Classic Doctor Who Explored Planets, Modern Doctor Who Explores People

What’s the difference between NuWho and the original show? It used to be about a weird hero going on adventures with their friends. Post-2005, the weird hero and their friends became the adventure.

David Tennant in Doctor Who The Power of the Doctor
Photo: BBC Studios

The original run of Doctor Who ran from 1963 – 1989, with the 1996 TV Movie usually affixed to this like a congealed nasal emission on a mighty nose. This is often referred to as ′Classic Who′ (a phrase I try to avoid because it′s hard not to sound like Alan Partridge).

Modern or ′NuWho′ refers to the revived version of the show that′s been going since 2005. It will continue with a run of three special episodes to celebrate the show′s 60th anniversary followed by the 14th full series of the revived run. These are both lengthy runs by any standards, which obviously makes unifying ′Classic′ and ′Nu′ Who into singular entities slightly reductive, but let’s press on.

The most obvious difference between Classic and NuWho is that they focus on different things within the same broad format, for various reasons but chiefly relating to the show′s sheer longevity. Both runs change and respond to the world around them, and as a result of different writers and creators being involved. They both consist of multiple takes on the flexible format of an alien travelling around having adventures with their friends.

That′s been pretty consistent throughout, but it′s also vague in terms of telling you what an episode might actually be like. It allows for a lot of diversity of approach: within this format, Doctor Who can focus on its characters or on the place they find themselves in, on the monsters or on the science. It can be action-orientated or more thoughtful and idea-driven.


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