Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Whoblogging 7

I had vaguely been aware of Sylvester McCoy due to his surreal appearances in the children's art programme Vision On (and later his double act with David Rappaport on Jigsaw); it seemed a reasonable preparation for the lead role in Doctor Who. But by the time he came on the screen in 1987, I was a Cambridge undergraduate without easy access to a television, and with other things to do on a Saturday night. I think that literally the only Seventh Doctor story I saw on first broadcast was the last few minutes of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, basically watched because I knew the writing was on the wall and wanted to be able to say I'd seen the very end. As it turned out, it lasted another year, but although I actually had better access to a TV in 1989 I was rarely at home at the right time on Saturday evenings, and so missed the final season. wwhyte may remember trying to persuade me that I had missed out by showing me Remembrance of the Daleks, but I wasn't convinced (and still am not convinced by that particular story).

Of course I was aware of the Seventh Doctor as a continuing phenomenon, especially when a college friend started editing the Virgin New Adventures; though even this did not incentivise me to actually buy any of the books. I was rather deterred by their sheer number; I would pass by the relevant shelves in my excursions to Forbidden Planet, but had no really good idea of where to start; and so didn't.

So really I knew least about the Seventh Doctor when I started to get back into Old Who (after the start of New Who). I began in December 2005 by downloading the two e-books available from the BBC website - Human Nature (excellent, and this was before it got reincarnated) and Lungbarrow (incomprehensible). Over the following few months I dabbled with a few more of the New Adventures, which means that the Seventh Doctor is the only one who I first remember encountering through spinoff novels. In the books he is a heroic wizard, loyal to his companions but also with a hinterland of unexplained angst (or, in Lungbarrow, incomprehensibly explained).

It wasn't really until 2007 that I started watching the Seventh Doctor TV stories and also getting into the audios. Despite my unfashionable dislike for Remembrance of the Daleks, I have to say that I don't think any of the original TV stories is as bad as the worst of the two previous Doctors (presumably this is Eric Saward's absence from the scene). In particular, the two high points of the last season (The Curse of Fenric and Ghost Light) more than balance the considerable weaknesses of the other two stories. Even at the most pantomimey moments in the two earlier seasons, there is an underlying feeling that someone making the programme knows what is going on and actually cares about engaging the audience. (I'll add that Doctor Who-The Curse of Fenric is one of the best novelisations, and that in general the Seventh Doctor novelisations are of a level of quality matched only by the First and Third.)

The audio adventures are a bit variable, but are generally entertaining and sometimes (Bang-Bang-A-Boom, The Harvest, Flip-flop) excellent. McCoy is particularly good when he gets into bleak!Doctor mode, and one of my disappointments with his TV stories is that he didn't get to do this often enough; we got a lot of humorous and/or mysterious, but much less of the tragic.

McCoy's last TV appearance as the Doctor was of course to come to San Francisco (as played by Vancouver) and get shot. But more of that tomorrow.
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Tags: doctor who, doctor who: 07

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