Monday, January 28, 2013

Personally Revisiting the Doctors

In the unbelievably ancient mists of our childhoods, seven regenerations ago, Jesse introduced me to Doctor Who for which I am eternally grateful.  Here in the future, both our families have become huge fans of the revived show.  He’s been watching the classic series from the beginning again with them as well. 

He recently told me about this fiftieth anniversary The Doctors Revisited thing coming up where BBC America will air one story for each Doctor.  He (and his family) guessed which episodes the network would select, and also what their personal choices would be.  When and if he posts his list, the link will be here.

He told me his list and we talked about it a bit.  Afterwards I and my own Whovian Family came up with our list…and here it is!

Like I’d Buy Any Other Calendar This Year?

While not having seen the old shows as recently as Jesse has, I did live in range of New Jersey Network during its “Who Heyday” and got to watch existing episodes from all the classic Doctors between two and six times.  Also, early on after getting into the series, I made sure that every episode guide in New Eye Studio’s catalog was on my Christmas Lists.

My wife and daughter made picks for the new series, and helped choose the photos for their favorite Doctors.  The classic series choices on the list are only mine.
This is partially because my wife and daughter have only seen a few of the older stories…
But mostly because any time questions about “favorites” come up about Classic Who, they both chant:

“You like Leeeeeeeeeeeee-laaaaaa!”

And make goo goo eyes at me.

I was initially concerned the official choices would be a pile of regenerations, as it would be easy to pick the first episode of each Doctor.  I feel those usually spend too long with the Doctor in the previous incarnation’s costume with his personality trying to find itself to be good representations of that actor's version.

It is also very possible that they’ll pick “The Three Doctors” “The Five Doctors” and “The Two Doctors,” which were all great fun and of historical value. If the anniversary is going to be a multiple doctor episode there’s a good chance they’ll be used.
However, I pretended that the picks will highlight each version individually without using multi-Doctor stories. 

First Doctor:
“It all started out as a mild curiosity in the junkyard, and now it's turned out to be quite a great spirit of adventure.”

While there are better stories available from later on, in this case it would make sense to start at the birth of the show and use “An Unearthly Child.”  Though, I’d prefer if they went one story further and used “The Daleks.” It was more engaging, still at the very beginning, and was the adventure that put the series on the map. 

If the anniversary was closer to the end of Tennant’s run, with the Ood being so important, they might have picked “The Sensorites” to represent William Hartnell. It includes Susan giving the first description we hear of the Doctor's homeworld, also echoed by the Tenth Doctor.

Thank you New Eye Studio.

Second Doctor:
“Not allowed? Not allowed! Me, I'm allowed everywhere”

The choice for Patrick Troughton is mainly limited by availability: there simply aren’t that many fully intact.

It probably has to be “Tomb of the Cybermen.”  The Cybermen breaking through the plastic cells in this classic tale has been visually referenced multiple times, even in the new series.

Too bad “Web of Fear” is missing chunks.  I think the Great Intelligence from this episode and its predecessor “The Abominable Snowmen” is coming back again after showing up in “The Snowmen” this season.  “Web” gets bonus points for the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier when he was only a Colonel.    

“The War Games” is all available, and a fun adventure, but way too long.

Third Doctor:
“A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.”

Moffat does love his Silurians, and there are also some good Dalek stories from this time period.

Having said that, I bet they go with “Terror of the Autons.”  The Nestene Consciousness and its alien killer manikins featured in the New Series kick-off “Rose,” and were an integral part of Rory's transformation into "The Lone Centurion." For added historical significance, it also contained the first appearance of Roger Delgado as the original Master, and Katy Manning as  Jo Grant, who showed up in a Sara Jane Adventures episode. 

My favorites of Jon Pertwee were the Peladon ones, both of which have some modern relevance.

“Curse of Peladon” has Jo, and the King is played by Patrick Troughton's son, who showed up as the professor on the bus in “Midnight.”

“Monster of Peladon” has Sarah Jane herself as the companion and a boat load of nifty low budget aliens, including the Ice Warriors, who were referenced in “Planet of the Dead” and are overdue for a comeback. (He said, hopefully.)

However, I still think "Autons" is the best choice.  The Brigadier and UNIT need to be in the Third Doctor representative, it should have the Master since he was introduced in this regeneration, and it should be on Earth as most of the Third Doctor’s adventures took place here.

Fourth Doctor:
“If I knew everything that was going to happen, where would the fun be?”

My all-time favorite Classic Series story is “The Invasion of Time.”

And no, not because of Leela. 

OK…Not only because of Leela.

Seriously though, even ignoring her appearance (as difficult as that may be), she’s awesome, and probably the most self-reliant, resourceful, and calm under pressure of all the classic companions.

Any one else wandering off on their own is going to get captured.
Leela wanders off on her own, someone else is gonna die.

“The Invasion of Time” has Time Lords, Gallifrey, The Matrix, K-9, Sontarans, and best of all is completely insane.  The story goes through all kinds of lunatic twists and turns, highlighting the Fourth Doctor’s maniac but brilliant personality.  Yet, somehow, it all comes together perfectly in the end.

Despite the greatness of that episode, the only real choice for Tom Baker is “Genesis of the Daleks.”

Besides the historical significance of the Dalek origin story, it’s also the first and best appearance of Davros.  There’s a little bit of Time Lords at the beginning, but more importantly it has Sarah Jane.  Liz Sladen needs to be represented in the retrospective somewhere, especially if she’s not in the Third Doctor episode. 

They could always schedule a little more air time and show the “Sontaran Experiment” beforehand since its only two parts and leads directly into “Genesis”.  This way the potato heads get to make a showing.

Hopefully, there’s enough interest that they can do all non Dalek episodes this round, and follow it up with The Daleks Revisited, featuring a tale of each Doctor fighting the pepper pots of doom.

Fifth Doctor:
“There's always something to look at if you open your eyes!”

Somehow, his last adventure, “The Caves of Androzani” was voted the best story ever in both 2003 and 2009 Doctor Who Magazine polls.  Add on that it received a shout out in "The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe" last Christmas, and the network may go with that one.

Personally, I don’t like it as a representation though, because it doesn’t have Peter Davison’s usual companions that defined most of his era. 

There are several options:

“The Visitation” had the death of the Sonic Screwdriver, and his more standard group…but it was pretty dull.  

“Warriors of the Deep” had Silurians, and Tegan.    

How about “Arc of Infinity” - Time Lords, Tegan and Nyssa, plus the return of Omega? 

Maybe “Earthshock” – Cybermen and the tragedy of Adric’s death?  

Ideally a Fifth Doctor choice should have Tegan, Nyssa and the Master, as Anthony Ainley's take on the character played best against Davison.

Maybe “The Five Doctors” is inevitable after all.

Yes, I realize by the same logic, and my criteria above, “The Three Doctors” is a perfect choice for the Third Doctor as well.

In that case, we might as well watch, “Time Crash” too.

Sixth Doctor:
"Well if it doesn't, I shall beat it into submission... with my charm."

Another case of a limited selection, due to short tenure instead of missing episodes.

Ignoring “The Two Doctors” is kinda stupid by this point…but I will anyway.

“Attack of the Cybermen” or “Revelation of the Daleks” could act as easy fall backs, because the former has ties to my Second Doctor choice, and the latter to my Fourth Doctor choice.
Even though she had only two appearances, every mysterious female who showed up in the New Series had fans yelling,
“It’s the Rani!”
This means she ranks with the top level foes as well, and “Mark of the Rani” is a possibility. 

My favorites of Colin Baker were from the “Trial of a Time Lord” season.  I’d vote for the final one of those, “The Ultimate Foe.”   There’s more Gallifrey and Master mythology in that one too.

Plus there are connections to the future:

A starting point for the Time Lords as enemies in “The End of Time.”
A starting point to get Valeyard/Dream Lord conversations rolling.

Seventh Doctor:
“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the seas asleep, and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on, Ace. We've got work to do."

Sorry, flashed back to that weird little PBS station we went to in college to see the premier for a minute.
Yes, I embarrassingly really liked that one, but I wouldn’t vote for it. The Seventh Doctor story needs to have Ace in it.
They could use “Silver Nemesis” for anniversaryness and Cybermen, but my pick would be “Survival” – The Final Episode of the original series.  The finale has the Master too. (I guess my bias for the Ainley version of that character is showing, but I don’t care because it’s my list.) 

Sylvester McCoy’s series ending speech (above) is also a winner, being both inspiring and yet also goofy. 

Eighth Doctor:
"The universe hangs by such a delicate thread of points, it's useless to meddle with it. Unless, like me, you're a Time Lord."

Wow, talk about limited selection.   Too bad, I hear Paul McGann’s audio ones are much better. 

New Series Note:  Since the classic series gets multiple episodes for each story, I’m including episodes that are finales of two-parters in the hopes that both get shown.

Ninth Doctor:
"Time travel is like visiting Paris. You can't just read the guidebook, you've got to throw yourself in! Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers!  . . . Or is that just me?"

In the same way that even though “The Daleks” would be a much better choice than “An Unearthly Child” for the first Doctor, they’re more likely to pick “Rose” over the several other episodes that provide a much better example of the capabilities and scope of the new series to show how it all began. 

It is a better choice than most first episodes, because the Doctor comes in fully formed and stable. Or at least as stable as possible for already somewhat loopy renegade Time Lord that became the last survivor of the Time War. 

I’m not sure my pick for the representation of the Ninth Doctor era, “Boom Town,” qualifies as the best example either, but I have some strong reasons for selecting it.

It fits the overall tone of the season, containing a mix of light gags, and darker undertones.
It features Rose, Mickey, and Captain Jack interacting.
It contains the Cardiff Rift, the basis for the Torchwood spin off.
It sneaks in several cool themes mixed in with the Slitheen silliness.
Plus, the Ninth Doctor is the only one to face Slitheen, and he met them twice in one season.  They’re his villain.

My daughter abstained from voting as Christopher Eccleston is her least favorite of the new Doctors.

My wife helped choose the picture, and thinks it should be “The Parting of the Ways”, partially due to Rose’s TARDIS power absorption, but mostly for the kiss.

Tenth Doctor:

“Sweet, maybe... Passionate, I suppose... But don't ever mistake that for nice.”

For my whole family, it was a quick choice for a David Tennant episode. 

“Journey’s End”.

It’s the Capstone of the Russell T Davies years. (The specials were more of a victory lap.)
It has ALL his companions and their families, plus a Dalek armada, Davros trying to fulfill his dream of universal destruction (established in “Genesis of the Daleks”), and the end of Rose’s journey where she gets her Doctor. (With more kissing securing my wife’s vote.)

The mood roller coaster ending, switching from unbridled joy (the “Song of Freedom” music from the multiple pilot TARDIS ride alone gets me to well up) to Donna’s tragic ending leaving the Doctor all alone (making me well up again, because I’m pathetic) coupled with all the breakneck action, character interaction, and investigation of the effect the Doctor has on others sums up everything Davies put into the show. 

If it has to be a one parter, then "New Earth."  The re-establishment of the Doctor and Rose's relationship and Tennant's full range from blisteringly serious and full of righteous rage, to positively, over the top,making his co star crack up, goofy.

A side note: 
My daughter’s other choice was “Last of the Time Lords,” based almost exclusively on the moments the Master dies in the Doctor’s arms. Considering she’s only seen the Master there, and never in the classic series, it speaks volumes for the power of Tennant's acting in general and in that scene specifically. This also explains why my wife's true favorite is probably a regeneration later than her "official" pick, my mother's favorite has doubled from Five to Ten, and why I now have to pause before stating, "I don't have a favorite incarnation, I see them all as the same person."

Eleventh Doctor:
“There's something you better understand about me, 'cause it's important and one day your life may depend on it. I am definitely a madman with a box!”

“The Eleventh Hour” is another obvious choice as the dawn of a new era, setting the tone and timber of the new regeneration, and containing the best “I am the Doctor” moment ever.  Again though, in his own words, he’s “not done cooking.”

My absolute favorite Matt Smith episode is “The Doctor’s Wife’, but it isn’t my pick, for the same reason I didn’t pick the excellent and award winning “Blink” for the Tenth Doctor.  The episodes selected should not only reflect the Doctor, but also the writing of the Show Runner.

My daughter selected the picture and I agree with her best choice of “The Big Bang”. 

It has River Song still being mysterious, all the Doctor’s enemies, Amy and Rory’s romance at its most epic, and the height of Steven Moffat Timey-Wimeyness.  It can also work if they only show one episode due to the recap.  Finally, it ends with three amazingly heart warming moments in a row:  Amy's dramatic reinterpretation of the old wedding rhyme, the Doctor dancing with all the kids, and, "It's time to say good bye," which is strongly representative of the Eleventh Doctor's era. 

Russel T Davies stories have tear jerker yet strongly satisfying endings, Steven Moffat stories have tear jerker middles with feel good endings.  Of course both go out of the way to get the kids hiding behind the sofa most of the way it should be.

My wife, consistent with her previous Doctor smooching choices, picked the “Wedding of River Song.”

Of course, in the time it took me to write all this down, The Doctors Revisited started airing last night. 

Fortunately, it included a retrospective, which allows for a more thorough look at key moments during the actor's time as the Doctor, because the episode selected was “The Aztecs.”

The only important continuity elements about that adventure I notice are:

The Doctor gets sort of engaged, setting a precedent for the more romantic new series.

The fact that he tells Barbara, “You can't rewrite history. Not one line!” which he then goes on to ignore for the next forty-nine years.

The series sci-fi seniority is established by Ian performing the Vulcan Neck Pinch a couple of years before Mr. Spock existed.

At least, I think that's all there was, I can't ask about parts I missed while I was finding other stuff to do because my wife fell asleep, and my daughter set the state record for saying, "This is boring," the most consecutive times in an evening.

"The Aztecs" is, however, the only William Hartnell episode available for streaming from Netflix, meaning digital conversion may be taking precedence over story content. 

I think we may have put way more thought into this list than BBC America did.


longbow said...

See, I think they should do some stand alones that don't twine with the rope.

Genesis of the Daleks for Tom Baker is great though I might put in for The Horror of Fang Rock. It has Leela, old england, horrible special effects, and fantastic doctor one-liners.

For peter D, I'd probably go earthshock. I didn't hate Adrick like some did. I'm sure I'd remember it as soon as I watching 5 minutes but Caves of Androzani doesn't register in my consciousness. The one just before, where Peri is introduced and wears a biking, that I can see clearly in my mind's eye.

I AM going with the Kangs episode for McCoy. I like the anthropological bent to it instead of the more tech ones.

Jeff McGinley said...

I have to view Doctor Who with my Captain Continuity hat on and try to pick ones connected to the big picture. Comes from seeing the Five Doctors really early in my fandom I guess.

All good choices. Though we just watched "Horror of Fang Rock," and while it has it's moments, the chunks of time spent with the crowd of stranded petty British folks tend to drag a bit.

thanx for sharing.

Hail Pex!

Bruce Fieggen said...

I only ever saw doctors three and four. I didn't know Tristan from "All Creatures' was Doctor five

Jeff McGinley said...

Yup, "Tristan" was the kinder gentler Doctor.

Of course the two Doctors you know respectively were met On the Way to the Forum, and battled Sinbad, while their predecessor met Jason and the Argonauts.

And #7 is now Radagast the Brown.

Thanx for posting!