Top of the Docs: Season 20

We come at last to the season of the 20th anniversary special.  This season was legendary for me, growing up in the US.  Doctor Who had been off the air for a long time for me, and Mawdryn Undead was my first Davison episode.   As for The Five Doctors, it wasn’t easy to find so when I was on a 56K modem, talking to a couple guys in Brooklyn and they told me to turn the TV on, I think I heard a choir of angels sing.  But legendary status does not necessarily make it flawless.  So… how did the season do on a whole for me and Roger?

season 20

Arc of Infinity

RP: 7 – Three elements from the past, Gallifrey, the Matrix and Omega, revisited and made as boring as possible, but everything set in Amsterdam is great fun, we have the scariest chicken in the universe, and Davison is stunningly good as Omega in the final episode.

ML: 6 – Just average.  Omega is not the man he was.  Gallifrey is tedious, but bringing Michael Gough back is a good choice.  Amsterdam is fun.  The giant chicken monster is fun too.  Not sure who is scarier, Colin or the Chicken.  Not the best story, but honestly, it’s still fun and at the start of a good season.


RP: 9 – Now that’s how you do a sequel.  A new idea that cannot function without the returning monster, and the Doctor is taken through a fascinating character arc all within the one story.  Genuinely very frightening at times.  A great example of a skilled writer at his very best.

ML: 6 – Some neat ideas, but a story that I never took to.  Kinda didn’t wow me and neither does the sequel.  Some of the ideas are genuinely interesting, like the hat of 6 faces, but nothing is anything better than average.  If not for the next story, I’d be worried about this season!

Mawdryn Undead

RP: 9 – Years ahead of its time with Doctor Who going all timey wimey, a compelling examination of post-traumatic amnesia, three tiers of villains, of which Turlough is the lowest but the best.  Would have loved to be able to see the original concept come to fruition with Ian Chesterton instead, but what we got was a great alternative.

ML: 10 – My first experience with a Doctor post T. Baker, and we get an amazing time travel story, flashbacks to the original Doctors, and a really great villain who is not actually evil, but desperate to die.  Great scenery, loved the look of Mawdryn, and we get a new companion with an arc!  I love this story!


RP: 3 – Goes nowhere in terms of the trilogy.  A stunning and exciting opening, and then nothing but boredom and misery, with a woeful betrayal of the character of Nyssa in her final story.

ML: 4 – I don’t know. I think I probably should give this a 3, but I feel bad doing that to Sarah Sutton.  Her departure was weirdly handled, and having her slowly strip through the episode was strange; it was pointless.  The Garm is a big teddy bear of massive size and stupidity… but I liked the continuing arc for Turlough and I do feel saying goodbye to Nyssa needed an extra point.  … But she left to stay on a ship full of dying people.  Of all the places…


RP: 8 – That rare thing in Doctor Who: a race of aliens who are individuals, with different characteristics and motivations.  A fascinating race as well, modelled on the boredom of the rich.  Great fun, and visually stunning at the time.

ML: 9 – Wraps up an arc for Turlough with what was a very unusual visual experience for me.  Utterly fascinating to watch; the lighting and cinematography were completely captivating.  Tegan actually has a personality too; that counts for a lot.  It’s not action-packed, but it is very enjoyable!

The King’s Demons

RP: 1 – A terrible example of script writing from start to finish, in terms of the idea and the dialogue.  A small story doesn’t automatically mean the threat has to be small scale and pedestrian.  The only good idea here is Kamelion, and then nobody spotted the very obvious potential to the character (with virtually no need to use that awful robotic prop at all).

ML: 2 – I loved the idea of Kamelion, and the shorter stories typically made me happy in their simplicity.  Imagine what I’d have given this story if it were any good!  (But hearing King John sing is the only thing keeping this one from a 1!)

The Five Doctors

RP: 8 – All the what-might-have-beens are actively painful, but what made it to screen is enormous fun anyway.  A self-indulgent, fan-pleasing, joyous celebration.

ML: 9 – An absolute delight for the fans, and I loved it.  Epic, legendary, and the epitome fun.  Great seeing old friends come together.  Loses a point for the lack of Tom Baker!  Otherwise, a must-see episode for fans of the classic series!

Well, a solid season because some of them were just so much fun to watch.  Even some of the weaker ones were fun.  On a whole, it’s one of the best seasons in a long time.  20 years of Doctor Who… still going strong!  ML

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