THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS
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My Bottom Ten Stories by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 9/11/12

The title says it all. Presented here in no particular order (apart from chronologically) are the ten stories which I wish could be removed from time and space.

The Chase

The first two Dalek stories were magnificent in their own respective ways. They dedicated themselves to establishing the Daleks as genuinely threatening killing machines with no redeeming features. This story trounces that completely and decides to treat the Daleks as comic creatures. Terry Nation was never the show's best writer nor its most original one, but this is possibly his worst effort. It looks terrible, the acting is atrocious, the script is a travesty, the whole tone of the piece is far, far too silly and the music really doesn't help matters.

The Mutants

Boring. Very boring. So boring in fact that it could very possibly be bad for your health. Six episodes or dire drivel peppered with some almost eerie scenes in caves, although this hardly makes up for the rest of it. Jon Pertwee seems to be on autopilot for the most part, as if he's bored rigid with the whole affair, and it's wholly understandable. The script veers wildly between tolerable and cringe-inducing, the acting of most of the guest cast is unbelievably bad (step forward Rick James) and there is far too much dull politicking. There are one or two nice touches in this story but it's scant reward for enduring the rest of it.

The Time Monster

"OUCH! BLOODY HELL THAT HURT"! This is a fairly common reaction to The Time Monster and quite frankly it isn't hard to see why. Nobody either in front of or behind the camera is taking this steaming great pile of shite remotely seriously and it shows. The guest cast are atrocious without exception. I'm very fond of Dudley Simpson as a composer, but there is more than enough evidence within these six episodes to form a case for having him shot. Watch the scenes with Kronos and weep. This is easily the worst story of the Pertwee Era. The Mutants isn't far off, but at least it was trying to be a serious drama. The Time Monster has no such delusions, it's shite and knows it.

The Three Doctors

Let me begin by saying that I actually quite like the Gel Guards, ridiculous as that may sound. Patrick Troughton is beyond criticism and his constant bitching with Pertwee is delightful. The rest of The Three Doctors is an endurance test and, as with The Time Monster, the pantomime elements are allowed to dominate, which is a big mistake in a story that is trying to engender a sense of universal doom. Stephen Thorne plays Omega as an unbelievably ranty, one-note maniac and is by far the most irritating aspect of the story.

Warriors of the Deep

It seems like a good idea on paper, but that's as far as it goes. The Sea Devils are atrociously realised, they function merely as lumbering monstrosities with lop-sided heads. Doctor Who and The Silurians and The Sea Devils are both classics, two of the finest stories of the Pertwee Era. Quite why it was necessary to tar their reputation with this pile of wanktwattery is beyond me. The acting is unconvincing at best. And then there is the Myrka... If you're one of those people who consider the Fifth Doctor to be an ineffectual waif who couldn't keep people alive, then this story will confirm that impression big time.

Resurrection of the Daleks

Depressing, rubbish Daleks, bad acting, horrendously OTT death scenes and dreary music combine to make this one of the least enjoyable Fifth Doctor stories. The body count is once again considerable. I personally have no problem with high body counts in Doctor Who - I actually quite like the brutality of it - but it isn't a good thing when so many people are dying because the Doctor is too ineffectual to keep people alive. I'm no Davison hater, but Resurrection of the Daleks makes it very easy to see why some people still consider him to be the wet vet.

Delta and the Bannermen

I find it hard to sum up exactly how much I detest this story. How the hell did it ever get made? For sheer painful, cringe-inducing awfulness it trounces The Time Monster with consummate ease. Season 24 is easily one of the worst in the show's history and this cancerous growth is by far the worst part of it. It's too bright, too colourful, too cheesy and too camp. Keff McCulloch is far and away the worst composer who ever worked on the show and his music is yet another example of what was wrong with Doctor Who in this period. I don't know what this crime against humanity is, but it sure as hell isn't Doctor Who. Probably the single most awful story ever.

Dragonfire

After Delta and the Bannermen, the only way was up, but not high enough it seems. It's a step in the right direction and the series is obviously trying to escape from the hellish pantomime that it has become, but it still isn't trying hard enough. Bad acting is almost a given in Season 24 and this story is no exception. Terrible scripting and unbelievable stupidity abound, a prime example being the end episode one when the Doctor, for no readily apparent reason, decides to climb over the railings and lower himself into a vast chasm.

The Happiness Patrol

A well-respected story in some corners of fandom, but not by me. Apparently, it's an allegory on gay rights or the Thatcher years or something along those lines. The inescapable fact is that it's buried in a surface layer of silliness which renders any allegorical intentions worthless. Although many scenes are tastefully underlit, many of them are not and the shoddiness of the production is constanly apparent. The scenes with the Kandyman are enjoyable and McCoy seems to be toning down the silliness, but it doesn't make up for the lamentable quality of the rest of it. I have no desire to see the TARDIS painted pink. Ever.

Battlefield

On the plus side, Battlefield looks quite impressive with lots of location filming and explosions. However, it is badly written and the acting isn't exactly thrilling either. Keff McCulloch's score is once again terrible. Quite why he was ever hired to work on the show, I will never know. Jean Marsh is quite impressive, but Mordred and Ancelyn are useless. The only blot on an otherwise superb season.


Guest Characters That Should Have Lived by Tim McCree 27/5/15

During the long run of Doctor Who, the Doctor has run across many characters in his travels. Some of these characters die, despite the efforts of the Doctor to save them. However, I feel that many of these characters should have been spared. Here are some guest characters that I feel should have lived.

  1. Lawrence Scarman (Pyramids of Mars). I can't fault the poor guy for being concerned about his brother, Marcus. The most tragic thing is that Lawrence almost reached what was left of Marcus, before Sutekh reasserted control. Was Marcus aware that he was murdering his brother (Sutekh would be cruel enough to do something like that). Still, Lawrence was a good man, and he should have survived.
  2. Scorby (The Seeds of Doom). One might be surprised to find this character on my list, because he was a thug, who worked for the evil Harrison Chase. However, when he realizes what is truly going on, that all of humanity is in danger, he quickly joins the Doctor's side in trying to stop the Krynoid.
  3. Vince Hawkins (Horror of Fang Rock). Vince was a very likable character, and one can really bond with him. Yes, he took a bribe from Lord Palmerdale, but come on, it was only to send a message, not to murder someone. Terrence Dicks should have let him live. Someone should have been left to tell the tale of how the Doctor saved the Earth from the Rutans. Vince should have been that character.
  4. Thea Ransome (Image of the Fendahl). The poor woman didn't become the Fendaleen Priestess by choice, Stael and his goons saw to that. While they all did get their comeuppance, the Doctor should have found a way to save Thea too.
  5. Aunt Vanessa (Logopolis) Another death that didn't need to happen. She was no threat to the Master, so why did he kill her?
  6. Professor Kyle (Earthshock). Did they really need to kill this poor woman, considering what she had already gone through? Couldn't she have been one who survived in the end? Mind you, this was during the reign of Eric "Body Count" Saward, when this happened a lot.
  7. Oscar Botcherby (The Two Doctors). They didn't need to kill this poor bloke either. Couldn't Shockeye have just knocked him out?

Do you agree with this list? Do you have any characters of your own that you feel should have been kept out of the Grim Reaper's clutches? If so, feel free to make your own list.


11% of Doctor Who is Rubbish by Stephen Maslin 31/7/16

Doctor Who fans of times past had a reputation for, amongst many other things, loving the worst corners of their show almost as much as they loved the best. Unrealistic monsters and "wobbly sets" were, so we were told, part of the charm. There are occasions, however, when awfulness can go too far: when a guilty pleasure is merely guilty. While one is aware that there is a certain amount of "taste" involved in such matters, there may well be stories that are objectively crap. Here's ten that might fit the bill...

10 Fear Her

With New Who riding high both in awards ceremonies and in the public consciousness, mid Season 2006 showed us the first signs of it becoming too self-congratulatory for its own good. Fear Her is a poor story by anyone's standards, but what elevates it below the average is its saccharin-cheesy Olympic torch ending. Oh. My. Lord. Was there anyone who didn't barf out the contents of their stomach while watching it? Utterly vile.

9 Warriors of the Deep

A second consecutive dreadful season opener for the Fifth Doctor and by far the worst. Peter Davison deserves a medal for hiding his embarrassment so well. What a pity the rest of us can't. If anyone gets into an argument about whether 'Classic Who' was actually any good, one picture of the Myrka and the argument is lost.

8 The Trial of a Time Lord

Even though a third of it was written by the great Robert Holmes, this is a depressing and inept heap of dung, all the worse when one remembers that this overblown self-regarding tosh was the rejoinder to potential cancellation. A six-hour suicide note.

7 The Horns of Nimon

An impossible choice: which of the last three extant stories of Season 17 should be included here? At least Creature from the Pit has a few nice lines of dialogue and Nightmare of Eden has David Daker in the support cast. The Horns of Nimon has no such redeeming feature. About the only positive thing one can say is that Lalla Ward is wearing a nice outfit, which is like saying that someone in Ed Wood's 'Plan 9 From Outer Space' has a nice pair of shoes. The rest of it is bilge.

6 The Mutants

Wallace and Gromit films are rightly lauded for their visual style, so much so that one ignores the fact that the dialogue is actually very poor. From 'The Wrong Trousers' onwards, they were all co-written by Bob Nightmare of Eden Baker, one half of 70s Who stalwarts Baker & Martin. As with Wallace and Gromit, the astonishing visual style of Baker & Martin's Doctor Who debut The Claws of Axos obscures deficiencies elsewhere. When that visual style is absent, what you are left with is their second story, The Mutants. Dreary, interminable and desperately ordinary. It makes one wonder how the show survived the Pertwee era at all.

5 Voyage of the Damned

Even though I had been out of the loop with Doctor Who for a quite a while before sitting down to this Christmas 'treat', the second we met Astrid, I knew precisely what her fate would be: to save the day with heroic self-sacrifice. I was, of course, absolutely correct. (I was also right in predicting that I would not be emotionally engaged by her demise one iota.) Predictability is tedious at the best of times but in Doctor Who it's a crime.

4 Ghost Light

One finds it hard to dislike the McCoy era: it's usually only bad in a "What the F" Time and the Rani kind of way, or in a "Sooo-80s" Greatest Show in the Galaxy kind of way. There's almost nothing that is actually hateful. No, not even Battlefield. The major exception to this is Ghost Light: not merely pretentious and incomprehensible but so edited as to be completely unwatchable. Worse, the solution to this unwatchability was to smother it with the most obtrusive musical score this side of Murray Gold.

3 Planet of Fire

During the three years or so of the Fifth Doctor era, average audiences dropped from about 9.25 million to just over 7.0 million and with a change of lead actor looming on the horizon, drastic action was needed. Alas, cynicism outstripped imagination and someone decided that the best way to get people watching again was to cast a buxom young lady and put her in a bikini. Well, guess what? It didn't stop the show from failing: what it did do was make it sleazy and contemptible.

2 The Twin Dilemma

Twuly dweadful. You can't wealistically leave this off any worst list. Impwessive in just how often it hits the 'wholly unacceptable' level. One would think that, after the howwendous opening few minutes, things could only impwove but no, not wemotely. Ghastly, weally weally ghastly, wight up to end.

1 Love & Monsters

It's not just the toe-curling 'comedy' intro, nor Peter Kay in that pathetic costume, nor the writer forcing the mediocre music of his youth on an unsuspecting public, nor even the underlying misogyny at the heart of it all. It is all of the above. Mostly though it's that while every single thing this story attempts fails miserably, the production crew seem to be slapping themselves so heartily on the back for it. One of the most complacent pieces of television ever made (and only six short weeks after The Girl in the Fireplace).

Bubbling Under:

11 Four to Doomsday (the dancing disaster)

12 The Monster of Peladon (once more without feeling)

13 Full Circle (slaughter those damn youths)

14 Dragonfire (the land of cardboard ice and cardboard acting)

15 Timelash (the worst story of a very bad season)

16 The Day of the Doctor (The War Doctor, for f*ck's sake...)

17 Mawdryn Undead (death by Kingsland)

18 The Dominators (never bicker)

19 Nightmare of Eden (fiddling while Rome burns and fiddling very badly)

20 The Daleks' Master Plan (nasty, brutish and very, very long)

21 Arc of Infinity (just kill me)

22 Death to the Daleks (but what have you done for us lately?)

23 Journey's End (cheese!)

24 Creature from the Pit (what were they thinking?)

25 all the Sixth Doctor stories not already mentioned

oh, and every single minute of Torchwood


Let Me Say, Before It Has To Go by Stephen Maslin 6/9/16

2005 killed a certain kind of Doctor Who fandom stone dead; that kind of obsessive re-examining of a once living and breathing entity that had turned to stone. In homage to those barren times, when fans traded favourite companion lists and argued about UNIT dating, here is one last 'Best of': an indulgently subjective Top Ten. (If I had included 21st century TV Who in the list of possibles, the final ten would have looked pretty much the same. The Girl in the Fireplace might have made the cut. Or the bits of The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances without Captain Jack. Might have...)

10. The Invasion.

It took me a long time to recognize just how great a story this actually is. In fact, I didn't realize until seeing the DVD trailer with the animated reconstruction. Far from seeming forced or out of place, they seemed to underline the iconic status of its original enduring images. So, with shiny new DVD in hand, I went back to re-watch the whole thing. Perhaps its superb animated sequences give The Invasion an unfair advantage over its limping stablemates in Season 6, but I think it's more a question of personnel (particularly Messrs Courtney, Stoney and Halliday) and of direction (Douglas Camfield; who else?). Were we to have the entirety of the Troughton era restored (which is, alas, never going to happen), one might find oneself opting for Fury From the Deep or one of the gems from late Season 4, but, as it stands, this is one the best Troughton experiences available to us.

Dr Where: Sadly, in the year the DVD was released, Giles Gilbert Scott's magnificent Park Royal Guinness Brewery, where a lot of The Invasion was filmed, was demolished, denying fans one of the show's finest former locations.

9. Castrovalva.

Okay, so the beginning is a bit embarrassing (Zman153's Youtube video 'Yakkety-valva' gets it spot on). Yet once it gets going (somewhere in the middle of part 2), Castrovalva is an engaging little story. For all the wandering around and the Ainley-Waterhouse School of Over-Acting, C H Bidmead nevertheless achieves his most successful scientific mystery, with a uniquely plaintive mood. The scenes set in Castrovalva itself are like nothing else, and for once Paddy Kingsland doesn't wreck everything.

Dr Where: In case you didn't know, Castrovalva is a real place (in Abruzzo, Italy) and really is on top of a steep cliff. Nearest train station: Anversa Vilalago Scanno (on the Roma-Sulmona-Pescara Railway).

8. Pyramids of Mars.

Such a colossus at only number 8? For all the glories of its earlier stages, Pyramids really does fizzle out in Episode 4. Yet balance that against its manifold virtues. I don't need to list them here. You either know all about them already or are in that oh so fortunate position of being yet to discover them. If you are the latter, go out and buy it this minute. If you are the former, go and watch it again: you deserve it.

Dr Where: It's hard to imagine any other programme of its time (or since) making such a geographical juxtaposition as 'Egypt comes to the English countryside via Mars'. Doing so while only occasionally seeming preposterous really is achieving the impossible.

7. Carnival of Monsters.

Quite simply a joy. The familiar rendered unfamiliar; the unfamiliar rendered hilarious and, surprise, surprise, a scary monster that is actually scary. Throw in a cast made up almost entirely of hugely memorable characters and you have a 'Classic Who' experience that is hard to beat.

Dr Where: The scenes aboard the SS Bernice were filmed aboard the RFA Robert Dundas on its very last voyage, on its way to be scrapped. The odd camera angles are the result of the director avoiding views of the banks of the un-oceanic River Medway.

6. The Sun Makers.

This really shouldn't be any good; the budget is spread so thin you can almost see through the video tape. Yet it should have been an object lesson for late 70s Who: having virtually no money does not mean that you have an excuse for bad telly. Needless to say, even with Robert Holmes' superb morally ambiguous script, and Tom Baker and Louise Jameson on top form, it is Henry Woolf's Collector that steals the show.

Dr Where: Once upon a time, everybody in Britain smoked, and, to prove it, the largest cigarette factory in Europe once stood on the outskirts of Bristol. For three days in June 1977, it was annexed to the dwarf planet Pluto. Part of it has since been demolished, part converted into a theatre and part converted into (ominous chords) 'luxury apartments'.

5. The War Machines.

Resonantly nostalgic (London as it was, Britain as it was), with many intriguing undercurrents: the legend of its recovery and the ingenuity of its restoration; the curious asymmetry (including a companion unceremoniously dumped half way through); the innocence; the simplicity (simple exterior shots assume the status of visual poetry); the last great performance of William Hartnell. More than all of that, Michael Craze and Anneke Wills, with whom Doctor Who finally arrives in the modern age.

Dr Where: The unabashed 'newness' of The War Machines is underlined by the relative newness of where its exterior shots were filmed: not new in relation to the age of its buildings but to the age of its nomenclature. Fitzrovia (sandwiched between Regent's Park to the north, Marylebone to the west, Bloomsbury to the east and Soho to the south) was not so named until relatively recently, some time in the 1930s. Thus we have a ready-made subtitle: The War Machines - Death in Fitzrovia.

4. The Androids of Tara.

A script that manages to out-Holmes Robert Holmes, the last note-perfect Tom Baker performance and the peerless Count Grendel ("a certain... courtesy"), all set in a dreamy endless summer at Leeds Castle. If only we could CGI that damned Woodbeast into some level of acceptability, this would be perfection.

Dr Where: To say that Leeds Castle is steeped in history is a massive understatement. It is also one Doctor Who location that needs less suspension of disbelief than most. The gift shop, however, should consider stocking some Count Grendel action figures (and an inflatable Wood-Beast).

3. The Web of Fear.

The news in 2013 that all but one episode was back, back, back was a truly wonderful surprise and, contrary to some understandable trepidation, The Web of Fear did not disappoint. Patrick Troughton simply could not be better, nor could the claustrophobic setting be better realized. Glorious.

Dr Where: If The War Machines belongs to Fitzrovia, then The Web of Fear belongs to Covent Garden and its Old Market (where there were, until 1974, always a few empty crates and boxes for a stray yeti to knock over). The market may have moved but Covent Garden is still home to the Royal Opera House, which has little or no connection here. For opera (space opera or otherwise) The Web is not. It's so down-to-earth, its underground.

2. The Time Warrior.

So you thought Robert Holmes wasn't at home doing historicals? To be fair, neither did he, but just look at the result! Laugh out loud funny (even the walk-ons get great lines: "A courtly rogue"), chock-full of marvellous characters (Professor Rubeish is one of my favourite characters in all television), with Kevin Lindsay and David Daker as the finest bipedal villains since The War Games. All that plus Sarah Jane Smith's arrival - neither patronizing nor tokenistic - makes this something truly delicious.

Dr Where: In 2011, a failed property tycoon caused a huge fire at his own wedding reception being held at Peckforton Castle (where The Time Warrior's exterior shots were filmed). One can't imagine anyone who had seen The Time Warrior, no matter how drunk, no matter how brain-dead, to have been capable of such a deed. One can imagine him muttering "No one calls Irongron a fool" as he struck the match.

1. Terror of the Zygons.

Perfect everything. Baker, Banks Stewart, Burgon, Camfield, Courtney, Hinchcliffe, Holmes, Marter, Sladen. Plus the best-designed alien menace in the show's history. Scary yet charming, and both beautiful to look at and to listen to. Heaven.

Dr Where: T of the Zs was filmed in West Sussex on Britain's south coast, 300 miles south of the Scottish border. Tulloch Moor is not real. Yet if you take the West Highland Line north from Glasgow, there is a remote station called 'Tulloch', though the surrounding land is described as an 'area' rather than a moor. The station is about 16 miles due south as the crow flies from Fort Augustus on the southern tip of Loch Ness. Near enough for a cyborg Nessie to do a spot of commuting - when it's ordered to. They really should put up a plaque.

Bubbling under: 11. Spearhead From Space; 12. The Ribos Operation; 13. The Visitation; 14. Warriors' Gate; 15. The Time Meddler; 16. The Ark in Space; 17. Black Orchid; 18. The Robots of Death; 19. The Enemy of the World; 20. The Seeds of Doom. 21. The Green Death. 22. The Deadly Assassin. 23. The Caves of Androzani. 24. The Talons of Weng-Chiang. 25. Kinda... and every single one of The Sarah Jane Adventures.


Top Ten Stories That Never Got Made by S Maslin 20/10/16

Choose any season of Doctor Who (quite possibly any season of anything) and you can usually pick at least one story that could have been done a lot better... or that shouldn't be there at all. Sometimes the seasonal flaw is easy to spot: The Dominators, Colony in Space, The Mutants, The Armageddon Factor, Four to Doomsday, Arc of Infinity. Sometimes it's a little more difficult: Death to the Daleks or Monster of Peladon? The Invisible Enemy or Underworld? Meglos or Full Circle? Warriors of the Deep or Planet of Fire? Sometimes it's impossible: is there really anything from Tom Baker's first three seasons that one could really live without? Sometimes you really are spoilt for choice, as in Season 17. Sometimes it's contentious: is Planet of the Daleks really that bad? Sometimes it's controversial: I'd get rid of at least half of Inferno from Season 7 but I doubt anyone else would.

But all this raises a question: what would you have put in its place?

Throughout its long history, there have been many Doctor Who scripts that have fallen on stony ground. Some deservedly so (the grandiose, the stupid, the just plain dull), but there have been others that give us tantalizing glimpses of alternative reality: in which Season 12 is 26 episodes long; in which Arc of Infinity doesn't exist; in which there is no such thing as Full Circle; in which Invasion of the Dinosaurs isn't "of dinosaurs" at all; in which Season 17 is actually quite good; in which there are three Yeti stories instead of two; in which the twentieth anniversary is something about which one could have felt genuinely proud.

Take a look at any of the lists of unmade stories that you can find on the net and dream a little...

10

Avenging Angel

Robert Sloman

(4th Doctor, Sarah & Harry)

What We Got Instead: a truncated Season 12.

Though almost nothing is known about this story's content (the author doesn't even remember), its name still comes as something of a shock. We are so used to REVENGE + OF + THE + DALEKS type titles (more than half of 1970s Doctor Who is named this way) that AVENGING + ANGEL is really unexpected. Whether the angel in question was to have been a Devil's End Old-Testament angel or more of a Newton Research mythical creature is anyone's guess. Perhaps even some Barry Letts Buddhist thingy. (Do Buddhists even have angels?) Alternatively, if Terror of the Zygons had been the finale to Season 12 (which it is in all but name), then what would have filled the hole left in Season 13? One of the scripts that got closest to production was The Nightmare Planet by the extraordinarily prolific Dennis Spooner, who'd spent the previous decade or so churning 'em out for ITC.

9

The Place Where All Times Meet

Colin Davis

(5th Doctor, Nyssa & Tegan)

What We Got Instead: Arc of Infinity.

Another fab name, though the details of this story are a little vague: English countryside, different periods of history happening at the same time, that's about it. Whatever the content, there are at least three Season 20 stories for which, however poorly realized, it would have been a worthy replacement. Certainly better than the season opener and (minus the price of a few dozen ferry tickets to Holland) cheaper too. Indeed, what Season 20 lacked was a down-to-Earth story (for Earth, read the south-east of England): the story that Mawdryn Undead should have been (without the Black Guardian and his dead bird, without the suspension of disbelief needed to make Mark Strickson of schoolboy age and without the execrable musical homicide of Paddy Kingsland).

8

Aliens in the Blood

Robert Holmes

(2nd Doctor, Jamie & Zoe)

What We Got Instead: The Space Pirates.

This 'Human Version 2' story leaps out on paper as potentially a true classic. Why the production opted for Robert Holmes' other script The Space Pirates and rejected this is puzzling. (Possibly a little too adult?) Surprisingly, Aliens in the Blood was actually made but as a non-Doctor radio serial called 'Aliens in the Mind', starring Peter Cushing (a belated sequel to Daleks - Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. perhaps). No, I haven't heard it either, but it's available as a 3 CD set on Amazon.co.uk. (4 and 5 star reviews but a truly appalling front cover).

7

Psychonauts

David Fisher

(4th Doctor & Romana 2)

What We Got Instead: Two duff stories in an otherwise fine season.

Part of JNT's brief for Season 18 seems to have been the blooding of new writers, which is perhaps why we only got one David Fisher script. With hindsight, we really should have had two, for it is unlikely that the Psychonauts (creatures who time travel in "sarcophagi-like sleep chambers") could have been worse than Meglos or the infuriating teens of Full Circle. (One wonders how many folks who had been mildly intrigued by The Leisure Hive had their patience tried beyond belief by the subsequent couple of stories and missed out on the rest.)

6

The Enemy Within

Christopher Priest

(5th Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan & Adric)

What We Got Instead: Earthshock.

At least we got a decent story instead of this one, but nonetheless The Enemy Within was the last chance we had of involving award-winning sci-fi novelist Christopher Priest. The events surrounding the script's development were more than a little acrimonious - lack of payment, slander - but this still goes down as an opportunity missed. (See also #1.) Read any of Priest's novels of the late 70s - The Inverted World, The Space Machine and A Dream of Wessex - and it's easy to see why an ambitious producer might have thought him suitable. It's also easy to see why compromises could not be reached.

5

Bridgehead From Space

Malcolm Hulke

(3rd Doctor & Sarah Jane)

What We Got Instead: Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

Though this original draft is not quite 'same story minus cringeable dinos', it's near enough to initiate a sigh or two. Just think what it could have meant: those scenes of deserted London, the excellent plot, one of UNIT's finest stories, all without that sinking feeling every time something turns up from the Jurassic period. One remembers the over-optimism that presaged the DVD release of Invasion of the Dinosaurs: fervent hopes that the BBC could somehow justify the expense of doing a CGI job on one or more of those pesky Jurassics. To be fair, it's only the T-Rex-cum-Allosaurus that really needed it. (One can forgive the Stegosaurus and the Brontosaurus - which is after all "large and placid" - just standing about. Even the Pterodactyls are fine. It's just the numero uno dino threato that lets the side down.)

4

Into the Comet

James Follett

(4th Doctor & Romana 2)

What We Got Instead: Horns of the Nightmare Creature.

Fascinating possibilities (a race that lives on a comet and is unaware of the rest of the universe), though it is distinctly possible that this story would have got the Douglas Adams treatment like the rest of Season 17. One wonders whether Mr Adams would have found it harder to silly-up the script of such a well-known novelist. (The true soul of a lost Season 17 actually exists in print: in Gareth Roberts' trilogy of Missing Adventures novels, the pick of which is The English Way of Death, and in Jonathan Morris' superbly convoluted Festival of Death.)

3

Laird of the Clan McCrimmon

Haisman & Lincoln

(2nd Doctor, Jamie & Zoe)

What We Got Instead: a much longer version of The War Games.

This was to be the third part of a 'Yeti Trilogy' and a romantic send-off for Jamie. Ooh-er! Yet with Haisman and Lincoln stamping their feet over The Dominators, it became another one of Season 6's dead-ends. (The completion of the trilogy was ultimately left to Marc Platt, in the independent video Downtime and its subsequent novelization.) Laird of the Clan McCrimmon would have seen the Yeti back on familiar ground, the Scottish Highlands being much more a home from home than the London Underground (or a lavatory in Tooting Bec). It could have been a genuinely heart-rending affair, though it is doubtful that Jamie's departure could have been any more devastating than he and Zoe leaving at the end of The War Games.

2

The Six Doctors

Robert Holmes

What We Got Instead: The Five Doctors.

If only for the title, this immediately looks more intriguing than the drab sequence of cameos that was presented as the twentieth anniversary romp. THE + NUMBER + DOCTORS have never fared well as stories: TWO has, in spite of Patrick, Frazer and Robert H, the aroma of soiled plastic; THREE was better but looks very cheap; FOUR (a Big Finish freebie penned by Peter Anghelides) is in parts clever but narratively all over the place; FIVE is clunkingly episodic and so crammed with old friends that there's no room for entertainment; EIGHT is an occasionally uplifting novel, but drowned in a swamp of navel-gazing and incompetent youth-pandering. The best of them is Big Finish's The One Doctor - a Doctor Who comedy that is actually funny. Maybe SIX would have been the best of them all. (Whether there'll ever be sufficient surviving Docs in one place to make a SEVEN or even a NINE is, alas, unlikely.).

1

Sealed Orders

Christopher Priest

(4th Doctor, Romana 2 & Adric)

What We Got Instead: Warriors' Gate

Fair enough, the farewell that Romana actually got is Season 18's standout story, but there remains a great deal of mystique surrounding Christopher Priest's first submission for the show, not least what the sealed orders of the title actually were. Rumours went around that the orders concerned the Doctor having to kill Romana. One can only imagine the emotionals scars had that ever been allowed to happen. She was, after all, the noblest Romana of them all (which I always thought was kind of tough on Mary Tamm - and not very funny).

BUBBLING UNDER

11 The Doomsday Contract (John Lloyd), 12 The New Armada (David Whitaker), 13 The Lost Legion (Douglas Camfield), 14 Poison (Rod Beecham), 15 The Furies (Ian Stuart Black), 16 The Tearing of the Veil (Alan Dury), 17 Rogue Tardis (Barbara Clegg), 18 Manwatch (Christopher Bailey), 19 The Krikkitmen (Douglas Adams)...

...and of course, Doctor Who Meets Scatchman (Tom Baker and Ian Marter).

GOOD NEWS

Big Finish made it their business to resurrect 30 or so long neglected scripts in their 'Lost Adventures' range. Initially, this gave us an eight-story 'season' of unremarkable Sixth Doctor stories but then branched out to include earlier stuff, using the partly narrated format they had used for the Companion Chronicles range, along with some Fourth and Seventh Doctor stories. Sadly, there's no escaping the fact that when listening to those featuring the first three Doctors, one is continually aware of their absence. Still, it is a genuine pleasure to hear unmade scripts by Morris Farhi, Brain Hayles, Robert Banks Stewart, Philip Hinchcliffe, Barbara Clegg, Christopher Bailey and others finally come to life.