Enter the Third Doctor

The Doctor, the Master, and one of the dodgy monsters from "The Claws of Axos"

The Doctor, the Master, and one of the dodgy monsters from “The Claws of Axos”

We have finally gotten around to watching a few episodes with the Third Doctor! That took quite a while, after rewatching all of the Eleventh Doctor episodes, then getting distracted a bit with other things, then watching some Tenth Doctor (not too much). But we finally watched “The Mind of Evil” and “The Claws of Axos,” two episodes with the Roger Delgado Master.

So far, we enjoyed “The Mind of Evil” more than “The Claws of Axos.” The first had a more interesting plot, and the villain in the second was rather implausible and uninteresting. Unfortunately, both suffered a lot from uninspired direction, with characters standing immobile while delivering their lines, though it was much worse in the second. Another disappointment was Jo Grant, but not due to the actress or character; she just simply was not given anything to do. So far, her job is stand around and wait until the Doctor has a moment to have a deep conversation with her. She’s supposed to be a trained UNIT agent, and she does get one moment in “The Mind of Evil” where she shows her competence, but otherwise she’s very underutilized. We’re hoping this gets better when the Doctor finally gets his TARDIS back and they go off-planet, where there’s no Brigadier, Yates, and Benton to take up camera and plot time.

The Doctor himself has been very entertaining. He’s imperious, disdainful, and arrogant, and he outshines everyone on screen. The problem is that again, there’s so many people to deal with in each story, he’s not onscreen as much as he should be. However, he does have one thing that saves the show: the Master. When the Master and the Doctor spar with each other, the show simply shines. Delgado portrayed a wonderful villain. He’s not campy like Anthony Ainley was (not saying that the Ainley Master was bad; he was wonderful in his own way). The Delgado Master is always graceful and always in control of the situation; when he is defeated momentarily, he acquiesces, because he knows he’s going to get the upper hand in a few more minutes again.

At the moment, I think that of the classic Doctors that I’ve seen a fair amount of (that’s Three, Four, Five, Seven, and Eight), the Third Doctor is my least favorite, but you have to understand, I still really like him a lot; I just don’t like him as much as others. I am hoping to see him become more dynamic when he finally leaves Earth, and possibly when Sarah Jane Smith joins him.

Hard classic data

As a quick note, I’m going to be out of town for the next week. While I’ll have access to computers at the hotel and I have a keyboard and the WordPress app on the iPad, I’m not sure I’ll be able to post regularly, and certainly anything I do post won’t have images. But rest assured, I’ll be back. (I haven’t tried out the WordPress app yet. I hope it’s easy to use. For some reason, the workings of “productive” iPad apps still elude me.)

IMDB average ratings for classic episodes, with Doctors indicated

IMDB average ratings for classic episodes, with Doctors indicated

Yesterday, I wrote about the TV ratings graphs on GraphTV and discussed the ratings trends of the modern Doctor Who, and today, here’s the graph for the classic series. You can see the real graph here, but the image to the left has the Doctors indicated. I don’t have much time today to really look at this graph, but here are few interesting points.

First, there are few very important things to note about the data itself.

  • The dots indicate episode parts, not episodes themselves. For example, “The Caves of Androzani” is made up of four parts, and so there are four dots on the graph for it. Another important point is that the early episodes had different names for their parts, such as the first episode is in total made up of “An Unearthly Child,” “The Cave of Skulls,” “The Forest of Fear,” and “The Firemaker.”
  • The number of user ratings per dot are much lower for the classic series than for the modern series. These averages are calculated from 100-200 user ratings, while the modern series’ averages are calculated from 1000-2000 user ratings.

In general, it seems that the average rating for each season is about 7.5 across the whole classic series, with a couple of very notable exceptions: the Second Doctor’s second season, the Third Doctor’s first season, the Fourth Doctor’s first three seasons (Sarah Jane and Leela), and the Seventh Doctor’s first season. I don’t really know much about the history of the show itself, so I don’t know why his first season was so bad, but… wow. Not a single episode rated above 7.0. He definitely makes up for it in his last season though.

It looks like the show’s best and most consistent time was from the beginning of the Third Doctor through the third season of the Fourth Doctor: only rarely did the episodes dip below 7.0. I’d be interested in seeing what kinds of changes in the production staff happened at the beginning of season 15 that caused the quality to even back out to 7.5 again. The show’s most inconsistent season is season 6, the Second Doctor’s last season, which has some of the lowest- and the highest-rated episodes in the entire show.

One season that’s worth looking at is season 21, the Fifth Doctor’s last season. Mr. Davison has been quoted as saying that if he had known how good that last season was going to be, he wouldn’t have left the show at that point, and the ratings show this: it started with a low episode (“Warriors of the Deep”), but then shot up and ended the Fifth Doctor’s tenure on one of the best episodes in the entire series. Sadly, the average and slope of the ratings line are destroyed by the Sixth Doctor’s debut episode “The Twin Dilemma,” which unusually counts for season 21, instead of the Sixth Doctor’s first season, season 22.

One other thing that I noticed was that while “The Trial of a Time Lord” is usually mentioned as being one of the low points of the series, on this graph its episodes average around 7.5, the same as most of the other seasons’ averages, and its ratings are tightly clustered around that average, so there aren’t any truly poorly-rated episodes.

That’s that for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to write regularly, but if not, see you all next week! To days to come!

The clothes make the man

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor

The BBC revealed the Twelfth Doctor’s outfit! I like it! Well, I suppose I’m not the best judge of this kind of thing, as I also like the Sixth Doctor’s outfit – it’s garish to be sure, but it’s just him. I’m sure that this has been said before, but the costume of the Doctor definitely reflects his personality, consistently throughout the series, even during the John Nathan-Turner era, when the clothes were more costume-y than usual. Last week, my British co-worker made fun of me for referring to the Doctors by numbers, saying that in Britain, they refer to them by actor names, so we’ll do that this time.

  • Hartnell: The grandfather, caring with a bit of arrogance
  • Troughton: The clownish hobo, especially with that big fur coat
  • Pertwee: The man of style and action
  • T. Baker: The Bohemian, always a bit ahead of everyone else and not caring what they think
  • Davison: The young gentleman sportsman
  • C. Baker: Arrogant and bombastic; who cares what anyone thinks?
  • McCoy: At first, a bit of a clown, his costume changed as his personality developed
  • McGann: Caring and compassionate, and quite the romantic
  • Eccleston: Angry and regretful, and back to being the man of action
  • Tennant: Geek chic, modern yet out-of-place
  • Smith: At first, young and eccentric, until he loses the Ponds, at which point he throws back to a dark version of McGann

If Mr. Capaldi follows the trend, it looks like his Doctor may be similar to Mr. Pertwee’s, which is almost exactly what I was hoping: I want him to be Mr. Pertwee’s man of action and style mixed with some (or even a lot) of Mr. C. Baker’s arrogance, almost to the point of being not easily liked. We’ll find out in time. Meanwhile, releases like this only just make me wish that August would get here sooner.

 

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“The Five Doctors”

After a hiatus of about eight years, I re-upped our Netflix subscription so that we can borrow all of the classic Doctor Who episodes they have. The idea is that we can watch all of them, and choose to buy any of them that we like. I’m hoping to eventually own every episode of the classic series, but it’s prohibitively expensive to do that quickly, so I’m hoping to buy the good ones first at a rate of about once per month. That’ll put me on track to own all of them by, oh, 2023 or so.

Richard Hurndall, Peter Davison, Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton

Richard Hurndall, Peter Davison, Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton

Last night’s viewing was “The Five Doctors.” It was the 20th anniversary special, aired in 1983, during the tenure of the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. It brought back the First Doctor (played by Richard Hurndall, as William Hartnell had passed away eight years earlier), the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), and the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) for a combined storyline that also featured the Master (Anthony Ainsley) and a whole slew of companions, including Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford) and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), as well as the Fifth Doctor’s current companions (Mark Strickson’s Vislor Turlough and Janet Fielding’s Tegan Jovanka). The show itself was a single episode, ninety minutes long.

“The Five Doctors” was remarkably fun. Technically, it wasn’t a great episode – the plot suffered a bit from having to shoehorn in so many characters. Basically, a mysterious figure kidnaps the four Doctors and their companions (the Fourth Doctor was also kidnapped with Romana II but got stuck in the time vortex; plot-wise and title-wise, all of the Doctors needed to be kidnapped, but Tom Baker chose not to return to the show, so they used footage from the unfinished episode “Shada” and got him lost in the vortex) and drops them into the Death Zone on Gallifrey. They all individually decide that they must get to the tower in the center, and the show bops back and forth between the four different groups, showing their progress. They eventually figure out who the mysterious figure is and defeat him, and then bid farewell and return to their own timestreams.

The great part of the episode was seeing all of the old Doctors and companions. Mr. Troughton and Mr. Pertwee played their old roles extremely well, and the dialogue was spot-on. Amazingly, Mr. Hurndall not only looked like the First Doctor, but played the old, grumpy curmudgeon perfectly. In general, it was like watching bits of episodes of the old Doctors, spliced together into one big episode, and really, that’s all it needed to be. I found myself smiling and happy at the end, and definitely willing to buy the episode for myself.

That said, there was one thing that they could have done better, to make it an even more immersive experience: they failed to show that the Fifth Doctor would know and recognize the companions and be extremely happy to see them. In the most important example, the First Doctor, accompanied by Susan, walks into the TARDIS (the Fifth Doctor’s) in like he owns the place and demands to know why these strangers, Turlough, Tegan, and an unconscious young man on the floor, are in “my TARDIS.” Turlough and Tegan point out that it’s the TARDIS of the Doctor on the floor. This was a great scene, as the First Doctor finally realizes that he’s been pulled out of time and is looking at his own, previously unknown, future incarnation. However, the Fifth Doctor revives shortly afterwards, and the First Doctor introduces Susan. The introduction is necessary, as Turlough and Tegan don’t know her, but he’s addressing the Fifth Doctor. The Fifth Doctor says, “Yes, I know.”

And that’s it – no special greeting or love for the granddaughter that he abandoned 350 years earlier. Perhaps they thought it would be really weird to have the Fifth Doctor treat Susan as a cherished, long-lost granddaughter when Ms. Ford was 12 years older than Mr. Davison, but it was completely in-character: the First Doctor had not wanted to leave Susan and missed her dearly. In the comic book The Forgotten, the Tenth Doctor underscores this when he specifically asks to see Susan one last time, so that he could apologize to her. A short bit of dialogue showing this in “The Five Doctors” would have reminded the audience that yes, the Doctor has a family and a history that is complicated by his regenerations, and given Susan more of a spotlight, which she definitely deserved.

Except for this one issue, “The Five Doctors” is worth the watch. It’s not deep or emotional or mind-blowing – it’s just a lot of fun.