Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Grinding Engines of the Universe (The Caves of Androzani)

Don't worry, Peri. It's just a Voord.
It’s March 8th, 1984. 99 Red Balloons continue to float along atop the charts, and will play out Peter Davison. Also in the top ten are Van Halen with “Jump” and Billy Joel with “An Innocent Man,” while lower in the charts are King Crimson and the Fraggle Rock theme, a trivia fact I included just to use the phrase “King Crimson and the Fraggle Rock theme.” Top albums are Into The Gap by The Thompson Twins and Human’s Lib by Howard Jones.

In the news, Gerry Adams and three other Sinn Féin members are injured in an attack by the Ulster Volunteer Force, and the other William F. Buckley is kidnapped in Beirut. But the real news and, in many ways, most crucial backdrop for this story comes with the start of the miner’s strike.

It is difficult to come up with a better illustration of the idea of a “clusterfuck” than the 1984-85 miner’s strike. As a pragmatic issue, the strike consisted of Thatcher’s government running rings around the National Union of Miners so as to humiliate them and break the back of what had previously been the most powerful union in the country. Thatcher’s government stockpiled coal prior to announcing the pit closures that sparked the strike, thus blunting the immediate impact of the strike and preventing the calamity of the Three Day Week. Meanwhile Arthur Scargill, head of the NUM, made an egregious political miscalculation. Faced with an accelerated schedule for closing the pits and afraid that he’d lose the vote, Scargill declined to submit the strike to a national vote. This was against NUM rules and allowed Thatcher to delegitimize the strike, which she wasted no time doing, comparing striking miners to Argentina in the Falklands.

The resulting PR coup was, quite literally, literally bloody and brutal. Backed by the redtops Thatcher unleashed the police force, which was spectacularly violent and corrupt. Indeed, the extent of the depravity is still coming out. Only a few weeks ago The Guardian ran a story observing that the South Yorkshire police, who arrested 95 people at the so-called Battle of Orgreave before having to drop prosecution on all of them due to having fabricated the evidence, would five years later be largely responsible for the Hillsborough disaster and the appalling attempt to blame the incident on Liverpool supporters. In both cases, of course, the police and government were aided and abetted by Murdoch and The Sun. The propaganda war, combined with Scargill’s inept politicking, kept the strike from gaining broad support with the public, and it ended in failure a year later, leaving the mining industry and union a shadow of its former self.

In more fundamental terms, of course, the strike is a classic example of the false opposition. Of course closure of collieries had to happen. The coal industry was increasingly unprofitable, and even in 1984 it was clear that in the medium to long term a transition away from coal mining and towards other forms of energy was necessary. Equally, however, closing the pits devastated local economies and communities. The unexamined assumption here, however, is that economic progress and development has to carry a human price. Thatcher’s government was never going to seriously consider coupling the pit closures with efforts to provide new economic stimulus to the affected regions, and Scargill opted to defend the moribund coal industry in the general case. In the end, every side was mercenary and aiming primarily to protect their own wealth.

The Caves of Androzani was written before any of this happened. Indeed, it was transmitted before most of it happened. And yet it is almost the perfect Doctor Who story for this - a bitter tale of profiteering rivals savagely cutting each other’s throats to everyone’s harm. In this regard it’s Robert Holmes at his most gloriously cynical, portraying a world where every system is rotten and degenerate, run by psychopaths with eyes only for their own wealth. Even the comparatively noble characters like General Chellak are ruthless and callous, calmly sentencing the Doctor and Peri to death despite believing their innocence.

The Mighty 200 poll, of course, declared this the greatest Doctor Who story of all time. This cannot be taken entirely seriously - in the previous iteration of the poll it was third, beaten by both Genesis of the Daleks and The Talons of Weng-Chiang. None of these three stories changed over the ensuing decade. But it is, by any measure, one of the major classics of Doctor Who. And deservedly so. It’s gorgeously tense, better directed than anything else in the classic series, well-acted, and has a razor-sharp script. Combined with the natural tendency to favor “event” episodes the idea that Caves of Androzani represents a high point for the series should be thoroughly uncontroversial.

But there’s something just a little bit odd about its reception. For all that it is hailed as the greatest Peter Davison story and one of the greatest ever, almost nobody suggests including it as the representative story for the Davison era. The consensus seems to be that its greatness is only properly appreciated when you’ve seen the rest of the Davison era, seemingly on the grounds that in order to appreciate how Davison’s Doctor is put through the wringer here you have to see him in more normal circumstances.

On the other hand, it appears that Holmes, largely unfamiliar with Davison’s portrayal, just wrote the script with Baker in mind. Lawrence Miles suggests that this fact means that the resulting episodes are darker than what Holmes had in mind, but I think this is slightly off. Yes, almost all of the banter that Davison gets and mocking of his guards and captors is Baker-esque. But on the other hand, everything about the story is set up as an inevitable march towards destruction. The Doctor gets himself killed in episode one by getting into the Spectrox nest to save Peri. This is a delightfully bitter piece of Doctor Who irony - what kills the Doctor, at the end of the day, is the fact that his companion trips and falls down a hole. Everything after that is just the unspooling consequences of the Doctor’s landing on Androzani Minor.

So the entire piece is, from a writing perspective, set up to be doom-laden. The Doctor is throwing his witticisms in the face of events so brutal that they’re going to kill him. Indeed, in the first draft the Doctor was just going to die from the sheer brutality of it all, just from the sum total of all the punishment and injuries he’d sustained. It’s difficult to imagine Tom Baker in a story like this - one where his number is up from episode one. Or, rather, it’s difficult to imagine the imperious, wisecracking Tom Baker that would be spouting Holmes’s dialogue doing it. The idea of Robert Holmes trying to write Logopolis is jarring in the extreme.

I’d suggest that while Holmes is writing for Baker here, he’s writing for Baker with the knowledge that it’s going to be Davison delivering the lines, and thus that there’s not going to be the imperious confidence of Tom Baker shining through every line. The script depends on the fact that Davison is taking a risk with every wisecrack - that he’s provoking dangerous psychopaths and that this could all blow up in his face. The episode three cliffhanger seals it. The Doctor’s mocking responses to Stoltz are pure Tom Baker - “sorry, seems to be locked” and the bit about not having much experience with the controls. But the overall content of the scene - the Doctor with nothing to lose crashing a spaceship into the planet because he no longer cares if he lives or dies - is completely beyond anything Tom Baker ever did. Holmes is giving Davison lines written for Baker, yes, but he visibly knows enough of Davison’s portrayal to know that the lines are going to turn into quips borne of a desperate mania. Whereas when Holmes wrote Baker as desperate and on edge the result was the almost humorless Pyramids of Mars. Baker’s Doctor played desperation as fear because manic joking was the normal order of things. Holmes’s script relies entirely on the fact that he knows Davison’s normal order of things isn’t this.

But that’s not quite right. It’s not that this isn’t the normal order of things for Davison. It’s that this isn’t how Davison’s Doctor acts when he’s comfortable with the situation. And this gets at why the idea that Caves of Androzani ought not be watched as one’s first Davison story is a little weird. Because what the script requires isn’t that Davison’s behavior be different from other episodes, it’s that Davison’s behavior displays discomfort. But that’s a function of Davison’s acting, not of comparison of this story with previous ones. The fact that the Doctor is hurling wisecracks at people who really might shoot him in the head and be done with him is visible from what’s on screen here alone.

On the other hand, as we talked about with Planet of Fire, people are better at identifying what they like than they are at explaining why. Which is to say that just because the explanation of why this is better if you’ve watched other Davison stories doesn’t quite wash doesn’t mean that it isn’t improved by the context of other Davison stories. Of course, as Miles points out, it’s even more improved when you don’t know that Peri is the companion for nearly the whole of the Colin Baker era. Then, given the brutal dispatching of Kamelion and the death of Adric, you can get something very rare indeed in Doctor Who - a moment where it’s genuinely uncertain whether everyone is going to make it out alive.

But even without that something about this episode shines a little brighter when put in context with the era. To some extent this is just the standard structure of a regeneration story. Given that every Doctor is in part a reaction against his predecessor, and given that a regeneration story is by definition a narrative collapse, it’s very easy to read regeneration stories as rebukes of their eras. We did so with both The War Games and Planet of Spiders, and it’s worth remembering that even if he didn’t write either, Holmes was around for both.

And it’s easy to read The Caves of Androzani this way. Davison’s portrayal doesn’t gain much in contrast with past stories, but the apocalyptic tone of the story still resonates in contrast with past stories. The story sticks out vividly in part because Davison’s Doctor hasn’t ever been pushed like this before. He’s way past talking about the pleasures of a well-cooked meal here, and he’s more likely to be in the pile of bodies than standing above it fretting about other ways.

The problem is that so many previous stories have used Davison’s Doctor as a moral contrast instead of as an agent in the story. He doesn’t have to actively overthrow the fanatical regime of Sarn, he just has to point out that they’re intellectually bankrupt. He doesn’t have to stop the Daleks, he just has to inspire Stein to blow himself up. Even in the hands of quite good writers like Gallagher and Clegg the Doctor serves to point out the situation to other people so they do the right thing. He’s been used to pass judgment on genres instead of to destabilize them and subvert them. There have been exceptions, most recently Frontios, but the bulk of the time the Doctor has been restricted to inspiring other people to act. Here, however, the Doctor is in a situation with real teeth and he’s forced to act.

The heart of this change, of course, gets back to where we started - the fact that this is an exquisitely political story. But note that it’s clearly not political in an allegorical sense. This isn’t the crass “Arthur Scargill as angry badger person” politics of The Monster of Peladon. No, this is political for the simple reason that it’s material, and that’s what makes the situation so fraught with danger for the Doctor. It’s not some facile fable that exists primarily to illustrate an abstracted moral point. This is a situation that is designed to look like real situations with the volume turned up to melodrama. And that is what makes this story spark so gloriously - the fact that for the first time since taking on the part Davison is shoved into a situation that acts like a world.

The secret to alchemy is material social progress, and the fact of the matter is that the show has been very, very far away from the material. For all its violence the viscera of history have been dangerously absent. Despite this there have been flashes of quality - we’ve known since Davison’s first few stories that his Doctor could be at the heart of a truly great story. But now we see the secret - now we see how well he could do when put into a situation that required more than symbolizing a moral point.

In entries past, this would be where I transition to the glorious conclusion - a carefully cadenced bit about the Doctor facing an inevitable destruction. Themes of narrative collapse would intertwine with proleptic allusions that start to form the basis of the next act of the narrative. The act of recognizing this era’s failings would be read as exorcism, the pathos of the Doctor dying in the dirt used as a lead-in to a glorious rebirth, a gesture towards the endless possibility of the series.

It’s a pity, then, that I’m doing The Twin Dilemma on Friday. Much has been made of the terrible gulf of quality between these two stories - the fact that the best and worst stories on the Mighty 200 poll are, in fact, consecutive. But let’s be real here. It would be one thing if The Caves of Androzani was an earned conclusion to the entire run of the Davison era. But it’s not. Everything here could have been done before. The fact that the Doctor does die at the end of this story doesn’t mean that a high-tension story where the Doctor has his back against the wall could only be a regeneration story. And who seriously thinks it could be? Are we just pretending Pyramids of Mars and The Seeds of Doom don’t exist now?

As we saw, the problem this time isn’t a failing in the conception of the Doctor. It’s not the logical endpoint of a phase of the series history where we see that something has to change. Yes, the story looks great in contrast with everything around it, but that’s not because it pays off any buildup from them. It’s because they were often a complete mess and this story isn’t. Yes, this story looks like an absolute giant compared to the rest of the Davison era, but that’s as much because of their flaws as its merits.

The fact of the matter is that they couldn’t get the Davison era to work until his last story. They drove the best actor they’d had since Troughton away with the crap scripts of Season 20, and by the time they gave him a truly brilliant script he’d already decided to leave. And they only got the era to work by turning back the clock and hiring Robert Holmes to do it. Yes, he outdid himself, and yes, the production work here is phenomenal, but the fact of the matter is that this is the de facto director of swaths of Warrior’s Gate and a writer who’s been on the show since 1968.

No, this could have been done in 1981. It isn’t some earned capstone to an era. This is the production team taking three years to get the show to work despite having a phenomenal lead actor. This is what the era should have been all along. The fact that they finally got it right after three years shouldn’t have inspired any high hopes that they’d get it right out of the gate with the next version.

Speaking of which...

63 comments:

  1. There's one criticism to be made of the story in the context of the larger series, which is that Peri is basically just a pawn to be kidnapped and rescued by all parties, and after the first episode doesn't even get any good lines of dialogue.
    One of the things that might have rescued the Sixth Doctor era would have been having a companion who could stand up to the Sixth Doctor. The Third Doctor is much more tolerable given that all of his companions (even Jo in her own way) can hold their own.

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  2. It's odd that you complain about the rest of Davison's tenure that often he's not an agent in the story, since that was one of the things you pointed to as a contrast with Tom Baker's Doctor in Castravalva.
    Even here the Doctor doesn't do anything except attempt to get the antidote. Arguably the only action he takes that alters the course of the plot for other people is letting Salateen out of Sharaz Jek's prison. Otherwise, he's just a catalyst for the action by his presence.

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    1. Well, I'd suggest first of all that he's manifestly not a catalyst, since a catalyst is defined by its not being altered in a reaction. Which is on the one hand me being pedantic, but on the other hand gets at something important about the story, which is that the consequences are real for the TARDIS crew as well.

      Which also gets at the way in which the Doctor is active here. No, he doesn't engage in a grand heroic gesture in which he faces down the bad guys and defeats them with a clever bit of wire fiddling. But he is constantly shaping and reshaping events by his presence, engaging in a fearful brinksmanship that continually fuels the events rapidly spiralling out of control around him. He spends most of the story pouring gasoline on the fire.

      But I think there's a strong case to be made that this is how the Doctor should act - this is the way he is effectual. Not by tedious moralizing or proactive meddling but by distorting the narrative grammar of the situation he's in such that it collapses and is transformed.

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    2. It has just occurred to me that the Fifth Doctor says explicitly that he is allergic to praxis. Holmes making a metanarrative comment?

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    3. No, Saward; he wrote that in at Davison's request to explain the celery. He also wrote the entire TARDIS sequence at the end -- so don't give Holmes all the credit for what may be the best regeneration scene in the whole series, eh? ;-)

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    4. I take the point about the meaning of catalyst. Mind you, the Doctor is poisoned before he meets anybody other than Peri and dies/regenerates at the end, so it's arguable that the only consequence for the TARDIS crew is that the Doctor learns what is the antidote for Peri. (And, again, I don't think that the Doctor is intentionally affecting events, or indeed that any of his actions apart from the one affect the events.)

      Is the name 'praxis' Saward?

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    5. It came from the name of his typewriter, apparently.

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    6. So basically the Doctor is allergic to Eric Saward's typewriter? That must be too apt to be true.

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    7. I always thought he just told her that to shut her up, especially given his "I eat the celery" line.

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  3. "The secret to alchemy is material social progress"

    If there was ever an episode to back up this claim, it's this one. At the heart of this episode is the conflict over the Ultimate Boon -- Spectrox, a word derived from spectrum, which is to say Light. It's made from bats, that flying mammal of the dark, now intertwined with immortal vampires and vigilante redemption in the Western psyche; this is a mercurial symbol.

    In its raw state (do these bats spin webs?) Spectrox is lethal, a poisonous sticky ball that will kill you. Refined -- that is to say, subject to material social progress -- it becomes the Elixir of Life, granting more Time for those who take it. Again we see the union of opposites, Death and Immortality, juxtaposed with the monstrous Jek and the beautiful Peri.

    Interesting that refined Spectrox (as held by the President) and the raw milk of the Queen Bat that cures its toxemia are virtually identical. In alchemical terms, Milk is the product of the Divine Feminine, the material body in counterpoint to Light, a symbol of the Divine Masculine. (How apt that Jek craves the physical beauty of Peri, while Frau Timmin is the one to expose and depose Morgus -- she has documentation.) In the end, Peri gets the milk, restoring her to life, while the Doctor's regeneration is accompanied by an explosion of color.

    But, let us return to material social progress. Enlightenment must become manifest or it just doesn't matter. Look at the social conditions of Androzani. The alchemical Boon is rendered almost inert in the hands of the devious Morgus, who uses it not to improve the conditions of life, but for his own personal power -- Morgus is on the path of False Ascension (he operates out of a High Tower.) It isn't enlightenment that saves Androzani from him, it's the due diligence of Frau Timmin.

    So, the Doctor's regeneration. Like the last one, it's accompanied by visions of his companions. For the Doctor, this is his "material social progress," the recognition that he matters through his relationships, which is the very essence of "social."

    Unfortunately, this moment is interrupted by a cackling Master, his head growing larger and larger as he implores the Doctor to die. This, I think, is the perfect symbol for how the show is about to go very, very wrong.

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    1. "Unfortunately, this moment is interrupted by a cackling Master, his head growing larger and larger as he implores the Doctor to die. This, I think, is the perfect symbol for how the show is about to go very, very wrong."

      I seem to be in a minority here, but I have a hard time seeing The Twin Dilemma as the point where it went wrong, simply because that presumes that the 80's was ever 'right', or that Caves of Androzani was the standard quality of the era beforehand, rather than what it really was- a false dawn of quality from a writer that the producer didn't want on the show. I'd say if the 80's was ever going 'right' it was for about four stories in the middle of Season 18, and afterwards it was just the occasional false dawn of quality like Earthshock, Enlightenment, Caves and Revelation, so in a way Colin's era is just business as usual to me.

      Not that I don't think Twin Dilemma is awful, but I think there's already been several Davison stories (Time-Flight, Warriors) which are about as bad and as wrongheaded. I don't think the ratings for Season 22 were that much lower than they had been for Season 20 and 21. And I don't think Colin's macho Doctor was any less workable as a hero than Davison's largely impotent Doctor was, and in many ways was an improvement. He was more proactive, more pragmatic and had a lot of room to grow rather than to regress and stagnate.

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    2. See, now I was expecting that your reading was going to be Spectrox, a sticky white substance that's been spilled around in caves, as semen, and go for a male/female contrast between it and the milk that way.

      (Not to complain. Your reading is magnificent too.)

      Also, The Twin Dilemma does find new and exciting ways to go wrong. But that's Friday.

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    3. I seem to be in a minority here, but I have a hard time seeing The Twin Dilemma as the point where it went wrong, simply because that presumes that the 80's was ever 'right'

      I'm not trying to imply that this is a tipping point from "wonderful 5th" to "crap 6th," but rather that the cackling Master head overshadowing the Companion voices is emblematic of what's wrong with Colin's run in particular, both in terms of aesthetics and also with the Doctor's own personal journey.

      The Sixth Doctor has a very big head, makes a rather campy fool of himself, and develops an antagonistic relationship with Peri -- who's own character arc is regrettably stunted. For the Doctor, being a freedom fighter isn't enough, and it isn't until the Seventh that the Doctor (and the show) moves decisively towards exploring the journey of the Companion, a line of thinking that's still paying off today.

      I must beg to differ on the matter of the Fifth's "impotence." He's not an impotent, ineffectual Doctor. On the contrary -- he tricks the Master in Castrovalva, spacewalks in 4tD, figures out the Kinda riddle, defeats Terileptils, solves the Cranleigh family secret -- it isn't until Earthshock that he's rendered "ineffectual", and this is one of the stories beloved by fandom. Then he's off fixing airplanes, shooting Omega, achieving enlightenment (he's the only one who *is* effective against the Mara) running off pirates and so on.

      It's rather a poor reading to equate his often soft-spoken and pleasant demeanor for being impotent and ineffectual. If anything, those epithets are more descriptive of the show's directors, if not the producer himself.

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    4. See, now I was expecting that your reading was going to be Spectrox, a sticky white substance that's been spilled around in caves, as semen, and go for a male/female contrast between it and the milk that way.

      It's morning, and I have a headache.

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    5. ""It's rather a poor reading to equate his often soft-spoken and pleasant demeanor for being impotent and ineffectual. If anything, those epithets are more descriptive of the show's directors, if not the producer himself."

      I'd also suggest this is partly due to the lingering echoes of the Tom Show, which Davison still struggles against, and the Fifth Doctor being book-ended by two extremely loud Bakers who tend to let everyone know that they've taken control. For all that Five has a reputation for weakness and not having control, it's only in a fairly small handful of stories that we actually see this, and most of those are in Season 21 -- like you, most of the time I'd argue he's just as on top of things as any other Doctor, he just prefers the quiet approach.

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    6. "I'm not trying to imply that this is a tipping point from "wonderful 5th" to "crap 6th," but rather that the cackling Master head overshadowing the Companion voices is emblematic of what's wrong with Colin's run in particular, both in terms of aesthetics and also with the Doctor's own personal journey."

      Ah I see what you mean there. Nicely poetic way of putting it. Villainy overshadowing the companions. I wonder actually if you've heard the Fifth Doctor audio story Circular Time, because it actually has a very spooky segment of it that's set in the Doctor's mind during those few seconds where he's regenerating and is seen from Nyssa's perspective of telepatic communication with him, and so it kind of redresses that aspect by showing Nyssa triumph over the Master's influence (although it does have Nyssa say that the Sixth Doctor is someone that the Fifth Doctor needs to become).

      I suppose another thing that makes me sceptical about the Twin Dilemma really being the tipping point is that in a way it's so extremely bad that it's to me atypical of the Colin Baker era (which wasn't that good but was never quite *that* bad again) but at the same time completely dwarfs it. It's very much the fly in the ointment of his era, and I do think that if it was removed from the era then maybe the rest of his run might have been seen in a considerably more forgiving light.

      Of course it's unwise to elevate something to greatness just for being not quite as bad as the preceeding nadir (which is an easy habit to fall into with Colin's era), but I do think without it, the Colin era might seem a lot less disastrous than it does.

      But I think you've nailed what remains wrong with the era throughout Twin Dilemma and Season 22 which is the horrid treatment of the companion. When Tom Baker in Season 13 was callous (Pyramids of Mars), violent (Seeds of Doom) or ruthless (Terror of the Zygons), there was always his warm bond with Sarah to provide an insight to his compassion and fondness for those he was acting in protection of. That reassured that his hearts were always in the right place and that he was doing a right a thing as he could.

      This does not come across as being the case with Colin's Doctor because his relationship with Peri is so fractured and sour and she's not a very prominent or appealing character and so she doesn't quite succeed as an audience identification figure.

      "It's rather a poor reading to equate his often soft-spoken and pleasant demeanor for being impotent and ineffectual. If anything, those epithets are more descriptive of the show's directors, if not the producer himself."

      I equate his impotence with the stories of his era, specifically Warriors and Resurrection that depict him exactly that way, that require a downbeat ending and find ways to have the Doctor going out of his way to fail, to appease the enemy, and be completely negligent whilst people die around him, even when the solution was lying at his feet all along. Which I can't help but see as televisual illiteracy, and a wholly damaging way of presenting the show's protagonist.

      Yes you're right that there are good examples in his era of him being otherwise, and I do feel the Fifth Doctor would have come off far better if Christopher Bidmead, Christopher Bailey, Barbara Clegg and Robert Holmes wrote for him far more often, and if Eric Saward and Johnny Byrne did so far less (or not at all), so maybe again it's a question of it all being let down for me by a fly or two in the ointment.

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    7. In its raw state (do these bats spin webs?)

      I always thought it was bat guano - in other words, the Elixir of Life is, in fact, crap. Very Bob Holmes.

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  4. "It’s gorgeously tense, better directed than anything else in the classic series"

    I'd dispute that it's better directed than Warrior's Gate.

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  5. There's often an overlap in regeneration or post-regeneration stories, I've noticed: Tenth Planet is the first Troughton story, Robot is a Jon Pertwee story, Time And The Rani feels more Colin Baker in a way, Survival predicts the council estates of Russell Davies.

    And I've always felt that Androzani is much more early Colin Baker than it is Peter Davison, albeit better than anything Colin Baker's Doctor was involved in. It just has that Colin Bakery feel somehow (not least, I suppose, because of the presence of Peri; it's Davison's only adventure with a single companion). Texture-wise it feels more like Varos or Mindwarp, or even Revelation, with the main concern being inter-planetary politics. It's a world away from genteel, breezy stuff like Castrovalva, Black Orchid, Enlightenment, Mawdryn Undead.

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  6. Androzani is a beautiful piece of work.

    The Doctor's death, in mud and blood, beaten and bound, is his own fault. He took an inexperienced Earthling to a hostile planet on a mad whim, without taking even the most basic precautions like, oh, checking if there was a war on or if there were any deadly poisons about. Taking Peri into those caves, and then brushing off the spectrox nest as probably harmless, were grotesquely irresponsible acts.

    Moreover, they're distinctly Davisonian mistakes. Somewhere or other I once read a summary of his character as a "reckless innocent". Looking back on his era, we see the dark side to this. He's quite often willfully blind to dangers and totally unprepared, and he doesn't have Tom Baker's nigh-omnipotence to get him out of jams. His companions are often not very well-suited to adventuring, and so his irresponsibility starts to seem actively dangerous to those around him.

    Resurrection of the Daleks tries to make this critique: this isn't fun anymore, people are getting hurt. Unfortunately, it's Resurrection of the Daleks. Androzani finally gets that critique right, and doesn't just tell us, but shows it. And when it does, something rather disturbing happens...

    We have to ask, what does the Doctor think he's doing, hauling random people around the cosmos into unspeakable peril all the time? The whole premise of the show is called into question, and the awful thing is that at this stage, it can't justify itself. The narrative logic just isn't there.

    And it's not a question that you could really ask of any era before this: in the 60s, the Doctor was an exile, wandering without choice or end, acquiring companions by accident. In the 70s, the Doctor was a superhero, travelling for the sheer joy of it, sharing it with a succession of attractive women. Say what you will about Tom Baker's ego or his gooning, but by gum, he makes what he does seem like *fun* for everyone involved. (And notice too that by the point he's just casually quipping "I save planets, mostly," he's also stopped bringing ordinary Earthpeople into hideous danger, surrounding himself instead with Amazon warriors, tin dogs, and the Queen of Gallifrey.)

    But in the Davison Era...His poor companions are stuck with him mostly because they haven't anywhere else to go. Adric is alone in a foreign universe, Nyssa the last of her kind, Tegan an unemployed drifter from a family of trouble magnets, Turlough an exile. They aren't there because they really *want* to be, but because their alternatives seem worse. And it's less fun still as the level of gritty space violence is ramped up. And after Earthshock, it's clear that the Doctor can't keep them safe.

    This question, "Just what the hell do you think you're doing, anyhow?", hangs over the series, unanswered, until the McCoy Era spectacularly reinvents the logic behind the Doctor's character.

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    1. "Moreover, they're distinctly Davisonian mistakes. Somewhere or other I once read a summary of his character as a "reckless innocent". Looking back on his era, we see the dark side to this. He's quite often willfully blind to dangers and totally unprepared, and he doesn't have Tom Baker's nigh-omnipotence to get him out of jams. His companions are often not very well-suited to adventuring, and so his irresponsibility starts to seem actively dangerous to those around him."


      This for me is the key problem with Season 21. Someone argued that the reason Davison is so ineffectual is to do with the early 80's and Thatcherism being about neutering, castrating and cleansing masculinity and backlashing against the rebelliousness of the previous two decades- a time of the Falklands wartime patriotic spirit, when political dramas were being rejected by the BBC, Punk gave way to New Romanticism, and Doctor Who itself was moved into a more feminized timeslot of soap operas like Triangle.

      No surprise that JNT's producership bore many symmetries to Thatcherism with the focus on branding and cult of personality and ruthlessly weeding out the old radicals- and both of them coming from a not so priviledged background into the world of the high ups, and so both were aggressive about asserting their iron authority.

      1984 seemed to be the year of Arnie when macho masculinity was becoming fashionable again rather than reviled, and Frankie Goes To Hollywood was a reawakening of the spirit of punk. The strange thing about Season 21 is how it half sees the Fifth Doctor come out of his shell and become the hero of old (Frontios, Caves) and he's about to regenerate into a more macho pro-active incarnation, and yet also neuters him far worse than ever before or since and shows him as a massive liabilty because of his fanatical pacifism in Warriors and Resurrection- which both suffer from making the Doctor simultaneously impotent *and* reckless, and significantly are both Season 20 leftovers, so they're rather behind the times and fall disastrously between two stools.

      But consistently this season from start to finish, from setting off the Sea Base reactor to strangling Peri, the message seems to be that the more the Doctor tries to get back to who he was, and the more acts how we would expect him to, as the rebel, the hero, the more he's presented as being far more a danger to his friends and allies, than he is to his enemies.

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    2. This is another element of how the Davison era has influenced the new series, Happypants. One of the recurring elements of Russell T Davies' character arcs was to critique the Doctor for being irresponsible with what he did to his companions. Yes, he could maintain the spirit of adventure: the charisma of Eccleston and Tennant's Doctors ensured that travel was fun. But when the heat of danger was at its worst, it resulted in calls home, and wishing they had never come.

      Jackie Tyler, Joan Redfern, Sylvia Noble, and even Martha Jones herself eventually tell the Doctor that the fun, majesty, and adventure just isn't worth the terrible consequences. The Ninth Doctor is better able to hold off Jackie's criticism because their interactions made her in to a soap comic relief, so she wasn't taken as seriously. But a major arc for the Tenth Doctor is his being told once or twice in all three of his proper seasons that the harm he does outweighs the good.

      Those who defend the good of travelling in the TARDIS, like Donna or Timothy from Human Nature, can only repeat, over and over, that the Doctor is wonderful. By the end of Donna's tenure as a companion, the Tenth Doctor even believes it himself. It's the diegetic reason why he rejects Christina as a companion, even though the whole structure of Planet of the Dead was set up as an ersatz season premiere, with similar story beats to Rose, Smith and Jones, and Partners in Crime.

      The producers may not have realized they were doing this, but the template of the Doctor as a possibly irredeemable destructive force in the lives of those he touches, and the guilt he feels when he comes to believe this, is laid in the arcs of Davison's companions, and climaxes self-consciously in Caves of Androzani.

      The problem with this arc, of course, is that while it's brilliant, it's also a refutation of the entire nature of Doctor Who. If the joy, majesty, and benefit of travelling in the TARDIS can never outweigh the pain, misery, and harm, then the Doctor must either become a villain or cancel his own show.

      Another way the Davies era perceived the lost potential of the Davison era, and achieved it.

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    3. @ Adam Riggio

      The problem with this arc, of course, is that while it's brilliant, it's also a refutation of the entire nature of Doctor Who. If the joy, majesty, and benefit of travelling in the TARDIS can never outweigh the pain, misery, and harm, then the Doctor must either become a villain or cancel his own show.

      It's not just a refutation of Who -- if it's a refutation of Myth, at least it's an antidote. Thinking about the "material social progress" that Philip identifies as the secret of alchemy, how appalling would it be if Doctor Who became a full-fledged religion in the real world? Because this is what happens to very powerful myths.

      By injecting this negative element into the mythos -- into Myth itself -- there's a balance to be struck. It isn't that the joy outweighs the suffering, or vice-versa, but that they are necessarily two sides of the same coin, which is really true of life itself. To quote Blaise Pascal, "Man is neither angel nor beast, and the misfortune is that he who would act the angel acts the beast." This is particularly apt when it comes to heroic myth.

      I know Philip's not one to pull out Joseph Campbell, but he'll have to sooner or later, not because Campbell's a reputable academic source (he's not) but because he's been very influential in myth-making, and his fingerprints are all over the Revival. What Campbell does understand is alchemy, which is why the Heroic Journey always has to return to the Ordinary World: to deliver material social progress. And so very often the impetus to return is due to the monsters of the Special Place.

      If life with the Doctor didn't have its share of suffering, there'd be no reason to stay with the Doctor forever. It's true of his Companions, and by extension, it has to be true for us who journey by proxy -- because otherwise there'd be no point, and the Myth itself would have a lot more potential danger.

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    4. Moffat's era did it better than Davies ever tried... and I don't think he even did. Davies era gave us Jesus-Doctor, which was worse than anything JNT ever tried.

      At least Moffat's given us an ancient madman in a box, again... who is just as reckless as Davison, but without the excuse of youth (see "The Beast Below", "The Pandorica Opens", "A Christmas Carol", "The Girl Who Waited", "The God Complex", "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe").

      RTD's Doctor? A hypocritical whinger, right to the end. Shame, that...

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    5. I would argue that the Doctor in The Twin Dilemma is far, far worse than Jesus-Doctor.

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    6. @ Adam Riggio:

      "The Ninth Doctor is better able to hold off Jackie's criticism because their interactions made her in to a soap comic relief, so she wasn't taken as seriously."

      That's not quite how I see it: I think Eccleston's Doctor takes her criticism very seriously indeed. When he realizes how serious things are in The Parting of the Ways, he sends Rose home to Jackie. That is a Doctor who is profoundly aware of his responsibilities and cares immensely about the people around him. They may have sassed each other, but underneath it, the Doctor had a profound respect for Jackie. She wasn't just comic relief, but the Doctor's ethical compass.

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    7. Yes, I was thinking at the time more of the Doctor/Jackie in Aliens of London and Father's Day rather than Parting of the Ways. Davies surrounding the Doctor with Christ-like imagery is rather more complicated than the term "Jesus-Doctor" indicates, though. I think that when Davies surrounds the Tenth Doctor with Christ imagery, it's never quite sincere. Tennant's Doctor has this inflated image of himself that is associated more with a contemporary Christian fundamentalist idea of Jesus as the incorruptible agent of pure goodness smiting sinners and villains. In his most egotistical moments, I think this is how the Tenth Doctor saw himself.

      Davies, in my view, could only swing back and forth between these either-or interpretations of the Doctor. Either he was a pure force of good, joy, and happiness, giddy with with wonder of the universe; Or he was a holier-than-thou agent of discord putting the people he loved at risk (as Joan said), corrupting them into violent warriors (as Davros said, and he seemed to get to him), and becoming a dictator to lesser beings (as Captain Brooke said).

      The difference with Moffatt's narrative in series six was that the Doctor was confronted with the danger of his life and the terrible effects his lifestyle could have on the people he loved. But The Wedding of River Song didn't just swing back in the other direction and ignore all the critiques. River did herself, but the Doctor chose to fake his death and try to live without that kind of ego. The narrative structure of The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe is an example of that change. He goes from being the main actor leading an army in A Good Man Goes to War, to this Xmas story where he nudges the other characters into saving the day for everybody.

      The Eleventh Doctor even had a more authentic path through the arc, because at his lower point he was eventually willing to accept the need for his own death, where even after the catharsis of his farewell tour, the Tenth Doctor still didn't want to go. Davies didn't know how to resolve the crisis, but Moffatt did.

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    8. The tricky thing about "material social progress" is the relation between the material and social. Social progress need not follow from material progress, and it's in any case much harder (because non-quantitative) to define.

      Davies seemed to have been reading Human Smoke. But it's impossible to doubt the Doctor, and attempts to make a moral quandary out of the character seem terribly forced to me. It's possible to waver on the question of whether or not a deal should have been done with Hitler, but when talking about Davros it becomes completely absurd. It's the fake moral dilemma the politician alludes to when he talks about "difficult decisions". The phrase masks the ease and simplicity with which those decisions are made (on Iraq for example). When the Doctor goes into moral agonies which are quite unjustified, where the moral action is perfectly clear ("do I have the right? etc), this becomes a very bad template for moral questioning. It's a technique often used by politicians – ie: Do I do the obviously right thing, or do I do the absurd thing?

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    9. I would like to add in advance that one of the greatest attempts to explore these kind of questions is to come next season with The Two Doctors, for me the single most complex and intelligent political script in the classic series. I wonder if it will get a redemptive reading?

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    10. "Davies seemed to have been reading Human Smoke. But it's impossible to doubt the Doctor, and attempts to make a moral quandary out of the character seem terribly forced to me. It's possible to waver on the question of whether or not a deal should have been done with Hitler, but when talking about Davros it becomes completely absurd. It's the fake moral dilemma the politician alludes to when he talks about "difficult decisions". The phrase masks the ease and simplicity with which those decisions are made (on Iraq for example). When the Doctor goes into moral agonies which are quite unjustified, where the moral action is perfectly clear ("do I have the right? etc), this becomes a very bad template for moral questioning. It's a technique often used by politicians – ie: Do I do the obviously right thing, or do I do the absurd thing?"

      Firstly I think RTD is very much about redoing the 80's 'right', or rather 'populist'. Just as the Ninth Doctor was his version of the Sixth Doctor done 'right' (the same basic idea though that a volatile, spiky, irritable anti-hero Doctor would be iconic), I'd say his version of Tennant was based heavily on Davison, except an attempt to make Davison less stuffy and more zany and 'cool'. This is a version of Davison who would have casually slagged off Thatcher (Tooth & Claw) and given us a wish-fulfillment story over 'what if Thatcher didn't get away with sinking the Belgrano?' when he brins down Harriet Jones in The Christmas Invasion.

      Davison did have his own moments of lunatic pacifism and procrastinating over artificial moral indecision, right at the beginning of this particular season. Which Russell seems to be homaging or following as a model, but with a conscious effort to try and avoid having the same kind of nihilistic outcome proving the Doctor wrong, which is where the magic dust cop-outs come from. It's purely a case of taking the sanctimonious fan reading on the Doctor being a pacifist seriously.

      With the Journey's End example, it is weak. Infact rewatching Boomtown again it struck me that Davros is just repeating almost word for word what Margaret Slitheen said in that story about the Doctor. It's like RTD only has one voice for his villains. And yes it is ridiculous how Davros claims the high ground when if the Doctor did nothing to stop him then how many millions more would die? It's just another one of those scenes in RTD's series where the Doctor has to act guilty and emotional just because the the writer wants there to be an emotional scene.

      The other reason I think for that moment is that by bringing back Rose, Russell really had to try and palm her off with the clone Doctor, and so had to sell the idea that one of these Doctors was morally inferior. So the 'real' Doctor is supposedly better because he wouldn't have destroyed the Daleks, because he felt guilty for all the deaths, and offered a hand of salvation to Davros. Which is funny because even Davison's Doctor wouldn't have taken his sanctimonious pacifism that far- as we saw in Resurrection of the Daleks. But it was taken to that extreme for the sake of illuminating an insignificant contrast and trying to reassure us that the clone Doctor who did destroy the Daleks was somehow *not* the 'real' Doctor. That he was 'damaged goods' and had to be gotten rid of. But if that's the case then neither were nearly all the classic series Doctors- particularly McCoy.

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    11. I agree with you entirely, although for me these artificial indecisions are signs of a deeper moral laziness, which mirrors what I see as the moral laziness of Blairism. The degree to which RTD seems prepared to make a moral challenge through his work conceals far deeper evasions than writers like, say, Lincoln and Haisman were capable of.

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    12. "I agree with you entirely, although for me these artificial indecisions are signs of a deeper moral laziness, which mirrors what I see as the moral laziness of Blairism."

      I'd define Blairism as being the way that British culture has become a cheap imitation of American culture. Tony Blair during his youth was sent to stay over in America, I think it was in some exchange program or something. But I think from then on he's been in awe of the American lifestyle and culture to the point of an inferiority complex. And so that's the reason why he was so easily influenced by Bush to go along with the War on Terror.

      And the more I think about it, the more I think the media itself since the 90's has instilled the same kind of awe and inferiority complex about the American life. The main way it's reflected to me is the fact that in the early 90's we got a lot of reruns of old British shows, where it was Doctor Who or Gerry Anderson puppet shows or other ITC cult shows. There was still a sense of pride at our homegrown shows. But nowadays I think the BBC would be ashamed to reshow them.

      I'd mainly put down 'moral laziness' to the fact that our mass media has become so overwhelming in its many clashing biases, agendas and personalities that I honestly think it's left the people confused, exhausted, directionless and apathetic. People probably don't know which political or moral line to go with anymore so they just go along with what the people in power say is best.

      And for a while RTD's Doctor Who seemed like the antidote that recaptured a sense of British pride without being nationalist about it. A sense of homegrown achievement about ordinary people becoming heroes, and we were given in the Ninth Doctor a figure who was rebellious, decisive, and had a stern moral compass and sense of what had to be done, and wasn't easily swayed by the media. Unfortunately though the show was also confident and camp in a very conservative, insular 'don't bring me down' kind of way. And the more of a success it became, the more it adopted that attitude. That's where the moral evasiveness came in.

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  7. While "Androzani" was unquestionably a great story, for me watching as a fifteen year old kid all pumped up on testosterone and Arnold movies, the best part was actually the end when Colin woke up. After three years of Davison getting knocked down, fainting due to some ill-defined psychic stress, losing his sonic screwdriver, getting companions killed, endangering other companions due to mercurial whims, unleashing the Mara because he wanted to play with the pretty wind chimes, etc. etc., I was delighted to see the new Doctor sit up and immediately start looking around to take in his surroundings with bright, intensely intelligent eyes and to hear him immediately start quipping before looking into the camera and say "Change, my dear. And it seems not a moment too soon!"

    "Finally!" I thought. After all that bumbling around, here's a Doctor who can finally get something done. So imagine my despair when it all goes to shit about five minutes into "The Twin Dilemma."

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    1. I always felt that Colin's bullish first lines at the end of Caves of Androzani were too much too soon and really trampled the mood of the regeneration scene in a way that positively hurts.

      But I do feel that part of what went wrong with the show in the 80's, and particularly in Twin Dilemma was that under the reactionary government of the time and how confrontational politics had become, the Doctor as a prevailing rebel just wasn't a welcome image anymore, so he spends much of the Davison era being neutered and groomed, and when come finally Season 21 he begins to re-emerge as the Doctor again (partly because the makers had started to bank on what the show used to be like in order to appeal to the fans more), in accordance with the times he is actually demonised for it and portrayed as a delusional liability.

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    2. The problem with Six isn't that he's a rebel, it's that he's a nutcase. We'll discuss this more in the coming weeks, but watching the Sixth Doctor stories in 1985, I was constantly struck and disturbed by how visibly terrified Peri seemed to be of the Doctor (see their first scene together in Attack of the Cybermen). Even after his attempt to throttle her in "The Twin Dilemma," she remained afraid of him well into the next season, which was very uncomfortable to watch given that she was essentially trapped on the TARDIS with him, and especially so in a show at least nominally geared towards children.

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    3. You know... a fan online wrote this, using many of the same characters and plot points, to create a more satisfying "Twin Dilemma"; it even starts with a "DWM Preview", which is where I'll drop you off: http://nigelverkoff.blogspot.com/2007/03/dwm-preview-twin-dilemma.html

      Once you're done that page, just click March on the sidebar, and scroll down 'til you find "The Twin Dilemma I"; the story proper begins there, and continues on each further numbered link on the sidebar up.

      Hope you enjoy; I know I did... and just pretend as though this is actually what was given us in March 1984. ;-)

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    4. Phil argued very fairly that the Left at the time (the NUM at any rate) could also be negatively characterised as reactionary. I cannot agree that the 80s were more confrontational than the 70s, which marked the peak of class, gender and racial polarization. And how was rebellion no longer a popular image, at least as contrasted with the 70s? I just don't see this.

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    5. Erm... no response to my link? Seriously, folks, check it out; it's worth it... :-/

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    6. I'm waiting until I've seen the original...

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  8. You know, Philip, I was reading your first volume of this blog on my Kobo, and I was a little hurt by you saying that all fans should be wary of anyone who claims Paul McGann is their favourite Doctor. Paul McGann is my favourite Doctor because I discovered DOCTOR WHO in 2000, when the show was off the air but the eighth Doctor novels had a great jumping on point in the amnesia-era novels and created a great run from "The Burning" to "Time Zero" and a final run of greatness with "The Tomorrow Windows" to "The Gallifrey Chronicles." I also rather adored the Doctor's adventures with Lucie Miller, which had a good run from "Storm Warning" to "Neverland" and a decent finish from "Terror Firma" to "The Girl Who Never Was" which led nicely into the Lucie Miller stories.

    I don't like Paul McGann because I want to seem distinctive and unusual, I like him because he's a great actor and his refreshing take on the Doctor (an old man who has rediscovered his youthful spirit) was very endearing in novels and audioplays.

    Great book, though. Looking forward to future entries here and future volumes to enjoy. Will be buying anything you release in the future as well.

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    1. I must have missed this, why on Earth should anyone be wary of someone whose favorite Doctor is McGann?

      Likewise my favorite is Cushing, and not because I enjoy being the odd person out -- something I've also been accused of which is why this business about McGann got my attention!

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    2. "... be particularly wary of anyone who cites Hartnell or McGann as their favourite Doctors you are basically guaranteed someone who actually hates the vast majority of Doctor Who" says Philip in his essay, "Was William Hartnell a bigot?"

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    3. I think this must be the malign stylistic influence of Miles & Wood, which I hardly notice anymore on this blog. It's phrased as if addressing a younger brother, a kind of matey way of laying down the law. The NME used to do it a lot, as I remember, but when they tried to foist the New Wave of New Wave on us, I checked out permanently and have never gone back.

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    4. I stand by the underlying sentiment, if not the cringe-inducingly Sixth Doctor-esque stridency of it. I do think an overwhelming majority of people adopting either position do so out of a desire to have "edgy" or "iconoclastic" views. It is, of course, wrong to say this of everyone. Albeit, as Tom points out, a fairly common rhetorical trope.

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    5. My favourite Doctor is Richard Hurndall.

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    6. Mine is Lalla Ward. So there.

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    7. "... be particularly wary of anyone who cites Hartnell or McGann as their favourite Doctors you are basically guaranteed someone who actually hates the vast majority of Doctor Who"

      (O_O)

      That's such a shockingly dismissive (if not hateful) thing to have written, especially given my own experiences of being a fangirl over the last 30 years, that even today I still don't know how to respond to it. Instead of writing something edgy, I'll just say that I'm extremely disappointed to know Dr. Sandifer feels that way.

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    8. But of course we mustn't forget that he's perfectly entitled to feel that way (and write it, since it's his blog), and it doesn't make him morally inferior. Just human.

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    9. From other boards I've frequented, I got the impression that McGann fans pretty much despised the Revival, not so much the Classic series -- though it did seem that Audios were appreciated well above anything else. I found that peculiar.

      I don't really know anyone who claims Hartnell as their favorite, aside from what Phil's written of Alan Moore -- who apparently does hate everything post-Billy.

      I want to hear more of Phil's take on the influence of Ian Levine.

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    10. It is worth remarking that I didn't really consider the audios when making that statement. (I've only listened to one or two McGann audios)

      As for Ian Levine... "Pop Between Realities, Home in Time For Tea 30: Doctor In Distress."

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    11. There is something almost hipsterish about saying Hartnell was the best doctor. Sort of like saying you like a popular band's early work from before most people had heard of them but disliking their later work that actually sold well.

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    12. I do prefer Hartnell's Doctor to both Davison's and Colin Baker's, for whatever that's worth. (And while I certainly don't prefer Hartnell to Troughton, I'll take a historical over a base under siege any day.)

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    13. Until my first partner introduced me to her older sister, "D", in the early 80s I mistakenly thought the television program was a strangely loose adaptation of the Cushing films!

      D had a small collection of fanzines, novelizations, Doctor Who Monthlies, etc. and gave me a crash course in the Whoniverse. She always said her favorite Doctor was Hartnell, and would tease me about Cushing being a poor substitute.

      I honestly can't remember if D had actually seen any of his stories or chose him as her favorite based solely on the Target books, but her love for Doctor Who as a whole was infectious and I certainly caught the bug from her. (^_^)

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    14. Hartnell is actually my favorite Doctor, and that comes mostly from he being the first Doctor I actively searched for to watch (Eccleston was my first, then Tom Baker, but only because I started with the new series on Netflix, then picked Ribos Operation almost at random from what was streaming. With Hartnell, I actively searched out An Unearthly Child and watched it curled up in my room in front of my computer monitor along with The Daleks and part of Edge of Destruction). Because of that, I always viewed him as "my" Doctor, though Pertwee, Baker, and Eccleston were all favorites before him.


      Of course, he's also my favorite because there's a certain warmth to his Doctor I really like, and the overall adventure-esque feel of the episodes is something really special to me.

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    15. Hartnell is also my favourite Doctor, and that's mainly because he was the first Doctor whose adventures I watched as an adult, when the ABC started its full classic series repeats in 2003. I imprinted on his character a lot deeper than I ever had watching Tom Baker stories in the 80s, and I credit Hartnell's performance for that.

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    16. "Go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to Phil that he is mistaken in his".

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  10. Philip Sandifer:
    "As we saw, the problem this time isn’t a failing in the conception of the Doctor. It’s not the logical endpoint of a phase of the series history where we see that something has to change. Yes, the story looks great in contrast with everything around it, but that’s not because it pays off any buildup from them. It’s because they were often a complete mess and this story isn’t. Yes, this story looks like an absolute giant compared to the rest of the Davison era, but that’s as much because of their flaws as its merits.

    The fact of the matter is that they couldn’t get the Davison era to work until his last story. They drove the best actor they’d had since Troughton away with the crap scripts of Season 20, and by the time they gave him a truly brilliant script he’d already decided to leave. And they only got the era to work by turning back the clock and hiring Robert Holmes to do it. Yes, he outdid himself, and yes, the production work here is phenomenal, but the fact of the matter is that this is the de facto director of swaths of Warrior’s Gate and a writer who’s been on the show since 1968.

    No, this could have been done in 1981. It isn’t some earned capstone to an era. This is the production team taking three years to get the show to work despite having a phenomenal lead actor. This is what the era should have been all along. The fact that they finally got it right after three years shouldn’t have inspired any high hopes that they’d get it right out of the gate with the next version."

    Poetry. Sheer poetry!



    David Anderson:
    "The Third Doctor is much more tolerable given that all of his companions (even Jo in her own way) can hold their own."

    Jo was quite a surprise, wasn't she? He dismisses her so totally at first, but she keeps trying so hard. I still get a kick out of the way she stopped that prison riot almost single-handed. Of course, she still got inconsistent writing, but by "THE SEA DEVILS" she's cme such a long way.



    "Otherwise, he's just a catalyst for the action by his presence."

    The most amazing example of this is when he's a prisoner onboard the shuttle, and Morgus sees him in the monitor. And he doesn't know WHO he is. And he gets PARANOID. He leaves his office, his planet, goes to Androzani Minor, all because he's afraid that this weak, innefective guy who's a prisoner, and who's dying, might be a threat to him. But it's his leaving the safety of his office that caused his downfall. What an A**H***!!! So, the Doctor ended the way, just by being there... not by actually, you know... doing anything. Crazy.



    Tommy:
    "I don't think Colin's macho Doctor was any less workable as a hero than Davison's largely impotent Doctor was, and in many ways was an improvement. He was more proactive, more pragmatic and had a lot of room to grow rather than to regress and stagnate."

    Ditto. Despite so many flawed stories and bad writing, I've always enjoyed Colin's run more than Davison's.



    Jane:
    "it isn't until the Seventh that the Doctor (and the show) moves decisively towards exploring the journey of the Companion, a line of thinking that's still paying off today."


    Ace was the first time since Verity Lambert was producer that they had that sort of thing, the lack of it being apparently a sore point for Lis Sladen, Louise Jameson, Mary Tamm...



    Tommmy:
    "his relationship with Peri is so fractured and sour and she's not a very prominent or appealing character and so she doesn't quite succeed as an audience identification figure."

    You really have to skip all the way ahead to "THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET" to see how they should have been written all along.

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  11. Exploding Eye:
    "I've always felt that Androzani is much more early Colin Baker than it is Peter Davison, albeit better than anything Colin Baker's Doctor was involved in."

    Imagine if, in a replay of "LOGOPOLIS", in "PLANET OF FIRE", The Master had escaped, but caused Peter Davison to get burnt to death. He could have regenerated into Colin right then. Then, not being in his right mind (as The Doctor often isn't right after changing), he could have taken Peri to Androzani Minor by mistake. I bet, if it had been Colin, BOTH of them would have gotten out of that story alive! He could than have said what he did at the end of "THE TWIN DILEMMA", and it would have counted a lot more.



    Dr. Happypants:
    "distinctly Davisonian mistakes. Somewhere or other I once read a summary of his character as a "reckless innocent". Looking back on his era, we see the dark side to this. He's quite often willfully blind to dangers and totally unprepared"

    This is the sort of thing that, contrary to Davison's fans, I see as decidedly NOT being "The Doctor". It's as if someone turned off his brain, and it doesn't come back on again until after he DIES a horrible, painful death that takes 4 whole episodes to happen. As the saying goes, "That'll learn 'im."



    Alan:
    "While "Androzani" was unquestionably a great story, for me watching as a fifteen year old kid all pumped up on testosterone and Arnold movies, the best part was actually the end when Colin woke up. After three years of Davison getting knocked down, fainting due to some ill-defined psychic stress, losing his sonic screwdriver, getting companions killed, endangering other companions due to mercurial whims, unleashing the Mara because he wanted to play with the pretty wind chimes, etc. etc., I was delighted to see the new Doctor sit up and immediately start looking around to take in his surroundings with bright, intensely intelligent eyes and to hear him immediately start quipping before looking into the camera and say "Change, my dear. And it seems not a moment too soon!"

    "Finally!" I thought. After all that bumbling around, here's a Doctor who can finally get something done. So imagine my despair when it all goes to shit about five minutes into "The Twin Dilemma.""

    YYYYeah.

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  12. I'm surprised no one commented on the fact that in Brain of Morbius, there are (I believe) eight faces that show before Hartnell and the rest. This, coupled with the 12 regenerations tidbit in Deadly Assassin (both of these Holmes-penned stories, might I add), means that the Doctor after Baker would be the final Doctor. Who happens to be Davison. Who, wouldn't you know it, has a regeneration story penned by Holmes. "Feels different this time", indeed.


    Okay, Holmes in all probability had no clue about this, given that the eight faces before the Doctor was the director's idea, and he probably wouldn't have cared less about what happened then anyways. Still, it's an interesting coincidence (and one that actually provides a fun (albeit useless and entirely made-up) explanation for the other Baker's take on the Doctor, it being that the Doctor somehow got a new set of regenerations and thus the first of these new ones was going to be on the shaky side emotions-wise. It's twaddle, of course, but fun in its own way).

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    1. It was mentioned in the Brain of Morbius entry.

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  13. Watched again tonight. You know, I didn't get the feeling Davison was speaking Tom Baker's lines. I thought he was speaking Jon Pertwee's. Hid Doctor died a slow, painful death, too.

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