Anything & Everything Else

Based on suggestions from reviewers, this section allows you to have the freedom to review anything that might not fit into any other category in the Guide. Review JNT's Hawaiian shirts, Skilleter cover art, Colin's cravats or anything else deserves a critical once over. Over to you....


Plagued with Flawed Tapes by Kevin McCorry 7/8/98

Here is the sad chronicle of my past few months in collecting of CBS-FOX's Doctor Who videos. In April, I had a friend buy and send me Destiny of the Daleks. Through the second 50 minutes of the tape, there were repeated dropouts caused by dirty heads on the machine that recorded the tape, including one that obliterated the whole picture for some 4 frames. At some 5 dollars expense of postage, I had to return the tape for a replacement. Luckily, the replacement was perfect. But my fortunes went downhill fast. I ordered Earthshock from Columbia House. First tape: major tracking problems in Part 4. Replacement (after paying 5 dollars in postage to return the defective first tape): the dirty-heads-on-recorder dropout problem, including the ever-popular screen-spanning dropout. Second replacement: same picture problems, though in different places, as on first replacement. Conclusion: after spending 15 dollars on postage returning one inconsequential tape after another, I give up on Earthshock. I'm never going to get a decent copy.

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me The Armageddon Factor. Same problem: the dirty-head recorded screen-spanning spurts of video noise. Had to return it. No doubt replacement will be equally unsatisfactory. Trying a different source, I ordered Castrovalva from When it arrived, I put the tape in my machine and found a pair of rainbow glitches at the start of the tape, indicating that the tape was reused and not properly blanked. Rainbow glitches are unacceptable on a prerecorded tape that costs more than 30 dollars in Canadian dollars (when I can buy theatrical movies for less than 15 dollars with more reliable quality. Had same problem with "Terror of the Autons" that I ordered from various sources. Every tape I ordered of this episode had rainbow glitch on it. Last year, on a double pack of The King's Demons/The Five Doctors, rainbow glitch on The King's Demons. Double tape packs are invariably flawed on one of the tapes.

Just what is going on here anyway? Am I just the unluckiest collector in the world, or does CBS-FOX not care about its Doctor Who videos and is using inferior, used tapes and unkempt equipment to record them? Has anyone else experienced these problems? Right now, I'm at the end of my rope. I just cannot order any more Who tapes. Until they're available locally with a money-back guarantee, I cannot risk any more of my hard-earned money on these shoddily manufactured videos.

Through the Past Darkly-- Enjoying the Lost Episodes of Doctor Who by Carl West 22/8/98

Being exceedingly curious about this Telesnap Reconstruction craze, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and request a copy of the much raved-about Fury from the Deep. With the deepest respect for the talented (and kind) gentlemen who create and distribute these reconstructions for free, I really have to say that I was a little disappointed with the video. I have heard that the actual telesnaps are really rather tiny in size, and I am afraid this becomes all too evident when they are scanned by a video camera: the resolution of the images is fuzzy. I understand that with some of the more recent reconstructions, the scanning of the telesnaps is much better, so I certainly do not wish to demean these people's more recent work (I have not even seen any of it).

Anyway, my point is that, for me, the Telesnap Reconstructions are scarcely better than the Target novelizations in terms of being an adequate means for bringing the lost episodes back to life. So where does the answer lie? If you ask me: the audios. Although I was not really impressed by the visuals of the Fury video, it was very exciting to get the chance to experience the existing audio of the story. Particularly since most of us are quite familiar with Patrick Troughton's Doctor from the stories that do still exist, his voice in the Fury audio is more than enough for us to imagine the tramp-like little man (this holds true for Jamie's and Victoria's presence on the audio, too).

I was quite delighted to hear that the audios for every single lost episode do in fact exist. Now, I for one would not recommend that anyone try to sit down and listen to a "raw," unnarrated Doctor Who audio and expect to be very pleased. The predominant question on your mind half of the time would be: "What the hell is going on?" The BBC has released several of the audios with narration by Tom Baker, Colin Baker, and Jon Pertwee, but for some exceedingly frustrating reason the BBC has allowed these tapes to go out of print. (Actually, there is a marvelous site called The Missing Scripts, which provides what could be a valuable and accurate readable companion to the audios.) Regarding the Target novelizations, Doctor Who for most of us is a sight and sound, television experience, and those rather unliterary TV tie-ins can be a little less than satisfying sometimes.

With the recent lawsuit in England concerning the illicit distribution of BBC material, the future of fan-distributed, rare Who seems quite uncertain. Personally, I would really like to see the BBC release more narrated audios of the lost stories. Marco Polo and The Abominable Snowmen are two that I would particularly love to see released.

My vision for the future by Jacob Cash 22/8/98

Doctor Who should be in a strong position for revival. There are many dedicated and sensible fans willing to support any sort revival that anyone might suggest. In fact, there are many more fans than one might first suspect.

I suspect that Star Trek had a similar following after its original series ended, but it had the advantage of having a shorter original series, allowing the perfect timing for it's original creator to make "the next generation". Doctor Who of course kept going with it's original series, making any "next generation" seem like a copy-cat manoeuvre.

As with any long running show, keeping originality and "freshness" of ideas becomes difficult, and Doctor Who has it's share of "re-hashes", but less than most due to its highly flexible nature. It's long running and established "tradition", makes any departure into a "next generation", I suspect, a risky move that would be confronted with much (unjustified?) negativity from the dedicated fans. New or casual fans might not be as concerned, but a group of vocal fans could make such a series unpopular. I think these factors keep possible sponsors of a new series away.

Perhaps some fans see the Doctor Who movie as a "next generation" departure, and hence this is why they don't like it. I will admit that it is definitely a different generation from the original series, but whether it is the next generation I think is up for debate.

Something to consider is an amalgamation of the movie and the original series, if we are to see Doctor Who move into the 21st Century with new adventures to its name. Of course many fans will tell me that the books, and in some way the telesnap reproductions are the new Doctor Who. In many ways they are right, but for the majority of the public (to which a new series has to be aimed), Doctor Who is a television series, nothing else.

What I prepose is a re-creation or re-production of the missing/destroyed episodes. Obviously you wouldn't "copy" to the extent that you would get a William Hartnell or Patrick Troughton impersonator, but instead use the scripts with the new characters. The stories could be re-created with a new doctor and companions, without having to drastically change the story. Of course some of the dialogue would change for a new doctor and companions, but the story, the most important factor in any Who, would still be there.

I know many fans would see this as sacrilege, but I think it would make the basis for a number of seasons and allow the public to see these great stories again. Some would say, "what happens if we find a warehouse with all the missing episodes"? Well firstly, I would say that this is extremely unlikely, and secondly, so what? The object wouldn't be trying to re-create exactly the older episodes, but make them as new adventures, with the plot or story the same as the older episodes.

Obviously some problems exist, such as stories with one or two episodes in existence, but I'm sure there are many inventive ways this could be overcome. You could even use these on purpose, under the pre-text that the doctor has to re-visit his past to save the fabric of time from some unknown evil or some more inventive scenario.

Predominantly what I'm trying to say is:

  1. I and many members of the public would like a new series of Dr who, and using already proven stories might be a way of getting investors interested, and
  2. Despite the excellent efforts of the book writers and the telesnap re-creators, in my experience the most enjoyed format for Doctor Who is the televised one, and the only one which would capture the public imagination.

I would be most interested in people's comments.

The Future For Doctor Who by Tom May 24/8/98

Jacob's vision (in the essay above) is one which potentially is a winner. Personally, I would like to see newly scripted stories, by an array of good writers-- Parkin, Miles, Orman, Blum, Cornell etc, backed up by a reasonable budget, a stylistic direction for the series to take, and directors of Alan Wareing and Graeme Harper's class. The direction my series would take: As much as I'd like to do a more adult series, circa The NAs, I think new Doctor Who would have to have broad appeal, without the JNT Era continuity excesses.

I'd have to use monsters a lot, and bring back old enemies, but not very often. The cleverness and social depth of the McCoy era should be moulded with historicals from the Hartnell era, the horror of the Troughton era and the humour of the Williams era. Of course, to achieve such a lethally good combination would be distinctly tough.

Jacob's idea should work fine, but has this sort of thing been attempted before? A lot of people would have to be convinced, not least the fans. Nevertheless, I think it would be great to see big budget creations of such classics as Marco Polo, Web of Fear, Abominable Snowmen, Fury From The Deep, Daleks' Master Plan, Power & Evil of the Daleks, The Massacre, The Crusade.... The only problem would be how the Doctor's personality and actions in these stories would have to be changed. For instance, the actor chosen would find it hard portraying the same role in Marco Polo and Evil of the Daleks.

Also, the relevance of Power of the Daleks would be lost, unless the lead actor changed. The whole concept of re-doing stories, could also entail a little agitation for hardcore fans, who know exactly what's going to happen in the missing stories. The funny thing is though, that this approach to new Doctor Who could have large appeal to the general public, despite alienating fans who hate it, because it can't fit into the Doctor Who canon.

It would be worth giving it a try I think. All of the true lost classics could be made, and then, once this new series was popular, new stories could be made. The choice of Doctor/Companions would be vital, with Alan Davies, Martin Clunes and Brian Blessed all likely to do well. For the companions, I think that either famous, or up-and-coming actors (for the Ian/Ben/Jamie role), and actresses (Susan/Barbara/Polly/Victoria) should be cast.

All of this though is highly unlikely to happen, as the BBC harbour a ridiculous grudge against it's most iconic and entertaining programme.

The Meaning of Vortis by Dr. Terry Evil 24/4/99

...being an update of The Meaning of Liff, wherein the names of towns get their own definitions. Here, I've done the same thing with planets in the Whoniverse, wherein you get more exotic, if slightly more quarry-strewn, places.

Anea (n. medical)
The correct term for choking on a cup of tea, thereby spraying it both up your nose and for a two metre radius.

Aneth (n.)
An Estonian holiday celebrating the one time when stuffed pork roll was available on the black market.

Argolis (n.)
A type of cheap heater which Anne Robinson is always warning you about but which has nevertheless been gassing selected members of the elderly community for the past twenty years.

Betrushia (n.)
A Russian eyebrow comb.

Castrovalva (n.)
A type of motor oil that used to be manufactured in East European communist countries. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, many gallons have been imported to the west, where it's been hilariously ruining the cars of penny-pinching capitalist running dog lackey drivers ever since.

Chloris (adj.)
Descriptive of the annoyance directed at a partner who feels that one cannot have enough photosythesising going on in the house.

Draconia (n.)
The mysterious treatment which has been keeping the Queen Mother alive all these years, despite the fact she drinks three bottles of gin and smokes 50 fags a day.

Dronid (pl. n.)
The excretia from very small insects which you apparently swallow three tons of during your lifetime, according to a typically panic-inducing article in the Sunday Times magazine.

Emindar (n.)
The panic caused by equating the amount of dairy products eaten in a lifetime with a new report on the possibility of catching lysteria, salmonella, e-koli etc.

Gallifrey (adj.)
A friendly punch-up in an Irish bar.

Kastopheria (vb.)
The apprehension one feels when Cliff Richard releases a new record.

Kursaal (vb.)
To chastise oneself for doing absolutely nothing when you at least should have done something about that smell in your bedroom.

Mechanus (adj.)
An official BBC phrase describing the interior workings of devices created by Matt Irvine.

Menda (vb.)
The act of walking incredibly fast. Usually only performed by sellers of the Big Issue and people in shell suits.

Mictlan (n.)
The language spoken by actors in films when they're ordered to converse in any foreign language. Usually consists of phrases like 'isken-lisken-bisken-twisken-noronov.'

Mondas (n. archaic)
The ancient Roman word for actors who come on occasionally, sincerely agree with the lead character, and walk off again. The word is only used today in reference to Noel's House Party.

Pakha (vb.)
An Indian term of amusement, mostly displayed on witnessing a westerner arrogantly ordering the hottest curry on the menu and zealously eating his way to dehydration, mouth ulcers and a full fortnight of horrific toilet experiences.

Peladon (n.)
University professor specialising in a subject especially created by an insane English monarch and which has been so buried in embarrassment that he can claim a stipend for doing nothing.

Refusis (pl. n.)
Of arguing - Polite words that begin along the lines of "I agree with you, but..." followed by a whole stream of baseless argument painstakingly culled from various sources expressly for this purpose.

Reklon (n.)
What the bodies of Soviet cars were made out of.

Ribos (vb.) The antithesis of Tigella (qv.). To play a practical joke that is so vicious that the participants never speak to each other again, despite the many cries of 'it was only a joke'.

Segonax (n. archaic)
A medieval instrument of torture, the exact nature of which has been lost to time. Usually displayed on stately home walls, it has made visitors uncomfortable for many years, as they go through all their secret psychotic fears trying to work it what it was used for.

Skonnos (n.)
Hell's Angels' tea cakes.

Solos (n.)
An ancient Egyptian god who once earned the honour of having thirty-five dogs sacrificed to him, despite giving no indication that this is what he wanted.

Spiridon (n.)
University professor specialising in the practice of drawing intricate patterns with plastic cogs.

Tigella (vb.) To play an ineffective practical joke on someone far too nice but who insists on 'joining in the fun'. Usually consists of hiding their stapler or deliberately getting their name wrong on the Christmas card list.

Traken (n.)
The specific word used by the emergency services for fell walkers who have inadvertently died while climbing what they thought was a hill but turned out to be a mountain.

Vandor Prime (n.)
A pre-Bill Gates computer, so outdated that it is only used nowadays for kitsch, as a reference point for useless technology and for co-ordinating air traffic control at Heathrow Airport.

Vortis (n.)
A make of battery only ever found in 50p shops that are guaranteed to run out just after opening the packet.

Zamper (n.)
A new device which greatly improves the quality of tape players and which will shortly become a standard on all new models, thereby forcing audiophiles to bankrupt themselves once again.

Zolfa-Thura (n.)
Nuclear Man's arch-enemy (c. DC Comics 1960-61).

A Review of John Nathan-Turner's Tenure by Greg Cook 1/5/00

If I had to name the most maligned person in the history of Doctor Who, it wouldn't be Michael Grade, Eric Saward, Bonnie Langford, or even Matthew Waterhouse; it would be John Nathan-Turner, the producer who oversaw the series' last nine seasons. Some fans have nothing good to say about him, and one of the foulest utterances a fan can make about a particular episode is to say, "it epitomizes all that was wrong about the JNT years". So, what was so "wrong" about that time in the show's history? The charges usually include:

  1. The episodes often sacrificed substance for style and substituted chase scenes for plot and character development.
  2. Doctor Who became obsessed with its own history, alienating casual viewers with a plethora of continuity references and boring longtime fans who yearned for originality.
  3. The tone of the program became increasing violent and (at the same time) increasingly silly.

There are other complaints, but let's stick to these three. I'll begin by admitting that many JNT episodes fall prey to one or all of these problems. Who among us wants to defend The Twin Dilemma, Timelash or Time and the Rani? Still, JNT deserves much praise, and we often forget the great accomplishments of his early tenure.

Season 18, JNT's first at the helm, surely remains of the best-looking and consistently good eras in the series’ history. The previous years of Doctor Who had seen the show become progressively more inane, with Tom Baker's performance degenerating from hs powerful early characterization into mere pantomime. Furthermore, the production values of the show had slipped under Graham Williams. City of Death, alone among the travesties of Season 17, resists looking horribly cheap. Season 18 rectified the problems and gave the series new direction. Baker's performance was again moody, reflective, witty, and intelligent. The storylines were more thought provoking: Full Circle deals with evolution and progress, Warrior's Gate explores the banality of evil and how the sins of the past are visited upon the present, and Logopolis concerns itself with mathematics and the nature of reality. These episodes certainly have substance: they have some of the most innovative scripts in the show’s history (thanks, in large part, to the script editor). They also have style: Warrior's Gate remains one of the most visually stunning episodes in Doctor Who history. Furthermore, the episodes of the 18th season aren't overrun with references to the past - except, of course, for the Master. Although 'decay and change' represent the theme of the season, what strikes me is the sense of newness - even down to the costumes and incidental music.

And that sense of Renaissance holds up throughout the Davison years. Castrovala stands, in my mind, as the best 'new Doctor' story, managing to introduce a new lead actor, wrap up the plot strands from the previous season, and still tell an unusual tale with several interesting guest characters. Other delights of the early Davison era include Kinda, an allegorical tale filled with allusions, symbols, witty dialogue, and thoughtful performances; Black Orchid, the first historical story in years, refreshing because it reminds us that occasionally the Doctor goes places where there aren't monsters or maniacs; and Mawdryn Undead, which does have characters from the past but also includes the sort of sympathetic 'villains' absent from the program since the early Pertwee years. And, of course, Davison's final adventure, The Caves of Androzani, has earned its place as one of the finest tales of them all.

The first four years of Nathan-Turner's era are, I think, as good as any in Doctor Who history, save for the Hinchcliffe/Holmes seasons. After that, things became erratic, and I think I know why. When a new producer takes over Doctor Who, he sees numerous elements he wants to improve. Barry Letts thought that the show had become too cold and inaccessible; Phillip Hinchcliffe, that it had become too cozy; Graham Williams, that it had become too dark. These producers had their own ideas about what made good television and enjoyable Doctor Who, and they reshaped the show accordingly. Doctor Who thrived on such change: new elements were added to keep the program fresh, and older elements were eliminated when they became excessive.

When JNT first became producer, he had clear ideas of how the show should be retooled. He introduced those changes in Baker's last season and let them flourish during the Davison years. When Davison left the show, JNT knew Doctor Who had to reinvent itself again, but this time he deliberately introduced change for the sake of change: the unstable incarnation, the 45 minute format, the increased violence, the American companion, the darn coat. Instead of a producer adjusting Doctor Who to mirror his own sensibilities, we had a producer intentionally going against the sort of characters and stories he had introduced - just so the show would be different. Here's the clearest example of what I mean: JNT hired Peter Davison because Davison reflected the sort of Doctor JNT wanted; then JNT hired Colin Baker because he was different from Davison. No wonder the last five years of JNT's era seem so uncertain in tone; the producer was intentionally making decisions against his instincts. Such thinking resulted in gimmicks: the longer episodes, the 'Trial' season, the comedy of Season 24 (from JNT, who didn't like the 'slapstick' of the later Tom Baker stories).

What is my point? I simply believe that if any producer stays for a long time, he begins to have a negative impact: he grows stale or he second-guesses himself. If we'd had two more seasons of Hinchcliffe, he might've Hammered us to death with his horror motif, or he might have realized the excess and gone for light comedy (unlikely!). Either effect would be have been detrimental. Conversely, had JNT left at the end of Davison's reign, most of us would have remembered him as a great producer whose tales have a unique flavor. Let us not forget his virtues.

Who Made Whom? by Robert Seulowitz 7/7/00

Over the course of it's 26 year history, the Doctor Who television series -- created by a committee of BBC-TV staffers under the direction of Donald Wilson in 1962 -- was (re)conceived, built and executed by an army of producers, writers, designers, actors and directors, each of whom exerted some degree of influence over the evolution of the stories and characters.

The cast changes alone are mind-boggling: The lead role changed hands six times -- something no other television show in history could even attempt, let alone pull off effortlessly -- and, depending on how you count them, some 30 or more other regular actors came and went.

But, more significantly, behind the camera the creative leadership was in near-constant flux, as a wide variety of people, often with wildly differing views on everything from story formats to production details, exerted various degrees of control over the development of the series. The show had 9 different Producers, 16 Script or Story Editors, 60 Directors, and more than 65 writers.

Nearly 40 years later, with the benefits of hindsight and video tape, the modern Doctor Who connoisseur can sift through the fan magazines and viewers guides and compare and contrast the best and worst the show had to offer. The opportunity to assess the contributions of the many creative talents who brought Doctor Who to life (and death!) is irresistible. Who, in fact, made Doctor Who what it was and is? Who's vision had the most lasting impact?

Strangely, in my (albeit limited) perusal of fan literature, this question is rarely if ever addressed directly. While preferences for and controversies over specific actors, producers and writers abound -- all of which, of course, tend to involve profoundly personal issues of taste and timing. While it is impossible to escape personal bias, it should be possible (and, I hope, interesting) to review the history of the show and identify the most prominent of the creative minds involved and articulate their contributions. Having done so, it may even be possible to draw some reasonably clear, if less than definitive, conclusions about the relative value of those contributions.

Let's start with the obvious, if clumsy, weight of numbers.

Armed with Doctor Who: The Television Companion by Howe and Walker [BBC Worldwide, 1998], I recently compiled a small database of production information, in order to see what patterns of personnel would emerge. My basic unit of measurement was the "Adventure" rather than the "Episode" as each multi-episode televised narrative tended to have very clearly defined involvement from a discrete group of creative people (whereas changes in broadcast strategies over the years would make episode counting less useful as an indication of involvement, as the earlier seasons have a significantly higher episode-to-adventure density).

In order to facilitate number-crunching, I made the following (possibly suspect) decisions:

  1. Season 23 (The Trial of a Time Lord) is treated as 4 separate "Adventures," as per page 492 of the Howe/Walker book. 2.
  2. Shada is included as an Adventure, although it was never transmitted.
  3. Mission to the Unknown (aka "Dalek Cutaway") from Season 3 is treated as a separate "Adventure".
  4. The Five Doctors anniversary special is excluded (largely because all the cameos throw the numbers off).
  5. The 1996 Fox-TV movie is excluded because it was not part of the continuous BBC-TV series.
  6. Involvement includes uncredited substitutions and contributions, as identified by Howe/Walker.

By tallying up the number of Adventures each person participated in, we can identify the most prominent figures in the series' development, at least in terms of pure physical proximity. The table below assigns 1 point for each story that person Produced, Edited or Acted in, and 2 points for each story Written or Directed. These point values are, admittedly, somewhat arbitrary, but the intention is to reflect the relative strength of influence over the content of the series. While actors are the most visibly apparent element of the show, the writer and director are in fact much more important in the process of shaping not only the narrative itself but also the televised image itself.

Here are the results: Top 50 Most Influential People & Characters in the Development of the Series Doctor Who

Name Produced Edited Directed Wrote Acted Points
Holmes, Robert - 23 - 18 - 59
Letts, Barry 31* - 6 4 - 51
Nathan-Turner, John 49 1 - - - 50
Baker, Tom - - - - 42 42
Dicks, Terrance - 29 - 6 - 41
Saward, Eric - 27 - 4 - 35
Hartnell, William - - - - 30 30
Whitaker, David - 10 - 8 - 26
Pertwee, Jon - - - - 24 24
Williams, Graham 18 1 - 2 - 24
Troughton, Patrick - - - - 23 23
Davis, Gerry - 15 - 4 - 23
UNIT/Lethbridge-Stewart (et al) - - - - 22 22
Nation, Terry - - - 11 - 22
Jamie (Frazer Hines) - - - - 21 21
Barry, Christopher - - 10 - - 20
Davison, Peter - - - - 19 19
K9 (J. Leeson/D. Brierly) - - - - 19 19
Lambert, Verity 19 - - - - 19
Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen) - - - - 18 18
Tegan (Janet Fielding) - - - - 18 18
Baker, Bob & Martin, Dave - - - 9 - 18
Camfield, Douglas - - 9 - - 18
Maloney, David - - 9 - - 18
Romana (M. Tamm/L. Ward) - - - - 17 17
Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) - - - - 16 16
Ian (William Russell) - - - - 16 16
Hulke, Malcolm - - - 8 - 16
Hinchcliffe, Philip 16 - - - - 16
Lloyd, Innes 16 - - - - 16
Jo (Katy Manning) - - - - 15 15
Spooner, Dennis - 6 - 4 - 14
Grimwade, Peter - - 4 3 - 14
Bryant, Peter 10 4 - - - 14
Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) - - - - 13 13
Sherwin, Derrick 2 5 - 3 - 13
Adams, Douglas - 7 - 3 - 13
Bidmead, Christopher H - 7 - 3 - 13
McCoy, Sylvester - - - - 12 12
Hayles, Brian - - - 6 - 12
Pedler, Kit - - - 6 - 12
Read, Anthony - 8 - 2 - 12
Cartmel, Andrew - - - 12 - 12
Briant, Michael - - 6 - - 12
Clough, Chris - - 6 - - 12
Jones, Ron - - 6 - - 12
Martinus, Derek - - 6 - - 12
Baker, Colin - - - - 11 11
Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) - - - - 11 11
Peri (Nicola Bryant) - - - - 11 11

* = Includes his involvement as Executive Producer in Season 18, although later statistics are based only on the Seasons he actually Produced.

There is some overlap in this chart, as in the case of Writers who were Script Editor when their own stories were produced, but on the whole that sort of double-duty can only have magnified that person's importance to the program. As it stands, the top 10 are in a defensible if not necessarily definitive order.

A few more observations:

The Producers

Nathan-Turner produced - by a wide margin - more Adventures (and more episodes) than any other Producer in the program's history. If you include the 2+ seasons he spent has Unit Production Manager, his tenure as a senior executive with Doctor Who encompasses nearly half the show's life span.

Sherwin (2) and Wiles (4) produced the fewest, neither having the job for a full season. Curiously, Derrick Sherwin was called upon to produce what are arguably the most important Adventures in the show's history, The War Games and Spearhead from Space -- the transition both to color and to Jon Pertwee's Doctor.

Producers and Doctors

Hinchcliffe, Williams, Lambert and Bryant had the advantage of spending their entire terms with the same actor as the Doctor, whereas Nathan-Turner saw 4 changes in the role. Interestingly, it's poor Patrick Troughton, not Tom Baker, who saw the most changes at the top, with no less than 5 different Producers running the show during his brief three years in the Tardis (Baker saw only 4 in his 7 years).

Letts and Pertwee enjoyed the longest partnership, running 23 Adventures. Lambert/Hartnell and Nathan-Turner/Davison were both 19 Adventures long.

As for the Companions, Nathan-Turner liked Janet Fielding enough to keep her around for 18 Adventures, longer than the Ian/Barbara team whom Lambert employed for the first 16 Adventures. Williams had no use for UNIT (created by Lloyd but employed most heavily by Letts), which never appeared in any of his episodes. Nathan-Turner dropped K9, whom Williams brought back even after he had found a way to get rid of him, only to introduce Kamelion, the only companion not played by an actor.

Producers and Directors

In the category of Producer/Director teams, Nathan-Turner called upon Chris Clough and Ron Jones 6 times each, and Peter Moffat 5 times. The only other 5-time pairing was Lambert with Richard Martin. Letts had a stable of Directors he used two or three times; only 2 of his Adventures were Directed by men he would not hire again. By contrast, Lloyd worked with 13 different Directors to film 16 Adventures. Williams is a close second, with 14 Directors on 18 Adventures, mostly new to Doctor Who (only Pennant Roberts, Michael Hayes and the ubiquitous Christopher Barry had worked with previous Producers - oh, and Alan Bromly, who Williams dismissed during production of Nightmare of Eden).

By the way, more episodes of Doctor Who have been directed by someone named Micheal than any other name (12%).

Producers and Story Editors

But it is the Script or Story Editor/Producer pairings that are often cited as Dynastic in nature. Nathan-Turner and Saward had the longest joint tenure, lasting (nearly) 27 Adventures. Letts and Dicks teamed for 23, and Hinchcliffe and Holmes for 16. The latter is interesting because it is the only exclusive Producer/Editor team in the shows' history - discounting Sherwin's 2 Adventures with Dicks (Lett's worked on 3 Adventures with Holmes as Script Editor before handing over the reins to Hinchcliffe, or he would have had no other Editor than Dicks as well). Every other Producer (even Wiles!) worked with at least two different Script Editors, if not more. Nathan-Turner went through a total of 5 (one of them being himself), despite his long-running partnership with Saward.

Producers and Writers

Compare the above to their use of writers. Nathan-Turner produced scripts written by 29 different writers - by far more than any other Producer - 22 of them by writers he would only produce once. Of those, 18 had never worked for previous Producers. In fact, during the last 5 seasons, only two (Holmes and Saward) of the 14 writers employed had ever written an episode of the show before! This was a level of chaos (creativity?) not seen since the Troughton years; Lloyd and Bryant (also Wiles and Sherwin) rarely produced two Adventures by the same writer.

On the other hand, Letts and Williams rarely produced scripts NOT written by established writers - in fact, all of Williams' Adventures were written by experienced "Doctor Who" vets who had written for his predecessors (the only exception being himself). Letts teamed up with Malcom Hulke 6 times and Hinchcliffe with Holmes 5 times. Only Lambert, who produced five scripts by Dalek-meister Terry Nation, had worked with the same writer more than 3 times before Letts became Producer. Letts, with Bob Sloman, also wrote 4 Adventures, becoming the first Producer to Co-Write (and also Direct) his own Adventures.

Producers and Plots

If Letts had the most consistent writing, he also had the most consistent villain -- the Master, who appears in 8 of his 24 Adventures (36%!). Hinchcliffe was overly fond of Robots and Androids, who appear in 5 of his 16 stories (31%), and Mad Scientists, who appear in 4 (25%). 3 of Bryant's 10 Adventures (30%) feature the Cybermen, and more than 20% of Lambert's stories featured -- as one might expect -- Daleks. Hinchcliffe gave us the Dalek's paterfamilias, Davros, but Nathan-Turner brought him back no less than three times. Nathan-Turner also employed Anthony Ainley 10 times as the Master (20%), and 5 times cast some other rival or fallen Time Lord as the Doctor's nemesis. Williams was by far the most creative in this respect - more than two-thirds of his stories feature an original, non-repeating Villain, most of them human(oid).

Letts set the vast majority of his Adventures (67%) in the Present - largely due to an intentional decision to restrict the Doctor to modern Earth for several seasons. Williams and Nathan-Turner set more than half of their stories in the Future [For purposes of this study, any Adventure featuring what appear to be humans on planets other than Earth is considered to be set in the Future unless the people have been specifically identified as some other race]. Both Letts and Williams set only 1 Adventure in the Past, while, on the other hand, Lambert, who helmed the show at a time when it was conceived to be, at least in part, educational, set nearly half her Adventures in Earth's Past, the most by a wide margin.

Of course, as we all know, most of the Doctor's Adventures have taken place, in whole or in part, on the planet at the center of the Universe, Earth. Lloyd, not Letts, is the most Earth-bound of the Producers, but only by inches (69% to 67%). Nathan-Turner set just under half of his many Adventures on Earth, and Williams - again being quite the maverick - the least with only 28% of his Adventures touching down near Croyden.

Hinchcliffe created two stories set on Earth Orbiter Nerva, one of which features no other planets per se, and Bryant rolled his one "Wheel in Space." Williams set 11% of his oeuvre, too, on board vessels in deep space with no planetfall. Nathan-Turner did this nearly as often (including the entire 23rd season, give or take) but the other 5 producers never did at all.

Earth's Moon was visited by Lloyd and Letts once, and that tourist's paradise, Skaro ("Sun, sand and suffering on the most totally evil planet in the Universe!") was host to Lambert, Lloyd, Hinchcliffe and Williams. Sherwin was the first to set foot on Gallifrey, but Nathan-Turner spent the most time there.

What Do these Numbers Mean?

Like the Logopolitans, anyone with the time and inclination can attempt to construct worlds out of numbers - worlds of meaning, at any rate. But the simple statistics recapped above can be seen to shed some light on the history and development of the show, and to validate impressions shared by many fans.

After the initial success of Lambert's combination of Terry Nation-penned Dalek stories and Earth-based History Lessons, the program went through a confused period during the Troughton years, being lead in different directions simultaneously, introducing many concepts and exploring new territory, but unable to find a consistent voice. Ratings dropped, and the show's future seemed uncertain.

The Letts/Dicks team brought a coherent vision and direction to the show. They solidified a camp of Writers and Directors, developed essential themes and ideas, assembled a pool of competent and versatile actors, and set the tone of compassionate humanism and cheeky wit that would dominate the program for the two decades that followed. They were rewarded with increased popularity.

Hinchcliffe and Williams built upon this foundation, finding creative new avenues for the show to explore and freeing it from some of the restrictions of the Letts years - clearly benefiting from the skill and experience of the Writers and Directors Letts had trained. They could break free of Earth and it's history, and all-too-familiar villains like the Daleks and the Master, secure in the knowledge that the fans would join them wherever they went. During this period, ratings achieved their all-time highs.

Then comes Nathan-Turner, who deserves perhaps equal measures of praise and blame for his stewardship of the series (not to mention more than one paragraph to sum him up!). At first, under Letts' guidance (as Executive Producer, though he had maintained a strong involvement in the show prior to receiving that title), Nathan-Turner continued the experimentation with new ideas (E-Space, strange races on weird planets), but soon attempted to return to the Letts/Dicks formula of familiar villains putting the Earth in jeopardy. Over the long course of his career, Nathan-Turner devoted most of his attention to the design and presentation of the program -- his fondness for the same directors and the improvement of visual effects -- rather than on the development of the characters and themes of the show. He brought in new writers with no prior relationship with the show, including stories written or suggested by fans, and frequently brought back old villains and locations to build a sense of continuity that was often lacking in the scripts themselves. The results were a strange mixture of consistency and confusion, recurring motifs and jarring strangeness. Ratings declined to their lowest levels, but surged at times to those of the Letts years.

If one judges by ratings alone, then Hinchcliffe and Williams were the most successful, and certainly their Adventures have enjoyed the most success abroad. But they could not have achieved what they had without the groundwork laid by Letts (nor he without his predecessors). The case can be made, however, that Nathan-Turner's combination of new writers with old villains and formulae was unwise, even counterproductive. In fact, the glaring fact is that the best Adventure of his administration was actually penned by a stalwart veteran whose credentials go back to Troughton's tumultuous tenure. A writer who spent nearly as much time in the Tardis as any of the actors who played the role.

Who was this man, this entity who unified the person of the Doctor through time and space? What one writer did more Producers hire than any other? What creative, visionary genius stood in the vortex of swirling agendas, budgets, personalities and props that are the atoms of "Doctor Who" for 18 years and split them wide open, unleashing a melange of wisdom, humor and wonder that brought millions of fans to the Tardis doors?

Who, not to put too fine a point on it, put the "The" in "The Doctor"?

That man would be Robert Holmes.

Holmes is Where the Heart Is by Robert Seulowitz 22/7/00

Perhaps no other human being had as much influence on the development of Doctor Who - as both a TV show and as a character - than Robert Holmes. Certainly, no one else has put more words in the Doctor's mouth, nor nearly so many witty ones.

His career with the program spanned 6 Producers, 5 Doctors and 11 TARDIS Companions (4 of whom he introduced) plus the UNIT regulars over a period of 18 seasons. His total of 18 scripts (including 4 written with or based on stories by other writers) is, by far, the most by any Writer in the series' history (only Terry Nation had more than 9). His oeuvre includes many of the most frequently cited "Greatest Adventures of All Time," including Pyramids of Mars, Talons of Weng-Chiang, Caves of Androzani and the controversial but now highly regarded Deadly Assassin. He introduced Jon Pertwee's interpretation of the role and largely defined his relationship to UNIT; he created with Tom Baker the most popular and enduring version of the character; and concluded the versions played by Peter Davison (brilliantly) and Colin Baker (more about that later). In addition, his tenure as Script Editor with Producer Philip Hinchcliffe is often - rightly - identified as the apex of the series, from the classics Ark in Space and Genesis of the Daleks to the brilliant Talons.

Holmes was, indeed, one of the Doctor's two hearts.

Holmes Before (and After) Who

One would be hard pressed to find any novel written by Robert Holmes. He only wrote one Novelization for Doctor Who, and that very late in his career (and now long out of print). [The IMDB erroneously credits him for the novel on which the film Guns at Batasi (1964) is based; in fact that novel was by Robert Holles.] Likewise any short fiction he wrote has faded into the mists of time.

Prior to writing his first Doctor Who Adventure (season 6's unimpressive The Krotons) in 1968, an early science fiction story of his was filmed in 1966: Invasion. Despite the title, it is the story of alien beings who come to Earth not to conquer it, but to capture a fugitive criminal. Interestingly, part of the script, wherein the wounded fugitive lands near a British country hospital where doctors are befuddled by his strange anatomy, was successfully recycled into the regeneration sequence in Spearhead from Space - a sequence the writers of the Fox TV movie freely appropriated themselves!

Holmes' work for television, on the other hand, is prolific, including teleplays for The Saint in the sixties, contributing several episodes of Blake's 7 (who didn't?) in 1979 and 1981, and a 1981 TV miniseries called The Nightmare Man directed by Doctor Who veteran Douglas Camfield (with whom Holmes had worked on Seeds of Doom and Terror of the Zygons).

Ultimately, the work of his life was Doctor Who, and much that later writers took for granted came forth first and foremost from his pen.

Curriculum Vitae

His scripts, in order of transmission, are:

Troughton: The Krotons; The Space Pirates

Pertwee: Spearhead from Space; The Terror of the Autons; The Carnival of Monsters; The Time Warrior

Tom Baker: The Ark in Space (from a story idea by John Lucarotti)*; The Pyramids of Mars (with Lewis Griefer); The Brain of Morbius (with Terrance Dicks); The Deadly Assassin; The Talons of Weng-Chiang (from a story by Robert Banks Stewart); The Sun Makers; The Ribos Operation; The Power of Kroll

Davison: The Caves of Androzani

Colin Baker: The Two Doctors; Trial of a Time Lord, part I: The Mysterious Planet; Trial of a Time Lord, part IV: The Ultimate Foe (first draft only)

*=Episode 2 was the highest rated broadcast in the show's history, discounting the ITV strike in Season 17.

His innovations (as writer and story editor) include:

- The first Jon Pertwee story, arguably the most important Adventure in the show's history (Spearhead from Space). Coincidentally, this is also the first story in color, and the only one shot entirely on film.

- The first stories to feature recurring characters Liz Shaw & UNIT (Spearhead), Jo Grant (The Terror of the Autons), Sarah Jane Smith (The Time Warrior), Romana (The Ribos Operation) and The Master (The Terror of the Autons).

- The first scream-free female companion (Leela the Huntress), and the first non-human companion (K9).

- The first "Space Opera" story (Space Pirates), and the first story set entirely on Gallifrey (The Deadly Assassin) [also the only story in which the Doctor has no companions at all].

Holmes and Who History

Holmes' first scripts for Pat Troughton were edited by Terrance Dicks, who clearly liked them enormously. During the first two Pertwee years, Holmes' scripts were given pride of place, airing as the first Adventure of the season (comparable to airing during sweeps week in the parlance of modern American television). They did not disappoint. Pertwee's ratings were a significant improvement over Troughton's - an average of 8.22 compared to 6.98, though not quite matching the Hartnell years, which averaged 8.48 and peaked as high as 13.

Brought in by Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks to be the new Script Editor during Season 11, Holmes assisted Dicks for Invasion of the Dinosaurs and Death to the Daleks while Dicks and Letts were dividing their time between Doctor Who and another BBC series, Moonbase 3.

Holmes and Dicks were clearly in sympathy on how to develop the series. They shared a desire to broaden the scope of the series beyond the calcified formulae of Daleks and other uncouth ruffians from space up to no good by injecting stories with more compelling human characters and villains. They also shared the vision of a Doctor who was profoundly dedicated to justice and compassion, frequently at odds with UNIT's top brass Lethbridge-Stewart, and more than a little impatient with his companions and foes alike. They built these stories around the personality of Jon Pertwee, a charismatic and charming actor with a certain imperious quality, a passion for gadgets and action but a warm smile and deft, dry comic touch.

Holmes took over for Dicks officially at the start of Season 12, along with Philip Hinchcliffe, Letts' hand-picked successor as Producer. Letts would remain an unofficial Executive Producer and oversee the production, anxious to ensure a stability and continuity of leadership. Thus, Season 12 looks little different from it's predecessor, with one notable, obvious exception: The new Doctor, Tom Baker.

Hinchcliffe had never produced a series before, and so it fell to Holmes to set the creative agenda, providing the vision of the character and the tone the series would take over the next three years. The first three Adventures filmed were Robot (a Terrance Dicks' script, trying to give Holmes a leg up), The Sontaran Experiment and The Ark in Space (by Holmes himself). The creative trajectory in these three stories is immediately apparent, as the new Doctor forges his personality in fits and starts, finally settling into a rhythm just in time for what most fans consider to be the single greatest Doctor Who story ever, Genesis of the Daleks.

That script was, of course, written by Terry Nation, the first and best writer of Dalek material. But the Holmes touch is readily apparent, in the details of the characters, and the crispness of the dialog. One might believe that it was Holmes who penned the exchange between Nyder and the Doctor concerning alien life:

Nyder: Davros tells us it's impossible, and he is infallible.
Doctor: Infallible? He must be a remarkable fellow - even I am occasionally wrong.

After an obligatory encounter with the Cybermen, Holmes and Hinchcliffe could plan Seasons 13 and 14 entirely on their own, without direct guidance from Letts and Dicks. The results were staggeringly brilliant stories, breathing fresh life into the familiar formulas of danger and deliverance. Notable for their forays into the realm of gothic horror and the teasing of recognizable literary and film sources, Hinchcliffe and Holmes came up with many of the best loved and most memorable Adventures. They balanced a mix of humor and horror, with several Adventures noted for their strong adult content.

After the departure of Elizabeth Sladen, they introduced an entirely original companion: Leela the Huntress; a strong - one might say fierce - female who would just as soon stab a monster as scream at it (supposedly "popular with the dads," she gave many a young anorak a healthy shove toward puberty as well, if the truth be known). Her interplay with the Doctor - and her lack of worldly experience - resulted in many excellent sequences, some comic and some dramatic, that were genuinely surprising and great fun.

Fun, in fact, is the hallmark of the Hinchcliffe & Holmes years - it's clear that they were enjoying themselves, and that infectious joy permeates their productions. Their partnership ended on an unparalleled high point, Talons of Weng-Chiang, a marvelous, frothy amalgam of Victorian Penny Dreadful and science fiction serial, with perhaps Holmes's best dialog and one of the richest and most evocative production designs the series ever mounted.

Indeed, the level of witty banter and clever dialog reached a height of sophistication during this period that would, unfortunately, eventually unravel into silliness and self-parody in later seasons. It's important to note that while the Hinchcliffe/Holmes adventures are often quite funny - and occasionally cross into the realm of satire - they are rooted in the tradition of horror film and fiction, and always bring the story to a well-earned climax of good versus evil. Indeed, so successfully did they increase the terror-quotient of Doctor Who they came under fire from critics both within the BBC and without.

The increased hostility of Mrs. Mary Whitehouse and her band of video nasties in response to the dramatic intensity of Holmes' presentation of "body horror" and other images of violence, escalating dramatically after the airing of the infamous drowning cliff-hanger in Deadly Assassin, had brought pressure on the BBC to replace the production team. In spite of his tremendous success - ratings for seasons 13 and 14 set all time highs for the series, never to be surpassed - Hinchcliffe was reassigned to the new BBC series Target [Featuring Holmes fave Philip Madoc]. Holmes, apparently, was also anxious to move on, but new Producer Graham Williams (ironically, the original developer of the show to which Hinchcliffe was assigned!) encountered a sea of production delays and problems as Season 15 got underway; Holmes delayed his own departure until a replacement could be groomed. Anthony Read was chosen, and began assisting Holmes during filming of Image of the Fendahl and Holmes' only script that season, The Sun Makers. Holmes saw his own script through to completion, then handed over the job to Read (who concluded the season with the disappointing Invasion of Time).

Holmes continued to write scripts for the series in the next season, kicking off the Key to Time season with the drolly comic Ribos Operation, as well as the sadly risible installment, The Power of Kroll (which features what must be the most laughably inept use of split screen puppetry in the history of the BBC).

After 1979, Holmes concentrated on other television projects, remaining almost exclusively within the science fiction genre, with varying degrees of success. It was not until 1984 that Holmes would return to Doctor Who, providing a script to facilitate the transition from Peter Davison to Colin Baker, The Caves of Androzani. The result was so successful that, the following year, with the series on the verge of oblivion, it was to Holmes that Eric Saward appealed to help build what might have been the final season of Doctor Who ever.

Their original intention was that Holmes would write the first and last segments of the four-segment season, built around the concept of the Doctor put on trial for his life (as, indeed, as far as the Beeb was concerned, he was!), with other writers contributing two additional segments to flesh out the season. In a sense, Holmes would be returning to the creative position he had carried a decade earlier, fashioning the dramatic arc of the season and building a new persona for the Doctor (Colin Baker's first season having been poorly received).

Sadly, Holmes died in May of that year, before completing the draft script of the final segment. Producer John Nathan-Turner, having parted company with Saward, assigned the project to Pip and Jane Baker - to say these two were not up to the task would be an utterance of peerless understatement. The mangled, detestable result clouded the entire season, and reduced what had promised to be a new beginning into a muddled, incomprehensible mess. It remains the most roundly disliked season in the show's proud history, which is a tragic injustice, really - the bright spots in Holmes' original dialog show flashes of the Doctor the world had loved so long. Why, in some scenes, the Doctor actually seems to like people!

In a very real sense, Doctor Who died with Robert Holmes. Which is not to disparage the best of the later shows with McCoy, merely to recognize that they are markedly unlike what came before, to a degree that they might even be seen as an altogether different series.

Holmes as a Writer

Over his 18 stories, a number of themes, ideas and stylistic tendencies emerged repeatedly; some of which quickly became established as part of the very character of Doctor Who.

Satires and Genre Spoofs

Holmes had little interest in "hard" science fiction or analogy-laden parables. Instead, he showed an almost post-modern tendency to build his stories around the satirical skewering of film or literary tropes, from the obvious Frankenstein take-off that is The Brain of Morbius to the more subtle spoofing of The Manchurian Candidate in the darkly clever Deadly Assassin.

American Westerns are frequent grist for the Holmes mill. Space Pirates, with it's rusty, dusty miners and a law-versus-lawlessness plot, filches ideas from Treasure of the Sierra Madre (in the same way later Space Oaters like Outland would pilfer from High Noon). Power of Kroll with it's rather ham-fisted Noble Oppressed Savages schematic, could have lifted half it's story boards from Broken Arrow. Even Androzani (despite it's obvious Phantom of the Opera homage) seems to owe a debt to Fistful of Dollars (or perhaps that film's source, Yojimbo) in putting the Doctor between two warring crooks, both of whom he must defeat or die trying.

In addition to films, Holmes revisited his favorite books, such as Shelly's Frankenstein, the adventures of H. Rider Haggard (riffed upon in Pyramids of Mars and the sisterhood in Morbius) and, of course, Arthur Conan Doyle (in Talons, the giant rats are clearly a jokey reference to the unrecorded Sherlock Holmes adventure The Giant Rat of Sumatra - a story, Watson demurs, "for which the world is not yet prepared."). Talons is, as many have observed, actually less a Sherlock Holmes riff than an homage to Sax Rohmer's delirious Fu Manchu series (the classic Hammer horror, The Face of Fu Manchu, features a similar series of murders and the sinister significance of the river Thames).

Of course, his most playful satire is the hilarious Sun Makers, a stream of clever in-jokes aimed at the Inland Revenue: All the corridors have names taken from Tax forms. The oppressive aliens, called the Usurians, display a Swiftian attitude toward death and taxes. In the end, the Collector turns out to be a fungus - a parasitic growth which thrives on decay. It's wickedly funny.

Comedy & Tragedy

Holmes rarely let his love of a good joke, however, interfere with what he clearly understood was the essential formula for a ripping yarn: An ever-increasing sense of dread, as each episode presented a new twist or threat that builds toward a hair-raising climax. The tone, which invariably starts off light and airy, must become increasingly dark as the stakes are raised and the tragic possibilities begin to be made manifest.

His best scripts walk this tightrope expertly, and find comedy not in jokes per se as much as in witty retorts and sarcastic asides. His brilliantly crisp dialogue is often so perfectly pitched as to evoke cheerful giggling, even in the most dire of circumstances. Li H'sen Chang's stage banter during his magic act (in Talons) is genuinely funny, and entirely in keeping with the character and context - even though the viewer expects him to attempt to murder the Doctor at any moment!

Holmes is most widely recalled for his "double acts" - his pairs who play off each other as though in a game of verbal badminton. The impresario Jago and his stage manager Casey blather blithely about ghosts and murders. Li H'sen and his master, Greel, alternate between exposition and withering abuse in their exchanges. Irongron demonstrates his cleverness by defeating Bloodaxe in jousts of wit (despite the fact that both are clearly unarmed).

The Doctor and his companion du jour form a ready-made double act, and no one exploited this better than Holmes. Indeed, he introduced more companions than any other writer, and in his scripts, at least, they don't simply stand around and ask what's going on, waiting to scream at the first passing Dalek. They act, make decisions, escalate the action and challenge the Doctor to do the same. Liz Shaw is smart and cynical, subjecting the Doctor to the same level of scrutiny to which he usually subjects others. Sarah Jane, in her first Adventure (Time Warrior), is aggressive, opinionated and courageous, in many ways the Doctor's mirror image. Leela the Huntress is an inspired creation, a pure animus to counter Baker's posturing intellect. Her fish-out-of-water quality, especially in turn of the century London, creates marvelous opportunities which Holmes fully explores; he does such a good job of it in Talons that her appearance in a gown leaves both the viewer and the Doctor a bit breathless. The introduction of Romana (Mary Tamm) once again gives Holmes an opposite number for the Doctor who's every bit as smart - and arrogant - as he is, and their taught interplay of one-up-manship and smirkery gives Ribos Operation it's energy.

Rogues and Villains

But perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the Holmes canon is the villainy. Rarely is this the typical, run-o'-the-mill BEM out to conquer the universe for no very good reason - Holmes wrote no Dalek stories, no Cybermen buzz through his sets, no Ice Warriors or Silurians lay traps for Time Lords they couldn't possibly have seen coming. No, where there are conquering aliens, they are almost invariably driven by a greater need - to propagate their species, or to meet a military objective that will provide security in the face of a larger threat, or to recover something that was lost.

Often the true villain of the piece is driven by an obsessive, but not irrational, need: greed or fear are only the results of an even more primary motivation for survival. Sometimes so desperate are these villains to achieve their aims, they willingly court their own destruction, let alone that of others in their path. The Graf Vynda-K, Greel and Sutekh have tasted power and are faced with oblivion or extinction if they cannot recover it. No wonder, then, they are willing to sacrifice lesser creatures in pursuit of their objective.

But there is almost always someone else, interposed between the "true villain" and the Doctor, who is trapped in events they can no longer control, suffocating in a relationship with evil they can not escape. It is this person, invariably the catalyst of the evil plot but themselves somehow sympathetic, almost heroic, that is the signature Holmesian element. Solon in Morbius, even when faced with inescapable evidence of the error of his judgement, must nevertheless revive the ancient Time Lord criminal because not to do so would be to abnegate his long years of suffering to achieve that goal. Sharaz Jek in Androzani is a vicious drug lord, but he is as much a victim of Morgus as of his own vice. Most touchingly, Li H'sen in Talons is motivated throughout the story to unspeakable acts of villainy not by lust or greed, but by gratitude and faithfulness! He proves himself to be more noble, in many ways, than Jago, who, even after being presented with compelling evidence that his star performer is a multiple murderer, can't bring himself to compromise his headlining attraction.

Ah, Henry Gordon Jago, the alliterative arbiter of amazing artistes. Garron the used planet salesman (by way of Somerset, squire). Milo >hack< >spit< >ping< Clancy, the salt of several earths. Irongron the Dim and his Knights of Very Little Brain. Vorg and Shirna and their Lurman Traveling Circus Onna Stick ("Roll up! Roll up!").

How Holmes loved the rogues, the con men, the thieves and brigands, the liars and cheats, the charming, back-stabbing, purse-lifting, scene-stealing swindlers who proliferate his scripts like advertising fliers. And, not surprisingly, the Doctor almost immediately takes to them, for they are, of course, birds of a feather. "He's one of us!" Vorg astutely observes instantly upon meeting the Doctor. The Doctor's solutions to sundry plot problems are almost always equal amounts of science and flim-flam, and his membership in the Interplanetary Brotherhood of Bamboozlers is recognized by his own kind. It's only the swindlers who take themselves too seriously, who have bought into their own lies and deceived themselves - Greel, Vynda-K, Lynx, Sutekh - who are his lifelong enemies.

And it's in that mold that Holmes created the Master; the Doctor's evil twin, his looking-glass self, the deceiver by himself deceived. At last the Doctor would have an opponent who is his equal. One who could match him feint for feint, trick for trick, witty retort for witty retort.

Well, that was the plan, anyway. But for a number of reasons, Terror of the Autons fails to live up not only to classic status but even to the standards of its author's own work. The Master would, like all the Doctor Who villains, suffer profoundly from overexposure and creative bankruptcy over the next twenty years, but even in that first season he is a notably unmotivated and predictable - not to say stupid - villain. Autons features other missteps - the screaming girl companion, the unnecessary reprise of a previously defeated monster, the unearned turnabout "twist" ending - that Holmes managed easily to avoid later on.

Holmes and the World of Who

In fact, it's not surprising, in light of his later work on the series, that after Autons Holmes didn't submit another script for two seasons. The charm and wit that characterize the initial Pertwee script a year earlier had been submerged into the Letts/Dicks "serious issue" agenda, best represented by Malcolm Hulke's environmentalist passion plays. Holmes had no interest in a Doctor who would rather preach pompously than puncture the pompous, and his two later Pertwee scripts give a peek at the course he would later helm. In Carnival of Monsters and Time Warrior, we have a more playful, teasing, jovial Pertwee than we're used to seeing. One can easily picture Tom Baker in those stories (but try to imagine him in The Daemons or Frontier in Space without a heavy rewrite).

In Baker, Holmes found full and complete expression for his muse - the two share many qualities, not least a visible delight in play, a love for great literature and a willingness to try anything. Holmes' brought out the best in Baker, and Baker unleashed the cleverest in Holmes. Too clever by half, as many contemporary fans would have said.

Holmes' attitude toward continuity and Whovian mythos ranged from benign neglect to outright contempt. Most of his best scripts avoided the subject completely: Holmes endeavored to place the Doctor in new situations, and concocted plots derived from external sources rather than the show's own previous adventures. Narrative exigency clearly took priority over fetishistic enshrinement of the dear, departed past. This may seem reprehensible in a story editor, but it's important to keep in mind that Holmes served the BBC at a time when even taped episodes from only a few years earlier were considered disposable and consigned to the incinerator. (Who knew anyone would want to see Tomb of the Cybermen ever again?)

A few of his most notable efforts to mine new veins of creativity break so violently with the previous traditions as to leave gaping wounds in the psyches of those fans for whom the world of Doctor Who is and must be a complete and continuous whole. The "previous incarnations" appearing during the infamous battle with Morbius come from Holmes' stewardship, as does the continuity-stretching quandary posed by the plot McGuffin in Face of Evil. These, however, are peanuts compared to Holmes' cavalier disregard for the ethos of the Time Lords.

Which brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation to The Deadly Assassin.

It's almost impossible to overstate the significance of this Adventure in the evolution of the series. Certainly, it's impact on fandom, especially those for whom the mythology of the Whoniverse had already taken great hold, was catastrophic. Those outside the core fan base were mostly aware that Mrs. Mary Whitehouse found the violence so shocking she sought to get the entire production company sacked. Casual fans - and, by extension, the Americans who saw the story 4 years after everyone else - tended to find it strangely off-putting.

Had this story been set on Earth, in some future time, it would probably be regarded as a slightly better than average Adventure with a prescient use of artificial reality (called the Matrix, oddly enough) that predates Neuromancer by nearly a decade. The decision to place it on Gallifrey, with the attendant implications for the Time Lords, suggests not merely a disregard for the mythos of the Letts/Dicks era, but a strong desire to undermine it completely.

One might well ask, was this journey necessary?

In fact, it was.

Holmes not only brought the Doctor to Gallifrey, but resurrected (literally?) The Master from the dead to pose as his enemy, and to perpetrate a two-fold plot that threatens first the Time Lords and then their Universe. In many ways, this is the Master done properly, as Holmes had been unable to do six years before. He is grotesque, hateful and merciless - frightening in a way that Delgado's charming but basically silly mustache-twirling villain could never be. Although the story is still hamstrung by the catch in all Doctor/Master stories, which is that neither can be allowed a definite victory over the other, Holmes' innovative use of an alternate reality (the computerized network of the Matrix) allows for a far greater level of danger and ups the stakes considerably: The "real" Doctor won't die, but his projection into the Matrix might. And, in fact, the Matrix sequence - almost completely superfluous to the story itself - succeeds magnificently in bringing the Doctor to the brink of death. The prolonged fight with Goth is harrowing and quite grizzly; when before have we seen the Doctor bleed so much? Or use a weapon like a hand grenade to disembowel a foe? Or deliberately poison or drown someone?

Mrs. Whitehouse was quite right - this isn't for kiddies. Holmes was toying not just with Manchurian Candidate but other films of the Cinema of Paranoia so popular in the Watergate years of the mid seventies, such as Parallax View, Antonioni's Blowup and Costa-Gavras' assassination epic Z. These films reflected a widespread mistrust not only of authority, but in the very concept of truth; that those who have the means to corrupt the political process can and will use that power to define what "really" happened.

Where better to dramatize this concept but at the seat of the most powerful culture in the Universe? Even here, Holmes suggested, the ability to master the perception of reality (the Matrix, the staged assassination and frame-up, the very record of the Master's existence) effectively changes what is real. The Doctor is perceived by his fellow Time Lords as a renegade and criminal, while the Master - who is all but invisible to these supposedly omniscient beings - freely and surreptitiously manipulates their power to his will. Still constrained by the requirements of the Genre, the finale is at once of a piece with the theme of the Adventure (the wide and dangerous gap between the perception of Gallifrey's power source and it's reality) and a bit of a let down, since it devolves into another "Flash Gordon Saves the Day" show-stopping punch-up amid falling papier mache masonry.

Here, as in all his scripts, we see Holmes straining to move beyond the formats and conventions of the series, to pursue a larger agenda - and not necessarily towards a tidy conclusion. In Assassin, Holmes had, in fact, gone so far beyond the original scope of the series, even light-years past the tepid liberal politics of the Letts/Dicks years, that he takes it into a genuinely adult sensibility. The subtle moral complexities of Season 12 (Ark in Space and Genesis of the Daleks) are now being brought to the surface to become the crux of the story.

What Holmes attempted in Assassin is nothing less than heroic. He risked alienating his core audience in order to push the series into a more mature, more intellectual engagement with them. He boldly depicted violence as gruesome and unpleasant rather than merely a means to a plot device. The denouement sees the return to a complacent status quo (Borusa shows no signs of having understood the full implications of the events he swiftly covers up), and with no self-righteous sermonette from the Doctor (as Hulke would doubtless have added) to aid the viewer in feeling morally superior.

As an invitation to move the series into a more adult world, Assassin is mostly successful - although the failure of the core audience to embrace it is understandable. Still, the strength of the negative response can only have been a let down for Holmes, whose scripts after Season 14 are noticeably less rigorous. His only attempts at serious discussion, such as Kroll, degenerate into simplistic third-Doctor style solipsism or obvious, easy satire. It is not too difficult to conjecture that Holmes' disappointment in the reception his work received from the fan press combined with the reactionary clamor against violence on the show must have eroded his commitment to push the series toward complexity and maturity.

After his departure, later writers would continue to struggle with Holmes' conundrum - trying to tell stories that the 8-to-12s can follow while engaging the older audience in a more sophisticated conversation - with varying but by no means superior degrees of success. No simplistic style, be it hard science, soft fantasy, giddy satire or (increasingly, under Nathan-Turner) unvarnished melodrama, could ever fully contain what the show had, by 1978, become. [Tegan spoke for a great many Holmes fans when she announced that it "wasn't fun anymore."]

Fortunately, Holmes did manage to leave us one last, great script, The Caves of Androzani. Coming out of a four-year hiatus, he single-handedly reinvented Davison's Doctor, and revived the moribund franchise with more energy, urgency and excitement than it had seen in years. His script bristles with good dialog, complex characters and difficult decisions; not least of all in the amazing conclusion. Holmes had written the best companion send-off ever when he returned Sarah Jane Smith to her home in Croyden, but in Androzani he finally got to kill his Time Lord. And a beautiful, emotionally charged and magnificent death it is. [It was the death Baker's Doctor deserved and didn't get.]

Ultimately, Holmes was not a literary giant or visionary genius; he was merely a very good writer with a gift for dialog and a few clever things to say. His ability to re-imagine the series was limited by his own stylistic predilections, such as his penchant for filching film plots. But to a degree unmatched by any other contributor to Doctor Who, Holmes brought an amazing amount of new ideas to the series, opening it up to innumerable possibilities. And he did so with a commitment to treating his audience with respect, assuming that they would get even his most arcane, bookish jokes.

Robert Holmes took for granted that his audience was at least as smart as he was.

Would that we were!

My Theory of the Doctor's Early Life by Robert McMullen 24/8/00

Because I am, and will forever be, a Whovian of the Prydonian order (as we all are, even if some of us aren't quite aware of this truth), I am fascinated by the Doctor's life, and am intrigued as to what makes the Doctor who he is (no pun intended). What made the Doctor such an independent spirit? What made him hold his own people, the Time Lords themselves, in such utter contempt? In all of his adventures, why was he so selfless? Why has the Doctor always been so willing to share his voyages with so many different people, even those who have stowed away on the TARDIS? I feel the only way I can dare to shed light on these questions is to look at his life while he grew up on his home world, Gallifrey.

The Doctor's early life prior to his arrival on earth with Susan in London in 1963 is veiled in mystery. Because the Doctor is a sentient being, he has grown, learned from, matured, and lives his life based off of his experiences and what he was able to gain and discard from those life moments, just as we all have done. Assume then, for the sake of open-ended argument, that the Doctor's childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, and the duration of his formal education were years of great misery, confusion, tumult, anger, that ultimately, led to understanding in his life that made him take drastic measures to ensure his freedom and to promote his goodwill towards others.

My theory is that, during the Doctor's youth, Morbius had to be the President of the High Council of Time Lords on Gallifrey. Because of Morbius' reign of terror, which incidentally involved the Elixir of Life that belonged to the Sisterhood of Karn, the Doctor knew early on just what immense harm evil can produce. This would be an explanation as to why he had such a horrific reaction when he saw Solon's sculpture of Morbius' face in the story, The Brain of Morbius.

As the Doctor grew into his adulthood and his years in the Prydonian Academy, normalcy came to the High Council. Successions in power often went very dully and without complication, and everything ran smoothly as far as Gallifreyan government went. This could not be said for the Doctor. Because he's always been a very gifted person, one who has vast intellect balanced with emotion, and strong convictions that are tempered by his overwhelming sensibility to others, sentimentality, and a romantic, almost quixotic outlook on life, the Doctor had a hard time identifying with many of his peers. Because of this difficulty in trying to accept his role in the strict society he lived in, he forged relationships with such wayward souls as the mischievous Drax (The Armageddon Factor), the shallow Runcible, the newscaster in The Deadly Assassin, The Master, and The Rani. He also sought enlightenment from older and more learned Time Lords such as Borusa, eventual President of the High Council (The Deadly Assassin, The Invasion of Time, Four to Doomsday, and The Five Doctors) and Kampo Rimpochet, AKA Cho-je, the wise monk who guided the Doctor through much of his tribulation during his adolescence, notably when the Doctor would visit him atop his lonely hill (as alluded to in Planet of the Spiders).

Finally, after years and years, it reached a point where our hero could no longer endure the conformity of Time Lord society. On Gallifrey emerged a system of social stratification, hence the different colored headdresses and attire of each group of Time Lords, pomp and circumstance that overshadowed the importance of his society's advancement and whole reason for its poignancy and omnipotence, and utter disregard and lack of respect for other beings in the universe, many of whom were treated by Time Lords as second-class beings (humans, and Rutans, The Horror of Fang Rock) or were races across galaxies who needed defense from threats too frightening to imagine at any point in time--Daleks, Sontarans, Cybermen, Sutekh, Nestene Autons, Axos, and countless more--who were looked upon indifferently.

Quite frankly, the Doctor could have none of it any longer. As a show of protest and rebellion, the Doctor chose to act against all of the conventions of Gallifreyan culture. He spoke out against nonintervention, rebuked his formal learning and urged change. He encouraged people to speak out and to just live. And since this wasn't enough to make his fellow Gallifreyans open their eyes and realize that they could not suffice on their own for eternity, the Doctor made a fateful decision that would set into motion his future. He then came to a realization--why not steal one of the many symbols of Time Lord greatness and arrogance--The Hand of Omega (Remembrance of the Daleks) and flee Gallifrey for good? Could this be the one thing that would make the other Time Lords realize that they were so caught up in their own hyperbolic existence that they in turn, undermined the collective vision that Rassilon and Omega shared that brought about their world to begin with? The Doctor took the risk, and off he went. And thus, the rest is history in the making.

From the lessons he learned living on his world, the Doctor learned that in a universe so vast, so great, and so wondrous, there are two things that prevail and remain at a constant--a hand in need, and the ugliness of evil. Most importantly, he learned that an impact had to be made to ensure that balance and harmony could be maintained in the very universe that Gallifrey shares with so many other worlds. In his lifetime, up to that point, he himself was in need--many times. The Doctor was fortunate and thankful to have those in his life support him and aid him through his crises. He also saw how brutal and painful death and destruction can truly be. It is this premise that the Doctor bases his life's work upon, to fight endlessly in the pursuit of what's right.

Author Watch by Norman Dewhirst 24/1/01

Your intrepid explorer and author hunter has been traveling the world in search of the long lost hidden authors. Here are my findings :-

Stephen Cole and Peter Anghelides fighting over who should get the credit for The Ancester Cell.
Cole : You take the credit.
Anghelides : No you take the credit.

Dave Stone down the Cambden town market in desperate need of a joke book, that actually has funny jokes.

Gareth Roberts who for some reason (punishment for acts in a past life? ) on the creative team of Emmerdale the 2nd worst soap in the UK. He has created a bar owner called Bernice - hehehehehehehehehehe.

Lawrence Miles locked up in Stephen Coles basement. (I would have got him out but that was a tough looking guard dog.

Jacqueline Rayner working as project editor for BBC, producer for Big Finnish, BBC author, Big Finnish author, writing some telepress thingy, searching for Lawrence Miles, part of the time team, contributor to DWM - f^*k does this girl sleep?

Paul Magrs standing at a bus stop for the last three weeks. Someone asked him why he was there and he is still in the middle of answering them.

Paul Cornell at a Radiohead gig.

Neil Penswick locked up in Peter Darvill-Evans' basement.

Peter Darvill-Evans at home screaming why do fans always bring you up when talking about me.

Kate Orman on an anger management course.

Too Broad and too deep for the small screen by Yonatan Bryant 4/4/01

In my mind the books are where Doctor Who truly belongs. The TV show was trying hard but it was nigh impossible for the show to show us the big picture, there wasn't the money and there weren't the fans writing for it. But in the Novelizations and the books when have seen more than we could ever see on TV. We has seen a giant seal of Rassilon with people living on it surface. We have been in the cockpits and flying along side of great starship . We have seen a ship trapped in an infinite loop, We have Seen the Whole of London being transformed time and time again we have seen the Doctor dancing with death on the surface of the moon, we have being into the depths of the Doctors mind, we know more and less about the doctor than we ever had before. We have seen a planet blown abort. All of those would not have looked good at all on the TV show. The Stories are truly too broad and too deep for the small screen.

Also we have people writing the books these days who know the show, they love it they are all of us, they are the people where here amazed by the show when the first saw it 10 ,20, 30 years ago and fell in love with it. in the TV show you had 2 or 3 fans who ever wrote for the show. For the writers of the show, it was their day job, for us it is our lives. All of us yearn to be fighting the fight of the just alongside with the Doctor. And because of that any new show will ultimately disappoint, because what can be seen in the mind is not always transferable to TV. To be able to maybe achieve the scope of the books, you would need a movie sized budget for each story, in order to make the villains believable, the settings real and the story unconstrained by money.

And lastly we have the actors. In the TV show people stayed or 2-3 years generally and then went on. There is now way with a TV show we could have got 9 years of the Seventh Doctor or 6 out of Bernice also there is no way the Mel could have appeared in one story and the vanish for 2 years. In fact there was an interview with Sylvester McCoy where he said that he would have left the show after one more year.

When the TV show died, Doctor Who, which is now in Guinness World Records for the books, stopped becoming just a old TV show with a bad budget. It became a legend. A legend that freed from the pettiness of the Small screen like the 3rd Doctor From earth, was free to explore the entirety of Time and Space uninhibited by anything but the imagination.

Hype Space by Andrew Wixon 1/9/01

Living in the UK at the moment one rapidly comes to the conclusion that nostalgia ain't what it used to be. Nearly every Saturday night the TV listings are filled with 'I Love the Seventies' or 'Top Ten Folk Music' or 'The 100 Greatest Gardening Programmes Ever'. This sort of list-making is addictive and insidious but it certainly fills up the schedules. It's spreading, too; it seems you can't move without tripping over the Ten Best This or the All-Time Great That. And, inevitably, DW is not immune - it features in other lists (apparently the BFI membership thinks it's the third best TV series ever made which even I find hard to believe), and for a few years now there've been regular 'Best Story Ever' polls. The DWM one was won by Genesis of the Daleks, of course, and isn't it interesting that the most frequently-shown story should turn out to be the most popular? But elsewhere, for the most part outside the walls of Who-fandom, a consensus seems to be appearing on this topic. And the consensus is that the pinnacle of DW is City of Death.

SFX magazine recently covered the serial's genesis in its' Past Perfect column, saying DW in general was 'mostly charming, usually interesting, and habitually inventive, but rarely brilliant. And yet for four weeks in the fag end of the 1970s it touched excellence...' going on to cite the vast audience as proof of its superiority, apparently unaware of the special circumstances of its broadcast. The BBC Online section devoted to Douglas Adams is unequivocal when it describes CoD as 'Douglas' (and the shows') finest [story]'. Some of you probably agree. There seems to be a critical juggernaut building up here and I'm going to be brave and stand in the path of the beast.

I like CoD a lot. It is, obviously, brilliant: deliriously witty, fantastically original and inventive. Certainly a top ten contender. But is it the best story ever? If I was to pick one story to show DW at its' best and most representative, would this be it? I find myself shaking my head. This isn't a review of CoD per se, so I'll keep this brief, but... CoD is a marvellous souffle of a story, it leaves a wonderful taste in the mouth as it skips along powered by ingenious plot-twists and eminently quotable one-liners. But DW's strength is to be powerful and moving as well as fun and inventive, and powerful and moving are two words you can't use to describe CoD. It has a heart of purest candyfloss. It's great, but ultimately undone by this in any 'best ever' consideration.

And I think it's fair to say that it owes its' current favoured status largely to the name of the author. (It seems that most of the time Douglas Adams gets sole credit for what was a three-writer script.) Doctor Who very rarely attracted 'name' writers to it. Nigel Kneale turned the opportunity down, Christopher Priest was approached but ultimately fell out badly with the production team, Tanith Lee was reportedly interested but nothing came of it. Terry Nation did become relatively famous but this was on the back of his work for the show. Virtually the only well-known authors to work on DW were Douglas Adams and Steve Gallagher - and with all due respect to him, Gallagher has never approached Adams' degree of fame. That CoD is Adams' story must draw attention to it when people outside hard-core fandom survey the series. That it should be so good is a bonus.

From a certain perspective it is obvious, even logical that CoD is the best DW story. Adams was a brilliant writer of SF comedy, and as previously mentioned the most celebrated author ever to be credited for a DW script. To an outsider, how could an almost unknown hack like Robert Holmes or Malcolm Hulke write a better script than him? By awarding CoD, and Adams, the 'best DW ever' prize the SF community in general reassures itself that a feted author is a feted author no matter what the context (and as a corollary, proves to itself that it understands DW just as well as any hard-core fan may).

But I think the very idea of a 'best DW story ever' is mistaken. The series, famously, didn't have a format or an agenda. It could and did do different things, in different styles, from week to week, and exactly what the 'best' story is depends on what you're looking for. You want the wittiest dialogue and most inventive script? Sure, City of Death is the best example. You want moral debate and a dark, gripping narrative? Turn your attention to Genesis of the Daleks. Or literary pastiche, and a loving recreation of period? Then Talons of Weng-Chiang is where you should be looking. There is no single greatest DW story, any more than there is an archetypal DW formula. But the glory of this is that almost no matter what you're looking for, Doctor Who will have made a story, often a great story, that exactly meets your needs.

Why I like The Cybermen by Mark Irvin 14/11/01

I'm a little surprised that no one has actually taken the time to review any of the Doctor's adversaries. After all, everything else seems to be reviewed here, why not his opponents? I thought I'd do something a little different and comment on why the Cybermen are my all time favourite Doctor Who adversary.

The Cybermen have always appealed to me since I was a little tacker and are one of the main reasons I started watching Doctor Who. Since witnessing them board the Beacon, shoot the Doctor and state "The Beacon is ours" I've been utterly hooked.

A couple of years later at the age of seven, I was fortunate to receive a return appearance in Silver Nemesis during it's original broadcast. Their emergence from a Cybership at the episode 1 cliff-hanger was a total surprise. To this day it still remains as one of my all time favourite Doctor Who scenes.

It wasn't until later in life that I managed to watch Earthshock and once again I was not disappointed. A thrilling story that contained arguably the greatest opening episode in Who history. And that's not even considering the brilliant music. Although let down a little by plot holes and slightly glossed over second half, I'd still rank it as one of the very best.

To be honest I always enjoyed the obligatory --- "What are they?............ Cybermen" bit. It might even be my favourite line used by Davison and McCoy although admittedly I am a bit biased.

The earlier Troughton tales - The Invasion and The Tomb of the Cybermen are absolute gems. Initially I was a little surprised by the style and voices from the Black and White Cybermen but found them to be just as good as their modern counterparts. Comparisons to the Voc Robots from The Robots of Death are very appropriate.

I even think Attack of the Cybermen was very good - containing great scenes on Telos, a successful return from Lytton and a memorable performance by Colin Baker.

Their inclusion into The Five Doctors was a little superflous and out of place but they still manage to impress. The Raston robot massacre scene is very worthy of attention and they appear notably menacing when used alongside that clangy Cyber-music.

The Cybermen would surely have to one of the more truly intimidating Dr Who enemies. Not over ambitious in design they were brilliantly realised. Visually impressive, they are one of the few foes that are seldom the subject of ridicule - with perhaps the exception of their appearance in Revenge of The Cybermen. The comical hands on hips stance is rather camp, but I would actually argue that this is part of their charm here - The comical Doctor and the comical Cybermen - A marvellous combination.

The voices in Revenge complete with Christopher Robbie's ludicrous accent were admittedly embarrassing. But they definitely got it right in the eighties with the appointment of David Banks and Mark Hardy - a portrayal that could not be classed as anything less than outstanding. I always get a little incensed when I hear criticisms aimed at the eighties Cybermen being "over emotional" or "swaggering". Their sixties counterparts - whilst superb in their time WOULD NOT HAVE WORKED in modern times. Updating was essential. Sarcastic comments about gold vunerbility also seem apparently stupid. Err...... Didn't gold almost wipe them out? Did they wanted to destroy Voga the Planet of Gold just for the fun of it? Ahh... forget it. I hate people who whinge about stupid continuities! (Oops! Hang on!)

In conclusion, I've always rated the Cybermen above the traditional Doctor Who favourite the Daleks. Perhaps it's because they're almost human but lifeless and logical - a cold and evil version of all of us. Although I have always enjoyed the Daleks, to me they come across as a little unrealistic to be conquers of the universe. The body of a pepper shaker would surely be a poor design for combat, I'd like to see how they would go when confronted by some rocky terrain. In contrast the Cybermen are believably adaptable to any situation - And they could easily be seen as the future of human cybernetics gone mad.

Would enyone else like to comment on the Doctor's enemies? I'd certainly enjoy some opinions of the Cybermen, Sontarans, Master incarnations, Daleks and co.

The Cybermen by Rob Matthews 28/11/01

Created as a possible successor or rival to the Daleks, the Cybermen of The Tenth Planet were original enough to have genuine potential and not be doomed to go the way of the Mechanoids. Their costumes were rather laughable - though very creepy at the same time, like something from a surreal nightmare -, and their voices were silly and annoying, but they were well-conceived creatures with an interesting backstory; humans beings who'd gradually replaced their entire bodies with artificial parts, mummified corpses kept upright by prosthetics. People who pursued survival at the expense of really living, they were - like all the best monsters - a warning of what we could become. They even came from a planet that had once been the identical twin of Earth.

Unfortunately, the reasons for Mondas' 'journey to the edge of space' went unexplained in that story, with the Mondans conversion into cybernetic creatures being attributed separately to their race 'becoming weak'. The suggestion was that the Mondans had had a fascistic 'master race' ideal and wouldn't tolerate the frailty that was part of being human.

Much later, in the sixth Doctor's era, the Doctor said that Mondas had been able to leave it's orbit because the Cybermen had fitted it with a 'propulsion unit' - a script idea which seems to have developed hybrid-like from The Dalek Invasion of Earth, in which the evil pepperpots tried to do the same thing with Earth. The explanation was still rather half-baked, with even the Doctor admitting he had no idea why the Cybermen would want to push a planet around space.

In David Banks' great Cybermen book (which I wish I had kept my copy of!), he suggested to the contrary that Mondas had been dislodged from its orbit by a huge cataclysm; he suggested it resulted from the impact of the freighter from Earthshock (to quote Bart Simpson, "The ironing is delicious!"). The rapid lowering of climate and seismic chaos thus drove the remaining Mondan humans into subterranean dwellings, and only gradually, as they drifted further and further from the sun, did they come to embrace cybernetics as their only option.

Perhaps because Banks' book was my introduction to the earlier cyberstories, I've always found them just a little bit disappointing, at least in terms of concept. Their origins and aims seemed a bit too similar to the Daleks, in that they believed the technology they'd grafted onto and into themselves made them superior.

More effort should have been made to make them different. I'd much rather have seen them portrayed as tragic survivors than vague Nazi types. Unlike the Daleks, their aims were never really that clear. Sometimes it was mere survival (in Revenge of the Cybermen and Earthshock, they're actually acting in self-defence, pre-empting strikes against them), sometimes they wanted to rule the universe. I'd have loved to see a redemptive story in which the Doctor manages to reintroduce some humanity to these robotic creatures, or at least to a faction of them. We were told initially that they still had human brains, although this no longer seemed the case in, for example, Attack of the Cybermen, where the Doctor opened up one of their faces to reveal little more than a lightbulb. Still, any post-Earthshock story Cyberman story could have developed the idea of their cyber brains becoming so complex as computers that they actually developed a sentience of their own (the old AI/Blade Runner idea). This would be a good twist, dragging the old concept into the era of K. Dick or Gibson). It would also make sense of their apparent development of personalities and moods.

(Mark Irvin is right, by the way. Those older monotone Cybermen wouldn't have worked anymore in the eighties. The faux pleasantness of the Voc Robots was a more genuinely chilling sound than than the expressionless droning of Troughton-era Cybermen anyway, and we could hardly have big villains like the Cybermen lagging behind one-offs like the Vocs)

Attack of the Cybermen was, like Resurrection of the Daleks, a worthwhile story not because of its addled plot, but because of its details of cyber-life. I've suggested before that Resurrection of the Daleks was a kind of 'day in the life of the Daleks', almost a series of vignettes depicting their various nasty activities, and I'd say the same about Attack of the Cybermen. For the first time we saw the cyber conversion process in action, and were given random but intriguing bits and bobs like the work party of half-cybernised humans, the suggestion that the conversion process sometimes failed, the 'rogue' Cybermen whose brains had been damaged by their frozen hibernation. They creation of the cyber-tombs was attributed to the Cryons, and appeared to have become a kind of big storage hive that the Controller was raiding - perhaps out of desperation - for undamaged troops. Had more cyber stories followed, this one would have served as a good backbone to their saga.

Sadly those stories didn't follow, and their potential went underexplored..

Gosh, I seem to say that a lot about Doctor Who. Thank God for the novels...

When they returned in Silver Nemesis the Cybermen could really have been any old villains, and they were vulnerable enough to make you wonder why anyone with access to a jeweller's would ever have feared them in the first place. In reply to Mark irvin's other comment, fans make sarcastic comments about the Cybermen's gold vulnerability because a) it wasn't a very good idea in the first place, and b) it was used far too loosely in Silver Nemesis. Originally, in Revenge and Earthshock, the Doctor said that if gold got into their chest units it could clog their breathing appartus and suffocate them..

(strange, given that the Doctor also states in Earthshock that the Cybermen don't need air!)

.., whereas in Silver Nemesis, they seem allergic to the very touch of gold, the way vampires are to holy water. How can you take an enemy seriously anymore when it can be held off with a small coin and a catapult? Notice that in Earthshock, the gold itself was not enough to finish off the Cyberleader. Also it was used sparingly in the plot, and was probably only resurrected because it tied in so well with Adric's swot badge - when the badge was broken into the leader's chest, it was, like, symbolic of Adric's impending sacrifice.

All said and done, I like the Cybermen, love them. Most days they're my favourite villains. Because they're humanoid, they work better on screen than the Daleks too. The Daleks have a clearer history and are a great concept, but in a cheapo TV show we have to imagine that they do more impressive things offscreen - that in parts of their empire they're marching about on mechanical legs and flying through the air in lethal squadrons. The beauty of the Cybermen is that they require less suspension of disbelief. And they burst out of things and stomp around like a dream.

Won't BBC Worldwide please commission a 'Genesis of the Cybermen' novel?!

The Rad vs Trad Fallacy by Rob Matthews 6/12/01

I only became aware of it very recently, but I find this whole argument about 'rad' and 'trad' Doctor Who quite stultifying. One reviewer of City of the Dead recently assessed the novel not in terms of whether it was good or bad, but whether it was rad or trad. And as a 'rad' novel it was dismissed almost out of hand.

This almost reactionary attitude seems entirely against the spirit of the impetus of Doctor Who, which, whether on TV or in books, was never about ploughing familiar furrows or talking down to its audience. A quick rundown of the series' recognised classic stories reveals them all as in some way radical -

TV stories in the vein of 'trad' novels would be ones like The Mind of Evil, Day of the Daleks, The Sontaran Experiment, The Five Doctors, Warriors of the Deep, The Awakening; forgettable stories that entertain briefly but have no impact on the series and the characters.

(well, to be fair, Warriors of the Deep doesn't entertain even briefly)

So I'm confused by why stories like, say, Alien Bodies or Transit get these 'rad' labels stuck on them. Alien Bodies is a Doctor Who story pure and simple. That it introduces new concepts is par for the course. That's sort of the point of an ongoing series. Transit, meanwhile, is Doctor Who 'does' cyberpunk, just as Spearhead From Space is Doctor Who 'does' Quatermass or The Deadly Assassin is Doctor Who 'does' political thriller. Frankly, if you don't want originality, why not stick only to the TV series or track down the Target books and leave it at that? Don't you think the TV show would be moving forward in the same way if it were still being made?

One of the reviewers of another 'rad' novel, Verdigris, suggested he was uncomfortable with the appearance of a gay character, because Doctor Who started life as a children's programme. This - like criticisms of (what is after all very occasional) swearing - disregards the fact that the novel range is not written for children (kids don't even know what Doctor Who is nowadays), and also implies with casual homophobia that the subject of homosexuality must be kept from children at all costs.

I suppose what 'trad' readers want, then, are slightly patronising and conservative children's stories. I suggest they only buy the books with the words 'Terrance Dicks ' on the cover.

The Paradox of Set's by Andrew Wixon 28/1/02

For a programme which for the majority of its run was fundamentally concerned with time travel, Doctor Who never really explored the whole knotty and cerebral area of time paradoxes and the effects of changing history (and all the better for it - I wish someone would tell the Big Finish crew as much!). There's the grandfather paradox in Day of the Daleks, the whole messy finale to the McGann telemovie with the Pertwee logo, and, um, that's about it... except for Pyramids of Mars.

As every true fan knows midway through episode two of this marvellous story the TARDIS visits 1980... the 1980 that will occur if the Doctor does not oppose Sutekh's schemes. It's a barren, devastated wasteland, of course. So history is not predetermined and Sutekh must be fought. It's a nice twisty tangent for the story, and doesn't seem to be a paradox at all. Until you think about it a bit more.

Time for the jargony bit: for convenience's sake I will henceforth be referring to the main, standard universe that DW occurs in as Earth-P (for Prime; yes, I read too many DC comics as a child). The 'wasteland Earth' version of history where Sutekh escapes is Earth-S. The version of history where Britain became a fascist dictatorship and an apocalypse was triggered by Stahlmann's project is Earth-I. The version where the destruction of Auderley house led to World War Three and a Dalek invasion in the 21st century is Earth-D. The version of history where Thinktank cause a nuclear war (averted by the Doctor on TV) is Earth-R.

It seems pretty much a given in Doctor Who that History as such can only be changed by time-travellers, or aliens with a time-travel capacity (such as Linx in The Time Warrior). The Master's attempts to reroute History in, for example, The King's Demons are described as perverting the course of History, whereas the Zygon attempt to conquer the Earth isn't. It also seems reasonable to suppose that without the Doctor's intervention the History of Earth-P would be vastly different; Earth-P would have been conquered many times over in the 1970s alone. So the Earth-P that Sarah is native to owes its existence to the Doctor's efforts to enforce his view of History.

Sutekh is not a time traveller, nor does he appear to actually employ time travel technology (the 'time tunnel' just seems like an interdimensional short cut). So he is a native of the main Earth-P timestream in the same way as the Axons and the Zygons, and left unopposed his actions would be a part of the natural flow of History. The Doctor is the one who interferes in order to stop him.

All this would be fine were it not for the sidestep to Earth-S. The suggestion is that a given future (in this case, the 'artificial' Earth-P Sarah comes from) cannot come into existence until the actions that create it have occurred. Earth-S is the 'default' future until the moment Sutekh's defeat becomes inevitable, at which point it is replaced by Earth-P. In other words, Sarah's Earth can't exist until Sutekh is defeated.

But this is nonsense. The Doctor visited Earth many, many times in his personal timeline. Most of these were post-1911 and Sutekh's death, but prior to Sutekh's defeat in terms of the Doctor's own personal history. The first, second and third Doctors all visited Earth-P, not Earth-S, despite the fact that Sutekh's defeat was not yet certain.

Why was it not yet certain? Sarah says 'We know the world didn't end in 1911', basically making the same point. This is the whole reason they visit Earth-S. There are two possibilities here:

a) That Sutekh's defeat is uncertain, which means that all the Doctor's previous (to him) post-1911 visits should have been to Earth-S and not Earth-P, that Sarah should never have been born, and that the Doctor's own life-history would have taken a vastly different path.

b) That Sutekh's defeat is certain, in which case Earth-S will never come into existence (and so can't be visited).

Consider this analogy: suppose the Doctor leaves Earth midway through Robot and visits the future of the planet. According to Pyramids of Mars' view of temporal mechanics he should visit a future where Thinktank either won, or caused a nuclear holocaust (Earth-R). Now suppose he made that trip a few months earlier - just after Monster of Peladon. Thinktank's plan still hasn't been stopped yet, so he should still wind up on Earth-R. When you think about it all his visits to the future should be to Earth-R until the events of Robot when he defeats Thinktank, at which point Earth-P will reappear. This isn't the case. Therefore Earth-S is a weird anomaly of some kind.

Other possible solutions that have been suggested to me: One idea was that the Doctor can visit all possible alternative futures at will, it's simply a case of steering the TARDIS down the correct trouser-leg of the time vortex. This seems dubious to me for several reasons: the Doctor is genuinely staggered to arrive on Earth-I in Inferno, suggesting that alternative worlds are unknown to the Time Lords. It also makes a nonsense of any idea of 'the web of time' or 'changing history' if all possible histories are equally valid from the Time Lords' viewpoint. (You also wonder why he hangs around on Earth-P at all, given that there has to be a alternative version somewhere where the Daleks were never created, the Silurians not blown up by the Brigadier, etc, etc.)

It's not the same as Earth-D (the home of Day of the Daleks' guerillas), either. That was another anomaly, but a self-negating one given the Doctor's influence (sadly we don't see what happens to the future Earth ruled by the Daleks when the events causing it are prevented from happening).

I suppose we could just put this down to another bit of illogical grandstanding by Bob Holmes (that's not meant as harshly as it probably sounds), but I feel obliged to offer a solution: Sutekh would not have been freed even had the Doctor not been around to stop him. There was a faulty component in the rocket's antigrav drive; it blew up on takeoff setting fire to the Priory and destroying Scarman and the mummies. Sutekh stayed trapped until his death c. 12000AD, and so no Earth-S in the usual flow of events.

When the Doctor and Sarah arrive they interfere, as is their wont. Unfortunately (and unbeknownst to them) one of their bits of interference is to inadvertently fix the damaged component in the rocket (picking it up and shaking it; this happens just before the side trip). Thus for the first time there's the potential for the rocket to work, for Sutekh to actually escape and create Earth-S. This narrow window of possibility only exists until the end of the story, but it's within this timeframe that we see Earth-S. A brief glimpse into alternative time, which - subjectively - only existed for a few hours. It's not much of a solution, and I'm open to a better one.

(I leave it to the interested fellow-student to explain why Sarah is able to visit a version of history her very existence is incompatible with, and why the Doctor doesn't recognise Earth-S as the blatant anomaly it clearly is.)

Whither Valeyard? by Carl West 23/2/02

So, who is the Valeyard? "The amalgamation of the Doctor’s darker side, between his twelfth and final regeration." Ah, that explains everything...

Taking this at face value (if it's actually possible to do so), one would assume that the Valeyard isn’t actually flesh and blood -- how could an "amalgamation" of evil actually be? And, he’s out to steal the Sixth Doctor’s remaining regenerations -- this would perhaps allow him to attain corporeal existence? Would he be taking over the Doctor’s body a la the-Master-takes over-Tremas’-body? The truth of the Valeyard is a very vague, confusing concept, presented at the end of a very messy 14 part story.

I have often wondered what would have been a better explanation of who this Valeyard is. I have thought of an Inferno-type of theory: the Valeyard could have been a POSSIBLE future incarnation of the Doctor (twelfth, thirteenth, eleventh, whatever you like) from an alternative universe -- a universe in which the possibility of the Doctor regenerating into an evil personality is played out. The obvious flaw with this concept would be that, in Inferno, the Doctor vehemently warns against the danger of identical individuals from alternate universes coming into contact with one another (indeed, he is unwilling to save the Brigade Leader, Section Leader Liz, etc. from disaster because of this). True, it sometimes appears that ANYTHING is possible for the Time Lords; but given the Doctor’s and the Time Lords’ extreme paranoia of anti-matter in The Three Doctors and Arc of Infinity, I don’t think that such a Valeyard from an alternative universe could in fact come into ours. (I am aware that the Brigade Leader and company weren’t actually anti-matter, but it appears that their presence in our universe would have a very similar effect).

Then, of course, there is the Pyramids of Mars approach (I am obviously indebted to Andrew Wixon’s recent article for most of my ideas here!). If the Doctor and Sarah fail to stop the progress of events taking place in Pyramids, the earth in 1980 will be a lifeless wasteland. So, perhaps the Valeyard is a 1980’s-earth type of future incarnation of the Doctor -- unless the Doctor treads carefully, one of his future incarnations will be the Valeyard (we see similar concepts in The Space Museum).

However, the explanation we are given from the series -- and therefore the explanation that we must accept -- is that the Valeyard is a being who is the combination of all that is evil in the Doctor, and that he is a Doctor who was created (and perhaps was only meant to exist momentarily) in the process of the Twelfth Doctor regenerating into the Thirteenth. A very ambiguous explanation, perhaps, but maybe it was intended as the sort of rich ambiguity that would keep the fans debating sixteen years on.

Eric Saward's contribution to the show by Rob Matthews 3/4/02

Revelation of the Daleks is for me one of the top five stories in Doctor Who's run. It's also perhaps the bleakest in terms of worldview, and the most littered with scenes of violent death. Now, I'm not a particularly morbid person, and Doctor Who is not a pessimistic show, so this is quite anomalous, but that's partly why it's a success. There's a good quote about this story to be found in David J Howe's TV companion -

"One could point out that the story was not only laced with gratuitous horror, but had main and subsiduary plots which could easily be called unsuitable for a young audience. But using these points as criticisms would, it seems, be missing the point somehow. While they would all be fairly damning to a normal Doctor Who story, the mere fact that all could be levelled at Revelation indicates that it was trying to do something different"
Extend that argument across Saward's whole tenure as script editor and you'll see what I'm about to try and get at. Doctor Who was an essentially fun and optimistic show, so its transformation over the course of four or five years into something grim and occasionally sickening in its depiction of violence was bound to raise hackles and yells of disapproval. But that novelty, that difference, is the main reason why I consider the era successful. The Saward years are well-known for their abundance of continuity references - though really the producer was responsible for them -, but the show's history was actually important to those seasons in a far deeper and more subtle way. Matthew Brenner raised a good point in a review of the Fifth Doctor, arguing that where once the universe was a basically wonderful place with a few bad apples trying to spoil it, it became in the Saward era somewhere that was completely rotten until proved otherwise. I agree completely with the argument, but not with the assertion that this was a bad thing.

How can I put this - after many years of battling against bad guys, and seeing innocent people killed in every single battle, you'd have to be unbelievably resilient not to let it get to you in some way. At the risk of weaving everyone's reviews together here, the point was well made by Mike Morris in his Visitation piece that Saward brought a sense of moral tension into the show. The Doctor was no longer getting away from his adventures unscathed because he no longer had a script editor who would let him. Saward addressed certain issues that arose when you looked hard at the history of the show - particularly its attitude to violence -, and a lot of fans perhaps think that in doing so he was just taking Doctor Who too seriously. But I personally don't think there's anything wrong with that approach. The Doctor develops more than ever before as a real character in season 21 precisely because of it. It's only by really challenging the Doctor and his actions that he can remain relevant as someone you view as a hero as opposed to a superhero. The difference of course being that a hero doesn't have the odds stacked in his favour from the start (I've never understood the appeal of Superman). This challenging of the Doctor and his actions was central to the show for all its remaining years, it defined the Virgin NAs, and is still relevant to the BBC books, which are currently (at the time of writing) engaged in making the Doctor more human, less powerful. It was Saward who first started doing this for real. The show was reinvigorated by the dark streak he introduced; it kept the Doctor and the show from resting on their laurels, munching on jelly babies and toppling dictators without a care in the world. It shouldn't have been unnecessarily prolonged, this 'darkest hour' of the series, but fortunately - though more by chance than design - it wasn't. It ended naturally after four seasons, #19 to #22, not a story arc but a thematic arc. And the moral core of the show was strengthened by its willingness to outstare 'the abyss which looks back also'. Think about it - there wasn't a single successful Doctor Who story between the end of season 22 and the beginning of #25. Saward provided the tension and the sheer buildup that made Andrew Cartmel's vision for the show successful.

(that's success in terms of creativity as opposed to audience figures).

Ah, that's the other thing. Vision. I was thinking recently that Eric Saward's contribution to Doctor Who is analogous to Lawrence Miles', in that no-one else can render his vision quite as successfully. The only real way for the novels to stay true to Miles' vision would be for him to write every single one of them. And in the same way, Saward's style is so singular that it occasionally slots awkwardly into scripts that aren't his own. As a script editor he's fascinating but flawed. But as a script writer, he's great.

And as with Lawrence Miles, the main problem is that it's hard to justify letting one man's hugely individualistic vision railroad the whole property. Especially when so many people just don't like it.

Saward hit a good and necessary compromise by scripting several pivotal stories himself - Earthshock, which reinvented the Cybermen and killed off a companion for the first time since Hartnell's era; Resurrection of the Daleks which somehow managed to simultaneously make the Daleks more credible and undermine them, picked up thematic threads left dangling from Genesis, and gave another companion a downbeat departure that was completely without precedent; and Revelation of the Daleks, which closed the show's darkest season with an utterly superb illustration of Saward's maxim that 'when you show violence, you should show that it hurts'.

Saward's a morbid scribe. There's no point in denying that - it's simply the way his writing is inclined. Hell, Revelation is set in a giant funeral parlour on a planet named after death. But that for me is why dark subject matter never seems gratuitous in his hands. It's simply part and parcel of his worldview. And that's not actually a crime, you know. I believe he's fascinated by it, but refute utterly that he revels in it. Revelation is a story that's noteworthy not simply because of the number of violent death scenes, but because of how uniquely memorable they are, how shocking in spite of their frequency. We're used to Daleks yelling 'Exterminate' and zapping people, but when the DJ is murdered you truly feel you've just witnessed something utterly obscene. Jobel's and Tasambeker's pathetic deaths (that's pathetic in the sense of pathos, by the way) are nothing short of poetic in their sad pointlessness. The mutant's forgiveness of Peri and her reaction to it bring a lump to the throat. Then there's Orcini's cuddling up to Bostock's corpse as he detonates his bomb, and Stengos' horrific/heroic entreaties to his daughter to kill him as he transforms into a Dalek. It's an emotionally exhausting story and demonstrates Saward's complete confidence in his own vision for the show.

Of course, it's quite well known amongst fans that Saward was reaching the end of his tether with the series at that point and that he actually wrote the Revelation scripts while on holiday. That he was becoming rather careless about other people's scripts is evident from Vengeance on Varos and Timelash, and that he then lost interest completely is clear from the utter hash he made of Trial of a Timelord. So Revelation was a last, glorious gasp and in an ideal world have been his final script for the show.

As things stand, he stayed too long. But for a while there he was very opposite of the purveyor of cynicism he's made out to be. He was the show's conscience.

John Nathan-Turner, a tribute by Joe Ford 11/5/02

I was extremely upset to here recently of John Nathan-Turners death. It came as quite a blow, as it always does when a major player in Who history is lost. He was by all accounts, a great man, a good friend and strong lover of Doctor Who. Without him our beloved show may have been cancelled years earlier than it was. His is an era which is discussed widely in these parts and for good or for bad is one that is enjoyed worldwide. But I don't come here to complain I came to tell you he was the best people we could have had to be involved with the show.

John Nathan-Turner's tail end seasons, eighteen and twenty-six are two of my all time favourites. He employed my my favourite actor in the role (Colin Baker). He help create one of the greatest companions ever (Ace). He gave the show a glossy, polished look. He produced some of the best Doctor Who there ever was (Curse of Fenric, Vengeance on Varos, Frontios).

He was a man who was very fond of surprising his audience. Who would have guessed the Cybermen were behind the bomb in Earthshock? Who would have thought they could employ somebody as young as Peter Davison to play the Doctor? Who would have followed up such a 'four square fellow' with Colin Baker? Who would have employed Bonnie Langford as a companion? Who would if need be get on the set direct parts of his show himself? What I love about the guy is how he made no apologies for these changes, even if they weren't well received by the fans. His constant abuse of K.9 was a particular delight. Of all the producers in the show he was the least safe, the other all found comfortable fomulas and pretty much stuck by them. JNT had no formula. He didn't want the show to be predictable. He killed off Adric (god bless you John).

As I understand his relationship with Eric Saward wasn't a smooth one. You couldn't really tell on screen as there was a consistency throughout his producership that I find admirable. Aside from a few exceptions nearly all of his shows LOOKED great. The scripts were often every bit as bold and brilliant as the show itself. He listened to the fans and often gave them what they wanted (more Cybermen, Daleks!). He gave us some glorious foreign shoots.

People complain about his 'guest star' ploicy but I found it a bold innovation! Why not? Bring in well known actors to boost the ratings! Genius! We fans can now force our mums to watch just so they can see Beryl Reid, Lynda bellingham, etc. And more often than not they were astonishing in their parts. Who could forget Maurice Colbourne's icy Lytton or John Stratton's brilliant Shockeye...and especially Nicholas Parsons who was heavily criticised before the show aired and turned out to be one the best things about the wonderful Curse of Fenric!

There was a clear affection for his work throughout and I was lucky enough to be firm follower of DWM when he wrote his memoirs for the show. They were absolutely compelling. To realise all the problems he suffered during his tenure and yet to still provide a great show takes not only talent but a genius. JNT was that man and we should thank our lucky stars that he fought as hard as he did.

Television has lost one of it's finest and we have all lost a good friend to the show. I cried the day I discovered the news of his death. Let's all remember a the good things about his time on his show. He deserves every bit of praise that he gets.

Understanding Strange Places, Making New Worlds by Mike Morris

A review of Christopher Bidmead's contribution to Doctor Who.

Christopher Hamilton Bidmead is a strangely influential figure where Doctor Who is concerned. Script editor for just one year, and contributor of only three televised stories, he shouldn't by numbers be as important as he is. He's every bit as important to Doctor Who's eighties evolution as Eric Saward or Andrew Cartmel, and seems to divide opinion as much as the other two. He caused Doctor Who's descent from popular drama / he brought seriousness back to what had become a pantomime production; he introduced a new discipline to Doctor Who / he fatally refocused the programme's attention away from simple storytelling. As with all opinions, all the above have foundation. But, even in though I accept that his approach had many flaws, I would still class him as a damn good script editor and a damn good writer too. I only wish he had stayed another year, as a single season isn't really enough to fully understand what his thoughts were on the programme, and exactly what his influence on the output was.

So to help, here's a quote from a really wonderful and revealing interview with Bidmead, contained in DWM #257 - 259.

"I saw possibilities for Doctor Who, not as a format, but as an engine for generating ideas and stories using the unique character of the Doctor within a disciplined landscape. (...) My feeling then, as now, is that there was some kind of serious quest there. Science provided the landscape and the Doctor and his conflicts provided the morality play element, and you had the job of pulling it together into a unified whole so that you were within the disciplines of drama and storytelling."

I think that's a rather beautiful aim. Given that we've had a fair few script editors who didn't really have a "vision" for Doctor Who, or at least let that vision drift as they stayed on, if nothing else one has to admire the strength of Bidmead's ambition. He has shipped a lot of criticism, particularly from Williams-era lovers, for being some horrible schoolteacher-type who stopped the brilliant classroom fun of Season 17 because he wanted to start a science lesson. That's not completely true, since many Season 18 stories have some very funny bits indeed, and give or take the odd burgundy coat and talk of tachyons The Leisure Hive, Meglos and State of Decay could all have been broadcast in the previous season without raising an eyebrow. What's more, the elements Bidmead refers to in the above quote are ones Graham Williams would have approved of - "generating ideas", "the unique character of the Doctor", "morality play", "drama and storytelling".

The two seasons are, of course, vastly different. It's the biggest revamp in Doctor Who's history, with the exception of Season Seven. It's also a very proud revamp; by giving The Leisure Hive such a striking visual style, as well as the new synthesised music and title sequence, Season Eighteen screams about the fact that "no, I'm not like that any more!" A lot of these elements, though, are superficial JNT gimmicks which have become the subject of too much focus. The actual difference in terms of scripts is more subtle, and more important.

The talk of the stories being about "concepts and ideas" is partly true, but not fully. Stories like The Pirate Planet and Nightmare of Eden are all about their ideas anyway, as are most Williams-era stories; it's just that those ideas are revealed in a different way. To understand what changed it's necessary to look at the Williams era for a moment.

I've argued on these pages before that the Williams era isn't all about plotting, as is sometimes supposed. Rather, it's about characters, and here's where the difference lies. It's about people doing things. When one thinks of, say, The Ribos Operation the things that come to mind are Binro, Garron and Unstoffe, and the Graf Vynda-K. All these people are carrying out - or have carried out - very specific actions, and the story springs from that. The environment of Ribos is only really fleshed out by the character of Binro and the things he has done, and the Doctor isn't really interested in Ribos as a place. The Ribos Operation is, therefore, perfect character-based drama.

Most of Season Eighteen, by contrast, is about what places are like. Three things to remember about Full Circle are Mistfall, the evolution concept, and the Teradonians/Alzarians and how they live. Whereas the drama of The Ribos Operation is about what people are doing right now, the narrative of Full Circle is a process of the Doctor discovering, bit by bit, how things have been for generations - and this is true for most stories in the season. This gives tales a new discipline. Both seasons are about ideas. In the world of Season Sixteen and Seventeen pretty much anything can happen provided it makes sense for a character to want it to happen. The idea of a planet being hollow, for example, is just ludicrous (it would kind of wreck the gravity for one thing) but what's important is why it's hollow, not how. In Season Eighteen, meanwhile, we want to know how something is possible rather than why it's happened. We're more interested in how the Marshmen evolve than in why they want to smash in the Starliner.

This is what makes The Leisure Hive so odd. Pitched at Douglas Adams and developed by Bidmead, it shows the two approaches jarring together. The Hive, the Generator, the time experiments and the life of the Argolins is pure Bidmead (and most of these thread are actually written by him). Meanwhile, the lizard-mafia buy out and Pangol's march to war are very much Graham Williams ideas. The two things just don't go together, and The Leisure Hive falls apart in Part Four as ideas are left unexplained, while at the same time the logic of the plot breaks down. And Meglos is bizarre, a weird throwback to the previous season (jokey monster, silly planet, gaudy characters) which might have been better-rated had it been broadcast then, with more Bidmead ideas popping up every now and then - notably the chronic hysteresis. State of Decay is similarly out of place - the Hammer Horror pastiche is rather undermined by stubborn Bidmead attempts at introducing elements of logic and science, such as the tower-as-spaceship and the "technocotheca". Er, what?

Full Circle, meanwhile, is the perfect Christopher H. Bidmead story. It's fundamentally based on the environment where it takes place. The characters aren't the things that drive the plot, rather they're functions of the environment. There aren't any villains, and the monsters are also products of the life cycle which the story is about. All the events take place because of the nature of Alzarius, and in a wonderfully seamless way the ideas become the story. Warriors' Gate, the great story of the season, is similar in that it is fundamentally about the E-Space/N-Space landscape (albeit in a very oblique way), and pretty much everything else springs from that.

The Keeper of Traken is slightly different. It's about Traken, sure, but it's also about the Master. It's based on the Melkur and what it does, and hence is much more about a single person's plan than any other story. At the same time, though, it's still not quite Graham Williams-type stuff. The Melkur and the Master aren't really characters, just a sort of nameless evil which wishes to take control of Traken. Melkur provides the drama to keep us entertained, but ideas such as the Source, the Consuls and the Traken society are what really carries the story.

The Keeper of Traken is also my Exhibit A in another argument. Christopher H. Bidmead supposedly goes hand-in-hand with the idea of science. His stories are all about scientific concepts, apparently. Hmm, hum. The Keeper of Traken seems to blow this theory out of the water, because it's incredibly unscientific. Goodness is so strong on Traken that any evil will shrivel up and die? Please. If that's scientific, I'm a banana. State of Decay ain't really kosher science either, and various events during the season - such as the Doctor and Romana's escape from the chronic hysteresis - are, scientifically at least, rubbish. And, in his own stories, there's a similar lack of any scientific sense. Anyone who knows anything about physics will be aware that the basis for Logopolis is absolute garbage (entropy isn't some magical green force that disintegrates things, folks) and quite what a "gravity beam" is I have no idea.

It's not really about science, it's about rules. Traken is a fairytale world, but it's a world with a clearly-defined logic to it, as is Alzarius, as is the Vampire's planet, as is Logopolis itself and the universe it inhabits. Often in Season Eighteen the Doctor takes twenty minutes or so to arrive, and the first episode is concerned with clearly setting up the things the Doctor as to deal with. This is why the Doctor is often so withdrawn during the season, as he really has to understand everything about the planet he's on before he can act, and he can't just solve things by inverting the gravity field into a hyperspatial force-field around the planet and dropping the shrunken planets into the hollow centre of Zanak.

The chronic hysteresis is a very good example of this. It's about the idea of a time loop rather than the science of a time loop. The way the Doctor and Romana escape is very real and well thought out and visible on-screen, a solution according to the rules even if the rules are a load of crap. It's an escape that really makes the viewer think about what a time loop is. It's a sharp contrast to The Claws of Axos, where a time loop is a magical thing that makes everything better, and the Doctor can escape by "boosting the circuits and breaking free." Not a scientific idea, just a disciplined one.

It's odd then, given all this talk of "discipline", just how undisciplined Logopolis and Castrovalva are.

Undisciplined in a sense, that is. There have never been two stories with such a lack of structure. And yet their (lack of) structure is very similar; an early TARDIS-based subplot, a lull as the Doctor travels to the eponymous destination, a discovery of a secret behind the nature of the place, and finally a struggle with the Master. But compared to the usual economical narrative of Doctor Who, having the Doctor muck about with a wholly inconsequential gravity bubble is bizarre. The first episode of Logopolis is almost completely unnecessary to the plot. This was, and still is, unheard of in Doctor Who's history. When people talk about the loose plotting, the reliance on set-pieces and the more restrained Doctor that pervades Season Eighteen, it's really this story they're talking about. Fair enough; it's reasonable to assume that, as Bidmead wrote this, it's where he wanted the programme to go. That said, it's a "special" story, a regeneration story, and it's possible that he wouldn't have written a mid-season tale this way. As a one-off Logopolis is a fine regeneration story, but it isn't a formula that could be too often repeated and one suspects that Bidmead would know this. Still, it does tell us a lot about Bidmead's idea of storytelling.

Logopolis is incredibly consistent in so far as it is about a single, clear idea; dissolution, decay, entropy, call it what you like. In this story the Doctor, the TARDIS and the universe itself are all at the point of death, and all seek regeneration. The theme of entropy is carefully chosen - it's important that the universe isn't endangered by a mega-bomb or anything like that, but that it passed the point of total collapse long ago. The universe is re-invigorated by a block transfer computation, as is the TARDIS; and the TARDIS is regenerated by receiving a new exterior, as is the Doctor. Amid the rather unconnected events of gravity bubbles, shrinking TARDISes and accidental materialisations in dry dock this thematic consistency gives a funeral atmosphere that makes Logopolis work. Try showing this to someone and not telling them it's a regeneration story; they'll have guessed by the end of episode one.

So Logopolis is about a single idea, and the energy of the story is in establishing that idea at multiple levels. To do this it rewrites physics. "Entropy" (in reality just a shorthand for things falling apart) is portrayed as a sort of negative energy that can be generated and drained away. "Entropy increases," says the Doctor, making it seem as though he's fighting against something real and tangible. In a very real way, Logopolis sees the Doctor battling against decay, and this is what makes it so emotive - the science is rubbish, but the concept isn't.

Also obvious in Logopolis is Bidmead's fascination with the TARDIS, which continues on to the next story, Castrovalva. These two stories are very much a pair, with one a mirror-image of the other. Logopolis is about dissolution, Castrovalva is about birth. At the start of Logopolis the Doctor contemplates death in the Cloister Room; in Castrovalva he prepares for his new life in the Zero Room. Logopolis shows us the death of the universe, Castrovalva its birth; and while Logopolis shows us a city falling apart, Castrovalva creates a city from nowhere. Logopolis has, as I said, a funeral atmosphere, and using the same techniques Castrovalva establishes a freshness that overruns the utter lack of any plot.

Put the two together and you have a perfect but extreme template for the Christopher H. Bidmead story. They are about creating universes; about understanding ideas; about the Doctor reacting to the environment he's in. During most of Season Eighteen the Doctor Who staples of setting, plotting and characterisation remain present, but Logopolis and Castrovalva show that this wasn't really where Bidmead's interest was.

Frontios, Bidmead's last script, is very different to anything else he ever did. This is possibly because Bidmead is a few years older, but more likely because he's working under a different script editor with different concerns. And yet the same elements crop up; the fascination with the TARDIS being the most obvious, especially as it's rather shoehorned in this time.

The same old concern with creating a self-sustaining environment remains, however. By projecting the TARDIS beyond the confines of Time Lord knowledge the story effectively isolates itself from the rest of Doctor Who continuity, giving us instead a barren world where people struggle for survival. A big reason Frontios is so popular is the planet itself, which is such a perfectly evoked planet.

And, despite the rather corny and uninteresting "things-beneath-the-sand" plot, Frontios is about a concept - or rather, two. This time the concepts aren't remotely scientific, but sociological. And, as ever, they appear in multiple layers. One concept is about things concealed and hidden away; the contents of the colony ship, deaths unaccountable, Turlough's race memories and the Tractators themselves are all uncomfortable truths, suppressed and concealed, which resurface with varying results.

The other concept is very much about society. The story is about leaders, and how energies remain unfocused without them. This is an unusually authoritarian stance for Doctor Who (and one I find uncomfortable), but it makes its case well. Life on the colony ship is difficult, but the Retrogrades are savage by comparison - until, that is, they elect a leader. Similarly, Captain Revere is convinced the colony will fall apart should Plantagenet die. The Tractators are the ultimate embellishment of this view, a mass of senseless animals once their leader is gone. This idea repeats itself in other, abstract areas. Leaders focus the power of the many; also, the machine focuses the disparate energy of the mind, the tunnels focus the gravity beams of the Tractators, and the Tractators focus gravity itself into something powerful. Bidmead's most disciplined script is actually about discipline. Given Who's traditionally anarchic stance this is odd, and yet supremely realistic. Bidmead doesn't portray the leader-led society as perfect, in fact it's deeply flawed and repressive. He just says that anarchy is worse, an easy alternative that will never work in practise, an excuse not to face difficult realities. And while I'd like to think otherwise he's probably right.

Frontios is uniformly popular (even Joe Ford likes it!), in spite of the fact that it's not particularly special in any obvious way. It's a perfectly routine story, in fact; what lifts it above others is the consistency of its realisation. In this respect it is Christopher H. Bidmead's magnum opus. Giant woodlice making tunnels beneath the ground isn't the stuff of greatness. But by containing the carefully-conceived environment and conceptual rigour that Bidmead felt to be so important, it becomes one of the best stories of the Davison years.

Also worth a quick mention; Frontios, like Castrovalva, like Logopolis, is incredibly witty with good characters. I've not focused on these elements, because I don't think they're what Bidmead primarily concentrated on. That doesn't mean he wasn't good at these things, though. He consistently wrote well for the Doctor (Frontios is the Fifth Doctor's most energetic appearance), and also had a good handle on the companions - he's the only writer to really capture the friendship between Nyssa and Tegan. His dialogue is always sharp and often very funny. In fact, he seems to find these things so easy that he didn't bother focusing on them that much, a testament to his ability.

And so, Christopher Hamilton Bidmead; what did he contribute to Doctor Who? A hell of a lot, I'd argue. A fine season, and three fine stories. But more, he contributed a vision, an ideal of what Doctor Who should be about. That vision was strong, beautiful, and unique to Doctor Who. Compared to, say, Terrance Dicks, his output wasn't that high, but I would still suggest he bears comparison with people like Terrance and Robert Holmes. It's time that Christopher Bidmead started getting the credit he deserves as one of the best and most influential writers ever to have worked on the programme.

My favourite alien race by David Barnes 12/7/02

The Ice Warriors first appeared in a sixties story of the same name, battling the second Doctor. Now this wasn't my first story with the Martians (mine was Curse of Peladon) but this story encapsulates many of the Martian traits.

Now, Doctor Who was bound to feature Martians, but rather than use little green men, they used very large green men! The Ice Warriors (so called because of a scientist giving a name to the creature he has found in the ice; the term Ice Warrior is not used often by the Martians themselves) are a very noble race that usually get much better dialogue than Cybermen, Daleks, Sontarons etc. Quite often, nobility can be quite boring but the Ice Warriors never got boring (although there are several gaps in my knowledge of Ice Warrior stories; I have never read The Dying Days or Godengine and have never listened to Red Dawn).

The Ice Warriors features 5 Martians: the leader Varga (who gets most of the dialogue), Zondal the second in command who is notably more bloodthirsty than his leader and Turoc, Isbur and Rintan who just stand around making up the numbers and chase after people. The Ice Warriors are one of the first alien races to actually give names to each other (usually alien races have a name for their leader but that's it), although this approach was dropped for their later stories.

Now, The Ice Warriors is not a very good story really (out of the four TV appearances it is the worst) as it is a bit dull but the whole story does introduce the Martians wonderfully (aside from some dodgy lines such as "Your Doctor friend porked.")

Their next story was the far greater Seeds of Death. This introduces a proper caste system (although Varga was a leader he looked roughly the same as his warriors). An Ice Lord (never explicitly referred as such on screen) makes a first appearance in the form of Slaar. Slaar isn't very noble, he is very sadistic and arrogant. He doesn't consider the humans very strong at all, and even worse, underestimates the Doctor (which of course leads to his downfall). A Grand Marshall (sic) also makes an appearance on a screen, who is really in charge of the scheme.

Unfortunatly, with leaders being introduced, the other Warriors are neglected (as is always the case; notice what happened when Davros and the Cyberleader appeared) and are left to just standing around in the background and shooting people. But there is a marvellous sequence of scenes showing an Ice Warrior walking to the Weather Control Bureau (that shot of him standing in the trees is very creepy).

There is an odd bit in this story, that contradicts every other Martian story. An Ice Warrior is killed with a heat weapon and it seems that he melts! The Ice Warriors states that the Warriors are wearing armour and other stories make it blindingly obvious that the Warriors are not made of ice!

The Curse of Peladon was their next foray, this time with Pertwee's Doctor. This time, the production team made the clever move of making the Warriors goodies; throughout the story the Doctor is reluctant to trust them until it is obvious that they mean him no harm. This is my favourite Martian story. It is a really good story on its own but the warriors (only two this time, Lord Izlyr and a troop called Ssorg) are given marvellous dialogue and their honour and nobility shine. Izlyr is always trying to help the Doctor ever since the Doctor saved him from being crushed by a statue at the beginning of Part 2.

The Monster of Peladon, a sequel to Curse, is almost universally hated by most fans but I like it quite a lot! The Warriors first appear in a superb cliffhanger at the end of part 3. Again we have the Lord + Subordinate pairing (Azaxyr and Skell) but there is an army as well. Unfortuantly, with the exception of the main duo, the other Warriors don't seem to be in the best of nick. Many of the costumes are mismatched and one Warrior isn't even wearing the makeup around his chin. But luckily the lines given to Azaxyr more than make up for the other failings of the Warriors.

These were the only appearances on TV for the Warriors. A story was proposed, Mission to Magnus, for the 6th Doctor but was never realised on television. However it was released in book form. The Warriors are quite good but are somewhat underused, probably due to various other baddies in the story, such as the Mentor Sil.

Legacy was a New Adventure and is a cracking novel! This was the first New Adevnture I actually enjoyed. The Warriors are marvellous and are greatly expanded. The fact that this is another Peladon story (the third in a trilogy) makes it all the better. I really liked this book and I really want to get my hands on GodEngine but alas it is very hard to come by.

As I have said, I cannot comment on The Dying Days or Red Dawn as I do not possess them.

There was an Ice Warrior as a companion in a comic strip with the 8th Doctor at some point but I know little of him, other than his name is Ssard. He does make an appearance at the beginning of Placebo Effect but dosn't really contribute to the story, being as it is a story that already uses two past adversaries, the Foamasi and the Wirrn. Overall though, this is a very good book and is one of my favourite EDA's.

So, the Ice Warriors have made many appearances, on TV, on audio, in books and in comic strips. They are one of the big 5 adversaries of Doctor Who (the others being the Master, Daleks, Sontarons and Cybermen) even though they are not always the bad guys! The fact that you can't always tell whether they are going to be on the Doctor's side or not helps to make them a really 3 dimensional alien race. They are my favourite aliens of Doctor Who.

But after all this is said and done, what do I know? After all, I like the Gundan robots of Warriors Gate...