18 March 2005 | Stargazer59
Desert Island "Doctor Who"!
After a wait of almost sixteen years and with only just over a week to go before the new series of "Doctor Who" begins, let's hope that some classics are on the way to warrant all the hype and, above all, that the show remains true to its original spirit and is as fun as it always was. With that in mind, I thought it might be an opportune time to reflect on some of the great stories of the past.
From First Doctor William Hartnell's era, my choice of favourite story would have to be "The Dalek Invasion of Earth". The use of extensive location filming enhances its atmosphere greatly. I know that, forty years on, the Robomen look and sound silly and the flying saucer is obviously dangled from a piece of string but the serial's shortcomings are compensated by the imagery of the Dalek rising from the River Thames and a group of them patrolling Trafalgar Square, not to mention crossing Westminster Bridge in the trailer. And then there is the sensitive ending marking Carole Ann Ford's departure from the series after playing the Doctor's granddaughter, Susan, for ten stories...
So many perfect serials from Second Doctor Patrick Troughton's time on the show! "Fury from the Deep" is my choice because it frightened me more than anything else I'd ever seen. It has several excellent cliffhangers and I'll never forget one of the characters walking out to sea and not stopping as she becomes totally immersed by the water or Victoria trapped in a locked room as the seaweed and foam threaten to engulf her. I long to see this story again but, alas, it seems gone forever.
I love the first six serials of the Jon Pertwee era because they are complex and challenging. Of the six, "The Mind of Evil" is my favourite though writer Don Houghton's other serial, "Inferno", comes a close second. The reason I like it is because the idea of a parasite feeding off the fear in men's minds is so much more frightening than some lumbering monster!
My favourite Tom Baker serial is "Genesis of the Daleks" despite the BBC always falling back on it for repeat seasons! Writer Terry Nation, creator of the Daleks, devised the character of Davros in order to raise the standard of dialogue between hero and enemy, succeeding here in discussing many moral issues. Sarah Jane Smith seemingly falling to her death from the rocket scaffolding, as she tries to make her escape, and the freeze frame is another moment that will always stay with me.
Cliffhangers play an important part in making a good serial and "The Caves of Androzani" boasts two of the finest. When Peter Davison's Doctor and new companion Peri are shot dead at the end of the first episode I didn't foresee the resolution. It's a shame it took until the last story of this era to get it right but director Graeme Harper presents us with a thoroughly gripping tour de force. Christopher Gable is electrifying as Sharaz Jek and I love the scene of the dying Doctor, coat caked in mud, struggling to carry his companion back to the TARDIS in an act of self-sacrifice that leads to his premature regeneration at the story's close.
"Revelation of the Daleks" is "Doctor Who" for adults. Writer Eric Saward presents us with an alternative take on the Doctor through the character of Orcini, and his sidekick with personal hygiene problems, which is why Colin Baker's Doctor doesn't really enter the fray until over halfway through. Nicola Bryant, as Peri, is lucky to have worked with Harper on both his serials which may account for why she is one of my favourite companions. There are moments of real pathos in this serial such as Natasha discovering what has really become of her father and the death of Jobel, which is no mean feat when you consider the ghastly nature of his character!
Finally, from Sylvester McCoy's three years on the show, my choice has to be "The Curse of Fenric". This period has come in for much criticism when, certainly during the last two years, the show was actually beginning to find its feet again. It wasn't all played for laughs as is often suggested. One of the scariest things in this serial isn't the Haemovores or the rather placid Ancient One but the transformation of the two girls into vampires because the allegory, equating loose morality with bodily decay, is far more frightening than any monster could be, even when those monsters are well-realised. The story contains some very memorable dialogue too. Who can forget the chilling menace of "We play the contest again... Time Lord"?
And, if I was only allowed just one of the seven to take to my mythical island it would have to be, if it still existed in the BBC's archive, "Fury from the Deep". I don't think I would be disappointed, given the opportunity to see it again, as anything that can leave such an indelible mark on the memory has to have been an extremely powerful piece.