purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
Vengeance on Varos was my favourite Colin Baker story back in the day which, to be honest, is damning with faint praise. It embodies many of the excesses of the era and redeems itself mostly through a consistency of tone and presentation, Martin Jarvis and an interesting and well-executed framing device.

Let's face it, a story set inside a "punishment dome" complete with acid baths, cannibals and a sadistic alien that leers and exults over any prospect of death and cruelty is a very Colin Baker kind of premise. I strongly suspect the story was influenced by Running Man though I don't know for sure. It's at the edge of the sort of setting any era of Doctor Who might have chosen, but it gives the appearance of relishing its more horrific moments for the spectacle rather than for the purpose they serve in telling the tale. Moreover, it lacks the lightness of touch in delivering moments of relief that other eras might have achieved. I have a feeling that Saward's vision for the show was as a black comedy. Vengeance on Varos succeeds in being dark and nasty but never really achieves (or perhaps even attempts) to be comic. It's possibly the nastiest story in this season, though at least it appears to know what it wants to do tonally which isn't always the case.

It's easy to point at what is going wrong here. Unlike a lot of the era the director isn't trying to flood the set with vast amounts of light, but even so it somehow manages to look gaudy rather than atmospheric a lot of the time. The characters with whom we are supposed to sympathise, the rebels Jondar and Areta (who are sufficiently forgettable I've just had to look up their names) are, frankly bland, dull and woodenly acted. A lot of it doesn't make sense at the "world-building" level (for instance the perils and traps of the punishment dome mostly turn out to be a) a bit rubbish and b) well-known to the audience and thus, theoretically, the prisoners). This is mostly possible to overlook, but less so the moment at the end where the price of Zeiton Seven ore rises because an alternative source has been found (my grasp of economics is shakey but I'm fairly sure the price normally drops if supply increases - assuming demand remains the same*).

On the other hand Martin Jarvis delivers an excellent performance as the Governor, invoking our sympathy while nevertheless suggesting that this is a man who has only really found the ability to show compassion and a desire to change the system now he is in a position where the system is more or less actively trying to kill him. Where Vengeance on Varos really succeeds is in the framing device. It takes the concept that the punishment dome is a form of entertainment and gives us the couple, Arak and Etta, who watch events unfolding, bicker about them, yet never take part in the action except for the obligatory votes on Governor policy. In the light of recent political upheavals some of it seems remarkably prescient. Arak desires to vote against the Governor no matter what. "What will the next one do differently?" Etta asks. "Anything, Everything," Arak more or less shrugs in return. He's voting for change without any particular interest in what the change is to. Of course it's prescient too, given that this was produced before the Internet and Reality TV, about our new ability to provide instantaneous feedback on anything and everything.

There are one or two other moments where Vengeance on Varos uses the conceit that all is for entertainment well. Most notably the episode 1 cliff-hanger that ends, not with the Doctor apparently dying, but the camera feed focused on his corpse and the Governor, in the role of director, saying "and cut it, now" as the feed goes blank. The final moments are also a triumph, if a somewhat nihilistic one. As Arak and Etta observe the blank screen that is supposed to symbolise their new freedom they ponder vacantly over what they are to do now.

When I was a teenager I think I was probably as fond of dystopias as the modern teenager, though with a rather sparser supply since YA fiction, as a marketing niche, was yet to be invented. I thought very highly of Vengeance on Varos at the time and I can see now that its tone and tropes match up nicely with with those particular preferences. These days I like my Doctor Who to have more of a focus on humour and entertainment and less of a desire to imagine the unpleasant and grim. As such Vengeance on Varos looks pretty flawed (though, as I say, these are the flaws of the era). Even so it is hard to ignore that there are some things it does extremely well (where so much Colin Baker Doctor Who manages to fumble its good ideas) and somewhat reluctantly I think it remains my favourite Colin Baker story.

*Obviously the price has been kept artificially low but even so it's hard to see how discovery of an alternative source strengthens the Varosian bargainning hand.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
Way way back in 1981 the BBC ran a "Five Faces of Doctor Who" season in which they showed one story from each of the first four Doctors (ending with a repeat of Logopolis and Tom Baker regenerating into Peter Davison), except for the third Doctor who got two stories. It's difficult to say how incredibly exciting this was to a young Doctor Who fan at the time. The two stories picked for the third Doctor were The Three Doctors and Carnival of Monsters. I assume they wanted to show both the anniversary multi-doctor story as part of the "five faces" theme but also a more typical story. I never really understood the inclusion of Carnival of Monsters which did not (insofar as one could judge from Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks' The Making of Doctor Who) seem to be a particularly significant Pertwee story, even if one assumes they were restricting themselves to four parters.

I was a little surprised by Tame Layman's enthusiasm for this however. He also had memories of seeing it at some point (possibly also as part of the Five Faces season) and recalled it as being a particularly good Pertwee story. The Teenager was summoned so that she could experience it as well.

I don't know. The story is generally pretty pacey, so it doesn't suffer from the longueurs of some early Doctor Who but I'd say that almost everything happening outside the miniscope on Inter Minor is done in a rather broad and heavy-handed fashion. The CSO, while not the worst Doctor Who has ever committed, is among the dodgier the show has inflicted upon the audience and it seems more obvious than usual that the budget wasn't really stretching to many sets.

The parts of the story set on the SS Bernice are among the best ,in part I would say because both the actors and the producers of sets and costumes were far more comfortable with portraying the 1920s than fantastical machines or aliens. The reveal that actually the first parts of the story are taking place inside some kind of peep show is clever and handled well. Still I'd argue that one good idea doesn't make a solid story.

It's fun but I don't really get the enthusiasm. Still, Tame Layman and Teenager enjoyed it so who am I to judge?
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
The Keys of Marinus, much like the later Key to Time sequence sets the Doctor and his companions off on a quest to gather a set of objects from different locations. However where the Key to Time sequences manages to drag this out over a whole season, The Keys of Marinus uses a mere six episodes. I think the story (particularly given the slower pacing in general of 1960s TV) benefits greatly from this, though I am slightly surprised that the show's budget managed to stretch to a new set of sets for each week.

There is a lot of really nice stuff in The Keys of Marinus. The story's format means we are shown a planet with diverse locations and communities (something very rare in Doctor Who). The show uses the episodic nature of the story to play with genre as well as location, so we get the fairly traditionally SF-nal Brains of Morphoton, the horror of the Screaming Jungle and a court room drama/murder mystery in the City of Millenius. The Snows of Terror manages to combine the kind of wilderness complete with psychotic madman genre with a tale of mystical knights guarding a mythical treasure in a cave full of traps which is pretty good going for 25 minutes of television produced in 1964. It all benefits from the knowledge that if you aren't much taken with what is happening this week then something completely different will be along next week.

It's not without its weirdness though. "Only Arbitan could brief someone on the location of all the traps," says Darrius in the Screaming Jungle except that Arbitan has conspicuously failed to do any such thing, not even warning his daughter of the deception involving the fake key. Arbitan seems to have access to technology no one else on the planet is even aware exists (most notably the travel dials) and communication between communities appears to be non-existent, even though the general level of technology certainly seems to be high enough to allow radio.

In terms of the development of Doctor Who, it is interesting that the Doctor agrees to go on the quest fairly quietly (albeit grumpily and under duress when Arbitan seals him off from the Tardis). The keys are needed to activate the Conscience of Marinus (a machine that controls free will). This is precisely the sort of thing later Doctors would have railed against at length and it is clear, certainly in the final episode, that the Doctor doesn't think the Conscience is a particularly good thing and he's not at all upset that their quest to reactivate it ultimately fails. But this all happens without the fierce moralising we would later see. One feels mostly that he doesn't approve but thinks this society is, broadly speaking, not his problem so if they are going to blackmail him into reactivating the thing he might as well get on with it. He's more annoyed about being blackmailed, to be honest, than the dubious morality of limiting the free will of an entire planet of people.

The alien Voord are pronounced Vord. This came as a massive shock, I'd always assumed that it was closer to Vood. For a 1960s Doctor Who monster they also look pretty impressive.

I'm not sure I'd describe this story as under-rated, it just seems to be one that isn't discussed very often which is a shame. Susan doesn't get a great deal to do, but all the other regulars get a chance to shine. Everything moves along at a surprisingly quick pace and the sets and costumes look good. Some of the ideas and plots in the individual episodes are genuinely interesting and clever (some less so) but if you wanted to pick an early Doctor Who episode to watch, particularly if you were not looking for a big event episode or something featuring famous monsters, then you could do a lot worse than this.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
"What's happening?" The Teenager asked, walking in on us watching Edge of Destruction.

"Over-acting," Tame Layman said.

The Edge of Destruction came about when a script fell through and the Doctor Who production team were left with two episodes to fill and a minuscule budget. The result is a story set entirely in the Tardis which is attempting to be a cross between a haunted house mystery and psychological horror.

It is the stagiest Doctor Who story I think I've seen. I think is partly because, well it's 1964, and partly because everything is focused upon the interactions of the characters. With little else of visual interest, David Whitaker frequently places the actors in tableau where they speak their lines facing away from each other and/or oblique to the audience.

Fan opinion of the story seems to be divided between those who consider it a bizarre oddity arising out of desperate circumstances and those who consider it something approaching a mini-masterpiece arising from its constraints. They speak of the drama and tension as Susan stabs her bed with a pair of scissors. Sadly, I think Tame Layman and I are in the bizarre oddity category and Susan's tantrum with the scissors struck us more as over-acting than a moment of intense drama. Tame Layman did get a laugh however, when it was revealed that the whole problem related to a single jammed switch. He was puzzled about why everyone had been behaving so oddly throughout. I had always understood that this was the Tardis influencing their behaviour in an attempt to communicate the situation to them, but that doesn't seem to be on the page. The crew just seem to spend two episodes panicking in a particularly bizarre fashion before the Doctor and Barbara jointly manage to figure out the problem and the Doctor works the relevant switch loose.

Because of the generally strange behaviour of most of the cast, it is difficult even to see this story as character development. The most successful part is the relationship between the Doctor and Barbara. She stands up to him. She refuses to be mollified at the end by anything short of a proper apology for his behaviour and ultimately it is Barbara who saves the day with the insight that the strange events inside the Tardis are not an indication of some hostile force but an attempt by the Tardis to communicate.

However, in the end, Edge of Destruction is two episodes of padding without even the dubious benefit of a monster and a corridor to run down. It's impressive given the circumstances under which it was produced, but that doesn't actually make it good.

By the end of episode 1 the Teenager was declaiming loudly on the morality of Video Game companies who produce misleading trailers for games. She did not come back for episode 2.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
The Massacre, I think, highlights the difficulty of attempting to tell a Doctor Who story centred upon a major historical event. Broadly speaking the outcome of the story is known and the major characters are not the Tardis crew. Mostly Doctor Who avoids these obvious problems by focusing on history as a setting or, when its purpose was more didactic, by focusing on the aftermath of major events.

The Massacre works hard to build a story around a group of protestants doomed to be caught up in France's St. Bartholemhew's Day Massacre but it is difficult to hide the fact that most of the narrative centres around Steven wondering about Paris, achieving next to nothing. The fact that the story only exists as telesnaps doesn't help the situation. I found it hard to distinguish one doomed protestant nobleman from another and ultimately didn't really care about any of them. The servant girl, Anne Chaplette, is more distinctive and sympathetic, but ultimately her role, much like Steven's is to wander about Paris achieving very little and one can't avoid the awkward feeling that she only exist to motivate the introduction of new companion Dodo Chaplet at the end of the story.

Meanwhile the Doctor vanishes from the plot at the end of episode 1 at which point it transpires that he has a double in Paris, the Abbot of Amboise. I was vaguely expecting us to get a lot of William Hartnell enjoying playing a double character but, in reality, we hardly see the Abbot either (I assume Hartnell was, in fact, on holiday) to the extent that the whole sub-plot feels like padding to allow Steven to spend episodes 2 and 3 trying to figure out what game the Doctor is playing.

All that said tame layman was more engaged than I was, but then I studied this bit of history at A level and he didn't, so he was genuinely interested in the religious politics of Paris in the 16th century and felt it was a refreshing departure for the show. I think even he, though, was beginning to lose interest as we moved into the later episodes which mostly seemed to be serving up more of the same of what we had in the first.

It's an oddity of a story, and one in some ways I'd particularly like to see recovered because that might well have a transformative effect on my engagement with the characters. But in general I think it is a lesson in why Doctor Who should not attempt to tell historical stories that focus upon famous people engaged in a famous event.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
I had fond, if vague, memories of The Mutants from the Target novelisation which is slightly odd since, if I remember correctly, the novelisation is one of Terrance Dicks' 120 page wonders - a straightforward retelling that does its job but little else.

I mentioned to tame layman that I recalled it being somewhat "post-colonial" and, to be honest, was surprised to find that it was indeed (within the constraints of 1970s Doctor Who) distinctly post-colonial. The story itself, about a planet gaining independence from the Earth Empire is an obvious enough allegory of the break-up of the British Empire. However, when Doctor Who of this era wanted to suggest a multi-national cast of characters it tended to look towards European, American and Australian accents - here we have South African and (I think) Jamaican accents and we even have two black actors one of whom has a significant speaking role which, again, is a lot for the time. It's a shame really that he's such a bad actor.

The central story idea, of a planet with a year measured in hundreds of our years and whose inhabitants mutate into new forms as the seasons slowly change is fairly unique in Doctor Who and is explored nicely, though it's certainly handy that the next mutational form turns out to be a god-like creature which can quickly solve everything in the final 10 minutes of the story. It's also interesting that the Doctor gains allies from among the Marshal's security guards, where Doctor Who is not generally particularly interested in the equivalent of hired muscle. Framing the science-fictional idea within a tale of the bureaucracy and the tensions that might accompany a handover of power also gives the tale more to work with than it might otherwise have had. That said the story also has to sustain itself with a fair bit of capture-escape and the Marshal's motivation, as is so often the case in Doctor Who, is clearly dependent upon at least some rationalisation along the lines of "he's mad as a box of frogs". It's not really clear what the Time Lord interest in the whole situation is either, they serve as a convenient excuse to get the Doctor into the story but the mechanism (a box that only opens for Ky, but contains writings he can not decipher and has no interest in deciphering) seems pretty clumsy and one does wonder if the story wouldn't have been stronger if the Doctor hadn't just randomly shown up.

Still, I liked this. It reinforced my fond memories of the story from the novelisation.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
Claws of Axos is practicality the essence of UNIT era Doctor Who. It has the Master in league with alien invaders, an incompetent government official, plenty of soldiers running about the place and a Nuclear Power station (sorry a Power Complex housing a Particle Accelerator that just happens to look like Dungeness). I was surprised, therefore, that it felt unusual maybe because I've watched relatively little Jon Pertwee, in comparison to other Doctors. In particular I was struck by the dominating presence of the military in the first episode. It's possible this was intended as a deliberate contrast by the production team, since these are the regular military, as opposed to UNIT, but I suspect that there may actually be fewer Pertwee episodes than one might think which actually try to feature troop movements at any scale. There is also quite a lot of outdoor filming here, rendered more obvious by the switch between film and video when the action moves between outdoor locations and an indoor set. Somehow the story feels much larger in scope than it actually is.

Beyond that I found the tale fun but rather muddled. The opposition between UNIT and the UK forces seems, ultimately, unnecessary to the tale and both arises and is overcome far too easily to really justify its presence in the story. This is neither the first nor the last time Doctor Who decides to play with our tendency to assume beauty implies good intentions and, as is often the case, the moral is clumsy in its delivery - in particular the story comes close to implying that the true ugly form of the Axons is indicative of their genuine nature. The last episode feels rather surplus to requirements, the Axon nutrition cycle having been stopped in its first few minutes and the world alerted to the threat - everything after that point feels a bit like padding.

All that said, the combination of the Doctor, Jo, the Brigadier and the Master are very watchable. The story itself isn't bad, per se, its just a lot more of a runaround sequence of, if not capture-escape at least peril-escape moments than I was expecting. The psychedelia of the Axon ship is fun from a 1970s style perspective and the production and effects in general stand up pretty well.

I feel this is the sort of story that works well viewed as its separate episodes in a mind set of simply enjoying the ride. There is nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but one feels that there is a lot of Doctor Who out there with more going for it.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
The Romans (apocryphally, at least) shared a its researcher with Carry On Cleo. I'm not sure if this is true, I doubt that Doctor Who had the budget for a researcher. But there is definitely something "Carry On" in the DNA of this tale of intrigue and shenanigans in ancient Rome.

More under the Cut )

In the end, I felt most of The Romans was a miss. Comedy is difficult to do well, and even harder to pull off when you want an element of genuine peril in your story. Doctor Who in the 1960s had neither the rehearsal time nor, I suspect, the expertise to pull this off. However, as a story, it has its moments of genuine charm and gives us a view of the Tardis crew we rarely get elsewhere.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
We've never had much luck with The Monster of Peladon. At some point in the 1990s I was seized with the urge to watch it and we ordered it from Amazon on VHS. The first time we tried this, we were sent a Seven of Nine boxset, which we much enjoyed watching and wondered idly if whoever had received our Monster of Peladon video had enjoyed it as much. We then re-ordered Monster of Peladon and this time received the right VHS tape only to discover that it was blank after episode 2. Having found the first two episodes rather dull we, at that point, gave up on the attempt.

It was with some trepidation, therefore, that I purchased the DVD from Amazon at the behest of the Randomiser. This time all the episodes were present and correct.

So was it dull? )

Monster of Peladon is interesting in lots of ways, not the least its status as sequel to the earlier Curse of Peladon. I have always been of the impression that it is the lesser of the two stories, but the longuers of the first couple of episodes aside, I enjoyed this considerably.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
I've always confused Meglos and The Creature from the Pit which, it must be said, I've always assumed was just me. But halfway through Meglos tame layman noted it was "very like" Creature from the Pit as well. While John Nathan-Turner attempted to put a very different stamp on the show, Meglos feels very much like a leftover from the Graham Williams era, and in particular one of the less loved stories.

It's not just similar to Creature from the Pit in general tone, it has a jungle planet, a high profile female semi-antagonist, comedy ruffians (whose humour is more hit than miss) and a fourth episode that goes off on a bit of a tangent (though not as much of one).

Its production is better than that of Creature from the Pit, but that sadly isn't saying a great deal and it has a joyless feel to it (possibly because Tom Baker was ill (if I recall events correctly) and possibly because it is a Graham Williams' style story being produced by JNT). Tom Baker should be unstoppable in the double role of the Doctor and Meglos but instead is strangely muted. It doesn't help that the Doctor doesn't actually manage to get out of the Tardis until episode 2, making the whole of episode 1 feel like set-up.

The casting of Jacqueline Hill (who had played Barbara back in the original Tardis crew) is the kind of stunt casting JNT was keen on but this case seems oddly ill-conceived in retrospect - not famous enough to bring in casual viewers and fandom and general geek culture wasn't anything like as high profile in the 1980s (though JNT was an early show-runner to recognise the value of playing to the fans) - and, for whatever reason, she doesn't really dominate in the way you would expect as the celebrity cast member.

All in all, it's not terribly good. It's not out-right bad in the way that The Creature in the Pit is in places, but it fails to be particularly good in an retrospect.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
The Keeper of Traken is a strange story in several ways. While it exists at the tail end of Tom Baker's reign, like Logopolis it feels in style a lot more like a Peter Davison story than a Tom Baker story. This might be a reflection of John Nathan Turner's hand at the helm, but the earlier stories this season (or at least Full Circle and Warriors' Gate both of which I have seen comparatively recently) have less of this feel to them.

More Under the Cut )

As I said, it is a strange story. It looks gorgeous and the acting throughout is competent to good. I think it could have been a great story if it had been prepared to grapple more explicitly with the problems created when goodness is artificially imposed upon a society. But it seems unsure not only of what position it wants to take on that, but whether it wants to discuss it at all.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
It's the Eleventh Doctor's final story and, oh look! it's Victorian Christmas planet again. I really didn't rate this story much last time around so I was suprised to find myself liking it much better on second viewing.

More Under the Cut )

First time around I thought Time of the Doctor was a bit of a mess. I still think it is a bit of a mess, though it works better on re-watching. Still, as a story, it is burdened with trying to explain a lot, resolve a lot, set up alot and that prevents it really telling its own story.




I asked The Child if she wants to rewatch the Twelfth Doctor stories - Deep Breath being where she came into the show and she has decided not. She wants to see the "important" classic Who stories (which is defined as companions arriving and leaving, Doctor's changing, and other significant events - I'm guessing first appearances of recurring monsters and characters) plus the "really good" ones. I have a tentative list though I'm dubious about some of it (even deciding that if only telesnaps exist we may content ourselves with just watching the relevant bits of episodes). However, given she's seen An Unearthly Child, we obviously need to watch The Daleks next and we'll play it by ear from there.

Could be a while though, there is the family Buffy rewatch to get through and Season 1 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
I didn't really write about Day of the Doctor when it first aired since it all got tangled up in my birthday Who-watching marathon session. I really enjoyed it at the time, but we had already watched a lot of good Doctor Who by that point and were not necessarily entirely sober. I was anxious to see whether it was still as good on a second viewing.

It was still good )

The multi-Doctor story is a difficult beast and I think Day of the Doctor is better than all its predecessors. I don't think it's better than Remembrance of the Daleks (but then, as noted above, despite all appearances to the contrary that was not an anniversary story). Where Doctor Who had been succeeding in series 7 it was with tightly focused, fairly serious, stories such as Hide and A Town Called Mercy, so it was good to see it make a success of something much more light-hearted and rambling. It is immensely enjoyable.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
I liked The Name of the Doctor better than I did when I first saw it (though I didn't dislike it then). Part of that is expectation management. I wasn't expecting much of the Great Intelligence. I wasn't expecting an appearance from the yeti. I knew that the name of the Doctor was largely misdirection and I knew that we would be seeing River again.

More under the Cut )

However, for a story burdened with a number of ongoing elements I'm less fond of, The Name of the Doctor comes out of it all pretty well. It isn't as good as the strongest stories in season 7 of Doctor Who, but it is better than the weaker stories which is no mean feat for a season finale (even if this is a finale that, by circumstance, is the first in a sequence of three specials). It makes a good job of the hand it has been dealt, but I'm glad that Moffat has since moved on to less intricate over-arching plots.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
I warned Tame Layman going into The Invasion of Time that it didn't have a good reputation. We were, after all, still recovering from The Creature from the Pit. He expressed befuddlement at the end of episode 1 about it's poor reputation and then rigidly held to that opinion through the remaining five episodes.

To be fair, it is an awful lot better than Creature from the Pit )

At the end of it all Tame Layman conceded it wasn't among the best Fourth Doctor stories, but maintained that even weak fourth Doctor stories were better than the best stories for some other Doctors (poor old Hartnell and Troughton got listed which I felt was a little unfair). I'm not sure I entirely agree, but the fact remains that for a story with a fairly low reputation this was mostly fun and watchable.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
The Seeds of Death was one of the first Doctor Who episodes I owned, on betamax no less. I had assumed therefore that Tame Layman would have seen it, since I certainly had the old betamax tapes lying around for a long time and had a vague idea that at some point we'd either transferred them to VHS or acquired one of my parents Betamax machines to watch them.

Apparently not however.

I think he quite enjoyed it )

It's easy to see why this particular Patrick Troughton was picked for an early video release, although it has to be acknowledged there weren't a lot of complete stories to choose from. While its pacing is distinctly sixties it isn't too langurous and the story has an interesting premise and engaging supporting characters.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
Once upon a time, if you read Doctor Who Monthly, The Celestial Toyroom and Doctor Who Bulletin, you could claim to have a pretty good handle on the opinion of UK Doctor Who fandom as a whole. Back in the 1980s, when I was doing this, I think it is fair to say that the vituperative parts of fandom were pretty scathing about the Graham Williams era but there was already a revisionist movement which wanted his stories reassessed. These days fandom is sufficiently decentralised I'm not sure it can claim to have an opinion, as such, about anything.

At any rate, I've always erred towards the revisionist camp when it comes to Graham Williams. I think most of his stories are at least moderately clever and amusing, even if they don't have the consistent quality of the Hinchcliffe stories that preceded them.

That said, Creature from the Pit really is bad.

More under the cut )

It's sad in a way because the core of this script is far from stupid, even if it has some fairly stupid bits. The final effect is of a production that ran out time and what we see is the equivalent of an early run through before the performances (and monster costume) could be brought up to standard.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
Sometimes it's interesting to re-read my previous reviews, if only to see how one story can come across differently on different viewings. I had remembered Nightmare in Silver as a weak episode in a weak half-season and I wasn't really pre-disposed to revise my opinion on a second viewing. However, looking back I seem to have, not exactly liked it, but felt it was OK first time around.

More under the cut )

Ultimately Nightmare in Silver feels like a bit of a mess with nothing that's really good enough to make up for that. I think it remains the weakest story in a fairly weak half-season.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
Planet of Evil is probably a middle-rank Philip Hinchcliffe story. It's better than The Hand of Fear for instance, but it's a little bit too sprawling to compete with the best.

More Under the Cut )

Like all of the Hinchcliffe stories, Planet of Evil is eminently watchable, even forty years after it was made. This is something which can't be said for a lot of classic Doctor Who - I mean, I like watching them, as does Tame Layman, but I think we're pretty forgiving. I don't think the Jekyll and Hyde sub-plot entirely works with the rest of the story, but it just about gets away with it. The science may be rubbish, but it has a certain internal consistency and the set design and special effects are a triumph.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
Planet of Fire is Peri's first story and also Turlough's last. As such, it struggles a bit at both introducing a new companion while, at the same time, dumping a whole load of backstory on the departing one. It's an odd story really, oscillating between being very good in places, and somewhat embarrassing in others.

More Under the Cut )

Planet of Fire is a decent story. It falls in, arguably, Peter Davison's strongest season (albeit one in which Eric Saward's tendency towards the grim and the violent was becoming more prominent). It's a gentler story than those either side of it, but also more uneven, and I suspect it is often over-looked as a result.

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