsoever in his voice, that he told Lawrence not to go near his brother again and that it was Lawrence’s own fault.
Moments like this I think showed how the Doctor didn’t always look at things the same way we did because clearly his emotions just simply weren’t tuned the same way ours were because he was an alien.
Not only did this make the Doctor more unique as a hero in my opinion but also far more unpredictable. Sometimes the writers could use his alien nature for comedy like having Tom Baker do something silly and inappropriate without realizing it, or sometimes it could be used in a darker way like having the Doctor be quite callous to something important, or even outright ruthless in dispatching his enemies.
Sadly the New Who Doctors I don’t think are really alien at all. I think that the Moffat era Doctors 11 and 12 were far more alien and unpredictable than 9 and 10. Moffat overall has a better handle on the Doctor than Russell T Davies ever did. Still despite this all of the New Who Doctors are very human in how they react to things.
The New Doctors all lose their cool regularly and scream, they fall in love regularly, they even have casual flings with characters like Tasha Lem, they ogle their female companions too like Clara, who 11 at one point slapped on the bum! They also regularly cry. My dad always used to call 10 the blubbing Doctor, but they ALL blub.
What a bunch of big sissy’s!
In all fairness I can understand to some extent why the new who writers did this as again angsty, tormented heroes are very popular nowadays, but still again as you can see this is trying to make the Doctor more like other heroes rather than just simply letting him stand out as his own unique character.
Obviously the biggest difference between the old Doctor and the new Doctor is the fact that the new Doctor is a very romantic character.
The old Doctor was completely asexual. There was never any hint that he even had the tiniest interest in any female character in the series. In fact it was even lampshaded in one story City of Death when the Fourth Doctor Tom Baker says “well you’re a very beautiful woman probably”, showing that he actually can’t tell one way or the other.
Personally I preferred this. To start with as I already mentioned it helped to make the Doctor seem more alien. Also once I think it made the Doctor stand out somewhat from other fictional characters. The Doctor from classic Who is one of the only characters I can think of who has no love interests of any kind.
Just about every other fictional character you can name has to have a love interest. James Bond, Superman, Tarzan etc.
Even characters who are supposed to be big tortured loners who shun human company still manage to always have love interests. Look at Angel who is a cursed Vampire that will go evil if he falls in love. Doesn’t slow him down. For his three years on Buffy he had Buffy, and also Cordelia and Faith chasing after him at various points. On his own show he had detective Lockley for a year, then Darla next season, then Cordelia after he knocked Darla up for, and then after Cordelia fell into coma he had a Werewolf girlfriend for the final season of his own show.
Its the same with female heroes of course. Buffy always has to have a love interest whether that’s with Angel, Riley or her sado masochistic relationship with Spike and Xena’s the same too.
Even asexual characters have to have a love interest of some kind eventually. Sherlock Holmes is shown to be attracted to Irene Adler in the novels. Its only hinted at, but still it has become much more prominent in subsequent adaptations, some of which have even had Holmes marry Irene and have children with her. Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory meanwhile has also fallen in love with Amy Farrah Fowler.
So much for the whole being Asexual thing.
The Doctor from classic who is the only character who was never given any love interest at all. The closest they came to that was with Romana a time lady (whose second incarnation was played by Lalla Ward who was having an affair with Tom Baker at the the time they were making the series) Still ultimately on screen its never even hinted that the Doctor and Romana are anything but friends.
Not only did the Doctors’ asexuality allow him to stand out more, but I feel it allowed the writers to give him more varied relationships with his female companions than just them being his love interest. When you look at another male hero like say Angel or Batman then nearly all of the female characters relationships with him will be romantic sooner or later. If they are his enemies yes, Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Talia Ghul, if they are just his old friend yes. Zatanna has been in love with Bruce Wayne, even Batgirl has been in love with Bruce Wayne too.
Angel meanwhile Cordelia, though she is just his friend for the first two years, he eventually falls in love with her. Fred also starts off having a bit of a crush on him. His enemies Darla, Lilah, and Eve meanwhile are all shown to have a romantic or sexual interest in him at some point.
I also think that the fact they didn’t keep focusing on the Doctors love life allowed them to focus on the science fiction aspects of the series more. I feel that too many science fiction and fantasy series tend to focus on the romantic relationships between certain characters at times. I am not saying that I never want there to be any romance in these things but ultimately it can get a little bit too much when the fantasy becomes secondary.
In the revival when they have the Doctor fall in love with his companions, I think it kind of ruins a lot of what makes the Doctor unique, as well as a lot of his appeal.
To start with it does make make the Doctor just like every other hero. The new Doctor always has to have a love interest. In series 1 and 2, its Rose and Madame De Pompadour. In series 3, Martha is in love with him and he turns himself into a human in one episode and falls in love with a human named Joan Redfern. In series 4 he has Astrid, though Donna is not in love with him, Russell T Davies apparently had intended to have the companion of that series named Penny be in love with him, and the Doctor be in love with her too.
Under all of this is my need to write the Doctor in love again. I think we’ve handled it exactly right for series three: He’d never fall in love with Martha, because he can’t just love the next woman to walk in the door, after Rose. That would cheapen the whole thing. Penny is walking into the Doctors life at just the right time. The first time that the Doctor sees Penny it should be like wham! Both hearts.
Thank god Catherine Tate agreed to reprise the role of Donna Noble!
In series 5 Amy Pond attempts to force herself on the Doctor, then of course we have to deal with River Song the Doctors wife who makes jokes about having crazy bondage sex with the Doctor.
Then we have Clara whom 11 is borderline in love with, then there is also Tasha Lem boss of the space nuns who also has crazy bondage sex with the Doctor. Finally even 12 is not only still lusting after Clara but also now has a female version of his former archenemy The Master, called Missy who is in love with him too.
Imagine William Hartnell doing any of this!
I must say though that I think that these two
Are a perfect couple. As a child in the 90’s watching my Doctor Who videos and hearing Billie Piper on the radio I always knew they would get together.
At the end of the day the Doctor for me at least should just not be a romantic character. His asexuality was part of what made him unique and now when he is in love with Rose or River he is like so many other characters, a tormented immortal who is in love with a human who will age and die.
Also by placing so much emphasis on the Doctor’s love life the revival has ultimately I feel gone down more of a soap opera route than the original did.
Furthermore I also think that by making the Doctors companion’s fall in love with or at the very least be attracted to him they have made the Doctor’s relationship with his companions more repetitive.
Look at his relationships with his companions in the 1970’s and compare them to the revival, and you will see that there is a much more variation between the original companions relationships with the Doctor.
70’s companions, Liz Shaw is a scientist, that the Doctor treats as an equal more so than the Brigadier, as he can talk to Liz about his scientific experiments and his TARDIS. Jo Grant the next companion is younger, and the Doctor has more of a fatherly relationship with her, and dotes on her more than he would do Liz. Sarah is older, but she isn’t a scientist. Thus the Doctor can’t quite talk to her the same way he would to Liz, but their relationship is still an equal one.
Sarah is really his best friend he is somewhat closer to her than he is too Liz and their relationship is much more intense, though not romantic. Leela meanwhile has more of a confrontational relationship with him, as Leela uses more violent means as a first option than the more cerebral Doctor. Romana meanwhile being a time lady actually has far, far, far greater technical knowledge than the Doctor. The Doctor has more experience than she does having been exploring the universe longer and also being much older too. Romana however actually is better on a technical level and thus in some ways its a reverse of the Doctor, Liz relationship.
With the New Who companions however we have Rose who is in love with the Doctor, Martha who is in love with the Doctor, Donna okay isn’t, River Song meanwhile is in love with him, Amy travels with him because she wants to shag him, though she gets over it and Clara travels with him too because she wants to shag him, but she gets over it.
Another way I feel the classic Doctor is superior to the revival Doctor, is that his morality is more consistent.
Now the Classic era Doctor was a hero who generally tended to use his mind to solve his problems, but if need be he would use lethal force. He preferred not to, but he would absolutely kill if he had to. There were never moments when the Doctor was not prepared to kill.
The only exception to that was in Resurrection of the Daleks. Here the Doctor has a difficulty in killing Davros and hesitates. This might be seen as something of a contradiction and truth be told it is, but its not that big a one in 26 years. You can also rationalize it. Perhaps the Doctor has difficulty in killing him because technically he is not killing Davros in self defense.
Its not like blowing up a Dalek in a fight, or even killing in revenge. He is planning to kill Davros simply so that he can not cure the Daleks. Whilst it is for a greater good it is technically cold blooded murder. Even then the Doctor doesn’t so much spare Davros, whilst he is working up the courage to shoot him he is distracted and Davros escapes and the Doctor is immediately regretful, saying “I’m an imbecile“. Later stories see the Doctor attempt to make up for this by trying to kill Davros every time he encounters him.
Now in the New Who the biggest problem I have with the Doctor is that his morality is all over the place. At certain times he will dispatch certain enemies no problem but at others he not only doesn’t, but he goes into a big moral speech about how he is better than that.
The most notorious example of this is in the Tenth Doctor story “The Doctors Daughter” Here the Doctor’s cloned daughter is shot dead by a psychopath right in front of him. The Doctor refuses to shoot him however and gives a big speech about how he never would. Only problem with this is the Tenth Doctor has wiped out entire species before like the Racnoss! Then there is his condemning the family of blood to an eternity of torture which is obviously a lot worse than just shooting a guy.
He tortures minor villains who killed to survive yet he offered to help Davros a man who tried to destroy every universe? That is like skinning a shoplifter alive and showing mercy to the most brutal Gestapo officer.
The worst however are in the Doctors dealings with the Master in New Who. The Doctor always shows ridiculous levels of compassion to the Master in spite of how evil the Master is. Even when the Master has tortured his companion Martha Jones’s family for a whole year, and spent a year torturing Captain Jack Harkness to death over and over again. The Doctor not only doesn’t kill him but he hugs him!
A lot of people say its because he and the Master used to be friends, but that’s rubbish. Why would he put someone he had been friends with when he was a child above people he was friends with now? Why would he put a psychopathic mass murderer above kind and decent people like Martha Jones?
Tennant’s Doctor crying over Simm’s Master’s corpse in front of Martha whose family just endured a year of torture, and Jack who had just been tortured to death over and over and over, is like if I wept over Hitlers corpse in front of a group of Auschwitz survivors (one of whom was in love with me and had gone through hell for me) because I used to play squash with Hitler at College.
Some people say “its because the Master is the only other member of his kind” which is more understandable but it still doesn’t make sense. The Doctor is meant to at that point at least to have wiped out his entire people because they went evil. So he killed billions of time lords because they are evil, but not this one time lord? In The End of Time he refuses to kill the Master because that would be so evil, yet he commits genocide at the end technically against his own people?
Its so frustrating as a viewer watching that, as it just makes the Doctor into a raging hypocrite. Worst of all though is in The End of Time when the Doctor refuses to shoot the Master in order to save the entire human race whom he has turned into copies of himself. So he is putting one time lord above 7 billion humans.
Worst of all though is when he forces the Meta Crisis Doctor to live on a parallel earth with Rose because he wiped out the Daleks, an apparently that’s unforgivable, and Rose needs to make him a better man.
Thing is Doctor, the last time you met Rose (Doomsday) she enthusiastically helped you to wipe both the Daleks and the Cybermen. “PULLING EM ALL IN”! I might add those Daleks and Cybermen combined weren’t as big a threat as Davros and his new Dalek empire.
Added to that Rose also wiped out the Daleks at the end of the Eccelston era and gloated about it to Dalek Sec.
“God of all Daleks and I destroyed him HA!”
So again why judge the Meta Crisis Doctor for destroying a race of Daleks far more dangerous than the ones you and Rose wiped out alongside a race of Cybermen? How’s Rose going to teach him that wiping out the Daleks is wrong when she has already wiped them out twice?
“Oh Doctor who will save your soul” Seriously? SERIOUSLY!
The 12th Doctor has similary proven to be a massive hypocrite when it comes to Missy at least.
In his second story he tells a Dalek that is dying and asking for help to die all he likes. He is also happy to kill the monsters in Flatline too. So again why is it in an issue for him at all to vaporize Missy? Particularly after she has (to the best of his knowledge) butchered his two friends Osgood and Kate in front of him!
Ultimately this inconsistent morality is what makes the New Who Doctor more unlikable to me than the Classic era Doctor.
The Classic era Doctor it was established was willing to kill his enemies and he basically always did. Look at the Classic Doctors dealings with the Master.
He does not ever spare him. In the Masters second ever story The Mind of Evil, the Doctor goes out of his way to kill the Master. The Master has agreed to leave the earth, provided the Doctor gives him the directional UNIT back to his TARDIS. The Doctor however decides that he doesn’t have the right to let him loose on another world.
So the Doctor sets up a plan to murder the Master. He uses the Masters own machine that makes someone see their worst fear on him and leaves him screaming and in pain in an area that is about to be blown to pieces by an atomic bomb. Of course the Master survives, but the Doctor is devastated at his survival.
In The Deadly Assassin, the Doctor once again tries to kill the Master. He kicks him down a flight of stairs and boots him into a bottomless pit. He later says that the Master is the one person in the universe that he would wish death upon, as he is the quintessence of evil. In the Davison era, the Doctor leaves the Master to get torn apart by his own servants in a city that is fading from existence.
In Planet of Fire, he actually burns a pleading Master into nothing but ash. In The Mark of the Rani the 6th Doctor upon seeing a young man get trapped in one of the Masters traps (that was meant for the Doctor), actually tries to murder the Master with his own weapon.
Here in contrast to Missy who is able to gloat over Osgood’s death to 12, the Master has to beg the Doctor and tries to convince him that the trap wasn’t meant for that young man. The Doctor only spares the Master because he needs him to help his companion, but even then he tells the Master that if anything happens to her he will force the Master to walk over one of his own traps.
Finally the 7th Doctor tries to smash the Masters head in with a rock. He only relents because if he gives in to his violent impulses then the Cheetah virus which feeds on violence will overwhelm him. Thus once again with regret he is forced to spare the Master.
The only time in Classic Who the Doctor gives up an opportunity to kill the Master is when the Master is about to be sentenced to an eternity of torture. The Doctor spares him simply because he couldn’t condemn anyone to an eternity of torture.
Of course ironically the New Doctor did just that to minor villains the Family of Blood, whilst in that exact same season he was hugging the Master!
That about sums it up.
You see again that’s why the old Doctor is a hero you can route for more than the new Doctor. He is willing to kill in order to protect his friends. He doesn’t frustratingly spare the Master and Davros, even after they have butchered his friends in front of him. At the same time they aren’t ever sadistic like the Tenth Doctor is to the Family of Blood. They don’t torture enemies just for the hell of it, as he seemingly does in that story.
Thus for this reason I find the Classic era Doctor to be much superior and be honest here, out of these two heroes which one do you find it easier to route for? The guy who does this to the evil villain, boots him down a flight of stairs and into a bottomless pit.
Or the guy that kisses Osgood’s killer?
and hugs the man who tortured Jack to death over and over for a whole fucking year?
Yeah not your place to really forgive. I am sure Jack is thinking “oh well that’s okay never mind the fact that I have been tortured to death over and over and over again as long as this guy forgives him then that’s okay”
Ultimately despite the odd blip Old Who’s Doctor was a far more consistent and less infuriating character when it came to killing his enemies.
Another way in which I feel the old Doctor was better is his origin. Now the New Doctor is meant to be the last of his kind. I actually liked the time war origin in some ways, but still I think it led to the Doctor becoming a god.
In New Who they always make the Doctor into a god. I think this got worse in Steven Moffat’s era where the Doctor goes into these big speeches about how he has done this and that and it can get a little tiresome.
I personally prefer the idea of the Doctor being a lowly time lord ,who simply left Gallifrey because he was bored.
In the old Who the Doctor wasn’t the pivot of the universe. He was a fairly straight forward character. He merely wanted to explore the universe and he was actually back home something of a loser. He had failed his exams back at the time lord academy, and any time we saw another time lord, they were often a lot better from a technical point of view. The Master and the Monk’s TARDIS’s were a lot better than the Doctors. Theirs could change shape on the outside. Also Romana has far better technical knowledge than he does. In a great irony the Doctor in Classic Who, is a rubbish time lord who only seems incredibly intelligent because he hangs around with human beings.
Still at the same time the Doctor does have more experience of the universe because he has explored more of it, whilst the time lords have simply sat back and observed.
Thus when the time lords need someone to deal with a threat he is often the first one they call. A little thing like that is enough for me to make the Doctor seem special. He is simply more adventurous than the other members of his kind. He has explored more of the universe and thus has greater knowledge of races like the Daleks and the Cybermen than they do.
In New Who however they literally turn him into Space Jesus in so many episodes. They have people actually pray to him, do him up as Jesus and in one instance have him fly through the air as messianic figure!
See what I mean space Jesus. I much preferred him as just a bumbling little traveller who was smarter than people thought.
Another thing about New Who’s version of the Doctor is that I feel they make him too superpowered. In the old Who the Doctor didn’t really have any super powers, other than his intellect and his ability to regenerate of course.
In New Who however he can regrow hands, survive falling 10000000’s of feet through a pane of glass, perform Vulcan mind melds, and when he regenerates he can blow up entire fleets of Daleks.
Matt Smith’s regeneration always reminded me of Mario video games where you are on your last life, and you get a star, and you go all gold, and become invincible, and anyone you touch will die, and finally after you have killed enough badguys you get extra lives. That’s what happened with the Doctor here. The time lords give him a star when he is on his last life and after he uses it to kill enough Daleks he gets 13 one up’s.
He is space Mario as well as space Jesus!
Of course the funny thing is that despite being more super powered than the older Doctor, the New Who Doctor is far more useless as a hero.
The old Doctor was always two steps ahead of everyone. He was like Sherlock Holmes, but sadly the new Doctor is often undermined by his female companion.
During the Davies era, the Doctor saves the day in a grand total of 1 of the four season finale’s. In The Parting of the Ways it is Rose who conquers the Daleks, in season 3 it is Martha who brings down the Master, and in season 4 it is Donna Noble who leads the two Doctors to save the universe. In Matt Smith’s time the Doctor has a better record at first, but sadly in the season 7 finale Clara, not only saves the Doctor, but it is revealed has also saved the Doctor in every single story up until now. completely undermining him as a hero. In series 8 meanwhile I don’t know what the fuck the Doctor does in that finale? Seriously what does he do? Has a hissy fit on the TARDIS console and that’s it!
The Daleks face their archenemy Rose!
The New Doctor is constantly saved by his companions and the fact that he is supposed to be this big cosmic force, that people like Osgood pray to just makes it all the worse when he is useless.
Big talk from a guy who has to end up getting saved by his 19 year old companion! The fact that the 9th Doctor doesn’t manage to kill a single Dalek in that story, or do anything to hold back their plans as its all Rose, just makes this scene look like a lot of hot air on the Doctors part.
The old Doctor was not only never built up to be a god, but he was useful.
Ultimately as you can see the original Doctor was a much better character in all respects to me. He was more alien and unique, his morality was more consistent than the new Doctors, he was less overblown in that he was just a bumbling traveller rather than a lonely god, and finally he wasn’t undermined in favor of his companions.
Of course that is just my opinion. I am sure to many people the new Doctors are better because they are more emotional. A friend of mine tried getting into Classic Who but couldn’t manage it as she thought the Doctor was too bland. Whilst I felt the Doctors lack of overt emotions made him more alien, and unique. She felt it just made him seem a boring character. She even said she felt that many of the actors in classic who who played the Doctor were wasted. She also said that his willingness to kill when compared to Tennant’s more merciful Doctor made him a bad role model for young children whilst she also felt that the Classic era Doctor was boring because he was too unbeatable. Again in contrast to me she felt that the Doctors vulnerability in the revival made him more sympathetic and interesting.
I guess its all just taste but I still say the classic era Doctor was better than the new Doctor.
CDW 1 NDW 0
2/ Villains and Monsters
Doctor Who has arguably the greatest rogues gallery of any television series. Over the years its monsters and villains have become an integral part of the show, to the point where just about every Doctor Who story has to have a monster of some kind. One of the things that general public remember the most about the classic who was hiding behind the sofa when monsters such as the Daleks and the Cybermen appeared on screen. But who has the better rogues gallery old who or the revival?
Classic Daleks vs New Daleks
The Daleks are the Doctor’s greatest enemies. They are in fact arguably the most iconic villains in the entire history of British television.
The Daleks were created by writer Terry Nation and designed by Raymond Cusick. They first appeared in the second ever Doctor Who story “The Mutants” also known simply as “The Daleks” and “The Dead Planet”. Ironically the creator of Doctor Who itself, Sydney Newman hated them. He didn’t want any monsters in the series considering it lowest common denominator science fiction. The Daleks however proved to be a massive success, helping the show which had struggled in its early weeks win massive viewing figures. Since then the Daleks have returned to battle each Doctor at least once, and have ensured their place in popular culture in not just the UK, but around the globe.
They are without doubt my favorite villains in not just Doctor Who but possibly anything.
Now this is harder to choose which one is better as I really love how the Daleks have been portrayed across both Classic Who and New Who.
Ultimately however I am going to have to go with the Classic era once again.
There are some things the revival has done that are better with the Daleks. For instance I feel that the Daleks actually seem more like the Doctors archenemies in the new series.
In Classic Who I feel that the producers never really bothered to beef up the Daleks as the Doctors deadliest enemies. They aren’t his most powerful foes, and actually they probably cause him less grief than many of his other enemies. For instance the Daleks never caused the death of a Classic era Doctor. Even the Rani managed that!
The producers of Classic Who to me it seemed felt like they didn’t need to make the Daleks the Doctors archenemies because they were already so popular.
In the Davies era at least however, Russell went out of his way to really show viewers why these monsters were the Doctors main enemies. He made them the most powerful, had them inflict the largest amount of tragedies on him, from the destruction of his home planet to the departure of his companions Rose and Donna. They have even been responsible for a number of Doctors deaths in the revival. In fact including the Meta Crisis the Daleks have caused the Doctor to lose 5 lives in the new series.
The Doctor has had many enemies over the years but the Daleks during Davies’ time were the only monsters he truly despised.
So yes in this respect the New Who Daleks are superior.
However overall as monsters in their own right I think that the Classic Who Daleks were much more effective. The Classic era Daleks were much more alien. There was nothing about them that we could really relate to, not just in terms of their appearance but character as well. These were monsters who had no real concept of pity or compassion.
The New Who Daleks I feel are too human a lot of the time. We have Daleks with names, Daleks that are religious fanatics, Daleks that are mad, and far too many good guy Daleks.
In fact there so far has only been three Dalek stories from the revival (as of the writing of this article) that haven’t featured a Dalek turning on other members of its kind because it sees them as evil.
So for me the Classic Who Daleks were far more unique and frightening as a result of this.
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Weeping Angels vs Autons
Now these two villains I feel are very comparable in a lot of ways. They are both examples of an everyday object turned into a monster. In the Autons case mannequins and the Angels obviously statues. The Autons are really a disembodied spirit called the Nestene’s that have the ability to animate anything made of plastic, allowing them to take control of dummies, dolls and even plastic chairs that they use to kill people.
The Angels meanwhile are ancient predators who are quantom locked which means that when you look at them they turn to stone. Look away however and they exist and they can grab you. Either they will snap your neck like a twig, or they will throw you back in time and feed on the lost potential you would have had.
So which is a better take on this type of monster? Well I am going to say the Angels for many reasons.
To start with I think that the Angels are less limited than the Autons. When you look at all 3 Autons stories there is really very little variation between them. They are all just aliens invade modern day earth stories and that’s that. The three Angels stories however I feel have more variation. Blink is a low key atmospheric story set in the rural countryside, the second Angels two parter is a big aliens style grand adventure, on a far away alien planet, whilst the final Angels story is a crime noir thriller in 1930’s Manhatten.
Also I feel that what the Angels do to you is more unusual. The Autons just zap you whilst the Angels throw you back in time. This allowed Blink in my opinion to be more than just another monster story. It also allowed it to be a very interesting time paradox story too. Also in The Angels Take Manhatten it was horrifying what they attempted to do Rory. They didn’t just simply kill him or toss him back in time.
They lock him in a tiny little room for the rest of his life, all alone with nothing to do. We see Rory as an old man trapped alone in the bedroom, so pleased when he sees another face after thirty years of being at the mercy of the Angels.
To me this made the Angels far more terrifying than the Autons who would just shoot you and that was that.
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Classic Great Intelligence vs New Great Intelligence
The Great Intelligence is a major enemy of the Doctor. It is an evil disembodied spirit that must work through its servants. It originally appeared in the Second Doctor Patrick Troughton’s era where it faced him two times. After this the creature went through an over 40 year absence until it resurfaced as the main villain in Matt Smith’s third season as the main antagonist where it was played by Richard E Grant and Sir Ian McKellan.
Now this is hard to decide which I prefer. On the one hand I will say that The Web of Fear is the best story with the Intelligence. The Web of Fear is one of my all time favourite stories. Also I prefer his servants the Yeti Robots in The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear, his two classic era stories to the Whisper men, his servants in The Name of the Doctor. The Whisper Men just kind of seemed like a poor man’s version of the silence, whispery villains who talk in rhymes, have white faces etc.
The Yeti however who were furry robots were more original.
Still despite this I think I prefer the Intelligence in the revival. The thing about the Intelligence in the revival is that its more fleshed out as a character. In the original its just a generic villain that wants power because? In the revival however we learn a little bit more about it. We see how it yearns to have a body, how it grows to despise the Doctor because he thwarts it at every turn, and how it comes to eventually only care about making him suffer. Its not surprising in many ways that the Intelligence in the revival would be more fleshed out as the focus was more on the Yeti’s than the Intelligence itself in the classic era.
Still I’d say overall that the intelligence was superior in the revival and the Intelligence story arc is definitely one of my favourites in the whole series.
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The Classic Master vs The New Master
Well I think this one is obvious to anyone who has read my work before.
The Classic Who Master was a fun rival to the Doctor who was well developed across all of his incarnations. We saw his start out as a ruthless villain who was gradually driven to madness through his bitter, petty and hateful feud with the Doctor.
The New Who Master meanwhile, whilst I enjoyed John Simm’s performance as the villain (and felt it followed on quite well from the original Masters, minus the silly, retconning of the villains origins.) Ultimately I just can’t get on board with Missy.
Nothing against Michelle Gomez, who is an otherwise fine actress, but I think that its ridiculous to suddenly change the Masters sex for no reason other than to pander to the bullying feminist side of fandom. Its even more ridiculous to reimagine the character as the Doctors love interest.
I honestly can’t see what the fuck Missy is even meant to be to be honest, other than just pandering? The Classic Who Master was a villain who hated the Doctor more than anything, who would stop at nothing to make him suffer. Often the Doctor would go through absolute hell when going up against the Master such as in the Deadly Assassin.
Missy meanwhile is just a big mad kissy woman who wants to shag the Doctor, and who he seems to to quite like too, but she also kills people for what reason?
All she does is just undermine the Doctor as she shows up kills people for no reason, but he likes her so he often lets her go, or even saves her life!
Whilst it was true that Tennant went far too easy on Simm, at least I can see the point of Simm’s Master as he was still an enemy the Doctor had to overcome. With Missy however she isn’t even an enemy of the Doctor. She hands him an army of Cybermen in her first story, saves him from the Daleks in her second, and its revealed brought him together with Clara.
So basically all she has done in her own twisted mind is help him, whilst also killing random people for no reason? Missy is a truly terrible character. Nothing but a mix of feminist pandering and a cliched femme fatale trope, that completely undermines the Doctors credibility as a hero.
Whilst John Simm’s Master was great, sadly he is weighed down by the Mistress.
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Classic Who Silurians vs New Who Silurians
The Silurians are ancient reptiles who ruled the earth before mankind. They were a highly advanced civilisation but their time came when a natural disaster threatened to wipe them out. The Silurians retreated underground and went into suspended animation hoping to emerge when the earth had recovered.
Unfortunately they slept for too long. In the millions of years they were in hibernation mankind evolved and became the masters of the earth.
Thus when the Silurians finally awoke, they planned to exterminate mankind and take control of the earth which they believe is rightfully there’s as they were her before us.
Now I think that the best Silurian adventure is undoubtedly the first Silurian story “Doctor Who and the Silurians” I’d rate this as being easily among the top 20 Doctor Who stories ever made.
Still despite this I’d say that I prefer the Silurians in New Who to to ones in the original series. To start with I prefer their design. I seem to be in the minority here as most who fans I have spoken with were angry that they changed the Silurians design as they felt the new Silurians looked too human.
Me personally I liked that look as I think that the Silurians should be more human. They are not like the Daleks they aren’t monsters, they are meant to be capable of being both good and evil.
I also think that the new masks allow the actors playing them like the wonderful Neve McIntosh who plays Vastra a chance to act properly too. Before their faces were completely covered so all they could rely on was their voices.
Also I prefer the new Silurians because I think they get across the idea that these are creatures just like us with no fixed morality like the Daleks and the Cybermen better than the originals.
Apart from in their first story I think that the Siurians were often just portrayed as monsters in the classic era like in the story “Warriors of the Deep“. The character of Vastra in the revival however a benevolent Silurian who has integrated herself into human society I think demonstrates how the Silurians are capable of both good and evil.
Thus I think that the 21st century Silurians are ultimately better than those from the classic era.
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The Valeyard vs The Dream Lord
Now these characters are both basically the same idea. They are villains created from the Doctors dark side. They are basically evil Doctors. Some fans have even speculated that the Valeyard and the Dreamlord are actually meant to be the same character though this has not been conformed.
Now I am going to go with the new Who here and say that the Dreamlord was a better take on this idea. Michael Jayston who played the Valeyard was excellent, but ultimately the character I think wasn’t really given much to do throughout most of his appearance in “Trial of a Time Lord” until the end after which a lot of what we found out about him was contradictory. For instance the Valeyard was said to have been created between his second last and final incarnation. The thing is he also wants to steal all of his remaining regenerations after the 6th Doctor. If he did that then he would technically wipe himself from existence since he comes between Doctors 12 and 13.
Also on top of that I felt that the Dreamlord’s single story “Amy’s Choice” is much better than “Trial of a Time Lord” the Valeyard’s only appearance on tv.
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Classic Cybermen vs New Cybermen
The Cybermen are the Doctors most iconic enemies after the Daleks. They were created by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davies the then script editor of Doctor Who (who also came up with the concept of regeneration.)
The Cybermen in the classic era were aliens from Earth’s identical twin planet Mondas. They were originally exactly like us but they slowly replaced all of their organic components with metallic ones until they transformed themselves into cyborgs. The Cybermen seek to do the same to all other life forms in the universe and begin conquering worlds converting the life forms into members of their own kind
Ultimately however the Cybermen are very nearly driven to extinction when their home planet Mondas is destroyed, but a few manage to survive and attempt to rebuild their fallen race. The Cybermen served as quite a good contrast to the Daleks this way in that, whilst the Daleks were a race with a vast empire and countless resources, the Cybermen were a dead race, struggling to survive. Whilst the Daleks regularly screamed “Daleks conquer and destroy” the Cybermen’s catchphrase was “we will survive”.
In a way the Cybermen were more sympathetic villains than the Daleks. The Cybermen unlike the Daleks, had to conquer other races because it was the only way they could survive as they could not reproduce without converting other life forms.
In the revival the Cybermen are said to come from another universe. They were created from that universe’s version of earth by Cybus industries, and eventually found a way to cross over into our reality.
Now this one is a bit more difficult to decide, as sadly I think that the Cybermen in both series have been handled quite badly.
Its a shame as the Cybermen are brilliant villains. They are an idea that was decades ahead of its time. Many fans have famously compared them to the Borg from Star Trek who debuted over 20 years later. The producers of Star Trek themselves even acknowledged Doctor Who. In an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation”Q Who” the names of the first 6 actors to play the Doctor pop up on a computer screen.
Star Trek references Doctor Who.
Sadly however it seems the writers of classic who and new who seem to enjoy doing the Cybermen down within the stories themselves.
The fourth Doctor mocks them to their faces telling them that they are just a bunch of pathetic tin soldiers skulking about the galaxy in an ancient spaceship. In New Who of course the Daleks trash talk and completely thrash them. In another episode the Doctor blows up an entire fleet of Cybermen in order to intimidate another villain.
In order to show off how badass another character is they will have them slaughter a huge amount of Cybermen whether that’s the Daleks, Rory, Ace or the Raston Warrior Robot.
At least he doesn’t rub it in like Rory or the Daleks.
Don’t worry Cyber fans though in the Doctor Who/Star Trek crossover the Cybermen kicked the shit out of the Borg very badly. In fact in one alternate time line the Cybemen not only beat the Borg but managed to convert the Klingons, the Romulans, and the Cardassians too.
So at the very least they are more powerful than all of Star Trek’s major enemies.
The Cybermen get back at the Borg for copying them.
Sadly however on tv the Cybermen have usually got their arses kicked and naturally this has completely destroyed the Cybermen’s menace over the years. Its a real shame as even though the Daleks are unquestionably my favourite villains, the Cybermen I think are actually the most terrifying when used properly.
I think the writers just got it in their heads that the Cybermen were second rate villains because sadly in popular culture they have always been seen that way in the sense that they are seen as the Doctors “other” enemies after the Daleks who are the most iconic. On top of that the fact that they were meant to be a dead race probably didn’t help.
Still whilst there have been problems with the Cybermen across both old and new who I am still going to have to say that the Classic Who Cybermen were better. The heyday of the Cybermen was really in the 1960’s. Their two best stories “The Invasion” and “Tomb of the Cybermen” are from this decade.
In the 60’s stories the Cybermen are portrayed as a force to be reckoned with. Even though they are nearing extinction they are still crafty, strong, manipulative and ruthless and the Doctor seems genuinely terrified of them.
Also I preferred the way they were often silent in these stories. It gave them a kind of eeriness like they were cybernetic zombies. You could never tell what they were thinking as their faces were completely blank.
So yes overall I am going to go with the Classic era on this one.
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Classic Sontarans vs New Sontarans
The Sontarans are a clone race who glory in war. They just love to fight and cause trouble wherever they go.
Now for me this is easy. I’m going to say the Classic Sontarans are better in every way than the new ones. To star with I think that both The Time Warrior and The Sontaran Experiment two classic era Sontaran stories are better than any new who Sontaran stories. Also despite their somewhat comical appearance they actually do seem menacing in both of those stories. We see how one Sontaran is capable of outsmarting, overpowering, and torturing several human beings at once. We even see how one Sontaran would be capable of changing the entire course of human history by itself.
In the New Who they have had one appearance as villains and the rest of the time they have been used as comedy stooges. I actually do quite like Strax I must admit. There is just something likable about the character, but still I think the Sontarans have been somewhat undermined as villains in new who. The thing about them is because their appearance can be somewhat comica,l I think you shouldn’t make them comical characters as then they just become a complete joke and sadly that is what has happened to the new Sontarans.
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Classic Ice Warriors vs New Ice Warriors
The Ice Warriors are among the Doctors oldest enemies. They first appeared during the Second Doctors era in the 60’s. They are gigantic reptiles from Mars who house themselves in powerful armour.
No I am going to say that the new Ice Warriors are better. The Ice Warriors have only appeared in one story of the revival so far, but I must admit I preferred it to all of their appearances in the classic era. I don’t dislike their appearances in the classic era, but what can I say I just enjoyed their single new Who story more, and since there really is no difference between how they are portrayed in both series then I am going to go with New Who here.
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Sutekh vs The Beast
These two one off villains are essentially the same idea as one another. Sutekh is an ancient alien from the planet Osiris. He possessed virtually limitless power yet was still terrified that somewhere in the universe some life form would one day grow to rival him in power. So he decided to destroy all life where ever he found it declaring that all life is his enemy. He destroyed billions of worlds across the universe until his own people (whose planet Osiris he destroyed) managed to imprison him. In the story Pyramids of Mars he tries to escape from his prison deep beneath a pyramid. He was said to have been the inspiration for both Set the Egyptian god of evil and Satan in mythology.
The Beast is an ancient evil that existed from before our universe. At the beginning of our universe the Beast was imprisoned by the servants of the light in a cave on a far away planet. It claims to have been the inspiration behind all the horned figures in all mythologies all over the universe including satan.
Both villains are even voiced by the same actor Gabriel Woof who has possibly the best voice of all time.
Now I am going to go with the Classic Who on this one. Sutekh is better simply because the story he is in is superior.
Pyramids of Mars is better in my opinion because it focuses on Sutekh. Remember what I was saying earlier about how the New Who would often focus on the Doctors love life and the soap opera element at the expense of the sci fi? Well sadly that is what happens with the Beast. Even when the Doctor is coming face to face with Satan himself he still goes on about how fabulous Rose is and its annoying and cheesy.
In Pyramids of Mars when the Doctor faces Sutekh then they are actually able to focus on the idea of Sutekh which is more interesting. They don’t have the Doctor go on about how much he is in love with Sarah for 5 minutes.
See for yourself.
Sutekh wasn’t sideline in favour of Rose so I am going to go for Sutekh here.
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The Rani vs Madame Kovarian
These villains don’t really have much in common with one another. I admit I am only including them together because they are both among the only female villains in Doctor Who.
I am definitely going to go with the Classic era here. Kovarian I always found to be a rather dull villain overall. The Rani on the other hand I think is a very underrated enemy.
The Rani was a time lady who unlike the Master did not seek to conquer. She is a scientist who experiments on human beings the same way that we do on animals. She is a corrupt Joseph Mengela type of villain. Sadly she has been underused, but still I nevertheless think that there is huge potential in her and clearly so do many other fans as there have been constant calls for her to return to the series.
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Classic Who wins this round, but join me in part 2 where I will be looking at the companions as well as the best stories from both series side by side.