Doctor Who: 5 Things To Learn From Classic Series & 5 Things That Are Better

So it’s very strange for me to think back to 2004 and prior, when name dropping “Doctor Who”. Here in...

John McGrath

Contributor

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So it’s very strange for me to think back to 2004 and prior, when name dropping “Doctor Who”. Here in the US, even to Sci-fi aficionados, it was pretty much the same thing as trying to get them to register “Blake’s 7″ or “Ace Of Wands”. It was the distant past, and unless they watched Public Television in the 1980’s, it wasn’t even THEIR distant past. You’d get more recognition bringing up guff like “Space:1999″.

But capture my imagination it did, the Classic Series of Doctor Who. And it has paid dividends with the New Series as well: I doubt anyone who started watching in 2005 had nearly the amount of understanding of the emotional impact of the Time Lords basically being put down by the Doctor. Yes, they’re his own people. But I’d seen him sing their praises, enforce their laws with a fervor and a passion, and not bust out laughing when they put a chicken on Colin Baker’s head and called it a helmet.

I knew his GRANDDAUGHTER, who had actually been seen and travelled with him, was among their number. Was she dead? Clearly the rest were. Was (former companion) Romana dead? She was one of my favourites! The implications were many for anyone whose investment went beyond “Sheesh, he killed his own people to stop these shouty Dalek things. That sucks”.

Wasn't kidding when I said they put a chicken on Colin's head. A sign of things to come for him, really....

Wasn’t kidding when I said they put a chicken on Colin’s head. A sign of things to come for him, really….

However, this was a double edged sword. For as I watched the New Series and marvelled at spaceships that didn’t have strings and costumes that I couldn’t see the zips on, I also noticed things that had me, well ……groan. Or occasionally, just stare at the TV thinking, “Come on! Even when the show basically had the budget of David Tennant’s catering, they still got that right!” The aforementioned Colin Baker was one of the few veteran Who cast bold enough to say at a convention that if you scratch the shiny veneer off the New Series, the thin contrivances come to a glaring light. And though it’s harsh, we should listen to the guy. He managed to act in that helmet, y’know.

In all seriousness, it’s very simple to look at the Classic Series and just presume that the New Series is better, because blah blah blah CGI, and blah blah blah better filming, and budgets…. Nonsense. Classic Who continues to pull in new fans via the New Series for a very good reason: In spite of its flaws, the core stories and ideas hold up very well. And some of those things are things that New Who struggles to get right or surprisingly ignores.

But by no means can I say the Classic Series had a flawless record even in terms of its strengths. New Who deserves some praise on many fronts, and it definitely can claim to have pushed into new territory and have adapted successfully for today’s viewing audience – Not bad for a 50 year old show, eh? Those elements will get attention too – It’s a good show. But oddly enough, this year could be fun to look back for reasons other than celebration too…..

Like, remember that time there was a Doctor shower scene and it WASN'T Matt Smith? Yeah, this happened.

Like, remember the Doctor Who shower scene that WASN’T Matt Smith? Yeah, this happened.

So, kidding aside, here’s 5 of each….