Overdue Who Review: Masque of Mandragora

Season 14 ep 1. Fourth Doctor

Back to a 4 episode story. An energy thingy uses the TARDIS to bring it and our heroes to 15th century England for some Shakespearian noble intrigue and an evil cult (not the good kind of cult) with prophecies and ‘magic’. The resolution is pretty lackluster and again the Doctor gloats over a pile of corpses. I liked the previous one better.

Next up: The Hand of Fear

Overdue Who Review: Seeds of Doom

Season 13, ep 23, February 1976. Fourth Doctor

Not to be confused with the Seeds of Death episode from some years prior.

All the usual Who tropes, this one in particular has so many old white men it’s hard to keep track of them (at least the psychopathic killer had a goatee). 6 episodes means longer than most stories from this season (13), and there’s an excessive amount of quips in the denouement. Just like Ark in Space was Alien 4 years before Alien, this was The Thing 6 years before The Thing (but 23 years after The Thing From Another World)

Next episode – season 14 The Masque of Mandragora

How to Watch Classic Doctor Who

This is your guide to what episodes to watch during the first 26 seasons from 1963 to 1989, featuring the first seven Doctors.

(In Progress)

For the first two seasons of Doctor Who and most of the third (1963–1966), each episode carries its own title. At story #26 “The Savages” episodes are simply listed as Part 1, Part 2…etc.

Episodes are about 25 minutes.

Due to the BBC’s 1970s junking policy, 97 episodes of Doctor Who from the 1960s are no longer known to exist. As a result, 26 serials are currently incomplete, with one or more episodes represented only by audio and, in many cases, clips or still frames. For commercial release, some episodes have been reconstructed using off-air audio recordings, paired to surviving visuals or newly commissioned animation.

FIRST DOCTOR: Crotchety curmudgeon William Hartnell

Years: 1963-1966
Number of Seasons: 3ish
Theme: A lot of visiting Earth history
Best companions: Susan, Barbara and Ian
What to watch:

Story #1 “An Unearthly Child.” Four episodes
Story #2 “The Daleks.” Seven episodes. First appearance of the Daleks.:

Story #9 “Planet of Giants.” Three episodes

Story # 29 “The 10th Planet.” Four episodes. First appearance of the Cybermen. Final appearance of the first Doctor

SECOND DOCTOR: “Space hobo” Patrick Troughton

Years: 1966-1969
Number of Seasons: 3
Theme: more space, more action
Best companion: Jamie

What to watch:

Story #30 “The Power of the Daleks.” The originals are lost, there is an animated version (more like a motion comic). The Doctor regenerates for the first time. Read my review

Yeti

Story #38 “The Abominable Snowmen.” Six episodes.
Story #41 “The Web of Fear” Six episodes. Introduces Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart

Story #46 “The Invasion.” Eight episodes. Introduces U.N.I.T.

THIRD DOCTOR: Aristocratic secret agent John Pertwee – IN COLOR!

Years: 1970-1974
Number of Seasons: 5
Theme: Earthbound James Bond vs Aliens
Best companion: Sarah Jane Smith
What to watch:

Story #51 “Spearhead from Space.” Get to know the new Doctor. (4 eps)

The Master

Story #55 “Terror of the Autons.” The first appearance of The Master (4 eps)

Story #65 “The Three Doctors.” The three incarnations of the Doctor (so far) reunite to thwart the revenge-seeking Omega. (4 eps)

Story #70 “The Time Warrior” Introduces Sarah Jane Smith and the Sontaran race (4 eps)

FOURTH DOCTOR: Whimsical and warm Tom Baker

Years: 1974-1981
Number of Seasons: 7
Theme: Gothic horror
Best companion: Romana
What to watch:

Story #76 “The Ark in Space.” (4 eps) – Alien before the movie Alien.

Story #78 “Genesis of the Daleks” (6 eps) – The Doctor along with his companions Sarah and Harry are sent to prevent the creation of the Daleks. Will they succeed?

Story #82 “Pyramids of Mars” (4 eps) – The Doctor and Sarah square up against the alien Osiran Sutekh (the inspiration for the Egyptian god Set) whose minions threaten to unleash his power in the year 1911

Story #88 “The Deadly Assassin” – although this isn’t a great episode, if you want to know more about the Time Lords and the Doctor’s homeworld, this is the one.

Story #89 “The Face of Evil” (4 eps) – a very Star Trekkian episode, in which a ‘split personality’ super computer is performing a terrible experiment on the locals.

Story #92 “The Horror at Fang Rock” – more gothic horror as an alien terrorizes the crew of a lighthouse at the turn of the century. Read my review here

…TO BE CONTINUED!

Hoctor Doo

Joe lended me (yeah, I said lended) the complete first season of the new Doctor Who (Christopher Eccleson), which I am now going to talk about. I like Doctor Who. My favourite doctor is probably the first one. I don’t know why. It’s probably not rational. I remember watching them very early in the morning when I was…probably late teens. I also remember seeing the lighthouse one with Tom Baker like three times, which given that at the time I’d probably seen about a dozen episodes altogether is weird.

Anyhoo.

Certainly the new series (I haven’t seen any with David Tennant) is pretty good. Not great. Better than what I could do. Very few episodes have really engaged me. The writing is peppered with good ideas but is often sloppy. I could give examples but you probably don’t care. I like Eccleson’s performance well enough. I don’t care for Rose or any of the other regulars. I understand why they made most stories only an hour but I liked the old seasons where the stories were spread out over 5 half hour episodes. I like time travel stories, but unfortunately Doctor Who doesn’t deal very often with the paradoxes that are, to me, the interesting bits of time travel stories. The one where Rose saved her dad was closest to the kind of time travel stories I like, but it was so washed out and off kilter that it didn’t thrill me. Doctor Who can sometimes be like Harry Potter and Star Trek. You are often presented with a puzzle but there is no way you the viewer can figure it all out because the solution is in fantastic technobabble that only the writer is familiar with. I am thinking of the first Captain Jack episode with the nanoids. Sure, you may have made the connection between the little boy and the nanoids (I did juuuuust before they revealed it), but the explanation about the boy talking through speakers was explained with some throwaway make-em-ups at the end of the episode. Sloppy.

However, I am now watching the one where they go back to the present and capture the last slitheen who is mayor of Cardiff–it is probably my favourite episode (close in rank to the one with the ‘last dalek’) to take her back to her planet where she’ll be executed. I haven’t finished it yet so they could still ruin it, but the whole bit with the moral dilemma and the dialogue with the alien and the doctor over dinner in a restaurant is well done and very engaging. I love epic sci fi, but I’m glad the writers took time to explore the characters that was more than “I’m the doctor and I am wise but I’m threatened by anyone that Rose likes” or “I’m Rose and why doesn’t the universe work the way I think it should and also I don’t like responsibility.” I want to see more of the characters sitting down and talking so that when they’re running away from monsters I actually care whether or not they get away. So here’s hoping for more good episodes.