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Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Deadly Assassin originally aired in 1976.

I deny this reality.

– the Doctor

The Deadly Assassin is a rather boldly experimental episode of Doctor Who. It’s the first story told without a companion character, and it also ventures quite forcefully into the realm of surrealism. It offers a rather bold deconstruction of the Time Lords, a rather cynical depiction of the aliens who had seemed all-powerful in stories like The War Games or The Three Doctors. More than that, though, The Deadly Assassin feels – appropriately enough – like a treatise on the inevitable death of Doctor Who.

Located in the middle of the fourteenth of twenty-six seasons, and broadcast thirteen years from both the start and the end of the show’s initial run, The Deadly Assassin seems to be positioned at the very heart of Doctor Who.

A rough outline of what's going on...

A rough outline of what’s going on…

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Doctor Who: Destiny of the Daleks (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Last of the Time Lords originally aired in 1979.

Oh, look! Rocks!

– the Doctor

Destiny of the Daleks is a bit crap. I know that there’s a whole bunch of “a bit crap” Dalek episodes, but Destiny of the Daleks doesn’t suffer because it doesn’t make sense, or it hangs on plot contrivance. Instead, it’s just a little bit dull. At least Resurrection of the Daleks bangs along making no sense in a reasonably exciting manner. In contrast, Destiny of the Daleks just sort of… is. In a way, it serves as the perfect opener to Graham Williams’ final year as producer, perfectly capturing the gap between the production staff the cast and the writers that so often led to bit of a mismatch in this part of the show’s history.

While I have a fondness for Terry Nation, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to argue that his style was hardly progressive or dynamic when he first wrote for the show in 1963. Indeed, my fondness for his work in the early years of the show is mostly down to how it harks backwards to pulpy classic science-fiction. If Nation wasn’t the most forward-looking of writers in 1963, then perhaps he really wasn’t best suited to open a season for Graham Williams and Douglas Adams in 1979.

Romana II goes through one of the oldest companion rites of passage...

Romana II goes through one of the oldest companion rites of passage…

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