Classic Series Rankings Day 6: 110-101

 

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  1. The Trial of a Time Lord, Parts 5-8 (Mindwarp)

I’m a bit torn on this one, as it’s patently the least ‘sillyfun’ segment of the trial. On the other hand, it is the most interesting, even if it’s still horribly flawed. And I’m a massive British horror film fan, so this appeals to the side of me that enjoys those sick, zero-budget black comedies of the 1970s and 1980s. As this is colourful, over the top, gratuitously nasty and a bit of a mess it’s probably the most representative sixth Doctor story as well.

  1. The Two Doctors

This is another sick black comedy from a writer who’s being encouraged to go down that route by the script editor. I think Robert Holmes and Eric Saward must have resembled the augmented second Doctor and Shockeye, egging each other on to worse indulgences. It’s Titus Andronicus done as a Doctor Who story, and Robert Holmes at his most Shakespearean, delighting in being as outrageous and grisly as possible. We also have its influence to thank for Robert Shearman’s Doctor Who stories, especially The Holy Terror.

 

  1. Mission to the Unknown

These 10 are turning out to be the nasty horrors. This one’s probably the most unpleasant story of the 1960s: people slowly turning into vegetables, the hero character getting exterminated for his troubles, and no Doctor to save the day. It all sounds very serious and ‘dark’, but the planetarians must equally have made it very memorable. Hard to judge, really. Day of Armageddon is very good, which bodes well for this.

 

  1. Death to the Daleks

Another horror story. The start of this one is brilliant: the misty quarry; the dying TARDIS; the lurking, cowled figures. It’s incredibly creepy and well directed. I like that Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks were clearly encouraging Terry Nation to push himself a bit, so the Daleks are given a new vulnerability. The bits with Sarah Jane as a sacrificial victim are quite well done as well. Season 11 is better than it’s given credit for.

 

  1. Revelation of the Daleks

And another sick black comedy. This is Eric Saward’s answer to The Two Doctors. It’s got all the faults of Season 22 – the Doctor and Peri take ages to get involved and then don’t really do anything very useful when they do; and too much involves people we don’t really care about lurking about corridors until they get shot. Eric Saward’s disillusionment with the character of the Doctor is so extreme at this point that he has the Daleks turn up to save the day. But it’s so outrageous and well directed that it kind of carries you along with it.

 

  1. The Hand of Fear

What I think makes this a good story is it removes all the comfy elements of previous ‘contemporary’ Earth stories. There’s no reassuring UNIT family. From the moment the TARDIS lands, the Doctor and Sarah Jane are in danger. She gets her Harry-as-a-Zygon moment, and is equally creepy. There’s a real tension to the nuclear meltdown threat as well: no Delgado to throw out reassuring quips about sticky tape on the windows. The last episode looks a bit cheap, but up until then I think this works very well. Sarah Jane’s departure scene is sweet, and leads in to The Deadly Assassin very effectively.

 

  1. The Moonbase

On the one hand, there’s a lot that’s a bit crap about it, and I’m probably over-rating it because the illustrated novelisation was one of my childhood favourites. But there’s a lot that I enjoy about it, such as Troughton nailing his Doctor; the Cybermen moonwalking; the fact that Commander Hobson is a Pete Walker regular. And I like the purity of the ‘base under siege’ format in this one: Season Five doesn’t have anything quite this direct (or concise).

 

  1. The Leisure Hive

Possibly the most disastrous beginning of any Doctor Who story ever: the whole Brighton sequence, and Pangol’s horrifying sales pitch (‘For the next hour and half we will examine the wave equations that define the creation of solid tachyonic images’), is enough to get anyone to switch to ITV. After that it improves, but there’s still a feeling David Fisher’s script loses something for being forced into Christopher Bidmead’s concept of the series as ‘proper’ science fiction with lots of old people sitting round discussing bafflegab. The bit with the old woman in the time field is remarkably similar to the fate of the chicken in City of Death, which makes me wonder how much of A Stitch in Time Fisher recycled.

 

  1. The Creature from the Pit

It’s occasionally as funny as you’d expect something by David Fisher and Douglas Adams to be, but there’s just not enough content to stretch to four episodes. As the script editing let Fisher down in The Leisure Hive, so Christopher Barry’s direction really does this one no favours. Graham Williams’ obsession with giant monsters doesn’t really help either. On the other hand, K9 versus the Wolfweeds is good, Lady Adrasta is a cool villain, and Tom seems to be enjoying himself more than the previous year.

 

  1. Planet of Evil

The monster is good. The jungle is impressive. Freddie Jaeger is in it. It’s as well directed as you’d expect from David Maloney. I really, really want to like it because, for all the “Doctor Who does Doctor Jekyll” comments that get bandied about, it’s almost more like a story by my favourite author, M. R. James. It features a hubristic man of science stealing something he’s dug up, and a vengeful, ghostly guardian visiting disproportionately cruel vengeance on him and his crew. Sadly, for all its plus points, it’s incredibly dull.

 

Next time: The top 100 countdown begins…

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