- The Ice Warriors
I really enjoyed the novelisation, so when I finally saw the TV episodes (in 1998), it was a terrible shock. The repetitive and formulaic Season Five isn’t one of my favourites, and this is the weakest of the bunch: a boring script by one of the worst Doctor Who writers. I do like the Ice Warriors, and they, and some nice design work, are the best things about the story. But if I had to watch four episodes with lots of trudging between two locations against a white backdrop, I’d definitely pick Warriors’ Gate.
One of those stories where you can really see what they were trying to do. I love the horror motifs – the plague victims, the screaming skull, the crypt, the shambling but kind-hearted monster, and the secret passageways: genuine space gothic. It doesn’t come off, but it’s the polar (ha ha) opposite of The Ice Warriors – interesting ideas, but flat and uninteresting execution.
- The King’s Demons
It’s very slight, and only works at all because Davison and Ainley are both very watchable even when everything else isn’t. I suspect had Kamelion actually been any good in practice, this might be slightly better remembered – a kind of small introductory adventure like The Rescue. But he wasn’t and it isn’t and this time the gamble didn’t pay off.
- The Edge of Destruction
David Whitaker was one of the best writers of Doctor Who, and there’s a lot that’s good in the way The Edge of Destruction pays off some of the character development in the first 11 episodes. The next time he does this kind of contained, character based story it’s a brilliant classic. This isn’t, but you can see what it was aiming for. I wish they’d called it A Switch in Time though.
- The Space Pirates
I like that The Space Pirates acts as a kind of punchline to the Troughton era’s obsession with shiny and pioneering space travel by postulating a future where it’s routine, and just a backdrop for same kind of human pettiness that existed in 1969, or the 1869. A lot of Pertwee era stuff comes from the same place, and Douglas Adams work is rooted in the same principle. I think this one suffers more than any Troughton for the lack of visuals, because so much seems to play on the juxtaposition of Wild West characters in hi-tech space environments.
- The Invisible Enemy
Bob Baker and Dave Martin were some of the most interesting writers of Doctor Who: full of ideas and images that gave rise, on a good day, to things like K9. This story isn’t actually much worse than anything they turned in for Barry Letts or Philip Hinchcliffe. Sadly, in Season 15 the BBC suddenly seemed to forget how to make Doctor Who, so you end up with a story that exposes Baker and Martin because the Nucleus of the Swarm looks awful, the interior of the Doctor’s mind is weak, and (unlike The Sun Makers) beyond the variably executed ideas and images, the script doesn’t give the actors anything to work with.
- The Time Monster
There are some really awful elements (especially the dialogue), but Delgado posing as Thascales and having to beg for funding; the Doctor’s dream sequence; Delgado’s seduction of Queen Ingrid Pitt, and Jo’s Atlantean wig make it all worth it. UNIT are a token presence – as they had been throughout the 1972 series – which is probably for the best. It’s a shame they didn’t make more of Earth being invaded by other time zones (I think this was the original idea for The Daleks in London).
- Four to Doomsday
I really like Monarch, Persuasion and Enlightenment. Everything else varies from just OK to barely watchable, and the script has some excruciating bits apparently lifted from the back-of-a-fag-packet character notes (Nyssa gets excited by apparatus, Adric is unreliable and witters on about ‘sodium chloride’, Tegan is from the 1980s). It should be the worst story ever, but there are so many charming and amusing little bits that I have a slightly soft spot for it.
- The Underwater Menace
My theory is that Innes Lloyd’s big idea for Doctor Who was to drop the TARDIS into other literary or filmic genres and see what happened. Hence, The Gunfighters is a Western, The War Machines is an Avengers episode, The Smugglers is a Hammer ‘Captain Clegg’ swashbuckler and so is The Highlanders. And this is a Saturday morning film serial from the 1930s, or possibly an Edgar Rice Burroughs Pellucidar adventure. It’s trashy, and silly, but quite entertaining.
- The Trial of a Time Lord, Parts 9-12 (Terror of the Vervoids)
Another one that’s trashy and silly, but quite entertaining. It’s pretty much the same plot as Nightmare of Eden, which is a good sign. Bonnie Langford and Colin Baker are immediately a better pairing because her theatricality makes his look less overbearing and bullying. The dialogue is unintentionally hilarious, too. By no means good, but certainly the most fun Sixth Doctor story.
Next time: 140-131