Silver Nemesis
Episode / May 6, 2017

Aired 23 November – 7 December 1988 To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Doctor Who, producer John Nathan-Turner chose silver as a pervading theme, almost by necessity bringing the infamous Cybermen back to fill that stipulation as the story attempts to continue the darker and more mature stylings of this season’s predecessors. As a comet named Nemesis crashes near Windsor Castle, the Doctor and Ace find themselves in a race against several competing factions to reach it while the question of just who the Doctor is begins to come to the forefront. Unfortunately, ‘Silver Nemesis’ is something of a mess that simply throws too many ideas around as if hoping that some of them will find traction, resulting in a three-part story that seems like it has been haphazardly edited down from four parts. Worse yet, there is startlingly little actual plot to the story besides the quest, but it still comes off as cluttered because of the large supporting cast of Lady Peinforte and Richard, de Flores and the Nazis, and the squadron of Cybermen all in competition against the Doctor and Ace. The truth of Nemesis being a living statue composed of Validium that holds immense destructive capabilities…

The Happiness Patrol
Episode / May 5, 2017

Aired 2 – 16 November 1988 ‘The Happiness Patrol’ has enjoyed a surprisingly strong legacy since its airing, able to overcome the always-present dwindling budget and the often-ropey special effects to deliver a powerful allegory of England in the late 1980s. It’s no secret that new script editor Andrew Cartmel intended to more firmly ground his Doctor Who era by not shying away from political and social issues of the time, but ‘The Happiness Patrol’ calls into question Margaret Thatcher and her policies quite directly, ensuring it remains an enduring symbol of a time not so far past. Sheila Hancock does sublime work as Helen A, and it’s impossible not to see the parallels between Thatcher and her from the very start. Operating within an overtly-fascist regime, Helen A is simultaneously grating and enduring as she casually modifies the Bureau’s protocols to suit her own needs and maintain control over a clearly-oppressed underclass. Of course, as the workers protest for better conditions, Helen A is quick to point out that those same workers have nobody to blame for their situation but themselves, even as she strives to further subdue them while breaking up any formal groups or representation. Indeed, Helen…

Remembrance of the Daleks
Episode / May 4, 2017

Aired 5 -26 October 1988 Sylvester McCoy’s first year as the Seventh Doctor was a rocky one, but one nonetheless brimming with experimentalism as the show tried to rediscover itself on the fly with a new lead and a new mantra that looked forward more than backward. Strangely, although ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ is very firmly entrenched in the past as the entire serial becomes a reference of sorts to the very first serial, ‘An Unearthly Child,’ and is littered with allusions to other past adventures, it’s clear from the start that Doctor Who has finally found firmer footing once more, taking a much more self-aware and sometimes politically-dissident approach as it presented generally much more intelligent stories. The sort of celebratory and nostalgic sentiments that pervade ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ can easily be forgiven for a story kicking off the franchise’s twenty-fifth anniversary, especially in a story that so expertly highlights the characterization of both the new Time Lord and new companion in the process. Indeed, this is easily Sylvester McCoy’s finest performance in the role to this point and entrenches his incarnation as a master manipulator with a much darker side than previously seen. At first debating the…

Dragonfire
Episode / May 2, 2017

Aired 23 November – 7 December 1987 Continuing the disparity between concept and execution that has pervaded Sylvester McCoy’s first year in the titular role, ‘Dragonfire’ stands out as a story that seems uncertain of what it wants to be. It’s clear that the writing itself is very much trying to take Doctor Who into a new era unencumbered by the past, but the core plot and its tone along with the production values make it seem as though the tale is attempting to be something akin to a lost Fourth Doctor serial. Nonetheless, the overall execution is an improvement on the preceding serial, and writer Ian Briggs unashamedly shows off his knowledge of science fiction lore as he includes both overt and subtle references to many other franchises. Of course, while the nods to Indiana Jones and Alien are incorporated well enough as the plot drives forward, it’s the introduction of Ace and her seeming ties to The Wizard of Oz that are most pronounced and important. It may be rather under-developed, but the origin of a girl named Dorothy who suddenly finds herself on another world after a time storm whisks her away certainly evokes that classic movie…