Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Top 5 Series from the Sylvester McCoy Years

DoctorWho7-silhouetteAfter the dust settled from all the backroom infighting, Doctor Who survived for another season. The only casualty being Colin Baker was out and Sylvester McCoy was in as the Seventh Doctor.

McCoy was older, and reminds me more of a cross between the quirkiness of Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor, the flamboyance of Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, and the darker moods of Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor.

There certainly was a dark undertone to the Doctor in most of the scripts during the McCoy era. This might be a byproduct of using so many writers who had never written for Doctor Who before. Additionally, there was a new Script Editor.

It’s a shame that the show ended when it did. Special Effects were pretty minimal at best, and looked pretty bad compared to other shows of its time; Star Wars being a perfect example. A large part was due to the shoe-string budget producers were stuck with.

Something changed with Season 26 because things didn’t look as dated. A perfect example were when the Daleks shot people. I had to double check whether I was watching a special DVD with new effects, or not. They looked crisp.

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1 – REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS - The best Dalek themed series in quite some time. The pace kept me interested pretty much from beginning to end. Not nearly the campiness in some of the earlier McCoy series. Neat Easter eggs if you know much of the series history and pay attention to it.

2 – BATTLEFIELD - King Arthur in present day! Been done before in TV. But, the twist being they’re aliens. Worked very well to keep me entertained. Just the right length for what they had. When Ace pulled the sword I wondered where they were going with it.

3 – TIME AND THE RANI - So much better than the very first “Rani” program. According to the DVD extras, the authors wrote this series for Colin Baker, which makes me wonder what had to be cut to make room for the regeneration skit. The wardrobe part of the regeneration seemed dumb. With Tom Baker it worked. With Sylvester McCoy it seemed just like a copy of the first.

4 – PARADISE TOWERS - Too much campiness with this one. The cleaners are dressed in uniforms that resemble Nazis, and the head guy looked like he had a Hitler mustache in Episode 1, which becomes a full mustache by the end of the series. Plot isn’t too bad. Wonder if New Who’s “Beast Below” drew upon this for inspiration. Sure wouldn’t mind seeing having the Doctor visit this place again to see how things changes, especially with the 13th Doctor being a female now. A bit of a Road Warrior vibe to it.

5 – SURVIVAL - Pretty simple mystery plot, morphing into a story of survival (hence the title). Sure wish we’d visited the cheetah people on a different circumstance. I think they’d be kind of cool to get to know, especially if it had been the Fourth Doctor. The Master skates through yet again. Wish they’d come up with a way to leave him dead. An OK way for the series to go out (though they might not have known about it at that time). Not great. But, not horrendously bad either.

6 - Delta and the Bannerman
7 - The Happiness Patrol
8 - The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
9 - Silver Nemesis
10 - Dragonfire
11 - The Curse of Fenric
12 - Ghost Light

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And so this ends my end-to-end run through of all episodes of Classic Doctor Who. It took three months, and that was pretty much most of what I actually watched.

There were many enjoyable episodes. But, it was clear that the longer the show ran, the longer in the tooth it started becoming. I suppose that’s to be expected. How many different plot lines could there actually be? Additionally, the BBC saddled them with a meager budget, which didn’t match pace with other science fiction shows of the time.

The final series DVD, Survival, briefly mentioned some plans for Season 27, which were intriguing. (Ace going off to Gallifrey to be trained as a Time Lord). But, had the show continued, it’s quite possible it might have died a few more episodes down the line, and prevented the relaunch of the series with Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor.

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DoctorWho8-silhouetteI’d be remiss if I didn’t mention 1996’s The Doctor Who Movie. But, I have issues with it, and am glad it never made it to series form.

After a few attempts to entice the BBC into restarting the series, the American Fox Broadcasting Network approached them about possibly restarting the series for American television. This idea was rolled back to a 90 minute movie which would serve as a pilot to judge interest.

So much was changed when compared to the original series. Kudos to them for bringing back Sylvester McCoy for a regeneration sequence. But, it had such a violent ending to the Seventh Doctor, albeit typical of American television.

We were introduced to Paul McGann, as the Eighth Doctor. His portrayal, for the most part, made me think of past Doctors, and I see myself easily getting used to him. But, I wish they hadn’t introduced the whole love interest aspect (two things American television is good for, sex and violence). Judging from the ending, Had the movie spawned an American television series, he would have apparently had a difference companion, which means they wasted the time sexualizing a character who had been pretty asexual for over 30 years.

Taking nothing away from Eccleston, I really wish McGann had had the opportunity to return to his role when the BBC restarted the series. He would have still been young enough. At the very least, I would have liked to have seen a regeneration sequence, though I can imagine Russell T. Davies decided that it would have confused most viewers who had never seen Classic Who.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around The Master being some kind of snake creature that takes over bodies, more like the Mara in Kinda and Snakedance, than another Time Lord. Eric Roberts played the human character well. But, it was strange.

the movie felt too American, if that makes any sense. There was a flavor to Classic Who, which was British, and it goes beyond the accents and locations to make up that flavor. It just didn’t feel right.