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29 Oct 2013

Doctor Who 1983-2003: The Decline and Dark Ages

The third decade of doctor Who began as it was meant to go on. With the Myrka.

The eighties have often been derided for silly monsters and rubbish special effects, and while the final form of the Mara, the Kandyman, and the aforementioned Myrka are rubbish, there are some truly fantastic moments.

Let’s start off with colin Baker. I never used to like him much. I found him to be quite unlikeable. But then, this was the point; to make a lead character who is initially unlikeable but whom you warm to along the way. Unfortunately Baker was not afforded this opportunity in his televised stories. In audio, apparently he’s much better. I have watched Real Time and I found to to be brilliant, so I may check out more of his audio stuff. As for his companions, we mainly had Peri, who was an okay character, but often felt miserable. She kept moaning about going fishing, or not going anywhere interesting. For someone who chose to travel with the Doctor, she doesn’t seem to like it all that much. Her final episode however, was fantastic, if only for BRIAN BLESSED (imagine that shouted in a deep bass voice). If any one-off character is begging to return to New Who, then this is it. King Yrcanos was just a joy to behold. His confusion at the Doctor’s tactics is wonderful, and his relationship with Peri was believable and while her ultimate fate was a bit confused, neither her death, nor her marriage felt wrong.
And then we have the overly enthusiastic Mel. I didn’t like her. Not really. There were moments she shined, but overall, her intense pluckiness just got on my nerves.

So, after Baker’s unceremonious exit, we are back to form with Sylvester McCoy. His first series left much to be desired, and was probably the worst in the history of the show, but he was definitely great to watch. So come the end, we are now treated with one of the best eras of the programme. The Doctor and Ace, and the final two seasons.
Starting off with the fantastic Remembrance of the Daleks, we watch as the Doctor grows darker and more mysterious and clearly the best since Tom Baker’s gothic horror period. While Ace has one of the most complex character arcs of any companion with the last season focused almost entirely on her and her history. And while all of the stories of this final season had earthbound elements, it didn’t feel like the loss I felt when Pertwee was exiled to our planet.

So, finally, we come to the end of the classic era. It ended on such a high, but it was too late and we had to wait seven years before anything else arrived. Or, most people did. I didn’t even know the programme existed at that age, but over the next few years, I heard quite a bit about it, and when the news broke that the Doctor was returning for a one off movie, I was looking forward to it. And so, forever more, Paul McGann is MY Doctor. He was the first I ever watched a full episode of and was fantastically portrayed. The story, while messing about with continuity, was also a fun tale.

Over the next few years, I’d heard a little more about the show, and I remembered seeing the first Dalek episode with William Hartnell. Because of this, I feel I am in an almost unique position, for a person my age, to recall those early stories with childhood nostalgia. Every time I see the opening titles I am transported back to my childhood.

With the absence of the show on television a wealth of new material was published in the form of books, audio dramas, comics etc. So much that I wasn’t able to fully take it in in the six months I allotted for my Doctor Who marathon, but it is something I would love to fully immerse myself in the future as long as the BBC understand that ebooks and print on demand technologies are readily available to take advantage of and which require no need to spend loads of money on expensive reprints. Come one BBC step into the 21st century!

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