Top of the Docs: Season 13

If there’s one season that I am very biased in favor of, it’s this one.  I have some of the best memories from this period in my life and I can’t help but heap on the praise.  From watching one of these with my cousin to being chased by Krynoids in my grandparents backyard with my sister or sharing my birthday with an android invasion or being reminded of watching old horror movies with my dad (Dr. Jekyll, The Mummy, Frankenstein), this season just nailed it for me.  It captivated me beyond any recourse and I’ve been a life-long fan as a result.  Roger’s approach is, perhaps, more practical which might be a better gauge but I will try to explain why this season is so good.


Terror of the Zygons

RP: 7 – A story of contrasts.  Some great design work and some terrible design work.  The possessions are done very well, particularly Harry’s, but there is plenty of lazy Scottish-stereotyping and the end scene when everyone says “no I won’t take the opportunity to have a go in your time machine, thanks” is awful.

ML: 10 – One of the must-see episodes.  The Zygons were so popular for a one-time monster, that they came back more than a quarter of a century later.  The atmosphere is so thick, a sonic lance can’t cut through it.  The eeriness of being watched from a deer head on the wall has never been more alarming.  And who would have thought that whispering could be so damned creepy!

Planet of Evil

RP: 7 – Sci-fi is genre clashed against pure horror and is found wanting.  The sci-fi aspects are dull, which makes sense in terms of the genre clash, but the whole thing ends up a little bleak and flat.

ML: 10 – I found this story just got better with age.  The other-worldiness of Zeta Minor to the strange pit that leads to an antimatter dimension and even a creature that can only he seen in outline, combined with a Jekyll/Hyde storyline is so much mind-candy!  Plus an interesting subtext that I found compelling viewing as an adult.

Pyramids of Mars

RP: 8 – The most powerful being ever is defeated by fiddling with a gadget.  Lacks the punchline/resolution it needed, which is the one area it compares unfavourably with its closest relative: The Daemons.  The final episode is Death to the Daleks remade but less fun.  The first three episodes are simply perfection though.

ML: 10 – Sutekh is awesome; he looks great in helmet and out of it.  He sounds marvelous; a voice of evil incarnate.  The puzzles the Doctor and Sarah face were wonderfully fun.  And the Doctor reminds Sarah of how alien he really is.

The Android Invasion

RP: 9 – Yet another story that collapses at the end like a soggy pudding, but up to that point what’s not to love?  One of Doctor Who’s most mysterious and exciting set-ups, which you can only fail to be completely absorbed by if you’ve already spoilered yourself.

ML: 10 – Invasion of the Body Snatchers, done Doctor Who-Style.  What more can you want?  Terrifying.  It needed Lethbridge-Stewart, but even without him, I think this story is amazing.  Plus, “is that finger loaded?” is still one of the best questions in Doctor Who history.  Can I get you a pint?

The Brain of Morbius

RP: 5 – Robert Holmes does a shoddy rewrite with Terrance Dicks’s scripts and is saved by the lucky break of being able to cast Philip Madoc as Solon, who saves the show.  Lots of interesting ideas though, but too violent and dark for my tastes.

ML: 9 – I have a hard time not giving this one a 10 too, if I’m honest but I’ll reduce a point for Lis Sladen thinking blindness would be cured by popping her ears and opening her mouth.  Plus Solon’s motivations are totally confusing.  And for confusion: there’s the mind duel that keeps forcing us to wonder if Hartnell was the first Doctor or not.  (He was, but some oaf will still refer back to this story to say he wasn’t…)

The Seeds of Doom

RP: 8 – Clearly a stunningly good story, but the part of my brain that’s shouting out at me that it’s all a huge betrayal of Doctor Who’s core principles stops me entirely enjoying it.  Probably a repurposed New Avengers script and it shows.  Fabulous stuff, but not really Doctor Who as we know it.

ML: 10 – While Roger has brought some things to my attention about this story, it is still  one of my all-time favorites.  The dual settings, the cozy mansion turned into a terrifying cage and an enemy that can be literally anywhere… this story delivers.  Action, suspense, and excitement; this is a 6 part story that flies!  

Like I said, a tough season to review for me, because for the most part, I found it nearly perfect.  There were things that could have been changed, but did not actually detract from it by leaving them the way they were.  This was pure magic for me, and it shows.  ML

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