Novel Review: Scratchman

We’re back, with another Doctor Who novel review! Stepping out of the New Adventures series for a moment, today we’re looking at a more recent, and more unique, novel: 2019’s Scratchman, written by Tom Baker himself!

…Well, not exactly. Baker is certainly credited as the author; and along with Ian Marter, he wrote the original movie treatment from which the novel is adapted. (In some sources, Marter gets a credit on the novel as well.) But the actual writing was handled by James Goss, and he deserves credit as well, so I’m acknowledging him here.

Cover of the print novel

However, Baker did do the reading of the novel; and it’s for that reason that this time, I chose the Audible audiobook version. I’ll go ahead and say, you should too; if you want to experience this novel, do yourself a favor and pick up the audio. Tom is clearly having the time of his life, and it shows; you won’t be disappointed.

This novel features the Fourth Doctor, along with companions Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan (placing it sometime early in the Fourth Doctor’s era—we’ll try to get a better placement later). Further, it’s told in the first person perspective, by the Doctor himself. And so, let’s get started!

Novel print back cover

SPOILERS AHEAD! A brief summary begins here, and contains spoilers. If you want to avoid them, skip down to the line divider, below. However, be aware that some minor spoilers may happen in the later remarks as well.

The Fourth Doctor is on trial. The Time Lords have summoned him to Gallifrey to account for his recent actions; and this time, they aren’t playing around. He is accused of interfering in universal affairs—a rather broad charge, and that’s the point, isn’t it? The penalty, should they find him guilty, is to be wiped from existence—but the Doctor isn’t going to roll over and die. Instead, he’s come to teach the Time Lords a lesson in fear—and to do that, he’s going to tell them the story of his recent encounter with the Devil himself: Scratchman.

The Doctor, Sarah, and Harry arrive on an island somewhere off the coast of Scotland (or is it? It’s suggested, but not confirmed), in a recent but unconfirmed year. It seems like a nice place for a break; but as usual, something is very wrong here. It doesn’t take long for the Doctor and his friends to find that strange living scarecrows have infested the island, and are slowly killing the villagers. Or…are they? It soon becomes apparent that they aren’t killing the locals; they’re transforming them into more scarecrows!

The travelers gather the remaining locals into the village church. The Doctor deduces that a virus is the vector for this strange plague, and that the scarecrows spread the virus by touch; but if he can keep them from getting infected, and can destroy the scarecrows, he can stop it. To the latter end, he constructs a machine that will create an evolutionarily targeted breed of moths, which will devour the scarecrows’ outer shells, killing them. He sends Harry out for parts, and sends Sarah to the TARDIS to retrieve an Artron power pack for the device. Harry is infected while out, though he doesn’t realize it. Sarah accidentally allows a scarecrow into the TARDIS; she confronts and defeats it, but not before it infects her—and what’s more, it infects the TARDIS itself. Along the way, the Doctor himself is infected, though he is able to resist it longer.

A battle in the churchyard leads to the deaths of the remaining locals; although the moths do the job, it’s too late, and the scarecrows capture the Doctor and his friends. They take them to the beach, where they are confronted by the power behind the scarecrows: The Cybermen. However, the Doctor figures out that the Cybermen aren’t the problem here; they, too, are tools. Some other power has gifted them with the scarecrow virus, promising them an easy army; that power now has what it truly wants: The Doctor. It appears on the beach in the form of a humanoid at a distance, as the Cybermen leave the scene and walk into the ocean. The figure tells the Doctor to come to him, and turns Harry and Sarah into scarecrows.

The Doctor lands the TARDIS in a strange volcanic world; as soon as he exits, the TARDIS is consumed by vines. He meets a taxi driver named Charon, who takes him on a drive to meet the ruler of this land. The Doctor has already forgotten much, including his own identity and mission; Charon says this is normal here in the land of the dead, and that it will come back to him eventually. Along the way they suffer an attack from the Cyberleader from the island, who apparently is now also dead. Charon drops him near a castle floating in the sky, which the Doctor enters. He suffers another attack on his identity, but refuses to believe he is dead; the memory of Sarah and Harry returns to him and strengthens him. He finds them in a strange ballroom, dancing among a crowd; but this all serves to try to convince him he is dead, and therefore no longer the Doctor. He sees Harry and Sarah leave with a young man, purportedly his next self; and he begins to lose heart. However he meets a young blonde woman—his Thirteenth self, though he doesn’t know it—who distracts and frees him from the influence of the place.

The Doctor then meets the local ruler, Scratchman, who is ostensibly the Devil himself—which makes this place Hell. Scratchman offers to return the Doctor to his own universe and place, if the Doctor will open the way for Scratch to follow—after all, he claims he has made this a better realm, and claims that, much like the Doctor, he would like to do the same in the Doctor’s universe. The Doctor refuses, leaving a battle between them as the only alternative. He recovers Harry and Sarah, but they find themselves battling Scratchman on a huge game board, which is defined by Harry’s memories and thoughts. The Doctor forces a stalemate before Scratchman tries to change the rules. He loses Harry; but Harry makes his way inside the castle, and sabotages the engines that keep it afloat. The Doctor nearly dies in the crash, but is rescued by the Cyberleader; it tells him that its own form of Hell is being forced to do good deeds, and feel the emotions thereof. It states it will not do so again, and then disappears.

The Doctor now knows Scratch’s secret: He feeds on dreams and feelings and memories. The engines were powered by the consumption of the dreams of those trapped in this world; but that source of power is running out. Scratch begins to consume the world itself in an effort to destroy the Doctor; he creates replicas of many creatures the Doctor has faced and defeated, and sends them after the Doctor. He also creates scarecrow replicas of the Doctor’s previous three incarnations, to judge and dishearten the Doctor. The Doctor and his friends meet up with the islanders who died as scarecrows; the islanders know they’re doomed, but they choose to go down fighting, and stand against the army of monsters, allowing the Doctor to make it back to Scratch’s office in the ruins. Scratch reveals that what he really wants—the thing he believes will give him true power over the Doctor—is to know what the Doctor is afraid of. The Doctor tells him (although we, the readers, are not told). Whatever it is, Scratch is overwhelmed by it, and falls into fear himself. He flees from the remains of the monster army, before falling into a chasm to escape them. Quiet falls over the remains of Hell, and the three travelers—the only survivors—find the TARDIS, now restored, and return to their own universe.

Back at the trial, the Time Lords are unhappy with the outcome; but as the Doctor did save the universe again, and sealed the rift to Scratchman’s universe, they have no grounds to convict him. The Doctor concludes his lesson to them by telling them that what Scratchman wanted was not truly the Doctor’s fear, but rather, the Time Lords’ fear. He tells them they are afraid of change; and tells them to take action when the universe is under threat. He then walks out of the courtroom.

Later, while taking a much-belated break, the Doctor talks with Sarah about her experiences in the infected TARDIS, and about the future, and the knowledge of it. He meets briefly with the Thirteenth Doctor again, and talks about their own mutual future. He ends, much later, with a reading of a note from Sarah Jane, who is no longer with him.


I’m going to change up my usual order of things, and list continuity references now, rather than at the end. There’s a method to my madness, so bear with me:

Continuity references: The Doctor has previously been tried (The War Games), and will be again, several times. He mentions the Master’s doomsday weapon (Colony in Space). He mentions several recent encounters: professors (Robot), giant wasps (The Ark in Space), “militant potatoes” i.e. Sontarans (The Sontaran Experiment), mad scientists (Genesis of the Daleks), shapeshifters i.e. Zygons (Terror of the Zygons), and androids (The Android Invasion). Sarah Jane has her own mentions: her aunt Lavinia (The Time Warrior, later in A Girl’s Best Friend), a space station (The Ark in Space), a minefield (Genesis of the Daleks), a mummy (Pyramids of Mars), an android duplicate (The Android Invasion), a stuffed owl (The Hand of Fear), a garden centre (A Girl’s Best Friend–Sarah is seeing possible futures at this point), an exploding school (School Reunion) and a young boy (Luke, Invasion of the Bane et al.). She believes, erroneously, that the Jigsaw Room floor is a tile trap (Death to the DaleksThe Pyramids of Mars). The Doctor mentions the Loch Ness Monster (Terror of the Zygons) and thinks about the Daemons (The Daemons). Scratchman pulls several monsters from the Doctor’s memories: Giant spiders (Planet of the Spiders), Macra (The Macra Terror), Mechonoids (described but not named; The Chase), a giant robot (Robot), giant maggots (The Green Death), brains in jars (The Keys of Marinus), and a metal city of Daleks (described but not named; The Daleks).


Audiobook cover

How many times has the Doctor met the devil?

It’s a good question! And admittedly, one that’s difficult to pin down. A statement that repeatedly comes up in Doctor Who is that Earth’s history of belief in the devil has been greatly influenced by outsiders. The Daemons from the planet Daemos are once source (The Daemons), as were the Demoniacs (Mean Streets). The Greek immortal Hades called himself Satan (Deadly Reunion), as did Sutekh (Pyramids of Mars). The Beast claimed to be Satan, and certainly looked the part (The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit). (This information taken from the TARDIS wiki, not assembled by me.)

And here we meet another candidate, Scratchman. This being comes from outside our universe, from a related realm that poses itself as the Land of the Dead. It’s actually unclear whether Scratchman originated there, or whether he came from somewhere else; the Doctor makes it clear that Scratchman’s rule had a definite beginning, and Scratch himself doesn’t deny it.

Scratch’s claim to being the devil is pretty good, as compared to some of the others. The dead really do appear to go to his realm (or at least some of them; this isn’t the only afterlife we’ve ever seen); while there, the Doctor meets the dead villagers that he previously encountered in life, and both he and they seem convinced that the villagers are both real and dead. Even more convincingly to me, the Doctor never denies that Scratch is exactly what he says he is; in fact the Doctor supports that claim, treats him as though he is in fact the Devil, and even later warns the Time Lords that they should fear Scratchman. When the Time Lords mock him for this, he doubles down. Is Scratch truly the devil? It’s up to the reader in the end; but the Doctor himself seems to think so, at least to the limit that he acknowledges that the devil could be real at all.

The Doctor purports to give the Time Lords a lesson in fear; indeed, all the interludes set during the trial are themed around various aspects of fear. The overall lesson seems to be that fear is a tool, and if you can’t overcome it, someone will use it. That lesson cuts in two directions; the Doctor urges the Time Lords to overcome their own fear of change and inactivity so that it can’t be used against them, and so that they don’t fail in their responsibilities to the universe; but at the same time, it’s clear that he overcomes his own fear. He does this not by denying it, but by embracing it and using it to motivate himself. We’re never told exactly what the Doctor fears, but it must be something great indeed, if in the end it drives even his enemy to extremity. (The novel doesn’t take the easy way out here; it would be so simple to say that “The Doctor fears losing his friends” or something sentimental like that, but the book explicitly avoids that option—rather, he makes it clear that he loves his friends, and that love is a potent force for good.)


Now, a bit of theorizing. Let’s think about when this story takes place. Based on the list of continuity references above, it’s clear that this story happens near the end of Harry’s travels with the Doctor. In fact, his last televised adventure, The Android Invasion, has already taken place; but the next story, The Brain of Morbius, does not feature Harry, and gets no mention here, implying this story takes place immediately between those two adventures. (There are mentions of later episodes, but they are explicitly images of possible futures, not memories of things already past.) I think that the Doctor’s “lesson” to the Time Lords here is specifically a reaction to the events of Genesis of the Daleks. The Doctor has always considered the Time Lords to be stagnant, standoffish, and set in their ways, qualities he abhors. I think that when they began to interfere by proxy, during his third life, he grew frustrated with their efforts to use him to do things they themselves considered beneath them; and I think this came to a head in Genesis, where he finally refused to comply. Thus he comes here and lectures them about their habit of ignoring their responsibility to the universe, because even in sending him out to do their dirty work, they’ve been refusing to get involved themselves—using him as an “out”, as it were.

But: remember that there’s also a popular theory that the events of Genesis constituted the opening blow of the Time War. My addition: What if the reason the Time Lords began to fight the war directly, is because of the Doctor’s speech here? What if he prompted them to take direct action—and in typical Time Lord fashion, they screwed it up, and started a war they couldn’t win? Essentially, the Doctor called them cowards and dared them to do it. A lesson in fear, indeed! Or at least it’s frightening to think of in hindsight.


The highlight of the story is the perspective. The first person perspective is a unique addition to this story; and with the Fourth Doctor as a narrator, it becomes an interesting look into his thoughts. He’s conceited, there’s no doubt about that; but when coupled with his obvious love for life and sense of humor, it comes across as charming rather than arrogant. This is the Doctor in his youth; I’ve long suggested that given Time Lord lifespans, the fourth incarnation is the Doctor’s adolescent period, where he’s rebellious and wild, but also still has much to learn. This story seems to bear that out. He’s not the jaded and cunning Doctor of future incarnations; he’s sarcastic but not cynical, and even in some ways naïve. It’s refreshing, but it’s not the view of the Doctor that we would get through companion eyes.

Overall: What a fun story! It’s not the most serious adventure out there, though neither is it absurd, despite the premise; it’s just serious enough. And that’s a good place for a Fourth Doctor adventure to be. It’s also highly sentimental; one gets the impression it’s Tom Baker’s memorial to Ian Marter and Elizabeth Sladen, both of whom are referenced fondly, both in and out of character. If you have the opportunity, check it out, and enjoy the trip.


Next time: Well, this isn’t part of a series, and standalone novels are rare among my reviews, so…we’ll see? I may cover the Nest Cottage trilogy; for anyone interested, you can obtain the entire set for one price on Audible, or if you have an Audible membership, for one credit. Regardless, whatever we cover, see you there!

Doctor Who: Scratchman may be purchased in print form from Amazon and other booksellers, and in audio form from Audible and other audio distributors.

The TARDIS wiki’s treatment of the novel may be found here.

Final Thoughts: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch

Heads up, folks; this is a long one.  The alternative was to split it up over a few days and a few posts, but we all have things to do, so we’ll just put it all up at once.  Here we go!

eight classic doctors

Eight months ago, give or take, I started something that was, for me, pretty ambitious. I decided to watch all of the classic series of Doctor Who. It was a lot to take on; I’m not good at following through and completing a series, even if it’s all available for streaming at once. I can’t count the shows I’ve attempted and then quit halfway. But Doctor Who is different, I told myself; it’s the show of my childhood, and besides, I had already seen the entire revived series to that point (or almost anyway; I held off on a bit of Series 8 for my girlfriend to catch up, and likewise with Series 9). So I decided to give it a try.

Where it all began.

Where it all began.

Now here we are, eight months, twenty-six seasons and one movie later, and it’s over. I missed a collective total of about thirty minutes, I think; there was a single episode (not a serial, just one part) I couldn’t locate, plus about seven minutes missing from another. Of course many of the early episodes are only available in reconstructions, but I was able to find recons for all of those missing episodes. So, I wanted to put together a final thoughts post for the series, and see what people think. I appreciate all the comments (and karma) from the previous posts; this fandom is great, no matter what anyone outside it may say, and the discussion is what I was after most of all. I’ve learned a lot about the series just from the conversations that have resulted, and it’s convinced me to give Big Finish and the various novels a try, as well. If this gets a little long—and who am I kidding, I know myself, of course it will—I’ll split it into parts, but I’ll post them as quickly as I can. (If you’re reading this on my blog, some of what I’ve just said may not make sense; I’ve posted these reviews on Reddit.com’s /r/Gallifrey subreddit, as well, and some things are specific to that site.) With that, let’s get started!

First doctor companions enemies

My very first observation as I started this rewatch is that the series has changed immensely since William Hartnell was the First Doctor. I suppose I expected that, given that the show is fifty-three years old; but I wasn’t expecting it to have changed in the ways I saw. It’s gone from being a somewhat-educational children’s show to being a family show with adult overtones; but it’s more than that. The Doctor we first met was not a nice guy, nor likeable. He really wasn’t even the hero of his own show—that would be Ian Chesterton. (All respect to Barbara and Susan, but it was the 1960s—women weren’t often the heroes of anything on television. They were great, and I liked them, but they existed to support Ian, mostly.) The Doctor was there, basically, to put Ian and Barbara and Susan into a bad situation every week, and occasionally offer a solution. Nowadays that would never fly—he’s the Oncoming Storm, the Madman with a Box, Time’s Champion, even the Time Lord Victorious. He’s the star of his show, now.benpolly

It might be tempting to say that that change happened with the revival, but it was happening long before that. I’ve theorized as I watched—well, it’s not so much a cohesive theory as just an observation—that there’s a visible pattern of growth to the Doctor as the series goes on. Every incarnation adds to his character, makes him something new—he doesn’t just change, he increases. The First Doctor was hardly the Doctor at all for most of his life. He became the Doctor, I believe, in The War Machines. I’ve talked about this a few times before, and I can’t claim total credit for the idea—sorry, I’ve lost the link to the original post that inspired the idea—but my headcanon is that the Doctor didn’t consider himself to be the Doctor until he met Ian and Barbara. (The short version is that Ian mistakenly calls him Doctor, and he lets it stand so he won’t have to tell them his real name; eventually he sees noble qualities in Ian that he wants for himself, and takes the name on as a promise to himself to live up to that example. Then, later, his name leads to the use of the term for a healer—it’s a bit of a paradox, but hey, this is Doctor Who, paradoxes are what we do here.) I think the turning point onscreen is when he faces down the War Machine in the street, willing to sacrifice himself if necessary to save the others—but confident that he can meet the challenge.

The War Games

And then, not long after, he regenerates. Patrick Troughton is the Doctor right from the start, there’s no doubt about it. For him, growth means learning not to let things go to his head. He’s just learned all this confidence and taken on this self-assigned responsibility; now he has to be humble. And the Second Doctor is definitely humble. He does all the things that a class clown does: He’s self-effacing, he uses humor to redirect attention, he’s always evaluating everything and everyone. He moves from passive to active: He’s not just a wanderer in time anymore; instead, he’s getting involved, making things happen. And he cares, far more than the first Doctor ever did. My first memory of the Second Doctor—before I started this rewatch—is from The Mind Robber, with the Doctor running through the Land of Fiction, frantically searching for Jamie and Zoe because he’s so utterly worried about what might happen to them. He comes across as sullen, sometimes, simply because he worries so much.

Doctor Who the seventies

And then, he gets caught. The runaway gets dragged back home to an as-yet-unnamed Gallifrey. His companions get their memories removed—what a waste!—and get sent home, and he is forced to regenerate again. In Patrick Troughton’s place, we get John Pertwee, the Third Doctor. Further, he’s banished to Earth; the newly-named Time Lords pull out parts of his TARDIS and parts of his mind so as to keep him there. He’s immediately scooped up by UNIT, so he’s not homeless or purposeless; but his wandering days are over for now. This Doctor is the responsible one, but it chafes him to be that way. He wants to be free, but he has to learn patience. In the meantime, he’s calm, dignified (mostly), and smooth. He’s cared for his companions before, but this is where he learns to love humanity in general; when he first lands, he looks down on them. He knows he’s smarter, knows they’re not on his level. But by the time he gains his freedom back, he doesn’t look down on them anymore—in fact, his opinions are reversed; in Planet of the Spiders, he’s happy with his friends and companions, and looking down on himself for his own foolishness. It’s humility, but a different kind of humility from that of the Second Doctor: He knows he’s not infallible.

The Android Invasion 1

All of that seems to go right out the window when Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor comes on the scene. Several times I’ve called this his adolescent phase. He’s the rebellious teenager here. He’s no longer content to meet his responsibilities; he wants to get out and see the universe. He spends a lot of episodes trying to run from duty, whether it be to UNIT, the Time Lords, the White Guardian, or his companions. He works on his TARDIS the way some teenagers soup up their cars. He gets so rebellious that he has to have a nanny, essentially, to keep him on track, and so Romana joins him. He’s changeable and moody and high-strung and unpredictable. He’s faced with huge decisions and freely admits he isn’t ready to make them. Genesis of the Daleks shows his immaturity (where rather than make the right decision, he more or less blunders into it); it’s not until The Armageddon Factor, when he dismisses the Key to Time, that he begins to grow out of it. And then, near his death, he gets Adric, and becomes something of a mentor to him. I feel like that relationship is what leads him to subconsciously choose the pattern of his next incarnation. He dies doing what he never could have done at the beginning: being a real hero, sacrificing himself for not just those close to him, but the universe at large.

Season 21 10

Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor takes that mentoring aspect and cranks it up to eleven. Young though he appears to be, he’s the fatherly type; he treats his companions less like friends and more like family, or like his own children. Adric’s death in Earthshock breaks him, and he becomes a little harder afterward; but instead of giving him a dark side, that hardness just makes him try that much harder to be the protector, the mentor, the leader. This is the phase of his life where he becomes, as Ohila will later say to the Eighth Doctor, the good man. He finds something of an equal in Nyssa (though it’s never a romantic relationship), but she ultimately leaves out of goodness—she chooses to stay behind on Terminus to help the survivors of Lazar’s Disease. He takes Turlough under his wing, and saves him; he tries to do the same with Kamelion, but fails. It hurts him quite a bit when Tegan leaves; he tries to make it up with Peri, and ends up dying to save her.

Trial 13

I want to say that Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor came as a reaction to something about the Fifth Doctor. I want to say that, but I can’t. I labored over the question of why he should be the way he was—at first at least—but I just couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer. It just seems that when you’re changing personalities with every regeneration, every once in a while you get a dud. It’s almost a reset, a throwback to Tom Baker, but with the bad qualities exaggerated and the good minimized. How often do you get a Doctor that tries to kill a companion? Not often. That, at least, is how he starts out. But if this were elementary school, I’d give the Sixth Doctor the award for “Most Improvement”. The change between the beginning of his (admittedly short) era and the end is just amazing. While he never stops being arrogant, it goes from unapologetic and vicious to self-aware and, well, able to laugh at himself. While he started out thinking of himself as being supremely capable in any circumstance, he really wasn’t—think of all the times he was outwitted by his circumstances, or the times he tried and failed to fix the TARDIS. Yet, by the end, when he learns not to focus on himself as much, he really IS capable—it’s almost like a bit of humility unlocked his abilities.

And then he’s unceremoniously dumped by the BBC. Oh. Well, that’s not good.

Season 26 10

Sylvester McCoy, as the Seventh Doctor, didn’t get the benefit of any buildup whatsoever. He had to step into the role and be the Doctor with no in-universe preparation. He met that challenge; no other Doctor has so immediately been the Doctor. From the minute he wakes up in the Rani’s lab, he commands the role, and never looks back. That’s literal as well as figurative; he’s the only Doctor never to be involved in any capacity in a multi-Doctor story, at least in the classic series. As far as the classic series is concerned—and with its end approaching—he is the pinnacle of the character: Capable, smart, mysterious, caring, wise, powerful, cunning. He meets his match in Ace, who is likewise the pinnacle of what a companion should be: Energetic, realistic, versatile, adaptable, happy, devoted, and above all else, human. With them, we get some of the best stories—and we get the difficult task of closing out the series for cancellation. Somehow, it all comes together perfectly.

movie 11

It’s unfortunate that the Seventh Doctor dies as he does—in gunfire and pain—but one thing that was NOT unfortunate was Paul McGann’s selection as the Eighth Doctor. This Doctor is the hinge on which the classic series turns, paving the way for the new series; and as such, he’s a little of both. He’s a survivor, but also a lover, at least to some degree. He puts thought into what it means to BE the Doctor—and he takes a stand accordingly. He dies trying to balance those aspects of himself, fighting destiny all the way to the end—and in his ashes is born the War Doctor. We’ll talk more about him somewhere much further down the road.

old and new dw

I made a point as I watched of looking for similarities and connections between the classic series and the revived series. Many of those, I pointed out as I came to them. It was interesting to see how plot points reappeared, and how relationships and personalities in one series mirrored those in the other. I suppose it’s inevitable that a five-decade series would repeat itself, but it’s uncanny sometimes; clearly the writers didn’t plagiarize, but they hit the same notes just the same. It never feels repetitive, somehow; instead, it just goes to make these characters feel like real people, with real personalities that stay consistent from one appearance to another. That’s no small feat, considering that there have been dozens (if not hundreds) of writers, and that it was almost certainly unintentional.

ninth doctor 2

One specific connection I looked for was the various ways in which later Doctors drew inspiration from earlier Doctors. I didn’t research the subject; I know some modern actors have spoken about how they designed their portrayal, and in at least one instance (Ten with Five from Time Crash) it’s actually canon; but I didn’t look into that. These are just my guesses and opinions based on what I saw of the characters. With that said, Nine doesn’t owe much to anyone—or rather, he’s a little bit of everyone. That makes perfect sense, considering he’s a brand-new Doctor, fresh off the Time War, and in a sense the first of his line. He had to carry the weight of the revival single-handedly, and so it made sense for him to show a little something from everyone—the harshness of Hartnell, the energy of Troughton, the severity of Pertwee, the willfulness of Tom Baker, the paternalism (sometimes) of Davison, the mercurial whims of Colin Baker, the determination of McCoy, and the responsibility of McGann. His costume didn’t even relate directly to anyone; it was something new, although we would eventually find that it relates to the War Doctor.

time crash

Ten, of course, owes much to Five; that much is official within the series. He gets his wit from Four, but his attitude toward his companions is all five—in fact, his companions themselves have a lot in common with Five’s companions. Rose is his Adric (though it eventually went to romance more than mentoring); Donna is his Nyssa; Martha is his Tegan, right down to the “I can’t do this anymore” departure; and Wilfred is his Turlough. Astrid Peth, in her one appearance, is his Kamelion—the one he tried to save, but failed; or you could make the same observation about Lady Christina de Souza, as she was both hero and villain.

eleventh doctor 1

Eleven owes his characterization to the Second Doctor, but also—oddly—to the Sixth. Bear with me. He shares Two’s general humor, many of his mannerisms, his flawless loyalty to his companions, and his calm self-assurance (which admittedly is the ONLY thing calm about him). At the same time, he has a proud and arrogant streak that is pure Six; sometimes he’s even as fickle as Six. He also has a scene at his tomb that parallels Six’s scene at his ostensible tomb in Revelation of the Daleks, though Eleven’s attitude about his impending death is much more mature than Six’s (and understandably so). Having a few audios with Six under my belt now, I see the way that character grew offscreen, and I can’t help thinking that Eleven is what Six might have been if he had had to face the Time War.

twelve and one

Then there’s Twelve. I’ve been vocal in various comments sections about my disappointment with the Twelfth Doctor thus far. I have the utmost respect for Peter Capaldi; his acting chops are second to none. What I don’t like is the direction the character has taken, mostly due to Clara Oswald. With that said, it was harder to nail down influences for him; but I feel like he mostly owes himself to the First and Third Doctors. He shares One’s disdain for his companions, or in his case, companion; I don’t mean that he hates Clara, but there is a lot of rivalry there, and also some looking down on her when he feels she’s inadequate. (It’s only fair, I guess; she does the same to him.) He also has One’s arrogance and willfulness, though it’s not as pronounced as, say, Six. He shares Three’s flair and fashion sense (sometimes anyway), love for tinkering, chafing at restrictions (Three toward the Time Lords, Twelve toward Clara), and sense of responsibility toward Clara and toward UNIT.

Doctors banner

We fans of the show are fond of declaring a certain Doctor to be “MY Doctor”, and that’s fine; I’ve done it too. Now that I’ve seen them all, I thought I would try to rank them according to my preferences. This ranking isn’t any kind of evaluation of their qualities; it’s strictly a ranking of who I liked, most to least, though I may make a comment or two along the way. I’m including the new series Doctors as well, because it’s a short list, and I feel like it’s best judged with everyone included.

  1. Tenth Doctor—David Tennant. I didn’t expect him to unseat Tom Baker, but what can I say.
  2. Seventh Doctor—Sylvester McCoy. I was surprised at just how good he was. The series ended in good hands.
  3. Fourth Doctor—Tom Baker. I grew up watching him, and he was always the standard for the Doctor, in my opinion. I was surprised and a little disappointed to see him slip in my personal rating.
  4. Eleventh Doctor—Matt Smith. He gets a lot of controversy among fans, but I thought he was great.
  5. Third Doctor—John Pertwee. Just a great performance all around.
  6. Fifth Doctor—Peter Davison. I wanted to be more impressed with him, and he wasn’t bad; but he wasn’t as good as I expected at first.
  7. Ninth Doctor—Christopher Eccleston. Great guy, great Doctor, but all too soon gone.
  8. Second Doctor—Patrick Troughton. I liked him, but for reasons I can’t pin down, I had trouble following a lot of his episodes.
  9. Eighth Doctor—Paul McGann. Just not enough material to rank him higher, though what we have is pretty good.
  10. First Doctor—William Hartnell. It was a different time; the First Doctor is easy to respect, but hard to love.
  11. Sixth Doctor—Colin Baker. Such a victim of bad writing and bad politics. I really feel like he would have done much better with more time.
  12. War Doctor—John Hurt. Great performance, but very little screen time.
  13. Twelfth Doctor—Peter Capaldi. Yes, I know, placing him last is controversial. I hope he’ll improve with a new companion. I have high hopes for him next series.

tenth doctor 1

So, there you have it—if I can call anyone “my Doctor”, it’s David Tennant.

Not a perfect list, but closest I could get. From top left: Susan, Barbara, Ian, Vicki, Steven, Dodo, Polly, Ben, Jamie, Victoria, Zoe, the Brigadier, Liz, Jo, Sarah Jane, Harry, Leela, K9, Romana I, Romana II, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan, Turlough, Peri, Mel, Ace, Grace, Rose, Jack, Mickey, Martha, Astrid, Donna, Jackson Lake, Lady Christina, Adelaide Brook, Wilfred, Amy, Rory, River, and I really don't know who that last one is.

Not a perfect list, but closest I could get. From top left: Susan, Barbara, Ian, Vicki, Steven, Dodo, Polly, Ben, Jamie, Victoria, Zoe, the Brigadier, Liz, Jo, Sarah Jane, Harry, Leela, K9, Romana I, Romana II, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan, Turlough, Peri, Mel, Ace, Grace, Rose, Jack, Mickey, Martha, Astrid, Donna, Jackson Lake, Lady Christina, Adelaide Brook, Wilfred, Amy, Rory, River, and I’m unsure, but I think that last one is supposed to be the personified TARDIS.

Finally, companions. As this list is considerably longer, rather than talk first about the various companions, I’ll just put this in ranking order, and make comments along the way. If you’ve read this far, congratulations! But this last part is likely to be the longest—the Doctor has had a lot of companions. As with my Doctor ranking, I’m including NuWho companions as well. I’ve mostly followed the Wikipedia list, but with a few exceptions for totally arbitrary reasons: I’ve left out Mike Yates and Sergeant Benton because they only appear with the Brigadier for the most part, and lumping them together with him doesn’t really change his ranking. I’ve included Chang Lee even though he was technically a companion of the Master, because he ultimately sided with the Doctor and was mostly inseparable from Grace Holloway. I’ve listed the two versions of Romana separately because the performances were very different; by the same logic, I’ve combined the two K9s into one entry. I didn’t include Jackson Lake because he (for all practical purposes) functions as a separate Doctor, complete with companion of his own; or Adelaide Brook, because she more or less traveled under duress, and clearly did not want to be with the Doctor. I also have left off incoming companion Bill, since we don’t know anything about her yet. In every case, I’ve tried to give the most complete name that I can; in some cases a surname wasn’t given onscreen, but has arisen in other materials. I’m using the versions that can be found on the TARDIS wiki. In total, using this ranking, there are 46 companions; 15 are male, 29 are female, and 2 are robotic. So, without further adieu, here’s my companion ranking.

  1. Ian Chesterton—First Doctor. I have a lot of respect for Ian. He’s a good man, even before the Doctor proves himself to be one as well; and he set the pattern for many companions to come. I would love to see William Russell reprise the role in a few episodes of Class, as Ian is hinted to be on the Board of Governors for Coal Hill School.
  2. Dorothy Gale “Ace” McShane—Seventh Doctor. I earlier described her as the pinnacle of what a companion should be, and I stand be that. She was fantastic in every regard.
  3. Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart—Second, Third Doctors, plus several cameos. Possibly the most loyal of all companions, in the sense that his loyalty existed in spite of having a clear view of just how crazy the Doctor could be. Every single appearance onscreen is great. Has a wit that cuts like a knife.
  4. Jamie McCrimmon—Second Doctor. More episodes under his belt than any other companion, and I’m still angry that he had his memory wiped. He’s the only companion to ever be present for a Doctor’s entire run (with the exception of Clara, if Series Ten goes as planned).
  5. Donna Noble—Tenth Doctor. Hands down, my favorite NuWho companion, and just as tragic at the end as Jamie. She was the one true equal in personality that the Tenth Doctor ever met.
  6. Nyssa of Traken—Fifth Doctor. If Donna was Ten’s equal, Nyssa was Five’s. They both essentially give up their life with the Doctor for the sake of saving people, though Donna doesn’t know it. Nyssa was the loyal, stable one while Adric and Tegan—and later, Turlough and Tegan—were fighting it out.
  7. K9—Fourth Doctor, and a cameo with Ten. A companion’s companion, literally, in that he ended up with Leela, Romana, and Sarah Jane in various incarnations. I loved K9 as a kid, and still do; his obliviousness and bluntness plays perfectly against Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor.
  8. Elizabeth “Liz” Shaw—Third Doctor. She didn’t get enough credit, and didn’t stay long enough. She was a much better match for Three than Jo Grant ever was, though he would never have been able to be paternal toward Liz like he was to Jo.
  9. Wilfred Mott—Tenth Doctor. Wins the award for “most lovable companion.” He summarizes how the rest of the universe relates to the Doctor—they want to trust him, but they can’t keep up with him, and in the end, they just want to survive and live a good life.
  10. Leela—Fourth Doctor. It always bothered me that the Doctor treated her rather badly, when she didn’t deserve it. Still, their relationship wasn’t all bad, and she was loyal and strong to a fault.
  11. Sarah Jane Smith—Third and Fourth Doctors, plus a cameo and two spinoffs. If I had only had her classic run to look at, I would have ranked her lower; she’s fairly whiny and weak. She gets a great redemption, though, in School Reunion and in The Sarah Jane Adventures.
  12. Dorothea “Dodo” Chaplet—First Doctor. Likeable, fun, and energetic. Her tenure felt very short to me.
  13. River Song—Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors, with suggestions that she met them all. River generates a lot of controversy, but I always liked her, even when she was being infuriating.
  14. Romana II—Fourth Doctor. Lalla Ward is the definitive Romana. Once the character and the Doctor learned to get along, they made a great team (and of course their real-life relationship added some chemistry, both good and bad).
  15. Vislor Turlough—Fifth Doctor. He’s another who gets some criticism, but I liked him once he stopped acting like a spoiled child and started standing up for himself.
  16. Jack Harkness (just as a companion, not based on his Torchwood performance)—Ninth and Tenth Doctors. Jack has a unique gift for grasping the situation instantly and adapting to it. A good man to have in a fight, and of course he’s charming as can be. Early Jack is almost more interesting than his Torchwood portrayal.
  17. Martha Jones—Tenth Doctor. There’s only one Martha, and I’m so glad she didn’t end up in a relationship with the Doctor. She turned out much better for walking away.
  18. Susan Foreman—First Doctor, plus a cameo. Susan gets a bad reputation because she was poorly written, but I always felt like the character had so much potential. I want to see her come back and get a regeneration scene while Carol Ann Ford is still with us.
  19. Zoe Heriot—Second Doctor. Zoe gets credit for matching so well with Jamie. They were a great duo, and together they perfectly balanced the Second Doctor. I wish she had stayed longer.
  20. Victoria Waterfield—Second Doctor. This was always going to be a difficult role to play; she was essentially a teenager with PTSD. Nevertheless, the role was executed well.
  21. Jo Grant—Third Doctor. I gave Jo a lot of flak in my reviews, but she turned out fine; I was just feeling burned by the loss of Liz Shaw. In the end, she made a great choice and picked a great cause when she left the Doctor. She grew on me over time, but I admit to thinking she was stupid at first.
  22. Harry Sullivan—Fourth Doctor. Harry is one of those incidental companions who never chose this life; he’s just along for the ride. He absolutely makes the most of it, though, and isn’t scarred by it at all—kind of a rare thing among companions.
  23. Adric—Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Not the first death in series history, but the most traumatic. He had a great arc, with considerable growth…and then, dead. Just like that.
  24. Romana I—Fourth Doctor. I liked Mary Tamm’s performance, and though I also liked Lalla Ward, I was sorry to see Romana regenerate. She was excellent at reining in the Fourth Doctor.
  25. Mel Bush—Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Mel was the best thing to happen to Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor. After the doom and depression of Peri’s final appearances, Mel was a breath of fresh air, and it clearly made a difference to the Doctor. Her performance was good enough that the transition to Ace felt like a handshake between friends rather than a change of watch.
  26. Tegan Jovanka—Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Tegan loosened up considerably after leaving her job; it was a great direction for her character. Unlike many companions before her, she didn’t leave because she missed home, or found other involvements; she left because of the horror of what life with the Doctor could entail. I compared her to Martha Jones in that regard, and I still think it’s a fair comparison.
  27. Grace Holloway—Eighth Doctor. Such a short performance, and unfortunately we’re not likely to get her back in any capacity. She may not have been a good long-term match for the Eighth Doctor, but she was certainly what he needed at the time.
  28. Chang Lee—Eighth Doctor. An excellent counterpoint to Grace. Had the show persisted, I could have seen him becoming another Adric. A good kid in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  29. Mickey Smith—Tenth Doctor, though also present around the Ninth. Often rejected from lists of companions, but I feel that’s unfair to him. He had a difficult path to walk, watching Rose reject him in favor of the Doctor, and yet still focusing on the bigger picture of saving the world (two worlds, actually!). He ended up with Martha, and I can’t imagine a better ending for him.
  30. Rory Williams—Eleventh Doctor. It’s difficult to tie yourself to a person with a very strong personality, but there’s no question about his love for Amy. I felt a great deal of sympathy for him. He could teach the Doctor a thing or two about being a good man.
  31. Craig Owens—Eleventh Doctor. And now, here’s an everyman! It may be a bit stereotypical, but Craig played the part perfectly. I’m not sorry he only had a few appearances; making him a regular would have ruined him, and that’s a fate I don’t want to think about.
  32. Amy Pond—Eleventh Doctor. I wanted to hate Amy for a long time. She ordered the Doctor and Rory around constantly, and just made life miserable. Then we got Clara, and I realized I never knew how good we had it with Amy. She’s by no means a bad character or a bad person, but she’s headstrong to the point of death, possibly literally. She did improve with time, though.
  33. Astrid Peth—Tenth Doctor. Earlier I called her Ten’s Kamelion, because of her short term and her death. Also like Kamelion, she had been manipulated by a worse villain, but she absolutely made good on it.
  34. Vicki Pallister—First Doctor. Vicki was quiet and unassuming, and basically just there—and for her, those were good things. She made no demands, just quietly worked and helped and served. I really appreciated her for that.
  35. Steven Taylor—First Doctor. I recall commenting that Steven was the victim of having his parts written initially for someone else. As a result, his character was all over the place. It’s a pity; he had the makings of greatness, but he just never had the chance to shine, being caught in the middle of things.
  36. Barbara Wright—First Doctor. I only ranked her low because she was the victim of her time. A female character in 1963 was pretty much doomed to do a lot of screaming and make a lot of bad decisions. Her heart was in the right place, though, and she had some good moments.
  37. Lady Christina de Souza—Tenth Doctor. We’re reaching the point where characters just don’t have enough material to rank them higher (well, with a few upcoming exceptions). Lady Christina deserved a redemption story arc, but she never got the chance to get it.
  38. Rose Tyler—Ninth and Tenth Doctors. I’ve been very hard on Rose over the years, mostly because of her love affair with the Doctor. While I’m not of the camp that says the Doctor should be asexual and anti-romantic, seeing this eighteen-year-old child fawning over him was just sad. She had a lot of good moments, but mostly they were the ones that didn’t involve the Doctor. We do owe her something for being the first companion of the revived series, but I feel like she squandered it.
  39. Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown—Fifth and Sixth Doctors. Poor Peri. She started out happy and hopeful, and then the Doctor tried to kill her. She never recovered from it. For the rest of her tenure, she’s a trauma victim; she’s paranoid, easily frightened, distrustful, and whiny. I hated that for her. It was almost a relief to see her go.
  40. Ben Jackson—First and Second Doctors. I’m ranking Ben and Polly (you never get them separately) low chiefly because I don’t remember a lot about them. They came and went fairly quickly, and though they were present for some good stories, they didn’t make much impact on me. Otherwise there’s nothing wrong about them.
  41. Polly Wright—First and Second Doctors. Polly didn’t even get a last name onscreen, which tells you more about her character than I could say in a paragraph. She was definitely underused.
  42. Clara Oswald—Tenth, Eleventh, War, and Twelfth Doctors, with cameos with all of them. Yes, I’m ranking her low. She’s the only companion ever to inspire me to rage. I will give her credit for her early appearances with Eleven; from Asylum of the Daleks to The Name of the Doctor, she was fantastic and compelling. The “Impossible Girl” storyline was great, and had a great resolution, introducing the War Doctor as well. After that, she took over the show and turned the Doctor into her lapdog. I’ve ranted extensively about this in other places, so I’ll let it go for now.
  43. Katarina—First Doctor. Just too short a term to say much about her. She was in over her head to begin with. However, she did make a noble sacrifice in the end, thus becoming the first companion death.
  44. Sara Kingdom—First Doctor. Has the dubious distinction of being the second companion to die in the same episode as another. She could have been a good character, given enough time; and she was the first enemy to then become a companion.
  45. Adam Mitchell—Ninth Doctor. I kept him on the list because the idea of an evil companion is fascinating, but let’s be honest, he’s slimy and despicable.
  46. Kamelion—Fifth Doctor. Ranked last for his severe underuse. It’s not his fault; it’s hard to use a prop when no one knows how it works. Unfortunately he came and went with barely a blip on the radar, although The King’s Demons is a good—if insane—story.

The last thing I wanted to mention are my favorite serials for each Doctor (or the first seven, anyway—not enough material for choice with McGann, really). Someone had asked about this; I tried to get into it season by season, but really ran out of time in most cases. Anyway, for better or worse, here were my favorites for each Doctor, and a bit about why:

  • First Doctor: The Space Museum. I know, it’s an odd choice, especially when I’ve talked so much about The War Machines. But favorites aren’t just based on seminal moments in the series; they’re based on how enjoyable they were. This serial gets a lot of flak for various reasons, but it was fun to watch, and it created a few ideas that have shown up again in surprising places, like the idea of a mind probe device, or the idea of being out of sync with time. And Hartnell is at his funniest here, which is awesome.
  • Second Doctor: Oh, man, so many good choices. Patrick Troughton really is the Doctor who defined the role. But when all is said and done, I’d choose The Tomb of the Cybermen. It’s full of iconic scenes and moments, and brought the Cybermen back from what seemed like the dead after the end of The Tenth Planet. In some ways, Cybermen have always been scarier than Daleks; all a Dalek can do is exterminate you, but the Cybermen can make you one of them, and steal away your humanity.
  • Third Doctor: Inferno. Again, probably an uncommon choice, but hear me out. Here you get the Doctor in extremis; he’s alone, in a hostile world, racing the clock, feeling the burden of not one but two worlds, with no TARDIS, no companions, no UNIT—and he wins. Yet, even as he wins, he loses some people he would rather have saved, and it’s clear he’s not perfect, and he can’t do everything. Also, it’s a bit downplayed, but there’s some suggestion that the Leader in the inferno world is the Doctor, or rather, what he would have become had he accepted one of the forms the Time Lords offered him in The War Games.
  • Fourth Doctor: Again, so many choices! But I’m going with The Face of Evil. Not only did it introduce Leela, but it also showed us just what happens if the Doctor has to go up against himself (or rather, the computerized version he left behind). It’s an irresistible plot, and one that would be mined again under the Eleventh Doctor (Nightmare in Silver). This is one from my childhood, too, so there’s some sentimentality there as well.
  • Fifth Doctor: I’m tempted to say The Visitation just based on the awesome Richard Mace, but the rest of the story wasn’t that strong; and it cost us the sonic screwdriver. So, I’ll go with Kinda. There’s not much to hate about it; the Mara are a great and unique villain; Tegan is fantastic here; and it is dealt with chiefly due to the relationship between the Doctor and his companions, which is the essence of what the Fifth Doctor is about. I didn’t enjoy Snakedance quite as much, but it was also a great complement to this story.
  • Sixth Doctor: No, I’m not going to say Trial of a Time Lord; that would be cheating. If it were going to be that season, I’d break it down into its parts. Actually, in general I do prefer that season over the preceding one; but for an individual story, I’m going with Revelation of the Daleks. It’s the first place where the Sixth Doctor really started to come into his own, and Davros is one of my favorite villains.
  • Seventh Doctor: Battlefield. No hard decision here. Yes, I know it was rated low, but this is my list, so there. It’s the seventh Doctor at the top of his game; UNIT and the Brigadier still at the top of theirs; an actual battle scene, which is something we rarely ever got in UNIT stories for some reason; a great take on the King Arthur legends; Ace being fantastic; and Bessie, who we all know is my one true love. Just kidding. Still cool to see the car again, though.

So, there it is. Twenty-six seasons, one movie, eight Doctors, thirty-two companions (classic series), one hundred sixty stories, and one blue box—classic Doctor Who in its entirety. There’s far more that could be said, and has been; after all these years, there’s no bottom to this well. Still, this rewatch has given my thoughts on these decades of stories; now, what are yours? This has always been about discussion, and I love seeing everyone’s thoughts and reactions. Feel free to comment!

Season 26 feature

Some future plans: I’ve already begun an occasional series of reviews of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas, and I intend to continue it. It won’t have anything near the regularity of this series; it will just be as I manage to listen to the audios. That series is open-ended; I don’t have a goal in mind, as Big Finish is constantly adding new material. Nor will it be in any particular order; as they add materials for all Doctors, it’s not practical to take them in numeric order as I did with the television series. As I can get my hands on the novels, I may do the same with them; but that series is likely to be even more infrequent than the audios. I have given some thought to continuing with a rewatch of the revived series, and I may do that; but I don’t want to get it mixed up with /r/Gallifrey’s official rewatch series, so I may wait a bit and title it differently. If I do continue, I won’t do an entire season in a single post; there’s just too many stories per season for that. I’ll probably do about three episodes per post.

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Thanks for reading! I’m glad this series was well received, and I look forward to everyone’s comments.

 

All seasons and episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below. Note that these links are not the individual serial links I have previously posted, but rather, links to the entire collected seasons, arranged by era. For convenience, I have included links to the revived series as well.

The First Doctor, William Hartnell, 1963-1966

The Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, 1966-1969

The Third Doctor, John Pertwee, 1970-1974

The Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, 1974-1980

The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, 1981-1984

The Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, 1984-1986

The Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, 1986-1989

The Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, 1996, 2013

No episodes dedicated solely to the War Doctor have been produced; however, to make up for it, I’ll give you something special: the fan film created to promote the War Doctor charity anthology, Seasons of War

The Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, 2005

The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, 2006-2010

The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, 2011-2014

The Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi, 2014-Present

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Farewell, UNIT: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Thirteen

This week in our Classic Doctor Who rewatch, the Fourth Doctor has hit his stride.  Let’s get started!

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Terror of the Zygons

 

After several stories offworld, Terror of the Zygons brings us back to Earth.  It’s a UNIT story, and in fact, it’s the Brigadier’s final appearance of the decade; he will return in 1983’s Mawdryn Undead, which is oddly not a UNIT story.  This serial is also Harry Sullivan’s last story as a companion, though not his final appearance; he remains behind after being shot and recovering.

Terror of the Zygons 2

Goodbye (for now!), Brigadier

 

The villains are the newly-introduced, shapeshifting Zygons. They will never appear again in the classic series—what a waste!—but return strong in the fiftieth anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, and again in its two-part sequel The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion.  Coincidentally, their first two appearances, though 38 years apart, both occurred in stories in which Tom Baker appeared.  Here they use a cyborg Skarasen to menace humanity, thus giving us Doctor Who’s take on the Loch Ness Monster.  We get some environmental themes here, but they’re mild this time; the Zygons want to disrupt an energy conference that deals with environmental issues, thus beginning their transformation of Earth’s climate.

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Goodbye, Harry (sort of)

 

Something interesting about their appearance here: Though the Time Lords seem to be unaware as yet of the Last Great Time War, its effects are already being felt, as The Day of the Doctor reveals that the war is responsible for the destruction of the Zygon homeworld, which is key to this story as it is to that one.

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The Antimatter Creature

 

Planet of Evil takes us far from Earth, to a planet called Zeta Minor, in the year 37,166 (the date is given onscreen in the first few seconds).  It’s distant indeed, on the very edge of the known universe—so far, in fact, that the universe here interacts with another universe, one made of antimatter.  It’s not clear if this is the same antimatter universe seen in The Three Doctors. The story is based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in that one of the characters—possessed by the antimatter creature—displays a sharp duality of nature, of which he himself is unaware.  It’s a fairly action-packed story, with a pretty good sense of dread throughout.  It’s very brutal, though, as most of the humans are dead by the end—something which happens often this season.

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The Doctor goes scarfless!

 

This is the first time we see the Fourth Doctor inside the TARDIS console room, though of course it’s clear he has been using it previously. Yet again, it’s a new console and set, slightly more utilitarian than the last, with roundels that are nearly flush with the wall.  It won’t be the last new set we see under Baker’s tenure. Speaking of Baker, he goes scarfless!  For much of the story, anyway.  Allegedly this had more to do with filming of the antimatter-universe scenes than with any stylistic decision.  Without the scarf, his chosen costume here is very reminiscent of the Eighth Doctor’s movie costume.  There’s one more noteworthy contrast, as well:  The jungle set in this story was built specifically to contrast with the sets on that other 1960s sci-fi series…Star Trek, I believe it was called.  It’s therefore ironic, then, that the probe ship seen in orbit is very much in the style of Star Trek, with nacelles and a rounded primary hull.  It even has a voice-controlled computer!

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Marcus Scarman and the Mummies…worst band name ever

 

I had seen Pyramids of Mars before, and thought highly of it.  It doesn’t lose anything on repeat viewing.  The Doctor attempts to return to UNIT headquarters, but overshoots with regard to the date; he lands on the property, but sixty-four years earlier, in 1911.  UNIT headquarters hasn’t been built yet; a former priory, now owned by Marcus Scarman, stands on the grounds.  It’s here that the Doctor utters, to Sarah Jane, his famous line, “I’m not a human.  I walk in eternity.”  In the same scene, he mentions Victoria Waterfield, and possibly Vicki Pallister, when Sarah wears one of Victoria’s dresses.  First mentions in this episode include the concept of isomorphic controls, keyed to an individual (better known from the Master’s laser screwdriver in The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords).  He’s claimed repeatedly that the TARDIS only responds to him (a patent lie), but this is the first occurrence of the term.  He also first mentions his respiratory bypass system, which will recur several times.

Pyramids of Mars 2

Sutekh the Destroyer

 

The enemy at hand here is Sutekh, the last of the Osirans, the beings that inspired the ancient Egyptian gods. He’s a destroyer who wants to be free to bring death to everything and everyone; however, he remains trapped in a pyramid on Mars, linked to Earth only by a time-space tunnel.  The scenario is akin to The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, and also to The Rings of Akhaten; in fact, in his imprisonment Sutekh strongly resembles the mummy in the latter story.  Unable to move, he mind-controls Marcus Scarman to accomplish his goals.

Pyramids of Mars 3

Time can be changed for better…or for worse

 

There’s a very powerful illustration here that time is fluid and can be changed (except, of course, for fixed points). When Sarah declares that Sutekh can’t win because they already know the future is secure, the Doctor takes her forward to 1980, where Earth has become a blasted wasteland due to Sutekh’s victory.  They then return to 1911 to combat him, ultimately defeating him with a pretty clever trap involving time itself.  Significantly, this represents the final step in the transformation of the Doctor’s views on time; in his first life, he was adamant that history was fixed and should not be tampered with (see The Aztecs).

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The Android Invasion

 

Returning to UNIT, the Doctor foils The Android Invasion.  This is the final appearance of John Benton and Harry Sullivan, though they will get occasional mentions in the future.  The Brigadier does not appear, though it has been documented that the story was written with him in mind; Nicholas Courtney declined to appear.  The enemies are the Kraal of planet Oseidon, a villain I would very much like to see in NuWho; there’s a lot of untapped potential in this warlike race.  Here, they create a copy of the village of Devesham and its inhabitants, in preparation for an invasion of Earth.  The creepy village and villagers are reminiscent of the illusory village in Series Five’s Amy’s Choice.  (Truly, Earth must be the most desirable planet in the universe; I’ve lost track of how many times alien races have tried to make it into a new homeworld, but it’s already happened twice this season!)

The Android Invasion 2

Goodbye, Harry and Benton

 

This is one of the occasional stories where, for whatever reason, the Doctor loses access to the TARDIS for a time. In this case, it proceeds to Earth when the key is inserted, after being “paused” in its journey.  It illustrates again that the key is more than just a key; it’s an integral part of the TARDIS.  It also illustrates that the TARDIS has a number of automatic procedures, usually intended to preserve its safety and/or that of its inhabitants, which will be expanded greatly in NuWho.

Mindbending

Mindbending

 

In The Brain of Morbius, we get one of the most famous and controversial classic serials.  It introduces the well-known controversy as to whether the Doctor had regenerations pre-Hartnell.  However, the preponderance of evidence in the entire series indicates that Hartnell was, in fact, the First Doctor.  The other faces seen in the mindbending battle are probably best construed as Morbius’s past faces.

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The Sisterhood of Karn

 

This is the first appearance of the planet Karn and the Sisterhood of Karn. It doesn’t delve into their history, but it makes it clear that they share some history with the Time Lords—in fact, they appear to be the same species.  Their high priestess, Ohica, is not the same as the High Priestess Ohila from The Night of the Doctor and The Magician’s Apprentice, but the name is a tribute.  The sisterhood as seen here is very reminiscent of the Sybilline Sisterhood from Series Four’s The Fires of Pompeii.

Morbius and Solon

Morbius and Solon.  Spoilers:  It doesn’t end well for either of them.

 

The villain is the executed Time Lord Morbius, a sort of terrorist and revolutionary—or rather, it’s his brain, which lacks a body. He is provided with one by the human scientist Mehendri Solon, who wants the Doctor’s head to complete the project.  How a human got involved with Morbius is unclear; likewise, the date is unclear. A History of the Universe places it in 2375, based on the similarity between Solon’s work and that of Crozier, from Season 24’s Mindwarp. However, being that Morbius is a Time Lord, it could be any year.

Elixir of Life

The Doctor takes the Elixir

 

The Doctor first takes the Sisterhood’s Elixir of Life here, after restoring their Sacred Flame and defeating Morbius. It restores him, but doesn’t spark a regeneration, in contrast with The Night of the Doctor.  It’s a pity, in a way, that we don’t see that aspect yet; could the elixir have saved Morbius by starting a regeneration?  How much of a Time Lord’s body is required to regenerate, anyway?  We just don’t know.

The Seeds of Doom 1

The Seeds of Doom.  That was the same reaction I had as a child, but with more screaming.

 

We finish with The Seeds of Doom.  For me, this was like coming full circle; The Seeds of Doom is the first Doctor Who memory I have from my childhood.  It scared me immensely as a child, and I was anxious to see how it compared to my memory.  It’s the final UNIT story until Season 26’s Battlefield, with the Seventh Doctor; however, it involves none of the UNIT personnel we have been familiar with.  There’s some disagreement about the date; it is most likely contemporary with its broadcast, but some sources place it in the 1980s (personally, I think it’s irrelevant either way).

Humanoid Krynoid

Humanoid Krynoid…

 

The enemy here is the Krynoid, a “galactic weed” that turns people into plants, then devours animal life. We see two of them, as their seed pods travel in pairs.  They seem to be inhibited by the cold; in England, Keeler, the second victim, transforms far faster than Winlett, the first, who was infected in Antarctica.  The plot is straightforward:  The Krynoid seed pods are dangerous, and must be destroyed, but they are stolen by a fanatical botanist, and allowed to bloom, forcing the Doctor and UNIT to destroy them.  UNIT uses a pretty advanced laser weapon (though to no effect), possibly indicating that they have reverse-engineered alien technology, as Torchwood often does in NuWho and its own series.

giant krynoid

…and Not-So-Humanoid Krynoid.  Still terrifying.

 

Bottom line: Still terrifying.  Perhaps not as scary as in my childhood; but the idea of losing your humanity, transforming into something else—something mindless and deadly—will always be scary to me.  Still, it’s a good serial, and a good conclusion to the season.

Next time: With UNIT behind us, we’ll say goodbye to Sarah Jane, and continue with the Fourth Doctor!  See you there.

All episodes can be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.

Terror of the Zygons

Planet of Evil

Pyramids of Mars

The Android Invasion

The Brain of Morbius

The Seeds of Doom (note: This playlist contains all parts, but is not correctly arranged.  Scroll down to locate parts in order.)

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Fourth and Long: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Twelve

With the exit of John Pertwee last week, we’ve reached the longest-running Doctor of the classic series, Tom Baker! It’s a record that has yet to be surpassed even in the revived series.  Personally, I’m a little too young to have seen him in first run—I was born at the end of the seventies—but courtesy of a very slow and laid-back public television station, this is the Doctor I grew up with, and I always considered him to be “my Doctor”.  (To the best of my memory, the local station dropped broadcasting of Doctor Who at the same time as the first-run termination of the show by the BBC, but we had only reached the Fifth Doctor at that time—at least, I don’t recall Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy from those days, and when the movie was released in 1996 I recall being very surprised that Paul McGann was the eighth Doctor.)  Let’s get to it!

robot 1

Doctor meets doctor

 

After a momentary cameo last season, the Fourth Doctor makes his real debut in Robot.  He and Sarah Jane are immediately joined by new companion (and doctor) Harry Sullivan, the first true male companion since Jamie McCrimmon.  It’s also the final regular appearance for the Brigadier (whose middle name, Gordon, is first mentioned here), though not his last overall; we’ll see him again next season, plus a bit in the eighties.  The same goes for Sgt. Benton (here promoted to Warrant Officer), though with slightly different future appearances.  As for the Doctor, it was an unusually smooth regeneration, perhaps balancing out the turmoil that led up to it, and most likely due to K’anpo Rimpoche’s assistance.  Tom Baker even resembles a young John Pertwee a bit, though their personalities will prove to be very different.

robot 2

Couldn’t get a shot of the day pass.  Here’s Sarah Jane, the Doctor and Bessie instead.

 

We get a sort-of specific date for this serial: April 4th, as seen on Sarah’s Think Tank day pass.  Her thumb obscures part of the ticket, and we aren’t sure if it’s supposed to be 1974 or 1975 (the original broadcast spanned both years).  I expect it’s 1975, as that is more consistent with the rest of the season.

Robot 3

K1, doing a mean King Kong impression

 

We get a sympathetic villain in the titular robot, K1 (I want to make a K1/K9 joke here, but it’s just not coming together). He’s being used, but he doesn’t want to be, and he suffers greatly for it.  He’s the victim of a plot by misguided scientists to rule the world, and nothing good comes of it in the end.

Robot 4

Until next time, Brigadier

 

Some oddities: We’re beginning a run of more than a full season in which the TARDIS interior is never seen, though the Doctor does use the TARDIS.  At some point, the Doctor has an offscreen visit—alone, it seems—to the planet of the Sevateem from season fourteen’s The Face of Evil; it’s suggested it happens here, in part one, while Harry is incapacitated and the Doctor is in the TARDIS (we even hear the dematerialization sound, and it’s proposed that he is returning, not leaving, when the others enter the room).  If so, his post-regeneration confusion might account for why he later has trouble remembering the trip.  Finally, it’s mentioned that the USA, USSR, and China all gave their nuclear launch codes to Britain for safekeeping. While I can believe in a seven-foot transformable robot, that proposition stretches credit a little too far for anyone who grew up during the cold war.

Nerva beacon

Nerva Beacon

 

The Doctor, Harry, and Sarah land in the far future—approximately the year 15,000—on the space station Nerva Beacon in The Ark in Space.  Nerva will be the “lynchpin” of the season, as they return travel to and from the station.  At this time in history, Earth has been abandoned for about ten thousand years due to solar flare devastation around the year 5,000; it’s the same diaspora that spawned the Starship UK in NuWho’s The Beast Below.  Nerva is populated with hibernating humans whose mission was to repopulate the planet.  The station has been partially taken over by the Wirrn, a spaceborne insectoid race that wants to assimilate the humans for their knowledge.  I remember being absolutely terrified by the Wirrn as a child; they’re still an effective enemy today.

Wirrn infection

You should get that looked at, dude

 

I never cared for the way this serial presents Sarah Jane. She comes across as weak, another screaming damsel in distress, which is very different from her time with the Third Doctor.  Although this serial is the high-water mark for that portrayal, it’s something that will continue for the rest of Sarah’s time with the Doctor.

Sontaran Experiment 1

Sontaran Bondage Games?

 

After freeing Nerva from the Wirrn, the Doctor and his companions transmat down to the supposedly-empty Earth to repair the transmat receptor beacons—a one-way trip if they can’t fix them—in The Sontaran Experiment.  (The date, of course, is the same, as this serial immediately follows the previous one.)  It’s a short adventure, only two episodes long—in fact, it’s the shortest serial of the 1970s, a product of script editor Robert Holmes’s aversion to six-episode serials.  He preferred four-episode stories, but with the next serial, Genesis of the Daleks, he had no choice but to accept the longer version; therefore he compensated with this brief contribution.  The Sontarans return in the person of Styre, another clone warrior; though genetically identical to Linx from the previous Sontaran story, he looks different, as the costume had to be replaced.  (Kevin Lindsay, the actor, suffered from a health condition exacerbated by the original costume; six short months later, the same condition would claim his life.)  This story, along with Genesis of the Daleks, is one of the eight TARDIS-free stories that I’ve previously mentioned; after Genesis, it won’t happen again until 2008’s Midnight.

sontaranexperiment

The Doctor challenges Styre to combat

 

Here we find that Nerva isn’t the only place where a remnant of humanity survived; in fact, they’ve spread through the stars and become a vast empire (not, though, one of the four Great and Bountiful Human Empires—the dates don’t match up). Nerva, in fact, is considered something of a lost colony, the future’s Atlantis or Roanoke Island.  Earth itself, however, is still not reinhabited; its only occupants are a crashed human expedition, and the Sontaran who would use them as slaves and experimental fodder.  The Doctor fights Styre hand-to-hand at one point, and actually wins, though with some help from an energy feedback; either Styre is a terrible Sontaran, or the Doctor is a much more capable warrior than we’ve been led to believe.

Do I have the right

Do I have the right?!

 

In Genesis of the Daleks, we get one of the classic series’ most famous serials.  The Doctor is intercepted en route back to Nerva by the Time Lords and sent to Skaro at a point in its distant past (about 4,000 BC, it seems).  He’s given a mission:  Stop the creation of the Daleks before they grow to destroy all other life.  Failing that, he is to change them in some way that reduces their aggression, or find some weakness to exploit.  Let’s get it out of the way:  though he fails to destroy them (with the famous “Have I the right?” line), he sets their development back by a thousand years; however, the timeline we’ve been seeing all along incorporates that change, meaning that past appearances of the Daleks won’t change retroactively.  It can also be argued that he inadvertently saved Davros’s life, thus later creating a schism in the Daleks that arguably weakens their ability to conquer.

Davros and Nyder

Nyder and Davros

 

This entry is getting long, so let’s mention some noteworthy things in this serial. The Dalek raygun visual effect is first used here, though we can assume previous serials implied it.  The scenes of the war between Kaleds and Thals will be famously recapped in Series 9’s The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, where the Twelfth Doctor saves young Davros, thus answering the dilemma he poses to Sarah Jane and Harry about killing a child you know will become a monster. The Kaleds are unusually ignorant for an advanced race, believing there are only a few stars and that those worlds have no inhabitants.  The Thals make their final (or technically, first!) onscreen appearance here.  The Kaleds (except for Davros) only appear here.  Davros appears to die, but don’t be fooled; he does that often.  The Daleks don’t seem to require any kind of power transmission; there’s a theory that says that the Daleks from early appearances (The Daleks, et al.) were mutants left behind when most of their race fled Skaro, and only had access to inferior prototype machines until their cousins later returned.  And last, Davros’s assistant Nyder:  That man is terrifying.  He’s one of the most unquestioningly evil characters we’ve ever seen.  While the Daleks scared me as a child, Nyder scares me as an adult.

Genesis of the Daleks

One more matter, and it’s crucial to the revived series: The Doctor’s actions here are often considered to be the opening salvo of the Last Great Time War.  Although the Daleks lack time travel at this point, Davros’s hatred for the Time Lords begins here, and will eventually—in the era of the Eighth Doctor—blossom into the war.

Revenge of the Cybermen

Cybermen on Nerva!

 

In Revenge of the Cybermen, The Time Lords aren’t done with the Doctor; instead of sending him back to the time he left, they send him to Nerva somewhere earlier in its history. (A History of the Universe gives a date of 2875, but this seems inaccurate; it is more likely to be shortly before the year 5000, some brief decades or centuries before the solar flares.)  The station has not been repurposed as an ark yet; it is a warning beacon near an errant asteroid called Voga.  Unknown to its crew, Voga is a remnant of the legendary planet of gold, which was destroyed by the Cybermen during humanity’s wars with them; Cybermen are vulnerable to gold, as we learn here.  Although this is still far in our future, these are Mondasian cybermen, not the hybrid version seen in Series 7’s Nightmare in Silver.  This is the final appearance of the Cybermen until Earthshock in the mid-1980s, though they may get an occasional mention in the meantime.  We see a new type of Cybermat, as well, one that is more like a snake than a rat.  It’s a simple story; the Cybermen are in league with a human on Nerva to bring about the destruction of Voga.  The Doctor, working with the Vogans, puts an end to their plans.

Vogans

Welcome to Voga

 

Some final thoughts about the Fourth Doctor: This season demonstrates that the nice, polite Third Doctor is well and truly gone.  Baker’s Doctor can be arrogant and cruel to his companions; he’s capricious in a way we haven’t seen before, even while working for a good end.  Looking back, it’s painfully obvious that this was a growing-up phase for him—his adolescence, if you will.  He certainly has the same sense of responsibility, but it bothers him to have it; he wants to just roam around, enjoy life, and be idle.  It’s no coincidence that he continually gets forced into responsibility.  Unlike the Third Doctor, he’s bored by his work with UNIT (though he never really quits!  Eleven later acknowledges that he still has the job, which incidentally may explain how he bought Amy and Rory’s house despite never having pocket money—he probably had pay accruing and drawing interest in escrow for years).  This is very much his teenage rebellion phase, though we’ll see some growth by the time he regenerates again.

Next time: Zygons, evil gods, and seeds of doom!  See you there.

All episodes can be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.

Robot (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

The Ark in Space

The Sontaran Experiment

Genesis of the Daleks (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

Revenge of the Cybermen

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