Yay! We're up to the seventh Doctor, my favorite! Unfortunately, he's also the last of the original Doctors.
As always, only names and dates are fact, and the rest is just my opinion
.The Seventh Doctor
Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989)
The seventh Doctor is kind of two Doctors in one. In his first year, the show's writing was still very much what it was during the sixth Doctor's time: the Doctor had little to do with the story, and people were senselessly slaughtered every time the story was done with them. In that time, the seventh Doctor was clownish, and was given the "quirk" that he would mangle figures of speech at every opportunity. But then everything changed, and he became an awesome figure who could take control of almost every possible situation with relative ease, and nothing was left of the clownish version apart from the vest full of question marks. (In keeping with the way that the costume department ignored Colin Baker's wishes regarding his
costume, Sylvester McCoy said he had always hated the question mark motif, and so what happened? He got covered in them!) Even though his second two seasons were the show's second golden age, sadly that wasn't enough to save it.
(And although a certain amount of what the executive responsible for the cancellation said in the documentary was obviously just to placate fans still ticked off with him decades later, I think he was
telling the truth when he said he didn't think the show could compete with American imports like "Star Trek: The Next Generation". Although the final two years of "Doctor Who" were better than the first two years of said American import, in my opinion anyway, the difference in their special effects levels is quite shocking, and I can see how that would make people less likely to tune in to "Doctor Who" when they could be watching something that looked so much more impressive.)Companions
Melanie Bush (Bonnie Langford) 1986-1987
See my previous journal entry [link]
for information on Mel. She actually spent longer with the seventh Doctor than with the sixth, so I probably should have described her here instead of there, but...one thing I'll point out here is that the Doctor was strangely maudlin when she decided to stay behind at the end of "Dragonfire". That may have been the saddest he's ever acted at a companion's decision to leave. (On the original show, I mean. The new show...I have a problem with the way the new show handles companion departures. A very large problem. But I won't go into that right now...)Dorothy McShane (Sophie Aldred) 1987-1989
You can see why she goes by "Ace", can't you? Ace is my favorite companion! She's tough, street-wise, and has a fondness for home-made explosives. She's the kind of girl who's more likely to wail on a Dalek with a baseball bat than to scream and run away. Her arrival on the show was very mysterious; even though she's a modern Earth girl, she met the Doctor in deep space in the far future! (It was explained that she called up a "time storm" with one of her explosives experiments, but how she did that
was never fully explained. (Well, one possible explanation was offered at the end of "The Curse of Fenric" but I'm not sure if we were to take that as the actual case or not.) If it was the new show, she would probably have been given a pocket watch she never opens...) She calls the Doctor "Professor" most of the time, for no particular reason other than that it works well. Adventures I Recommend
Well, as long as it's an Ace episode, it should be awesome! (Uh, except for her introductory story, "Dragonfire". That one was apparently a recycled sixth Doctor script, and the lack of budget made one of the cliffhangers totally absurd, because an icy mountainside had to be replaced with a series of catwalks, so that instead of slipping off the path, the Doctor had to purposefully climb down off the catwalk to be hanging off the side as the end of episode cliffhanger, leaving the audience saying "Why the heck did he do
that?!" (That was the shot of him they used in the recent season finale, btw.) Apparently they didn't have the budget to rewrite that scene...) But it would be dull just to suggest the entire final two years of the show, so here are my favorite picks..."Remembrance of the Daleks"
To me, this is the best Dalek story ever. (I'm sure others will disagree, but...) Because it was the first story of the 25th season, it's set in 1963, and even has the TARDIS land right back at the Foreman scrap yard, where it was when Ian and Barbara barged their way on board! It featured special Daleks only shown in this episode. (Well, until that Dalek episode in the first half of the most recent season of the new show, that is. There were a few of them in there, for obvious reasons.
) It retroactively gives the Doctor a reason to have been in London in 1963, but I don't want to go into too many details for that, lest I spoil something. (Surprisingly, though, if you watch the relevant William Hartnell episodes, it's easy to interpret his behavior as indicating that the reasons given in this story were indeed his reasons.)"The Happiness Patrol"
A lot of people dislike this story, in part for its unabashed political nature: the villainess, Helen A, is apparently a thinly veiled parody of/jab at Margaret Thatcher. But since I was just barely in junior high in 1988, I don't really know much about Thatcher's time as Prime Minister. (I am, after all, only an ignorant American.
) Therefore, I see only a really weird, freaky and unique villain in Helen A. Her motto is "Happiness will prevail"...and if you're not happy, you just might find yourself becoming yet another "routine disappearance"... One of my favorite parts of this story is right at the beginning, when Ace is explaining why she doesn't like the place, the Doctor agrees with her, and then says that he's heard all sorts of terrible stories about this particular Earth colony, and so he thought it was high time that he paid it a visit. That kind of proactive behavior is exactly why I love the seventh Doctor so much!
Also, I should point out that this story has one of the oddest enemies the Doctor has ever faced: the Kandy Man. (Yes, they actually spelled it with a 'K' in the ending credits. I guess that was not yet viewed as utterly moronic yet by 1988. Either that or it was part of the joke. I can't be sure.,,)"Silver Nemesis"
This one was the actual 25th anniversary episode, airing during the end of November. I gather some fans dislike it for the very reason I like it: the scene wherein Ace kills Cybermen with ridiculous ease. (I like said scene because Ace is awesome.
) Also, I found it rather amusing that there was a scene in which the Doctor briefly donned a fez.
(Unlike Amy and River, Ace had no objections to it. In fact, she also wore it for a while.
) This episode also had some teaser lines indicating the plot line they were hoping to follow in future seasons regarding the Doctor's secrets. (I'm hoping Moffat is planning on using at least some of that material on the new show, since there have been a lot of hints that his secret past is about to become important (or at least be revealed), but I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high on that score, lest I be disappointed. (At this point, I'm thinking those hints were more red herrings than actual hints...but I'm actually pretty much fine with that. Though I'd still like some of their future plans to be introduced into the new show on general principles.))"Battlefield"
This is one of my very favorite adventures! It's the seventh Doctor's UNIT story, featuring not only old friend Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart but also his potential replacement, Brigadier Winifrid Banbera. (Fans of "Red Dwarf" probably will not
recognize her as female Lister, but she is!) Brigadier Banbera is near the top of my list of characters who need to show up on the new show, btw. Veteran "Who" actress Jean Marsh plays the delightfully complex villainess, about whom I cannot say more without spoiling the story! When they decided to include the Brigadier in this story, they were only given permission to do so on the understanding that he would be killed in the story, but when it came time to write it, no one could bear to do it, and thank goodness for that! (I figure I can say that without spoiling anything, since his death at a much more advanced age was reported on the new show, making me cry every single time I see that scene. Also since he did appear on "The Sarah Jane Adventures".) An interesting point is that this story is in a future that never came, though there's only one line to indicate that: when UNIT calls the Brigadier out of his retirement, and he's told that it's Geneva on the phone, he says "I don't care if it's the King: I'm retired!" At the time, it was apparently expected that the Queen was likely to step down and hand the throne over to Prince Charles within a few years, but as it turned out, that never happened. It's actually very typical for UNIT stories to be set just slightly in the future, though attention is rarely called to it. I'll discuss that below, though, I think..."Ghost Light"
This is the closest to a fourth Doctor-style Gothic horror episode that the show had, well, after the run of the fourth Doctor. It's quite atmospheric, and more than a little weird. The resolution/explanation doesn't make as much sense as it might, but...there's so much else cool going on that I, for one, am willing to overlook that. Plus, there's a Neandertal butler. (Although he looks more like Homo erectus
to me, but...it's been a few years now since Intro to Bio Anthro, so I guess I could be wrong?) Okay, maybe a Neandertal butler isn't as cool as a Sontaran butler, but...."Survival"
The final story of the original show, it's surprisingly similar in tone to the new show. Partially, that's because at only three episodes, it's closer in run time to the new show, but it's partially the feel of the setting (Ace's hometown, Perivale, a less prosperous suburb of London), the fact that a certain amount of what's going on is only partially explained, and the way the Doctor is behaving. He does and says strange, mysterious things because he figures out what's going on pretty much as soon as he gets there, but doesn't tell anyone until later on, even though everything except the Master is new to the show. While it's typical in the new series for the Doctor to already know all about the alien-of-the-week, even when it's a new one, it's rarely that way on the original series, yet it is that way in "Survival". (Actually, let me amend that statement: it was typical in the Davies era of the new show. Moffat's trying to restore the balance by making the Doctor far less omniscient. And thank goodness for that! If he already knows everything, then why would he bother always traveling? The point of traveling is to see new sights and learn new things!) Also, as was pointed out in the documentaries, the fact that some of the characters in Perivale react to the fact that Ace disappeared quite some time ago (and the way in which they react) is similar to the way Rose's disappearance was treated on her first return home in the first season of the new show. (Though in this case it's not in the least bit the Doctor's fault, since he had nothing to do with her departure from Perivale.) Of course, what I, personally, like best about this story is the very ending: they knew there was a possibility that this was going to be the end, so they tacked on a final speech from the Doctor, making for one of the best ever endings to a show: "There are world out there where the sky is burning, and the sea's asleep, and the rivers dream. People made out of smoke, and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea is getting cold! Come on, Ace--we've got work to do!" (And it's even better in McCoy's delivery, I might add!)Audio Adventures
For whatever reason, there aren't very many seventh Doctor audios in my brother's collection, despite that the seventh Doctor is his
favorite, too. I'm not sure why he bought fewer seventh Doctor audios than sixth and eighth. Part of it might be that the seventh Doctor audios he saw descriptions of were skewing much darker, and so he wasn't buying them. I know some of the audios get quite grim. (There was, for example, a companion-based one about Steven available in the pile of prizes at the trivia contest at the anime convention, and it sounded so grim as to be absolutely horrible! Which is why, of course, I didn't pick that one as my prize.)"The Sirens of Time"
Not the greatest of multi-Doctor stories or of Big Finish's work, but it's significant for being the very first
Big Finish Audio adventure. It has the fifth, sixth and seventh Doctors, though they only meet at the end, and they get along far too well for my tastes; I was hoping for more bickering, since I can't imagine the sixth Doctor getting along with any of his other selves. (In fact, in "The Five Doctors", the fifth Doctor was the only one who really got on well with the others. Though I guess there's no telling how the fourth Doctor would have, had Tom Baker been willing to take part. But maybe we'll find out this year in Big Finish's 50th Anniversary adventure?) Anyway, I think I liked this a bit better than I might have because I had just re-watched the ending of Xenogears
and the third episode tied in surprisingly well to the final burst of story in that game. I didn't mention this audio in the fifth or sixth Doctor journals because I hadn't heard it yet, as my brother had forgotten he had it until I mentioned wondering how badly the sixth Doctor would get along with the others. "The Fearmonger"
I recommend this one not so much for its quality--merely good, rather than great--but for its topicality. The story centers around an extremist political candidate and an obnoxious radio talk show host...and a few people who've been worked up into a frenzy because of them. Coincidentally, this, too, is set in its own future, setting it almost exactly at the time when the new series started up. (The talk show host, btw, sounded incredibly familiar, and eventually I realized that it wasn't that I knew the actor's work, it was that he had the exact same accent as Christopher Eccleston. Just an odd observation I thought I'd point out for no real reason.)"The Harvest"
I figured out part of the plot in this hospital-based story very early on, but fortunately there were several more plot twists coming that I didn't catch on to so quickly, making for a very interesting ride! Also, towards the end, a possibility is raised that leaves you (or me, anyway) wondering what it would have been like if that lie had been the truth. (Once you get there, you'll know what I'm talking about, but until then, totally cryptic. I'm actually a little bit proud of that...probably shouldn't be, though, should I?)About UNIT and Time
In "The Web of Fear", the pre-UNIT appearance of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, there's a line mentioning how many years have passed since "The Abominable Snowmen", and that line sets the episode not in 1967, the year it was aired, but somewhere closer to 1974. (I calculated it at the time I saw the fan-cobbled-together version, but I've since forgotten the specifics...but it was definitely in the early 1970s, not the late 1960s. A fact ignored in the first reappearance of the Great Intelligence in the new show, when the Doctor mentions the London Underground in 1967, which would, in his own timeline, actually be before "The Web of Fear", but...given that it was only implied, and that only the audio survives of both yeti stories, and so forth and so on, that doesn't actually bother me in the slightest.) In "The Invasion", the first UNIT story, the Brigadier mentions that it's been four years since he saw the Doctor and Jamie in the London Underground, to which Jamie replies that it's only been a few weeks (!) and the Doctor has to give him a brief lecture on the nature of time travel, etc. So as of 1969, UNIT was two years further ahead of the viewing public than pre-UNIT had been two years earlier. In most of the following UNIT stories, the date is not mentioned, and the show always avoided discussing major elected figures like Prime Ministers and Presidents, so there isn't much to go by in regards to when a story is taking place if it looks like "the present." However, if I recall correctly (and I may not), in "Colony in Space", when Jo tells the colonists when she left Earth, she gives the year of that episode's airdate. On the other hand, in "Pyramids of Mars", aired in 1975, Sarah Jane says she's from 1980. So, the fact that "Battlefield" was probably intended to be set in the early 1990s is not terribly surprising. (And the fact that they got their guess wrong about what would happen in the next few years is even less so. The far future in "The Seeds of Death," for example, still had people using 1960s-style rockets. They weren't very good at prognosticating. Then again, who is?)A Final Word
Since I've been using this section to make my faulty predictions about what BBC America will choose to show for the Doctor in question, I may as well repeat here my assertion that I expect them to run "Remembrance of the Daleks" as it is one of the best stories not only in the seventh Doctor's run, but overall. However, there's also the possibility that they're running something else for the seventh Doctor. In which case, I'd expect "Battlefield" or "Survival" even though "Survival" is an episode too short. (Like they'd complain about the opportunity to run extra commercials?) As long as they run an Ace story and it's not "Dragonfire" or "Curse of Fenric", then I'll be happy. (Though I still want them to run "Remembrance of the Daleks.") If they're looking for "importance"...I'm not sure what would seem "important", aside from the general tone of the seventh Doctor's second persona, which is closer to the personae of the new Doctors. If they're looking for things that directly led into the new show...uh...I'm not good at telling what they consider to have been a developmental factor, so I won't bother guessing on that one. They could want to show "Silver Nemesis" since it was the exact 25th anniversary episode, but that would make three
Cyberman stories, so I think that's safely out of the running.
I think it's probably safe to say that they won't
run "Curse of Fenric" because it makes "Vampires of Venice" and "The God Complex" look even worse than they do on their own.
Anyway, even though I technically started these journals as a retrospective intended to introduce new show fans to the original series, I intend to keep going not only through the eighth Doctor (who isn't technically part of the original series or
the new one) and on all the way through the eleventh as well, though I'll change up the format a bit. Also, after I cover the eleventh Doctor, then I'm going to cover other Doctors, which includes alternate Doctors from movies and audio, and one very non-canonical "Doctor Who" experience.