Sunday, May 25, 2014

Classic Doctor Who Season 22

"The Two Doctors"
Season 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 fo 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). The 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 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 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's "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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