Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Season Twenty-Five

The Doctor and Ace head off into the universe and face up to Daleks, the tyrannical Helen A, Cybermen and psychotic robot clowns!

The regulars -

Remembrance of the Daleks written by Ben Aaronovitch and directed by Andrew Morgan

Result: Remembrance of the Daleks is a great story and it's one of the few McCoy’s that in my experience can turn the heads of fans that aren’t keen on the era. My husband is really not keen on the seventh Doctor and Ace but he adored this tale when we watched it. When she was younger my friends daughter made me watch the cliffhanger to episode two over and over again because she found it so exciting. Even my mother (televisions harshest critic) had positive things to say about this one. It's one of those rare classic Doctor Who stories where the story is as great as the sum of its parts and it never flags for its entire length. You’ve got an engaging guest cast, fantastic production values, a ambitious portrayal of the Daleks, lovely kisses to the past, heart stopping action, twists and turns and a Doctor and companion who seem made for each other. It works as both a monster tale, an examination of the Doctor, an all out action adventure and something far more adult and thoughtful. Andrew Cartmel has started to introduce some very strong themes into the show from racism to genocide and a betrayal of love and Ben Aaronovitch packs the story full of extremely quotable dialogue. A creative renaissance for the show? Maybe that’s a little grandiose but Remembrance of the Daleks sees this show being more sure of itself than it has been for years. It was proof to an increasingly doubtful audience that there was still a great deal for Doctor Who to give: 9/10

Full Review Here:

The Happiness Patrol written by Graeme Curry and directed by Chris Clough

Result: ‘Time to get really depressed!’  What an odd story. A story where the production and the script feel as though they are fighting each other at almost every stage. It is a story about a fascistic woman who is willing to massacre a chunk of the population to bring the rest of them into line with her vision for a better world. A dramatically strong idea, with free will ultimately defeating oppression. So why then does it translate on screen like a day trip to a children’s Saturday morning entertainment show complete with garish costumes and sets, insane monsters and farcical deaths at the hands of gunk and outrageously sized ray guns? The performances are generally very serious and yet the tone of the piece descends into juvenilia – I feel as if I am being dragged in two opposable directions when I watch this, much like I did when I watched Paradise Towers. Dominic Glynn’s moody score adds a whole new dimension to the story, one of a handful of times when the music is essential to an adventures (partial) success. Without it (imagine this being wallpapered with Keff McCulloch’s stylings?) I fear that it would have plunged over a precipice into something quite unwatchable. The truth of the matter is that when literary scholar Kim Newman described the show during this period as a ‘fairly shoddy pantomime of its former self’ he could be pointing directly at this serial. In it’s early years the show managed to tell the sort of drama that this story is trying to be but without any of the gaudiness and cheap tricks. My biggest problem is that Terra Alpha never feels like a real place, it is an unconvincingly realised planet built around an feeble premise populated by unpersuasive characters. As a whole this is an economical pantomime populated by caricatures that is buoyed by some startling moments of high drama and committed performances. The Happiness Patrol is an odd experience for sure and one where I can see a worthy message screaming out at me but is almost entirely obscured by the confection that the story sets out to lambaste. Watch it and love it. Watch it and loathe it. It’s one of those stories where both are entirely possible, usually within the same scene. Ultimately I don’t think The Happiness Patrol can lay claim to being a success. It was a brave attempt at something different but it only half heatedly embraces its approach and the net result is a story that frustrates more than it excites: 4/10

Full Review Here:

Silver Nemesis written by Kevin Clarke and directed by Chris Clough

Result: Ironic that Revenge of the Cybermen and Silver Nemesis should be paired off into one DVD box set because they are not only two of the worst ever classic Doctor Who stories but they are also two of the most abysmal uses of the Cybermen as well. Silver Nemesis as a script is one of the worst pieces of writing in the shows history; the story literally jumps from location to location with no clear narrative progression, no time to get to know the characters, the plot is simply vomited up in great chunks of exposition and yet oddly there is time for plenty of dull and pointless padding (the Queen, Lady Remington, the Jazz, the skinheads...none of which add anything to the story). It's clear upon watching that the material has been hacked to pieces with some real slipshod editing and Chris Clough’s direction is remarkably bland for somebody who was providing some very atmospheric and exciting work a couple of years ago. The best thing Silver Nemesis has going for it is a large amount of location work, Fiona Walker chewing the scenery delightfully as Lady Peinforte and the occasional sweet moment of seventh Doctor and Ace interaction. Against that there are three badly written sets of villains with the Cybermen coming off especially poorly in their last appearance in the series for over two decades. Whilst I think that JNT had a far greater love affair with the Daleks than he did the Cybermen (the Daleks of Resurrection, Revelation and Remembrance kick some butt), Earthshock brought them back in unforgettable style and Attack was the first time in an age that a story seemed to be specifically tailored for them to appear (they provided some memorable assassination sequences in The Five Doctors too). Silver Nemesis' Cybermen are so useless that a whiff of a breeze would make them collapse screaming. They're an embarrassment and the way that the Doctor and Ace run rings around them with the most childish of tricks undermine their menace terminally. Final proof I think that there is no point in making everything look pretty when the writer and the director have fallen asleep, it doesn’t matter how expensive a story looks (although Silver Nemesis feels as though a couple of fans have taken a camcorder outside and decided to film a Doctor Who adventure of their own) if the content is dull as dishwater: 2/10

Full Review Here:

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy by Stephen Wyatt and directed by Alan Wareing

Result: A total surprise after two mediocre stories, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy proves that Doctor Who still has some surprises up its sleeve. The first episode dazzles with it's creativity, stylishness and charm and the last episode is a magical tour de force of stunning direction (probably my favourite of the McCoy era) but the middle two episodes meander terribly, helped by tremendous, sinister direction. Ultimately I think Paradise Towers has a stronger script but this is much more confidently made and papers over any cracks in logic and characterisation (how much depth can you give people called Ringmaster and Chief Clown?). Although he has come from a comedy background this style of menacing humour is far more suited to McCoy than the shenanigans of season 24 and the darker melodrama of season 26, this is probably his best performance in the series. Packed with imagination and scares, this is a show at the top of its game in its death throes: 9/10

Full Review Here:


Zagreus said...

This was the first season where i really got into Doctor Who. I remember labelling my blank VHS cassettes in advance and sitting in front of the television waiting for the right time to press record. In retrospect it was absolutely the best time to start watching Who. Old enough to retain a connection with the classic series yet young enough to forget the seasons that proceeded it.

BSC SSC said...

Though no-one is going to say its a classic, I think that Silver Nemesis deserves to be rated higher than The Twin Dilemma or Time and the Rani-bad stories that you rate highly because they are bad.