January’s a dreary old month isn’t it? Dark nights, cold days, nothing to look forward to other than the impending terror of Christmas credit card bills landing on the doormat… Not even any new Doctor Who on telly to look forward to, at least for a while. So how about rediscovering some old stories? Perhaps some, shall we say, less fondly remembered ones?
The classics are all very well but there’s joy to be found in many of the programme’s episodes which are never likely to trouble the higher reaches of fan-favourite polls. Join us as we present the (entirely subjective and less than wholly serious) Kasterborous guide to the Doctor Who stories that aren’t as bad as you heard!
Granted, this story came at a point when Terry Nation seemed to be running out of good ideas as to what to do with his hit creations but the story’s premise of a pursuit through time and space makes for an entertaining romp if you can forgive its shortcomings. We see the TARDIS crew chilling out at the beach and having a bit of fun watching the Beatles. In classic Nation style, a Dalek appears from somewhere unexpected at the end of part one.
If what follows can become a bit of a trial for the viewer, at least there are frequent changes of location to pep things up and the Mechonoids are pretty impressive in their all-too-brief appearance. Even some of the dodgier aspects of the story, like the Doctor’s unconvincing ‘double’ created by the Daleks, raise a smile if you’re in the mood for some slightly shonky Doctor Who fun. And any story that features Ian Chesterton taunting a trapped Dalek by referencing a Bernard Cribbins single (“Right Fred, let’s see you get out of that hole”) has to be worth a look.
The Time Monster
One of those glorious occasions when the ambitions of the show’s production team exceeded what was achievable at the time (a common feature of stories with watery elements); you certainly can’t accuse this story of being light on content. And what a wonderfully rich blend of ingredients it has, what with another Doctor Who take on the fall of Atlantis, the Master summoning a creature from outside time and Sergeant Benton reverting to a baby.
I could happily watch Pertwee and Delgado facing off against one another all day and we get some nice sequences here, with the Doctor threatening their mutually assured destruction before, typically, asking for his old foe to be spared. All this and a pre-Star Wars Dave Prowse charging around as the Minotaur (apparently, he can’t remember ever doing it, so maybe his memory’s more selective than he’s given credit for). “Come Kronos, come!!”
The Horns of Nimon
Something of a favourite of many Kasterborous stalwarts, this story which brought a prematurely end to Season 17 is probably best remembered for the performance of Doctor-who-might-have-been Graham Crowden who doesn’t so much eat the scenery as chomp his way through the entire BBC Television Centre. That in itself is recommendation enough and you could do a lot worse than invest in the Myths and Legends box set if you want to sample a few slices of unsung Doctor Who, but there’s a solid plot going on beneath the over-acting with a new take on the legend of the Minotaur (him again) and some pretty decent production values for an era when the show’s budget was under huge pressure.
All in all, it’s a last hurrah for that playful style of programme before things got rather more serious in the next series.
If you’re like me, the first thing you do when the new issue of Doctor Who Magazine arrives is turn to the last page to see what the Watcher is taking the mickey out of this month in A History of Doctor Who in 100 Objects. And it has to be said that the anonymous columnist has really gone to town on this story, poking good-natured fun at perceived holes in the plot concerning timelines, continuity, relationships among the Cranleigh family… nothing has escaped. All good stuff – as is the chance to see the Doctor and his young pals kick back a little whether it’s by dressing up, playing cricket or getting all Agatha Christie on us by solving a long-buried family mystery.
Just two episodes in length, it doesn’t outstay its welcome and is a nice change of pace for the series before things take a turn for the darker when the Cybermen turn up in the next story to destroy them, destroy them at once…
Season 22 goes to some troubling places doesn’t it? Bloody torture, sadistic entertainment, cannibalism, people being turned into all manner of freakish things. Timelash has had more than its fair share of stick for its seen-it-all-before plot, HG Wells homage, and larger than life guest turn from Paul Darrow (hmm, a couple of key themes emerging in this list, I fancy…), but another way to look at it is to appreciate it for what it is: a refreshingly innocent kind of story told at a time when most of what the programme offered was altogether darker.
You’ll need to overlook some unimpressive set design – you sould already have taken down the Christmas tinsel – but this story is hardly the only offender in that department; Herbert makes for an appealing single-story companion; and Colin Baker looks like he’s enjoying his tussles with Tekker (legend has it that Darrow’s heightened performance was his revenge for Baker’s bombastic guest turn in Blake’s 7).
What do you think? Which are the stories that are nowhere near as bad as we’ve been led to believe? There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure when it comes to Doctor Who! Let us know which stories we should give another chance to below!