BBC’s revamp of Doctor Who in 2005 has proven to be quite popular and has drawn millions of new fans around the globe. But what about those who have been loyal to the show since its start in 1963? What are fans of classic Who saying about new Who? What do new Who fans think of the classic series?
I belong to several social media groups dedicated to Doctor Who and have attended Gallifrey One, an annual Doctor Who convention that started in 1990, held in Los Angeles. Even within the past five years that I have been in attendance, I have noticed a pretty significant rise in children and young adults cosplaying as one of the Doctors from the new series and although there is a wide age range of attendees, the popular majority has definitely shifted to the reboot. After taking a poll on several of the websites to which I belong, 70% are new Whovians (to which Oxford Dictionary defines as: A fan of the British science fiction TV series Doctor Who) versus 30% who are classic Whovians, the ones who started watching before the show ended in 1989. More interesting is that 90% started watching in 2005 when Christopher Eccleston restarted the series as Doctor #9. Out of that 90%, about 25% loved the show so much that they started to watch the series from the very beginning and eventually became fans of the classic Doctors and that is exactly how my love affair with the Doctor began. I was flipping channels looking for something to watch and came across a man nicely dressed, on a pirate ship looking for something in the water. Turns out I was watching the 11th reincarnate and I have no idea why it caught my attention, but it did and it became the start of my new obsession. Since then I have watched every single episode from William Hartnell to Paul McGann and of course more recently, Peter Capaldi. My favorites? Jon Pertwee (#3), Matt Smith (#11) and Peter Capaldi (#12). Everyone has their own reason why their favorite Doctor is their favorite which include “he was my first Doctor” to simply “I like the way he plays the Doctor” and I can relate to all of it. Tom Baker (#4) and David Tennant (#10) are by far the two favorites of all who responded.
Chatting in a local group with a mix of new and classic Whovians, we all agree the show is at its height of popularity. A couple of the members who started watching as seven and eight-year-olds in the mid-1970s remember seeing Tom Baker with his larger than life smile to go along with his longer than life scarf with Jelly Babies in-hand. They fondly remember Romana, Adric, Tegan and Nyssa, the companions during the Fourth Doctor’s tenure. They liked the storylines and the interactions between the characters and the uniqueness of the show. They were thrilled when the show was revived and find the new show entertaining and the actors fun to watch.
The new Whovians in the group started watching the reboot in 2005. They were split between David Tennant and Matt Smith as being their favorite although they all enjoyed watching both actors. Since the seasons were short and the time between them were long, some who were going through Doctor withdrawals turned to watching the classic series. Although they did not come right out and say they didn’t like the classic series, they were not as impressed with Hartnell or the episodes that followed. Their main critique were mostly the special effects. They found that the set and the creatures were ‘cheesy’ and highly unbelievable. How can I not agree with them? The available technology in the 60’s and 70’s can in no way compete with modern CGI where a whole city can be blown to bits on a green screen and actors can change appearances right in front of you on a computer.
Both new and classic Whovians are also in agreement that Matt Smith, the youngest actor to play the Doctor, has attracted a new set of fans and brought the show back to its popular status, although I have overheard many of these young, new fans at several conventions mention their dislike of the new Doctor. One such comment I happened to catch was that he was too old and too grumpy. I find it funny because his grumpiness is what I love most about him! It will be interesting to see if there will be any noticeable changes at Gallifrey One in the next few years or changes in members, opinions and chats in my Doctor Who groups.
All-in-all I found that whether you started watching Doctor Who in the 1970’s or 2000’s, we all share our love of the Doctor and we all have our reasons why we choose a certain Doctor as ours. After all, he is the same man but with 12, 13 if you count the War Doctor, different faces. It’s the stories and the adventures that all unite us as Whovians.