Top Post-Regeneration Stories (11-6)
Guest contributors Yossi Pinkus and Isaac Bowen begin the countdown to the top 11 post regeneration stories so far.
11. The Twin Dilemma
The Twin Dilemma introduces us to the Doctor we all love to hate: Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor. After a tearful goodbye to Peter Davison, this new incarnation seems arrogant and egotistical from the moment we first meet him at the end of The Caves of Androzani and this is continued in his first episode. There aren’t many positives about the Sixth Doctor’s debut. The acting is well below par and the overall plot is layered with dreariness and blandness, making it feel more like a B-Movie than quality science fiction TV. We also see the Doctor suffering a chaotic regenerative crisis, going to far as to strangle Peri at one point, believing her to be an alien spy. This is probably the reason why it has been voted the worst Doctor Who episode to date in both the 2014 and 2009 DWM polls.
The Twin Dilemma, however, does take the Doctor into a new and interesting state of darkness, with the plan for his character to mellow over the years. It was just a shame that it didn’t occur on screen.
10. Time and the Rani
The year is 1987! A brand new Doctor is here after a nine month break with a new lease on life, begrudgingly given by the BBC drama department. What could possibly go wrong?
There’s really nothing we can say about Time and the Rani that hasn’t been said hundreds of times before, so instead of cursing the performances and scriptwriting that left some to be desired, let’s just go with the good bits. Firstly there’s the spectacularly-realised new CGI title sequence and theme arranged by Keff McCulloch (that offer a welcome change from Sid Sutton’s and Peter Howell’s still brilliant work) ushering Doctor Who into the digital age, keeping up with the future. Likewise the model work nicely expands the world of Lakertya, showing off the talent of the legendary BBC effects department. The Rani is a devious as ever with her disguises and bubble traps; she’s a masterful villain who’s fun to watch. McCoy’s a shining star in this story; he effectively brings back the mystery of the Doctor that is delved into so much further during his tenure.
With the Seventh Doctor, there’s much to look forward to.
Robot gives us our first insight into the man who would become the world’s most popular Doctor: Tom Baker. As the audience, after spending 5 years with a Doctor who was a dashing gentleman with the odd dabble in Venusian Aikido, we are shocked by how different a Doctor can be after regeneration. The Doctor is now childish, untamed and primarily unpredictable in his actions, something on which Moffat has claimed to have based Capaldi’s Doctor.
The weakest part of Robot, however, is its plot. In a new era of Doctor Who, the old-fashioned King Kong-esque approach to Kettlewell’s robot just didn’t seem to have the same appeal to viewers anymore.
Robot is an episode containing many firsts and lasts. Not only was it the first to feature Tom Baker as the Doctor and Ian Marter as Harry Sullivan, it was also the first to feature the brilliant Robert Holmes as script editor. Robot is also the last episode to feature the Brigadier as a regular returning character as well as the final story produced by Barry Letts. Although for most, Robot is a once off view, it sets up Baker’s Doctor nicely for the next seven years which are undoubtedly the high point of classic Doctor Who.
8. An Unearthly Child
N.B. Ok, this is far from a ‘post regeneration’ episode, but we will consider it as such because it is the first time we see the First Doctor in action.
No one could have possibly known that this story would grow to become a legend in itself. What An Unearthly Child sets in motion, this odyssey spanning over 50 years was totally unprecedented, and we have to remember the brilliance behind this vision of Newman and Lambert’s. The opening episode is simply magical, as we know nothing of the Doctor and Susan’s origins, or why they left their home planet. The idea that there is now so much of a mythos surrounding that is just masterful and those first 25 minutes did something that could never have been predicted.
Unfortunately, the sheer dullness of the following three parts is the story’s major let-down, and it seems such a shame that the story dragged on for too long. Not to say, of course that it doesn’t have its redeeming features. The chameleon circuit malfunctioning is a huge part of the evolution of Doctor Who and this was a genius decision, lending great attraction and charm to the series. And of course, William Hartnell’s performance is golden much of the way through, and it’s rather chilling to see this trusted grandfatherly figure attempt to murder an injured man, purely because he was slowing them down. We see a mystery man that we can’t quite trust, and the idea that his companions are what prevents him from going mad with power is a profound one that continues to this very day (consider Donna Noble).
It’s not always easy, but we have to look past the faults of episodes 2-4, as the guiding principles of these episodes made tremendous positive impact of the impossible journey that’s still going today.
7. Power of the Daleks
In 1966 Doctor Who did the unimaginable: recast the Doctor. This process of “renewal”, being totally unheard of was something that no one could have seen coming, and yet somehow it works beautifully. The glint in Patrick Troughton’s eye as a younger, more relaxed Doctor had exactly the same sense of wonder and brilliance about him as always, but he is absolutely his very own self: undeniably the Doctor, but also nothing like him.
Ben and Polly are the first of many to witness this Time Lord power and are rightfully bewildered by it. Thankfully this period of distrust passes, and the viewer is comforted into familiar territory with the conniving Daleks scheming against the human colony on Vulcan. These Daleks are cunning as ever, and the way that they exploit human compassion for their apparent weakness is horrifyingly evil; something that tried to be copied in Victory of the Daleks.
It’s a real shame that this story is lost, but we’re sure if it’s ever discovered it will be respected as a worthy example of Patrick Troughton’s wonderful performance as the Doctor.
6. The TV Movie
After Doctor Who was axed in 1989, no one thought that a return would be likely. But then 7 years later in 1996 Doctor Who once again exploded onto our screens in the form of the TV Movie featuring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor.
In terms of plot, it’s your basic storyline: The Master has a dastardly scheme to destroy the Doctor, and in doing so endangers the Earth, so it’s up to the newly regenerated Doctor to stop him before midnight on New Year’s Eve 1999. McGann plays the Doctor with extraordinary grace (no pun intended) and has a sense of wonder about him that makes you want to drop everything and join him on his adventures across time and space. The TV Movie was a breath of fresh air for Whovians everywhere and though it may always contain the controversial claim- whether you choose to believe it or not- that the Doctor is half human (on his mother’s side), it also has the Doctor’s first onscreen kiss with a companion, setting a precedent that’s been adhered to since the programme’s reinstatement another nine years later.
While this Fox reimagining of a classic show wasn’t quite enough to stop the dead from staying dead, it proved that a television revival can work, you really can turn back time.
Part two coming soon…