A variety of background noises conspire to keep me from sharing my thoughts on the most controversial era of the entire run of Doctor Who. You might even say it's a trial. All in my new YouTube video!
It's my Youtube video looking at the pleasant open faced Doctor Who that was Peter Davison.
My longest YouTube video yet (as it has to cover seven years), as I look at the man who is, for many, the Doctor Who, Tom Baker.
The original Survivors, or at least the season he worked on it, is arguably Terry Nation’s masterpiece. As far as I can tell there was no equivalent to Chris Boucher or David Whitaker ridding his back to make the scripts good (or in some cases just flat out rewriting them), it’s his pure undiluted talent and shows that he was capable of so much more than, to pick an example of a Doctor Who story he wrote about the same time, The Android Invasion would ever suggest.
Sadly his falling out with Terrance Dudley and resulting walking away from the show at the end of its first year is something it never quite recovered from. There are some excellent episodes in the final two seasons, but also a lot of dull filler and it never again regained that strong sense of purpose Nation’s driving force originally gave it. The Fourth Horseman is quite easily one of the best TV pilots of all time.
So the current Big Finish revival had its work cut out, especially as it’s set alongside those early brilliant TV episodes. The first smart move made by the new team (led by producer David Richardson, director Ken Bentley and script editor Matt Fitton, who also kicks things off with the first script) is that the advantage of a disaster that affects the entire world is you’re not just limited to dealing with the characters of the series, you can show the fall of civilisation from multiple new perspectives.
Oh yes, it's time for my least favourite Doctor to take the plate. But will watching his era in order have changed my mind?
Yes, it's another YouTube video!
Sorry that, if anything, the picture quality is even worse this time. I will give the lens a polish before the next one. Just think of it as being filmed in Oh My Giddy Aunt O Vision.
Pretty much what it says on the tin, not my best video (even by my standards) with some bad flubs- what was that William Hartnell docu-drama called?- and drastically changing lighting as it goes along. Hopefully it is at least a bit of fun though, and nearly as entertaining as a Reacting Vibrator.
Even as recently as a month ago I was pretty much resigned to the fact that the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who was going to wind up being a bit rubbish. Despite initially being promised “More Who that ever” the Beeb had shown themselves to not actually being very good at making the show resulting in a rather limp half season that seemed to shuffle onto screen in a slightly embarrassed fashion.
Of course, if it had been any good the drastic reduction in the number of episodes wouldn’t have mattered. But whilst it would be unfair to call it a terrible run, and there was only one episode in the Rings of Padding Out The Short Running Time With Endless Singing and Flashbacks to Things That Happened 30 Seconds Ago that I thought was really piss poor, equally there tended to be an distinctly average feeling about the whole thing.
There are obscure TV shows and obscure TV shows, and then there's Undermind. This 11 episode science fiction thriller was broadcast only once in 1965, and then never seen or head from again until Network, champions of obscure TV, released it on DVD in 2012.
As a series that has been almost totally forgotten the main selling point- at least for me- is the scripts contributed by some of the very best Doctor Who writers (and Bill Strutton). The series itself was "evolved" by Robert Banks Stewart, David Whitaker provides one episode and Robert Holmes wraps up the entire series with a final two parter (and he'd rather cheekily reuse some of the ideas in a rejected Doctor Who pitch that would finally see the light of day in the '70's as the Peter Cushing and Vincent Price staring radio series Aliens in the Mind). That's some serious pedigree there.
The show itself is both years ahead of its time, whilst also being incredibly dated. It's forward thinking in that it pre-dates the X-Files style conspiracy Sci-Fi decades before it was cool. The set up being that some mysterious alien force has been sending signals from space that brainwash those with unusually sensitive hearing, creating a cartel of sleeper agents working to destabilise British moral for... Well for reasons that never become very clear.
Thanks to the almost total failure of three of their four films it's fairly easy to forget how popular Star Trek: The Next Generation was at the time. Easily the Trek show that enjoyed the most success during its original run it managed to hit the ground running way back in 1987 and enjoy huge ratings right from the off despite the early episodes, especially now, being regarded as a bit crap.
Generally this gets put down to the almost total lack of even half decent small screen sci-fi at the time, but I think, as we'll discuss, that's a little unfair and season 1 is a lot more watchable than it's usually given credit for.
Over here in the UK TNG had the misfortune to coincide with a period when the BBC were in full on “Science fiction isn't popular” mode (it was at the same time they were desperately hoping if they ignored the Sylvester McCoy Doctor Who years it would just vanish in a puff of smoke) meaning it was met with almost complete disdain despite the original series being a tea-time staple since the end of the 60's. The new show would eventually, half apologetically, come to BBC2 in 1990 in a time slot that would often see bits cut out or entire episodes cancelled in order to make way for such deeply exciting sporting events as International Amateur Tiddlywinks. Not to mention a whole episode being banned for a pro-IRA line when just cutting the line if it was unacceptable would have made more sense. Despite this and (bar a Radio Times cover to launch the run) a general lack of publicity it did very well for our second channel. So well they lost the first run rights to Sky after season three.
Pre-BBC 2 though we had the sell through video market that was my first exposure to the series. Thanks to my Mother being a massive Trekie (around this time she even went to a convention in Birmingham. For which Sylvester McCoy was guest of honour) we got the various rental tapes and their increasingly odd looking artwork that made the subsequent “Randomly cut out photo” sell through covers look like design classics. The drawn by a five year old Tasha on the original Skin of Evil cover is marvellously tacky.
So despite the BBC's disinterest I saw, and enjoyed, most of the first season of TNG relatively close to it going out in America, with magazines like TV Zone and Starburst making later episodes sound exciting and exotic. As a family watching it we weren't blind to the show's faults- Troi is possibly the single most pointless character in all of fiction- but we enjoyed it nonetheless.
Stuart Webb. Who knows everything about nothing and not a lot about that.