I’m watching the classic Doctor Who episodes from the beginning. That’s from 1963. Been doing it for a bit now, because I’m up to the episodes that first aired in 1976-77. That’s Season 14, for those counting. Even if you’re not counting, it’s still Season 14. Math works that way: it doesn’t care about you; it still does what it does regardless of whether or not you’re paying attention.
Anyway, Season 14 is Tom Baker’s third in the role of The Doctor. And it’s the start of Elisabeth Sladen’s final season as Sarah Jane Smith. I’m gonna miss her.
The season featured something that hadn’t happened in some time: an historical episode, although it’s not as historical as the traditional ones from the show’s early years. The Masque of Mandragora (4 episodes) was set in 15th century Italy, but didn’t feature any on-screen appearances by any historical characters. Leonardo da Vinci was mentioned, but didn’t appear. The story featured a young man being usurped from his rightful place as ruler by his uncle. Maybe The Doctor will take that story idea forward to the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries and let William Shakespeare write something along that line. Nah. Probably never amount to anything.
One item about the serial I found interesting was that The Masque of Mandragora was filmed at Portmeirion, in Gwynedd, North Wales. That’s where the shots of The Village, from the TV show The Prisoner was filmed.
Sarah Jane left The Doctor at the end of the season’s second serial, The Hand of Fear. A pretty good, but not great, story that had a troubled history. It was originally supposed to be ready for Season 13, but the scriptwriters had difficulty with it. Along the way, the intent was to kill of The Brigadier and Sarah Jane, but that was eventually scrapped. In the end, the scriptwriters didn’t write Sarah Jane out of the series. They left that to Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen, who wrote Sarah Jane’s exit.
The Doctor had his first solo adventure in The Deadly Assassin (4 episodes), a serial that brought back The Master (though in a heavily decaying state). This serial also introduced the plotline of a 12 regeneration limit for Time Lords. It seems The Master was on his 13th form already and, with no 13th regeneration, would die. Only, there was some plot device using accoutrements of the office of President to restart the cycle. Along the line, there was a presidential assassination and a framing of The Doctor, a faked death, political intrigue. Both The Doctor and The Master live to fight again. One thing, though: I never completely understood why the Time Lord President didn’t regenerate.
The Doctor picked up a new companion, Leela (Louise Jameson), in the serial The Face of Evil (4 episodes). I didn’t remember much about it — heck, I didn’t remember anything about it — but I’m thinking I had seen it before. I remember the face of The Doctor in the mountain. Unless I’m thinking of an episode of Gilligan’s Island.
Anyway, Leela joined up with The Doctor. She’s the latest hot chick to join The Doctor in his travels across time and space. The serial was written by, and the character of Leela was created by, Chris Boucher, a talented writer, but a lover of the Labour Party and a hater of Margaret Thatcher. According to one report, he named Leela after a Palestinian hijacker.
Leela ran around in her “savage” costume most of the time, except for the season’s final serial, The Talons of Weng-Chiang (6 episodes), in which she and The Doctor dressed in a style more fitting Sherlock Holmes. The Doctor didn’t wear the scarf for which Tom Baker’s incarnation was known.
As I mentioned when I started this little journey, my first experience with Doctor Who was from the Tom Baker years. So far, I don’t remember having watched any of the Tom Baker episodes, with the possible exception of The Face of Evil, and I’m still not sure about that one.
Maybe I’ll be coming up on some soon. Or maybe my memory has failed. Much like some of the control of the TARDIS.