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Four Sixth Doctor stories

Well, much to be said about yesterday's episode - though I won't say it here, except that I agree with those who believe that surely we will be getting a cop-out of some kind at the start of next week's 65-minute climax, no doubt involving the hand.

Instead I'm writing up the four Sixth Doctor stories from Season 22 I watched on the laptop yesterday, lying in bed. Two of these are rather meh, the other two awful.

I've said before that very few Cybermen stories actually make sense. Attack of the Cybermen is not one of the exceptions. The whole idea of basing a story around the continuity of an earlier story is not intrinsically bad, but once we have reached the real 1986, it is better to just imagine that The Tenth Planet never happened, rather than try and protect it. Even in 1986, we knew enough about Tomb of the Cybermen that the differences between its sets and the "Tomb" sets here killed any visual connection. The Telos scenes as a whole make very little sense - Why human slaves? Why allow escapees to wander round? How did the Cryons evolve on a planet which is clearly warmer than freezing? Above all why haven't the Cybermen worked out that it might be a bad idea to lock their prisoners in a room full of explosives? Colin Baker is particularly annoying here, but he is far from the worst thing about it. I felt a little sorry for the ice-maiden Cryons, but was left confused by their means and motivation.

I remember catching the first scenes of Vengeance on Varos first time round, where Jason Connery's Jondar is unpleasantly tortured as an audience looks on, and then the Tardis breaks down and the Doctor decides it can't be fixed. At that point I gave up and went away to do something else. Well, I misjudged it slightly. The torture scenes are unnecessarily unpleasant, and Colin Baker's portrayal as annoying as before, but the rest of the story is not bad, Martin Jarvis and Nabil Shaban being especially good. Having said which, the scene with Peri turning into a bird is a bit crap.

Mark of the Rani is just rather dull. The Rani comes across as a more interesting character than in her other TV appearance; the Master's presence appears pretty pointless; the scenery and setting are nice; the rest of it just isn't very interesting. (We tactfully pass over the infamous tree shot.)

Timelash comes very close to The Twin Dilemma as being the worst Who story ever. Paul Darrow is just awful. Really awful. The glove-puppet aliens are just awful. Really awful. The pointless continuity with an unbroadcast Third Doctor story is just pointless. The inclusion of HG Wells is just stupid. The climbing wall scene is especially unconvincing. And what happens to all the people exiled to the twelfth century? Are they just left there? The only saving grace is that Colin Baker's Doctor is a little less annoying here than elsewhere. But that is not saying much.

In summary, it is amazing that the 1986 cancellation was not permanent and that we got another four seasons of Old Who after this.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 29th, 2008 03:44 pm (UTC)
I've long thought that all the stories in this season were commissioned by Nathan-Turner and Saward when drunk on the nostalgiafest of the twentieth anniversary, or more specifically fandom's reaction to it. Hence the Zodin reference in Attack and the pointless non-continuity.
Jun. 29th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
Yes. These stories are all awful. It's as if they had no theory about what Doctor Who was *for*. The strange thing is that Revelation of the Daleks is, relatively speaking, so good -- it's interesting and true to itself and by and large made with genuine care. How could the people who made that make the rest of the season? Of course, they're also the people who decided to follow Earthshock with Timeflight and The Caves of Androzani with The Twin Dilemma.
Jun. 29th, 2008 04:49 pm (UTC)
I have before pointed out, in response to attacks on Michael Grade for his anti-Who stance, that Grade had a point - by and large, mid-eighties Doctor Who was shit. Grade did to Who exactly what he did to Blackadder - told the creators not to assume they had a right to a new series, but to go away and do a rethink, as what they were producing wasn't up to standard. Blackadder came back with Blackadder II, top quality stuff, and a massive improvement on the first series. Who came back with 'Trial of a Time Lord'. Draw your own conclusions.
Jun. 30th, 2008 12:33 am (UTC)
I have to note in fairness that the production team didn't know how many episodes they had, when it was going to go on, etc., till three months before the start of production. So in practice the season was as rushed as all the seasons before it, which made it hard to really focus on making it as good as possible. But you're right that they certainly didn't rise to the challenge Grade set them.
Jun. 29th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
> Timelash comes very close to The Twin Dilemma as being the worst Who story ever

Come now, there's Timeflight to take into account too!

Jun. 29th, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC)
The absolute, no questions asked list of the worst stories for each Doctor is as follows:

The Sensorites
The Underwater Menace
The Mutants
Time Flight
The Twin Dilemma

[unfair as only one TV story - if audios count, then Minuet in Hell]
Slitheen two-parter
Dalek two-parter from Season 3

Now, really, how can any of the others compare with the staggering awfulness of The Twin Dilemma????
Jun. 29th, 2008 06:46 pm (UTC)
I think my list would be

The Web Planet - a brave try to do something really different. It might be interesting to CGI it to the original soundtrack...
The Underwater Menace
The Mutants - about the only Pertwee story where I really couldn't tell you the plot because it was so dull!
The Horns of Nimon
The whole of Season 23 - inexcusable and ultimately incomprehensible. Time paradoxes that bad would destroy the modern Whoniverse.
Delta and the Bannermen
n/a - I'm only counting canon ;)
The Long Game
Love and Monsters!!!!!!!! (which rivals Timeflight for sheer awfulness)
Jun. 29th, 2008 07:14 pm (UTC)
Jun. 29th, 2008 07:05 pm (UTC)
> I've said before that very few Cybermen stories actually make sense

Broadly agreed, Revenge being possibly the epitome of this - I defy anyone to explain the plot of it in a way that makes the Cybermen's scheme make sense.

Tomb is probably the best ever Cybermen story, but that works mostly on the basis of being extremely tense, well-directed and having plausible human characters.

The 10/Cybermen stuff was fun but without any real sense of how if at all the Lumic Cybermen relate to the Mondas lot. Trouble is, it kind of means it'd be hard to adapt Spare Parts now. Unless someone decides that the Cyberman form is ubiquitous across the universe - cf. loveandgarbage's comments about 20x10x10 containers ;)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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