Wrong place. Wrong time. Again.
McGann

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'Saudade'

Restricted as this wibble is to TV, Paul McGann would seem to have drawn a very short straw indeed. But the evidence for what could have been is tantalising Reverend, tantalising...

Doctor Who
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'The intro.....'

I really want to give this an outstanding but know it'd be taking things a little too far. Suffice to say I think it's hugely underrated/unfairly dismissed. Never really forgiven by many, as with the Colin Baker era, for flat-lining on us is me gut feeling. So significant in an unfortunate way, the one time thus far 'Who' truly stalled it, although truth be told the same charge could be leveled at Six's tenure. Biggest loss here unsurprisingly being Paul McGann, who's quietly impassioned, some presence and then some. As ably shown down the line.

This is also game-changing on various counts: The Doctor is apparently half-human on his mother's side , the TARDIS has a portable portal to the Eye of Harmony and the Doctor nearly threatens to get jiggy with it but it's probably just boyish new incarnation over-enthusiasm. Overall, great Doctor, daft and copping out on the end but ably done by all concerned. Eric Roberts is a scream throughout.

The Night of the Doctor
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'.....and the outro.....'*

And steaming in from way out of left field, this is all but seven minutes of truly outstanding 'Who'. One of Steven Moffat's greatest gifts to 'Who' and its fandom in me humble.Kinda' meta-significant for meself. Game-changing for slipping in the fact Time Lords can do a Karn Elixir boosted 'Choice of Regenerations.' (Which also flags up fluidity of gender.)

*The time between is all to be found elsewhere, much of it gobsmackingly good. ('Alien Bodies', 'The Chimes of Midnight', 'The Flood' to name but three.) For what we have on TV, it remains meta-significant as said. The top and tail of a tenure we never had , one of the most tantalising 'what ifs' in all primary source 'Who'......

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McCoy


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'The Doctor (Prat)Falls'


Yerse indeed again...Back against the wall, 'Who' in its original run manages to pull a final Ace out of the hat, as it were. A seriously tasty new flavour for meself. Admittedly does fail to deliver on the over-arcing, portentous background and hasn't really got the space to land some of its more adult themes amidst the cartoonery but deft all the same. I like it and Sylvester McCoy's take a lot.

Paradise Towers
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'Buster Keaton is the Doctor!'

Significant as the first true sign of the 'dark cartoon' McCoy era as led by Andrew Cartmel. Also for the more melancholy, gently whimsical Seventh Doctor that will be McCoy's ace, as it were. Possibly meta-significant for one of 'Who's' most woeful ever guest turns come episode 4. But we'll pass swiftly over that, naming no names, Richard Briers.

Delta and the Bannermen
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'It's a shame about Ray'

A sometimes uneasy mix of dark and plain daft cartoon, Don Henderson seems to have strode in from season 22 by mistake but remains great. But no, I'd say meta-significant on two counts. First, as noted by generally non-fan friends at the time, 'Who' felt fresh'n'fun for the first time in an age. Plus the unrealised potential of possible 'Companion Who Never Was', Sara Griffiths as Ray.

Remembrance of the Daleks
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'Doctor Heath-Robinson and the Gizmo'

Outstanding on many counts, 'Who's' finest in no little time ( 'Androzani' to be honest ) this is fresh and fast paced fan wonkery of the very first order. Significant as a true first instance of detailed fanwank re-exploration of the 'Who' mythos that actually works. It certainly won't always do and is now a whole cottage industry on endless fronts but here it really, really works.

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
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'Tonight you just died on stage tonight.'

A gloriously dark, well played'n'made tale, that tips more than a wink to fandom. Meta-significant in made on the hoof 'Who', up against it, coming out winning as seems ever the case. But simply outstanding, fine product that cocks a snook at the hand that feeds with wry imperturbability. As you do. Easily McCoy's TV best for meself.

'Ghost Light'
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'Repressed recrimination- a study in primordial scarlet.'

Significant for being the last story actually produced in the original run on TV. But what a grace-note, compact, contrary, the ultimate show don't tell. Outstanding.


Survival
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'The future has got more convincing Cat People'

Simply uber-significant for being the final story in 'Who's' initial TV run, it's actually not at all bad in spite of fun fur Cat People and animatronic cats to boot. 'Who' doesn't so much slide off its cathode ray tube but dive, Keaton-esque into an extended ellipsis.....

So there ya' go..Looking back on it as an incomplete whole...A mad scramble to find its feet only to go crashing through very thin ice, although not drowning rather mugging frantically and transposing to other media. Onwards, upwards, sideways etc There's some truly outstanding stuff amidst a compact'n'curtailed run. It threatens to be ground-breaking with all the 'more than just a Time Lord' hints'n'malarkey but utterly fails to deliver on that score. But leaves you wanting more which is always a good sign.....

Baker ( With a C )

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Oh blimey and yerse indeed...This is where things really go wild/off the rails for 'Who's' first run on TV. ( '...first run on TV...' Wouldn't have believed I'd be typing such fifteen odd years back. Marvelous Vicar.) But yes, way too much continuity wonk, backward looking stuff and behind the scenes fractiousness/fallout. It cannot be emphasized enough that this is absolutely nowt to do with Colin Baker. 'Who' has never been miscast yet in me humble. Look at the 'never more a butterfly' moment in 'Two Doctors', his sharp yet warm playing in 'Revelation' and 'Mysterious Planet'. Right man, wrong time (and costume! )

'The Twin Dilemma'
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'Do you want to jump cut to the end of the episode?.....Story?.....Season?.....Oh dear.......'

Here for unfortunate meta-significance all over the shop but also just straight up significant and outstanding in a bad way. No two ways about it, script-wise, production/presentation and in a sartorial sense, 'Who' has never dropped the ball so clangingly as it does here. Well, there could be a couple of contenders down the line but this gets mention for being a debut story that all but dooms this run of the show.

'Attack of the Cybermen'
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'A Cyberman with a saunter- says it all really.'

Ill conceived fan-wank, misconceived (if sometimes effectively delivered) violence. Shallow, sour and soul-sappingly clunking. Significant for all the wrong reasons again.

'Vengeance on Varos'
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'But suddenly we're in a world of relative quality...'

It doesn't quite work but Philip Martin's first script for TV 'Who' is clever, knowing and generally well delivered by cast and crew. So an outstanding entry for the right reasons. Lawks.

'Revelation of the Daleks'
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'...and another, arguably even better. Lawks. It surely can't last?'

Not quite up to Graeme Harper's 'Androzani' standards but very, very darn good all the same. A sourcaustic, consumer culture popping dark gem. Outstanding.

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'Yes, I somehow doubt it.'

'The Trial of a Time Lord'
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'The Sixth Doctor actually regenerated when the sartorial time bomb that was his costume went radioactive.'

Yerse...The four segments and over-arcing plot here don't really hold water over the long haul. Meta-significant for being 'Who' on the back-hoof and under pressure, this version bowing out with a whimper rather than a bang. Although in truth they were likely over a barrel with precious little room for maneuver. Shame. Also significant for the 'in media res' intro for new companion Mel, not a stunt TV 'Who' has pulled before or since. Game-changing for introducing the dark future Doctor, 'tween Twelve and Thirteen, the Valeyard. That part does have some impact although it's teeth are drawn, largely neutered, like much of the vacuous, 'violent' vamping of the JNT/Saward era.

Yes, a troubled era, troubling and inconclusive on TV. And I should emphasise that I'm restricting myself to TV 'Who' in this particular wibblethon. There's been product alongside broadcast 'Who' from the beginning, for sure. From World Distributor's annuals to Target, the comic strips, BBC and Virgin books, Big Finish and beyond. In which there have been outstanding and significant contributions all over the shop but for now, idiot box/download/streaming it is.

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'Ah, cobblers to this!'







Davison

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Peter, Peter, Peter...An astonishingly good, subtly mannered actor. An era with some astonishingly good, subtly mannered writing'n'production. But.....This is undeniably where an overly backward looking malaise starts to creep into 'Who'.

'Kinda'
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'Dream Time'

Studio bound or no (You can do a 'Jungle Pot Plant' Face Off with 'Planet of the Daleks') this is a lyrical but disturbing piece, very uncompromising with the predatory Mara. From within and so without and vice versa- Time's Wheel stuck in a fast splintering rut. Oh for a third TV Mara script from Mr Bailey...Simply outstanding.

'Earthshock'
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'Adric bricks it as the Doctor refuses to back down over a celery lapel being essentially pointless.'

The diametric opposite of 'Kinda', plot'n'tropes wise but easily it's equal if still something of a guilty pleasure. And yeah, once you've seen the episode 1 cliffhanger and the close.....it still has real, erm, impact actually. Sorry Adric. Significant for a companion death involving someone who's been there over the longer haul in the TARDIS. Plus outstanding in a guilty pleasure way as said, 'Kinda's' opposite it may be but same director in Peter Grimwade. Deft moves guy.

'Snakedance'
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'Glorious self-delusion- all that we are is but an illusion within an illusion. Sublimation'n'Compensation fur immer.'

One of those stories where you can trot out the 'Ben Johnson/Shakespeare/Aphra Behn in Space' line but it holds true. Very cultured, lyrical, poetical, wise. All hands rise to the occasion, in front of and behind the cameras. Utterly outstanding, arguably Davison's best, equaling if not quite surpassing 'Androzani'. I've seen accusations of 'dull but worthy' but check yer chakras Reverend/M'aam, this has got soul I tell ye.

'The Five Doctors'
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'Who's wearing the Time Trousers?'

What more is there to say about 'The Five Doctors'? Why is it on this list? To take 'em in order, not a lot really- Pertwee shines, Davison's great, Troughton's a grouchy comic skit and they get his hair wrong, Hurndall's passable. Tom is taking the proverbial in answer to the second: Meta-significant for the first (only?) utilisation of footage from a previous unbroadcast story to fill in the cracks/gaps. It's watchable but only here for the latter point truly.

'The Caves of Androzani'
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'Brutal Bob. Beautiful but brutal.'

Unique (if ripped off- Bob re-running himself), so ugly it's beautiful. (Saward will imitate this to varying effect the following season.) A breath-taking, out of breath finish for Five. Davison goes out on 'Who's' arguable all time high point thus far, power, corruption'n'lies writ dark/stark. Outstanding all over the shop. Meta-significant for Davison getting hurried out the door by JNT and Colin Baker swiftly ushered in, a jarring 'in season' regeneration that did not turn out well in any aspect. Hey-ho...

Yeah, still with the meta-significance, Davison latterly pondering maybe he should've done four seasons. Losing the Dalek finale in season 20,going out a story early in 21- nineteen stories as opposed to a potential/rightful twenty-onetwo*. H'mm...A shorter run (and things'll get shorter in the near future!), there are isolated instances of the truly outstanding here but they're lost amidst a rising tide of bland, overtly-backward looking box-ticking. Borrowed time, I greet ye...


*Sensational maths there Gantry.
Baker (With a T)

Yes, an era wherein I'm not including opening or closing stories. Neither is particularly outstanding and the game-changing moves are to be found elsewhere in the run. Yes, arrival and exit of titular character is significant, granted, but here it really ain't, I'll come the long way round back to that...

'The Ark in Space'
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'Icky, innit?'

Significant as the true start of the Fourth Doctor's TV tenure. And by crimminy did that bubble wrap grub'n'transformations scare the heck out of me as a kid. And a truly outstanding tale from now script editor Robert Holmes. Gloriously icky (if occasionally wobbly) and a very human heart (and playing of) at the core of the antiseptic space doughnut. As it were.

'Genesis of the Daleks'
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'The Doctor may get the upper hand but the moral degradation and squalor are Davros's fur immer Reverend'

I mean, wowza's...Outstanding for Michael Wisher's Davros alone but there's so much more...script, direction, ye aulde (a)morality, giant clams...yerse. Now granted, Pertwee was 00Who on occasion, sent on a Time Lord mission or two but this is more Rassilon Supremacy/Conspiracy. Game-changing on the count of a first, blatant instance on TV of the Time Lords encouraging the Doctor to, er, 'nudge' history a tad. Significant in giving us a Dalek creator figure/origin story with Davros and apocalyptic, radiation blasted Skaro. One of the greats whichever way you square it.
'Pity? That word is not registered in my vocabulary bank.' Shivers.

'The Pyramids of Mars'
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'A big (spare third) hand for Sutekh, Last of the Osirans'

I just love it Reverend. Several contenders for this sorta' outing with Baker T but I reckon this is the truly outstanding ace in the pack. Yep, there's a pyramid sized plot hole you could drive a thousand fold slaves through in episode 4 but...A pseudo-historical, goth(ish) horror, Osiran zombie grotesque classic. Significant also for the 'blasted alternate future'/'We have to go back' moment in episode 2 which would seem to contradict 'Genesis' 's 'a bit of a nudge doesn't matter' vibe. So meta-significance also in flagging up the 'making it up as we're going along' feel of the era. But basically glorious. (And yeah, I know, 'fixed points in time' but I'll come back to that with Ten!)

'The Brain of Morbius'
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'Scary Faced Morbius, he gonna' glower at you in stone.'

Oh but this is a contentious one for some. But there's no dodging the fact that the production team intended those extra 'Mind Bending' faces as pre-Hartnell Doctors. So a bit of a game-changer in establishing the possibility of pre-'Unearthly Child' shenanigans with other Doctors, although it remains largely unexplored. That aside it's significant for the introduction of a key figure in Time Lord mythology, rebel would be dictator Morbius plus The Sisterhood of Karn. Also confidently outstanding for our core cast and a smoothly stunning guest turn from Philip Madoc as Mehendri Solon.


'The Deadly Assassin'

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'A situation so hysterical the Master has quite literally corpsed.'

Much feted but, as with 'Pyramids', does go off the boil a tad in the last episode. But nary mind 'cos this is again outstanding: Roger Murray-Leach's set design, the performances, the snarky tautness of the politically literate script, episode 3's Matrix nightmare. Significant for the alteration of the presentation of Time Lord society, the grubby underbelly of the pomp'n'circumstance. Plus tantalising insight into the Doctor's background, a Prydonian renegade no less vicar. And game-changing in that quiet insertion of the 'Thirteen Lives' maxim. (For now.)

'The Robots of Death'
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'Yer Creepy Mechanical.'

Well wow again. Simply outstanding. Beautiful to look at as well as being beautifully played/written/designed/directed. Props. And great headgear abounds. Which is nice.

'The Talons of Weng-Chiang'
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'Magnus Greel- he plays the game for the merciless sadism's own sake'

Time bent out of shape. (Literally) warped future criminal caught in the unedifying altogether in merciless Jack's bloody London. Reality may I introduce you to this pantomime recreation? Mama, weer all sketched by Bob's uncomplimentary, unforgiving (unreconstructed) eye now. Beyond outstanding.

'The Ribos Operation'
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'When we were walking up the stair, we met ourselves- we were not there. We were not there again today- best do as Guardian asks, hooray!'

Well a game-changer fer sure, in inserting Guardians Black and White into the 'Who' canon. Celestial Absinthe? Don't mind if I do. Although not a trope that's latterly been made much of, bar various licensed fanwank of 'The Additional Guardians of Pastel Wax Crayons'. Which was nice but not ultimately much of a thing. The story here as is, well, it's Bob Holmes's oft overlooked masterpiece for meself. Spearing the cosmic and the commonplace with a brutal eye, low key outstanding. Beyond outstanding for the 'you were right' scene with Binro and Unstoffe. And a little bit significant for our first (and to date only) Time Lord companion (Missy's something different again) in Romana, capable of out-thinking and out-smarting our main character when needs must.

'City of Death'
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'Glorious my dears, glorious.'

Significant for seeing our first overseas filming in 'Who' and very nice it is too. Impeccably outstanding on every other level (special mention to Dudley Simpson's score) from teeth and curls to the double waters and the fracture in time.

'Shada'
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'Not back in time for tea. Because tea never happened. Or did it?'

One that always causes a pang- partial absence making the heart grow fonder in my case. So some unfortunate meta-significance for being the (to date) only 'Who' actually terminally stalled in production. Shame as I seriously think it could have been on for an outstanding if complete, Season 17's silver to 'City's' gold.

'The Leisure Hive'
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'End of the pier preja-vu: Everything's about to go a bit pantomime horse.'

Massively significant for the huge change in tone as the production team changes (JNT- initials that'll loom large over the remainder of '63-'89 vintage 'Who') and Tom Baker's Doctor enters his twilight period, end of the pier indeed, no shore-line in sight...Splish, splosh, sploosh...is that entropy between me toes?

A long-running era that rarely looks to the past (Chris Chibnall please take note!) but rather coalesces and effervesces on the spot/hoof, really rather gloriously...and yer, returning to me original thortlets...Outside of the opening and closing seasons twelve and eighteen, the central five, from autumn '75 through early winter '80 are singular. The one instance when it wasn't a case of '... ..... is Doctor Who' but 'Doctor Who is Tom Baker.' Geezer. Although interestingly not a majorly game-changing era or one with many truly significant moments. And the game-changing stuff is often backgrounded or throwaway lines that have impact/come back to haunt us down the line. More just consistently brilliant in a creative sense, concerned mostly with having fun'n'scares'n'atmosphere and selling 'em hard: 'Doctor Who circa Baker T Era- 'Everybody's Programme That It's Hard To Ignore' (Chris Chibnall please take note again!)








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Kert Gantry

Author:Kert Gantry
Loving the Who from a very early age and invariably banging on about it. Hence the blog.

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