Doctor Who has one of the longest histories of any science fiction franchise ever made. Since 1963, the titular Timelord has traveled alongside earthlings, aliens, and more through all of time and space. While the series has (mostly) held a cohesive throughline since the beginning, there is still a sharp division between the revival and the classic series.
While the revival has secured the series' global audiences, the classic series remains the cornerstone of the show's narrative heart. Debates have now been waged as to which iteration of the show is best. So, its time to ask the big questions (and no, its not Doctor Who?): Which series is better, the classic or revival?
10 Classic: Companions Got Happy Endings
A trend that has remained ever constant in the revival series of Doctor Who is its tendency to give companions tragic endings. While there are a handful of happy to bittersweet endings for some, most modern companions have either died or left on horrible terms.
The classic series lands often on the opposite end, giving companions safe trips home with relatively happy endings. It wasn't until Earthshock, and adventure alongside the Fifth Doctor, that the first companion died on screen. This allowed companions to return in the future if they ever wished, as well as leaving audiences with a happier farewell for most of their favorite characters.
9 Revival: More Charismatic Doctors
The Classic series certainly had compelling lead actors as the Doctor, there's no doubt about that. Tom Baker and John Pertwee are arguably the most beloved of the whole show. But, on the flip side, the Doctors of the revival are just a bit more likable.
Due to remarkable performances and stronger writing, the Doctors of the modern era have always been beloved no matter the iteration. Even the grumpier ones such as Christopher Eccelstone's and Peter Capaldi's were instant fan favorites.
8 Classic: The Doctor Wasn't Romantically Inclined
This is one trend that fans have often been against when it comes to the modern era. Often, the Doctor has become romantically involved with companions and individuals throughout his travels. Most of the time it has been the three first Doctors of this era (nine, ten, and eleven).
The classic series never even entertained the idea. This is a being so far removed from these human concepts due to his alien nature and time-traveling tendencies. It would make little sense for him to have such inklings, espeically for humans. While it has never been a deterrent for viewers, it has always been at least a distraction.
7 Revival: Varied Storytelling
When it comes to the Classic Series, there are some really fantastic stories. Some of the most iconic monsters, characters, and arcs belong to the original series. But the show followed an established formula, and rarely challenged it.
The moderns series, however, has offered a wide range of narratives. Blink, Love and Monsters, Midnight, The Lodger, and Sleep No More have all explored different formats and genres that have never been touched in the series previously. So many of them challenged what could be accomplished in a Doctor Who story, even if they didn't always work. At the very least, the modern series always attempts new things to propel the show forward.
6 Classic: More Alien Worlds
One thing that the revival series has often lacked in is stories set among alien worlds. It has fulfilled the promise of exploring every corner of time and bringing the fantastic worlds of space to our front doorsteps of Earth. But, there are far fewer stories set on far-flung alien worlds than the original series.
The classic run of Doctor Who had a more even split when it comes to the locations of its episodes. There were stories set in the past, present, and future, as well as on Earth, space, and alien planets. Whether it's for budget reasons or creative choices doesn't matter. The revival should reevaluate what stories get priority.
5 Revival: Scarier Villains
The biggest criticism of the classic series is the hokiness of its monsters. At the time, they scared kids silly. But, compared to the monsters of the revival, those old ones don't stand a chance. With far wider horror influences to play with, the revival series taps into much more human fears than most of the classic series.
The Weeping Angels, the Vashta Nerada, the Midnight Entity, and the Empty Child are just a few of the most terrifying creatures to come out of the revival. Most of these can also be attributed directly to Stephen Moffat, whose tried and true formula of crafting monsters – inspired by childhood fears – has been giving viewers nightmares since 2005.
4 Classic: Better Dalek Stories
When it comes to Daleks, there are far more stories in the revival that haven't worked than have. Which is a shame, as they are Doctor Who's longest-running foe. There have been solid ones, for sure. Dalek, Asylum of the Daleks, and Resolution being among them. But, the best Dalek stories all stem from the classic series.
Genesis of the Daleks alone is arguably one of the greatest stories, period, let alone compared to other Dalek episodes. But others, like Power of the Daleks, The Daleks, and Remembrance of the Daleks, just make them so much scarier than most of the new episodes.
3 Revival: Higher Production Value
As stated, the monsters of the classic series haven't aged as gracefully as one might have hoped. The effects – as a whole, in fact – are often what turn folks away from appreciating the great stories. It's a problem the show continued to have at the start of the revival as well, implementing early and low budget CGI in place of more believable practical effects.
But, as the show has grown and gained a higher budget, so have the effects. The most recent series alone looked more cinematic than anything that has come before. Everything – from the effects to the sets, music, and cameras – has all improved just since 2005.
2 Classic: Less Reliance On The Sonic
This is a problem that fans have been complaining about since the show returned in 2005. When a writer needs a quick solution to a problem, many have resorted to the Sonic Screwdriver. It has become a catch-all for any issue the Doctor faces, as opposed to developing a clever escape.
The classic series on the other hand rarely used the tool. It appeared occasionally, but it was more an exposition tool when figuring out the composition of alien lifeforms and such. It certainly wasn't the deus ex machina it has become today.
1 So Which Is Better?
As shown, both series have their ups and downs. The classic series started it all but has far more formulaic stories and goofball visuals. The revival revitalized the show for a new generation but often fails when trying new ideas for the series.
Unsurprisingly, the question is far more personal than what one article could answer. It all depends where in line you fall as a Doctor Who fan in regards to your age and taste. No matter what, it's still all the same show, and deserves the same amount of attention no matter what era it comes from (except that awful TV movie, sorry Paul McGann).