Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Whovian Top Fives

I was surprised that so few of my top five suggestions related to Doctor Who. I admit that I got the meme from Who fandom, and you can see some of the excellent recent Who top fives listed on who_daily. Anyway, here are my four.

bookzombie asks for my top five actors who have never played the Doctor who I would like to see in the role. I'm really bad at that kind of question, I'm afraid; I'm just not sufficiently engaged in stage and screen to have a meaningful opinion. So I shall pass on this one (though I also agree with Alex Wilcock that any of Peter Davison's AVPP co-stars - Graham Crowden, David Troughton and Barbara Flynn - would have been fantastic).

thette asks for my top five Doctor Who adventures. I'm taking this to mean televised Who, both Old and New, since I listed my favourite Big Finish audios quite recently and will do novels below.

I tried doing this by taking the whole list and trimming it down, but that was insane. Instead I went through each of the Doctors and chose my favourite, plus one extra for Ten.

5) The War Games

Neil Gaiman has raved about his original memories of this series, shown forty years ago this spring. I can see why it had such an impact on him. There are of course two totally unforgettable moments in the story (two more than in most stories, let's be honest) - the moment of recognition between the Doctor and the War Chief (played by Edward Brayshaw, later Mr Meeker in Rentaghost) at the end of episode 4, and the Time Lords' destruction of the Doctor's body at the end of the story. In between, despite the length, it keeps up a cracking good pace. The DVD released last month is already essential for any Who collection.

4) School Reunion

This story and Dalek both have New Who meeting with Old Who, but this is much the more enjoyable story - Sarah Jane speaks in a way for any of us who feel we have lost touch with our younger selves and with the people of our personal past. K9 will make you cry, a prediction that would have been impossible in the 1970s. It's also one of the better moments of the Rose/Mickey/Ten dynamic. And, let's not forget, it has Anthony Stewart Head as the chief baddie.

3) The Daleks' Master Plan

I have an unfashionable love for the original third season, and especially this massive monster of a story, which seems to me to epitomise the science fantasy elements that Old Who was originally meant to be about. We lose not one but two companions to violent death; we have Nicholas Courtney making his first of many Who appearances; we have Kevin Stoney as the villainous Mavic Chen, not to mention Peter Butterworth as the Monk; and we have the Daleks at their most determined and villainous, and much less pantomimey than they subsequently became. Shame that only three of the twelve episodes survive, but the audio with Peter Purves narrating is great.

2) The Deadly Assassin

Tom Baker was and remains my favourite Doctor, but it's difficult to pick out an individual story rather than simply rave about the entire era. However, if I must choose, it is probably this superb marriage of the talents of David Maloney as director and Robert Holmes as writer (the same team having done The Krotons rather less successfully), bringing (as with The War Games) new insights into the Doctor's background and (as with Maloney's earlier The Mind Robber) wacky psychedelic visions of artificial reality. Supported well by George Pravda and Bernard Horsfall in particular. Unfortunately it scores badly on the gender front (the only credited female actress plays the Voice of the Matrix). This is the beginning of a superb run of stories, Leela having had a particularly good start as a companion.

1) Blink

I felt a little guilty about including two Ten stories, since I actually rate Tennant below Hartnell and Ecclestone as well as T Baker, but really this is 45 minutes of concentrated terror and wonder, which barely qualifies as Doctor Who (having less Doctor in it than any other story bar Turn Left and Mission to the Unknown) except that it has the correct opening and closing titles. This is the episode I would show someone who knew nothing about the show to see if they could be convinced to try more. Though I would have to apologetically admit that it doesn't get any better.

If I were doing top five Old Who, I would add The Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Caves of Androzani to my list; my top five New Who would also include The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, Dalek and Midnight.

mscongeniality asks for my top five Doctor Who novels. I take this to include all varieties of printed Who, which means that the novelisations, especially of the First Doctor, come out well.

5) Beautiful Chaos, by Gary Russell

This is cheating a bit as I haven't finished it yet (and I'm not even reading it, I'm listening to Bernard Cribbins doing an abridged version), but it's a brilliant exploration of Donna's back-story, with plenty of household tension between her, Wilf and Sylvia, and the Doctor rather out of his depth. There isn't another New Series Adventure as good as this so far; I hope I am not disappointed with the ending!

4) Doctor Who - The Romans, by Donald Cotton

This is a novelisation that completely re-imagines the story and turns it into a set of letters and diary entries following the protagonists around their Italian adventures, beautifully done by Cotton taking some liberties with Spooner's original script.

3) Doctor Who and the Dæmons, by Barry Letts

An excellent account of what the producer/writer of this story would have preferred to appear on the screen - reasonably faithful to what actually did appear on the screen but without dodgy special effects and with somehow much more tension and excitement.

2) All-Consuming Fire, by Andy Lane

This is a superb pastiche of Doctor Who (Seven, Ace and Benny in this case) with the Cthulhu Mythos and Sherlock Holmes, from Virgin's New Adventure range. Along these lines are also two other favourites Evolution by John Peel, which brings together Four, Sarah, Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling in person, and also Eye of Heaven, by Jim Mortimore, which takes Four and Leela on a Victorian sailing expedition to the Pacific.

1) Doctor Who and the Daleks, by David Whitaker

Doctor Who novels have been on a continuous if occasionally interrupted decline since 1964. Actually that's not true at all, but the very first of them is still the best - a total rewrite of the beginning of the story, much more explicit if understated romance between Ian and Barbara, glorious description of the Daleks themselves as unfamiliar entities, credible tight first-person narration by Ian; this is still the mark which all other Who books should aim at, and not many come close to.

If I were doing top five novelisations only, Ian Marter's Doctor Who - The Rescue and Ian Briggs' Doctor Who - The Curse of Fenric would have made the list. For my top five pre-Nine spinoff novels, I've mentioned three above; my other favourites are Kim Newman's novella Time and Relative and Steve Lyons' Salvation, both featuring the First Doctor with resectively Susan and Dodo/Steven. Of the Ninth and Tenth Doctor novels, my top five would also include Sting of the Zygons by Stephen Cole, The Feast of the Drowned also by Cole, Only Human by Gareth Roberts, and Winner Takes All by Jacqueline Rayner.

scott_lynch asks for my top five Doctor Who villains.

5) The Master

It's impossible to do a top five Who villains list which doesn't include the Master. (It's difficult to do one that doesn't include Davros or the Black Guardian, but I think I have succeeded.) What's odd is that the Master's stories, on the whole, are not actually the best ones. (Probably the best Master story apart from The Deadly Assassin is Utopia, which hardly has him in it.) But he is such a fundamental part of Who that he can't be ignored. (And I have to admit he pwns the other renegade Time Lords - the Monk, the Rani, the dismal Drax and Azrael.)

4) Sharaz Jek

Let's hear it for the disfigured sinister guy! (Scaroth, Last of the Jagaroth, and Magnus Greel came close to taking this spot.) Sharaz Jek is not totally villainous, which is what makes him so memorable - one of many good things about The Caves of Androzani.

3) Tobias Vaughn

Vaughn is the best of a super array of villains who confronted the Second Doctor. I love them all - Salamander, the War Chief, the Great Intelligence, the Ice Warrior leaders, Maxtible, the Master of the Land of Fiction, even mad professor Zaroff; the Troughton era is brilliant in its variety of nasties. But Vaughn is way the most interesting, doing deals with the Cybermen to try and Take Over The World in The Invasion.

2) Mr Finch / Brother Lassar

New Who by contrast has been rather weak on villains, tending toward the pantomimey (including, I'm sorry to say, Simm!Master). Outstandingly the best (if we count the Weeping Angels as monsters rather than villains) must be Giles from Buffy playing a giant bat-creature in School Reunion. That scene by the swimming pool still sends shivers down my spine.

1) Mavic Chen

Sorry to go on about it, but Mavic Chen totally pwns Davros in every respect. He has gained elected office by his own skills, and is the first of many Who villains to think he can gain power by doing a deal with the monsters (as his successor and twin Vaughn does with the Cybermen). His story is a fascinating one of a fall from grace. Again, it's a real shame that only three of his episodes survive.</div>

This has taken me all day, so I do not promise that I will do the other Top Five requests soon, or at all...


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