TV Character Bracket Championship: The Doctor vs. Tony Soprano

After months of writing and tens of thousands of votes, we’ve finally come to the championship of our TV Character Bracket. There were a lot of upsets and many great characters seemed to go before their time.  Whatever led us here, it cannot be argued that two of the greatest characters ever put on TV are in the finals.  So who will it be?

The Doctor (Doctor Who) vs. Tony Soprano (The Sopranos)

The Doctor’s final four matchup

Tony’s final four matchup

The Case for Tony Soprano

Tony SopranoGK: If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Tony Soprano helped change modern television. He was the first true anti-hero shown to the American viewing public that left a significant impact. Tony and the rest of The Sopranos vaulted television into the Golden Age, and paved the way for shows like The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men and many, many more.

There is no question that The Doctor is a fascinating character. The evolution of The Doctor is unquestionable, in large part thanks to the fact that the character himself continues to evolve as he is transformed from actor to actor. What other character on any show can seamlessly morph from actor to actor and still carry the same principles, all while adding their own spice?

It’s an interesting twist on a very eloquent show, but it still doesn’t match what Tony Soprano gave us. Tony was inherently a bad person, the exact evil most of us have grown up to despise. And yet, we found ourselves enchanted with his life and his work, wanting more exposure to what made this man so complex. Tony Soprano and his crime family somehow began to seem like any of our crazy families. You know, minus the murder, drug use and hookers. Other than that, yeah, his family problems were like our family problems. Tony became the everyman’s mobster. He became likeable. That’s a trait no Doctor can ever have, and will never be asked to achieve. Tony Soprano opened the door for others after him.

The Doctor is a great character, but Tony Soprano is also the foundation for other memorable characters. That puts him over the edge in this bracket.

MA:  It is tough for me to follow what Greg said about Tony Soprano once again because he just continues to take the words out of my mouth.

The one thing that I keep going back to is how no one else from this show is represented.  While Tony Soprano absolutely influenced television in a very positive way, it was really the entire show that paved the way for some other great ones to follow.  Which is why it is so amazing we have no one else from representing The Sopranos.  You can make the argument that this might be why Tony Soprano stood out as he was surrounded by average characters, but that would really be diminishing his role on television.

I cannot speak about what kind of character The Doctor was, but from what I have read it seems like we have a powerhouse of a matchup.  But like Greg said I think as great as he was, he did not impact television nearly as much as someone like Tony Soprano.  That can never be said enough as without Tony Soprano we might have had more shows like King of the Hill.

The Case for the Doctor

THE ELEVEN DOCTORSMC: Once more I get to be the pompous guy that comes in and says “this isn’t even close.”  As I’ve done for the last several rounds I’m going to quote myself and link to previous arguments because, as one of the two Doctor Who fans on staff, I’ve pretty much written all I can write.   So for starters, I went a little overboard in Round 1, but laid out a lot of what the discerning voter needs to know.  Read that here.  The core of what I’ve been saying throughout is that the Doctor is the foundation of a show that recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.  Fifty years of a show that only works because of its lead character.  I further laid out the case last round but I’ll quote the most important bits here:

  • The Doctor has the unique advantage of 12 different actors taking on the role and fleshing it out throughout its 50 years.  Click the links I added above to details on this.
  • The Doctor has been great enough to carry a show for 50 years.  FIFTY.  That doesn’t even count the hundres′s of audio dramas, novels and comics devoted to the Doctor’s various incarnations.
  • The Doctor is a madman in a box.  An ancient alien traveling through time and space going on adventures, exploring history, vanquishing monsters, getting into trouble and saving worlds.  He can be a hero of epic proportions, a clown popping in on ancient Rome or future mars, a simple traveller, a wild swashbuckler and more.  The format of Doctor Who has given the Doctor a canvas on which to paint a history of unparalleled excellence as a TV character.
  • The Doctor is almost always hilarious and almost always tragic.
  • The Doctor is the Doctor.  I understand that if you don’t watch the show this is nonsense. But if you do, it’s the only argument you need.  He’s the Doctor.  The Oncoming Storm. The Last of the Time Lords.  He’s pal-ed around with Van Gogh and Dickens, locked Hitler in a cupboard, travelled to the end of existence and saved countless lives.   There’s the Doctor. And then there’s everyone else.

In the first round I talked a bit about the advantage of having multiple actor’s takes on the same character:

David Tenant’s 10th Doctor is a bombastic, geek chic hero.  He is wacky, charming, commanding and terrifying.  Tom Baker’s iconic 4th Doctor is alien and bizarre and impossible to take your eyes off of.  Matt Smith, the current Doctor, is an old man in a young man’s body, capable of gravitas laden monologues. He’s a gangly mess of physicality and  wields a hilarious lack of cool.  Christopher Eccelston, the 9th Doctor, isa war-torn badass. Sylvester McCoy, the 7th is a master strategist hiding inside of a wise professor, and John Pertwee’s 3rd Doctor is a sci-fi James Bond, with double the gadgets and Venusian Akido in place of a love life.  All of them are the Doctor and these vastly different performances, that all manage to be representative of the same character, forge  an absolutely iconic, unforgettable character who is the driving force of a show that’s been great enough to last for 50 years.

Having twelve different actors provide a take on one character feels a lot like cheating in a bracket like this, but it’s cheating that makes the difference.  All the different takes on a core character who always manages to shine through provide *unparalleled* uniqueness and  range.   That word, unique, is often overused.  In this case it’s the perfect word.  There is no character like the Doctor anywhere on television.  There’s no character as essential to a show that’s lasted for decade after decade and produced countless non-television media to boot.  I said it once and I’ll say it one last time:  There’s The Doctor.  And then there’s everyone else.


Bracket Recap

GK: Looking back on this bracket as a whole, I’ll admit that not seeing all of the shows some characters were from warped my overall opinion of some. I’ll also admit that, at certain times, I was convinced we were merely getting trolled. I mean, how no character from The Wire even made it as far as the Elite Eight still blows my mind.

None the less, it was a fun little experiment. It’s not often you’re asked to compare characters from shows, as opposed to the shows themselves. Do I think we need a break from brackets? Oh yeah, at least brackets that aren’t March Madness related. But, overall, this was interesting. It’s a small sample case study for how everyone views specific characters from a various of shows.

MA: As Greg said before me this was definitely a fun experiment and I cannot deny I got frustrated at times with the voters.  The Wire is absolutely my favorite show of all-time and the fact that no one made it that far hurts just as much as the New England Patriots losing in the playoffs.  Still when you look at how it ended up shaking out there is no doubt we ended up with not only a great championship, but also Final Four.

The only other thing to say is thank you to all of the voters who did make this interesting!!  This bracket would have failed miserable if it was just us writers voting for our favorites.