Synopsis: A mysterious, face-changing, time traveling alien with various companions continues to save the universe from a variety of colorful adversaries.
• Written as a soft-reset rather than soft-reboot.
• Greater mysteries than ever before to be explained later and later replaced by yet more.
• Isolation and loneliness were sympathetically written into the narrative.
• The Doctor makes himself more mysterious by hiding from his own memories of his immediate predecessors (an in-universe reference to the Wilderness Years).
• Continues to not take itself that seriously much of the time.
• The somewhat more glossy look and feel might have turned off long-time fans.
• Elements like the Doctor all of a sudden being the “last of his kind” might have been confusing, the normally isolationist Timelords being a significant element of the show’s original run.
• The Doctor being suddenly darker and grimmer might have seemed out of place for some viewers.
• The more organic TARDIS desktop theme was in starker contrast to the Classic Era than even the steam-tech theme seen in the TV film (1996). This was referenced by the Fifth Doctor himself in the Tenth Doctor crossover special Time Crash (2007).
Ninth Doctor (2005) —
Christopher Eccleston had the most on his shoulders than any of his predecessors. It had been nearly a decade since the TV film, and sixteen years since the unofficial cancelation occurred. That Wilderness Era was fueled by nostalgia and diverging continuities. The Virgin New Adventures novels — and Missing Adventures novels for Doctors prior to the Seventh — were largely seen as the continuation of the show by fans, but the BBC did not renew Virgin’s licensing after the TV film. Yet, it was those novels that gave an unintentional preview of what was to come, in terms of themes and writing staff. Producer and writer Russel T. Davies, who was a major force in bringing the show back, was one of those writers, and the novel Human Nature by Paul Cornell was adapted by Cornel into the continuation. In terms of overall themes, the Doctor’s origins are explored in show, albeit in somewhat different ways than the novels. As an aside, Scream of the Shalka (2003), featuring a now unofficial Ninth Doctor, was officially ignored, but elements relating to the long running nemesis, the Master, are comparable to later official storylines. It might even be arguable that this “Shalka” Doctor was comparable to the revelations in The Day of the Doctor (2013). As River Song would say, though, “Shh, spoilers!”
Anyway, this Rebirth of Doctor Who simply worked, and I do not need to tell people to trust me on this. Eccleston played the role with the fantastic weight of the universe on his shoulders, and never bothered to hide that fact. Much had clearly happened since the events of the TV film (“the last of his kind!?”). Eccleston showed that through his great reluctance and short temper as Nine. He literally threw a companion out of the TARDIS in one episode. This was the most angry Doctor up to this point. In many ways, this grouchy Doctor was a narrative bridge into the regenerated show, while still being purely Doctor Who at its core.
Tenth Doctor (2005-2010) —
David Tennant provided a somewhat more amiable Doctor in the vain of the Fifth. That festering anger and frustration was still there, but Ten actively made himself a more accessible antihero. He was perhaps even more alien than his predecessors, but quirkily so. The real depth of Ten was indeed that darkness he desperately tried to hide, yet occasionally revealed anyway in his hardest of moments. Like with Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, Tennant made the character his own, lacking any production tentativeness in the first revival season. Ten was often just having fun saving the universe, while suggesting everyone he saved was a small step in making up for unstated events just before the Ninth Doctor’s time. In the end, Ten was the most vain and selfish of all of them, never wanting to go and finding a way to regenerate back into himself. But in the end, like many of his predecessors, he sacrificed himself to save his companion, allowing the song of the Doctor to move onward …