My rewatch has reached Season 18 and this is where my fandom began. This was the first series I wanted to watch though I’d watched bits before as my Dad did watch it if he was around. Sure a lot of the harder concepts went over my head but lizard men, a talking cactus, swamp creatures and vampires kept my young mind engaged and I’ve never missed a new episode since.
Watching in order can be a bit of a shock, the difference between Nimon and Leisure Hive is vast from the new music to the whole feel of the show.
Leisure Hive is a nice little story with enough intrigue and some great scenes. The direction is beautiful and all the performances are spot on. Tom’s more subdued and sombre Doctor is a throwback to his first seasons and he’s great as the aged Doctor.
Meglos follows and it’s a by the numbers story but what’s not to love about a talking cactus and gives Tom the chance to play evil, it feels like a s17 story given a polish.
Full Circle comes next and it’s another cracker, the marshmen are a great monster and even Adric is a bearable character. The story feels like a classic story even though some of the evolution logic is a bit suspect.
State of Decay is the vampire story and it’s another favourite, it looks very hammeresque but is done so well with the nice twist of the revelation about the spaceship and ties to Time Lord mythology.
Warriors Gate would have gone so far over my head back in 1981 but is definitely a story that I love now. It’s playing with time in a way we’re very used to in the new series but surprisingly wasn’t done much in the orginal series. The imagery is evocative and the story fires the imagination.
Keeper of Traken sees Adric alone with Tom and I think they work really well as a duo in both this and the following story. The story is a good one and we get The Master back, Geoffrey Beevers is great and I think it’s a shame he didn’t do more. Again we get a society that’s been thought out a bit with characters who have understandable motives.
Logopolis concludes the series and Tom’s era and feels like a mournful march to the inevitable as the reborn Master (who hasn’t become the pantomine character of the mid 80’s yet) renews his fight with The Doctor and it’s appropriate that Tom’s Doctor dies saving the universe.
The regeneration was the moment I became a fan, that last scene blew my young mind. My Dad explained this happened regularly. I was hooked.
I’ve loved watching Tom’s stories in order, he’s still my Doctor and will always just slightly edge the other 11 into second place. These are the stories I go back to the most when having a random watch. Part of the reason this era works (besides Tom) is it’s relatively continuity free instead preferring to tell stories with new characters or on the few occasions it reuses elements of the past it pushes them forward.
Season 17 is a joy to watch, it’s just fun and though I know it’s not popular with the more po-faced sections of fandon but these stories always cheer me up.
Destiny of the Daleks starts things off and it’s quite a intresting story as the Daleks appear to have become fully robotic and realise they’ve gone too far. There’s some wonderful direction on show here and we get the debut of Lalla Ward as the new Romana, a shame we didn’t get a regeneration scene with Mary Tamm but we still get the fun trying on bodies scene.
City of Death is next and it’s easily the wittiest Dr Who story. There’s some good script concepts too and everyone acts wonderfully not making the mistake of playing for the laughs. Scaroth actually looks reasonably ok too. Perhaps its tge Paris scenes but this story dosen’t look quite as cheap as the others.
Creature from the Pit is probably the most average of the season but I like the acting and it rattles along but will probably be remembered for the monster and Tom blowing!
Nightmare of Eden is quite a dark story and would probably be hailed as a classic if it was made a few years before or even a year later. Drugs isn’t a issue the show’s really dealt with and certainly not shown the effects. The idea of the monster being the drug transported in a VR machine is a great idea spoiled by them looking cuddly and non threataning and I’m not even mentioning Tryst’s awful accent!
Horns of the Nimon prematurely closes the season and I really enjoy this one. Romama is the lead character while The Doctor mucks around. It’s just unbridled fun and a joy to watch everyone go OTT.
The season should have ended with Shada but strikes meant it was cancelled but we have the video/dvd release with Tom narrating the missing segments (I like to think this is The Curator recounting a old adventure, maybe to Osgood, just to make all the Moffat haters heads explode!! )
It’s a decent story and hard to judge without all of it and obviously its mystique was built up by its absence.
Season 16 is the Key to Time season and also introduces Romana. It’s a much watched season.
Ribos Operation kicks things off and the first scene with The White Guardian does so with style leading into meeting Romana. There’s a instant chemistry between her and The Doctor and their scenes are always riveting. Ribos is full of great characters as to be expected from Robert Holmes.
The Pirate Planet follows and is the first script from Douglas Adams and is one of my favourites. The Captain is a wonderfully OTT character and the story is so imaginative.
The Stones of Blood starts off as a throwback to the Hinchcliffe era with black magic cults and killer stones. Another great story and Professor Rumford is a wonderful character who I’d have loved to see carry on in the show. Her and Tom are great together, there’s not many who can upstage Tom!
The Androids of Tara is the Prisoner of Zenda homage and is another cracking story full of good performances and nice moments. The location footage looks splendid too, a nice change from quarry pits.
Power of Kroll is filling the cheap slot and unfortunately it shows in places. The green makeup on the aliens makes them look distinctive but sadly there’s not much character to them. It’s a by the numbers Dr Who story that is just average.
The Armageddon Factor finishes the season off and unfortunately theres a good four parter stretched over six episodes. The performances are strong and the story is enjoyable, The Shadow is suitably menacing and the stakes feel high. Making the key segment a person is a good idea too.
I also must add here that the dvd commentaries with Tom and Mary Tamm are just wonderful fun to listen to.
Horror of Fang Rock is another of my favourites. Terrance Dicks writes a cracking story and we get to see a Rutan. A story which only The Doctor and Leela make it out of alive. The characters are sketched out well to make us sympathise or hate them and the studio bound setting is suitably claustrophobic.
Invisible Enemy is next and we get the debut of K9, another thing that polarises fandom. Personally I don’t mind it though I agree with some that it removes the need for The Doctor to think his way out of trouble sometimes. The production looks notably cheaper than what we’ve been used to over the previous three seasons but there’s some good stuff but the less said about the giant prawn the better!
Image of the Fendahl takes us back to Hinchcliffe Who and is a wonderful and atmospheric story full of good beliveable characters who you actually believe are real and a end of the world type menace that feels genuinely threataning.
The Sunmakers is another Robert Holmes script and it’s a belter full of humour and wit. The roof scenes were filmed in my neck of the woods too, my aunt actually had worked there, although the building is long gone.
Underworld is one of those stories that has a great first episode followed by some not so great episodes. The completely cso scenes were a brave attempt by the production team and would’ve been more forgiveable on a better story.
Invasion of Time rounds things off with a return to Gallifrey and The Doctor apparently turned evil which Tom makes seem totally beliveable (not all the Doctor’s could pull this off) and just when we think its over after the tin foil monsters are defeated look who arrives- cockney Sontarans! Again this is a fun story and it rattles along.
Onto the thirteenth season and the show is really hitting its stride and contains my favourite story.
Terror of the Zygons kicks things off and we have another unit story but this feels very much like the Doctor is a visitor rather than part of unit. The Zygons are wonderful creations, they look and sound unique with a great performance from John Woodnutt as Broton. The story zips along and even the puppet skarasen can be forgiven with such a strong story. We lose Harry at the conclusion which is a shame as he worked well with Sarah and The Doctor.
Planet of Evil is next and its another cracker. The jungle set is wonderful and the anti-matter monster looks great. The story is full of great performances with beliveable characters.
Next comes Pyramids of Mars and thanks to perpetual renting of the video back when I was 10 (why my father eventually bought it as he reasoned that was a cheaper option! ) it’s still my favourite story even though I can probably still quote huge chunks of it. It has a good cast and is directed very well. Tom and Liz are on top form too and there’s some good death scenes with the mummies being very effective.
The Android Invasion is probably the weakest of the season but is still a very enjoyable story. Terry Nation knows how to structure a story and he knows how to create a suspenseful first episode, feel it’s a shame he didn’t do more Dalekless stories.
The Brain of Morbius is another I am familiar with due to the eighties video release. Phillip Madoc is a great villan and he and Tom work well together. The story is enjoyable enough and has some good dialogue. The “can you spare a glass of water” line always makes me chuckle.
The Seeds of Doom concludes the season with another body mutation story as the plants take over. The decision to effectively have a two part prologue to the main story works well and means it never feels overlong. Harrison Chase is another well created villan who becomes wonderfully unhinged.
So we begin the Tom Baker years and I must admit that as my first Doctor he just slightly edges the other eleven Doctors into second place as my favourite. I’m sure most fans feel the same about whoever was in the role when they began watching. Tom is one of the actors who played the Doctor that livens up every story he’s in even when they’re a bit weaker than others.
Robot kicks the era off and they wisely show the new Doctor having a very familiar feeling adventure, basically Tom has to deal with a Pertwee story that you feel the third doctor would’ve breezed through. It’s a good story and the robot is effective though the less said about the toy tank the better. We also get Harry Sullivan’s debut and he makes a good addition.
Ark in Space is next and this is where the era kicks off and begins a golden age of the show. The plot is Alien several years early and the horrific nature of the threat immediately stakes out the new direction. Tom’s speech about humans is great and it’s amazing how quickly his character is formed.
Sontaran Experiment is a nice little two parter and looks great. There’s a good performance from the main trio and The Sontaran is a sadistic little bugger
Genesis of the Daleks follows and is rightly seen as a classic, it never feels overlong and Davros is a brilliant creation (though one I feel shouldn’t have returned) and is totally beliveable as a scientist who will do anything to achieve his ends even genocide. The Daleks are used well and more in the background untill they assert self control. I do like the theory I’ve seen that this is basically the start of the time war.
Revenge of the Cybermen ends things and is one I have a large nostalgia for based on the summer of 1985 when it was one of the handful of videos available so it got rented a lot. The 10 year old me loved it and rewatching it is always pleasant, whilst it’s not the strongest story there’s some nice stuff in it and the Voga scenes look wonderful thanks to Wookey Hole.