I love Doctor Who.
Ever since I was a wee lad on my father's knee, hearing about the show's almost mystical properties during it's heyday, watching specials as they aired on PBS every so often, I was totally enamored with the concept, and was sorry that I was too young to partake in glory of the show's earlier incarnations. The advent of the internet has allowed me to alleviate that pain somewhat, but it's obvious time has not been kind to the early, low-budget serials.
|Pictured: Pants-shitting fear|
There has been a debate that has been echoing across the halls of time and the internet, since about June of last year. A question that will no doubt be argued over until such a time as the role is inevitably represented with a new face; Tennant or Smith? Doctor 10 or 11? Which is the better Doctor? To which, the answer is actually very simple: Both!
Both David Tennant and Matt Smith are phenomenal actors, and easily comparable to each other. Had their roles been reversed, with Smith as the 10th doctor and Tennant as the 11th, so too would their names in each camps' respective arguments. When you argue over which doctor was the better doctor, what you're really doing is comparing each version of the character's actions and reactions to the various situations they've found themselves in. You're not comparing the actors, you're comparing the writers. Which is a fair thing to do; Both Tennant and Smith had very different head writers, with very different ways to portray The Doctor.
Russell T. Davies instigated the show's 2005 revival, and had a very story-driven style that drew heavily from the pop-culture tropes of the time, while Steven Moffat, who was responsible for the scripts of several award-winning episodes before his tenure as head writer in 2010, has a more character-driven style that's farther removed from contemporary television, and earnestly tries to be it's own beast.
So which writer was better?
Moffat, of course!
Not to downplay Davies at all; the show wouldn't be on the air right now if it wasn't for him, and his decisions to omit things like Gallifrey, and making the Doctor the veteran of the Great Time War early on were wise, but he was more content to play in the sandbox left for him, crashing daleks and cybermen together, and generally allowing the doctor to be awesome, than add anything to the mythos of any real consequence. In the Davies written episodes, the Doctor himself is rarely faced with a moral quandary or serious problem beyond "There is a monster, we must fight it!" With the possible exception of Rose, and even then not until long after she relinquished the position, the Doctor's companions were largely superfluous, serving as nothing more than audience surrogates. (Seriously, can you remember anything Martha did? I can't.)
His season finales were big on bombast but small on actual content, often relying on deus ex machina to end the episode, as opposed to a logical yet interesting conclusion, a particularly infamous example being the latter half of "Last of the Time Lords"
|I regenerated for your sins|
In the former, the Doctor himself takes up very little screen time, instead he relays instructions to one-off characters by, in one scene, holding a conversation through a 40 year time gap by using a video camera, several DVDs, and a transcription of the conversation he's currently having.
|Pictured: Pants-shitting fear|
And then there's River Song, a time traveler whose path crosses with the Doctor's almost exactly opposite his temporal path. The first time we and The Doctor see her is the last time she sees him.
Amy herself is much more of her own character in series 5, as well, with her own strengths, a few times catching things the Doctor does not and acting upon them, and her own character flaws; at one point, she attempts to cheat on her fiance with The Doctor.
Again, did Martha do anything? Rose held a really big gun as an explosion went off behind her, that's something, right? Donna yelled a lot. None of Davies' companions were ever explored as thoroughly as Amy Pond.