The Three Doctors – Happy tenth anniversary! Oops we’re a year early. It’s been acknowledged that the Brigadier seems to get stupider as time goes on, and this really is the climax of that (luckily he seems to regain his wits later on.) Its strange to think that this is meant to be the same character who was willing to accept the Doctor had a spaceship on their first meeting, but won’t believe he’s travelled to another planet after having worked together to fight alien invasions for the past several years. Benton gets the perfect reaction to the TARDIS, which is pretty much ‘yeah, why not.’ I like Pertwee’s Doctor just fine, but Troughton is just so much more fun. He might not be playing his Doctor so much as a half remembered parody of him, but he lights up the screen and if I were Jo, I’d be thinking ‘why couldn’t I have had this one instead.’ Is this the most quotable Doctor Who story of all time. Classic Doctor Who isn’t particularly funny, but the closing line from Mr Ollis never fails to make me smile. Wonderful story, all of it. 7/10.
Carnival of Monsters – Sorry, I don’t see the charm. Is it the case of a story that can’t possibly live up to its hype? Possibly. The shot of Vorg’s hand reaching in and plucking out the miniaturised TARDIS is a great, eye-catching image; the shot of that same hand flapping away the Drashigs, not so much. The Robert Holmes that we all know and love has arrived. Yes The Krotons was political in its way, but this is the story where Holmes has decided that bureaucrats are the ultimate evil in the universe and must be destroyed via the medium of family teatime entertainment. Poor Ian Marter; is it because of his pleasant, open face that he always plays characters who are so… wet. Trust the Doctor to immediately start chatting up the pretty young assistant the first chance he gets, the old rogue. 6/10
Frontier in Space – Even though he’s not as much a part of the establishment as Verity Lambert always though he was, the third Doctor did usually have the establishment firmly on side in the form of UNIT, so it’s nice to see him on the outs for once, being a political prisoner on the moon. I heartily approve of the Master casually turning the sound off so he doesn’t have to listen to Jo’s amateur dramatics improvisation workshop. It’s a shame that because this story was devised as the first half of a twelve-part epic with Planet of the Daleks, that this story and its charcters (who are all far more interesting than the interchangeable Thals in the next story) don’t get a resolution. Speaking of such things, does anyone know what actually happens in the end? There’s a commotion, someone gets shot, and the next think I know the Doctor is starting to frost over. It has to be some of the worst directing in the shows long and varied history. I admit it, it’s mostly an endless game of capture and escape, but it’s strangely engrossing capture/escape, as every recapture leads to a new and exciting destination and chapter in the plot. 6/10
Planet of the Daleks – I would never put Jo at the top of my favourite companions (in fact, I do keep such a list, and she’s my 19th favourite), but I think she might be one of the best developed companions of the classic era, and she certainly gets a lot of times when she’s more useful than the Doctor. I like the ingenuity of the escape by hot air balloon sequence, even if I have doubts about the science and the fact that there’s a hole in the balloon drives my need for symmetry mad. I know it’s obviously an engineered Pertwee moment of charm, but the “Courage isn’t just a matter of not being frightened… It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway,” line means a lot to me, especially as someone who’s had lifelong anxiety. We all know that this is pretty much just a remake of the original Dalek story, without the benefit of unfamiliarity or the atmosphere added by being in black and white. I feel it was aiming for solidly average, and that’s what it achieved. 5/10
The Green Death – Wasn’t I just saying that Jo is one of the better developed companions? She also gets one of the best send-offs. Sure Jo and Cliff’s relationship has about the same timeline as a fairytale romance, but it feels plausible, as we see them slowly fall in love over the course of six episodes. And that’s not just the chemistry of the actors – the writing has actually bothered to invest in this relationship (compare poor Louise Jameson, one the finest actors we’ve ever been lucky enough to have as a regular, desperately trying to build something that just wasn’t there in the script.) And Yates, who I’ve always thought was the weakest of the Pertwee recurring cast, gets his moment to shine. There’s something very satisfying about the scene where he communicates to the Brigadier everything he needs to know, all why having a henchperson lurking over his shoulder; and then the moment when he ditches said henchperson in the lift. For all that I’ve praised the characters, this isn’t a story I find easy to like; I think it’s because I’ve had enough preaching about alternative energy all through school, that I didn’t need to hear it from my favourite TV show. And Cliff is too happy. I like it, but only when I try very hard. 7/10