Okay so I've now watched enough of these new doctor who's to give my considered opinion. Generally it is almost good but never manages to be more than almost!
Disclaimer: I haven't seen any Eccelston ones. I saw the Christmas specials with the Being John Mastervich stuff happening in it. I saw bits of the programmes leading up to the doctors change over and the last four of this new series.
So I have to admit there may be hidden gems and it could have started really good and got more and more mediocre.
That said here's my opinion based on what I've seen.
The writing keeps it always in a light place. There is little depth created in any of the characters.
The doctors are all great actors and many of the bit parts are played by great actors. So the flaw really must be in the directors and writers, because generally the acting is a bit off. The scripts are riddled with cliched characters.
The scenarios however are often pretty good and sometimes really good. It is this that led to me watching more than I intended. All the doctors are full of charisma and the new way of treating the subject, post Buffy, does lead to a much better idea of the doctor as a character.
The new assistant Amy Pond is a really annoying character and the woman who plays her is a pretty bad actress.
Although as mentioned it could just be that she is asked to perform badly.
The performances tend towards pantomime rather than real. And that's the main problem, the programme is very shallow and lacking in truth.
The guest parts are generally there only to play a part in the doctors drama, they just slot into sidekick roles and they are all far too quick to accept the strange world.
I've heard this defended as being because the show is designed to be a children's show. But its meant to be watched by all the family and anyway I don't like that attitude to children's work. There is nothing to stop kids programmes having an engaging level of truth and real darkness and lights.
The trouble with it is that the good ideas and the good actors, make it annoying that it doesn't fulfill its potential.
I'm not really a fan of its source material, although because that tried to be less it succeeded more, however many of the problems with doctor who come from there. The sonic screwdriver and everyone speaking english wherever they go just seem far too easy... by bringing up the levels of realism and quality of the ideas it simply exposes the ideas kept from the original series as being hokey.
And they should never touch Van Gogh again, the level of annoyingness of that episode, and I am biased since he is my favorite painter and I know about his life, but still the whole episode was so ridiculous and wasted, even though it had the great and very simple idea of having him be taken to the present to see himself in art galleries. But that idea was the really good one and should have really been explored: did that make him kill himself? how does he feel about his commercialisation, mass production, his diaries being published... etc... And since his character was sanitised and not really developed we couldn't truly care for him anyway.
That's an example of the missed opportunities the show has. That episode was unlucky as it only really had one in it (which is disguised by all the attempts to be clever about van gogh) other episodes have a much higher quota of good ideas, but still overall its a wasted opportunity.
I can understand why its so popular, it draws on a nostalgic feeling for its source and mixes it with a modern sensibility, famous and loved character actors in bit parts, attractive and charismatic leads, clever ideas, occasional funny lines.
But for me it could have been so much more, and I wonder if people wouldn't actually prefer a better option if they were presented with one. There is so little great British TV, so few ambitious programmes, that we latch on to anything half decent out of hunger. I understand that. But this works for me less than for example Being Human (which I've only seen series one of) which has better writing and acting, if much less broad appeal and production values.
I feel a similar way towards Life On Mars / Ashes To Ashes... that series was almost there but it never really fully hit it.