Top of the Docs: Season 26 & The Movie

McCoy’s final season was really a taste of things to come, but at that time, it was the end.  It wouldn’t return until 1996, and then, only for one single day.  Still, it was an instrumental season for the future.  And Roger and I both agree, this was a strong season!  Take a look…

season26

Battlefield

RP: 7 – Years ahead of it’s time, like much of the McCoy era.  Cleverly timey wimey, and does great things with the Brig, showing how his history with the Doctor has made him so much more than the generic UNIT troops.  Doctor Who fits very well into a magical, fantasy world.  Unfortunately some of the acting really brings this down.

ML: 9 – Regardless of the very few silly items in this, overall the story succeeds on almost all levels.  Plus McCoy becomes a real life superhero!  The acting is a bit off and the thumb scene takes the episode down from a 10, but otherwise immensely fun!

Ghost Light

RP: 7 – You can’t fault the ambition, because this is hugely complex in all kinds of fascinating ways, but it lacks the emotional pull to justify the repeated viewing that its complexity demands.

ML: 8 – Probably worth more, but the audio is consistently hard for me to make out and the story doesn’t seem to make that much sense.  But it’s absolutely atmospheric, builds on Ace’s background and teaches us a lesson that I have never forgotten: “Tricky things, mammoths!”

The Curse of Fenric

RP: 10 – I won’t say this is quite my favourite, but I do think this is the best the Classic Series ever managed, for a myriad of reasons.  There’s no point trying to scratch the surface of the many ways in which this is utterly magnficent in one paragraph, so please click through to my article about this if you haven’t read it!

ML: 10 – The McCoy episode if you need to get someone interested in the series.  Lovecraft meets vampires and the apocalypse.  The Doctor is the master manipulator too.  Fantastic story, absolutely worth viewing!

Survival

RP: 9 – This stands as a final, shining example of how far ahead of its time the McCoy era was, as it flows so naturally into the 2005 series.  Hold this up against the revival of Who and it rivals it for intelligence and depth, despite a 16 year gap.  Compare 2005 with anything pre-McCoy and the gap feels like a huge gulf in comparison.  The end of an extraordinary era.

ML: 9 – A wonderful ending to the classic series.  Even the Master seems threatening and the message is a good one to wrap up on.  The final quote is absolutely memorable.  If this were not a final episode, it might not have been such a favorite, but as a finale, it works very well.

The Movie

RP: 4 – Definitively not rubbish because it’s American.  Rubbish because it’s rubbish.  A confused mess of terrible decisions, with an incoherent script.  It also introduces all the elements of the story as if we already know about them, so is inaccessible to the audience it was shooting for.  For fans, it’s quite a bit of fun, and was exciting at the time, and McGann is very, very good, but this never had a ghost of a chance of finding a new audience.  It stands as a shining example of how not to launch a new series.

ML: 5 – I have to give it an average rating.  The episode is chock full of “holy cow that was embarrassing”, but McGann is Fantastic and the TARDIS looks amazing.  Daphne Ashbrook is a wonderful companion too.  Roberts is an over-the-top Master and his Popeye scene is embarrassing.  Go into this for the fun of it but don’t put too much thought into it.

This has been a fun exploration of the classic seasons.  We will be taking a break from these for a while, but will come back to it in the future.  For now, I hope these come in handy when deciding what to watch in the future.  It’s been a huge and instrumental aspect of my youth, but there’s a lot to choose from, so maybe this makes deciding a little easier.

Well, I’ll be back with more of these down the road.  In the meantime, I’ve got work to do…  ML

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2 Responses to Top of the Docs: Season 26 & The Movie

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Season 26 and the TV Movie I originally enjoyed because of how effortlessly I always enjoyed Dr. Who. Looking back in retrospect, the justified criticisms may be easier to spot. Yet they may still earn appreciation for how they set the tone for the modern series. Dr. Who has become a clever mix of both science-fiction and science-fantasy, which may consequently make occasions where one overrides the other problematic. So again with Dr. Who, it can come down to enjoying it for your own personal reasons.

    Paul McGann is worth enjoying the TV Movie for, certainly for the first Doctor-companion kiss that put him on the map. Battlefield was extravagant in many areas and yet could work for a powerful anti-violence message fueled by one of McCoy’s best speeches. Ghost Light sparked Ace’s own potential for mysteriousness opposite the 7th Doctor which paved the way for her brilliant twist in The Curse Of Fenric. Sophie’s heartfelt acting is certainly worth the effort. And Survival was the best story for Ainley’s Master in the longest time since Planet Of Fire.

    For the 20th century, coupled with Comic Relief’s The Curse Of Fatal Death, Dr. Who ended on a sufficiently positive note. Specifically with the notion that somehow it would go on even after how obviously it needed a rest. It’s even more worth reflecting on because of the critical troubles that the modern series is facing now. Jodie’s first season isn’t extravagant like McCoy’s era. Actually just the opposite. Yet her loyal fans, myself included, enjoy her in the role and her cast-mates as fans (despite their mixed feelings about Dr. Who in the late 80s) enjoyed Sylvester and Sophie. I will always have faith that Dr. Who, and both Star Trek and Star Wars for that matter despite their shares of trouble today, will remain in the hearts of SF lovers as the SF game-changer it was and continues to be (either thanks to Big Finish, fan-films or crossover mashups with Trek or other SF gems). So thank you both for your reflections on Season 26 and the TV Movie and for all of your Top-of-the-Docs articles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • scifimike70 says:

      After seeing her smash up Daleks with a baseball bat and bazooka, then seeing her wipe the floor with Cybermen via gold coins and a slingshot, Sophie gave classic Who fans an unrivaled female companion which was all the more convenient for the 25th Anniversary. But the following season which would fatefully end the classic series, she mixed it up for us without diminishing Ace’s unique strength and bravery.

      She was still good with explosives, she was quite charismatic with her fellow youths from Perivale while they were trapped together on the Cheetah planet, and she wrestled it out with Gwendoline in Ghost Light even though she lost and had to be saved just in time by the Doctor. But her vulnerability proved to be her greatest strength which enabled her to match the Doctor, either by appreciating by opposing his sense of morality. She had her own mysterious storyline which systematically established that the Doctor knew how her synchronous role, at least to some extent, in the showdown with Fenric.

      Consequently this benefited her chances to round off Ace via Big Finish and lead her to find spinoff appeal in Gallifrey and now Big Finish’s continuation with Class. Yet we still remember her as the last classic-Who companion, and NOT just for that reason, but for how she breathed enough new life into Who (from her own conquest over her personal demons to the final scene of her and the Doctor before Survival: Ep. 3’s end credits) to assure Whovians that there was a tomorrow for the Whoniverse. That earns S26 even more acclaim in retrospect which, in light of how S26 wasn’t even originally adverstised (certainly when it was decidedly at the time put up against Coronation Street), is saying something indeed.

      Sophie was recently teamed with Peter Davison and Colin Baker at Comic Con 2017 to share her own reflections as well as her enthusiasm about Jodie. In my appreciation of that, I think that Sophie’s signature as Ace was most consequently beneficial for today’s tradition of female TARDIS companions and female Dr. Who characters in general. She proved that both formidable strength and emotionally vulnerability can work successfully together for female characters, as fans can also verify from many examples in television. But for Dr. Who, Sophie’s success remains as timeless as Nichelle Nichols’ for Star Trek and Gillian Anderson’s for The X-Files.

      Thank you, Sophie, for Ace and, as Ace would say: Wicked! 🏋🏻‍♀️

      Liked by 1 person

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