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Doctor Who: The Three Doctors (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 Three Doctors originally aired in 1973.

Well, Sergeant, aren’t you going to say it that it’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Everybody else does.

It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

– the Doctor and Benton

The Three Doctors never seems entirely sure what it’s supposed to be. It knows what it has to accomplish. This was the first serial of the tenth season of Doctor Who, so it has to feature the three versions of the character to date. It also wants to radically shake-up the status quo of the series and to allow Jon Pertwee’s Doctor to take to the cosmos. Those are really the two primary objectives of The Three Doctors, and writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin accomplish them quite well.

The problem is that the story itself isn’t sure what it wants to be. Pertwee-era script editor Terrance Dicks would be a lot more confident when juggling The Five Doctors, conceding that the whole thing was a gigantic nonsensical spectacle. The Three Doctors seems almost like a regular story with the tenth anniversary grafted on to it – it’s easy enough to imagine a rough outline of this story that could work with only Jon Pertwee and without the end of his exile.

As a result, the two strongest beats in The Three Doctors feel almost like afterthoughts, grafted on to the outline of a generic and somewhat bland Doctor Who adventure.

Why does the Doctor hate himself...?

Why does the Doctor hate himself…?

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Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen (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.

Attack of the Cybermen originally aired in 1985.

We realise this must be confusing for you.

– Threst tells it how it is

There is a tendency, these days, to be more sympathetic in appraisals of the Colin Baker years. Everybody – including Baker – accepts that his tenure could have gone a lot smoother. Watching Attack of the Cybermen, I can’t help but feel sorry for just about everybody involved. Rewatching Colin Baker’s first season, I can’t help but feel that the problem with this period of the show wasn’t that the production crew were making new mistakes or deviating from good ideas. It seems quite apparent that a lot of the major problems were embedded during Peter Davison’s time in the role.

The problem with Colin Baker’s first year on the show was that the writers and producers allowed those already significant flaws to attain critical mass.

A crushing blow...

A crushing blow…

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Doctor Who: Rise of the Cybermen (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.

Rise of the Cybermen originally aired in 2006.

Delete. Delete.

– the moment the Cybermen realise they are second-rate Daleks

I’ll freely concede that I am sceptical of the Cybermen. Okay, that’s not fair. I actually really like the early Cybermen stories. However, it seems like Doctor Who really forgot how the Cybermen worked when it turned them into a recurring “once per Doctor” sort of threat. However, they are part of the show’s iconography. The image of the Cybermen marching down the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral from The Invasion is important enough to earn them a sacred place in the show’s history.

So the return of the Cybermen was inevitable, even before we caught a glimpse of one of their silly helmets in Dalek. Russell T. Davies has generally done a great job revitalising old concepts for the revived series, so Rise of the Cybermen has that in its corner. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that Rise of the Cybermen approaches anything resembling the quality of Dalek, and I think that Rise of the Cybermen manages the rare feat of turning most of Davies’ strengths into weaknesses.

March of the Cybermen...

March of the Cybermen…

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Doctor Who: Revenge of the Cybermen (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.

Revenge of the Cybermen originally aired in 1975.

Then what is it? You’ve no home planet, no influence, nothing. You’re just a pathetic bunch of tin soldiers skulking about the galaxy in an ancient spaceship.

– the Doctor pretty much sums it up

To be fair, the title should the first clue that something is not quite right here.

Tom Baker’s first season of Doctor Who contains two genuine classics in the form of Genesis of the Daleks and The Ark in Space, along with the quite good Sontaran Experiment, but it was bookended by two absolute clunkers. Indeed, Revenge of the Cybermen and Robot both feel like holdovers from the Barry Letts era of the show, and they’d both probably seem a whole lot more entertaining as vehicles for Jon Pertwee rather than Tom Baker.

Sadly, we’ve got what we’ve got, so let’s just try to work through this.

Sadly it's A bomb, not THE bomb...

Sadly it’s A bomb, not THE bomb…

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