Of the many pieces of popular culture today, few have enjoyed the broad success of the Twilight franchise. What began as four novels has grown into a multibillion dollar franchise and has gained the fascination of the multitudes. The tale of Edward, Bella, and the paranormal culture they live in shall not soon be forgotten.
When I first watched Twilight in 2009, I walked away with an overall dislike of the film, not because it was a romance with vampires, but rather because I didn’t believe Twilight had the necessary caliber to be considered quality media. It wasn’t until three years later that I began watching Doctor Who and started noticing an increasing number of holes in the vampire movie.
The root causes for Twilight’s mediocrity are several. Primarily, the characters are shallow, lacking the necessities of a compelling personality essential for a developmental arc. While the Edward that expresses undying affection for Bella gets screen time to no end, viewers get very little exposure to an Edward full of personal flaws in need of correction. As Matt Inman of The Oatmeal wrote an intelligent article explaining how Twilight, the book, works, Edward is the manifestation of perfection. This person, who has excellent looks and superhuman abilities, cares exclusively for Bella, the fumbling, awkward high school sophomore. But, for all of the time spent depicting his positive qualities, very little is dedicated to fleshing out Edward’s character flaws.
Maybe this was due in part to inferior acting, but viewers are not given much to believe that the vampires of Twilight are creatures to be feared. Even though Edward explains to Bella that he is the world’s most dangerous natural predator, there is little else he contributes outside of that particular scene to demonstrate that side. Never, while in a moment of coupled bliss, is Edward shown struggling to stop his internal predator from devouring his love. Viewers do not come to the realization that he is a savage time bomb whose bloodlust for Bella puts her in increasingly greater danger with each passing day they spend together, for that flawed characteristic is handed to them through unconvincing exposition. And because the crucial element that could have made Edward a complex character is so effortlessly handed out, the viewer is robbed of the emotional experience that might have come with the revelation of what he truly is.
As a result of this wasted potential of character flaw, the relationship between Edward and Bella suffers as a result. Instead of being a platform for character development, their romance exists for the sake of itself. “Edward intensely listens to everything Pants [codename for an under-characterized Bella] has to say, even if she's bitching about she had diarrhea on Christmas or her preferred method for cutting a sandwich in half.” writes Inman in his article. “As far as the reader is concerned, Edward cares about nothing in the world more than Pants. What the author has done is created a perfect male figure - a pale Greek statue which the reader can worship and in turn be worshipped by.”
This relationship could have been a springboard for a variety of social topics, much like what George Romero did with the zombie genre. Given that Edward is over a century old and Bella is sixteen, Twilight could have easily addressed the topic of pedophilia, either as an in-story conflict or as a social message. Yet, nobody, either human or vampire, ever questions their difference in age. Meanwhile, Edward and Bella spend the night cuddling in her bedroom.
As with the pedophilia, the film could have made an excellent commentary theorizing what might happen when an immortal vampire falls in love with a normal human. Eventually, Bella would have be torn from Edward by the hands of Death while the vampire lived on in perpetual youth. Additionally, the movie could have enhanced this theme with the implication that Edward could have had several lovers throughout his lifetime due to his immortality, each meeting the same fate Bella would have to inevitably face.
In general, the Cullen family doesn’t seem to be managing their immortality very well. Having enhanced speed and strength along with telepathy and the ability to tell the future, not to mention outstanding physical looks, tremendously increased the Cullen family’s opportunities to achieve anything they wished, and with immortality, they had an unlimited amount of time, an incredible resource itself. Yet, of all the career paths available, they chose to continuously repeat high school. Unless the family had a particular interest in free education, this seems to be a waste of time and resources. Considering this logic hole, Twilight thus seems to adopt a Panglossian logic; if Edward had not repeated high school dozens of times, he would not have met Bella, the love of his life.
Ultimately, Twilight is literarily bankrupt. The plot finds entertainment value in an unrealistic version of high school romance while neglecting those elements which would have made the story more worthwhile of the viewers’ time.
Meanwhile, Doctor Who excels where Twilight fell short. The story is populated by fleshed-out characters who build upon each other for development. The Doctor, a charming, enigmatic Time Lord, takes viewers on a journey spanning all periods of time, encountering exotic creatures, notable historical figures, and ideological extremists; and showing the vast expanse of the universe. At their cores, Twilight and Doctor Who share a similar premise: a normal girl meets extraordinary man who changes her life forever. However, the approach each production takes is vastly different. While Twilight focuses on the relationship of that premise, Doctor Who, much in part to the brilliant writing done by Russell T. Davies, puts an emphasis on populating its universe with fully developed characters, which in turn makes for a more fulfilling story.
By far the most powerful theme present is irony. Like Edward, the Doctor is powerful. Being a Time Lord, the Doctor is universally acknowledged as a part of one of the greatest races that have existed, and as a result carries considerable influence wherever he travels. But unlike Edward, the Time Lord has an outgoing, conspicuous personality and conveys an overall likability. His compassion toward the human race puts him in danger on a regular basis, but he shows undying loyalty for his companions as he shows them the expanse of the universe and beyond.
However, his jovial attitude and antics are not wholly without motive, for the Doctor possess his share of negative qualities. Despite all of the variety of life the universe has to show, the inescapable fact remains that he is the last of his kind, another major theme in Doctor Who. Below the smile and underneath the charm, The Doctor is an individual haunted by a war that drove his species into extinction. No matter where he flies or how far back or forward into time he goes, he can never escape the ever-present loneliness.
Thus is why he chooses to bring people along for his journey; he is a character who needs company. Each of the Doctor’s companions has their own their own three-dimensional personality with a believable background. Rose was working as a department store clerk, living with her widowed mother. Martha was a medical student amidst a dysfunctional family going through a drama-charged affair. Donna lived a completely superficial life whose height of existence was the new yogurt flavor or the latest reality show. For these women, the Doctor provides an escape from the hum drum of reality to an extraordinary tour of the cosmos, experiencing adventures that the rest of Planet Earth could never hope to have.
Yet, as amazing as the journey is, the show constantly reminds viewers that the adventures have to, and inevitably will, come to an end. The inherent danger of travel in the TARDIS cannot last, and the companions become burned as a result of standing too close for too long next to the fire that is the Doctor. Never is the question if these companions will meet their end, but rather when. Rose gets trapped in a parallel universe, unable to reunite with the Doctor. Martha grew fond of him during their travels, but he never showed indication of likewise, prompting her eventual departure. While saving the universe, Donna gained the mind of a Time Lord, but such a consciousness could not exist within a human brain, and the Doctor had to resort to wiping all her memory of him. This is the irony found in Davie’s Doctor Who. No matter how wonderful, how fantastic a journey with the Doctor is, the voyage always comes to an unfortunate end, leaving the Time Lord once again alone.
Qualities like these are what make Doctor Who superior to Twilight. The Doctor and his companions are more compelling than Edward and Bella could be, the more talented writing provides a more interesting, solid plot, and the acting talents of David Tennant and Matt Smith (who played the 10th and 11th Doctors, respectively) surpass what Robert Pattinson did with his character. Should someone decide to rewrite the Twilight Saga long after we all are dead and the copyright has expired, putting the books into the free domain, he should take notes from the man in the blue police box, and maybe Twilight will one day be accepted as quality literature.