Top of the Docs: Season 4

Season 4 is when everything changed.  And I don’t mean like Torchwood’s opening “everything changed”.  I mean, Doctor Who broke television.  No show could ever compare to what Doctor Who had done.  It created a format that could be sustained indefinitely.  You know how companies like to talk about sustainability?  This was sustainability ramped up to the max.  11?  No, like a million.  Because, with season 4, Doctor Who created a format that need never die.  The show could keep going forever and still renew itself over and over again.  And it started here…

season 4

The Smugglers

RP: 7 – The Famous Five, with stabbings.  What’s not to love?  Hartnell continues to prove everything everyone said about him wrong by being utterly brilliant.  Ben is awful though.

ML: 6 – Being lost, I can only go by what I know.  Definitely gets points for creativity and proving Doctor Who could insert itself into any genre.  I just wish I could see it to assess if it’s right around average or truly stunning.

The Tenth Planet

RP: 10 – The greatest ever Doctor Who monster, in their creepiest ever design, and then it turns out that the Doctor’s old body is wearing a bit thin…

ML: 10  – When Doctor Who broke television.  Created a perpetual format.  Magnificent monsters with awesome voices and a surprise that was mind blowing, it’s impossible not to give this one a 10, even if Hartnell was sitting back for most of it.

The Power of the Daleks

RP: 9 – Clearly brilliant, in just about every way, and Troughton is instantly the best Doctor ever.  Ben’s still a numpty though.

ML: 9  – Losing points only for being clichéd with the Daleks, it’s the episode that proved the idea behind regeneration was sound and could sustain the show forever.  Troughton is absolutely perfect.

The Highlanders

RP: 7 – Troughton continues to get thrown into Hartnell stories, and it’s fascinating to watch (well, listen to).  But it’s Polly’s turn to be the numpty.

ML: 6 – I’d give this a 5 for being average but we get to meet Jamie.  I just find the historicals a bit dry.

The Underwater Menace

RP: 7 – Doctor Who does mythpunk before anyone else has thought of it, but can’t create the visuals the idea needs.  Marred slightly by an author who appears to be shooting for an anti-religion diatribe, but doesn’t know how to even integrate that into the story at all.

ML: 5 – Weak villain, weak visuals, weak almost everywhere… it should probably get a lower score but… explored a myth with the goal of explaining what happened in SF terms.  And gave us a villain who is always fun to mock.  “Nothing in ze world can stop me now!”

The Moonbase

RP: 10 – The Cybermen reimagined, the Doctor reimagined.  Both to perfection.

ML: 9 – New Cybermen, great base-under-siege story.  The crew is amazing.  And we have to wonder about the Phantom Piper.  But needed more time with Jamie; the writers didn’t know how to integrate him well.

The Macra Terror

RP: 7 – The world this parodies barely exists any more, and the companions are all a bad fit for the story, but I would love to see this returned or animated more than any other story.

ML: 8 – Another great base-under-siege, this time with giant monsters.  Loved the book version too.  Like Galaxy 4 for Roger, this one has a nostalgia response for me!

The Faceless Ones

RP: 8 – One that I suspect would get re-evaluated much like The Enemy of the World if it came back.  Another 6 weeks of Doctor Who making going on holiday scary, and a shining example of the Doctor finding a path to peace.

ML: 8 – Aliens reminiscent of A Feasibility Study from The Outer Limits, another story making the mundane scary and an image from the airport that goes through my head every year when I fly, this one has to get a high score.

The Evil of the Daleks

RP: 10 – Amazing on so many levels: the magical non-science, the clash between the Doctor and Jamie, the Doctor still trying to learn how to be the Doctor who fights the monsters, the final end on Skaro, the Emperor.  Can somebody please just find this one!

ML: 10 – I have to agree with my colleague; this one has so much going for it.  If nothing more, the original emperor Dalek makes this one a must find.  And for the second story in a row, we have influences from The Outer Limits, this time with The Form of Things Unknown.  Another classic that really needs to be found!

So this year was one of amazing moments and memorable images.  A lot of Troughton’s time is like that.  It’s also a year that Roger and I evaluate pretty closely with every story.  Look, every season will have some strong episodes and some weak ones, but season 4 was certainly one to remember for an unexpected number of strong ones.  It’s a tragedy that so much of this season is missing!  ML

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