Classic Doctor Who Season 26

Posted on June 22, 2014 10:00 am
DoctorWho26 - 1

The last scene of Doctor Who

Last year, I decided to watch the classic Doctor Who series. And now I have.

I just finished Season 26, which was the last episode of the classic series before it was canceled.

The Doctor’s clothing changed. He still wore an outfit similar to that he wore the previous two seasons, but they were a darker color. The darker color matched the darker tone of the show. If it was part of an attempt to revitalize the show by bringing some of the initial mystery back to the character of The Doctor, it didn’t work. Ratings for the season were at an all-time low, even though the season’s serials increased in viewership from one to the next. Even so, the season averaged only 4.2 million viewers over the 14 weeks.

The season featured old friends, old villains, and new villains that were actually old villains. Or something.

The old friends part was easy, and a treat. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) made his final appearance in Doctor Who in a story, Battlefield (4 episodes), that touched on the legend of Arthur. There’s some silliness with crossing from universes or alternate realities — apparently Arthur and everyone from that existed, just not here on our Earth — and they all knew The Doctor as Merlin. Or something.

Anyway, the story is all convoluted, with Mordred being Arthur’s nephew, as some tellings of the Arthur story go, instead of his illegitimate son by his half-sister, as some other tellings of the Arthur story go.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart unwraps Bessie from mothballs for The Doctor and Ace

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart unwraps Bessie from mothballs for The Doctor and Ace


The story features Jean Marsh as Morgaine, Mordred’s mother and Arthur’s half-sister. Only, Mordred’s mother was Morgause in some tellings, and Morgan le Fay (AKA Morgaine) in others. Kinda hard to keep straight. But, about Jean Marsh. She played The Doctor’s companion, Sara Kingdom, in Season Three’s The Daleks’ Master Plan, and the character Joanna in Season Two’s The Crusade. This was her first appearance on the show since William Hartnell left.

Jean Marsh is always good to see, but I was particularly happy to see Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier. Even though I didn’t like the whole change to the storyline during most of Jon Pertwee’s stint as The Doctor, setting the series on Earth, I did like some of the characters, particularly Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Without the Earth-based shows, the character wouldn’t have developed like it did. So, there is that.

Ace’s character was developed in both Ghost Light (3 episodes) and The Curse of Fenric (4 episodes). The first serial involved the history of the place the young delinquent Dorothy (AKA Ace) has burned down, and the other set the stage for her mother’s troubled upbringing, with Ace as a catalyst for that.

The Master (Anthony Ainley) was in the final serial of the season (and the classic show), Survival (3 episodes). It ended with The Master again trapped in an impossible situation, and was intended to be the end of that character. Again.

It was known that the show might not be renewed for a 27th season, so after the first episode of Survival aired, the next day, 23 November 1989, the 26th anniversary of the initial broadcast of the first episode of the show, Sylvester McCoy recorded a voice-over that was added to the final scene.

There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea’s asleep and the rivers dream, people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice and somewhere else the tea’s getting cold. Come on, Ace; we’ve got work to do!

On 6 December 1989, the final episode aired. The show was canceled early the next year by BBC, and the show would fade into oblivion.

Except…

The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) appears in the 1993 Children In Need special

The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) appears in the 1993 Children In Need special


On 26 and 27 November, 1993, as part of an annual fundraiser called Children In Need, several actors from the series reprised their roles for a short two-part special. It was a cross-over of sorts with characters from EastEnders, another BBC show.

Neither the special, titled Dimensions in Time (2 episodes; 7 minutes, 5 minutes) was done partially as a 30th anniversary celebration of the show, which still had a following. There had been a move to make a 30th anniversary special featuring all of the living actors that had played The Doctor, but The Dark Dimension never got off the ground. However, since the actors’ involvement had been secured, they agreed to do a charity show, forgoing pay as long as it was never made commercially available. It’s not, although bootlegs are available.

Briefly, Dimensions in Time featured The Rani having created a temporal trap that had snared the first two incarnations of The Doctor (William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, both deceased), and was trying to capture the other five. Her attempts succeeded in having The Doctor change into his various incarnations, as well as his companions being replaced by others. For example, The Doctor (7.0) became The Doctor (6.0) while Ace became Mel. This kept up, and featured, in no particular order within the story, Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy. Tom Baker appeared early on, making an attempt to contact his other selves. Companions who appeared included Ace (Sophie Aldred), Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford), Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), Romana (Lalla Ward), Sarah Jane Smith – (Elisabeth Sladen), Nyssa – (Sarah Sutton), Leela – (Louise Jameson), Peri Brown – (Nicola Bryant), Melanie Bush – (Bonnie Langford), K9 (John Leeson/Matt Irvine), Liz Shaw (Caroline John), Mike Yates (Richard Franklin), and Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling).

While the show isn’t considered canon by either Doctor Who enthusiasts (or EastEnders fans, either), it was all in fun, and for charity. Which must count for something.

And so, to wrap it all up …

Eh, I’ll do that later.

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3 Responses to “Classic Doctor Who Season 26”

  1. can of spam says:

    Serious question: are you going to watch the Paul McGann 2-hour TV movie (his only on-screen appearance as The Doctor until this past year, though he’s done tons of audio serials for Big Finish) before heading into the 2005 reincarnation?

  2. Michael Hutchison says:

    I really enjoyed Battlefield, but the rest of the season was forgettable, for the most part. (I do like the moment when Ace asks a pregnant lady in the 1940s if the father is a boyfriend. it’s actually a rather risque thing for Doctor Who of the time, but I like that Ace is rebuked for the assumption.)

    BTW: If you have a child with your half-sister, you ARE the kid’s uncle. It’s just that you’re also the father.

  3. can of spam says:

    The Curse of Fenric is good, too, but only if you see the uncut version as opposed to the one they typically show here stateside, which omits one of the critical scenes. That one works much better as a single story told at once rather than four distinct episodes, though.

    One of the things I do like about the “new” Doctor Who is that they’re designed for an hour-long slot, not a half-hour. Stories can be told more rapidly in a single episode, occasionally with 2-parters, rather than dragged out as four to six half-hour serials.

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