Chrisno1's Retrospective of Classic Doctor Who
Following akashicseer’s topic regarding the similarities between the James Bond movies and the 1979 Dr Who story The Horns of Nimon, I was reminded of the long trawl I made re-watching the Classic Series back in my days as a store manager for Blockbusters. My store held all the newly released DVDs and I was able to hire others through the postal rental service. There wasn’t the facility to view stories online like you can now, so this was an unexpected treat. I managed to view almost all the then available stories from seasons 1 to 26. I’d barely seen a serial from Hartnell or Troughton’s era, a few repeats aside, and I was a little young for Jon Pertwee, although I had some memories through repeats when the BBC showed them. Tom Baker was the Doctor I grew up with so I was very familiar with his era visually.
As a youngster I collected almost every Target paperback released up to 1984, I read the comic, avidly watched the show, especially the repeats of older episodes, as these came around so rarely in the days before video. Now there is an enormous fan industry built up around Dr Who. I’m not cynical about it; it was always there; it simply feels more pious these days.
So, I wouldn’t ever call myself a Dr Who fan or an expert – ‘interested observer’ perhaps? – and I won’t have anything to do with the reboot. I enjoyed Christopher Eccleston’s opening series, but quickly lost interest. In my opinion, the show is seriously compromised by the fifty-minute format and cramming about a half-dozen companions into the TARDIS – at least that’s what it looks like to me. [I should clarify this by saying I stopped watching after Eccleston, so it’s only an impression.]
There are, I expect, good reasons for this (export sales primarily, transmission slots secondary) but there was something quaintly familiarly comforting about tuning in every weekend for a half-hour dose of dodgy sci-fi. I enjoyed the cliff-hangers and the tension and it was easy to identify with one or two main characters. As I became an older teenager, the episode structure was used as an excuse to not watch a story if I thought it started badly. This happened a lot after Peter Davison’s tenure.
I hold the Classic Series with much affection. It was part of my growing up. It had the same impact on me as James Bond. I used to discuss it as school with my mates: “Did you see… How about… What if...” You know the kind of thing. It was still seen by most people, even my peers, primarily as a kids show and I watched less and less in the eighties. I also got a Saturday job and wasn’t at home when it aired. I think the pub came into it too at some point. I never forgot the show, mind, so when I realised I could watch old episodes in clandestine isolation – just me, a bottle of wine and some cheese – and watch them all the way through, breaks for coffee and the toilet excepted, it felt like a return to a youth once passed. I particularly enjoyed all the extras provided on the DVDs.
Dr Who made a come-back in 2005 and I was just about through my re-watch by then. A new James Bond was on the horizon. I’d just started to write poetry and short stories. It was around this time I joined AJB and jubilantly reignited another affection.
But, in the continued extended absence of Bond, and after akashicseer’s thread and now wishing I’d thought of this at the start of Covid – all that wasted lockdown time! – I’ve started to watch Dr Who on line, including all the ‘lost’ episodes reimagined by stitching together production stills or devising shuffling animation. This perhaps is the real delight as not only am I watching the classics I could never see as a child, but I’m watching stories believed ‘lost’ from the BBC archives. Reproducing these episodes is due to sterling work by animation companies both employed by the BBC, like Cosgrove, or unofficial fan content, like Loose Cannon. There is also a huge debt to the conscientious early fans who recorded the transmissions at home on reel-to-reel audio tape.
I am seriously enjoying this Classic Series once more!
NOTE: This topic isn’t an appreciation thread. Anyone can get enough of that on the specialised sites. I’ll just be putting out my extended thoughts about the series, season by season, story by story, and if anyone wants to chip in with a bit of banter, all well and good. It will be a long thread, 26 years worth of episodes, but I understand there is some secret love for Classic Who on AJB. I will, of course, point out anything which reminds me of James Bond.
So, I bring you Chrisno1’s Retrospective of Classic Dr Who…
- I obviously want members to contribute to the thread. Although I would prefer that comments be specific to the serials I have already reviewed, I do appreciate this may sometimes be difficult. Some discussion of future stories is fine as long as it's relevant. I'm trying not to venture too far ahead in my own comparisons as I write the reviews, so a similar discretion would be appreciated. Let's remember this is NOT a general Dr Who APPRECIATION THREAD - as I stated above this is a REVIEW THREAD.
- I would also prefer that COMMENTS are COMMENTS, not REVIEWS. I know that's harsh, but the title does state whose reviews are meant to be on here: mine !!! Of course, good analysis of a story I've reviewed - or analysis of my review - is perfectly acceptable.
- SPOILERS WILL OCCASIONALLY ABOUND.