Day of the Daleks
The Curse of Peladon
The Sea Devils
The Mutants
The Time Monster
Season Nine


Formula, Formula, Formula by Terrence Keenan 3/8/04

Season 9 seems to have been created from a checklist: UNIT, check, The Master trying to destroy the Earth, check, Mission for the Time Lords, check... Ad infinitum. Everything that is known about the Pertwee era makes an appearance here in Season 9.

So, there's nothing new, or exciting to mull over, here. The Production team has their plan for what works for Who and goes about executing it. In doing so, they've created what I consider the weakest of the Pertwee years.

Day of the Daleks is a decent enough runaround. The Daleks aren't really needed, as the story is far more about the politics of the 20th century and the first look at temporal paradoxes. But the Daleks are much better being on the sidelines manipulating events and only disappoint during the climax. The regulars are all right, with Nick Courtney being the best of the lot and Aubrey Woods stealing the show as the Controller -- a character with far more depth than your normal Who villain at this time.

I'm not too sure when it happened, but somehow The Curse of Peladon went from being a fave-rave to something I canŐt even sit though any more. The acting is atrocious, and the story is very dull. The only two good bits are the fight between the Doctor and Grun, and when the Doctor realizes that Izlyr is actually on his side. Otherwise, The Curse of Peladon is a painful bore that fails to entertain on the so-bad-it's-good level that make serials like The Daemons watchable.

Business picks up with The Sea Devils. Yes, it's an action-oriented remake of The Silurians with the Master tossed in to give villainy a human face. But Big Roger Delgado is always loads of fun, the cast overall give strong performances and things move with such speed and confidence that it works as a big thrill ride. Also, by substituting the RN for UNIT, we see some of the old Doctor/establishment friction from Season 7 resurface, if only for a bit.

Like most of their other offerings, the Bob Baker and Dave Martin-penned Mutants is a mix of very interesting ideas, decent plotting and awful dialogue. I like the end of empire setting and the basic premise is interesting. It's just that combination of ripe dialogue being performed badly and a rushed ending that drag The Mutants down to merely average. The cool bit is the scene where the mutts are moving around in the cave, a very creepy moment. Pertwee gives a strong performance, but everyone else should lose their equity cards for their "acting."

It seems that everyone uses The Time Monster as a whipping boy for everything that was bad about the Pertwee era. I'm no different, either. This is a serial that manages to go so completely off the rails it defies description. But, there's that "dasiest daisy" scene, and Jo's bit of self sacrifice with the Time Ram at the climax, and the time flow analogue bit puts a big smile on my face. But then again, there's a Naked Benton Joke that closes the serial, the (expletive deleted out of charity) Minotaur, "Jo-Jo Grant", Big Rog making an ass of himself, the (expletive deleted due to length) Atlanteans, and so many more wrong turns that you might find yourself swearing off the show and turning to Star Trek (perish the thought). Like viewing Silver Nemesis the lingering question revolves around drug intake, as in "If the cast and crew were on drugs, then why weren't they shipped off to rehab, and if they weren't on drugs, then how come the cast and crew weren't forcibly medicated?"

Season 9 is a big disappointment, constrained by formulas and betrayed by atrocious acting even by Who standards. And there's not even any fun deeper level stuff going on to latch on to. Best viewed half in the bag.

Take up the season nine challenge! by Joe Ford 6/9/05

Reading these reviews of mine about the Pertwee era might lead you to think that I don't enjoy his tenure on the show. Nothing could be further than the truth, I think season seven and ten are marvellous and against popular opinion I find three stories in season eleven to be top notch Who. The trouble with this five year stretch of Doctor Who is that when it was good it was very, very good and when it was bad it was inexplicably bad. So bad, in fact that any other period of the show's bad seems good in comparison.

Season nine is bad. The nadir of the Pertwee era for sure, despite some firm competition from season eight. Of the five stories present I find just one completely bearable, two astonishingly awful and two sort of bad but in a good way. Production values suck, the writing is so pretentious and desperate to say something it forgets that we need entertaining too and featuring some of the most blase performances in the show's history. Season nine looks and sounds ugly.

It all starts off really well, which is kind of a shame since it fools you into thinking it might worth sticking around for the remaining five stories. Day of the Daleks is the one bright spot of the season, a clever time paradox story that ingeniously saves its big twist for the end of the tale (unlike TV these days which dumps these sort of revelations on you before the credits begin. See DS9's Children of Time) allowing the final instalment to wrap up the story with an unexpected and satisfying surprise.

There are many reasons why this story succeeds and only one reason it threatens to fail. Namely the Daleks, who are shoehorned into what is clearly a strong enough script to survive without them. It feels like those eighties stories like Silver Nemesis and The Two Doctors where big badass baddies from the past are included because they can be included and not because they are a vital function of the plot. It could have easily have been the Ice Warriors invading or the Cybermen or the Axons. Maybe not the Axons. As has been noted on many occasions the availability and expenditure of only three Daleks guts the story of their menace somewhat and painting one of them a different colour to the rest thus exposing their limited numbers to an even greater degree beggars belief. Their tinny voices don't sound quite right either, better than the homoDaleks of Dalek Invasion but nowhere near as scary as their previous appearance (Evil of the Daleks).

But who cares about the Daleks when you have such a complicated narrative to savour. The story twists and turns into a different genre with each passing episode, a ghost story, a post-apocalyptic nightmare, an action adventure, a political thriller and a SF mystery. That mistakenly suggests there were five episodes but you get the message, the story flirts with each of these for a time and discards them when it chooses. I can only think of one other show that adjusts to a fresh genre with such ease but I shan't mention it lest Mike Morris and Rob Matthews go into To the Slaughter-style rage attacks.

Whilst some have commented that setting the outside locations in a carpark gut the story of its chance to exploit the Dalek-ruled future, I find it brilliant, whether it was deliberate or simply the only location they could find. Watching beaten-down humans forced to work at the crack of whip is horrid enough but in a modern, everyday carpark... talk about mixing the mundane and the fantastic to good effect. The feeling of oppression is surprisingly well portrayed, using an unspoken hierarchy of power. The Daleks are in charge, the Controller makes their wishes known to the security staff, the security staff control the Ogrons and the Ogrons keep the humans, lowest of the low, in check.

As usual with Doctor Who, it is the performances that make this story work and Day of the Daleks has a cast that would make most telefantasy shows weep. At its head you have Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning and Nicholas Courtney who all acquit themselves well despite their ill feelings towards the script. Then you have Anna Barry who is totally convincing as guerrilla leader Anat, Aubrey Woods who threatens to steal Jon Pertwee's star power as the deeper than usual puppet Controller and Wilfred Carter (Styles) who delivers the most believable and underrated civil servant of the Pertwee era.

The story features some colourful location work, a decent musical score from Dudley Simpson (which during this era is called a miracle) and high action content. It is about as perfect as a "good" Doctor Who story can be without ever leaping up into the classic ranks. I would suggest you watch the story in its movie format it was originally released as, I have seen both versions of the story but the cliffhangers merely undercut the flow of the story which smoothly takes you on a trip of a lifetime.

It's such a terrible shame that the Letts/Dicks machine did not decide to broadcast Face of the Enemy instead of The Curse of Peladon despite the fact that said book was written twenty odd years later. I shall head to college, study temporal physics, invent a time machine and head back in time and hand the fat one and bearded this David A McIntee book so we can be spared the menagerie of monsters/Agatha Christine tale we got.

I want to say the story is completely without merit but that isn't completely true, director Lennie Mayne manages to brew up a fantastic "stormy night" atmosphere which increases the feeling of isolation and terror. What's more Pertwee and Manning's chemistry hits its highest high, only topped by Jo's departure tale. There is a subtle layer of flirtatious behaviour between them and they are clearly getting off on each other's company. Despite her efforts to get home, Jo loves this adventure and the Doctor, despite his incessant neck rubbing, loves being put in such a position of power. The Curse of the Peladon is well worth watching for their happy banter.

Unfortunately the story also boasts some of the worst production values to this point in the show's history (unfortunately it cannot hold that claim for long because The Sea Devils and The Mutants follow quickly after!). Trying to convince that this is medieval planet, the production team is foiled fast because of the sheer sparseness of the sets; the planet appears not to need furniture, entertainment, food, homes... it's just a few utterly bare sets and a cave. The alien monsters on display are hardly the series' most inspiring either, with both Alpha Centuri and Arcturus looking absurd and laughable and the Ice Warriors far too lumbering to be any real threat. Even Aggedor, the mythical beast of Peladon is just a man in a monkey suit.

The story has the emotional depth of an episode of Neighbours and the plot that wouldn't tax the brain of a five year old. The idea of a bunch of monsters meeting up to decide the fate of a planet and being menaced by one of their number is fantastic and ripe for good humour and chills but the story focuses on a icky love story for Jo and the politics of the situation (it's Star Trek I tells ya!). Go and watch The End of the World, with its familiar premise and superior production values, it trounces Curse of Peladon in every respect. Some of the romantic dialogue (I use the term very loosely) for Jo and Peladon is enough to turn your stomach and the characteristics of the aliens makes it immediately obvious who is good and who is bad. It is quite fun to play about with the Ice Warriors' reputation as nasties when they are in fact sweet as babes, but that is as far as the depth goes.

This one is for the kids only except if you put it in front of kids now they would probably laugh their heads at the naivete of it all.

The inexplicably popular Sea Devils story ranks as the number one vilest-looking Doctor Who story. Every facet of this production is hideous, from the drab and boring sets, the filthy, grainy location work (which despite being filmed on a gorgeous day somehow reminds me of a wet weekend in Wales) and the finger-in-the-ears bad incidental music - which admittedly detracts your attention away from the sheer seventies-ness of the production, but does so by slicing up with the aural equivalent of cheese wire.

I mentioned in my review of season eight that watching the Pertwee era is like slipping on a pair of comfy slippers. Relaxing and snug. Like meeting up with the family for a rollicking adventure, not too taxing and everyone aware of what is expected of them. The military are idiots. The baddie is suave. The hero is pretentious. The assistant is a dippy babe. All very cosy. Unfortunately it is during The Sea Devils where it all becomes a bit stale and annoying with the offscreen relationships spilling too far onscreen for the story to have any kind of effect on you. Clearly Delgado, Manning and Pertwee love working with each other and it feels as if the story has been written especially for them to lark around in boats and diving bells rather than to give us, the viewers, any pleasurable viewing experience. The Master is supposed to be an evil, murderous criminal but the Doctor and Jo walk into his cell as cosy as anything and have a good old chinwag. The Master is obviously not as incarcerated as we all thought and he has his prison manager (the inexplicably thick Trenchard) wrapped around his finger. He is also responsible for the latest alien threat, having dragged them from the depths of the ocean. YAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!

Good grief, can't the writers think up anything original or interesting or frightening. The Master should have been Hannibal-Lecter scary (like he was in Survival). Trenchard should have been a real hardass who is constantly trying to struggle against the Doctor's will. The aliens should have leapt from the ocean and started wiping out humans en masse not at the Master's will. Everything is so fluffy and welcoming it makes for remarkably tedious television. The few highlights come when Trenchard dies and the Master is locked up by the Sea Devils, where the script bothers to play about with these appalling stereotypes.

And the music really is painful. Keff McCulloch produced Mozart in comparison.

The Mutants is similarly grotesque on the eyes with all the usual complaints (cramped, unrealistic sets, ugly locations, bizarre tuneless music) but with the added grumble of having a halfway-interesting idea (evolution, colonisation) squandered on an overlong, atrociously-written script. Admittedly the story does improve as it goes along (but only because it is so despicable for its first two episodes) and even threatens to become interesting in places (especially when the Doctor and Sonderguard start examining the fascinating mutation of the aliens) but never quite succeeds because there is too much stupid SF (like at the climax when Ky evolves into a magical light show) papering over intelligent discussion.

Doctor Who is a show which relies on decent characterisation to appeal to the viewers. They rarely had the budget to create a believable threat to the characters but if you were invested in their well being anyway it didn't matter, your wish to see them safe (even in the face of the most ludicrous threats) was enough to keep you hooked. None of the characters in The Mutants make the slightest impression on me. The blame can be halved since the actors hardly make any great effort to be liked and the writers give them bland and uninteresting things to say. Ky, the rebel leader talks like a Conservative candidate, in long melodramatic speeches which have you rolling your eyes during the first line but painfully aware he will go on forever. The Marshall takes stock villainy to a new level with nothing at all redeemable about this fat, officious bully. It is a huge performance by Paul Whitsun-Jones in a small story and as such he comes across as even more hammy then the writing already caters for. There are a couple of cod Vikings who grunt and snarl and a pair of guards who brilliantly are supposed to comment on the action but say more about the ability of the writers of the time to create identifiable characters. Add to this mess Pertwee's Doctor at his most carefree and Manning's Jo struggling desperately to bring ANYTHING to the story and you have six episodes of proto-Voyager, lengthly discussion about SF topics that have no relevance, offer no entertainment and wind up just being words.

Which brings me nicely to The Time Monster, a story I have a huge soft spot for. A soft spot in the same way I have a soft spot for The Invisible Enemy and Time and the Rani, so completely awful in every respect that it achieves a sort of kitsch grandeur that it would be churlish to try and resist. Any story that spawned a book as monstrous as The Quantum Archangel can hardly be a seminal classic, can it?

I can see what this story is trying to achieve. It is an end of season epic that takes the Doctor and the Master to brink of hell and back in their petty rivalry with lots of mythology giving the story some dramatic weight and importance. Unfortunately the realisation of Doctor Who trying to stage Atlantis is every bit as horrific as it sounds and manages to somehow top the levels of hamminess of the previous story by quite some way.

Where this story does succeed where others have so appallingly failed this year is in convincing you that the regulars still have something decent to contribute. With UNIT back after their lengthy story gap away it has never been better to see the Brig and his fellow chappies. Things are as relaxed as ever but the fun banter between them has been sorely missed (who knew it was one of thing that made the Pertwee stories such a joy? Certainly not me until I experienced the pain of the last three stories!) and events seem far less sober and depressing with some larking about. When the story goes off on absurd sidetracks (such as the knight on horseback and the doodlebug!) I actually found myself enjoying the show again.

Alas the dialogue is bad, even by the standards of this season. I downright refuse to believe people spoke like this during the seventies, people say that Shakespearean dialogue is melodramatic and incomprehensible but they obvious haven't watched The Time Monster lately. "All hail the good ship women's lib and those who sail in it!"/"It can swallow a life as quickly as a boa constrictor can swallow a rabbit! Fur and all!"/ "You'll be consulting the entrails of the sheep next!"... this is quality shit and pure comedy gold. Unfortunately it is supposed to be taken seriously which is even funnier.

Characters such as Ruth and Stu ("Simmer down"!) remind me what a wonderful show Doctor Who is. No other show could create such hilariously a mischaracterised pair and flaunt them so casually for everybody to laugh their heads off at. Ideas such as TOMTIT are such hilarious nonsense you have to admire the audaciousness of the writers. I wonder if the script editor was reading this on the lav and not really concentrating on what he was doing. And with performances such as Ingrid Pitt's Galia and Roger Delgado's spammier than ever Master this is the ultimate b-movie Doctor Who, so inept you cannot fail to find every second of it sheer bliss.

Have I convinced you yet? Nope? Fine, you grab my e-mail address from the reviewers list and give me five classic scenes in this season. Just five. If you manage to achieve that I will be impressed. If you manage to back up your choices with a convincing argument I will amend this review with your glorious examples.

As it stands, watching season nine is like being forced to share a flat with Michael Howard and Margaret Thatcher: unbearably tedious, boring and scarcely worth considering in fear of your sanity.

Freshly Seasoned by Robert Smith? 5/12/06

Every incoming producer came with a plan to shake up the series. The Hinchcliffe and Nathan-Turner years are unrecognisable from those of their predecessors, with total reinventions of the format, the style and, most importantly, the lighting. Graham Williams had a definite agenda with the Key to Time, which he tried to instigate for Season 15, until time pressure pushed it back a year. Derek Sherwin managed to recast the Doctor, create the Time Lords and set the template for the Earthbound years. Which is pretty impressive for just two stories. Even John Wiles's short tenure launched a twelve episode Dalek epic and unsuccessfuly tried to get rid of William Hartnell.

The Peter Bryant year (plus Tomb of the Cybermen) is the exception to this, but who knows what was going on there, with the script editor and producer's roles swapping every other story. Presumably the jobs were given to the two people around the office who had the least case of the munchies that week. It was sixties, after all.

The Letts era also has its own agenda, but it's not quite the one you'd think at first. Season 7 was basically set in motion by Derek Sherwin, so the inherited Earthbound format plays itself out, with mature and morally thoughtful shows about good, evil and the propensity of the Earth's rage to turn us all into green werewolves. It's not until the following year (much like Graham Williams and the Key to Time) that the producer's vision for the series started to appear. Season 8 balanced its Earthbound setting with good-old-fashioned monster stories, exchanging the humanoid villains of Season 7 for much more alien monsters. Even Terror of the Autons features the titular monsters in grotesque circus guises and had that freaky CSO doll.

Then there's the first of the "Time Lord missions", otherwise known as "We've already invaded Surrey three times this month and we're desperately out of ideas." Within the context of the format, Colony in Space is a great idea, sadly let down by the gratuitous overuse of the Master and, of course, being utterly crap.

By the time Season 10 rolled around, the Earthbound format was formally relaxed, giving the Letts era some much-needed revitalisation. Partly this was to allow greater freedom for the writers and partly because the money saved from using standing sets over the past three years was almost #47.38, or enough to fund the entire special effects budget of Invasion of the Dinosaurs!

Season 9 is the slightly awkward middle child of the Barry Letts era. There's nothing about it the season as a whole that stands out, but it falls precisely into that period that everybody associated with memorable Doctor Who. It's all monsters coming out of the sea and alien delegates in a castle and UNIT battling an invading Dalek army and a man dressed up as a white bird flailing about on wires until he crashes into the camera. Classic stuff.

The Sea Devils is probably the second-most-remembered Doctor Who story. It's telling that, unlike the one with the maggots, it's remembered primarily for a single image (monsters coming out of the sea) rather than an element that ran through the entire story. Although if it were, I suppose it would be known to this day as "the one with the ugly guys in string vests holding CDs."

The problem with The Sea Devils is that it so desperately wants to be Doctor Who and the Silurians, but hasn't got the stomach for it. The latter is seven episodes of intelligent, thoughtful, moral dilemmas, where you can't honestly disagree with one side over another and where terrible actions evolve out of well-intentioned and understandable acts of survival. The Sea Devils has the Doctor arbitrarily deciding to blow up the underwater base with barely a whiff of moral questioning. But at least it kept its predecessor's penchant for whacked-out music, the like of which no human ear should be forced to suffer. Thank goodness for continuity.

The Sea Devils is also the only story of the season to take place entirely on present-day Earth. Even then, UNIT gets replaced by its acquatic cousin, the Royal Navy. It's a bold move and one of a number of steps that keeps the season much fresher than it would have been otherwise.

In fact, every story of the season is trying its hardest to break the format. The Master's only in two stories, although after the excesses of Season 8 that's probably one too many. There are two Time-Lord-mission stories and neither feel the need to feature the Brigadier in a Colony-style opening or closing shot. Day of the Daleks manages to have continual time travel between different timezones through the inventive means of walking into a tunnel. And the season finale extravaganza is set across 4000 years of history, has battling TARDISes with salad bowls on the walls and features that hammy bit in Kronos's CSO realm, which must be the sort of thing Barry Letts dreams about each night. This stuff is gold, I tell you.

The season's highlight is easily The Curse of Peladon. It's an astonishing story that feels more at home in today's televisual climate than it did in the seventies. The delegates are the most alien of alien races since the Hartnell years, yet with the exception of Aggedor they're also all intelligent characters with clear motivation. It features about four times as many monsters as any story in the past seven years, with designs ranging from a shrivelled head in a tank to a huge hairy beast. One of whom, if you're watching carefully, looks a little bit rude.

Of course, the sheer brilliance of Curse isn't its Cantina-style delegates or its political allegory, it's the Ice Warriors. Having them turn out to be good guys was a stroke of genius, but it's the fact that this is carried through without fundamentally altering their nature that really sells it. It's the Pertwee era's third and final step towards maturity (after Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Ambassadors of Death, respectively), but what a magnificent step it is!

Day of the Daleks might look a bit stodgy now, with an invasion force of three, that crazy bubble-wheeled tricycle thing and that Dalek with a cold. But what it lacks in - let's be honest - production, acting and effects, it totally makes up for in plot. The world on the brink of war is very effective and the creation of the future paradox is still outstanding. It's remembered for the titular monsters, of course, who are shoe-horned into the story with considerable style. It doesn't hurt that there's been a five year absence, during which time the show has reinvented itself as a series that's now fundamentally about monsters. As a story it's pretty good. As a television production, it's average at best. But as a hook to open a season that's trying to revamp the constraints it's stuck with, it's just about perfect.

By the time The Mutants rolls around, we're deep into the interminable six parters that feel like they're never going to end. The Mutants is one of those stories that's far more enjoyable to watch that it has any right to be. It's a great idea though: the Time Lords' mission involves sending the Doctor to deliver a box without telling him who it's meant for, and when Ky finally gets it, he has no idea what it means!

Finally there's The Time Monster, where it all falls apart. Despite the Atlantis two-parter tacked onto the end, this feels far too much like last year's style. The most common epithet this story gets is that it features the UNIT family one last time. Coming at the end of a season which has spent a full year trying to subvert precisely that format, it's a real shame. Plus, it's just loopy. I mean, have you seen that guy in episode 5? He's clearly the organiser of some sort of actor's union dispute, leading the entire cast in their work-to-rule action, where they say their lines, but do absolutely no acting whatsoever. Except for Roger Delgado, the picket-line-crossing scab!

Oh, and it's got that window cleaner in episode 1. Terry Walsh sees something horrible and falls off his ladder. (Though given that the Master hasn't begun his experiments yet, we can only speculate about what caused this. Maybe he saw Ruth and Stuart in a compromising position. I know that would have a similar effect on me.) Moments later, the Master walks past and barely spares him a glance, as though dead window cleaners were an everyday occurrence in his line of work. As opposed to, say, a major inconvenience for someone planning a dastardly experiment who might be discovered if the police were called.

However, it does have the "daisiest daisy" speech in it, which entirely makes up for the rest of it. Entirely.

Season 9 is a brave attempt to keep the series fresh. For the most part, the stories are better planned than they are executed, but a lot has gone into the planning, so it keeps the season afloat. You can understand why the very next story relinquished the series' (by now barely functioning) Earthbound restriction. Four of the five stories contain at least one moment that's truly astonishing: the revelaton of the time paradox, the Ice Warriors' new allegiance, replacing UNIT with the Royal Navy and the daisiest daisy speech. They might not be the best television stories ever made, but it's little wonder that they fell right in the middle of the era everyone remembers.

Personally, I liked the one with the tunnel. And the one with the political allegory. Plus the one with the string vests. Not to mention the one with the freaky scientist who's clearly, yet subtly, dying of radiation poisoning and doesn't even wear a mask. Even the one with the big flappy bird who lives outside time isn't so bad...

Oh Dear by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 5/7/07

Halfway through Jon Pertwee's Doctorship, the quality level nosedives. Nosedives right into an ocean trench actually. It really is that bad. It's been suggested that by this point, the cast and crew felt comfortable in their status as bastions of British television and no longer felt like they had to try. Well if that was the case then Season Nine is the final proof that complacency will kill you.

It's a shame, because the season starts off with a very strong story. Day of the Daleks is everything that serious Doctor Who should be. Strong performances, intelligent concepts, good script... It seems however that they just couldn't keep up the standard. Perhaps they lost the will to live. Whatever the reasons, the rest of Season Nine gets steadily worse, barring The Sea Devils, culminating with The Time Monster. It's a taint on Jon Pertwee's achievements, it really is. Even he is dragged down with it, the gradual slide in his performance being blatantly obvious. Yes, things will improve with Season Ten and Season Eleven but what really annoys me is that it almost spoils the two superb seasons prior to this. Season Seven is quite rightly regarded as one the highest pinnacles of televised Doctor Who. Season Eight develops the idea of the UNIT "family" and continues to present interesting ideas and strong character performances. Knowing what's going to follow those two seasons is almost enough to make you weep. All the Doctors had their weaker seasons but it's still no excuse. Let's look at the stories individually.

Day of the Daleks is one of the highlights of Jon Pertwee's era. The time-travel concept is used as the central core of the story and, for possibly the first time in the programme's history, we are presented with the notion that temporal movement can have very sinister side effects. There aren't any dodgy performances in this one and Aubrey Woods is superb. The musical score is great, the script, the sets, all are first rate. And let's face it, any story which can so effortlessly skirt around the less desirable aspects of the Daleks and actually present them as a sinister threat has got to be good.

The Curse of Peladon. Hmm, well. This one has always seemed quite popular. Or at least it was; the fan opinion of Jon Pertwee's stories can fluctuate quite alarmingly. I for one don't like it. It's boring. In terms of production values and acting, it isn't the worst story of the season. I mean just look at The Mutants and The Time Monster. But for some reason I just can't get through it. There was a time when I could watch it if I was really bored but now I feel absolutely no inclination to put the video and watch it. Even The Mutants and The Time Monster I can watch if I'm feeling very masochistic but this... It was inspired by Britain's accession to the EU. So it was quite topical for its day but not any longer it would seem. Boring, boring , boring. Don't bother attempting to watch it, just drink a bottle of vodka while staring at the wallpaper, it has the same result.

The Sea Devils. Oh yes. The Silurians ditches some of its moral baggage and goes big budget. A thoroughly entertaining story with Naval bases, warships and sea forts. Roger Delgado returns in fine style and Pertwee seems to have rediscovered his joie de vivre. Good acting, interesting music and some nice location filming. Enjoy it while it lasts.

The Mutants is another exceedingly dull story. I mean, this really is hopeless. Were any of the actors even trying? Bob Baker and Dave Martin effectively demonstrate why most their stories should be approached with caution, Paul Whitsun-Jones froths at the mouth and Geoffrey Palmer dies in episode one. Quite why anyone bothered with the rest of it God only knows. Jon Pertwee really does seem bored out of his skull.

The Time Monster. Well, what can I say? How about that it's fucking awful? Worse than that, it's fucking painful. Terrence Keenan speculates on the possibility of cast and crew drug intake at the time. You and me both Terrence. Disgusting music, a script that should have been thrown in a landfill site and characters that should all have been steamed to death contrive to make this story one of the most horrifyingly challenging to watch. The absolute nadir of the Pertwee era. Remember that ocean trench I mentioned at the start of this review? Well that's exactly where this story belongs.

If you want to see the Pertwee era in a good light then stay away from Season Nine. If you must investigate it then watch Day of the Daleks and The Sea Devils but for the sake of your patience, stay away from the other three.

A Review by James Neiro 20/4/10

After many years and many seasons the Daleks finally returned to Doctor Who and in color for the very first time on the small screen. The Day of the Daleks was a nice piece of writing and it was fantastic to see the Daleks back again. The Curse of Peladon was another great piece of television writing that brought the Doctor and Jo to the alien world of Peladon and also introduced the 'fan favorite' character Alpha Centauri. The Ice Warriors were also a welcome surprise to the plot. The Master returned in the following story The Sea Devils and yet again in the season finale The Time Monster. The Time Monster had so much potential to be a great finale and a classic Doctor Who story but ended up falling flat and becoming a rather dull script.

Sound and Vision (and alternatives) by Stephen Maslin 18/6/18

"What the... No, no, no, no..."

Day of the Daleks

(written by Louis Marks, directed by Paul Bernard)

Montage clips: fears growing over the UK economy, with unemployment over one million for the first time since World War Two; Japanese soldier Shoichi Yokoi discovered in Guam, having spent 28 years in the jungle.

Montage music: 'Metal Guru' by T. Rex, UK number one single for 4 weeks in May and June, 1972.

Listen to the Daleks; in particular, listen to them in two stories from the Second Doctor era. In Power of the Daleks, the noises they make are utterly ludicrous: adenoidal music-hall artistes doing impressions of mildly dyspeptic accountants. The story itself is well enough respected, but the way that the Pepperpots come across as communicators is as unconvincing as a cardboard Dalek. Now, contrast that thin, scratched-papery sound with The Evil of the Daleks. A story less well respected by some (not this reviewer) but, as mere sound, the Daleks are terrifying. Ter-ri-fy-ing. It's that clear cut. The sound of the former is to be shunned as 'twere a rabid dog. Generic, annoying, childish. The sound of the latter (unique, uncanny, sublime) is to be embraced and taken as standard (which it ultimately was... from 2005 onwards). One must assume that the two stories mentioned above were not available as source material back in Autumn 1971, as the lesson was clearly not learned by Paul Bernard and his team. Or perhaps the BBC's ring modulator was up the spout. Thank heavens that wasn't the end of it...

Verdict: 6/10.


The Day of the Daleks special edition

Released on DVD forty years after the story's first broadcast, this one really got The Treatment, an unusually thorough working over (with a realisation that, even more than the three-Pepperpot invasion force and some indifferent special effects, what really needed addressing was the sound). The cumulative effect is staggering. What was once slightly more than mildly interesting is now, out of the dedication and care of a handful of hardy souls, transformed into the finest extant Dalek story of the Classic era. Better than Genesis, better than Remembrance. Yet is this really a Dalek story at all? The restoration team could actually have taken the whole process a stage further and CGI-ed the Daleks out of the story altogether, for they are little more than window-dressing. Needless to say, there are a few other tragically damaged stories that needed this spit-and-polish approach, but that will now, alas, never receive it: The Three Doctors, Invasion of the Dinosaurs and The Android Invasion being first in the queue (followed very closely by The Invasion of Time and The Armageddon Factor).

Verdict: 8/10.

"I'm talking from a personal point of view. I don't often get the chance..."

The Curse of Peladon

(Brian Hayles)

Montage clips: Bloody Sunday (the British Army killing 14 unarmed nationalist civil rights marchers in Derry); anti-British riots throughout Ireland; Mariner 9 sending pictures as it orbits Mars; the British government declaring a state of emergency over a miners' strike.

Montage music: 'I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing in Perfect Harmony' by The New Seekers, UK number one single for 4 weeks in January and February, 1972.

The Curse of Peladon has garnered a fair amount of praise over the years but I must say that I find it rather dull. Not dull in a Colony in Space rubbish-and-dull kind of way, but in a very-good-but-dull kind of way. One feels one should like it. One feels one should write a lot about it...

Verdict: 6/10


The Curse of Peladon narrated soundtrack

As well as being about being nice to one another, The Curse of Peladon is also about how varied alien life looks on a very limited budget. Curious, then, that this story (one that can be seen in its entirety) was ever released as a narrated soundtrack. (Only five other Pertwee stories were granted this strange honour: The Silurians, The Ambassadors of Death, The Mind of Evil, The Sea Devils and The Monster of Peladon. One might wonder why those particular stories were chosen.) Nothing is gained by this format in this case. Any self-respecting Who fan already knows how it ends (and probably knows much of the dialogue by heart). In fact, it brings the stories occasional bouts of tweeness into sharper focus.

Verdict: 6/10.

"Entering the specified zone now, sir. About to dive."

The Sea Devils

(Malcolm Hulke)

Montage clips: Nixon in China; 'The Godfather'; the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe housing scheme in St Louis.

Montage music: 'Amazing Grace' by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, UK number one single for 5 weeks in April and May, 1972.

The Sea Devils manages to be both earthbound and very, very 'out there'. Matched by oddly stagey set pieces and some snappy editing, it has the sound-world of something very far distant, and Malcolm Clarke's deliberately stripped down tune-fragments allow his glorious knob-twiddling to take full flight. There is nothing else like the sound of it anywhere or anywhen. The story? Oh, you know, base under siege, UNIT replaced by the Royal Navy, the Silurians replaced by their string-vested cousins, and the Master's in it somewhere, blah, blah and indeed blah... but with a soundtrack so deliciously outlandish, it could be about grouting bathroom tiles for all I care.

Verdict: 7/10.


Doctor Who at the Radiophonic Workshop Volume 2

The Sea Devils is all about sound. It's about Malcolm Clarke. It's about a director (Michael Bryant) who loves the idea of 'new'. It's about a huge synthesiser the size of a barn that nobody understands, placed in the hands of someone who refuses to be beaten by it. It's certainly not about the script (worthy but slow) or any arresting moral dilemmas. Grab yourself a copy of the music release, and you've got the best of it.

Verdict: 9/10.

"It's magnificent. It's like a cathedral..."

The Mutants

(Bob Baker and Dave Martin)

Montage clips: the Vietnam War; the United States resumes bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong; the mining of Haiphong Harbor in Vietnam; large-scale bombing operations against North Vietnam.

Montage music: 'Telegram Sam' by T. Rex, UK number single for 2 weeks in February, 1972.

The Mutants is all about sound again too, which is to say that the music is the only thing worthy of any respect. Unlike The Sea Devils, where the visuals stoutly refuse to get in the way of the music (a few semi-iconic images and no more), here almost everything one sees makes one despair. Worse, the script (the actual words to be spoken, not to mention the plot) is about as bad as Doctor Who ever got. It's not that I dislike The Mutants per se; rather that every Baker and Martin script has to be, in some way, redeemed: The Three Doctors was redeemed by Patrick Troughton (and Nicholas Courtney); The Sontaran Experiment was redeemed by being only two episodes long; The Hand of Fear was redeemed by substantial Robert Holmes input, and so forth. The BBC designers (and the weather) had saved Baker and Martin's first script, The Claws of Axos, from baring its wooden teeth too flagrantly, but they fail to do so here. Composer Tristam Cary makes a damn good try at distracting us - the music is at times utterly breathtaking - but it's nowhere near enough.

Verdict: 3/10.


Devils' Planets

There once existed a double CD of Tristram Cary's music for Doctor Who, the second disc of which is almost entirely devoted to his admirable score for The Mutants. Perhaps it could be inserted into Season Nine as a sound-only replacement for this whole sorry six part nonsense.

Verdict: 8/10.

"You are a philosopher, friend."

"Well, if wisdom is to seek the truth, I am..."

The Time Monster

(Robert Sloman and Barry Letts)

Montage clips: Red Army Faction bombs explode in the AG media offices in Hamburg and the U.S. Army Barracks in Heidelberg; three Japanese Red Army members kill 24 and injure 100 in Lod Airport, Israel.

Montage music: 'Son of My Father' by Chicory Tip, UK number one single for 3 weeks in February and March, 1972.

Unlike its two predecessors, The Time Monster is not about sound. Lord knows what it is about. What The Time Monster certainly is not is boring. Stupid, yes. Ill-judged, certainly. Tonally unbalanced, almost as much as Time and the Rani (and Ingrid Pitt is teeth-grindingly dreadful). But boring? Nope. Having said that, it does not fare well against the three other Sloman-Letts finales. (Perhaps that's raising the bar a bit high.) Better than The Daemons? No, though it does come from the same pastry-cutter, both of them being so energetically daft. Better than The Green Death? Of course not. By that point, Sloman and Letts had realised that entertainment has a more noble function than merely being entertaining. Would I rather watch The Time Monster than Planet of Spiders, then? Certainly not. They both have their fair share of Lettsian homilies but in Planet of Spiders they are much more coherent, mixed in with some proper character development, whereas The Time Monster is a mess.

Verdict: 5/10.


By saying that there is no alternative, I don't mean that The Time Monster should be replaced with nothing, but that it is irreplaceable. This seems an odd thing to say about a story that has always received such a bad press. When starting out watching Old Who, I remember being warned that when I finally got round to seeing The Time Monster, my faith in the show would be given a really good shaking. But not a bit of it. It's not brilliant but neither is it The Twin Dilemma.

"Would you condemn anyone to an eternity of torment?"

Season 9 Overall

Montage clips: Doctor + Daleks; Doctor + Alpha Centauri + Arcturus + Izlyr; Doctor + Sea Devils; Doctor + Mutants; Doctor + Kronos.

Montage music: 'Starman' by David Bowie, released as a single in late April, 1972.

With Day of the Daleks in its rejuvenated form, and The Time Monster being given a little more leeway than it perhaps deserves, there is really only The Mutants that is beyond the pale. That said, Season Nine is a fistful of stories that, even at its best, is content to mark time. We are a good few rungs down from the best Pertwee seasons (Ten and Seven) and in dire need of a Robert Holmes story to have something to quote at dinner parties. It's Pertwee's worst season, yes, but it is better than Hartnell's worst (3), better than Tom Baker's worst (17) and better than Davison's worst (20), and easily on a par with Troughton's worst (6). As worsts go, it's not at all that bad.