I thought they said the TEA Party was dead?
Have fun storming the castle!
This cartoon from nearly three years ago seems pretty appropriate these days.
I’m nearly done with watching the classic Doctor Who series. I started with the episodes that aired on BBC in November 1963, and have seen every episode — or reconstructions of missing episodes — since. I’ve just finished Season 24, which was Sylvester McCoy’s first as The Doctor.
Before I get into that, there’s a little matter of some off-screen events that impacted the Doctor Who universe. Between the end of Season 23 and the start of Season 24, Patrick Troughton died. He had made what would be his last appearance as The Doctor in Season 22′s The Two Doctors, reprising his role and playing opposite Colin Baker. During the off-season, he had appeared at a science fiction convention here in Columbus, Georgia, and died of a heart attack during the convention, on 28 March 1987.
I mentioned in my Season 23 wrap-up that Colin Baker was fired from the show after that season completed. The reason was that the Controller of BBC One was displeased with the tone of the show, and a complete overhaul was planned, including replacing Baker as The Doctor.
BBC offered Baker the opportunity to film a regeneration scene in the first serial of Season 24, but he counter-offered to do the entire season, concluding with a regeneration, because he would have missed out on other work by taking a short-term role. According to one interview, he never heard back from BBC about the counter-offer, and the season opened with a regeneration.
Time and the Rani (4 episodes) featured a cold opening, only the third time this had happened, after Castrovalva (a repeat of the regeneration from Tom Baker to Peter Davison from Logopolis) and The Five Doctors (William Hartnell’s farewell to Susan from The Dalek Invasion of Earth). The cold opening shows the TARDIS being attacked and finally landing on a planet. The Doctor and Mel are crumpled on the floor. The Rani enters and has her henchmen secure The Doctor. When they roll him over, he is in the midst of a regeneration, and resolves in Sylvester McCoy’s likeness.
For the scene, McCoy had donned a wig and lay on the floor to play the unconscious Doctor (6.0), making him the only actor to play two incarnations of The Doctor (6.0 and 7.0).
Time and the Rani was the first full stand-alone serial to feature Melanie Bush (Bonnie Langford), although she had appeared in Season 23′s The Trial of a Time Lord: Terror of the Vervoids. Since Mel had obviously joined The Doctor during his sixth incarnation, and the series was now into his seventh incarnation, the plans to actually have a full introduction couldn’t be realized. The only other companion who didn’t have an introduction episode was Susan, who was already with The Doctor, her grandfather, when the series began.
Delta and the Bannermen (3 episodes) was Mel’s penultimate episode, but caught my ear from all the oldies music playing. My eyes caught the time-traveling bus in space looking a little like Pearl Forrester’s space van from Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Mel was definitely an 80s girl, with big shoulders and big 80s hair. And a screamer. Bonnie Langford was a child star in the U.K. and had played Annie on stage in that country. She was 22 when she first appeared in the role, making her the first companion born after the show was first broadcast. The first episode of Doctor Who aired in November 1963, and Langford was born in July 1964. Although some fans of the show didn’t like the character, Colin Baker once called her one of the most professional actors with whom he had ever worked.
Langford left the show at the end of the season, with the character Mel deciding to leave The Doctor and travel with rouge spaceman Sabalom Glitz. Dragonfire (3 episodes) featured a chance encounter with Glitz, whom The Doctor (6.0) and Peri had encountered in Season 23′s The Trial of a Time Lord: The Mysterious Planet, and The Doctor (6.0) and Mel had dealings in that season’s The Trial of a Time Lord: The Ultimate Foe.
The Doctor picked up a new companion, Dorothy Gale McShane, who went by “Ace” (Sophie Aldred). Despite Ace being younger than Mel, Alred is older than Langford. Ace was sixteen when she began traveling with The Doctor, though Alred was 26 at the time.
Sylvester McCoy’s portrayal of The Doctor featured his carrying an umbrella, as Colin Baker’s had done, carrying many things in his pocket, as Tom Baker had done, and taking a more comedic approach, as Patrick Troughton had done.
The short season meant not much time to learn much else about this incarnation of The Doctor, although he was immediately more likable than his previous incarnation.
And, we only have two more seasons to go.
Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!
Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
– Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
You know what today is, right?
That’s right. My daughter-in-law’s birthday. Oh, and it’s Frank J.’s birthday, too. He and Sarah were either thoughtful or conniving enough to have birthdays that fall on birthdays within my family. And, today is Frank’s.
So, what did you get him? You know there’s a limit. Ten dollars was what we were told. That means at least twenty, unless you want to look cheap.
Or… if you’re like me and really
cheap thoughtful, you make something by hand.
Now, now, hold on. Hear me out.
Frank has two children. They’ll be making him presents for years to come, so he’s getting used to
cheap thoughtful gifts. So, if you made Frank something, show us. Post a picture — our cheapness extends to not paying to host your pictures, so Flikr or Photobucket or something for you — or, at least, a description of what you got or made Frank for his birthday.
There’ll be a prize for Frank’s favorite. Or Harvey’s, if Frank doesn’t bother to read the comments on something he didn’t write. We’ll figure something out.
I’m watching the classic Doctor Who series, because someone wanted me to watch the new series. Or something. I’ve been doing it so long, I’m not sure on how it all came about.
I’m up through Season 23 now. That’s Colin Baker’s second full season as The Doctor. It’s also his last. BBC would fire him after the season ended.
Before we get to all that, though, let’s take a quick look at Season 23.
Rumors were that BBC had canceled the series after Season 22. In fact, they moved it back to a Fall schedule for budgetary reasons. That allowed them to go an entire fiscal year without the expense of a Doctor Who season.
Besides the return to the Fall, Season 23 was a little different. The format returned to 25-minute episodes, after going 45 minutes per episode the previous year. However, they didn’t increase the number of episodes. During the first six seasons, there had been 40-45 episodes per season. That schedule took its toll on both William Hartnell and Patrick Traughton, who both lasted around three seasons each in the role of The Doctor. Since Season Seven, there had usually been around 25 episodes per season. That may have been why Jon Pertwee stayed for five seasons, and Tom Baker for seven. Peter Davison only left after three because he was following Patrick Traughton’s example of three and done. Traughton had been The Doctor that Davison grew up watching, and was, to him, The Doctor.
With the extended episodes in Season 22, the number of episodes was cut back, making the actual show content consistent with what had been the norm since Season Seven. However, when they went back to 25-minute episodes in Season 23, they left the number of episodes as the contracted number. Season 23 ran 14 episodes.
Season 23 was also a single story, The Trial of a Time Lord. The trial used three stories as evidence in the trial, then added a fourth story to wrap up the trial. While the entire season was considered a single 14-episode serial, the various phases of the trial consist of stand-alone stories that could have aired outside of the framework of the trial.
The Doctor was on trial for meddling. Yes, that was how the Season Six serial, The War Games ended, which concluded with a trial by Time Lords, and The Doctor being sentenced to be stranded on Earth as Jon Pertwee.
The show played it up as him being tried for it again, violating our double jeopardy standard. However, all of the evidence used Colin Baker’s likeness as The Doctor, so it was actually a second trial for The Doctor continuing to interfere with time and worlds in space.
The second story in the trial, known as Mindwarp (4 episodes) — although that was not officially the name of the story — included the death of Peri (Nicola Bryant). That storyline was changed in the final story, The Ultimate Foe (2 episodes), with Peri’s death being said to have been altered records. According to one report, Nicola Bryant filmed her final scene for Mindwarp thinking that her character had been killed off by having her brain removed. She was said to have been unhappy with the in-season retcon of that. Didn’t stop her from taking money for appearing in officially licensed (and considered canon) audio programs years later.
A new companion, Melanie Bush (Bonnie Langford), commonly called “Mel,” was introduced with no fanfare in Terror of the Vervoids (4 episodes). It was presented as testimony from the future, after she had joined The Doctor in his travels.
The trial concluded with the surprise that the prosecutor, known as The Valeyard, was actually a future incarnation of The Doctor. The Master (Anthony Ainley), who appeared in, but not as, The Ultimate Foe (2 episodes), was conspiring with The Valeyard, and called him “an amalgamation of the darker side of the Doctor’s nature”, adding that he came into being somewhere between The Doctor’s “twelfth and final incarnations.” Along with the High Council of Gallifrey, The Master and The Valeyard were covering up a massive crime by convicting The Doctor, sentencing our hero to death, with The Valeyard gaining all of The Doctor’s remaining regenerations. Or something.
Anyway, The Master turned the tables on The Valeyard, but ended up allowing The Doctor to escape and defeat The Master. The High Council was overthrown, The Valeyard escaped, and everything went back to normal.
Except it didn’t.
Because of the complaints against the show for its violence, the head of BBC programming wanted to completely overhaul the show, including casting a new actor as The Doctor.
None of that was known when Season 23 ended. As far as Colin Baker knew, he would be back in the TARDIS the next season. But, it was not to be. He offered to appear in the full season, with a regeneration at the end, but BBC wanted to begin with a regeneration, and offered him one serial of the next season. That would have caused him to miss other work with little return, so he declined.
Let me finish the Colin Baker years by saying that I wasn’t at all unhappy with his portrayal as The Doctor. However, he had the shortest run of any actor up to this time (December 1986). His character had one season to settle in before the disruption of a trial, then he was fired. I think had he remained in the role longer, he would have grown on me more. Despite the firing, Baker reprised the role in official audio plays in the years since.
Oh, there is an interesting story on how they handled the regeneration from The Doctor (6.0) to The Doctor (7.0) in the next season, without Colin Baker’s participation. But, we’ll save that for Season 24.