Gettin’ ready for the new MST3K

You knew it was coming back on the 14th, right?

[The YouTube]

Yep, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is back — or will be back, really soon. Like a week and a half. Not even that long. On the 14th. So, yeah, soon.

Are you ready? I’m not. But I’m getting ready.

First, I need to subscribe to Netflix. I don’t ever watch Netflix, what with Hulu and iTunes and Amazon and TiVo and everything. I had Netflix, but never watched it, so I stopped paying for it. Plus they ticked me off about something, but I don’t remember just what. Anyway, I’ll need to subscribe to Netflix, since that’s where you can watch it.

Also, I thought about watching the old episodes again, but I watch the occasional episode every week anyway, so I’m not doing that. I actually did that before, back in 2011 & 2012. I started at the beginning, with the KTMA episodes. You can’t buy them, but you can find them if you look hard enough. Honestly, unless you have those on a bucket list, it’s like a pre-season football game. It doesn’t really satisfy, but you can see them training and growing and working the kinks out. Some of the host segment are really good, so good they were redone for the national series. If you want to read my reviews of the KTMA episodes, start here.

If you want to start with the official Season One, start here. I watched them in the original airdate order, which is slightly different than most episode lists you see. It only makes a difference in a couple of places but the first season has one of those places.

If you want to just look at the overall review of all the episodes, videos, and what-not, try this link. Use the sidebar to go to particular ones you want. Or, just watch them in order (if you own them or can find them) and see if you think about them like I do.

Anyway, what I’ve been doing that’s MST3K related is finding the original uncut, unedited, un-MSTied versions of the movies and shorts that aired and watching them. Why? I dunno. Maybe to see what the MST3K crew had to go through. Maybe just to say I did. That last one seems more likely, knowing me like I do.

But what about you? What are you doing to get ready for the relaunch of MST3K?

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Doctor Who fans, you knew I’d mention this…

DoctorBasilOkay, Doctor Who fans, you knew I’d mention this. The accompanying image is where The Doctor told Osgood, “Basil.”

Now, if you’re not a fan of the show, you won’t care. If you’re a fan, but haven’t seen the episode that aired this past weekend, well, *SPOILERS*


If you saw the episode, you saw that The Doctor told Osgood that his first name was “Basil.”

(Oh, and shameless plug for Larynn’s review of the episode over at Doctor Who LaB.)

Now, who among you were actually surprised when The Doctor said his name was Basil? Did you really think he would say “Frank” or “Harvey” or “Sarah” or “Mr. Right” or “Spacemonkey” or “Lactose the Intolerant” or “Keln.” Not that those aren’t good names. They’re perfectly fine names. But, for The Doctor, does any name fit more than Basil? Okay, maybe Spacemonkey. But, really, when you think Doctor Who don’t you really think “Basil?”

Of course you do. And so does Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi and everyone else who works on the show or watches the show.

I’m unsure whether to say “thank you” or “you’re welcome.” Either will do.

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Twilight Zone Trivia

One of these is not like the others. Only a true Twilight Zone fan will know which. I knew right from the start. But, do you?

[The YouTube]

By the way, if you have to guess, you’ll probably not get it right. But, if you know, you know. I’ll give you until tonight.

Okay, if you want a hint (another one; yes, you already have one), it happened on the show three times, but only once in this video. That ought to be a useless enough hint.

UPDATE: The answer is in the comments.

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Doctor Who – Epilogue

TheDoctor13sAs I watched all the episodes of the Classic Doctor Who show, I wrote my thoughts down. Then, when I was done, I mulled over going ahead and watching the newer stuff. That meant watching The Movie, and Paul McGann’s Doctor. So, I did. Had to buy it, sight unseen.

Eh. McGann himself was okay, but I didn’t like The Doctor being involved with a companion. Sure, there’s no question that The Doctor and Ramona had a thing going on, but that was off-screen. The show wasn’t about that, it was about Adventures In Time And Space. I loved that Sylvester McCoy opened the movie as The Doctor. He never explained how he had destroyed Skaros but then was able to travel to Skaros and get The Master’s body.

And, they should have had Anthony Ainley reprise the role of The Master for the opening. Or at least used his image from clips and paid him for that. Nothing wrong with Eric Roberts’ portrayal.

And, after watching The Movie, I watched the other episodes (the newer ones, from 2005 on) and specials. And Webisodes.

Yeah, it’s okay. But, there are things I didn’t like. And, me being me, I’m gonna tell you what I didn’t like. I’ll assume you have seen the newer episodes, and specials, and webisodes, up to and including Peter Capaldi’s Doctor asking Clara if she knew how to fly the TARDIS.

The Doctor and companions being more than simple companions? Don’t like it. Maybe that’s why I really like the dynamic with The Doctor and Donna. She is truly a friend of The Doctor. The relationship was more like The Doctor (2.0) and Jamie. That worked well. And The Doctor and Donna worked well.

Rose? Not a fan. Even her surprise appearances don’t thrill me. The Brigadier’s occasional returns were treats. Rose’s? Not so much. Rose should’ve ended up with Mickey. Not the early Mickey, but the later Mickey.

Martha? Good companion, but the whole “feelings” thing was what ruined that. Her ending up with Mickey was good, for both of them. I’d like to see them return.

Donna? Love her. She’s up there with Sarah Jane Smith and Jamie McCrimmon in the whole hierarchy of companions.

Amy and Rory? Yeah, they’re good. But the best thing to come out of their time with The Doctor was *SPOILERS* River Song.

River Song? Yeah. More River Song. Somehow. That relationship with The Doctor worked. That’s wasn’t a young, silly girl having a crush on the Time Lord (Rose, Martha, etc), it was a real relationship that stood the test of Time And Space.

Clara? She’s alright. Let’s see how they wrap all that up. But so far, they’ve done okay with here.

Ah, but the show isn’t called The Companions. It’s Doctor Who. And, The Doctor is the star, or stars, of the show.

Paul McGann, I though was just okay. Least favorite Doctor for some time. His later surprise appearance in The Night of the Doctor brought him up in my eyes a bit. I want to see more of that Doctor.

Christopher Eccleston was okay. About the time I got used to him, he bailed on he show. Shoulda stuck around for three years, at least.

David Tennant? Yeah, he was alright. Probably coulda played The Doctor for a lot longer. Overall, liked him. Not Peter Davison or Patrick Troughton liked him. But, he was fine.

Matt Smith? His biggest problem was the scripts. The whole “Oh, I know what to do because myself from the future suddenly appeared and told me what to do” got a little old. It’s called the TARDIS, not the Deus Ex Machina.

Oh, and John Hurt? Yeah. He was alright. Particularly when he was keeping Matt Smith’s and David Tennant’s Doctors in line, he reminded me of William Hartnell keeping Jon Pertwee’s and Patrick Troughton’s Doctors in line.

Oh, yeah. The villains. Some of the classic villains returned, and it was hit and miss.

The Autons? They did those right. Those were truly the Autons chasing Rose and The Doctor around when the new series launched. With better makeup and effects. That gave me hope for the new series.

The Sontarans? I like what they did with them. Nothing. They are true to form. Better makeup, just as with the Autons. The Sontarans are definitely the same villains as in the old show. And that’s a good thing.

The Cybermen? Nope. Well, not the ones from the alternate universe. They did have the ones from Mondas, the real ones, appear later. I think. They looked kinda like the original Cybermen. So, I’ll just tell myself those are the real Cybermen and be happy.

Daleks? Nope. Daleks can’t fly. That ruined everything. It was a shock when they could elevate up stairs when taking on The Doctor (7.0). Now, they can suddenly fly? Nope. That’s wrong.

The Master? He’s been okay. Season Eight featured too much of The Master. When they scaled it back, it was wonderful to see him appear. Roger Delgado was fantastic, as was Anthony Ainley. I would like to have seen more of Derek Jacobi as The Master, but John Simm was good in the role. I want to see more of The Master. Once a season. Maybe twice, to throw us off.

New villains? Well, the Weeping Angels were kinda neat. But those fart aliens? Americans, I suppose. None of the other ones stand out, all these weeks after finishing the new series.

But, overall? Yeah, the new series is okay. Maybe Peter Capaldi’s Doctor will be a return to the Classic series. More actual story and less generic blowing stuff up.

I’m looking forward to the 8th season of the new series when it returns in August. So, maybe I do like the new series after all.

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Classic Doctor Who – The End

L-R: The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor

L-R: The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor

In December, I mentioned that I was thinking of watching all of the episodes of the classic Doctor Who series. I wrote:

…I’ve been hearing how great Doctor Who is. So, maybe I’ll watch that, I thought.

Just kidding. I had no desire to watch Doctor Who.

I remember Doctor Who from way back. Used to catch an occasional episode starring Tom Baker on PBS many years ago. I thought the whole thing was silly. Not Monty Python silly. Just silly.

But, I kept hearing about how great Doctor Who (the current version) was. So, I looked into it. And, I found out it wasn’t really a reboot, but a revival. They kept the original timeline in place, and began the 2005 series with the Ninth Doctor.

Mmmkay. Maybe this won’t be the JJ Adams-ing of Doctor Who. Maybe I would watch it.

Well, watch it I did. You see, I’m the kind of person that won’t pick something up in the middle. I want to go back to the beginning and get the full effect. So, I watched all the episodes.

That was hard to do. You see, many episodes from the first six seasons no longer exist. Since, with very rare exception, all the stories are multiple episodes (I’m calling those serials) there are some serials with one or more missing episodes. Additionally, ten of the first 49 serials are completely missing, with another 16 serials missing one or more episodes, but not all. In all, 97 episodes are missing from those first six seasons.

BBC animated eleven episodes, and used the still-existing soundtrack combined with stills and surviving video clips to reconstruct five others. Fans have still images, clips, and home movies to reconstruct the other 81 missing episodes. BBC has also done reconstructions of two entire serials as single episodes, but those are heavily edited.

So, with all that, plus with the episodes that exist on DVD, iTunes, or Amazon, I have now seen every episode of the classic Doctor Who.

I liked it.

The Doctor

The Doctor (William Hartnell)

William Hartnell is my favorite. He created the role. Or, the role was created for him. And, with him in the role, The Doctor was mysterious and definitely in charge. Plus, I’m the same age Hartnell was when the first episode was broadcast.

Patrick Troughton was a treat. He always livened up the screen. He reprised the role more times than any other actor who played The Doctor. Come to think of it, he might actually be my favorite.

Jon Pertwee was a joy. I didn’t remember him as The Doctor until I saw him as The Doctor. I don’t know, prior to this viewing, that I ever saw any of his episodes (and I suspect I did not) but I did recognize him as The Doctor. Somehow.

Tom Baker was everyone’s favorite. But not mine. Of course, he was the first actor I remember seeing in the role, but I didn’t always enjoy the show. That’s when the show got a little preachy.

Peter Davison, I liked. I didn’t remember much from his stint, but I did like many of his serials. He may be my second-favorite Doctor. Toss him, Troughton, and Hartnell into a hat (they all wore hats, get it?) and whichever name you pull out is my favorite.

Colin Baker was around the least of any of the actors that played The Doctor. He was in only 31 episodes over two full seasons, and one serial in another.

Sylvester McCoy was the one I knew the least, though he was in more episodes than Colin Baker. McCoy appeared in 42 episodes over three full (but short) seasons.

My Phone

Yes, I have a TARDIS case for my iPhone. Shut up.

Each one, during his time, was The Doctor. The companions were ever-changing, and despite the seven actors (eight, actually) that played the first seven incarnations of The Doctor, the lead character was the constant.

Oh, about the companions. My favorite? Well, Sarah Jane Smith. But, I also likes the group of Susan, Barbara, and Ian. Jamie wasn’t my favorite, but I didn’t dislike him at all, plus I can’t imagine The Doctor (2.0) without him. So, maybe Jamie is my second-favorite companion.

And Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, though he wasn’t actually a companion, was a regular on the show for some time. I liked him. A lot. Took some getting used to, but he’s definitely someone who was a joy to see return after his regular run ended. The others? Yeah, they were okay. I like the cute chicks the best. There were very few I didn’t like.

Who didn’t I like? Kamelion. K-9. I suppose I’m robotist. And, while a lot of people hated Mel, I didn’t. She was okay. Product of her times.


Was it a worthwhile experience? Yep. For me it was. I now understand the Doctor Who universe.

Should you watch them all? I don’t know. If you have Hulu Plus, you’ll find that as the largest online repository for streaming existing episodes. And, if you subscribe to Hulu Plus and want to check some out, like the early stuff, that’s a great place to do that. But, should you?

Well, if you have to ask, the answer is “no.” I’m not saying don’t watch them. What I’m saying is unless you want to watch them — really want to watch them — don’t.

But, if you do want to watch them, go ahead. You’ll enjoy it.

I’m glad I did this.

Addendum: Actually, I did more. I kept watching. And, even though this was The End, there is an Epilogue. Next week.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 26

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.


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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Classic Doctor Who Season 25

DoctorWhoSeason25Several week ago, I began watching the classic Doctor Who series. Several people told me I ought to watch the new series, saying I’d like it. So, I decided to watch the old series instead. I figured I’d watch a few episodes, get bored, and use that as an excuse to not watch the new series.

Hasn’t worked out that way. After a little bit, I became a fan of the show. The old show. Still haven’t, as of this writing, seen any of the new series. And, until I actually start watching any of the new series, I don’t know if I will. But, if I do, I’ll have the complete backstory.

I’m up to the last of the incarnations of The Doctor before the show was canceled. And, Season 25 is the next-to-last season of the classic series.

This season was just plain weird. If you remember the 1980s, you know that was a weird time. If you have ever watched British TV, you know it was weird. So, 1980s British TV? Weird2.

The season featured two of The Doctor’s most famous opponents: the Daleks and the Cybermen. Remembrance of the Daleks (4 episodes) shows the destruction of the Daleks home world, Skaro, which was the setting for the serial that introduced them, Season One’s The Daleks.

Remembrance of the Daleks has several references to the first serial of the show, Season One’s An Unearthly Child. It included action at Coal Hill School, where Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton worked before they began traveling with The Doctor. Additional action took place at the I.M. Forman (sic) junk yard at 76 Totter’s Lane, where An Unearthly Child had its opening scene. One character was expecting The Doctor to be an older, white-haired man. The episode took place in November 1963, on a Saturday, based on a scene that had a TV in the background, playing a BBC station break, that said “This is BBC Television, the time is quarter past five and Saturday viewing continues with an adventure in the new science fiction series Doc-” before the scene abruptly cut. Also, Ace picked up and opened a book on The French Revolution, similar to what Susan did in the first episode of An Unearthly Child.

Ace reads a book on The French Revolution at Coal Hill School, November 23, 1963

Ace reads a book on The French Revolution at Coal Hill School, November 23, 1963, in Season 25’s Remembrance of the Daleks

Susan reads a book on The French Revolution at Coal Hill School, November 23, 1963.

Susan reads a book on The French Revolution at Coal Hill School, November 23, 1963, in Season One’s An Unearthly Child.

Silver Nemesis (3 episodes) featured the Cybermen, who were responsible for The Doctor’s death (and regeneration) in Season Four’s The Tenth Planet. Silver Nemesis aired on the 25th anniversary of the very first Doctor Who episode, giving the “silver” an additional meaning.

The show’s silver anniversary serial also featured an appearance by none other than the most famous Doctor Who fan, Her Royal Majesty, Elizabeth II, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, and Defender of the Faith. Okay, it was some actress who was made up to look like her. But I had you there for a second, didn’t I?

There were reports that the show runners attempted to get the Earl of Wessex (Prince Edward) to appear on the show. The royal family responded that it would not be appropriate. So, they made up some woman (Mary Reynolds) to look like the Queen, and had her out walking her corgis.

The other two serials in the season were just plain weird. The Happiness Patrol (3 episodes) featured a lead female villain that was supposed to be a parody of Margaret Thatcher (yeah, more left-wing British TV stuff). It also featured pink-haired women running around killing people who were unhappy. And a walking … thing … made of candy that was the official executioner. Or something.

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (4 episodes) featured a galactic circus, weird clowns, a rapping ringmaster, a werewolf, and other such nonsense. Those wacky Brits.

Yes, the one with the pink-hairs and the one with the clowns were weird. Just plain weird. But, the Daleks and Cybermen ones were okay. Kinduva mixed bag for the show’s penultimate season.

The classic series concludes with Season 26. Hulu and iTunes are locked and loaded.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 24

DoctorWhoLogo24I’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.


The Time Bus

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.


Pearl’s Van

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.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 23


The Doctor and The Valeyard

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.

New companion Mel with The Doctor

New companion Mel with The Doctor

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.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 22

TheTwoDoctors-2Season 22 of the classic Doctor Who series marked a couple of changes in the show. BBC returned it to once-weekly, but increased the length of each episode from 25 minutes to 45 minutes. Keeping in mind that putting two 25-minute episodes together, removing the opening and closing credits from the middle, and omitting the cliff-hanger and recap, meant that each 45-minute episode contained almost exactly the same amount of show content.

The season consisted of six serials comprising 13 episodes, or what would have been six serials and 26 episodes. Looking ahead, I saw that the series would return to 25-minute episodes the next season.

There was no cast change in this season. Colin Baker had assumed the role of The Doctor in the previous season, and his companion, Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant) would remain the entire season. This is the first time since Season Eight that there was no introduction or farewell for either The Doctor or any companion during the season. In every other season, at least one companion or an actor playing The Doctor had a first or last episode.

Around this time, there were movements in the UK opposed to violent television shows. Doctor Who was one of the shows targeted. And, there was a lot of violence in the show. Tegan’s character had left The Doctor, complaining of all the violence, so the show did acknowledge that. But what did they do about it? Why, they stepped it up a notch.

The serial Attack of the Cybermen (2 episodes) featured Cybermen killing people with their bare hands, something that was not common on British television. The attack by The Doctor (6.0) on Peri in Colin Baker’s first serial was roundly criticized, because it was consider so shocking to the audience. Attack of the Cybermen also featured the return of a villainous henchman, Lytton, who had worked for the Daleks in the previous season serial, Resurrection of the Daleks. By the conclusion of the serial, he was redeemed, and The Doctor regretting misjudging him in the end.

Vengeance on Varos (2 episodes) reminded me of The Running Man in a way. The residents of the planet are entertained by a steady stream of violence, torture, and execution. There are a couple of characters that don’t interact with any other, just watch all the happenings on the TV, and comment. Kinda like a Greek Chorus. Vengeance on Varos introduced the worm critter Sil, who would show up again.

The Master made a return appearance in The Mark of the Rani (2 episodes). They referenced his last appearance and apparent death at the hands of The Doctor (5.0), but said he wasn’t dead after all then went on about their business. Oh, and the Rani (Kate O’Mara, who died in March) is another evil renegade Time Lord. There are a lot of them. The Master, The War Chief, The Monk, The Rani, Morbius, Barusa … well, let’s just say there are a shipload of them.

We get treated to evidence of a story that never aired. Timelash (2 episodes) makes mention that The Doctor (3.0) and Jo Grant had visited the planet Karfel before. In fact, portraits of The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo (Katy Manning) are seen. Oh, and H. G. Wells shows up.

The violence continues up through the final serial, Revelation of the Daleks (2 episodes), in which there are disembodied heads, limbs blown off, and general mayhem. There are Daleks, after all. Oh, and “synthesis of food protein is people!”

The season was so-so. Nothing against Colin Baker as The Doctor. I thought he was fine. And, the violence wasn’t an issue for me. I was a fan of Breaking Bad, after all. No, it’s just that the stories were a little tiresome. But not all of them.

The Two Doctors (3 episodes), which was the fourth of the six serials to air, was a treat. Patrick Troughton reprised his role as The Doctor (2.0), along with Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon. I liked the opening effect of the serial, which featured The Doctor (2.0) and Jamie in the TARDIS, and in black-and-white. The scene shifted to color, and the story got underway.

Two separate stories ran, featuring The Doctor (2.0) with Jamie, and The Doctor (6.0) with Peri. They eventually ran into each other, and saved everyone, defeating the Sontarans along the way.

The Doctor and The Doctor

The Doctor and The Doctor

The writer, Robert Holmes — who had contributed many characters and concepts to the series over the years — was a vegetarian and used the serial to promote the absence of meat in a diet. With a hammer. Over the top. At the conclusion, The Doctor and Peri adopted a vegetarian diet.

Still, it was a treat seeing Patrick Troughton as The Doctor again. It was his last appearance in the role, and he would die less than 25 months after the serial aired, at a science fiction convention in Columbus, Georgia.

There was one more aspect to Season 22 that was unusual. Airing as part of the BBC series Jim’ll Fix It, a short adventure featured The Doctor, Tegan (Janet Fielding), and a child named Gareth Jenkins defeating the Sontarans. It was presented as a short episode of Doctor Who, complete with opening credits. The ten-minute presentation was part of the show where Jimmy Savile make children’s wishes come true. He’d “fix it” so things they wanted could happen. Young Gareth Jenkins was a fan of the show and had his own outfit that resembled that of The Doctor (6.0).

By the way, Jimmy Savile was a pedophile and used his position as host of children’s programming to gain access to children. Most of the reports of his perversion came to light after his death in 2011.

And, on that sorry note, we’ll leave Season 22 behind, and head to Season 23.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 21

IMG_0180For a while now, I’ve been watching all the classic Doctor Who episodes. I’ve had several people tell me how much I’d like watching Doctor Who and that I should watch it. So, I said I would. Only, they were talking about the current series that started up on 2005 with a bunch of pretty boys as The Doctor. So, I said I’d watch them. Only, since it’s not a reboot (like Battlestar Galactica) but a continuation years later with the previous series as history (like Star Trek spin-offs), I decided to watch the older shows first.

Well, that’s taking a while. I started with the first episode of the first season from November 1963, and am now up to Season 21, which originally aired from January to March 1984. And, unlike the current series, the original episodes of the classic series were 30 minutes long. Actually, a little under 25 minutes each. Season 21 has 24 episodes, making up 7 serials. Oh, and what I said about the 25-minute episodes? That’s mostly true. One of the 2-part serials from Season 21 had 45-minute episodes. I read that the BBC did that for the Olympics. I don’t know who The Doctor competed against in the 1984 Olympics. Probably that hot chick from V, the car from Knight Rider, and Manimal.

This season was also the last with Peter Davison as The Doctor. Patrick Troughton had told Davison to not stay in the role longer than three years, much like he had done when he had the role from 1966 to 1969.

The season was rather lackluster, up until the next to the last serial. I’m not the only one to think so. Davison himself has said that the writing of many of the episodes during his tenure was sub-par. He felt that the writers weren’t fans of the show and were just churning out stories. And, he was pretty much right.

The first serial of the season, Warriors of the Deep (4 episodes), continued the pattern from the previous season of returning villains. The Silurians and the Sea Devils showed up, and, despite The Doctor wanting to help them, as he had in two previous serials, they were doomed.

I did find one interesting aspect from The Awakening (2 episodes). Tegan (Janet Fielding) was, as a plot point, assigned the role of the May Queen in some throwback town in England. Led Zeppelin fans might be wondering if there was a bustle in her hedge row. There wasn’t. And, there was no spring clean for the May Queen. To her alarm, she was to be burned. The Doctor saved her.

Davros and the Daleks made a return appearance in Resurrection of the Daleks, the serial with the two 45-minute episodes. A not-so-interesting story involving cloning. It did feature the departure of Tegan, who said she was tired of all the killing. It also featured a near-death scene for The Doctor, in which he (and we) saw all of his previous companions, from Susan, Barbara, and Ian, all the way up to the recently-departed Nyssa. Except for Leela. Word is that she was omitted by mistake. We also got to see images of the previous incarnations of The Doctor. But, apart from that little trip down memory lane, it was another so-so serial.

Planet of Fire (4 episodes) saw the introduction of Perpugilliam Brown (Nicola Bryant) as a new companion. She went by Peri. Saved everyone a lot of time. It also saw the return, and apparent departure, of The Master. Anthony Ainsley’s contract was up at the end of the season and this serial was to be the end of that character. It also was the last episode of Turlough (Mark Strickson), who I never took much of a shine to. Nothing wrong with the actor, but the character seemed like a long-term guest character. Strickson thought so too, and decided to not return after the season ended. That also saw the end of Kamelion, who the writers seemed to have forgotten about since the character’s introduction the previous season. One actual reason the character wasn’t used was that some stories were prepared before the introduction of Kamelion. The other reason is that the prop’s builder died in a boat accident, and didn’t leave good documentation on how to make the android work. Really. So, they finally killed Kamelion off. As much as you can kill a robot.

Peter Davison’s last serial as The Doctor was actually a good one. The primary reason was the return of Robert Holmes to the stable of writers of the show. Holmes had written for the show from the Patrick Troughton years up through the Tom Baker years, including serving as script editor for the show. After he left, the level of writing was generally poor, although some good serials were produced.

At the end of The Caves of Androzani (4 episodes), The Doctor regenerated, having sacrificed his life to save Peri’s. He gave the last of the bat’s milk to her — no I’m not making this up — so she could recover from some deadly illness they both had. The Doctor then regenerated and ended up looking a lot like an actor named Colin Baker (no relation to Tom).

Remember when I said I had seen some Tom Baker and Peter Davison episodes back in the 1970s and 1980s, including the Baker to Davison regeneration? Well, I was wrong about that. It was the Davison to Baker regeneration I had seen. You see, when I saw Baker to Davison, I thought, that’s not how I remember it. But then a later scene as The Doctor 5.0 was recovering, made me think I had seen the regeneration, fallen asleep, and woke up on that later scene, making them, in my mind and memory, one related scene.

Turns out the Davison to Baker regeneration was exactly how I remembered it going. So, it must have been Davison’s last scene, not his first scene, that I had seen all those years ago. Now, I can sleep at night, knowing that’s now straightened out.

One other thing. The Doctor 6.0 tried to kill Peri early in The Twin Dilemma (4 episodes). The idea was to make us think The Doctor was going nuts and having a difficult regeneration. Having him collapse or call people by the wrong name wasn’t enough, I suppose. A little homicidal mania was needed, in the writer’s eyes. It wasn’t needed.

Now, after ten seasons (seven for Tom Baker and three for Peter Davison), I’m back to seeing episodes that I know I had never seen before. Though I didn’t remember any of the other episodes, except bits and pieces, I won’t have these bits and pieces any more.

It’s all uncharted waters for me from here on out. And, that means only five more seasons. That’s when the classic Doctor Who series ended. I suppose I’m about to find out why the show ended. On to Season 22.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 20

FiveDoctors - 1It doesn’t seem like it’s been 20 weeks that I’ve been spending time watching classic Doctor Who episodes. But I’m up to Season 20, and, well, you do the math.

Season 20 was a treat. The actual season consisted of six serials, made up of 22 episodes. BBC was still broadcasting the show twice a week (like they used to do Batman in the U.S. on ABC back in 1966), so the season only ran from early January to mid-March 1983.

But, late in the year, another episode aired. It was actually not part of Season 20 nor Season 21. It was a 90-minute special called The Five Doctors. More about that in a bit.

The season began with the return of Tegan, who had been abandoned by The Doctor at the end of the previous season. In Arc of Infinity (4 episodes), Tegan was brought to The Doctor by Omega, who was making a return appearance. Other past villains returned in the show’s 20th season, including the Mara (who appeared in Season 19’s Kinda), the Black Guardian (who first appeared in Season 16’s The Armageddon Factor), and The Master (who has been battling The Doctor since Season Eight).

Villains weren’t the only characters to reappear. Brigadier (retired) Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart appeared in Mawdryn Undead (4 episodes) and helped battle the Black Guardian. Mawdryn Undead featured the story advancing in two different time lines jumping from 1977 to 1983. I think they took the TARDIS into the future and stole the two time lines idea from Lost.

Mawdryn Undead also features The Doctor explicitly stating that he can only regenerate 12 times, which means he can have 13 lives. He also says he has regenerated four times already. Remember at the end of Season Six, when the Time Lords forced The Doctor (2.0, Patrick Troughton) to change his appearance (3.0, Jon Pertwee)? Well, I had wondered if that truly was a regeneration. Well, it was. It cost The Doctor a life. Which means they executed him. They ended his second life, and brought on his third. Pretty severe stuff.

That serial also introduced Vislor Turlough as a new companion of The Doctor. Initially, he was working with the Black Guardian, although reluctantly. He became one of The Doctor’s companions at the end of the serial, although he continued to work with the Black Guardian during the next two serials. At the end of Enlightenment (4 episodes), the finale of the Black Guardian trilogy, he actually helped defeat the Black Guardian, and was freed to travel with The Doctor.

Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) left the series at the end of Terminus (4 episodes), the middle serial of the Black Guardian trilogy, in order to work with with the disease colony that was a part of the main story. Behind the scenes, the character of Nyssa wasn’t owned by the BBC, and they had to pay royalties when the character appeared. They had tried to write the character out several times before, in order to not have to pay the royalties, but Peter Davison intervened, because he liked the character so much. I’ve found nothing to indicate that Sarah Sutton was unhappy with her role.

The highlight of the season was actually many months after the end of the season. Since the season ended in the middle of March of 1983, it was over eight months until the show’s 20th anniversary in November. A 90-minute special, The Five Doctors, was broadcast. Interesting thing, though, it aired on the show’s 20th anniversary, 23 November, 1963, on PBS in the United States. In the United Kingdom, it aired on 25 November on BBC.

Though he had died in 1975, William Hartnell was seen in The Five Doctors in a cold opening. A clip from his farewell speech to Susan from Season Two’s The Dalek Invasion of Earth was used:

One day, I shall come back — yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.

During the actual episode, the role of The Doctor 1.0 was played by Richard Hurndall in his only appearance in the series. Hurndall died around five months after The Five Doctors aired.

From left to right: The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor

From left to right: The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor, The Doctor. Not shown: The Doctor

Hurndall did an excellent job as The Doctor, I thought. His portrayal was reminiscent of Hartnell’s appearances as The Doctor, plus the “Dandy and a Clown” attitude from Hartnell’s last appearance in Season Ten’s The Three Doctors.

The special also featured another return appearances of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, as well as appearances by Sarah Jane Smith and Susan, both of whom were kidnapped along with The Doctor, The Doctor, and The Doctor — but not The Doctor.

The previous four incarnations were all kidnapped by

Spoiler for LERT
Barusa, president of the Time Lords, who was seeking immorality. The Doctor (4.0, Tom Baker) was trapped in a time eddy, or something, since Tom Baker refused to appear in the episode. They accomplished his kidnapping by using scenes from the unaired and uncompleted serial Shada. The other incarnations were kidnapped by using scenes specifically filmed for the special. The kidnapping of the companions were all shown on-screen, with the exception of Susan’s.

Other previous companions also appeared in the special. Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury), Liz Shaw (Caroline John), and Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) all appeared without their kidnapping being shown. In their cases, though, The Doctor realized they were not really there, but were images placed as obstacles to The Doctor’s path. Susan, though, was actually there, though her kidnapping wasn’t shown.

The Cybermen and the Daleks also made brief appearances, but were not significantly involved in the plot, other than as minor obstacles to overcome. The Master also appeared, but as an attempted ally of The Doctor. The Time Lords sent him to the Death Zone to assist The Doctor. At the end, of course, he tried to defeat The Doctor.

It was good to see The Doctor, The Doctor, and The Doctor in action again, and unfortunate that we didn’t see much of The Doctor. But, they did help The Doctor defeat Barusa and save the day.

On to Season 21, and another Doctor.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 19

Season19I started watching the classic Doctor Who episodes, beginning with the very first episode from November, 1963. As I mentioned earlier, it was because others kept telling me that I ought to watch Doctor Who and how great Doctor Who was and that I’d really love Doctor Who. They were talking about the current show, that began airing in 2005. Since the new series was considered a continuation of the original show, and not a reboot (like the 2004 Battlestar Galactica), I decided to watch the show. But not pick up in the middle. Rather, I’d start at the beginning.

Of course, that wasn’t what they meant. And, of course, I didn’t care. I’ll watch the new show. When I get to it. After I’m done with the 26 seasons of the classic series. And I’m up to Season 19, Peter Davison’s first season as The Doctor. There were seven serials, totaling 26 episodes.

The Davison era got off to a rocky start. The serial that was planned as his first adventure was shelved at the last minute, and the script wasn’t ready by the time filming was due. So, they produced the second serial, Four to Doomsday (4 episodes), first. They first serial, Castrovalva (4 episodes), was the fourth produced, after they finally finished the script. The broadcast schedule also changed from a weekly BBC broadcast on Saturday to a twice-weekly, weekday showings.


Finally, “The Doctor”

The first episode of Castrovalva began with a cold opening, the first time that happened in the series. And, it ended in a different way than every previous episode: there was no one credited as “Doctor Who.” Rather, Davison wanted to be credited as “The Doctor,” and was. Which is how many Doctor Who fans prefer it. It was also the conclusion of a trilogy with The Master. He was brought back and gained a new body in the first of the trilogy, the penultimate episode of Season 18. He was responsible for The Doctor’s death in that season’s final serial. Castrovalva concluded the trilogy, with The Doctor defeating The Master, leaving him to die in the destruction of the city. Of coure, The Master returned at the end of Season 19.

Kinda (4 episodes) was kinda boring. Little weird. Lot of Buddhist words and names in it. If I was Buddhist, I might have cared. Instead, it was just weird, with dream worlds and giant snake puppets. The lame story wasted a great performance by Academy Award nominee Richard Todd. His was the only interesting character. Maybe the blind lady or the little telepathic girl. No, it was Todd’s performance as a blustery, British military type that was best. Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) had nothing to do in the story. They actually wrote it before they cast three companions, so they had Nyssa faint and spend the entire series in the TARDIS recovering. Lucky her.

The Visitation (4 episodes) saw the destruction of the Sonic Screwdriver, which made its first appearance in Season Five’s Fury from the Deep. It also fulfilled an historical event by having the events in the serial start the Great Fire of London (1666), which is often credited with helping end the Great Plague, which had killed one-sixth of London residents.

The Doctor’s new outfit, which looked a lot like a cricket uniform, fit right in when he was invited to play cricket in Black Orchid (2 episodes). That episode, though not generally thought of as an historical episode, had no science fiction elements, apart from the TARDIS, The Doctor, and his companions. The story itself was a murder mystery set in 1925 Cranleigh (about 30 miles south of Heathrow).

The serial also contained the first instance of the “Doctor Who?” running joke in the Davison era. The running joke, by the way, usually involves The Doctor being introduced as “The Doctor” and another person asking “Doctor Who?”

There were many variations on this prior to Season 19. The first instance was actually a reversal of the joke. It happened in the very first episode of the series, An Unearthly Child. Ian, knowing that The Doctor was Susan’s grandfather, and since Ian and Barbara knew her as Susan Foreman, called him “Doctor Foreman.” The Doctor responded with “Eh? Doctor Who? What’s he talking about?” That line was actually ad-libbed by William Hartnell.

In Season Three came one of my favorite instances of the joke. It happened in one of my least favorite serials, The Gunfighters. Needing to identify himself to Bat Masterson, The Doctor introduced himself as “Doctor Caligari.” Masterson asked, “Doctor Who?” to which The Doctor replied, “Yes, quite right?”


Adric kills the dinosaurs.

One bit of science that Doctor Who got right — well, not really right, but they has certain aspects right — was the K-T event. It was 1980 when Luis Alvarez, Walter Alvarez, Frank Asaro, and Helen Michel discovered the layer of iridium, suggesting an extraterrestrial source (iridium is rare on earth, but 100 times more common in space). It took a while before it was generally accepted. The serial Earthshock (4 episodes) concludes with a crash into the Earth that destroyed the dinosaurs. And, they were pretty close to the actual point where the K-T asteroid hit.

Oh, there was one other plot point: Adric was killed in the crash. While he wasn’t the first of The Doctor’s companions to die in the line of duty, he was the one who was with The Doctor the longest before he was killed. Katerina and Sarah Kingdom both died in Season One’s The Daleks’ Master Plan. Katerina had joined The Doctor at the end of the previous serial, and died in the 4th episode of The Daleks’ Master Plan, making a total of five episodes. While Sara Kingdom was in just one serial, she was in nine episodes. Adric was in 38 episodes as a companion, plus the 4-episode serial that introduced the character before he joined The Doctor on the TARDIS.

The season ended with the return of The Master in the 4-episode Time-Flight, which was kinda like The Odyssey of Flight 33 from the Twilight Zone, with a modern plane going back in time. Only, Time-Flight had an ending, and a happy one. Well, all except for Tegan. During the season, it was sort of a running joke that The Doctor kept trying to get her back to Heathrow and her job as a stewardess. So, when the adventure ended, and she was back at Heathrow, The Doctor left. Only, she wanted to stay with The Doctor and Nyssa.

Peter Davison’s second season, and The Doctor’s 20th — and a big event — are next.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 18

IMG_0098I’m been watching all the classic Doctor Who episodes, starting with the first episode that aired in November, 1963. I’m now on Season 18. And it started with something totally unexpected: a new theme. It’s an electronic version of the Ron Grainer theme. I’m a little disappointed by it. I had changed my ringtone to the original theme back in February, and now that electronic abomination is on my TV.

The starry background with the flashing lights were a shock to the system, too. You can tell this season aired during the days of disco.

The Doctor's new outfit

The Doctor’s new outfit

The Doctor got a new outfit, too. Still an overcoat and oversized scarf, but this is the burgundy-colored outfit. And, a question mark was introduced to The Doctor’s wardrobe, on his collar. And, of course, at the end of Season 18, we get a new Doctor, as Tom Baker leaves the show.

Three new companions are introduced during the season, and Romana and K-9 part company with The Doctor. Behind the scenes, Lalla Ward (Romana) left the show while living with Tom Baker. They married in December 1980, around the time her character was written out of the show. They divorced 16 months later. It wasn’t pretty.

The season had seven 4-episode serials for a total of 28 episodes. And it was the lowest-rated season in the history of the franchise. One episode ranked 170th for the week in the UK. Part of the low ratings was due to the rise of ITV in the UK. An American import, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century aired opposite Doctor Who.

The second serial of the season, Meglos (4 episodes), featured the return of Jacqueline Hill, who played Barbara Wright, a companion of of The Doctor (William Hartnell) in the show’s first two seasons. She played a different character, with no connection to the 1960s British schoolteacher character. She wasn’t the villain in the serial; she saved Romana’s life by sacrificing hers. The villain was … a cactus. Seriously. Which kind of explains the show’s low ratings during the season.

Jaqueline Hill returns, but not as Barbara Wright

Jaqueline Hill returns, but not as Barbara Wright

They did make the catcus capable of taking on other forms, including that of The Doctor. That allowed Tom Baker to play both the hero and the villain, as William Hartnell (in Season Three’s The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve) and Patrick Troughton (in Season Five’s The Enemy of the World) had done before.

Besides seeing Jaqueline Hill again, the other highlight of the serial was seeing one of the characters kick K-9. Bill Fraser, who played General Grugger, agreed to play the role only if he got to kick K-9. The show runners agreed. It was great.

Full Circle (4 episodes) introduced a new character, Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), to
the show. He’s from an alternate universe called E-Space. At the end of the serial, he stows away aboard the TARDIS. The Doctor and Romana don’t find out until half-way through the next serial.

State of Decay (4 episodes) was a much-delayed serial. This story, or an early version of it, was set to open Season 15. BBC canceled the story when they decided they didn’t want any vampire story taking away from their major production of Dracula they aired that year. Now, three seasons later, the story was reworked into the story of The Doctor’s and Romana’s travels into E-Space. As, when originally scripted, The Doctor only had a single companion (Leela, at the time), the second companion, Adric, had little to do in the story. It seems like he was an afterthought … because he wasn’t thought of to start with.

Romana and K-9 left at the end of the fifth serial of the season, Warriors’ Gate (4 episodes). She had been summoned back to Gallifrey before the TARDIS wound up in E-Space. Since she didn’t want to return there, and since The Doctor was going to consent to the the Time Lords’ demand that Romana be returned, she elected to stay behind to help free some people or some other hippie thing. K-9 stayed with her because of some damage that prevented him from functioning in normal space. Or something.

The Master made a return in The Keeper of Traken (4 episodes). He had the same, decaying body he had from the Season 14 serial, The Deadly Assassin. Well, different actor under the makeup, but you get the idea. And, at the end of The Keeper of Traken, he assumed the body of one of the characters, Tremas (Anthony Ainley). After The Master assumed the body of Tremas, he bore a strong resemblance to his previous incarnation, which was played by Roger Delgado. The character of Tremas looked nothing like Delgado, due to the makeup making the character appear much older than the actor (Ainley) was. All that to say they did a good job finally recasting The Master after Delgado’s death.

The Master returns, and gets a new body

The Master returns, and gets a new body

The Keeper of Traken also introduced the character of Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), who was daughter of Tremas. She didn’t join The Doctor in that serial, but in the subsequent serial, Logopolis (4 episodes), she joins The Doctor. Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding) also joins as a companion to The Doctor, after entering the TARDIS, thinking it was a Police Call Box.

Of course, Logopolis marks the end of Tom Baker as The Doctor. In a death scene stolen straight out of Star Trek: Genesis, The Doctor crawls across a metal scaffolding high above the ground to foil the villain’s plans before falling to his death. After his three companions run to where he fell, The Doctor regenerates, with the help of … The Doctor. Turns out a mysterious figure (The Watcher) following them around during the serial was actually a manifestation of The Doctor. When The Doctor (4.0) died, The Watcher appeared and merged with The Doctor, assisting with regeneration of The Doctor (5.0) (Peter Davison).

The serial, and the season, ended with two credits for “Doctor Who:” Tom Baker and Peter Davison. That’s not the first time there were two actors credited for the role — remember The Three Doctors from Season Ten? — but it is the first time an incoming Doctor was credited in an episode with a regeneration. Patrick Troughton wasn’t credited at the end of Season Four’s The Tenth Planet, and Tom Baker wasn’t credited at the end of Season 11’s Planet of the Spiders, despite each appearing on-screen as the newly regenerated Doctor. And, if you remember, Jon Pertwee wasn’t credited because he didn’t appear in Patrick Troughton’s last episode, Season Six’s The War Games.

So, Season 18 ends the Tom Baker years, and the Dish of the Day from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy begins his tenure. Funny thing. Even though I remember seeing some Doctor Who episodes starring Tom Baker on PBS many years ago, none of the stories that I’ve watched over these last few weeks ring a bell. It was like I had never seen them. I do think I’ll remember them now.


Season 19 is next.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 17

DoctorWhoSeason17I’m watching all the classic Doctor Who episodes. I began with the first season, from 1963. I’m not up to Season 17, which aired in late 1979 into 1980. The season is a milestone of sorts. With this season, Tom Baker began his sixth season as The Doctor, exceeding the number of seasons Jon Pertwee played the character.

The season also saw a new Romana. She’s a Time Lord (Time Lady?), remember. And, she began the season by regenerating. They never explained why. The previous incarnation (Mary Tamm) looked perfectly good to me. But, Miss Tamm wasn’t happy with the direction of her character. She was initially reluctant to assume the role in Season 16, expressing concerns that she’d be the typical damsel in distress. She was told that her character was also a Time Lord (Time Lady?), and would be an equal to The Doctor. Of course, she ended up being a damsel in distress. And, she left the show.


Rejected Romana 1

Mary Tamm later said that she’d have gladly filmed a regeneration scene, if they liked. They didn’t, and in a departure from The Doctor’s regenerations, Romana actually tried on various appearances. Initially, she took the appearance of Princess Astra, from Season 16’s The Armageddon Factor, but The Doctor insisted she couldn’t just go around copying people. She then took the appearance of a short purple woman, then a mature belly dancer, then a very tall woman. The Doctor finally agreed on the Astra appearance, and Lella Ward joined the cast as Romana.

The season had production problems late in the year. The final serial planned, Shada (6 episodes) was never finished due to a strike. The strike actually delayed the completion of the serial, but, by the time it was resolved, BBC decided to not complete the serial so that resources could be directed toward completing Christmas programming for the network.

Douglas Adams’s influence as Script Editor was evident in the first serial of the season, Destiny of the Daleks (4 episodes). Early on, The Doctor is trapped beneath some rubble, and Romana goes for help. To pass the time, he pulls out a paperback copy of Oolon Caluphid’s Origins of the Universe. In case you forgot, or never knew, Oolon Caluphid is a character from Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In the Hitchhiker’s Guide, though, that particular book isn’t mentioned.


Rejected Romana 2

This does bring three fictional universes together. Doctor Who brought in references to the Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass series of films, radio plays, and books as far back as Season Seven. That was never official, mostly because Kneale disliked Doctor Who, but still evident in conversation. The integration with the Hitchhiker’s Guide universe is with that franchise creator’s blessing, of course.

There is a continuity problem with the second serial, City of Death (4 episoded). At the end of Season 16, it was established that The Doctor had installed a randomizer in the TARDIS, so he didn’t know where he’d end up, and so the Black Guardian couldn’t know. Only, in City of Death, he sets the coordinates for Florence in 1505, to meet Leonardo da Vinci.

Another is Romana’s age. She gave one age (140) to The Doctor at the start of Season 16, and another age (125) to a character in the show. Just goes to show you how women always lie about their age. I hope The Doctor doesn’t get arrested by Gallifrey police on morals charges and have to tell them “But, she told me she was 140.”

Then there’s the origins of life on Earth. The Doctor visits Earth 400 million years ago, and mentions that life is about to form. He was off by a factor of nearly 10, since there is evidence of life on Earth as long as 3.8 billion years ago.


Rejected Romana 3

I did enjoy a couple of cameos in that serial. John Cleese played a man who thinks the TARDIS is a work of art in a museum. His companion is played by Eleanor Bron, who, despite her long resume, will, to me, always be Princess Ahme from Help!

Stars Wars fans would recognize Julian Glover, who played the serial’s main villain, Scaroth, as General Veers from The Empire Strikes Back. Of course, he’s had a long, successful career and you really should know him as Julian Glover, not as General Veers or the bad guy from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, or the dude from Game of Thrones, or the bad guy from that James Bond movie with the Sheena Easton song, or any other particular role. He’s a good villain, but that’s because he’s a good actor.

Oh, yeah, Catherine Schell was in that serial, too. She’s hot in anything. Well, not as that hairy woman from Space 1999, but anything else.

The strike-shortened season ended with a serial based on the Greek story of Theseus, who slew the Minotaur. The Horns of Nimon (4 episodes) features a critter that looked like a space minotaur. It also had youths to be sacrificed, and a maze.

The serial that was supposed to be the season finale was Shada (6 episodes), but, as mentioned, it never aired. In 1992, the BBC filmed a narrative around the story, with Tom Baker. This was 11 years after he left the role of The Doctor, and nearly three years after the BBC stopped broadcasting the show.


Tom Baker filling in missing scenes on Shada

The episodes, with Baker’s narration was released on VHS, and later on DVD (it is still available on DVD), but that’s it. The DVD is still available for purchase.

The story, written by Douglas Adams, is so-so. A little convoluted — but what by Douglas Adams wasn’t — with typical non-realistic “Doctor Who science,” such as a carbon dating of a book determining an age of 20,000 years. Since carbon dating is based on the decay of carbon-14 and its relationship to carbon-12, you can’t have an increase in carbon-14 by taking an item back in time. It would measure the length of the items’s relative time in existence, not its age from any known point. Now, I’m not opposed to there being a way to determine that an item is from the future, but carbon dating isn’t it. Douglas Adams knew better. And, as both script author and series story editor, this never should have happened.

Oh, well. Maybe I was just expecting more, based on how much I enjoyed Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Then, I didn’t care a whole lot for Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. Or disappointed.

Although I did see some Doctor Who episodes with Tom Baker on PBS many years ago, so far, I can’t say with certainty that I remember any of them. And, I’ve now completed the sixth of Tom Baker’s seven seasons as The Doctor. I do recall knowing about Daleks, and since the Daleks only made two appearances during the Tom Baker years, I had to have seen at least part of one of the serials. But, I just don’t remember it.

Strange, that the years for which the classic show is known, the Tom Baker years, are years where I don’t remember them well, and aren’t particularly enjoying now. William Hartnell’s years were great. Patrick Troughton’s were enjoyable. Jon Pertwee’s were, too, although I didn’t like the idea that he was Earth-bound most of the time.

Well, there’s one more Tom Baker season to perhaps bring him up from his current standing of my 4th favorite Doctor. On to Season 18.

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