Timestamp: Seventeenth Series Summary

Doctor Who: Seventeenth Series Summary

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The franchise is in a bit of a slump.

The Fourteenth Series was strong, even with a farewell to a beloved companion, the welcome of another companion, and a slight stumble with The Deadly Assassin. The Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and now Seventeenth have all been well below that mark, and they have all been at about the same level.

So what happened?

Tom Baker was still the Doctor. The companions shifted from Leela (Louise Jameson) to Romana (Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward). Neither of these elements has stood out as a problem to me. Sure, I liked Leela more than Romana, but neither version of Romana has been objectionable.

What about behind the scenes issues? Series Fourteen had Philip Hinchcliffe producing episodes with Robert Holmes editing. Series Fifteen brought in Graham Williams to produce and added editor Anthony Read, and Robert Holmes was gone by Series Sixteen. Douglas Adams took over script editing for Series Seventeen.

And, after reading up on Graham Williams, that seems to be the linchpin. Hinchcliffe’s era was controversial due to the horror and violence elements, and Williams was asked ordered to tone it down, which he did by injecting more humor. He also had budget cuts, industrial (labor) problems, and friction with Tom Baker.

By the look of things, all three of these troubled seasons should have worked. The problem comes with stories like Image of the Fendahl, Underworld, The Power of Kroll, The Creature from the Pit, and The Horns of Nimon, all of which dragged like anchors on their respective seasons. To be fair, they’re still not bad sets – in fact, they’re all still above my average of a 3.0 grade – but they aren’t up to the standards set within the Fourth Doctor’s run by Series Twelve, Thirteen, or Fourteen.

Now for the highlights of this set: Destiny of the Daleks, City of Death, and Shada were great. They flowed well, were beautiful to watch, and kept me engaged. They were fantastic headers and footers for the series.

In the middle, there’s Romana. Back in the Sixteenth Series Summary, I noted that she wasn’t a stellar companion because she was written as the Doctor Redux. That hasn’t changed, and in fact, it’s gotten worse as Romana becomes more experienced. Lalla Ward is great, just like Mary Tamm was, but the chemistry is wasted in the writing.

Somewhere near the back of the pack is poor K9. I love the character, but the new voice has to go.

By my scoring, the Seventeenth Series is tied with the Fifteenth and Sixth for third to last place. It beats out the Sixteenth and the Third.

I dislike repeating myself, but I’ll do it anyway: I’m really hoping things turn around.


Destiny of the Daleks – 5
City of Death – 4
The Creature From the Pit – 2
Nightmare of Eden – 3
The Horns of Nimon – 2
Shada – 4


Series Seventeen Average Rating: 3.3/5


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Leisure Hive


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.


7 thoughts on “Timestamp: Seventeenth Series Summary

  1. Don’t worry, John Leeson returns as K-9 in season 18. Williams does seem to have been a problem. He was a weak producer that couldn’t keep Tom in line. It also caused friction between Tom and his leading ladies, who all had bad relationships with him at this time. I also think that while Douglas Adams was brilliant he wasn’t up to being a script editor this early in his career. From everything I’ve read it sounds like Adams was great for writing his own stories (The Pirate Planet, City of Death, and Shada), but didn’t know how to guide other authors in writing theirs.

    For what it’s worth, I think that things pick up again in season 18 although maybe not immediately…

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