Doctor Who is the world's longest-running science-fiction program. From 1963-1989, Doctor Who captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people all over the world. A BBC production, the show rose above its often dodgy special effects with an emphasis on plot and characterisation that is often missing from today's programs.
The premise was simple enough: an alien from a distant planet and his granddaughter, who can travel through time and space, lands on Earth in 1963 and inadvertently picks up two schoolteachers. The four of them have adventures ranging from Earth's distant past to the far future. Developed by Sydney Newman, Doctor Who was intended as an educational children's show, with the time travelers confronting Marco Polo one week, and adventuring in outer space the next, thus learning about things during their journey, and through them, the audience. As the program developed, many details were added: the time traveler was known only as the Doctor; the time machine would be known as a TARDIS (standing for Time and Relative Dimension In Space) and it would be dimensionally transcendental (bigger on the inside than on the outside); and it would shaped as a London Police Call Box (a common sight back then, but nonexistent nowadays). The theme was fleshed out, the actors were cast, and on 23 November 1963, at 5:15 PM GMT, Doctor Who premiered.
Doctor Who's first episode was called "An Unearthly Child" and was written by Anthony Coburn. The story centered around two public schoolteachers, Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), who were worried about one of their students, Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford). Susan is brilliant in some areas but hopeless in others. One night, the two teachers follow Susan home, hoping to have a word with her grandfather. They follow her to a junkyard, where they discover an old man calling himself the Doctor (William Hartnell). Susan, however, is nowhere to be seen. The Doctor insists that the two teachers leave, but they hear Susan's voice from inside a Police Box, and they force their way inside, only to be amazed at the size of the interior. The Doctor and Susan are aliens who travel through time and space. Susan insists that she wants to stay on 20th Century Earth, so the Doctor kidnaps Ian and Barbara, and they land in the far distant past...
The next three episodes concerned a tribe of cavemen who had lost the secret of fire, and who held the travelers prisoner in an attempt to learn fire. The serial was generally true to the vision of Sydney Newman. However, it was in the next serial that the series really took off.
Terry Nation's story (originally called "The Mutants", but since then generally referred to as "The Daleks") centers on a planet which had been decimated by nuclear war. Two races, the Thals and the Dals, have evolved since then on entirely different paths - the Thals becoming more perfectly human, while the Dals have become Daleks, encased in mobile life-support systems. The Doctor and companions see the city of the Daleks, and, after deliberate sabotage of the TARDIS by the Doctor, they explore the city and are captured by the Daleks. The next 6 episodes concentrate on the escape from the city and the movement in helping the Thals destroy the Daleks.
The Daleks captured the public's imagination, quickly becoming one of the most recognizable symbols of the show. British children would spend recess playing "Daleks and Thals". Dalekmania sprung up, with many diverse products appearing on the market. The Daleks had catapulted Doctor Who into stardom. And yet, they almost never made it onto screen. Sydney Newman reportedly hated the Daleks, feeling that this was the sort of bug-eyed monster that he had been trying to avoid. However, no other scripts were available for production, so "The Daleks" was filmed, and the rest is history.
The show would continue on for another three seasons with William Hartnell as the Doctor. However, as Season Three ended, it was clear that Hartnell was getting tired of the program, coming more and more ill and repeatedly coming to loggerheads with the current production team of Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis about their different interpretations of how the show should be produced. Hartnell then decided he was leaving. This led to a small problem. Should they just end Doctor Who, or try and continue on? They decided that the show was too popular to just end, and so they had to find a way to cast a new actor as the Doctor. But, wondered the production team, how could they get the audience to accept a new actor as the Doctor? The team hit upon a brilliant idea. "Well, if the Doctor is an alien," they reasoned, "then perhaps he has unknown powers. And one of them could be the ability to rejuvenate his body. And so he could become a different actor." (I'm making this conversation up, of course.) Lloyd and Davis asked Patrick Troughton to take over the lead role, and he agreed.
Hartnell's final story was "The Tenth Planet" by Gerry Davis and Kit Pedlar. A double first, this story introduced both the concept of rejuvenation (or regeneration, as it became known) and the Cybermen, the most popular Doctor Who monster after the Daleks.
The TARDIS materialises in 1986 Antarctica, at the South Pole Tracking Station. Spacecraft orbiting the Earth are experiencing problems, which turn out to be the arrival of a tenth planet, Mondas. Mondas is inhabited by a race of beings known as Cybermen, former humanoids who began to replace their bodies with cybernetic parts, eventually becoming almost completely cybernetic (25 years before the Borg). The Cybermen need energy, so they have come to drain Earth's energy and use it themselves. It's up to the Doctor, Ben (Michael Craze), and Polly (Anneke Wills) to stop them before it's too late.
At the end of the story, the Cybermen having been defeated, the Doctor retreats to the TARDIS after having been complaining about his health, remarking at one point, "This body of mine seems to be wearing a bit thin." He collapses on the floor and transforms into Patrick Troughton, before the astonished eyes of Ben, Polly, and viewing audiences around the country. Doctor Who had changed, and it wouldn't be the same again.
Troughton's first story was "The Power of the Daleks" by David Whitaker. The production team rationalised that, if they were going to introduce a new actor, they should bring back the audience's favorite monster.
"The Power of the Daleks" was well received, and the show continued on with new lead actor Troughton. Many classic stories came from this era, including "The Tomb of the Cybermen", "The Ice Warriors", and "Fury From the Deep". Sadly, however, the majority of Troughton's era is lost, and so only a few episodes survive.
Troughton's era finally came to an end in 1969. His last story was a 10 episode epic called "The War Games" by Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks, concerning a large planet where people from various Earth wars had been brought to fight. While not a particularly ground-breaking plot, "The War Games" is notable in that we finally learn something about the Doctor's race, the Time Lords. We discover that the Doctor stole a TARDIS because he was bored with his race's way of noninterference with other cultures. The Doctor is forced to call for the Time Lords' help in sending all the people on the planet home, and so the Time Lords catch him, put him on trial, and sentence him to exile on 20th century Earth, with a new appearance. Thus the second Doctor ended, but a whole new Doctor was just over the horizon. And now the show would be in color!
1970 heralded a new era in Doctor Who. Now in color, the show featured the talents of Jon Pertwee, a famous comedian, most notably for his work on "The Navy Lark". Pertwee, however, decided to play the role of the Doctor completely straight. His Doctor was exiled on Earth, working with an organisation called UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce), whose leader in England was Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney). The Doctor was UNIT's scientific advisor, and he divided his time between fighting off alien invasions and trying to get his TARDIS to work again.
Pertwee's first story was Robert Holmes's "Spearhead from Space" which was about an attempted invasion of Earth by an alien known as the Nestene Consciousness. The Nestene had to ability to create living plastic and turn it into deadly killing machines. The Autons were the Nestene's soldiers. The Doctor joined forces with UNIT to stop the Autons from killing more and bringing the Nestene Consciousness to Earth. It's an good story, with some chilling monsters. But the Doctor's greatest villain was just on the horizon.
The Master (Roger Delgado) was introduced in Robert Holmes's "Terror of the Autons." The Master, like the Doctor, was a renegade Time Lord. But while the Doctor was on the side of good and just, the Master wanted nothing more than power. He wanted to rule the Universe. He and the Doctor locked horns on many occasions. They were arch-rivals, each one trying to foil the other. The Master was charming, suave, and utterly ruthless. He was the perfect villain.
The Master was a very popular villain, and appeared many times, including every story of Season Eight. "The Dæmons", considered by many to be the quintessential Pertwee story, features the Master. Delgado was the perfect foil to Pertwee, and the two actors were great friends. Sadly, however, Delgado died in June 1973, the result of an auto accident.
The show's tenth anniversary rolled around in 1973, so the production team of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks decided to celebrate by bringing together all three Doctors in a story titled, appropriately enough, "The Three Doctors", by Bob Baker & Dave Martin. The story concerns a mysterious antimatter creature that is removing things from the natural Universe, and a black hole which is rapidly draining energy from the Time Lords. The Time Lords, desparate to find a way to stop the drain, pull the past two Doctors out of their timestreams and into the current one's timestream, so as to cooperate and find a way to save their home planet. The drain and the antimatter creature are both being created by the Time Lord Omega, the solar engineer who gave the Time Lords the power to travel in time at the cost of his own life. Omega did not die, but rather loved on in an antimatter universe, ekeing out an existence. He is now looking for a Time Lord to replace him as the ruler of his universe. However, millenia of living on his own has not only driven Omega mad, but also destroyed his body. Omega exists only by his will alone. The three Doctors must cooperate and stop Omega before he exacts his revenge on the Time Lords.
"The Three Doctors" is a reasonable run-around, somewhat hampered by the lack of believability (e.g., the Brigadier insisting that UNIT HQ has materialised in Cromer and not Omega's universe, despite the clear evidence to the contrary) and the clear illness of William Hartnell. Hartnell, who was ill, had trouble remembering his lines and so was limited to appearances on the TARDIS screen. It was his final work as an actor, and he passed away in 1976.
After five years, Pertwee eventually gave up the role, passing on the role to Tom Baker. His final story, Robert Sloman and Barry Letts' "Planet of the Spiders", was about the planet Metebelis III, a former Earth colony whose spiders had mutated to gigantic proportions due to the effects of the blue crystals in the mountains. The Doctor ventures into the mountain and fights the Great One, who is the ruler of the Spiders and is planning to mutate into an even more powerful creature. The Great One dies, but the radiation was too much for the Doctor, and he knows he will die. He arrives back on Earth, radiation-scarred, and regenerates before the Brigadier and Sarah Jane into Tom Baker.
During the era of Tom Baker, Doctor Who soared to new heights of popularity. Tom Baker played the role for a record seven years, and he amassed a huge following. For many people, he was THE Doctor.
Tom Baker's first story was "Robot" by Terrance Dicks. It's about a robot (bet you didn't see that one coming) created by Professor Ketterwell (Edward Burnham). The robot is being manipulated by the Scientific Reform Society, who want to use the robot to break into high-security vaults and steal dangerous weaponry so that they can hold the world hostage if the leaders don't agree to turn over leadership to the SRS. The Doctor and UNIT must save the day before it's too late...but can the Doctor stop a robot that has grown to gigantic proportions?
"Robot" is an enjoyable story, if not a standout. However, one of the best episodes would come later in the season: a slick reworking of Dalek history.
"Genesis of the Daleks" is about the origins of the Daleks. The Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) have been sent by the Time Lords to Skaro, the home planet of the Daleks, at the time of their creation. Their mission: to stop the Daleks from being created, or to alter their development so that they are less dangerous. The Doctor and Harry are captured by the Kaleds, the forerunners of the Daleks, while Sarah Jane becomes a prisoner of the Thals. The Thals and the Kaleds are reaching the end of their 1000-year war. The Kaleds, however, have a plan. Their lead scientist, the crippled Davros (Michael Wisher) has created a device for the Kaleds to live in: a Mark III travel machine, aka a Dalek. The Kaleds, however, are wary of becoming Daleks, so they veto Davros's plans. Furious, Davros turns to the Thals, giving them the code that will allow them to penetrate the shields of the Kaled dome and obliterate the Kaleds. The resulting radiation will force the Kaleds to either become Daleks or perish. The Kaleds have no choice but to agree.
The Doctor is captured by Davros. Davros, who has learned that the Doctor is a time traveler, demands that the Doctor tell him why the Daleks specifically lost their battles. The Doctor gives in, telling Davros specifics about every major Dalek defeat. The Doctor is taken away, to be held for further questioning. However, a rebellion is fomenting among certain Kaleds who do want the Daleks to continue. The Doctor, meanwhile, has escaped and wired up the Dalek incubation room with explosives, but hesitates on blowing it up, feeling that good will come of the Daleks' evil. However, he is spared making the choice by the announcement that the rebellion has succeeded and that Davros has lost. But it is too late: Davros has released the Daleks. The Thals plan to destroy the entrance to the Kaled bunker, sealing the Daleks in forever. The Doctor corners Davros's henchman, Nyder (Peter Miles), who gives them the tape of the Doctor describing the Daleks' defeats. The Doctor destroys the tape. Meanwhile, the Daleks have decided that they no longer need Davros, so they exterminate him.
The Doctor barely manages to make it to the Thals just before they destroy the entrance, sealing in the Daleks. The Doctor has not completed the Time Lords' mission, but he is content, feeling that the good that will come from the Daleks' existence outweighs the good that would arrive from their destruction.
"Genesis of the Daleks" is one of the all-time classic Doctor Who stories. A brilliant and stylish reworking of the Daleks, Terry Nation has taken his creatures and given them a whole new feel. The allegory is wonderful, and Michael Wisher's Davros is one of the ultimate Doctor Who villains. Small wonder that this is the one of the most popular stories ever.
Tom Baker's era continued with many more classics, from "Pyramids of Mars" to "The Deadly Assassin" (a wonderful examination of the Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey and featuring the return of the Master (Peter Pratt)) to "City of Death". Tom Baker's seven years were a golden age, but they had to come to an end.
The fourth Doctor's last story was "Logopolis" by Christopher H. Bidmead. It's a story about math, basically. The Doctor has finally decided to get his chameleon circuit fixed. This is the circuit that is supposed to change the TARDIS to fit in with its surroundings but has been stuck in the form of a Police Box. He takes the TARDIS to the planet of Logopolis, a place where numbers are the ultimate reality. The Logopolitans create matter through block transfer computation, and the Doctor hopes that they can give him the right equations to fix the chameleon circuit. Unbeknownst to the Doctor, however, the Master (Anthony Ainley) is on board. He is planning on destroying the Doctor once and for all. He kills a couple Logopolitans and takes the planet hostage, threatning to stop everything if his demands are not granted. However, the Monitor (John Fraser) reveals that it is too late. He reveals that the Universe has, in fact, passed the point of natural heat death, and the Logopolitans had been working on preventing the end through their math. But now the Master has stopped the Logopolitans, and the tenuous hold that was preventing the death of the Universe has been broken.
But it's not too late. The Monitor gives the Doctor the final equations for stablising the Universe, but in order to prevent the heat death, the Doctor must ally with his mortal enemy. But they must hurry. Already the heat death has destroyed several star systems. Together, the Master and the Doctor travel to the Pharos Project on Earth, where they program the computers there to broadcast the equations. The Master, however, holds the Universe hostage, threatening to let the heat death continue unless they acknowledge him as the supreme ruler of the Universe. The Doctor goes outside and rewires the satellite dish to broadcast the equations, but the Master rotates the dish, causing the Doctor to fall. He has saved the Universe, but at the cost of his own life. The Doctor regenerates into Peter Davison.
Peter Davison's era was a time of ups and downs for the series. John Nathan-Turner was producer. There were three companions in the TARDIS again. It was all part of JNT's plan to change Doctor Who, to show that there was still life in the show after Tom Baker. With this in mind, he cast Peter Davison, an actor already very well known for his part of Tristan Farnon in "All Creatures Great and Small" (which JNT had worked on at one point). JNT felt that by bringing in an actor with an established fanbase, he could overcome any perceived drawbacks that Baker's absence had.
Davison's regeneration story was a continuation of "Logopolis". By the same writer, "Castrovalva" also dealt with math. The Master has escaped and has set a trap for the Doctor. Kidnapping the Doctor's companion Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), he has utilised the boy's math skills to create a false city based on recursion. The Doctor goes there to recover, but he is quickly caught up in the workings of Castrovalva, where nothing is quite what it seems...
Peter Davison's era continued, more subdued than Tom Baker's era, but never less than entertaining. And it was during Davison's era that the twentieth anniversary rolled around. So, never one to miss a trick, JNT decided to have a full-blown special featuring all five Doctors. He hit a couple of problems though. First off, William Hartnell was dead. JNT got around this by casting Richard Hurndall to play the part of the first Doctor. But Tom Baker had declined to participate. JNT had already announced that "The Five Doctors" was in production, but now it looked as though it would be four Doctors, and one of them wouldn't even be the original. Desparate, he called up Baker and asked if they could use footage from the uncompleted story "Shada". Thankfully, Baker approved. So now JNT had 4 and a bit Doctors. He commissioned veteran Who writer Robert Holmes to write a script, but Holmes was unable to do it, so Terrance Dicks was brought in. He turned in a script that worked.
The plot is about a mysterious person who is bringing the past Doctors into the Death Zone, an area on Gallifrey where ruthless killing games were fought before the time of Rassilon (the founder of the Time Lords) for the amusement of the populace. The Fourth Doctor is trapped in a time eddy, but the other four arrive in the Zone. It seems that someone wants something out of the Tower at the center of the Zone, but who? And what? The Doctors must team up and find out what it is...
An anniversary show in many ways, this story brought back many old enemies, from Cybermen to the Master to the Yeti from "The Abominable Snowmen" and "The Web of Fear", as well as old friends, including Susan, Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), and the Brigadier. It's an enjoyable episode, and a fine anniversary tale.
Davison's swan song was in 1984. Davison ends with arguably his finest tale, Robert Holmes's "The Caves of Androzani". The story concerns gun-running and a drug that can extend one's life. The Doctor and Peri (Nicola Bryant) fall into a mass of raw spectrox, the unrefined version of the drug, and become infected with spectrox toxæmia. They will die unless they can obtain the milk of a queen bat. As if that wasn't enough, they fall into the hands of Sharaz Jek (Christopher Gable), a hideously disfigured person who is running guns and causing trouble for the government of Androzani Major. The Doctor is on a quest to find the milk, save Peri from Jek, and avoid getting killed. It all ends with the Doctor sacrificing his life to save Peri's. He obtained enough bat's milk for her only. He collapses on the floor and regenerates into Colin Baker.
Colin Baker's brief tenure would prove to be the show's most controversial period. During his era, an increased emphasis on violence would lead to Doctor Who being put on hiatus for 18 months. It didn't help that JNT wanted to get a more alien Doctor, and so had Baker acting very unsympathetic - arguing with Peri, showing no remorse at death, and acting quite amorally. It was a tough time for Doctor Who.
Baker's first episode was actually a Peter Davison episode, "Arc of Infinity," where Baker plays Commander Maxil, who at one point shoots down the Doctor! But his first episode as the Doctor was Anthony Steven's "The Twin Dilemma", a rather poor runaround involving slugs, planets, and bad acting. Baker's controversial Doctor rears its head here, with the Doctor at one point attempting to strangle Peri. Sadly, despite a wonderful acting job by Baker, the season continued on its downward slide, and at the end of Season Twenty-Two it was announced that Doctor Who was on hiatus.
With the show suddenly on hold, an entire season of stories had to be scrapped. If that weren't enough, the show lost episodes, going down to 14 half-hour episodes. With this in mind, JNT and script editor Eric Saward came out with an ambitious plan. They would devote the entire season to one story, the longest in the show's history (the previous record-holder being the Hartnell 12-parter "The Daleks' Masterplan"). It would be called "The Trial of a Time Lord," and it would be divided into 4 stories, Christmas Carol-like. The first story would deal with an instance in the Doctor's past, the second with the adventure he was having immediately before his trial, and the third with an episode in the Doctor's future. The fourth two-parter would wrap up the storyline. Surrounding these stories would be trial scenes. It seemed to be a great idea, but they were in for a lot of headaches.
"The Trial of a Time Lord" opens with the Doctor being pulled out of the Vortex by a Gallifreyan starship. The Doctor has amnesia and cannot remember what happened to him last, nor the whereabouts of Peri. He is taken to a courtroom, where he is put on trial. His prosecutor, the Valeyard (Michael Jayston), intends to prove to the court that the Doctor is guilty of gross interference in the lives of others. To do this, he will show the court three episodes proving his case.
The first part, Robert Holmes's "The Mysterious Planet", was about the planet Ravolox. The Doctor and Peri arrive and find the place inhabited by savages. There are strange things around, however. Why is there part of the London Underground on this planet? Why do the inhabitants worship the robot Drathro? The Doctor and Peri discover that Ravalox is actually Earth, moved out of its orbit by some force unknown. The Doctor manages to free the slaves of Drathro and give them a new and richer life.
The Doctor considers this to be evidence in his favor, but the Valeyard points out that nothing would have happened without the Doctor's arrival and interference. The Valeyard strongly suggests the death penalty as the Doctor's sentence. The Doctor is suspicious, however, because certain parts of the testimony have been excised...
The next segment, Philip Martin's "Mindwarp", is a sequel to the Season 22 story "Vengeance on Varos", and it concerns the Doctor's most recent adventure. The Doctor and Peri travel to Thoros Beta, the home planet of the Mentors. There he discovers that the scientist Crozier is working on an experiment to transfer the brain of the Mentors' leader, Kiv, into a younger body. The Doctor undergoes a mind-altering experiment when he attempts to stop King Yrcanos (Brian Blessed) from being altered. The Doctor is now on the side of the Mentors, unwilling to help out Peri. He helps the Mentors and captures Peri, who will be used as Kiv's new host. The operation continues, but the Doctor is pulled out of time before he can save Peri. Peri is now Kiv. Yrcanos arrives and, disgusted, kills Peri.
The Doctor cannot remember what happened during the story, but he insists that it wasn't like that. However, he is informed that the Matrix, the sum of the Time Lords' knowledge and the broadcaster of the evidence, cannot lie. But the Doctor is having doubts about that...
Now it is time for the Doctor's defense. He chooses a story that will take place in his future. Pip and Jane Baker's "The Ultimate Foe" (more commonly known as "Terror of the Vervoids") opens with the Doctor and future companion Mel (Bonnie Langford) arriving on the space liner Hyperion III. On board is a new intelligent vegetable lifeform: a Vervoid. But there are more pressing matters at hand. Someone is murdering off the passengers. The Doctor sends Mel to investigate, and it soon becomes clear that the Vervoids are the ones responsible for the murders. If not stopped, they will spread and destroy every human being. The Doctor discovers that superconcentrated light will kill the Vervoids, so he subjects them to a combination of vionesium and oxygen, which produces light and kills them all.
The Doctor is confused, because certain events shown during this segment are not the same as when he viewed the tape the first time. However, he now has a more serious charge to deal with. While he may have saved the humans, he destroyed every Vervoid, and now the Valeyard accuses him of genocide.
Now it is time to pass sentence on the Doctor. The Doctor still insists that the Matrix has been tampered with, but the Keeper of the Matrix (James Bree) insists this is impossible. But he is proven wrong when the Master appears on the screen. He reveals that the Time Lords moved Earth and renamed it Ravolox to prevent their secrets (which had been stolen from the Matrix by a group of Andromedans) from being revealed. When the Doctor discovered this, a deal was struck between the corrupt High Council of Gallifrey and the Valeyard, who is revealed to be the amalgamation of the Doctor's darker nature, somewhere between his twelfth and final regeneration. The Valeyard flees into the Matrix and the Doctor gives chase. The Doctor discovers that the Valeyard intends to use the power of the Matrix to assassinate those in the courtroom, the highest protectors of Gallifreyan law. He stops the Valeyard, and the Inquisitor (Lynda Bellingham) tells him that all charges are dropped. The Doctor goes on his way, and the Inquisitor tells the Keeper to repair the Matrix, unaware that the Keeper is now the Valeyard in disguise...
The last two episodes underwent some of the biggest production nightmares of the entire series. Robert Holmes was originally going to finish the story, but he died shortly after completing the first draft of Episode 13 (the first part of "Time Inc." (or, more commonly, "The Ultimate Foe")). JNT then tagged Eric Saward to complete the scripts, but they soon had a falling-out, and Saward took his script and left. Desperate, JNT contacted Pip and Jane Baker, who agreed to finish the story. When the final episode was filmed, however, it was discovered that it ran significantly over, and it could not be cut down enough to fit. JNT asked the Head of the BBC for an unprecidented five minute extension. He liked the story and agreed, and "The Trial of a Time Lord" was complete.
However, despite the supposed success of the show, BBC1 Controller Michael Grade did not like the series, even after its improvements following the hiatus. He placed the blame on the shoulders of the lead actor and insisted that he be replaced. Thus, Colin Baker became the first and only actor to be fired from the role. In his place, comedian Sylvester McCoy, whose signature act was putting live ferrets down his trousers, was cast as the seventh Doctor.
Sylvester McCoy heralded a new, darker image for the Doctor. No longer was the Doctor to be the good defender of the Universe. Now it would be revealed that the Doctor might have a darker, more secretive past than previously thought. This was part of JNT and script editor Andrew Cartmel's plan to reintroduce the mystery back to the character of the Doctor.
No trace of this was evident, however, in the seventh Doctor's first story, "Time and the Rani" by Pip and Jane Baker, a rather disastrous runaround about the plans of renegade Time Lord the Rani (Kate O'Mara) and her attempt to harness the power of strange matter. In fact, it wasn't until the next season, Season 25, that the darker Doctor was more obvious.
Season 25's opening story, Ben Aaronovitch's "Remembrance of the Daleks", was an instant classic. The Doctor returns to London 1963, where he encounters two rival Dalek factions. The Daleks are fighting over the Hand of Omega, a Gallifreyan stellar manipulator. But the Daleks are being tricked by the Doctor, who wants them to capture the Hand and use it on Skaro's sun...
"Remembrance of the Daleks" features many magical moments, such as the Doctor's conversation with a Jamaican café worker, and his confrontation with a Dalek who can climb stairs. However, despite its throwback to the beginning of Doctor Who, it is not the 25th anniversary story. That honor belongs to "Silver Nemesis" by Kevin Clarke, a story featuring the return of the Cybermen and little plausibility. Its themes are too similar to "Remembrance" and it ends up being nothing more than a silly runaround.
It was in Season 26 that two of the McCoy classics came: Ian Briggs's "The Curse of Fenric"; and Marc Platt's deliciously heady "Ghost Light", a story so dense with allusions and wit that it takes multiple viewings to catch it all. But it was the last story, Rona Munro's "Survival", that would turn out to be the Doctor's final show.
"Survival" is about the planet of the Cheetahs. The Cheetah people are abducting people from Earth and using them as prey on their own world. The Master has allied with them and is slowly becoming one. Can the Doctor stop the Master and return the abducted home without turning into a Cheetah Person himself?
After "Survival", Doctor Who went on hiatus again. But this time, it was for an indefinite time, and it became pretty clear that Doctor Who was not going to reenter production again. Virgin Publishing, who owned the rights to the books, started publishing "The New Adventures", chronicling the adventures of the Seventh Doctor after "Survival". But, other than the charity special "Dimensions in Time", there was no sign of Doctor Who returning to the screen, until 1996...
In late 1995, it was announced that Doctor Who would finally return to the television screen. But it would be produced by an American team - the BBC would only have limited involvement. It was announced that Paul McGann was cast as the Doctor, and that Sylvester McCoy would return to hand over the reins, so to speak. And so, on May 14, 1996, Doctor Who returned.
"Doctor Who" by Matthew Jacobs takes place in San Francisco 1999. The Doctor (McCoy) is returning from Skaro, bearing the Master's remains, when the TARDIS develops a fault and lands on Earth. He shot as he steps outside his TARDIS, and he is taken to the hospital, where Dr. Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook) attempts surgery but, unfamiliar with the Doctor's alien cardiovascular system, inadvertently kills him instead.
His regeneration delayed by the anaesthetic, the Doctor regenerates in the morgue, but he is unable to remember who he is. Meanwhile, the Master has somehow cheated death, and he takes over the body of an ambulance driver (Eric Roberts). The Master intends to use the Eye of Harmony in the Doctor's TARDIS to take the Doctor's remaining regenerations for himself. Can the Doctor stop the Master from killing him for good?
"Doctor Who" was certainly different from typical Doctor Who. There were many aspects which irritated some fans (the Doctor kissing Grace, the Eye of Harmony in the TARDIS instead of on Gallifrey, the Doctor's revelation that he's half-human), but other fans had no problems. Regardless, "Doctor Who" is a wonderful visual treat, with only Eric Roberts' performance letting things down. McGann is perfect as the Doctor, and he's overflowing with energy. All in all, a great comeback.
"Doctor Who" was well-received in Britain, but it failed to do well in America, and so no future movie projects came about. However, negotiations are always ongoing, so we may yet see the good Doctor on TV once again...
Page Created: 29 January 2002
Last Updated: 20 March 2002
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