Timestamp: Twenty-Sixth Series Summary

 Doctor Who: Twenty-Sixth Series Summary

The classic series finishes strong.

I have really loved watching the adventures of the Seventh Doctor and Ace, especially since this season seemed to be (Battlefield aside) about the companion and her development, as well as tying off the loose ends from the last three years. Ghost Light, The Curse of Fenric, and Survival brought us deep cuts into Ace’s history, and Fenric brought closure to elements from her introduction in Dragonfire. Fenric also brought a lot of strength to Ace as she faced her past and literally washed herself clean of the negative emotions surrounding it.

Ace grew so much over this season, and it was amazing to watch. I really admire her as a character and companion.

As a Whovian who started with the 2005 revival series, I also wonder how much of Clara’s character in the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors’ eras was derived from Ace. Looking into the Wilderness Years that follow this season, Ace was apparently being set up to travel to Gallifrey and train as a Time Lord. She’s essentially becoming the Doctor, much like Clara did, but Ace does it so much better.

And I’m really sad to see her go. I’d love to see her come back in the future.

The Seventh Doctor’s final season comes in exactly on target with the Twenty-Fifth season, making it the sixth player in a tie for fifth place with the SeventhTenthThirteenthFourteenth, and Twenty-Fifth seasons. What a way to end the classic run.

So, where do we go from here?

Well, we’re at a crossroads, aren’t we? The goal of the Timestamps Project was to explore the classic era of Doctor Who and see how it informs the modern era of the franchise. We’re at the inflection point between the two with the Eighth Doctor and the Doctor Who TV movie on the horizon, and I’m not stopping.

From here, I’m going to visit Dimensions in Time and Death Comes to Time before covering the TV movie. That will mark the end of the Seventh Doctor’s run for me – since Dimensions in Time and Death Comes to Time aren’t considered canon, they won’t be counted in the Seventh Doctor’s score, but the TV movie will since he’s in it for some time and it contains his regeneration – and the Seventh Doctor Summary will follow.

After that, I’ll look at Night of the Doctor for the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration, followed by the Eighth Doctor’s Summary. Finally, I’ll close the classic era with non-canon stories The Curse of the Fatal DeathScream of the Shalka, and the Eighth Doctor’s version of Shada.

The Timestamps Project will enter the 2005 revival era with the Ninth Doctor later this autumn.

 

Battlefield – 4
Ghost Light – 2
The Curse of Fenric – 5
Survival –  4

Series Twenty-Two Average Rating: 3.8/5

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time

 

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.

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Timestamp: Twenty-Fifth Series Summary

 Doctor Who: Twenty-Fifth Series Summary

 

A stunning jump as we race toward the classic finish.

The Seventh Doctor’s second outing was a major step up, which was an important move for the show’s silver anniversary. It has also made me really love Sylvester McCoy’s wit and humor. Remembrance of the Daleks was a great start, and while Silver Nemesis was effectively Remembrance Redux, it was still fun. Even the average stories kept me entertained, and there didn’t seem to be a stinker in the bunch.

The John Nathan-Turner problems remain, and they’re likely to stick around for McCoy’s senior season, but at least the actors and stories were able to enlighten and entertain, overcoming the production.

Overall, this season ends up in a five-way tie for fifth place, joining the ranks of the Seventh, Tenth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth seasons. The Third and Fourth Doctors are good company to be in.

 

Remembrance of the Daleks – 5
The Happiness Patrol – 3
Silver Nemesis – 4
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy –  3

Series Twenty-Five Average Rating: 3.8/5

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Battlefield

 

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.

Timestamp: Twenty-Fourth Series Summary

 Doctor Who: Twenty-Fourth Series Summary

 

The numbers say average but the emotion says confidence.

The Seventh Doctor’s opening frame was on par with the Sixth Doctor’s closing set. On the five-point scale, it was square in the middle and tied for second-to-last with the Trail of a Time Lord. But there’s some added complexity in the execution and how it resonated with me overall, something that hasn’t happened since the end of the Third Doctor’s run.

Taking a quick trip back in time, the Third Doctor’s Summary presented me with a wrinkle in my scoring system: Jon Pertwee’s run was consistently some of my favorite work in the franchise, but on a character level I was (and still am) more keen on Patrick Troughton’s interpretation of the Doctor. There’s something similar here where Time and the Rani made me really care about the Doctor again, to the point that I was (unbeknownst to me) actually grinning ear-to-ear at Sylvester McCoy’s performance.

In fact, the Seventh Doctor has been a beacon of hope during this introductory season, and I’m hoping that it carries this show forward through the remaining two classic seasons.

McCoy’s Doctor shares a lot of the same qualities from Troughton’s Doctor, mixing disarming tomfoolery with a darker analytical nature. It’s something that we haven’t really seen since the Fourth Doctor‘s era, and it’s refreshing to see back in the mix. The problems, of course, remain from recent John Nathan-Turner-era productions, including high body counts and average (or lower) stories to fill space rather than enlighten and entertain.

I’m actually a little sad that McCoy’s spark came so late in the game.

 

Time and the Rani – 3
Paradise Towers – 2
Delta and the Bannerman – 4
Dragonfire –  3

Series Twenty-Four Average Rating: 3.0/5

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks

 

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.

Timestamp: Twenty-Third Series and Sixth Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: Twenty-Third Series and Sixth Doctor Summary
The Trial of a Time Lord

 

It was a decent defense against an indictment of the franchise.

After the Twenty-Second Series, it was hard to imagine where Doctor Who could go. It was presumably harder to fall further, but the loss of goodwill for the Sixth Doctor was hard to overcome. The Twenty-Third Series split that difference.

The Trial of a Time Lord started strong with a story that put both the Doctor and his performance on trial. In universe, it essentially sidelined the Doctor and made him face his own demons. In the meta sense, it served to analyze the John Nathan-Turner era and the Sixth Doctor’s abuses on the whole. By the time we reached the end though – as noted in The Ultimate Foe – the logic of the season arc fell apart.

Setting aside my problems with the treatment of the Artifacts of Rassilon and related ephemera, you have the High Council of Gallifrey committing muder (and potentially genocide) to hide their secrets. This is despite their previously established rules against meddling in affairs outside their borders. We also have the mind-bending plot of a later Doctor trying to kill one of his predecessors in order to survive, despite the Grandfather Paradox that is immediately presented if the Valeyard leaves the bubble of the Inquisitor’s space station.

I also noted how the Valeyard was a decent villain in the beginning, but was reduced to “Master Lite” in the end. The reintroduction of the Master in the final chapter de-fanged the Valeyard and highlighted the comparison between the two.

The good news is that this season was a recovery from the awfulness of its predecessor. The bad news is that it’s still not enough on the whole. The average was a 3.0 on a 5.0 scale, placing The Trial of a Time Lord as second to last ahead of the Twenty-Second Series, but just behind the three-way tie of the Twenty-First,  the Third, and the Nineteenth Series.

 

The Mysterious Planet – 4
Mindwarp – 3
Terror of the Vervoids – 3
The Ultimate Foe –  2

Series Twenty-Three Average Rating: 3.0/5

 

 

 

The Sixth Doctor was wasted potential.

I get what the showrunners were trying to do with the question of what happens if a regeneration goes bad, and while it was ambitious, it was hamstrung by The Twin Dilemma. If that story had started the Twenty-Second Series instead of ending the Twenty-First, maybe the idea of watching the Doctor’s inherent goodness overcoming a life-altering setback would have had legs. But if I was watching in real time in the 1980s, I might have quit there. I certainly would have after The Two Doctors, Timelash, Revelation of the Daleks, and Mindwarp.

Especially after Revelation of the Daleks.

I know that Peri is not well-liked as a companion, but the Sixth Doctor’s abusive attitude toward her was simply unacceptable. Capping it with a vicious exit in Mindwarp, coupled with a reaction from the Doctor that was completely against his opinion of her in the past, made me wonder just how far this era could fall. It seems that choking her in The Twin Dilemma was just the beginning.

 

Before we go any further – and the fact that I even have to clarify this baffles me – my criticisms are of the Sixth Doctor, not of Colin Baker himself. My less than stellar reviews of the entire Sixth Doctor era have garnered a bit of flak from some fans who think that I’m attacking the actor, and that is about as far from reality as it gets. From all accounts, Colin Baker is a wonderful man, and I would love to meet him and (yes, really) even thank him for his time on the show. The decline of the franchise, the character’s cynicism, and the antithetical scripts were not his fault. Colin Baker did the best he could with the vision he was presented, and the way that he was treated after the Twenty-Third Series was disgusting.

Before the Twenty-Third Series was transformed into the Trial of a Time Lord, it was supposed to be a series of six stories spread across thirteen to seventeen episodes: The Nightmare Fair would have brought back the Celestial Toymaker; Mission to Magnus would have been Sil’s return after Vengeance on Varos and the return of the Ice Warriors after eleven seasons of franchise hibernation; Yellow Fever and How to Cure It would have brought back the Autons, along with the Master and the Rani; The Hollows of Time would have reintroduced the Tractators; and The Ultimate Evil and The Children of January would have stood alone, presumably with new enemies to thwart.

After the Twenty-Third Series was transformed into a fourteen-part arc – let’s be honest, it was a gimmick to save the show after the near cancellation and eighteen-month hiatus following the Twenty-Second Series – the BBC fired Colin Baker in the middle of filming without his knowledge. They invited him back for a final four-part story to regenerate the Sixth Doctor into the Seventh, but (rightfully so) he declined. He counteroffered with another full season with a regeneration at the end, but the BBC turned him down.

I would have liked to see what Colin Baker’s vision for a more mature Sixth Doctor was, and I may go hunting for the available stories in the coming years. Just like with Season 6B, I have another rabbit hole to dive into, but I can’t afford to do it just yet. For this very reason, I will be exploring two other Sixth Doctor visual stories that sit outside of televised canon with Real Time and A Fix with Sontarans as Timestamps Specials before moving into the Twenty-Fourth Series.

But no, I’m not being critical of Colin Baker himself, just of the character he played and the situations presented during his run. To suggest otherwise is silly at best, and frankly borderline offensive.

 

Following tradition, if the First Doctor was a wise grandfather, the Second a sly jester, the Third a secret agent scientist, the Fourth an inquisitive idealist, and the Fifth Doctor was an honorable humanitarian, then the Sixth Doctor would fall as the squandered cynic.

 

It doesn’t bring me any joy to say it, either.

 

Series 21 (The Twin Dilemma) – 3.0
Series 22 – 2.5
Series 23 – 3.0

Sixth Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 2.73

 

Ranking (by score)
1 – Third (4.00)
2 – Second (3.67)
2 – Fourth (3.67)
4 – First (3.41)
5 – Fifth (3.20)
6 – Sixth (2.73)

Ranking (by character)
1 – Second Doctor
2 – Third Doctor
3 – Fourth Doctor
4 – First Doctor
5 – Fifth Doctor
6 – Sixth Doctor

 

As noted before, the project will detour here with Real Time and A Fix with Sontarans before jumping back into things with Time and the Rani.

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Real Time

 

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.

Timestamp: Twenty-Second Series Summary

Doctor Who: Twenty-Second Series Summary

 

A stunning and sharp decline.

The Sixth Doctor’s full opening set was the lowest of any run to date in the Timestamps Project. After a promising start with Attack of the Cybermen and average adventures with Vengeance on Varos and The Mark of the Rani, the series nose-dived hard in the back half.

The problems are pretty much the same across the board: The stories were weak and overly convoluted, and the Doctor himself is acerbic, cynical, and downright abusive. The latter of those traits has been more often than not aimed at his companion Peri. Yes, she does bite back, but oftentimes she’s just as taken aback as the viewer at his verbal slaps.

Additionally, the stories have been continuing the John Nathan-Turner trope of high body counts. The difference between this Doctor and the previous incarnation under the same producer is that the Fifth Doctor still retained heroic traits and empathy. This Doctor has brief sparks – Timelash‘s attempted self-sacrifice is a notable example – but it’s never a sustained effort to actually be the Doctor.

It’s almost as if he’s just marking time until his hitch is up.

 

The Twenty-Second Series comes in dead last in comparison against the twenty-one previous sets. This score is over a half-grade lower than the Third Series, the Nineteenth Series, and the Twenty-First Series. All of them are tied for second to last, and the last two are the bookends for the Fifth Doctor.

 

Attack of the Cybermen – 4
Vengeance on Varos – 3
The Mark of the Rani – 3
The Two Doctors –  1
Timelash – 2
Revelation of the Daleks – 2

Series Twenty-Two Average Rating: 2.5/5

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Mysterious Planet

 

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.

Timestamp: Twenty-First Series and Fifth Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: Twenty-First Series and Fifth Doctor Summary

 

It’s an unfortunate ending to an era.

The Fifth Doctor’s three series run did not perform well in comparison to the rest of the franchise so far, and that’s disappointing considering how much potential the character had. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t stellar.

The Twenty-First Series had highs in Warriors of the Deep  and Resurrection of the Daleks, and it had a low in The Awakening. The rest just evened out to the average. Part of that was the companions, Tegan and Turlough, who I never really connected with. Another part was the stories, which has really high body counts and somewhat lackluster execution and resolution.

This series also contained a regeneration, but what is interesting about that is how it shakes out against other regeneration stories. The Fifth Doctor’s regeneration and Sixth Doctor’s premiere both scored a 3, and the last regeneration/premiere story to do that was An Unearthly Child. Everything since then has been either a 4 or 5, leading to an average among those stories of 4.2. I hope this doesn’t bode poorly for the future of the franchise, but there have been stories…

The caveat here is that none of the series so far have been outright bad. The average across all twenty-one series is a 3.6 on a 5.0 scale. The lowest series score is 3.1 out of five, which is smack in the middle. The downside is that is that the Twenty-First Series is tied with the Third and Nineteenth Series (the Fifth Doctor’s first set of stories) for last place.

After Adric left the series, I was optimistic about the series and the Fifth Doctor’s evolution. I wanted to see him run with the role, but the opportunities never came to fruition. More on that in a moment.

 

Warriors of the Deep – 4
The Awakening – 2
Frontios – 3
Resurrection of the Daleks –  4
Planet of Fire – 3
The Caves of Androzani – 3
The Twin Dilemma – 3

Series Twenty-One Average Rating: 3.1/5

 

 

 

If there’s one positive thing to say about the Fifth Doctor, it’s that he was consistent.

If there’s another, it’s that he was a good father figure.

The Fifth Doctor’s tenure brought the franchise back from some of the silliness of the Fourth Doctor‘s run, but it also reduced a bit of the charm. I admired his youth, sensitivity, and honesty. His reserved honor made him an ideal guardian and guide for his companions, and he used his traits to help each of the companions (whether I liked them or not) expand their horizons.

But those traits brought a hesitancy to the character that made him demure instead of advancing the take-charge attitude that the Doctor often embodies. Since he also tended to rush right into danger before observing the conflicts, we also tended to see a higher body count in his stories.

It’s that consistency that hurt his run the most because he never really evolved. Compare him to the two other scientist Doctors, the First and the Third, and you can see a distinct improvement as the character evolves and settles in. The First Doctor started as a gruff nomad but demonstrated a deep capacity to love and care. The Third Doctor’s run was an evolution of the franchise, and he started angry and frustrated by his circumstances before softening once he got his keys back and could satiate his exploratory curiosity.

And that’s why I’m so conflicted about the Fifth Doctor. I admire people who embody ideals like honor, sensitivity, and fairness, and Doctor Who has asked us to celebrate heroes who triumph over brute force and cynicism with love and compassion. But it also asks us to celebrate the capacity to learn and grow, and I don’t know that this Doctor ever really did.

If the First Doctor was a wise grandfather, the Second a sly jester, the Third a secret agent scientist, and the Fourth an inquisitive idealist, then I would call the Fifth Doctor an honorable humanitarian.

 

For scoring purposes, I obviously will not include The Twin Dilemma in the Fifth Doctor’s final tally.

 

Warriors of the Deep – 4
The Awakening – 2
Frontios – 3
Resurrection of the Daleks –  4
Planet of Fire – 3
The Caves of Androzani – 3

Series Twenty-One (Fifth Doctor) Average Rating: 3.2

 

Series 19 – 3.1
Series 20 – 3.3
Series 21 – 3.2

Fifth Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 3.20

 

Ranking (by score)
1 – Third (4.00)
2 – Second (3.67)
2 – Fourth (3.67)
4 – First (3.41)
5 – Fifth (3.20)

Ranking (by character)
1 – Second Doctor
2 – Third Doctor
3 – Fourth Doctor
4 – First Doctor
5 – Fifth Doctor

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen

 

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.

Timestamp: Twentieth Series Summary

Doctor Who: Twentieth Series Summary

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It’s a bump up at the very least.

The Nineteenth Series was a low water mark, and this group of serials recovered enough to join several others in a grouping just below the to-date average. The focus of the Twentieth Series appeared to be revisiting the greatest hits of the franchise, but it’s worth noting that very few of them were from the black and white era.

The high scoring stories – Arc of Infinity and Mawdryn Undead – revisited Omega and the Brigadier, both of which were primarily Third Doctor elements. Snakedance and Enlightenment brought in the middle ground with the Mara and the White and Black Guardians, the former being a Fifth Doctor enemy and the latter being from the Fourth Doctor’s era. The low marks – Terminus and The King’s Demons – bade farewell to Fourth Doctor companion Nyssa and welcomed back The Master, a Third Doctor and beyond enemy.

Before The Five Doctors, the references to the First and Second Doctor were minimal and (with minor exception) limited to their colorized era appearances. Sure, the majority of the franchise has been in the colorized era, but it seems rather disingenuous to run a greatest hits series without much mention of the show’s roots.

The Five Doctors fixed a lot of that by pulling in elements from the entire scope of the twenty-year history, though I feel that the entire twentieth-anniversary celebration could have been improved by solidifying those connections throughout the seven-story run.

The companions have also been a point of vexation: Kamelion is a big ol’ mystery box right now, Turlough is irritating, and Tegan has never been particularly strong. After Nyssa’s departure (in a story where she spent most of her screentime in her underwear) there isn’t much for me to identify with among the Doctor’s assistants.

The upside is that the Fifth Doctor has been evolving and getting more comfortable in his skin. He’s becoming more of a father figure, which I appreciate.

 

Now for the numbers: This series joins the Sixth, Fifteenth, and Seventeenth in a four-way tie for fourteenth place. It’s also below the average-to-date for all of the twenty series so far, which is 3.7.

 

Arc of Infinity – 4
Snakedance – 3
Mawdryn Undead – 4
Terminus – 2
Enlightenment – 3
The King’s Demons – 2
The Five Doctors – 5

Series Nineteen Average Rating: 3.3/5

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Warriors of the Deep

 

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.