Sunday, May 18, 2014

Classic Doctor Who Season 21

The Doctor regenerates
For 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.


  1. I don't know if anyone has mentioned it yet, but don't forget to watch the made for TV movie from the 90's with the Eighth Doctor. It was a joint American/BBC thing but it is a part of official canon. The BBC even just recently put out a short web only special showing Number Eight's demise and regeneration to the next doctor.

  2. "It’s all uncharted waters for me from here on out."

    Oh, you poor, poor fellow. You will likely want to forget most of the Colin Baker and at least half the Sylvester McCoy episodes. Some of them were positively dreadful!

    If you can comprehend the Trial Of A Time Lord mess that was Colin Baker's final season, you are a better man than I!

    I liked what Sylvester McCoy did with the role, but the writing was terribly uneven. The episodes with him were either fairly decent or horrifically bad. The Candy Man??? Bee People??? UGH!!!

    Of course, since you actually finished this up weeks ago, you know what I'm babbling about.



Please choose a Profile in "Comment as" or sign your name to Anonymous comments. Comment policy