So, when last we left off, Doctor Who had been resurrected for one movie that, as it turned out wasn't very good. That opportunity missed, things went back to where they had been after the original series had been canceled--lots of tie-in books radio dramas, etc. and it looked like the chances of a return to TV (or films, which they spent the 90s trying to do again) seemed utterly remote.
Enter Russel T. Davies. Davies had recently come off of Queer As Folk, Second Coming and a few other projects and had the clout to do whatever he wanted, and as it happened, what he wanted to do more than anything was revive Doctor Who, and in 2005--nearly 15 years since the TV series ended and ten since the TV movie--he got his chance, bolstered quite a lot by the fact that the BBC was actually willing to spend some money on it this time.
For all I would disagree with Davies' approach as his tenure wore on, he had the perfect approach to bring this back, summed up in a quote excerpted here and one I mentioned in a previous post:
"But the people who loved the original series [of Doctor Who] when they were young are now in their 40s, and I’m not remotely interested in making a show just for them. That would be tragic. It’s too good an idea to be pigeonholed away with that small of a demographic . . . If they’d wanted a cult "Doctor Who" for the cult audience, I would have made that. I equally know how to do that. And when the BBC first asked me to bring back "Doctor Who," the first thing I did was make sure it wasn’t for a nostalgic cult audience, and it was going to be for everyone. "
In a perfect world, the pack of nabobs who create supehero comics at the moment would have that quote tattooed on the inside of their god damned eyelids.
Anyways, this was going to be a fresh start, that would use the history of the series but not demand that you knew the ins and outs of Doctor Who's history. Davies approach was to make the story more about following the Companion, Rose Tyler--we would meet the Doctor at the outset and be our entry point into the world of Doctor Who and gently introduce everything people loved about the series.
To draw a line under things, but to keep things handy to be brought back later, Davies came up with the Time War, a handy little deck-clearing exercise that was designed to sweep away things which had really never worked all that well (the Time Lords, for one, and good bloody riddance) and keep everything else on the table until the time was right--the reasoning being once they liked the show, then Davies could start building continuity taken from the past without having to painfully footnote how we got from 1989 (or 1996) to the present.
So the Ninth Doctor appears on the scene, and he's rather different from most the previous Doctors, and not just because he's not wearing a costume, or because he's seen at a certain distance, but because he's a lot edgier than Doctors have been. He's cranky and shows little patience for stupid humans, but also shows great affection for humans who show the will to be a bit more than they are, and it's his only his interaction with Rose that ultimately begins to soften him and gradually, over the 13 episodes he did, he gradually becomes the Doctor we all know and love.
Along the way we get some great episodes (most of which were written by folks who cut their teeth on the Doctor Who novels of the Nineties--"Dalek," "Father's Day," "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" 2-parter) and some not-so-great ones (The ones with the Farting Aliens are really rather silly, as it's impossible to take them seriously as a threat--as almost parodies of the standard Doctor Who monsters, but even then, we didn't need three of them) but on the whole, it was a very strong season, and just what was needed to get the program back on its feet, and it become one of the most-watched programs on British TV. After a decade and change, Doctor Who was back, and back in a way that people who'd seen the original's slow decay could possibly imagine.
But things being what they are, even in the best of times, there's upheaval. Ultimately, the Ninth Doctor lasted one season, the actor involved deciding he had better things to do, I guess. Ordinarily, this would be the kiss of death for a show just finding its feet, but what was to come with the advent of the Tenth Doctor was the moment Doctor Who's resurrection completes itself and captures the imagination of two coasts and I can think of no better teaser for it than "it was the best of times and the worst of times." Join us, won't you?