Feature: Doctor Who – Ten Years of NuWho
Doctor Who “NuWho”: Ten Years Gone
Ten years ago I remember sitting down in front of my Grandparent’s TV and getting ready for the resurrection of one of, if not the, greatest TV programmes of all time. My first venture into the magical world of the Doctor and his Tardis came when my father took me to the local market and purchased a load of Classic Who serials such as “The Planet of Evil” and “Kinda” on VHS which we subsequently watched over, and over, and over again until he was forced to purchase a load more. With my knowledge of the Whoniverse already well configured at the ripe old age of 11, to see my earliest childhood show return after 16 years of being off the TV was simply magical. It was to my surprise therefore to realise how ten years this week have suddenly passed since that moment, whilst my fondness and love for such a show not being undermined in the slightest. Therefore, it is only apt for me to celebrate the brilliance I have witnessed over the course of the past decade in this special feature dedicated to the magical genius that is Doctor Who.
When the show returned in 2005, the reigns of the responsibility of being the titular character was given to Christopher Eccleston, an esteemed dramatic actor, famous for roles in Danny Boyles’ Shallow Grave, the police drama, Cracker, as well as a range of stage plays such as Hamlet and A Streetcar Named Desire. Although at the time, I was young enough to not understand the quality of acting Eccleston brought with him to the show, looking back after countless re-watches of his first and only season as the Doctor, it was clear that Eccleston gave the show the firm kick up the backside it needed after it’s time off-screen, relaunching it’s popularity with old fans, whilst simultaneously gaining new ones who were previously unaware of the story of the time-travelling Gallifreyan. In his first season, the 9th Doctor battled classic villains such as Autons and Daleks, whilst fighting new enemies such as the Gelth, the Slitheen and the wonderful gas-masked zombies with a knack of questioning, “are you my mummy?”. Aside from foes, the 9th Doctor also introduced us to Billie Piper’s character Rose, whose brilliance as the Doctor’s companion laid the foundation for those who would eventually follow in what it took to be the Doctor’s esteemed sidekick during the 21st century. A short-lived career as the Doctor was sealed for Eccleston during the excellent two-parter, “Bad Wolf” and “Parting of the Ways,” but the sheer quality of the first series allowed it to continue without him, with Eccleston forever being celebrated within the Who fanbase for solidifying the return of sci-fi’s most beloved specimen.
So what was needed after the heartbreak of losing our much loved, leather wearing, proper northern, 9th Doctor? That’s right, David Tennant, whose first 40 or so minutes as the Doctor saw him in his pyjamas, comatose from his sudden regeneration, whilst the Tyler’s and Co. battled the hideous Sycorax on Christmas Day. Nice way to spoil the turkey. As soon as Tennant appeared however, the Whoniverse was sold. His quick quips and cheeky demeanor presented a Doctor that was much more user-friendly than maybe Eccleston’s, whilst the relationship between himself and Rose was explored upon much deeper than the series previously, resulting in cry of the decade when the two were forced to part ways during the series two closer “Doomsday”. Aside from his ability to be simply brilliant, Tennant’s take on the Doctor was enhanced by the ability of the writers around him, with show-runner Russel T Davies, Steven Moffat, and Paul Cornell creating classics such as “Midnight”, “Blink” and “The Family of Blood/Human Nature”, all of which seemed to result in producing the strongest levels of acting from all involved.
Another success during the 10th Doctor’s reign was the decision to bring back arch-enemy, the Master, first played by the wonderful Derek Jacobi and then John Simm, whose erratic, yet creepy take on the Moriarty to the Doctor’s Sherlock, was a sheer triumph. With the Master returning, it was only inevitable for the return of the Time Lords, who along with the Master brought about the end of the 10th Doctor when he courageously inhaled the radiation that was about to kill Bernard Cribbins’ Wilfred Mott during “The End of Time”. With a cry of, “I don’t want to go”, the Tenth Doctor was history. Where Eccleston had established a return of Doctor Who, Tennant had enhanced it to levels of preposterous popularity and will forever be remembered as one of, if not the, best Doctor of all time. Allons-y.
Replacing Tennant and show-runner Russel T Davies, was the youthful Matt Smith, and the not-so-youthful yet renowned, Steven Moffat, famous for writing previous freaky-filled Who episodes such as “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, “Blink” and “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”. Where Moffat was rather popular and highly regarded in the world of Who, Smith was an more of an unknown, although he had previously appeared in Secret Diary of a Call Girl with ex-companion Billie Piper. The Eleventh Doctor’s era therefore began with a strange sense of regeneration (pun intended) with a new writer, new Doctor, and even a new companion in the form of Karen Gillan’s Amelia Pond appearing on our screens. Any doubts were suddenly erased soon after however with Smith solidifying his role as the Doctor in classic series five episodes such as “The Eleventh Hour”, “Vincent and the Doctor” and the series closer “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang”. Smith’s childish attitude and sometimes OTT performances made this era of Doctor Who much more accessible to the younger generation than ever before, although the introduction of the hideous Silence reinforced the fearful nature of Moffat’s ability to make absolutely anything simply terrifying. It was also within this era that Doctor Who celebrated a whopping 50 years since it first appeared on the black and white screens of 1963 by treating the fans to the glorious “Day of the Doctor”, featuring Smith, Tennant, Piper, new companion Jenna Coleman, and even acting legend John Hurt as the 8.5th “War” Doctor. It was within this particular serial that Doctor Who celebrated all things that made Doctor Who, well, Doctor Who and was a real triumph of British television, much to the relief of writer, Steven Moffat. Smith’s era as the Doctor was soon to be concluded however in the following episode “The Time of the Doctor” where he let the bow tie loose and began the next phase of regeneration, leaving an era of Doctor Who behind that continued to breed strong viewers and brilliant tales of the time-travelling madman.
If Smith’s era of Doctor Who was suspect of being childish at times, then Peter Capaldi’s first season as the 12th incarnation of the time lord was a drastic change of tone, evident from the offset with cult-director Ben Wheatley being at the helm for the first two episodes of the eighth NuWho series which dealt with murderous clockwork droids, a psychotic dalek, and the new Doctor seemingly not having a care in the world when witnessing the death of a helpless soldier. And I loved it. Capaldi’s take on the Doctor has been very reminiscent of classic Doctors, such as my all-time favourite Jon Pertwee, the jelly-bean loving, Tom Baker, and even the very first, William Hartnell, but also had enough differences to make the role his own. Although we have only had one series with Mr. Capaldi, the signs so far are is that Doctor Who is better than ever, even after ten years of continued airtime on the BBC. In a nutshell, it is simply marvelous to witness a much loved programme continue to prosper across the world, and may it continue to do so. Happy 10th Birthday NuWho.
Posted on 26/03/2015, in Film & TV, News, Reviews and tagged bbc, Christoper Eccleston, cult, David Tennant, Doctor Who, Dr Who, drama, entertainment, Feature, Matt Smith, NuWho, Peter Capaldi, sci-fi, TV, whoniverse. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.