2005-2006 vs 2009
Part of the problem is...I've been watching some of 2005 again and part of the current problem is that in 2005 RTD set up a great base for DW in Rose and her family, Jackie and Mickey and even Pete. Rose had a life, Rose cared and we cared about her. Part of the problem with current DW and even classic DW, even the novels, is that they never had this and still don't for much of it. The audio's lame grasp at a family for Peri and a life for Tegan pale in comparision because mostly they're negative; Tegan's dying; Peri's mom and her friend die thanks to a stupid mistake by the Sixth Doctor. Rose's family, say what you will about them, was fairly positive, upbeat, funny, and human with mistakes being made, etc. But they loved each other and felt real. Jackie and Mickey are great charcaters we can feel for and sypmathize with. After Doomsday we lost this.
There was a lame try with Martha's family but none of them are likable or real to me. Martha's mother was just a witch for most of 2007 and not even in that many episodes where we could really get to know her and feel for her and sympathize with her motivations and here she was helping the Master without even knowing about it. It didn't ring true and thus Martha's human story was left hanging. Thankfully she was a strong character played by a strong actress.
With Donna we got her mom and dad. We lost her dad unfortunately. Syliva is pretty much a negative person who doesn't seem to even like Donna and nags at her. As bad as Jackie gotr sometimes I always felt her love for Rose and her positiveness and her zest for life. Syliva may be a real person but one you really don't want to be around for long. She may even have her uses such as saving Wilf and be truthful such as when she says Wilf didn't vote for Harriet Jones but she's no Jackie. One can see with Sylvia, how Donna turned out to be the RUNAWAY BRIDE Donna that later mellowed away from her influence. Wilf on the other hand is a great character but he's not really enough to ground Donna for me or not as much as Rose was.
Still Tate was, like Freyma, a strong enough actress to keep Donna warm and cool and interesting, funny and likeable and useful as a companion.
The specials have the major problem of not grounding any companion in them and indeed to me they are not companions but psuedo companions who really don't gel. All of them. I can't even remember most of their names. Astrid isn't really a real person, and if there were any inklings of one there we didn't have time to get to know her to really feel her death. It was sadder when Rose was cordoned off into a parallel universe because it meant something because we knew Rose. Astrid's death is sad but not as sad as it could have been if we had some background for her, something to latch onto, something we had in 2005 and 2006 with Rose, as faulty and as soap opera-y as that was, it was the most brilliant thing RTD did for DW. Then he went and took it all away. The problem was better handled in NEXT DOCTOR because we got to know what's his name better as we delved directly into the mystery of his real life, since he was not the Doctor. The problem there is that, like THE DOCTOR'S DAUGHTER, he wasn't the real thing so the interst level goes down. His scenes with the Tenth Doctor are some of the best male to male DW scenes Tennant ever did and mostly due to the other actor. I find Tennant's Doctor patronizing to males in almost every other story but not this one. Unforutnately we have a weak story, a weak villianess, weak reasoning for things, a weak ending, an overblown attack on a town by a giant Cyberman thing, and still not enough time to get to know this "next Doctor" wannabe. And he's a sad man but at least he still has his son. PLANET OF THE DEAD is even worse because we get a far out character, not a doctor in waiting like Martha, not a go no where worker like Rose, or even a temp like Donna but a thief like in some far flung old movie mixed with Lara Croft. It doesn't ring true. I mean she's more unbelievabvle than even the Doctor and her background is barely there. So for me the best thing about 2005 to 2006 DW was the emotional ties to the real world via Rose's family and boyfriend and the present day. Of course the stories were stronger too and in 2007 we had some very strong stories too such as HUMAN NATURE so if Moffat can do that after the mess of 2009's gap, more power to him. The thing is: maybe they couldn't get Donna for all the specials but if they could have, then it would have been better to have the same companion, Donna throughout or even if they left Rose with the 10th Doctor throughout the specials or Martha or Jack or Mickey even. to do it the way they are doing it, just kills it for me. I don't care about the new people he meets. It's as Ian Chesterson once said, aimless wanderings and for me too far removed from anything of any emotional core. Oh and then there's the Doctor in PLANET OF THE DEAD offering up Nathan n the other boy as UNIT men. WTF?
SO for me, Moffat if he is to salvage this mess, has a big job ahead of him. Hopefully it won't involved Daleks right away, Nazis ever, Indian Jones stuff right away or anything of the rumors I've heard. It does not ring well that we'll have yet another female Earth girl from Earth present day. Maybe it's time something different is tried. Something with the same ties to the real world but what?