Very Brief Doctor Who Reviews – Season Five

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The Tomb of the Cybermen – Picture naïve, little 14-year-old me. I’d seen An Unearthly Child, and I just assumed the two black and white Doctors would be more or less the same. Boy was I wrong. I fell in love with the second Doctor straight away, and the first cliff-hanger actually gave me a fright – something even modern Who can rarely achieve. It’s the one time where Victoria has a bit of gumption about her (it won’t last) and the Cybermats are just adorable. 8/10*

The Abominable Snowmen – Sitting down to write this, I have no idea what to say. With some of the solidly average stories, I can at least talk about the good points and the bad points, but this is just solidly good, but not great Doctor Who. 7/10

The Ice Warriors – Clent’s dedication to the computer with the least comprehensible voice ever gets very old very quick – Brian Hayles is trying to teach us a lesson, but this is not a subtle or persuasive way of going about it. More than any other, I think this the story that most reduces Victoria to screaming girl – at least in Fury it was a plot point. Miss Garret is the first of many a strong, independent woman the Doctor meets this season. A fairly functional adventure that manages to entertain for 2½ hours but doesn’t offer anything mind-blowing. 6/10

The Enemy of the World – Season five tries something different. Doctor Who as a political thriller that had me rapt throughout. Whenever Salamander was on screen, I completely forgot that it wasn’t a different actor – Troughton is that good. I know I said that Tomb was Victoria’s one chance to shine, but she’s quite good in this, too, going undercover as Jamie’s girlfriend. It warmed my heart to see two strong female characters – one of them not-white – in the form of Astrid and Farriah. And I was very impressed with how complicated it must have been to stage the final confrontation between Salamander and the Doctor. There is one sizeable flaw with the story, and that’s the fact that neither Salamander or Kent’s plans make a lick of sense. 8/10

The Web of Fear – I don’t care if it’s an unoriginal opinion, I love this episode. It’s so atmospheric and creepy, with the dark, claustrophobic tunnels and the music that reminds me of a squeaky see-saw. It feels more like a horror film than an episode of Doctor Who, and there’s something delightfully 1960s about it. For my money, it’s the best execution of the ‘base under siege’ format the show ever did. No, it doesn’t make a lot of sense why the great intelligence would be using robot yeti in the London Underground – but who cares when everything else around it is so good. 10/10

Fury from the Deep – This is one of those stories that’s long been hailed as a lost classic; I’m sceptical it would be the holy grail of Who if it did get found, but I still think it would be an entertaining story with a few good scares. I know that image of Oak (or is it Quill) gassing Maggie Harris, his eyes bugging out would have terrified me as a kid. The fact that the story takes the time to set up Victoria’s departure, and do so in a way that is consistent with her character is pretty much unique in Doctor Who (companions are lucky if they get either). 7/10

The Wheel in Space – Gemma and Zoë are great, but the rest of the Space Wheel’s crew are pretty unlikable – Bennet has the worst breakdown of the season (and for no discernible reason other than that’s what base commanders seem to do these days); Leo and Tanya are like the cool kids who think they’re so much better than anyone else; and then there’s that guy who does the weird backwards dance when he sees the Cybermat. The first episode crawls by, with Jamie in a sulk over Victoria, plus, this must be the Cyberman’s most bizarre and convoluted plan ever. I’ll give it this – it assembles my favourite classic era TARDIS teams. If I were put in charge of Doctor Who right now, this is what I’d do – a girl genius from the future, and a loyal boy from the past. 4/10

*Addendum. Now for the awkward moment where I talk about race. When I first watched The Tomb of the Cybermen, I could see that Toberman’s portrayal was problematic. He’s mute, unquestioning muscle, and I get the impression he’s Kaftan’s slave. Maybe he’s just her body guard, but the fact that he doesn’t talk or seem to have any real thoughts of his own doesn’t bode well. Apparently, he was meant to be deaf, which was why he didn’t talk, but the detail was lost between drafts. I sincerely hope that Toberman’s portrayal was the result laziness/lack of time to write him as, you know, capable of language and individual thought, as well as differing levels of what was acceptable in 1967, rather than a genuine belief in the inferiority of black people on the part of the creative team. I think as long as we acknowledge that something is ‘of its era’, and that it portrays ideas/beliefs that wouldn’t be acceptable today, and that we wouldn’t accept them from something made today, we can still enjoy a creative work in spite of any unfortunate racist/sexist/homophobic connotations. Same goes for Kaftan and Klieg (whatever ethnicity they’re meant to be.)

Originally published 17 December, 2016
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