- The Sensorites
An ongoing theme of my ‘bottom half’ is that a lot of them have brilliant first episodes but then peter out into dull business. This is the seminal example: an astonishing first 25 minutes, including two of my all-time favourite shots of the entire series (the camera following the TARDIS crew out through the doors and into the spaceship; the Sensorite floating in space, peering in through the spaceship window). After that, it all becomes much less interesting. The novelisation is quite good.
- The Savages
This is the first run-of-the-mill Doctor Who story:
- Quarries. Lots of quarries
- And caves
- Space vampires
- Rich oppressors and dispossessed rebels
- The baddie has heard of the Doctor
I suppose it deserves credit for sticking all the clichés together, for the first time.
- The Armageddon Factor
My birthday story! This one introduces Lalla Ward, reveals the name of the Doctor, sees the debut of Douglas Adams as script editor, and has Mary Tamm’s most world weary and amusing performance. If this had been made two years later the Shadow would have been the decayed Master. At this point in the rankings we’re at stories where nothing is completely disastrous, but nothing’s especially witty either. This one deserves a long wait between watches.
- The Sontaran Experiment
Another Bob and Dave something-and-nothing story. It’s not bad, but it’s very empty, like one of those super-cheap British horror films from the 1970s. And unlike earlier one or two-parters, which were structured like real short stories, full of character or incident, this one is just… there, to fill a gap between The Ark in Space and Genesis of the Daleks.
- The Android Invasion
Another one where the first episode is genuinely fantastic, with Nation bringing to bear his experience from The Avengers. After that it goes downhill into a bit of a tiresome routine, with several stupid elements. Was Crayford the inspiration for Travis? Ian Marter deserved a better swansong as well.
- The Power of Kroll
Probably Robert Holmes’ least witty script. Which still means it has its moments (the rubbish monster turning out to actually be a man in a rubbish monster costume is one of them), but on the whole it’s obvious he was getting a bit Who-ed out.
- Resurrection of the Daleks
‘It’s stopped being fun’. However well made it is; however much it’s the first Dalek story I ever saw (I can still see, in my minds eye, the moment Davros appears from the green fog); however much it’s good that Davison got a Dalek story, like most of the worst stories of the 1980s, this one is no fun at all. It’s only this high because I have a nostalgia for it that I don’t have for The Visitation.
- Revenge of the Cybermen
This one’s got some really fun moments. I love the scenes of the Doctor clambering across the electrified floor. But this is, at heart, an attempt to do Planet of the Daleks with the Cybermen, getting their creator to write in all of the ‘classic’ elements of 1960s Cyberman adventures. Sadly, it just goes to show that the Daleks were always better than the Cybermen, and while Planet is mindlessly entertaining, this isn’t.
- The Masque of Mandragora
I know it looks gorgeous and has lots of thematic stuff about the Renaissance, and reason versus superstition. But I think it’s about as fun as watching a particularly tedious documentary, or a worthy but dull costume drama. Give me the painted spoons of Karn any day.
- Galaxy Four
Maaga’s monologue to camera in Air Lock got a lot of people to re-evaluate this. It’s still quite bland and predictable, but with Derek Martinus directing, and Hartnell and O’Brien on form, it was also probably quite amusing to watch. I hope more turns up.
Next time: 120-111