Warriors of the Deep
Episode / March 27, 2017

Aired 5 – 13 January 1984 The Fifth Doctor is an extremely intriguing incarnation, one with a gentlemanly and compassionate demeanour and a shrewd wisdom far beyond what his youthful appearance might suggest. However, whereas other incarnations seemingly had a knack for taking control of any situation with the utmost ease, the Fifth often runs into trouble when he tries to get those in positions of authority to listen to him. Accordingly, revisiting the iconic SIlurians and Sea Devils from the Pertwee era, prehistoric foes in two serials featuring humanity’s inability an unwillingness to seek a peaceful resolution to conflict, is a perfect fit for the version of the Doctor most looking for peace. Despite the inclusion of some clever notions, though, the script’s lack of philosophical depth along with gratuitous violence and budgetary constraints keep ‘Warriors of the Deep’ from delivering its intended moral impact. The seabase set is actually quite impressive for the most part, and its shining sterility manages to mirror the rather impersonal conflict at hand. Similarly, though the costumes for the Silurians Sea Devils are hardly among the best the classic series ever produced, the modest updates from the original designs work quite well and…

The Five Doctors
Episode / March 24, 2017

Aired 23 November 1983 ‘The Five Doctors’ represents the culmination of twenty years of Doctor Who, a feature-length special that does its best to bring the five distinct eras of the franchise together with a cavalcade of guest appearances by friends and foes alike. From the outset, it’s clear that writer Terrance Dicks is not striving to offer a meaningful story that explores the depth of the Doctor as a character or that fundamentally changes the core nature of Doctor Who, but ‘The Five Doctors’ is an unequivocal success when taken simply as a nostalgic celebration that focuses more on spectacle than on story. It’s interesting to note just how much attention is drawn to the questions regarding continuity that allow this adventure to take place, especially as continuity seemed to be pervading the programme more and more at the time. Part of this, naturally, is down to Tom Baker choosing not to reprise his role for the special after so recently departing. While the inclusion of scenes from the unfinished ‘Shada’ do at least allow a cameo of sorts for both Baker and Lalla Ward, it means that some of the resulting pairings of Doctors and companions are a…

The King’s Demons
Episode / March 24, 2017

Aired 15 – 16 March 1983 The inclusion of the Master in the celebratory nature of Doctor Who’s twentieth season with its cavalcade of familiar faces was an inevitability following the iconic foe’s recent resurgence during the transition from the Fourth Doctor to the Fifth. Unfortunately, even though ‘The King’s Demons’ was not intended to be the de facto season finale before the anniversary special ‘The Five Doctors’ aired later in the year, it nonetheless marks one of the weaker stories of the Davison era so far. As was the case with the preceding year’s final story ‘Time-Flight,’ itself a less than inspiring story, the Master here seems to be included simply because he is a familiar face rather than because the script has anything new or novel to do with him. It’s fair to say that the character peaked in ‘The Keeper of Trakken,’ but he has since become a generic villain whose motivations are questionable at best. As it is, he is the most instantly recognisable foe of this anniversary season, but structuring the two-part story so that his reveal is the cliffhanger of the first is inherently flawed and really only gives a brief glimpse of the…

Enlightenment
Episode / March 22, 2017

Aired 1 – 9 March 1983 Even early on in Peter Davison’s tenure as the Fifth Doctor, many stories have focused on putting his character in rather helpless situations, chaos and death surrounding him as those in positions of authority simply refuse to listen to and trust him. However, ‘Enlightenment’ takes a completely different approach, allowing the Doctor to truly step into the spotlight and become much more defined in the process. ‘Enlightenment’ is filled with quintessentially British cultural observations and quirky notions, and the Fifth Doctor with his cricket garb is absolutely the best incarnation at exploring the issues of social class as he seamlessly blends in with the upper class elitist sailing officers. Indeed, the Eternals directing the lower-class humans through promises of rations and payment while also being willing to sacrifice the humans’ lives with no threat of damage or death to themselves is incredibly powerful and presented in a very accessible manner. This conflict is so effectively realized partially because the Doctor himself is never put into extreme danger, allowing his more cerebral and gentle demeanor to come to the forefont as he can logically tackle the ethical and social debates presented. Davison makes the most…

Terminus
Episode / March 20, 2017

Aired 15 – 23 February 1983 ‘Terminus’ is unquestionably another serial that succeeds more with its ambition than with its actual execution, a poor guest cast and external production factors plaguing a story filled with genuinely engaging and rather high-concept notions. It marks an intriguing end to Sarah Sutton’s run in the TARDIS in the middle of Turlough’s conflict with the Black Guardian as well, giving Nyssa an admirable send-off that makes the most of her benevolent nature, but ultimately a lack of consistency and depth along with some questionable decisions keep ‘Terminus’ from being what it truly wants to be. Turlough being an agent of the Black Guardian tasked with killing the Doctor is a fascinating premise for a companion, but unfortunately little is done with it here, as was the case in ‘Mawdryn Undead.’ Instead, most of the drama surrounding this fact is boiled down to Tegan and Turlough discussing whether or not they truly trust one another. It is notable that Turlough takes Adric’s room in the TARDIS while stating that he’s through with children, though, and this can quite overtly be seen as the personification of the gradual darker undertones the franchise was starting to employ…

Mawdryn Undead
Episode / March 15, 2017

Aired 1 – 9 February 1983 The early tenure of Peter Davison has proven it is unafraid to tackle time travel in its scripts, with ‘Four to Doomsday,’ ‘Earthshock,’ and ‘Time-Flight’ each featuring the concept in some key fashion. ‘Mawdryn Undead’ takes things one step further with its plot occurring over two time periods occurring out of sync with one another, a fantastic central premise in a story featuring the return of the Black Guardian, the return of the Brigadier, and the introduction of new companion Turlough. The Black Guardian, of course, was introduced at the end of the Key to Time season as an opposing force to the White Guardian, but his plan and motivations here are never fully explained. He overtly states that he views the Doctor’s good as his evil and that he wants the Doctor killed, but it’s unclear what has spurred this hostility to manifest so resolutely now or why, exactly, he has chosen Turlough as his weapon of choice when so many more effective means must be at his disposal throughout the universe. In fact, the Doctor’s casual acceptance of Turlough aboard the ship exemplifies this incarnation’s trusting demeanor, but it also highlights how…

Snakedance
Episode / March 13, 2017

Aired 18 – 26 January 1983 Though introduced only a year earlier in ‘Kinda,’ the concept of the Mara was impactful enough to ensure its return in Doctor Who’s reflective twentieth season filled with returning foes. Understandably, the complexity and ambiguity are not nearly as prevalent as in the original serial, focusing instead on plot and expanding upon familiar concepts to successfully craft an entirely different experience that remains true to what came before. Part of the success of ‘Snakedance’ is, of course, due to the groundwork laid in ‘Kinda.’ Nonetheless, the concept of the wheel of repeating time briefly mentioned in ‘Kinda’ becomes wholly more satisfying and realized as the Federation records reveal that the Manussians regressed from a refined and technological society to a primitive and violent one in thrall to the Mara. ‘Snakedance’ also quite poignantly and prominently features theatrical performances, again reaching back to ‘Kinda’ and the significance of drama in exorcising demons and quite directly incorporated as the natives parade around an effigy of the Mara to symbolize their fears. As the lines and boundaries of reality blur, the truth behind the Mara is incredibly satisfying and deeply terrifying. With the Great Crystal intended to…

Arc of Infinity
Episode / March 12, 2017

Aired 3 – 12 January 1983 The mantra going into the twentieth season of Doctor Who was that every story would feature a returning villain from the past, the intent being to imbue the anniversary year with a sense of celebration and nostalgia. Fittingly, the tenth anniversary villain from ‘The Three Doctors,’ Omega, is the first to be revisited as the exiled Time Lord continues his quest to cross back into the real universe from his exile with the help of the Doctor’s body. Omega is inherently one of the most fascinating villains ever conceived, one who is intricately linked with Gallifrey’s past and Time Lords’ powers and abilities. However, ‘Arc of Infinity’ relies too much on his initial appearance ten years earlier, using only one line of dialogue to begin to hint at Omega’s true motivations and psyche. As a standalone story, it simply does not flesh out the villain enough or even begin to explain how the Doctor and Omega know each other or how Omega has reached his current state. With the Doctor’s appearance, Omega is at least afforded some degree of sympathy through Davison’s mannerisms and acting prowess, but the sheer potential that Omega brings with…

Time-Flight
Episode / March 10, 2017

Aired 22 – 30 March 1982 Following the highly-praised ‘Earthshock’ that saw the devastating departure of Adric and the grandiose return of the Cybermen in a rather traditional base-under-siege format, ‘Time-Flight’ is tasked with closing out a fairly solid introductory season for Peter Davison that has proven how versatile, commanding, and charismatic he can be. Unfortunately, for all of the ambition that ‘Time-Flight’ boasts, the nonsensical plot, clumsy dialogue, and financial limitation result in the season going out with a whimper remembered for all of the wrong reasons. The underlying concept of a hijack in time as a Concorde jet is transported to prehistoric Earth is an immensely intriguing one amid a story bursting with clever ideas, but the script is so visual and reliant on its settings that there is no realistic way that the limited BBC budget could ever hope to accomplish anything passing for realism. At the same time, few of the ideas are ever really allowed to flourish with any sense of depth and cohesion. Accordingly, an organism that is an amalgamation of an entire race with one personality never gets the depth of exploration it begs for, its existence instead awkwardly brought up and later…

Earthshock
Episode / March 7, 2017

Aired 8 – 16 March 1982 Doctor Who has produced its fair share of memorable episodes and moments in its long history, but few have had such a lasting and powerful impact as ‘Earthshock.’ The Doctor and his companions court danger in every adventure, and yet an assumed and unwritten rule is that the heroes always escape alive and more or less intact. There may be some bruises or shock that warrant reflection upon the way, but the Doctor is a safety net in a family programme who protects those he takes aboard. ‘Earthshock’ breaks that rule, however, and for the first time since Katarina and Sara Kingdom- neither of whom can be classified as a true companion due to the brevity of their inclusion- in the Hartnell era, a companion suffers the ultimate fate. A three-companion TARDIS with a dynamic young Doctor was always going to be problematic, especially when Davison proved so quickly that he could step out of Tom Baker’s sizable shadow and make the role his own. In retrospect, it’s probably unsurprising that Matthew Waterhouse’s Adric would be the companion to go, Waterhouse having been on the show the longest despite his inexperience that sometimes showed…