Leading up to the 60th Anniversary celebrations in November, I’ve been rewatching older episodes of Doctor Who over the last few months. While I grew up with Tom Baker’s Doctor, I started off with the end of the Jon Pertwee era, right through non-stop until Paul McGann. With that done, I’m now on an epic adventure to revisit the modern era, season-by-season with this retrospective look back.
New Doctor, New Format
For a new era, the show underwent a complete makeover. Ignoring the obvious budget increase and improved production values other changes were brought in. Instead of stories being serialised and spread over 3, 4 or 6 episodes we were given a new concentrated episodic format. It meant tighter writing, fewer unnecessary scenes but still allowed for longer plots through multi-part stories or ongoing arcs.
This format, while keeping to roughly the same number of weeks on television as we’d seen in the final years on air in the 80s, also meant we were actually getting back to the same amount of airtime as we had in the Peter Davison era. While the season was cut down to just 13 episodes in length, with each one running for 45-50 minutes each we were actually getting more Doctor Who than we had seen for decades…
Back when the series was in its prime and in its 25 minute format, time was wasted in every episode with titles and recaps of the previous episode. Remove that from every two episodes and the reality is that each two episodes worked out at around 40-42 minutes rather than 50. So infact, while on paper we may have thought that a 26 part Classic Who season was the same as a 13 part NuWho season, we were actually getting more on-screen time.
A Clean Start
One thing that set this series apart from all of the others is that it starts with no transition from the previous run. While the modern series is not a reboot and is clearly a continuation of the previous run, it attempts to make a fresh start. The season numbering starts from the beginning instead of continuing as Season 27 and there’s no regeneration sequence.
The lack of a regeneration was a disappointment for many, not giving any form of closure for Paul McGann’s doctor. However, while many still had mixed feelings towards the movie at the time it was understandable that the BBC wanted to distance themselves from it. So while Christopher Eccleston was acknowledged at the time as being the ninth Doctor, the others were seldom referenced.
But what about the episodes themselves? Read on…