The Leisure Hive
Full Circle
State of Decay
Warriors' Gate
The Keeper of Traken
Season Eighteen


A Review by Mike Morris 30/5/00

A note for the uninitiated.

The TV serial Doctor Who ran for 26 years or so. Because of this inordinate length of time, fans tend to divide it into "eras". Examples; The Williams era, The Hinchcliffe era, The Cartmel era, the Pertwee era, Season Eighteen...

Er, what? Season Eighteen? That's not much of an era, is it?

And this is Season Eighteen's major problem. Lots of fans like it. Very few fans hate it, and the ones that do are just pissed off because it took the Williams era away from them (a crass generalisation, but hey...). But no-one really trusts it. It isn't part of an era. It's too odd. It's... well... what do you make of Season Eighteen?

I like it, a lot. In fact, it's part of my "favourite seasons" triad (16 and 26 are the other two, if you're interested). I like it because of the quality of its stories, the intelligent approach to SF, the variation of the stories, the portrayal of the Doctor... I could wax lyrical for a long time, but I think you'll have heard all that before. So I'm going to write a more defensive but (hopefully) more interesting review instead.

Various criticisms that have been made of my beloved season - it transformed Doctor Who from a mainstream show to a niche show, it's too complicated, it's incestuous, it's far too straight-laced after the wonderful anarchy of the Williams era, it shifted the show's era to special effects and set-pieces.

If I may refute, Madam Speaker...

Season Eighteen is not responsible for Doctor Who's decline. Pointing at its viewing figures misses the point. Doctor Who's viewing figures had been sliding all through the Williams era; the massive figures for Season Seventeen were distorted by the ITV strike. If the content of Season Eighteen was responsible, then the viewing figures would have slid as it progressed. In fact, they rallied somewhat after the (shocking) low of Full Circle. The fact is that Doctor Who was being given serious competition by ITV for the first time, and as a result the viewers dropped off a little.

The supposed reason for the slide in viewers was the new, more complex storylines. Er, what? Is State of Decay complicated? Is Meglos complicated? The dialogue may have a few words like "CVE" and "tachyons" dropped in, but the essence of the storylines is still pretty simple. Even Logopolis is quite simple once you probe beneath the talk about entropy - A bunch of monks are chanting, if they stop the universe will fall apart. The only genuinely complex story is Warrior's Gate - but it's so bloody good that I don't really care.

And Season Eighteen is not straight-laced, at least not early on. The Doctor's moody side really only pops up in Warrior's Gate and Logopolis, and in both those stories it's highly appropriate. Full Circle and The Leisure Hive are full of jokes; the scene in State of Decay where the Doctor gets hit by a door is one of the funniest bits of physical comedy in Who.

Oh yeah, and then there's the emphasis on special effects at the expense of plot. Sure, Season Eighteen has gaping holes in the plot. And that had never happened before...? The concentration on set-pieces lead to some of Who's most memorable images; the Marshmen rising from the water in Full Circle, the spinning coin in Warrior's Gate...

There's a tendency, I think, to confuse the actual content of Season Eighteen with Chris Bidmead's vision for Doctor Who. Chris Bidmead may have produced a completely inaccessible series if he'd have been allowed to stay in the helm. But he didn't, and what he left behind was a season based on hugely varied themes. There's the gothic horror of State of Decay, the anarchic silliness of Meglos, the fairy-tale that is The Keeper of Traken, the haunting SF of Warrior's Gate. Give or take a burgundy coat or two, it's hard to believe that these stories all took place in the same season.

Besides, the bottom line is quality. I don't care what my Who is like, whether it's Williams-esque or Cartmel-esque, so long as it's good. And the quality of Season Eighteen is astonishing; the last three stories, in particular, are masterpieces.

Season Eighteen isn't "the return to serious drama" that it's so often characterised as. It's something weird and wonderful; it's varied, and rich, and it's the kind of season that only a show like Doctor Who could come up with. And yes, I'm glad Chris Bidmead didn't stay on, because yes, I think he may well have wrecked our beloved show. But he didn't. And what he left behind is a sequence of stories which haven't been seen in any SF series before or since.

And that can't be bad, can it?

A Friendly Intervention by Matthew Brenner 7/6/00

Mike Morris is a friend of mine, even though I've never met him. I say that because based on his reviews, I feel I know him. Because of his great gift of gab, and because he has so much more energy to write these reviews than I do, I've come to adopt a great many of his viewpoints as my own. But I feel the time has come for this particular friend to attempt an "intervention," if you will. I will attempt to show Mike, by my persuasive arguing skills - and by threat of force if necessary, that Season 18 of Doctor Who is 100 percent Flap-Doodle from beginning to end. It was so Toxic, in fact, that it nearly killed Tom Baker. I recommend that you all go out and read John Nathan-Turner's The Tardis Inside-Out, probably the most mis-titled book (if you can call it a "book") that has ever been published. It has a fascinating segment in it about an illness suffered by Tom Baker during the recording of Season 18, which peaked during the filming of the story State of Decay. He even looks emaciated in certain scenes of that story, having shed two stone, which is a lot of weight indeed (my British friends will know how much; 18 pounds? 24 pounds? A lot.). His naturally curly hair, it was reported by Turner, had gone straight as a result of this mystery illness which Baker had contracted and had to be permed (the first time the make-up department ever had to intervene to achieve the famous "Baker" look). Finally Tom took himself to a doctor, a real doctor. When his worst fears were overcome - that he was in fact not dying from a hideous disease - he made a rather speedy recovery. Looking back now, with the benefit of hindsight and the Doctor Who Ratings Guide to keep us warm on cold winter nights and with only a fifth-generation copy of Meglos in the house, it is plain to see what the sickness is and always was: the Doctor did die during that season folks, I'm sad to say. It happened sometime between the stories The Leisure Hive and Logopolis. I maintain that it happened slowly, bit by bit, by accretion - during all of these stories. And while Tom Baker fought it valiantly through the first half of the filming of the season, he resigned himself to fate and history at some key point part way through. And that's when he quit the show. He gained his weight back, his hair re-curled itself. And that was that. What killed the fourth Doctor was the slow, mind-numbing attrition of that season's stories. As has been said elsewhere, most prophetically by those professional Nathan-Turner Bashers "The Two In The Tardis": "All of the stories [of Season 18] ring incredibly hollow." Far be it from me to attempt to review them here. It's been done and a lot better - certainly more earnestly - by people like Mike Morris. But whereas Morris sees "classic" as the sum total of the parts of Season 18, I see something far more dark and ominous. It was the first time in Doctor Who when style triumphed over substance.

Whatever you believe you saw happen in Season 18 - and indeed, we can be agreed that something did happen - it represents a far more seismic event than an "era" of the show. It is the defining moment in the later years of Who. It set the tone and caliber of all the remaining years. And responsibility for that rests squarely on the shoulders of the producer: John Nathan-Turner. 'im again!

First: a quick digression. Fans are instinctively smart, especially Doctor Who fans. Because of the wide breadth of the show's history and because it is all...somehow....connected, we tend not to take ourselves as seriously as do Star Trek or Star Wars fans; and despite what this review may seem, we are extremely tolerant of differences of opinion, even welcoming. It's as if the show has gotten into us somehow, and we're all part of the "revolving Tardis crew". We realize, as Colin Baker once said, that "[everyone] could be a Doctor...some would be 2-minute Doctors; and some would be 7-year Doctors like Tom's." We know that, like the Good Doctor, it's a waste of energy to be too opinionated about anything; to like or hate something inordinately is rather a sign of weakness. And so we mistrust Season 18. That's the key, right there. And it's what I hinge the rest of my arguing on, and indeed, this entire "intervention."

The quality of the stories in Season 18 is just not there. Take the E-Space Trilogy: State of Decay describes the state that script was in when they took it from the shelf marked "Old Terrence Dicks scripts" and dusted it off. Full Circle can be summarized with far less tedium in one paragraph; it became an hour and a half-long show. In Warrior's Gate Costume and Makeup become shorthand for characterization. And don't forget it was Season 18 that put those dreadful Question Marks on the lapels of the Doctor's shirt. And so the fans mistrust Season 18 - give them credit! The Doctor went from being a cooly anonymous and adventurous wanderer to the doorprize-winner at the Annual Costume Ball, all in one season.

I sense that my friend Mike is amending with one hand what he writes with another when he says: "Sure, Season Eighteen has gaping holes in the plot. And that had never happened before...?" Rarely. And at the best of times I would answer no, it didn't, for periods that were as refreshingly long in Television history as they were real. From The War Games to Terror of the Autons (comprising 39 episodes); from The Ark In Space to Genesis of the Daleks (12 episodes); and from The Deadly Assassin to Horror of Fang Rock (22 episodes), to cite just a few: these periods were almost flawlessly executed. Whatever deficiencies they had plot holes were not one of them. But whereas a great Who story is richly detailed in plot and characters, making great fodder for fans of all stripes and critical eloquence, it takes a genius level I.Q. to see depth in Season 18. And that's where the intervention comes in. Mike, you must believe me when I say I act out of the same selfless core that true friendship springs from. For I believe in my heart that you are only projecting your own brilliance onto the prat and baubles and poppycock that is Season 18. What you call "weird and wonderful...varied, and rich" is your own review. I understand that this season is one of the three pillars of your triumverate - 16, 18, 26. But it is time to kick out the offending pillar and replace it with another - any one! One like Season 20, which, though it still falls under Nathan-Turner's reign, still represents for him the best confluence of talent at one time and in one season.

So, I do not want to demean your effort. In fact I'll say it again: your reviews are on-the-mark 89% of the time, and entertaining almost twice as much. And where my favorite 3 seasons would be 7, 14, and 16, I'm prepared to compromise with you on one of them. But please, let it not be Season 18.

Three's a Crowd by Rob Matthews 2/7/00

Whereas Mike Morris reviewed this as a stand-alone season, Matthew Brenner sees it more as a link in a chain, as the beginning of the end. I grew up on DW from season 18 onwards. One of my earliest memories is the image of the Marshmen emerging from the swamp in Full Circle. Another is that of the Melkur/Tardis. One more is the Master 'absorbing' Tremas. Tardises landing inside each other. And finally, the saga of the Watcher. Bearing in mind that I must only have been two years old when the season was broadcast, it surely says something about the potency of these images that they've stuck with me ever since.

Naturally, I was unable to grasp most of the ideas on display at that time, but the basic emphasis of this season continued right through the Davison and Colin Baker years, by which time I was on my way to understanding them a little better.

And I'd like to agree with Mike. Season eighteen is one of the show's best. Or should I say, most interesting. I mean, another of my favourites is season 22. But that's not because it's consistently good; it's because the giddy mix of brilliance and rubbish intrigues me. Season eighteen took Doctor Who right back to its original brief. An entertaining family show that was educational for children. This is what Who was meant to be before it was derailed by Daleks. Of course, it had evolved into other things over the years: fantasy, schlock, horror, comedy, pantomime; but at heart it was meant to educate.

And that's what this season did. It presented a mathematical view of the universe, grappling with concepts like entropy and evolution, and introducing wonderful phrases like Charged Vacuum Emboitment to the vocabularies of children. As I say, I didn't understand a word when I was two, but the legacy lasted throughout most of JNT's tenure -- The Two Doctors was my introduction to genetics, to words like Nuclei and Symbiosis; the Valeyard's description of his accelerator gizmo in The Ultimate Foe made me aware of subatomic particles; from Revelation of the Daleks I learned that the human body is 'an excellent source of concentrated protein'. You might think it would scare a kid to know that his body can be used as food, but education is education.

Maybe that's what people have a problem with where season 18 is concerned. The 'magic' is taken from the show and replaced by reductionism, determinism. The universe is mathematics. So what are we humans? An equation? A small sum? I suspect that kids aren't as scared of these ideas as adults are, because their minds are open and they have less awareness of death. Most adults are probably more akin to the procrastinating Alzarians, locked deep in denial and unwilling to accept things that don't sit well with their worldview. The trouble is, if you take quasi-religion and mysticism from the show, there's a great risk of it feeling hollow. A certain sterility set in during the ensuing Davison years. Hence, about ten years down the line, things had turned around again and the Doctor faced Fenric -- a villain who was basically Satan. That would never have happened in season 18. But the most interesting thing about Doctor Who is its capacity for change, and that's why season 18 is so striking.

There's a mistake in season 19's Earthshock that you probably know about. The freighter travels back in time but is still 'locked on to the same spatial co-ordinates' and so is still heading for Earth. We like to point out that Earth would not have been in the same spatial position 65 million years ago and ha ha! They've made a mistake. But I wonder if I'd still have spotted that mistake had I not grown up on post-season 18 Doctor Who.

Oh, I should address the introduction of the question marks. They suck.

Braving new territories... by Joe Ford 24/4/02

Season Eighteen burst onto the screens in 1980, the first fully produced season by the controversial JNT. Graham Williams was chastised for ruining Doctor Who 22 years ago and people leapt on the more serious tone JNT and Chris Bidmead were going for but since then the Williams era has had a re-surge of popularity so just how well does season 18 fare in 2002….

The Leisure Hive.
Very good. Backing onto The Horns of Nimon I cannot think of two Who stories that are so utterly different in every way. The Leisure Hive is sophisticated, intelligent, superbly acted and beautifully put together by a director with aspirations for movie direction. Just listen to the music, rather than just punctuating the action it actually tells the story in places and quite stunningly I must add. If I had a serious complaint is that it piles on the technobabble a little too much leaving thicko Joe a little none the wiser during the more scientific of scenes. Probably the ultimate effects show with glorious exterior shots of The Hive with swirling radioactive dust. Tom Baker is suitably subdued as the older Doctor (and I LOVE that costume!) and Lalla Ward is as sumptuous as ever. All in all a very strong, clever tale: 9/10
Top moment: Don't look in the cupboard Stimpson! Oops too late…now you're marked.
Top dialogue: "His scarf killed Stimpson!" "Arrest the scarf then!"

Not popular this one and yet I quite enjoy it if only for the return of Jaqueline Hill (our very own Barbara!) to the show. This is another one of my 'guilty indulgence' shows, one that I will only watch alone because of the stoopid blond haircuts, the crappy giant cactus, the terrible desert CSO, the constant abuse of K.9. (haha!), etc. I love Broderdec and his chums, what a daft bunch! The time loop is actually handled fairly well as is the double Doctor which Tom Baker pulls off with his usual aplomb. And can you think of anything more creepy than cactus man….eugh! It's far from perfect bit there is enough to keep you interested (and laughing): 6/10
Top moment: The Doctor coming in after Meglos. "This is your second visit" "I say you've got a marvellous memory!"…very funny.
Top dialogue: "I like his coat!"

Full Circle.
Excellent. The first episode alone is such a triumph, well paced, looks gorgeous, full of incident and intruige. Matthew Waterhouse makes his debut as Adric and for the most part he's quite acceptable (he always seems to try harder next to Tom Baker) although Varsh would have made a much better companion. A shame. The story is full of memorable images…the Marshmen rising from the waters, the TARDIS vanishing, the Marshman tearing up the laboratory, Romana's infection…Peter Grimwade's direction is nothing short of perfect with only the Marsh Spiders ruining the glossy, polished look of the show. The location work is fab especially Adric's breathless chase through the woodland and Decider Draiths terrifying demise. Nice twists too. And a heartwarming yet thrilling ending. Very, very good: 9.5/10
Top moment: Mist swirling, K.9. bleeping, sun shining and suddenly nasty aliens start to rise in slow motion out of the lake….
Top dialogue: "Nobody knows how to pilot this ship." and Tom Baker subsequent reaction.

State of Decay.
Worth watching for Tom Baker's last great OTT performance. He and Lalla Ward are so perfect together in this story they make it an underated gem. It's a pleasant tip back to the gothic stories of the Hinchcliffe era full of thicko yokels, blood sucking vampires, gloomy woods, flocks of bats, giant vampires…it could have been really SCARY but Terrance Dicks adds a lot of comedy and it is pulled of so well by the actors the end result is vastly entertaining. Despite some terrible fight scenes, some beards that make my goatie look GOOD and that sky ray lollipop rocket at the end I give this a hearty reccomendation, it's the end of an era chaps and things would never be the same again. Oh and aren't the Three Who Rule just great, such sensual villains (mind all that subtext with Camilla, Aukon and Adric is just plain disturbing!): 9/10
Top moment: "What is it? WHAT IS IT?" "You jumped on my toe!"…I just love these two!
Top dialogue: "Why am I still afraid?" Not often we see villains with this depth, cherish them.

Warriors' Gate.
This is a clever mystery wrapped up in a solid production. There are loads of 'huh?' moments and loads of 'WOW!' moments, loads of laughs and some seriously f**ked up death scenes. Lalla Ward should have got a larger share of the action considering it's her last story but her final scene is great and very true to character. The timelines and the gateway are all brought to screen inventively and some of the effects (the end of episode three, Biroc entering the TARDIS) are excellent. It commits a real sin…it just doesn't make any bloody sense! After four of five viewings I have a rough grasp on things but it still leaves me baffled. And therefore, irritated: 8/10
Top moment: Romana's smug back chat to the useless crew outside the TARDIS.
Top dialogue: "There's a hole in the hull big enough to step through. In fact, I just did!"

The Keeper of Traken.
Do you know as bizarre as this sounds but this reminds me affectionately of The Aztecs, one of my favourites. An all studio production, a very alien culture, political wranglings, an evil force spreading throughout the peace…okay so I'm mad but this is still a wonderful story. The dialogue is mannered but more excellent for it and the sets are lovely, I especially love The Grove with the moon in the background. 'Melkur' makes a decent bad guy with a marvellously silky voice and the surprise ending with The Master is a promise of great things to come. I still think Tremas (and later The Portreeve, both non-Master roles) are Anthony Ainleys strongest moments in the show. And it introduces Nyssa, shooting loads of people which I just find ace: 9/10
Top moment: The opening TARDIS scenes show how well Doc 4 and Adric work. Who would have guessed?
Top dialogue: "What can't be cured must be endured" "That's the silliest thing you've ever said!" "Oh don't listen to me, I never do."

Frustrating because there is so much that is good about Logopolis and yet ultimately it's a little flat. Tegan gets a great entrance and has one of the most natural reactions to walking into the TARDIS ever, sheer terror. Tom Baker is perfect is the broody Doctor and the short clips with The Watcher make me shudder each time. The location work is again excellent especially the amusing chase scenes in episode four (with cool seventies chase music!). However after a good couple of epsiodes, epsiodes three and four are just monotonous with all this universe destroying, horribly overblown dialogue, poor sets and silly bits ("You revolting man!" Nyssa's strangulation bracelet!) and Ainley just has none of Delagado's subtlety when it comes to grandiose villany so you're left wondering how such a prat could scheme such a brilliant plan. The regeneration is okay though and does any agree with me that Aunty Vanessa is just great? Her and Tom Baker rattling around the Universe, now that I would PAY to see!: 7/10
Top moment: The Watcher melting into Tom Baker at the end…a great twist ending.
Top Dialogue: "Your aunt! Woman in the hat, red sports car?" "Have you seen her?" "Well a little of her."

Nothing lower than 6/10 and four 9/10's and above…season eighteen is very good indeed. JNT returned a little class back into Doctor Who by upping the budget, concentrating on set pieces and making the show LOOK good again. This is clearly the most stylish and effects-laden season we were afforded. Chris Bidmead brought science and tension back into the show…he has said that he re-wrote practically every story and it shows. There is a consistent quality in both plot and dialogue and some marvellous characters crop up this year. What a shame he was to leave after Castrovalva, I think a Bidmead scripted Davison season would have been wonderful. It's quite an emotional year all round we've regulars leaving and a new ensemble welcomed in (unfortunetely! Oh, except Nyssa, of course!) and I would say it is the fifth strongest season the show produced (after season five, season seven, season fourteen and season twenty six in no particular order). It shows you just how much JNT was actually capable of.

Every Which Way But Loose by Andrew Wixon 13/5/02

Any new DW producer's first season is interesting, as it usually takes a few stories for the new incumbent's vision for the series to take shape. This was never more true than in the case of the first two Tom Baker producers - season 12 kicks off with a Pertwee story in all but lead actor, but gradually ups the suspense, horror and drama quotients (well, Revenge of the Cybermen excepted) until Terror of the Zygons - which while Pertweeish on paper is decidedly not so on the screen. The same with Graham William's debut season - near the start are two gothic horror-ish thrillers but as things go on a much broader, space-operatic tone appears.

And as for season 18 - well, season 18 isn't quite the same thing. If there is a unifying vision behind the seven stories that comprise it, it's not immediately apparent - indeed, it almost seems like an attempt to make the seven most dramatically and stylistically diverse stories possible.

The Leisure Hive is a fairly routine Williams-style runaround, made utterly unrecognisable by extraordinarily flamboyant direction - to the point where the narrative suffers. Meglos is an intentionally old-fashioned story about a megalomaniac with a doomsday weapon (perhaps owing a little to Douglas Adams' Hitch-hiker stories). Full Circle kicks off a genuine story arc, of all things, and is one of the tiny number of stories not to have an actual villain. State of Decay, while bone-crackingly heavy-handed and unsubtle, is a solid traditional exercise in pastiche and atmosphere (mainly due to the age of the original script). Warrior's Gate is the most experimental and intentionally cryptic story of the lot, but succeeds brilliantly (probably) - it's genuine end-of-an-era stuff, too, with the departure of Romana and K9. The Keeper of Traken, to begin with at least, is a lyric fairytale (though it too has a huge role to play in the arc of the season). Logopolis, as well as being massively important in terms of the series history, also stands out as a rare classic not from the pulp SF/action-adventure tradition.

So if John Nathan-Turner had any vision at all in mind, it seems to be one of deliberately stretching the format of the series in every possible direction. Some of his story selections were, of course, forced on him by a lack of time and shortage of any other scripts, but by no means all of them. Rather than a specific vision, he seems more concerned with making individual stories to fit specific criteria: the traditional story, the monster story, the experimental story, and so on.

But there are quite a few threads binding the season together, and most of these come from Christopher Bidmead's script-editing. Most obviously there is the emphasis on science - both thematically and specifically - although it has to be said that much of the time the science in the stories is frankly rather suspect, from the magic tachyon generator of the Argolins to the amazing evolving Marshmen. Much more often, the science in the stories is there simply thematically, ascribed talismanic abilities to repel the forces of evil and darkness (in Meglos and State of Decay) or even save the universe through the power of pure maths (Logopolis). The Doctor repeats that he's a scientist so often it's almost like a mantra. The one exception to this fetishisation of science and its practitioners is in Full Circle, where the scientist Dexeter, while not actually evil, is certainly not depicted as a role-model.

The other main thread in the season is also thematic and revolves around (of course) entropy and the related concepts of closed, cyclic systems. Throughout the season people, spaceships, societies and universes both large and small get trapped in loops, face encroaching decline and fall, find themselves dragged back into the dark ages through lack of knowledge, and so on. From Meglos to - arguably - Warrior's Gate, the Doctor encounters four consecutive societies stuck in a rut of some kind, and suffering because of it. Both this thread and the scientific angle are epitomised brilliantly by Bidmead's own Logopolis. On this evidence he invented the thematic story arc as we know it (season 16 comprises six linked stories, but the linking is purely narrative, rather than thematic) and deserves major reassessment as both writer and script-editor.

But beyond this there's evidence of an attempt to bring the series onto a more realistic footing, and this we can probably put down to JNT. The stories are no longer a set of arch, surreal fantasies barely referring to one another (there are more gratuitous continuity references in the first ten minutes of Full Circle than the whole of Season 17), there's a concerted effort to present the Doctor as an inhabitant of a naturalistic, coherent world. Hence the beefed-up continuity and the way every story bar The Leisure Hive seems to refer back to its predecessor in some way.

This desire to put the series on a more down-to-earth footing is especially noticable in the treatment of the companions JNT inherited - both Romana and K9 are dispensed with (and even before his departure, K9 plays a major role in less than half the episodes, being put out of action early in Leisure Hive, losing his head midway through Full Circle and being confined to the TARDIS for most of State of Decay) and replaced by much more 'realistic', 'identifiable' characters - the '' marks are obligatory given that Adric was someone's idea of a realistic and identifiable character! While he has his moments late on in the season, for much of it he's - ironically - far less likeable than either of the pair he's displacing. It's hard to think of a set of regulars less well suited to become surrogate parents than Tom and Lalla (that's mildly ironic too, of course) and Adric seems like an intruder until after Warrior's Gate, breaking up the Williams-era bohemian idyll.

By the closing moments of Logopolis every trace of the Williams era has been utterly obliterated. It's a quietly stunning feat of reinvention - at no other time, except perhaps in season 24, has the entire style, emphasis, appearance and cast of the series been so thoroughly reimagined. Season 18 is the story of that reimagining, and while it has few clues in it to the direction season 19 would ultimately take, it remains a diverse, fascinating set of stories.

After graduation? by Tim Roll-Pickering 29/8/03

The season opens with a long panning shot of Brighton Beach. It's a dreary place, no-one's about and there's no party anymore. Something has clearly changed...

Tom Baker's Doctor has often been described as being akin to a wild student drop-out. Is it any coincidence that after he visits a university in Shada (even though the story was never finished) he then becomes more restrained, ordered and older. Has he now "graduated"?

It's hard to deny the importance of Season 18 in the series' history. The change is as big as that of Season 7 and represents a bold new direction for the series. In terms of overall style the season is as consistent as perhaps only Season 7 is. It comes as little surprise that the main failures are The Leisure Hive and Meglos, both of which suffer from carrying over elements of the previous era. The former story especially suffers from this, trying heavily to be a Season 17 style comedy at the same time as a bold new step forward and the clash destroys it whilst the latter is a terrible run around populated by uninspiring characters. However the subsequent stories really pick up, showing many strong ideas, successfully disguising their similarities (look at Full Circle and State of Decay - both have effectively the same environment-situation) and offering diversity from horror to court politics to extreme science and more.

Season 18 is pretty quick to get rid of hanging over elements. K9 is blown up in the first few minutes and is frequently incapacitated in subsequent stories before finally being disposed of, whilst Romana is characterised less as a female Doctor but instead more as a strong intelligent companion before she too is allowed to depart (admitedly to be a female Doctor but one with a mission!). The Doctor too has shed for the most part his wilder excesses - like many graduates stepping out into the big wide world he realises that it's no longer an all-out fun place anymore, even if the downbeat grim phase of the series is a few years off. The student days are clearly over. Note also that instead of the jumble of clothes grabbed out of a wardrope at random he now wears clothes that are clearly meant to be worn together. Again there have been advances and the old manic days are gone.

At the time Season 18 was lauded as a veritable triumph, with Meglos panned for much the same reasons as it continues to be so to this day, whilst The Leisure Hive itself did not garner much popularity in the first DWM Season Survey, although few people commented to say why. With the wider public it's harder to say. The middle five Tom Baker seasons all went out as part of what many consider to be the greatest ever evening line-up of programmes the BBC has ever produced - Saturday evenings in the mid to late 1970s when the BBC had a strong line-up of drama, light entertainment and sport all complementing one anohter, up against a patchwork of different oppositions in the different ITV regions. By contrast Season 18 went out in an earlier timeslot, with that evening schedule in tatters after ITV stole or copied vital parts, and up against a unified and serious competition for the first time. The impact of Michael Grade (then an ITV executive largely responsible for this new fierce competiton) was felt on the programme long before the "Cancellation Crisis". Losing that Saturday evening line-up protection was probably the greatest blow struck to the series, leaving it exposed to transient audiences and having little chance to feed off shows around it and generate loyalties to them all.

When viewing the entire series in order from a modern perspective, it is hard to avoid the feeling that the new direction brought by Christopher H. Bidmead and John Nathan-Turner was very much needed, for all the reappraisals of the Williams years that have gone on in the last decade or so. The Docor may be more weary but the series is full of life.

It is often suggested that the entire season is structured to replace the entire TARDIS crew and set things up for the Davison Doctor and companions. But it's hard to detect where precisely this is. As late as The Keeper of Traken Tom Baker's Doctor shows promise and there are signs that there is still life in him and that he could last at least another season, whilst Adric is a character who works quite well with this Doctor and makes a change from the norm. It is only really with Logopolis, establishing both Tegan and Nyssa as companions whilst bringing the Master back again and making clear he will be returning once more that the foundations for the Davison era really get laid down.

Adric is very much a product of this season and he makes for a complete contrast to most companions before him. Unlike many he does not foolishly risk his life in any situation - like many people would act he does think of his own skin and feel it is not worth risking his life to save others from what looks like a hopeless situation. There's a sense of bitterness about his brother's death which was never really explored properly onscreen, but is alluded to and is reminiscent of how many people keep things bottled up. The character has much potential that is sadly underused in the following season but even here there are problems with other characters taking up more screen time.

The other major area in which the season seems more unified are the links between each story. Every single one appears to follow on immediately after its predecessor, give or take a little time to change clothes. Off the top of my head I'm not aware of any Missing/Past Doctor Adventures actually set during this season, a sign perhaps of how tightly integrated it is. There are many other continuity references which don't detract if you don't know what they refer to and whilst some may be confused (such as "Totter's Yard" in Logopolis), they're also a sign of how a long distance of time can confuse the memory. This helps to make the whole thing feel like a series that has been put together with a strong degree of care, determined to offer something worthwhile.

There's a lot of science used, even if some of it may be potentially bogus, but the aim is clear to ensure that magic-like solutions are avoided and the reality of science is shown, even if the details may not always be right. Logopolis may be easy to simplify to a bunch of wizards who have to chant lest the universe falls apart but it is presented clearly in a scientific context and even the most non-scientists amongst the audience can understand there are laws and rules behind this.

The most common theme of the show is decay. Whether it's the Argolans fighting the potential for the oblivion of their species, the Alzarians in their star liner, the "State of Decay" of the vampire planet, the natural fate of the Melkurs, entropy or so much more, the recurring message is clear that nothing lasts for ever and that what tries to stay the same ultimately fails. Instead the way to survive is to be renewed. It is here that the real seeds of preparation for the ending of an era come, although equally it can be seen as a preparation for the climax of the season.

Destroying a large chunk of the universe and having the Doctor save the rest at the cost of his own life seems almost over the top and more at home in earlier seasons. Yet here it is done so in such a way as to make the whole thing seem natural. As the Doctor fights his way to reach a cable upon which the fate of the universe rests, there's a real sense that this is the final desperate act. The Doctor may have been shown as being much wearier and subdued, but when evil does threaten he never disappoints but instead, to coin a phrase, he does what he always does - improvise. He may have been warned about an impending doom, although what precisely was discussed between him and the Watcher we will never know, but he does not run away from it, instead facing his responsibilities head on. That is the true sign of a hero.

It's difficult to imagine a second season working on exactly the same lines as this one. The series has always been about flexibility, renewal and change and so to try to repeat the success of this formula would have been foolish. This helps the season nonetheless. As a one-off it thus stands as a unique part of the series. It comes as little surprise that many fans consider this to have been one of the best seasons overall, rather than many of those that contain stories which routinely top opinion surveys. Although the individual stories may have their own faults, as an overall season this is definitely something spectacular. 8/10

Better than the Graham Williams era, or is it? by Russell J Harding 27/4/08

On the 12th December 1980, The Horns of Nimon Part 4 rolled onto our television screens. This was part of Season 17, which was produced by the arguably struggling Graham Williams, who had been producer since 1977, taking over from Philip Hinchecliffe, one of the show's best producers. Williams' Horns of Nimon was to be the last season of Doctor Who as we knew it; a new producer was on the horizon, John Nathan-Turner.

At the end of Part 4 of The Horns of Nimon, most people thought Season 18 would be similar to many of the seasons before. In an interview just before Season 18, an interviewerasked John Nathan-Turner (or JNT) what would happen to Doctor Who, he replied "I'm tempted to say who knows." Who did indeed.

Finally, The Leisure Hive Part 1 began on August 30th 1980. Rather than the 1970 variant of the traditional Ron Grainer theme, we got the Peter Howell variation of the theme, which I personally hate with a capitol H. Not only did JNT just change the opening music, he redesigned the opening titles and scraped the famous "Diamond" logo, which had been used since Jon Pertwee's last season. Not only that, he replaced the opening titles with a disgusting "starfield" sequence and the diamond Logo fell to a 3D tube logo which was no better than the boring Patrick Troughton logo making its appearance in 1967.

Well, let's forget about the title changes and move on to The Leisure Hive. In this story, we find the 4th Doctor's famous multicoloured scarf has been abandoned in favour of a redish and purple one. (JNT originally ordered no scarf to be given to the Doctor from this season onwards, but the designer luckily gave Number 4 a new one anyway.) The new scarf and outfit that Baker wears does not suit him and would come second in a fashion show any day (out of 2 contestants).

Anyway, let's now focus on quality of stories. The Leisure Hive is quite good and it does have a meaning behind it which is not very common to find, which is the tourist decline in Britain in the 70's. Meglos... How many times have we had stories where the villian needs the Doctor or one of his companions for an evil plan to work? Quite a few times I believe. Anyway, this story is not the best ever broadcasted, but not without its charms.

Soon, we arrive at Full Circle. This was written by a nineteen year old and the ratings of this story were just bad. But why? It does not have the instant changes of The Leisure Hive, as we have got used to them; we have a new companion, Adric; possibly, like the two stories before, it is set on an outer planet by wich time most people have switched off.

When we come to State of Decay again, like the next one and the one after that, it's set on an outer alien world. Involving three lords who are servants of the Great Vampires, this is just taking content out of a horror film and placing it into Doctor Who. Why...?

By this time I am too bored thinking about Season 18 to think about the next two storys, so we arrive at Logopolis. This story is only liked because it is Tom Baker's last. But if we finished it for examples sake - like the Doctor survives falling from the giant antenna and manages to defeat the Master - would it really be such a rememberable classic? I think not, even though it is really too depressing for Tom Baker's last story; his forerunner, Pertwee, got a far better final story in Planet of the Spiders.

My conclusion for Season 18 is that it is the beginning of the end for Doctor Who. Too many things where changed at once: Tom Baker's scarf, Tom Baker's outfit, the series' opening music and closing, the title sequence designs, the Diamond Logo, K9, Romana and, finially, the lapels and the Question Marks!!! What a stupid idea it was to put such ridiculous things on such a great actor's costume. Whatever the idea of them was and why all the changes that were made in Season 18 we will never know, nor what good they did to the show.

Burgundy is the New Black by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 29/3/10

And so begins John Nathan-Turner's reign as producer on Doctor Who. Depending on your opinion of him, you'll either consider Season Eighteen to be the start of a brave new era or the beginning of the end. I can't say that I approve of all of JNT's ideas on how Doctor Who should have been run but I'm not a JNT hater either. If the early McCoy stories plumb the depths of quality during his time on the show, then Season Eighteen is by far the pinnacle of his achievement. The drawback of peaking at the start of your time as producer is that things can only go downhill from there and despite the largely successful Davison era and the occasional successes of the Colin Baker era, we won't see this level of quality again until the last days of the McCoy era. Season Eighteen is the sea change.

Watched back to back with Season Seventeen, the difference in styles is almost jarring. I do like Season Seventeen but it's so different to this season that comparing the two almost seems churlish. Gone is the Douglas- Adams-style humour, Dudley Simpson's immediately recognisable incidental music and Tom Baker's off-the-wall approach to the character. Instead, we have largely straight-laced stories, beautiful synthesizer scores and a much darker portrayal from Tom Baker. Is this bad? Not in my opinion but it depends who you ask. The detractors say that the stories are far too serious with no lighter touches, no hint of humour but that just doesn't hold up. The scene in State of Decay where the cell door opens and smacks the Doctor flat in the face springs to mind. Meglos is loaded with silliness, so much so that it's much more in the style of the previous season. And then there's that exchange in Logopolis where Tegan asks if the Doctor has seen her Auntie Vanessa to which he replies "well a little of her", knowing full well that she's been miniaturised by the Master.

As for Tom Baker's more subdued, darker performance, he was quite badly ill at the time and it sapped a lot of his energy. JNT was rather keen to reign him in and keep a firm lid on what he saw as unnecessary silliness. To what extent he would have succeeded had Tom Baker not been ill we will never know. But illness or not, Tom Baker's portrayal of the character is the best ever. By a country mile. Fact. Whether he's running around like a wide-eyed, grinning lunatic or brooding sombrely, he is infinitely watchable and equally powerful at either end of the spectrum. In Season Eighteen, he is an introspective, brooding column of burgundy. Does this make him any less entertaining to watch? Of course not! He is superbly accompanied by Lalla Ward and their Doctor/Companion team is second only to the Doctor and Sarah. Romana is every inch his equal and he doesn't treat her like an idiot. Of course, these days we all know why they had such fantastic onscreen chemistry. By this stage their real-life romance was a bit stormy but I think the only time it shows is in The Leisure Hive.

The musical scores for these stories are superb, some of the best in the show's history. In fact this may very well be the most musically consistent season. Peter Howell and Paddy Kingsland do a terrific job with the Radiophonic Workshop's synthesizers, creating music that is both beautiful and beguiling. State of Decay and Logopolis stand out particularly. If the tone of the stories is somewhat more serious than the previous season, it is because of Christopher H. Bidmead who I believe had a background in hard science. There is rather a lot of technobabble here but it does lend a sense of realism to the proceedings. Science and mathematics are held up as sacred, the very foundations of the universe. Indeed, mathematics saves the universe from crumbling to dust in Logopolis.

Entropy is the theme of the season, things withering away, being destroyed not by Daleks, Cybermen or any other alien monstrosity but by the simple passage of time. It's almost as if concepts are the greatest threat to our continued existence rather than physical threats which can be fought and dealt with. There are Foamasi, vampires, Marshmen and talking cacti to reinforce the idea that this is still Doctor Who but a recurrent theme of the season seems to be that there are worse things than aliens and sinister creatures. There are unknowable, invisible forces in the universe that can't be fought in the conventional way.

The Leisure Hive

A powerful start to the season. The guest cast are superb, especially a young David Haig, and the sets are impressive. Peter Howell provides a score that really grabs your attention and it suits the exterior shots of the Hive to perfection. This story sets the tone and the standard for what is to follow.


The black sheep of Season Eighteen, this would be much more at home among the stories of the previous season. The quality of the acting isn't exactly brilliant and jungle sets are always tricky to pull off (see Planet of the Daleks and Kinda for particularly bad examples) but the story succeeds despite this. Tom Baker is superb as Meglos, creating a genuine sense of menace. I particularly like how the story basically makes a mockery of the Deons for following a religion which is clearly nonsense. They believe that the Dodecahedron is a mystical artefact when in fact we know that it is a technological artefact, a perfect example of the Doctor Who tradition of encouraging science and rationality and discouraging magic and superstition. It's the weakest story of the season but it's still eminently watchable. Romana's lovely outfit works. The Savant's blonde wigs don't.

Full Circle

Enter Matthew Waterhouse, the only true blot on this season. He isn't too bad in his first story but rest assured that he'll get much worse as time goes on. The theme of evolution is executed over four episodes in a very well-thought-out manner and the location shooting is very effective, especially after the studio-bound previous story. This is really the only proper monster story this season and the cliffhanger for episode one as the Marshmen rise up from the water in slow motion is wonderful, reminiscent of similar scenes in The Sea Devils. The Doctor's fury at Dexeter's cold and casual attitude towards dissecting the Marsh creature and his subsequent raging at the Deciders is proof if any were needed that this is still the Fourth Doctor we know and love, despite the more subdued performance. Another lovely outfit for Lalla Ward, and Paddy Kingsland's score is beautiful.

State of Decay

Gothic horror from the same stable as The Brain of Morbius. Dark, oppressive and seriously menacing. Paddy Kingsland's music is very eerie and evocative. It's quite an important story in the sense that it contributes some important stuff to the mythology of Doctor Who, namely the Time Lords' war with the vampires. Zargo, Camilla and Aukon are a very effective if slightly over the top trio of villains and their tower and costumes are very well designed. Much more of a traditional Doctor Who story than many of the others this season.

Warriors' Gate

Wow! And I do mean wow! One of the most unique and original Doctor Who stories ever. It may take several viewings to fully work out what's going on but I don't mind being confused if it's the kind of confusion that looks and sounds fantastic. Peter Howell does great job with the score and from a visual perspective it's utterly beguiling: an ominous-looking black spaceship alongside an ancient stone building in a white void, a cat man strolling through the grounds of a black-and-white country house, and a whole group of cat people sat around a table having a banquet before turning into dusty skeletons in the blink of an eye. Romana's leaving scene is beautifully underplayed, almost off the cuff and is all the better for it. An emotional, tearful exit would certainly not have been the right style for Romana so instead we get one that is very casual and completely appropriate. She's going off to be her "own Romana", she's almost developed into a "Doctor" in her own right and now she's going off to do her own thing. It's a great ending to a story that is by turns baffling, beautiful, strange and wonderful.

The Keeper of Traken

The snake in the Garden of Eden. That's an interpretation of the theme of the story, not a comment on its place in Season Eighteen! First the bad stuff: it's a studio-bound story and some of the sets don't particularly work, the acting of some of the guest stars isn't exactly stellar, and it's possibly Adric's worst story this season. On the plus side, it's a delightfully charming story that successfully manages to create a world and culture out of a few sets and costumes. The sets that represent interior spaces really work such as the Keeper's main hall and the passageways. It's only when the story is supposed to move to exteriors that the sets don't exactly convince. It still looks delightful, it just doesn't come across as actually being an exterior. The velvet costumes are a wonderful touch and Anthony Ainley is delightful as Tremas. The Melkur is one of the iconic Doctor Who images and having the Master hiding inside it was a novel idea. George Limb does the musical duties this time around and he creates a mostly successful, seductive score. This is the first if part of the Return of the Master Trilogy.


Oh my. Logopolis has such emotional weight, it's almost heaving under a perpetual sense of dread, of impending, unavoidable doom. This eventually culminates in the Doctor falling off the radio telescope and Tom Baker's reign coming to an end in a very moving regeneration scene. Tegan arrives and although this isn't her best story, Janet Fielding is clearly giving it 100%. Sarah Sutton continues her charming, understated portrayal of Nyssa and is all the more impressive for it. The scene where she sees Traken wiped out by the entropy field is utterly heartbreaking yet there are no tears, no uncontrollable histrionics. It's one of the most beautiful scenes in Logopolis, possibly one of the most beautiful scenes in all of Doctor Who. Anthony Ainley makes an immediate impression as the Master, continuing in the Roger Delgado style but much more venomous, less charming. I mentioned the notion of concepts as enemies. This is the ultimate expression of that as the universe is ravaged by the entropy field with hard mathematics coming in to save the day. Paddy Kingsland once again composes the score and it is hauntingly beautiful, one of the best in the show's history. A superb story all round.

I'm glad that the majority of this season has now been released on DVD. Just Meglos still to go and the whole season will be complete. It really deserves the pin-sharp picture and sound quality, and the wealth of extras that the format offers. This is one of the peaks of televised Doctor Who, an outstanding achievement that can easily stand alongside seasons 7, 13, 14, 16 and 26. I can't think of any higher praise.

This place is unreal! by John Wood 30/5/10

The start and end of any season with a significant change in the creative team can be a bit fuzzy. Some stories - Robot and Horror of Fang Rock, for example - feel like they belong in the previous season. I don't remember The Leisure Hive (if I even saw it), but from comments here it sounds as if it is at least halfway to a season 17 story. Similarly, Castrovalva definitely has a season 18 feel. So, my season 18 runs from Meglos to Castrovalva - and I'm not going to say much about Meglos because I haven't seen that one since it was first broadcast, and can't remember it clearly either.

People have quite adequately covered the entropy angle, so I'm only going to add one comment: it strikes me as a more subtle forerunner of the season "themes" that are such a feature of New Who.

Another common observation is that CHB and JNT brought the science back to the forefront of the show in season 18. This is certainly noticeable in the dialog, and some of the plot threads make use of it, but (welcome though it is) we are not talking "hard SF" here. For me, its effect was to create a more solidly grounded atmosphere from which the airier flights of fancy can take wing.

And what flights of fancy they were! It's in the more fantastical elements of the season that I spy another unifying theme, which nobody seems to have noted: the whole season has a fairytale quality, and uses a lot of fairytale tropes. People recognised it in The Keeper of Traken, where it was perhaps most obvious (it had a wicked stepmother after all), but the threads run throughout. The musical score and set-dressing add an ethereal tone to begin with and the direction in many of the stories has a measured, stagelike quality to it. The unreal way State of Decay is presented, for example, would have been completely at odds with most earlier seasons, but fits here. Consider also the repeated use of the fairytale number three, including three deciders, three who rule and three attempts to escape from exospace.

E-space is, of course, fairyland for the Doctor, Romana and K9. Caught in an otherworldly realm where the rules operate differently, they must find their way back home, or be trapped there forever; though the Timelady finds her Beast and decides to stay anyway. Then, in Logopolis, CHB turns the tables and introduces a different mortal to another, more familiar, fairyland, as Tegan stumbles into the magical maze that is the TARDIS...

There are other elements: the number one thousand (particularly in the form "a thousand years"), used here in much the same way as one hundred is used in more traditional fairy tales; doppelgangers; a magic mirror; wish fulfillment (via the Source and block transfer computation); cyclic seasonal changes contrasted with lack of change elsewhere; archaic societies and technologies; petrification; illusion; warped spacial and temporal relationships; and the clash between good and evil.

After I'd written most of this review, I heard about Steven Moffat saying that all of Doctor Who was a fairy tale. I can see what he means to an extent, but never has it been as clear as it was under CHB, a script editor ironically better known for his scientific slant.

Like the DWM voters, I rate it an above-average season; like other commentators here, I find it unique in tone. Here are my ratings for the stories I've seen as an adult:

Full Circle 4.5/10
State of Decay 8/10
Warriors' Gate 8.5/10
The Keeper of Traken 7/10
Logopolis 5.5/10
Castrovalva 9.5/10

A Review by James Neiro 3/2/11

Tom Baker was not happy with the new direction of the show that Season 18 would reveal and had neglected to re-sign his contract. He announced to a shocked world that he would be leaving the show early in 1981. Season 18 would form a loose arc dealing with the theme of entropy and the later stories would form the arc The E Space Trilogy and the final two episodes would form the arc The Return of the Master, making Season 18 quite unique.

Baker's final season would see the the Doctor abandoned his famous multi-colored scarf in favour of a burgundy and purple one. Also, the question mark motif made its first appearance here as a regular element of the Doctor's wardrobe for his next three incarnations as a gimmick. The Doctor also sported a new burgundy overcoat, as part of his new colour coordinated 'costume'. For the first time, Tom Baker's Doctor would appear in the same costume for every episode in a season. Baker's Doctor would become melancholy through the entire season, becoming quite moody, distant and dark at times. There was a sense of foreboding all season and the realization that something terrible was coming.

The season opener, The Leisure Hive, was the first Doctor Who story which John Nathan-Turner produced. Nathan-Turner was keen to get away from what he considered the excessive silliness of recent Doctor Who stories (to which he had a point) and wanted to increase the series' production values, because he felt that they were poor when compared with glossy American science-fiction series (also another valid point). Among the changes Nathan-Turner instituted was the scaling back of K9's appearances, eventually writing the character out by season's end. In a further attempt to update the image of the series, the original 1963 Delia Derbyshire arrangement was replaced by a more contemporary-sounding arrangement by Peter Howell, and a new, '80s-styled neon tubing logo replaced the diamond logo set amongst a vast and impressive star field.

Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, Barry Letts and Christopher H. Bidmead all protested John Nathan-Turner's decision to add question-marks to Baker's shirts, arguing that it was gimmicky. Baker in particular was unhappy with it and told Nathan-Turner that it was "annoying, absurd and ridiculous", while Bidmead later called it "a silly, quite absurd gimmick really". Bidmead, who found working with Tom Baker "difficult to say the very least", supposedly told Baker and Nathan-Turner during recording of The Leisure Hive that exclamation marks would have been more appropriate for Baker's shirts.

The show's stars took exception to many of John Nathan-Turner's other changes as well, with Tom Baker and Lalla Ward criticising the change in theme music and opening titles. Baker also criticised the new synthesised incidental music. Ward later complained that Nathan-Turner had "removed all the lovely humour", while Baker said that he wanted the scripts to improve and regain some of the quality of those of the Philip Hinchcliffe era, as he felt that the quality of the scripts and storylines had declined under Graham Williams. He later said that he felt such improvements did not by and large occur, and that most of Nathan-Turner's changes were either cosmetic or misguided.

The Leisure Hive was glossy, special-effects-heavy and promoted major changes to the show. Meglos continued next, dealing with an evil doppleganger of the Doctor. Full Circle continued next and began the E Space Trilogy, a popular trilogy of episodes stranding the Time Lords in E-Space and desperatley searching for a way home. Adric would join the cast in Full Circle and would be revealed to the characters as a stowaway in the following story The State of Decay, the first time ever Doctor Who dealt with Vampires.

Warriors' Gate came next and saw the departure of both K9 and Lalla Ward as Romana. Two months after her departure, Ward went on to marry her co-star Tom Baker in 1981, but the marriage lasted less than two years. The following story, The Keeper of Traken saw the return of the Master, again in monster-guise, but played by the devlishly good Geoffrey Beevers. This episode would begin The Return of the Master trilogy arc.

The season finale Logopolis would have arguably the largest body count of any Doctor Who story, albeit mostly off-camera, as the destruction of Logopolis apparently causes a significant portion of the entire universe to be swallowed by a wave of entropy thanks to the evil Master, now permanently played by Anthony Ailey. Nyssa and Tegan would both become permanent companions in this story and it would be the first time the Doctor would be travelling with three companions since the late 60's. The Doctor would be killed off by story's end by actions taken by the Master.

A Review by Samuel Yeo 17/3/11

To preface: I've only come to Doctor Who in the last 18 months, and have so far watched all the stories of the first four Doctors (reconstructions and all). After being disappointed overall with seasons sixteen and seventeen, I was relieved to find this season one of the highlights thus far.

In short:

The Leisure Hive: it's a bit Star Trek, yes, but even the serial's concept - the history of the planet, the relationships between the races - is imaginative and like all the best outer-space serials, this suggests a world far beyond the screen.

Meglos: It's an original sentiment, I know, but Meglos is a weak link in this chain. However, Tom Baker was very good as Meglos, Jacqueline Hill was enjoyable as Lexa and, while I don't think anyone was trying their hardest, it was a satisfying two hours. (Lexa's final scene, however, was a serious "what!?" moment.)

Full Circle: I've never been a huge "monster" person (the Hartnell era is my favourite and I loved historicals) but, as with all this season's races, the Marshmen play an integral part in the serial's denouement. This serial showcases my favourite element of the Doctor (as pioneered by Pertwee): his acceptance of other races. I must say that the Doctor and Romana are reckless in running off at the end during a pretty tough situation for the natives.

State of Decay: This was the weakest serial for me, as I'm not a fan of vampires. (As with The Pirate Planet - whose title conjured up a world of Douglas Adams "humour" and swashbuckling aliens - I was worried that a serial about Giant Vampires would be just silly). In the end, it didn't suck (high praise, I know!), and the Doctor and his companions were in top form here, particularly Lalla.

Warriors' Gate: Unique, fascinating, beautiful. It was nice to see both Romana and K9 develop so much here, particularly K9: this is one of the few stories to use him really well, when he comes across as as much of a hero as his master and mistress. Romana's exit is a bit rushed, but the Doctor makes up for it with his ponderings.

The Keeper of Traken: Great studio work, strong cast, a vibe reminiscent of The Aztecs and an entire culture created. The Keeper is an interesting oddity, Melkur is an intriguing villain and Anthony Ainley as Tremas has an effortless rapport with the Doctor. Great work.

The rest of my review will fuse thoughts on Logopolis with thoughts on the season as a whole, since the final serial does encapsulate everything so neatly.

First, a confession: I adore every companion from the Doctor's first 18 years (i.e., all I've seen). I don't believe this business about "screamers". The only screamers I can accept are the tragic Katarina, whose fear is part of her marvellous creation, and Victoria, who is actually a lot more dimensional than most people give her credit for (due to hazy memories of the reconstructed episodes I guess?). So, I admit, I really like Adric and Tegan (haven't really got a handle on Nyssa yet, so I'll refrain from commenting). Matthew Waterhouse works wonderfully with Tom Baker (less so with Ms. Ward, it's true), combining a protege-like vibe with just enough precociousness to make him a fitting conversational equal in the wake of Romana's departure. Tegan, too ("Hell's teeth, Aunty Vanessa!") immediately stands out, if only for her realistic reactions on being thrown into the adventure. She's shocked and confused, but also practical about it.

One of my favourite elements of the Hartnell and Troughton eras was how the group of disparate travellers could connect on a variety of levels. Here, Tegan, Adric and Nyssa all come from different planets and cultures, making for a wonderful contrast even in their short time together. Nyssa and Adric are both scientific; Tegan and Adric are both easy-going; Tegan and Nyssa have both lost someone very close to them: there's a lot of material that could be explored here.

Oh sorry, did you stop reading in shock after I said "I really like Adric"? Fair enough. Perhaps after I watch season 19, I'll be cowering in the corner too. But here, the writers and Waterhouse have made a concerted effort to remember the character's heritage, with even throwaway remarks like "The Doctor taught me to read Earth numbers". Someone's paying attention. I enjoy characters who aren't so easy to like (although I acknowledge that one can go too far in the other direction) and Adric - with his element of selfishness and desire for recognition - satisfies me on that level. He's plucky, adventurous and knowledgeable, and has a good rapport with most of the cast.

Beyond this, the season as a whole was very science-filled, to the point where my brain was a bit addled, but I found it much easier to believe this science-based program than some of the Key to Time nonsense. This season is so much more connected than 16 (Romana's future echoes from the start of E-Space to Logopolis, and the entropy business - while a little on-the-nose - fits with the autumnal vibe) and I don't buy the claims that JNT eliminated all humour. Baker still gets to be funny all season long (right up to his remark about seeing a little of Tegan's aunt), but without the clear irreverence for the show that characterised season 17.

Is there anything bad here? Of course. The opening credits are terribly dated (which is hilarious, given that the earlier credits have held up well). The Doctor's argument that all his companions are responsible for being on the TARDIS is a bit flawed (Nyssa was kidnapped, and Tegan can't be blamed for thinking a police box was... a police box). The Master's toys... I mean, victims unfortunately remind me of Robot Chicken; particularly the tiny dead Logopolitans, with white beards just like the Robot Chicken opening credits.

And JNT's decision to have "uniforms" for his characters is patently obnoxious. What series establishes a massive wardrobe cobbled together from hundreds of years of literally travelling the universe... and then makes someone wear strange yellow pyjamas all the time? I've not watched beyond Logopolis, but if Tegan doesn't change out of her air stewardess outfit, I'll scream.

Finally, another plug for Logopolis: the astounding music, the camera compositions (notably in episode 4, and that lovely shot of Adric atop the police box), a serial that actually wants to examine the properties of the TARDIS and the Universe... plus a working relationship between Doctor and Master where neither is inherently set on destroying the other!

I know I'm about to enter the perceived demise of the program, but that's all ahead of me. For now, I have a show that is able to be humorous while also taking the subject matter seriously, a full cohort of characters to play off against each other, and a sense that what happened last week might be important again next week. After the deep depression I entered while watching Nightmare of Eden, this is a great relief. This is the program I signed up for.

Set in Stone by Thomas Cookson 11/10/11

Season 18 occupies an awkward turning point in Doctor Who. An overlap between what fans like me see as 'real' Doctor Who, and the plastic JNT era. There are fans who refuse to reconcile Season 18 with being 'real' Doctor Who and instead treat it as 'the beginning of the end'. What complicates this is the season features the recognisable Tom Baker and Lalla Ward who give it all the face of 'real' Doctor Who. Barry Letts as executive producer gives it a feeling of returning to the show's golden age, and at the very least he seemed to curb and prevent most of JNT's worst excesses and wrongheaded decisions just for this one season. Furthermore the season's tent-poled by what's effectively a lost Hinchcliffe story, State of Decay, which makes it even more of a keeper.

So many fans who discount the JNT era would say it doesn't really stop being Doctor Who until Tom Baker leaves and his regeneration marks the 'death' of the show. Personally, I think it represents a fate worse than death. A show kept alive but puppeteered soullessly for the sake of hollow spectacle and degrading exhibitionism and a narcissistic producer's detrimental martyr complex.

Yet the transition from Horns of Nimon to The Leisure Hive presents its problems. The Leisure Hive is essentially a Season 17 story, which is more apparent in the novelisation than on TV. On TV, everything that made the story organic, coherent, well characterised and gave it scope and a sense of galactic consequences if Pangol succeeds, has been surgically removed, as has anything that gave Pangol decent motivation. Doctor Who has been many things, but it had never been so sterile before. The closest the show previously came to being this sterile was The Daleks and Robots of Death but they'd both had clever, witty writing and characterisation. Leisure Hive had none. It's an unpleasant precursor to the soulless sterility of Time-Flight, Warriors of the Deep, Twin Dilemma and Time and the Rani. Even potentially good, spiritual stories like Kinda, Snakedance and Mawdryn Undead suffered this sterility.

The Leisure Hive is a point where I could imagine lifelong fans feeling so disconnected and crushed by the show's aimless incoherence that they might very well stop watching there and then. What's frustrating, however, is that it does give a more space age, forward-looking feel and cosmic vision to the show. After the tacky disco-era futures witnessed in Robots of Death, The Invisible Enemy and Nightmare of Eden, it's somewhat refreshing to see a future that looks high-tech, bright and inviting for the first time since The Daleks' Master Plan. The problem is Horns of Nimon conjured a far greater galactic scope through its own delicate minimalism. The Leisure Hive drowns it out with its visual loudness. Meglos is far easier to digest, but it feels very incomplete and is more clumsily edited than The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Ark in Space were. The first cliffhanger is shot in a way that makes no sense except in rewatches. It's the most Hartnellian story of the colour era alongside Horns of Nimon, and the presence of Jacqueline Hill complements this. She also brings a strong dignity and pride to the usual unhinged religious fanatic that's almost awe-inspiring in her evangelical conviction. Likewise, the Doctor and Romana breaking free of their chronic hysteresis loop is the kind of whimsical dodgy science that makes the show's universe seem that bit more strange and hope-inspiring, and gets by on the way the two thespians play off each other with their usual blend of rehearsed improvisation, only this time their lives depend on it. But the story is pretty much a mess, and the pointless killing off of Jacqueline Hill's character is a very bad omen of what's to come when Eric Saward becomes script editor. The Doctor fails to recover the Dodecahedron and yet at the end it seems forgotten that the city was ever dependant on it at all. Full Circle is where the season gets a bit more back on track, or at least coherent. It's a generally routine story, but it does have some good cliffhangers and director Peter Grimwade begins to make a strong impression, managing to hone the story's moral themes of empathy and understanding instinct.

State of Decay is easily the best, most satisfying story of the season, and works better as a standalone than anything else this year. It's main strength is in how it conjures the majesty of the Time Lords and their war with the immortal Gods, in such a way that makes me almost weep at how Arc of Infinity reduced and demystified Gallifrey. The Fourth Doctor and Romana dynamic is rarely better, the Vampires themselves are formidable and invincible, and the story restores a grandeur to the show that it has perhaps lacked ever since Hinchcliffe left. Unfortunately, there are dark omens at work here. Adric shows himself to be an unlikely turncoat, and an unlikeable, obnoxiously rude character, particularly towards Romana. And, ironically, the Doctor and Romana's discussion of how this society can only have regressed because of the tremendous tyrannous force and chokehold of those in power, can be read as a prophetic and sad commentary on JNT's control-freak producership forcing the show into needless decline. It's certainly the last time for a while that the Doctor is portrayed as proactively heroic and prone to making ruthless decisions for the greater good, before JNT and Eric Saward completely neutered and castrated him.

Warriors' Gate is where things get frustratingly complicated. It hints at a type of surrealist, experimental, off-the-wall and cerebral Doctor Who that's not been attempted since the 60's, and it's very much a precursor to the likes of Kinda, Enlightenment, Revelation of the Daleks and Season 26. The part of the JNT era that I'm reluctant to decanonise. Which is again where the desire to declare Season 18 a keeper comes in, and with that comes a partway desire to want to extend the privilege up to Enlightenment, which conflicts with my desire to lose Time-Flight for the sake of preserving the best of the JNT era. The problem is that a cynical part of me feels that the only reason Warriors' Gate and Enlightenment really worked as cold, alien environments and places of brooding existentialism was as a serendipitous by-product of a production team that had sucked all humanity out of the show.

In terms of what I said about ending it while it's still good, it must be said that Warriors' Gate is a far more inviting and satisfying story than Gallagher's later Terminus, even whilst sharing similar themes of exploitation, slavery, cosmic loneliness and the banality at the heart of the universe. Biroc's "The weak enslave themselves" is probably the bleakest philosophy the show's ever espouted, and yet it overall feels more satisfyingly adventurous and ends in a far more upbeat manner than Terminus did. But more and more troubling omens appear. The Fourth Doctor of previous seasons would never have simply taken a beating from Rorvik without putting up some kind of fight, and Romana's departure is terribly arbitrary and cold in a way that will define much of the involuntary voodoo influence characterisation to come. A shame because there are moments where the story's naturalism and existentialism conveys an unprecedented sense of vivid believability.

The Keeper of Traken is another mixed bag. Adric rarely worked better as a companion than here, Geoffrey Beevers is the most insidiously evil Master we've ever had, the design is lush and the asymmetrical Melkur is genuinely unnerving. The closing scene is one of those Doctor Who moments I horridly dread in the same way as Scooti's death in The Impossible Planet. It blends the old-school theatrical feel of the show with a new sense of cosmic scope and solidity of design. And yet, for all that, it's as much of a clunky chore to sit through as The Leisure Hive was. It suffers from the typical problems of Johnny Byrne's stories of taking an interesting idea and yet failing to translate it to screen as anything evocative, as though the story hasn't been thought from the inside out. As such, its themes of the workings of democracy, temptation and pre-millennial dread don't come across. One can look at Snakedance as an example of how it could have been done right.

Logopolis is a difficult, nebulous story to grasp really. The show has rarely ever been this bleak and depressing before, save for The Daleks and The Silurians. Moreover it actually seems to utilise Horror of Fang Rock's real-time approach to convey the final moments of the Fourth Doctor. It shows the Master at his most ruthless and murderous in ways that really couldn't be sustained after this. Turning him into an ice cold, death-incarnate figure. Beyond that though, his motivations are pretty weak. The story features some of the strongest acting in the show's run, and the Earth sequences actually convey a sense of the banal real world framed in a strange and fragile cosmos, which complements how the end of the universe feels like a real possibility here. Something only conveyed again in the Dalek Empire audios. There are some haunting, disturbing images indeed, and yet the Doctor's final demise comes across as grand and heroic and beautifully graceful.

But the sight of the Doctor standing back and doing nothing whilst the Master freezes Logopolis and Nyssa throttles Adric leaves a bit of an unpleasant aftertaste, and seems like the unpleasant beginnings of the poisonous passive-aggressiveness that tainted the Doctor's character and dictated his horrific negligence during Terminus and Warriors of the Deep. But it could be forgiven here as the frail old Doctor nearing the end of his life, bound by inevitable causality, in which case the younger, more active Peter Davison almost could look like what the show needs. Alas, it wasn't to be.

Unfortunately, the implications of Logopolis, the emotional impact on Nyssa, the Doctor being excommunicated from Gallifrey and realising the Master is too dangerous to tolerate anymore, become crassly swept under the carpet.

The overall problem with canonising Season 18 is that the JNT era gets better from here (Enlightenment, Revelation of the Daleks), and yet simultaneously gets worse (Time-Flight, Twin Dilemma), so it's tempting to think the show should've just ended whilst it was still good. But this leads to the other issue. The Tom Baker era is where a show that had been an experimental work in progress achieved full-rounded quality and maturity. It became complete, and had the show ended during Tom's tenure, on The Seeds of Doom or Horns of Nimon, the show would feel finished. Season 18 sees the show become a work in progress again (then later a work in regress). Logopolis is more a cliffhanger than finale, with the Doctor's future uncertain and a homicidal new Master on the loose.

This mightn't have been a bad thing if things hadn't gone the disastrous direction they did. But that could only have been dodged if JNT left on Logopolis, or the show was cancelled there (quite likely, given its viewing figures) and continued as a novel range, ideally featuring novelisations of Castrovalva, The Visitation, Black Orchid and Christopher Priest's unmade The Enemy Within. It hardly matters that the Fifth Doctor is a blank slate stranger at this point, since the NAs and EDAs seemed only loosely based on their TV Doctors anyway (although Enlightenment would have been an ideal character template). Whilst even fans who remembered The Mind Robber, Inferno and Genesis of the Daleks probably couldn't envision stories like Enlightenment or Revelation of the Daleks (Caves of Androzani was familiar Robert Holmes territory, and the later McCoy era does little that Horror of Fang Rock, Inferno and Evil of the Daleks hadn't already done beforehand), they certainly couldn't ever imagine the horror of Warriors of the Deep or Twin Dilemma.

Nor should they have to.