Almost everyone knows what Doctor Who is. If you're American and watch the show you have asked at least every British person you meet if they know what Doctor Who is. Rick and Morty is nowhere near as popular yet, but still has become on of Adult Swim's most memorable shows in just two years. For me as a lite Whovian who only watched the modern series starting with Eccleston, Rick and Morty has slowly taken the niche of where Doctor Who used to be. Maybe its me becoming more cynical or maybe I just wasn't that attracted to Matt Smith as opposed to David Tennant. For me however, there is a definite correlation to the direction of where Doctor Who has gone and how original Rick and Morty is.
The appeal of Doctor Who digs down deep at your inner child or adventurer. Some mysterious stranger shows up out of nowhere to take you on fantastic adventure through time and space. I was introduced to Doctor Who in middle school which was around the last season of David Tennant. But I loved him to death. Everyone talks about how their first Doctor tends to be their favorite, and I guess that seems true. Eccleston had a dark sort of charm but he never seemed as charismatic or approachable as Tennant. David had this intensity about him that was all concentrated in his facial expressions. From one moment he could be having a spazz out Eureka moment to suddenly introverted, his face a mask of stoic pain.
Another big contributing factor to the quality of the show was the style of writing. The head writer, Russell T. Davies, brought Doctor Who out of retirement with writing that was fresh, appealing to adults as well as kids, and depicted vivid stories. One of the largest strengths of Russell's run was the ability to present the stakes as high and terrifying. The audience knew that at the end of every season there would be some epic finale with terrible consequences. The overall conflict of the season would be resolved but not without casualties. And that was the beauty of Doctor Who at this point which made laugh but also bawl your eyes out.
When Matt Smith became the Doctor suddenly Doctor Who exploded in America. I liken it to the Marvel explosion because suddenly a large amount of fans who had never watched Tennant or Eccleston appeared just like a large amount of "fans" who had never read the comics appeared solely for the Marvel movies. Matt Smith was younger, I guess more attractive, and funnier. He could be dark at times but somehow it never was as serious as Tennant. Matt Smith became the face of Doctor Who.
As soon as David Tennant left though, Davies went along with him. His replacement, Steven Moffat is responsible for many of the scariest episodes during the Davies run. As head writer Moffat has created some epic stories that unfolded but they still lack the bittersweet endings that made Doctor Who so epic. Suddenly a season would get resolved and everyone would live happily ever after. Weird experiments began to happen like mid-season breaks, mid-season finales, and first season episodes that were two-parters. Season six in particular ended with an episode that seemed very unfinished as a story and did not live up to expectations set up by the rest of the season.
I don't want to blame Moffat for where the show went. I loved his monsters from the Davies era. He also is now forced to juggle writing for Doctor Who and writing for Sherlock which now doubles the pressure from both fandoms. But now I really don't feel Doctor Who as much was I did before. The epic showdowns and new planets seem all too familiar now. When Matt Smith left I really didn't care. My thoughts were mostly good riddance. Matt Smith felt geared more so towards the adoring fan girls who buy Tardis skirts at hot topic than towards
Rick and Morty is a relatively new show on Adult Swim that debuted last year. And already it has many of the same archetypes as Doctor Who. There's an older more experienced adventurer who travels throughout space and time with a younger more naive companion. The older, more jaded, character is offset by a naively optimistic traveling companion that tends to bring more humanity to the elder. The target audience is older children but still manages to have dialogue intelligent enough for adults. The characters are usually thrown in situations that could destroy entire universes or species while adding some humor along the way. Its odd how the similarities are there.
At first glance Rick and Morty seems like something a teenage boy doodled inside of his math notebook. However many of the key elements that made Doctor Who what it was in the first place are there an unadulterated. While many of the serious subjects like nuclear fallout and genocide are played with irreverently, Rick and Morty manages to bring out the same darkness the Davies Who series had. In one season 1 episode the entire planet gets overrun with genetic mutants spawned from Morty's desire to make a love potion. Instead of managing to find a cure, Rick instead finds a reality where he stopped the infestation and killed himself and Morty soon after. The two travel to that reality where Morty literally digs his own grave and is told by Rick to go on as if life is normal.
The newest Doctor, Peter Capaldi is a new direction that has gotten off to a rocky start. It is unlikely that many of the fan girls who started watching Doctor Who for Matt Smith mostly for the sex appeal would have stayed on for Capaldi. I find him more attractive but nobody listens to me. While many of the episodes of season eight were intriguing, many could have been done better. The whole monster under the bed scenario felt like a letdown albeit in a very dramatically touching way. Moffat finally gave Clara her own personality, but failed to really flesh out her boyfriend Danny Pink. The series finale had some insane reveals and an epic speech but left a lot of questions conceptually as to how death works in the Whoverse. But I have high hopes. I like this crotchety, cranky, old doctor.
If however my hopes do not appear to be reality and Moffat never gets his act together, Rick and Morty is the way to go. Series creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon manage to lampoon many science fiction tropes while keeping the series fresh, funny and most importantly human. While Doctor Who appeals to lots of women through the whole dashing stranger taking a female companion on a whirlwind adventure, Rick and Morty feels more accessible to both sexes. Rick takes both Morty and Rick's granddaughter, Summer, on his adventures while maintaining that both are at equal level of importance to him. Which apparently is not very high.
So if you're bored waiting for Season 9 of Doctor Who to come out, if you're not attracted to Peter Capaldi at all, and if you've completely given up on Steven Moffat then I whole heartedly recommend Rick and Morty. I know everyone has a different opinion and may actually really love the Matt Smith run. I get it. The same feeling that Doctor Who gave you does exist here albeit in a more irreverent and cynical way. But at it's core its still a show about the inner workings of the heart whether you have two or one. If