Classic Series Rankings Day 1: 160-151

Colin 160

 

  1. The Celestial Toymaker

In theory, this is the kind of Doctor Who story I should love. But ever since I saw The Final Test on The Hartnell Years VHS, I’ve had a low opinion: 25 minutes of Jackie Lane being the stupidest companion ever, and Peter Purves trying to make jumping from one box to another look interesting, while William Hartnell plays a board game with a bored Gough. Recent complaints about its anti-Chinese, anti-Black racism (which are hard to refute, even if the intent wasn’t malicious) haven’t exactly made it any easier to like. And had this been Hartnell’s last story, as mooted, it would have been a genuinely mean-spirited and damaging way to get rid of him. As it stands, it’s just very ordinary and tiresome: Star Trek, The Avengers and pretty every ITC show did the same kind of thing but much better at about the same time.

  1. The Twin Dilemma

I think this one is so low because it’s the worst introduction for any Doctor, and scuppers Colin Baker before he even starts. The Peri strangulation scene, her ongoing abuse by the Doctor, and his closing, ‘I’m a massive sod, get used to it little girl’ are horrid. As such, this goes beyond being ‘bad’ or ‘misjudged’ and actively harms the series by existing. The cast are mainly trying quite hard, but the design and script stifle any chance they’ve got.

 

  1. The Dominators

Mean spirited, reactionary and very boring. I think while making this, Patrick Troughton decided he’d had enough, so, like the previous two entries, this was actively damaging to the series. There’s not much else to add. These bottom three stories are the only ones in the classic series that I wish had never been made at all.

 

  1. Timelash

Obviously very bad, and probably couldn’t have been rescued even if they’d had the time and money to make it look like more than a parody of BBC sci-fi. And it raises lots of baffling questions, like why did anyone paint a picture of Pertwee in front of a mirror? It’s quite amusing that all the monsters look like big phalluses, and Jeananne Crowley’s Prozaced-out space princess is spellbinding to watch. Santa’s grotto in the Timelash, seatbelts in the TARDIS, Paul Darrow’s performance: so many bizarre choices, but at least, unlike in the bottom three, none of them is actually hateful.

 

  1. Underworld

Basically, it’s just badly made and boring, with Bob and Dave’s most uninspired script. The first episode isn’t disastrous. Struggling to think of anything else to say.

 

  1. Arc of Infinity

Unlike Timelash, there’s probably the germ of several good ideas in this one, except none of the production team has worked out which ones fit with the story and deserved development, or how to link any of the plot strands together. It’s quite nice to bring Omega back for the start of an anniversary year that ends with Rassilon, and surely a lot of people would have remembered him from The Five Faces season a year before.

 

  1. Attack of the Cybermen

The first episode is really good: the strongest opening of a season since 1980. Which means the drop in quality to episode 2 is as dramatic as the drop in quality between Horror of Fang Rock and The Invisible Enemy. I wish the plot didn’t just tail off into yet another ‘everybody dies’ massacre. But Peri’s pink jumpsuit is fun.

 

  1. Warriors of the Deep

Saw this one when I was 4 and still remember the Myrka as a terrifying dinosaur. I definitely don’t think that’s the main problem with the story. I like the Silurian/Sea Devil alliance, and the attempt to evoke Malcolm Hulke with an anti-nuclear parable. Sadly, this was the season where they decided to develop the Fifth Doctor into a murderer. Making him, rather than a Brigadier figure, guilty of the murder of the Silurians is wrong. ‘There should have been another way’ is a nice line, but in its acceptance that genocide is occasionally necessary, it ends up making exactly the opposite point to Hulke’s.

 

  1. The Monster of Peladon

Quite tedious, but not actually horrible. Lis Sladen gets some great lines. It’s nice to re-visit Peladon, even if the same thing keeps happening when they get there.

 

  1. The Reign of Terror

It’s really boring. Most of it seems to take place in prison. Susan and Barbara aren’t much bothered by their impending decapitations. I like the TARDIS scene at the start, and Hartnell is very funny in the work party bits.

 

Next time: 150-141

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2 comments

  1. encyclops

    This countdown you’re doing is great fun. Occasionally incorrect, of course 😉 but also different enough from the usual consensus to be well worth reading, even if it weren’t also entertainingly written and well-argued, which it is. I’m glad to have found it (via Gareth Roberts’ Twitter, I think).

    • Matthew

      Thank you! I’ve tried to go with my personal feelings about each story rather than a general consensus around what is and isn’t quality. I’m surprised to see how low or high some stories have ended up

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