Top of the Docs: Season 18

Readers of the Junkyard, my apologies for missing last week… Thanks to Roger for filling the gap!

We have reached Tom Baker’s final year as the Doctor, and it was arguably time he wrapped up.  Yes, he has one of his best episodes in this story, but Meglos!  C’mon!  So here’s where we stand on Baker’s final season…

season 18

The Leisure Hive

RP: 5 – A rare intelligent approach to xenophobia in Classic Who, and an attempt to do new things with largely old ideas, but the reinvention of Doctor Who is largely cosmetic, plus some added technobabble.  Tom seems to have lost his sparkle.

ML: 3 – Doctor Who tries to modernize and ends up with a fairly weak war story, some dodgy effects, and a ridiculous monster whose heads are far bigger than the masks they wear.  What were they thinking?  But it did have good music!


RP: 1 – A bunch of old ideas thrown together with words like “chronic hysteresis”, enjoyable only to see how the writers and boring script editor work against each other.

ML: 1 – I do like the faith vs. science aspect, plus I learned what a dodecahedron was as a kid.  But it’s embarrassing. Watching it with my then-14 year old son made me want to hide.  This was why Doctor Who fans were mocked when I was a kid!

Full Circle

RP: 7 – The TARDIS falls down the rabbit hole, only to find the same thing on both sides.  As for the story itself it’s the first ever example of Doctor Who written by a fan who instinctively understands how Doctor Who works when it’s good, while the script editor continues to try to undermine the series by making everything a little more technobabbly.

ML: 8 – The idea of a pocket universe fascinated me.  The evolution of the Marshmen could have lead to some great drama for Adric.  And we get a new companion.  It’s definitely above average and I’d put it in the middle of that range!  Great fun.  And the spiders were creepy as hell!

State of Decay

RP: 8 – The moment Bidmead’s plan completely collapses under pressures of a script falling through and having to turn to an old hand who writes Doctor Who like he always has (i.e. much better than most writers), with no interest in nonsense like “E Space”.

ML: 9 – A great vampire tale that added a huge amount of lore regarding a battle between Time Lord and Vampire kind, a damned interesting group of villains, and a village that wants to sacrifice Adric…. what more could you want?  Not perfect, but definitely at the high end of “above average”. (Plus, writing my original review for this episode was such fun!)

Warriors’ Gate

RP: 7 – A clash between fantasy and science, set inside the rabbit hole, with a gateway inspired by one of the most haunting pieces of art ever produced.  Never quite capitalises on its stunning premise though.

ML: 9 – Another fascinating location, totally surreal, this one warrants viewing more than once.  A race of Time Sensitives, an odd location that flits through time like a butterfly… there’s a lot to enjoy.  Romana’s departure is sad too.  Again, high end of “above average”.  And it’s so much fun hearing Rorvik stumble over his lines!

Keeper of Traken

RP: 10 – Doctor Who fully accepts the concept of evil, and gives us a twisted fairy tale, with the Master breaking the usual fairy tale narrative.  Sublime.

ML: 7 – I enjoy this story, but find it pretty average.  Roger’s write up gave me new appreciation for it, but I instinctively find it a bit slow.  It does deserve an “above average” rating, but I’m going on the low end of that range.


RP: 6 – Season 18 was an exercise in writers fighting against the constraints of a boring script editor to make interesting and entertaining stories, with varying degrees of success.  This is written and script edited by Bidmead, and the results are predictable.  Tedious computer science stuff, which was almost immediately out of date in the real world, at the expense of anything approaching characterisation.  Saved by a great final episode.

ML: 8 – Most of the story is average, probably warranting a 5 at best, but episode 4 brings it to a new status.  The Watcher is wonderfully creepy and 30 years later, my baby sister still remembers that image.  It has to get an 8 for that…

K-9 and Company

RP: 7 – A successful pilot episode, which is widely misunderstood as a failure despite all the evidence to the contrary.  It shows how much fun a Sarah Jane Smith series could be.

ML: 7 – More out of courtesy to the great Lis Sladen, I give this one a 7 (low end of above average).  The episode is very Scooby Doo and I expected more.  However, there are some things that I love.  That opening music is both horrible and wonderful at the same time.  And the look of the old house is so quintessentially British-TV, what’s not to love?

I realize I use some phrases a lot and this season really focuses them.  I consider a 0 absolute rubbish.  1-3 is below average (ranging from low end to high end of that spectrum), 4-6 is average (same idea) and 7-9 is above average (again, same idea).  10 is basically a masterpiece.  Roger may have a different take, but that’s my feeling and I think this is an interesting take on those ratings.  I find it hard to put Keeper as a Masterpiece, but we like things for different reasons.  That’s what makes a clear look at these so interesting.  We get to see what we like and dislike.  Let’s see how Davison fairs… next week!  ML

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