As part of an excellent essay on the role of the Nostalgia Factor in the Russell T. Davies (RTD) era of Doctor Who, Iain Clark makes many excellent points about both the new and the old series of Who, why Sarah Jane Smith was really the only choice as a returning former-companion for the new generation of Who-watchers, and the differing emphasis paid to character vs story in each.
Clark is writing what purports to be merely a review of the one episode of the second RTD season, yet by the end he’s engaging in an analysis of the entire Rose Tyler era in counterpoint to what we see of the characters in School Reunion.
For the most part the purpose of the original series was to watch an idiosyncratic character solve an interesting and largely external story. There may have been memorable guest characters, dramatic moments and moral dilemmas, but there was seldom much in the way of introspection. Only in its twilight years did the show imbue companions like Ace (Sophie Aldred) with anything approaching psychological complexity. In this sense the new Doctor Who has embraced character to a much greater extent, to the point of occasional soap opera. While its stories often follow the same basic templates as the original, when story and character come into conflict it’s now the story that gets short shrift.
Thoughts? Particularly if you’re a new Who fan who’s only catching up with classic Who now instead of being nostalgic for them as part of your childhood.