Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Doctor Who 15.1


John Abbot must be in his seventies by now. In his youth he reportedly played Snoopy on the Edinburgh Fringe. But for four weeks in 1977 we knew him as the Nice One On The Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse is called Fang Rock. It is populated entirely by stock characters who are wiped out by a giant luminous brussel sprout at the rate of 1.75 per episode. There is an Old Set In His Ways Lighthouse Keeper and a Middle Aged and More Up To Date Lighthouse Keeper. The latter doesn't last ten minutes into Episode One.

Everyone speaks non-specific Mummerset so it is probably inevitable that Abbot's character, the Young Lighthouse Keeper Who Is Still Learning The Ropes should be called Hawkins. Old Reuben really does say things like "it do seem...unnatural" and "this is a queer 'un". Thank goodness he resists the temptation to say "Arrr... Vince-Lad!" at any point.

In Episode Two Central Casting supplies a fresh boatload of victims: otherwise the story would have been very short. There is a Greedy Financier, a Corrupt MP and a Posh Lady Who Keeps Fainting. In Episode Three, Palmerdale, the nasty rich guy, tries to bribe Vince to send a message about a shady stock deal to the mainland on the lighthouse's morse code transmitter. "A hundred pound!" exclaims Vince. "That be a fortune!" Palmerdale becomes the Monster's fourth victim almost immediately and Vince burns the money because he is afraid he'll be accused of murdering him. In Episode Four, the monster offs Vince as well.

Abbot spends the rest of his career playing rolls like Estate Agent, Lawyer, Mouth Organist and Verger. Probably getting regular bit parts on TV is a good gig for an actor; very likely he doesn't think of Vince as anything other than a job of work he did a very long time ago. But Doctor Who and its fans go on and on forever. Someday we will hear that the guy who played the nice one on the lighthouse has died, and a few thousand of us will think of that day as one thinks of a day on which we did something slightly unusual. Fifty years from now someone who thinks of the Twenty Ninth Doctor as their Doctor will decide to watch the one where the one with the scarf goes to the lighthouse and will feel ever so slightly sad when the giant Brussels sprout kills Vince Hawkins.

Acting is an odd job: fandom is an odd hobby.




Season 14 of Doctor Who came to an end in April, 1977. Season 15 began the following September. On May 25, a new space fantasy movie was released in the U.S.A. It would not arrive in the UK until the day after Boxing Day, but the comics, novels, picture cards and breakfast cereals were already much in evidence. Doctor Who knew that it couldn't compete.

Deadly Assassin and Talons of Weng Chiang wanted to be exceptional: interrogating and deconstructing the show itself; embracing the idea of Time Travel and melodrama like they had never been embraced before. Horror of Fang Rock wants to be just good enough.

Fans are always dividing things into Eras. Talons of Weng-Chiang brought the Hinchcliffe Era to an end and Horror of Fang Rock inaugurated the Williams Era. And it is entirely true that between Season 14 and Season 15 Phillip Hinchcliffe stepped down as producer, and Graham Williams took over. But Producers didn't have as much power and influence as Show Runners do today; and script editor Robert Holmes would hang on for three more stories.

Season 14 ended with a Victorian costume drama; Season 15 opens with an Edwardian costume drama. Season 14 was full of pastiche horror; Season 15 opens with a spooky gothic spine chiller. The lighthouse is as emphatically shrouded in fog as the streets of London were. No-one ever suggested giving Col. Skinsale his own series, but you could imagine him in the club with Dr Litefoot, swapping tales of China and India and being patronising about the natives. Horror of Fang Rock didn't feel like a new era: it felt like business as usual.

Although it is full of stock characters and stereotypes, Fang Rock is not doing conscious literary pastiche in the way that Weng Chiang was. There is no particular "Edwardian Lighthouse Keeper" genre to draw on. If anything, it falls back on the venerable Who format of "aliens besieging a base". Everyone dies by the end of Episode Four: this is in fact the only story in which the Doctor fails to save anyone at all. No-one seems very bothered. The Doctor makes a quick joke about Louise Jameson's contact lenses, quotes an obscure poem that no-one is likely to have read, and hops into the TARDIS for next week's romp.

Doctor Who is now Tom Baker's show, and he knows it. This is his fourth season, and he has already clocked up more screen time than Matt Smith or Peter Capaldi would. He is slowly morphing from the Shakespearean One to the Alien One; the Callous One; and indeed the Insufferable One. Terrance Dicks's script does not give him very much; but he does a great deal with what he's given. He turns an innocent line like "I don't know what the truth is yet" back on itself by adding a little snarl around the word "yet". He makes much use of his trademark device of delivering lines in a convincingly inappropriate tone of voice. He exclaims "We haven't been introduced!" as if it were a life and death crisis; but announces "The lighthouse is under attack and by morning we might all be dead" with a silly grin on his face. When old Reuben ("'t'aint natural!") says that this new-fangled wireless won't bring middle-aged Ben back to life the Doctor responds "No!" just a shade too emphatically; raising his eyebrows and widening his eyes. When Reuben, insinuating that it was the Doctor who murdered Ben, says "I knows what I knows and I thinks what I thinks" the Doctor responds with the single word "Incontrovertible!" as if Reuben has just had a clever scientific insight.

It is this Doctor, smug but likeable, who won our devotion, who turned Doctor Who from a TV show into a religion. We felt sure that he would confide in us, as he does with Leela; not patronise us and ignore us, as he does with Reuben. We wished we could be as witty and supercilious to all the bullies and P.E. teachers in the world as the Doctor is to superstitious old duffers who prefer oil lamps to electricity.

Enjoy it while you can: soon it will be buried beneath a stream of weak jokes and jelly babies.

From Ian and Barbara to Harry and Sarah-Jane, the Doctor's companions had always been our near-contemporaries, wrenched from their proper contexts, but acting as our anchor-points and avatars. Doctor Who was about normal people taken to unusual times and places. Horror of Fang Rock lacks any contemporary viewpoint. Seven Edwardian stereotypes go through their paces, while two alien outsiders stand apart. The Doctor and Leela feel increasingly like Sapphire and Steel: visitors from a different world, not quite engaged with what is going on. Although he calls her "savage", Leela is treated almost as the Doctor's equal. The Doctor has knowledge that she doesn't have, but she has instinct which the Doctor respects. When Leela threatens to cut Palmerdale's heart out, we almost believe that she would -- and that the Doctor would let her. Leela is still a character -- recognisably the same young woman we met in Face of Evil and followed through Robots of Death and Talons of Weng Chiang. She has not yet been reduced to a pretty assistant with a dagger instead of a personality.

When Screamy Adelaide mentions that she consults astrologers, Leela says that she too used to believe in magic. "But the Doctor has taught me about Science. It is better to believe in Science." Leela's faith in the Doctor is almost superstitious: she thinks that they have nothing to fear from the alien murderer, because the Doctor is a Time Lord and the monster is not. She believes in him more than he believes in himself. But she can also stand up to him and puncture his pomposity as Sarah-Jane used to. "That's what I thought" she says "But of course I am only a savage!"

The Doctor's pomposity needs to be punctured from time to time: we can really only enjoy someone behaving awfully if there is someone to point out his awfulness. (We are licensed to enjoy Basil Fawlty's rage because we know he will end up with egg on his face.) That's why the Doctor needs to be paired with some sassy mortal: with a Sarah or a Leela or even a Jo. Much of the rest of the Baker era will descend into bickering between two insufferably arrogant ubermenschen -- and and even more insufferably arrogant robot dog.

The murderous Brussels sprout is eventually revealed to be a Rutan. Rutans have, in fact, been mentioned before: almost the only thing we know about the Sontarans is that they are engaged in a perpetual war against them. This is something of a watershed moment. When Dicks requires a rationale for the lighthouse monster, he doesn't go into folklore or literature, but to the series' own marginalia. Vanishingly few viewers in 1977 would have remembered the small print in the Time Warrior or the Sontaran Experiment, and nothing follows from it. But there is now a feeling, outside of fan fictions in mimeographed zines, that the show has a mythos -- or at least a body of old texts -- which are worth gesturing towards.





"What are you doing in this part of the galaxy?" asks the Doctor, as if intergalactic travel is about as remarkable as hitching a ride on a stage coach. Up to this point we've been watching a kind of low key nautical gothic -- Agatha Christie meets William Hope Hodgson. But this dialogue pulls us back into the realm of space opera; the realm, indeed, of Star Wars. Weng Chiang and Sutekh remained godlike even when they were revealed to "really" be time travelling war criminals and exiled aliens. The Beast of Fang Rock ceases to be beast-like and becomes merely an alien soldier. The Doctor spends the first three episodes convincing us that he is genuinely scared and genuinely worried: but as soon as he comes face to face with his adversary, he sets about relentlessly trivialising it. "I don't like your face"; "Reuben the Rutan"; "Oyster face". We are meant to think that he is being brave, or that he is carefully goading the creature into making an error: but in fact it has the effect of making the audience think that this baddie is really nothing to be too concerned about. We don't need to take the threat seriously if the Doctor doesn't.

The Doctor will rarely take anything seriously again.

Terrance Dicks knows how to construct a story. There is set-up and pay-off: characters do exposition without it being too obvious that exposition is what they are doing. ("So long as it isn't a hazard to navigation we don't have to bother with it" says Reuben, in case we were in any doubt as to what lighthouses are there for.) Everybody remembers the cliffhanger at the end of Episode Three: "I thought I'd locked the enemy out; instead, I've locked him in". But I preferred the end of Episode Two, however much it may reek of cheese. Palmerdale asserts that "absolutely nothing is going on" just as the set is plunged into darkness and someone off stage screams.

The characters are one dimensional, and it is impossible to care about the Palmerdale / Skinsale intrigue. But they are well enough drawn that it is possible to remember which is which, and to vaguely care as they queue up to fall into the Rutan's metaphorical jaws.

After three episodes build-up and a 100% casualty rate, the Doctor makes a plan and the plan works. The monster is scared of heat, and light; the Doctor can use diamonds to turn the lighthouse into a kind of laser. It would have helped if the fact that Palmerdale carries diamonds as "insurance" had been foreshadowed. Skinsale spends an inordinate amount of time rifling through his trousers to find them.

"The Doctor jerry rigs a doohickey and saves the day" feels like a cop-out, but in a sense the Doctor's whole rasion d'etre is to be a deus ex machina. The 21st century Doctor would have made the monster go away by thinking beautiful happy thoughts at it.

There was never any point in Doctor Who trying to be bigger of flashier than Star Wars, just as there is no point in the Doctor Who of today trying to be bigger and flashier than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Horror of Fang Rock is small and cheap and just good enough. One senses that Terrence Dicks delivered the script with a resounding "will this do?". It tries to get by on charm; specifically, on Tom Baker's and Louise Jameson's charm. It very nearly succeeds.

 


69 comments:

postodave said...

One of the shrewdest comments I read about the Horror of Fang Rock was Sue's in Adventures with the Wife in Space. She points out that no explanation is given for the earlier disappearances. The horror has come back, but there is no explanation of what the horror was, this is a new horror. It would have been better if this was a return visit. And then in episode 4 we find that the world is in danger, this means that what the Doctor does is worthwhile after all, although prior to that we had thought the point was to save the people in the lighthouse which he doesn't.

But in other ways this is a tight plot, there is a sense of inevitable doom and a fable about the moral consequences of greed. I keep thinking of the Wicker Man and I think the similarity is that this like that overturns the idea of a last minute rescue. We think someone will save the copper because that is how most hammer horror films end. We think the Doctor will save a substantial number of people, but he saves the world we barely noticed was in danger instead.

Andrew Stevens said...

It's hard to think of Horror of Fang Rock as part of the Williams era - same with Image of the Fendahl. Both are really codas to the Hinchcliffe era of Gothic horror. The Invisible Enemy is the false start of the Williams era and it finally takes over completely with the departure of Robert Holmes during The Sun Makers. I say this because the Williams era is really all about funky, out-there space opera; it's almost never set on Earth. Take away Horror of Fang Rock, Image of the Fendahl, Stones of Blood, and City of Death, and none of it is set on Earth. The typical mix for almost every other era is about 50/50 Earth vs. non-Earth. (It tips more toward Earth during the Pertwee era for obvious reasons, but not as much as you probably think. Pertwee actually was off Earth frequently, even during his exile there.)

Andrew Stevens said...

We're now way ahead of you. My daughter and I just finished Resurrection of the Daleks. Counting the days until The Caves of Androzani.

postodave said...

We're now way ahead of you. My daughter and I just finished Resurrection of the Daleks. Counting the days until The Caves of Androzani.

Do you follow Little Who Girl? https://twitter.com/littlewhogirl?lang=en I discovered her through Katy Manning.

Andrew Stevens said...

No, I never saw that before. I tried my daughter that young and it just didn't take. (And apparently he started in October of 2020 so they started about six or seven months after we did.) But it did take when I tried again about a year and a half ago now. (So she would have been 10 rather than 5.) Obviously I didn't subject her to the reconstructions, but we did watch all the episodes which have been animated and released in the U.S. (so far) and even the "orphaned" episodes. I gave her recaps of the episodes/stories which haven't been animated yet though mostly those "recaps" consisted of saying "And then they had a story about a conflict between an advanced society and a savage race, kind of sort of similar to the Morlocks and the Eloi, and the Doctor reconciles the two sides and Steven stays behind to lead them."

Andrew Stevens said...

I checked his Twitter feed and I find it funny that he asked where to slot in K9 and Company. This was never in doubt for me. It goes right after Logopolis, when it was broadcast. My daughter and I often joke about how every female Companion who left Tom Baker's Doctor got her own personal K9 as a present. (Mark I to Leela, Mark II to Romana, and Mark III to Sarah Jane Smith.) Poor Nyssa and Tegan didn't get one because they outlasted his Doctor, of course.

postodave said...

TV watching of this kind can be a great bonding experience. There was not as much Dr.Who around when my daughters were younger, though my older daughter and I did once watch The Chase and The Time Meddler. The next day this entered into her games, it is good food for the imagination. Later we watched all seven series of Buffy together.

What is really nice about Little Who Girl is the way she has been able to meet people from the show, give them pictures or send a video clip. The video of her crying when Jo left the series was very moving and Katy Manning offered to tell her all about what Jo did next. This is a different way of watching TV to what I experienced as a child. Adults would watch with children and Dr Who was, when I was very small, a family event. I can remember when I went on holiday and missed the last episodes of The Chase my auntie sent me pictures of the mechanoids we had missed. But no one was going back and watching old TV, meeting those involved, having others read their fanfic and so on.

And now rather than a once a week event it can be a nightly one, a much more intense experience. At the end of Adventures with the Wife in Space, Sue says she has enjoyed doing something together with her husband. Not watching all of classic Doctor Who but the bonding involved. Sometimes it is not the interest that we share but the fact of sharing them that matters.

Andrew Stevens said...

I tell my daughter when she groans about "family time" that, when she is older, this is what she's going to remember, not whatever she does on her tablet for hours a day. I read a chapter of a book to her every day, we watch one episode of Doctor Who, and then we typically watch an episode of something else (right now, we're at the end of Season 2 of Star Trek and the beginning of Season 2 of The Twilight Zone). We just finished "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith and are going to start Brave New World (and The Caves of Androzani!) tonight.

Andrew Stevens said...

I have amazing memories of my older brother John (now sadly deceased - he was a Type 1 diabetic) reading The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and other books to me as a child, so I was trying to replicate that with her. It also gives her a background in classic literature that she wouldn't otherwise have. E.g. I have read Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, all of the Sherlock Holmes books and stories, a selection of Jeeves and Wooster, Moby-Dick, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Lord of the Rings, Huckleberry Finn, Watership Down (a few times), and many, many others to her over the years.

postodave said...

Yes, I did something similar, though one daughter was more of a listener and watcher than the other. I did read all of The Lord of the Rings aloud and Tom Sawyer, though I don't think we finished Huckleberry Finn. The last thing I read aloud was The Time Machine which we did most of in one sitting. We didn't read a lot of classic novels though.

Once when she was 2 she asked if I could read Bim Bake. It took me a while to realise she was asking for William Blake. The other thing I remember her getting into was Tam Lin. I had been listening to the Fairport Convention version and then she read a book at school about women of courage that included the story.

My younger daughter got fascinated by Shakespearean Theatre after reading Susan Cooper's King of Shadows. She then got me to read A Midsummer Night's Dream, though she said I got the rhythms of the verse wrong! That in turn led to a visit to The Globe to see the play performed and eventually to a degree in Technical Theatre.

Andrew Stevens said...

Huh. I wouldn't expect a native English speaker to get the rhythms of iambic pentameter wrong. English is a fairly natural iambic language.

Speaking of different experiences, I started watching Doctor Who in 1986 when PBS first bought up the old '60s episodes and I could watch them from the beginning. (So I would have been about 13 years old at that time.) So I watched Doctor Who in order the first time myself (mostly), recording all the episodes all the while. Boy was I confused when they skipped (and then later mentioned) Marco Polo and even more confused when other obvious gaps showed up. (I eventually figured out what had happened with the missing episodes somehow.) Anyway, both local PBS stations that I could pick up cancelled Doctor Who when they had finished with the Jon Pertwee era (ca. 1988).

In 1993, I moved to the Midwest where they were still showing Doctor Who. (In fact, it's the only PBS station in the U.S. which has never stopped airing Doctor Who.) After a bit they finally jumped back to the beginning of Tom Baker so I could pick up watching and recording again. I had to circle back again the next time through to pick up the episodes which I had missed recording at some point and then borrowed a friend's videotapes to record all the "orphaned" episodes before I finally completed my collection. By that time, it was circa 2000, just in time for the DVD releases to start.

Andrew Stevens said...

Anyway, that's the story of my 15 year quest to get every Doctor Who episode on videotape.

postodave said...

Huh. I wouldn't expect a native English speaker to get the rhythms of iambic pentameter wrong. English is a fairly natural iambic language.

No, it isn't. Compare Shakespeare's early plays to the later ones. He had to stop writing strict iambic pentameter to get natural sounding language. You have to know not to endstop for enjambment and several other tricks I had forgotten.

Did you know there ware at least 2 Dr Who serials partly written in iambic pentameter?

Andrew Stevens said...

Well, whether Shakespeare ever wrote "natural sounding language" is highly debatable. Whenever people complain about how the dialogue in, say, The Lion in Winter, is unnatural, I always point out, "Well, nobody ever spoke the way Shakespeare's characters spoke either." (My point being that there is nothing at all wrong with unnaturalistic, stylized dialogue. In fact, I much prefer it to naturalistic dialogue. If I want to listen to my neighbors, I'll go talk to them.)

On the other hand, the iambic beats come naturally to us. But HARK what LIGHT through YONder WINdow BREAKS. To BE or NOT to BE, THAT is the QUEStion. NOW is the WINter OF our DISconTENT. (Okay, it's not natural to stress the "of" in that one, I grant.)

I did not know there were two. It's obvious in The Crusade, of course (the late, great David Whitaker). I assume the other was that Shakespeare episode from the new series?

Andrew Rilstone said...

You can get caught out by the syllables though. Crispin Crispian shall n'er go by but we in it shall be remember ed.

Andrew Stevens said...

Yes, I get that problem even in modern English sometimes. Should I pronounce it "blessed" or "bless-ed"? Particularly when I am reading older (but definitely Modern English) British literature. I have also always assumed that "eye" was sometimes pronounced "ee" rather than "aye" because otherwise the rhyme schemes of certain old poems don't seem to be very good.

Examples: "What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" and, from Shakespeare, "And, as he errs, doting on Hermia’s eyes, / So I, admiring of his qualities."

I assume this is the Great Vowel Shift. Of course. (You can blame just about everything weird about English on it.)

Andrew Stevens said...

Similarly, Richard Lovelace:

Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.

Which only seems to work if you pronounce it "flee" (though the meaning is definitely "fly," not "flee" - since he is doing the opposite of running away from danger).

Andrew Stevens said...

And, just because it's a great verse and for no other reason:

Yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Lov’d I not Honour more.

Tim Ellis said...

You don't need to change the pronunciation of "Eye" - you just need to read the couplets in a Brummie accent
so Symmetry is pronounced "Simmer-Try" not "Sim-eh-tree"
Qualities is pronounce "Kwal-it-eyes" not "Kwal-it-ease"
and Nunnery is pronounced "Nunna-rye" not "Nun-er-ee"

Andrew Rilstone said...

The great Tony Harrison, complaining about Received Pronunciation (he's from Leeds) wrote:

"You can tell the receiver where to go
And not aspirate it, once you know
Wordsworth's matter/water are full rhymes..."

Andrew Rilstone said...

There is a point in the nineteenth century where it was normal to write "bless'd" or "remember'd" if the the last syllabub wasn't stressed.

Someone told me that the opening of Paradise Lost can be sung to the tune of the Flintstones.

Andrew Stevens said...

Because I Could Not Stop for Death can be sung to the tune of Gilligan's Island.

Andrew Stevens said...

It occurs to me that there are other issues like that if you're not thinking about the meter, e.g. "made GLORyus SUMmer BY this SUN of YORK." We would tend to pronounce glorious with three syllables rather than two, although that doesn't screw up the meter too much frankly.

(I do hope someone will tell me what the second Doctor Who story with iambic pentameter is, by the by. The Aztecs?)

postodave said...

Well, whether Shakespeare ever wrote "natural sounding language" is highly debatable. Whenever people complain about how the dialogue in, say, The Lion in Winter, is unnatural, I always point out, "Well, nobody ever spoke the way Shakespeare's characters spoke either." (My point being that there is nothing at all wrong with unnaturalistic, stylized dialogue. In fact, I much prefer it to naturalistic dialogue. If I want to listen to my neighbors, I'll go talk to them.)

On the other hand, the iambic beats come naturally to us. But HARK what LIGHT through YONder WINdow BREAKS. To BE or NOT to BE, THAT is the QUEStion. NOW is the WINter OF our DISconTENT. (Okay, it's not natural to stress the "of" in that one, I grant.)

But the second of those is a long way from iambic pentameter. IP is based on the rhythms of Latin poetry but adapted to English by the use of stresses rather than long and short syllables, but how stresses are placed is always a matter of judgement. That is quite a different matter than whether Shakespeare's language is natural in other respects. I think C. S Lewis says somewhere that poetry will always claim to be returning to common speech but really it is common in the sense that people will say that is how I would speak if I could speak poetry.

One of my faviourite examples of a late twentieth century poet using the rhythms of speech is John Cooper Clarke's Chicken Town. People in Manchester where I grew up would not exactly say
The fucking pubs are fucking dull
The fucking clubs are fucking full
Of fucking girls and fucking guys
With fucking murder in Their eyes
A fucking bloke is fucking stabbed
Waiting for a fucking cab
You fucking stay at fucking home
The fucking neighbors fucking moan
Keep The fucking racket down
This is fucking Chickentown

But they would use the word fuck to punctuate speech. A lot. And Christopher Eccleston's performance of the poem is just wonderful. I recently suggested to Eliza Carthy that this was folk poetry and I think she agreed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgDd06D5p5U

I did not know there were two. It's obvious in The Crusade, of course (the late, great David Whitaker). I assume the other was that Shakespeare episode from the new series?

The other is Lady Peinforte in Silver Nemesis.

Andrew Stevens said...

The other is Lady Peinforte in Silver Nemesis.

Ah yes. In fact, some of her lines were simply taken directly from Shakespeare. Of course, Kevin Clarke wasn't quite David Whitaker, who was both the second best writer of the classic series, after Robert Holmes, and the second best script editor after Terrance Dicks.

"What!?" I hear some people cry. "Robert Holmes doesn't make the top two as a script editor!?" Well, he sort of does and he sort of doesn't. Making him script editor basically brought him onboard as a staff writer, which was a big help to Hinchcliffe, but Holmes wasn't all that concerned with the typical script editor's job - maintaining logic, consistency, tying up plot holes, etc. The stuff Dicks excelled at. The difference between Dicks and Holmes is best illustrated by the story of Dicks's script The Brain of Morbius, almost completely rewritten by Holmes such that Dicks refused to put his name on it. It is really a very stylish story and very fun to watch (almost certainly thanks to Holmes), but Dicks was correct that Holmes had also made it illogical and quite incoherent in places.

postodave said...

I think we should take Dicks seriously, if not literally, when he says his main purpose was to make sure they did not have to show the test card at Saturday teatime. He was a pro, determined to turn out a workable script and the rest was a bonus. But in doing that some great ideas, timelords, the Master, came out. He didn't set out to write books in much the same way Bob Dylan didn't set out to write songs, but he turned out to be very good at it.

David Whitaker wrote some really good scripts. Terry Nation invented the daleks but Whitaker knew how to write about them on TV and in the comics I read in TV21 as a child. He also wrote two great Dr Who novels. Both The Daleks and The Crusaders are lovely. We had them in the library at my secondary school. Old hardbacks from the sixties. So when the first three target bookscame out I opted for The Zarbi which I hadn't read and which was much less interesting, very pedestrian, not much more than the script with he said, she said put in.

I suspect his role as script editor was very different to Dicks. He was holding the series together when no one knew what it was. It certainly lost its way for a while later towards the end of the first doctor's run.

Andrew Stevens said...

It certainly lost its way for a while later towards the end of the first doctor's run.

I suppose that's a fair comment and I can understand what you mean. However, I'm actually a big fan of Season 3 due to how experimental it was. John Wiles may be one of my favorite Doctor Who producers. Even if you hate his era, you have to admit that he wasn't afraid to try new things.

I agree with you about everything else you had to say.

Andrew Stevens said...

The Hartnell era never settled down into a formula at any point, though the show quickly did settle on a formula early in Pat Troughton's tenure (largely based on Hartnell's last story, The Tenth Planet).

Gavin Burrows said...

"The Hartnell era never settled down into a formula at any point"

...which is both boon and curse. It means it can succeed better but also fail worse. 'The Chase' may be what happens when all the elements of the era get shoved together, and it ain't pretty. They need to be held apart for the show to function.

However, if there was no plot formula there was originally a character formula, and with it a character function formula. Vicki was devised almost entirely to fit the slot Susan left. Then the time Ian and Barbara go is almost exactly the same time they try to get "with it", only for it to prove not as with-able as it might have first looked. Perhaps with hindsight you could argue it less lost its way then had to fly through that turbulence to ensure the series could continue. But there's more than one story where, had I been watching it at the time, Im sure I'd have been calling for the show to be cancelled.

Andrew Stevens said...

I happen to enjoy most of 'The Chase.' It's silly, but it's also fun. (See The Invisible Enemy.) It's funny how Terry Nation's first three Dalek scripts are 'The Daleks,' 'Dalek Invasion of the Earth,' and 'The Chase,' none of which are much like the others, but later he just starts phoning it in with 'Planet of the Daleks' and 'Death to the Daleks.' (Barry Letts tells the story of commissioning 'Genesis of the Daleks,' saying that Nation originally gave him a different outline for his Dalek story and Letts said, "Can you do something different?" Nation said, "What? It's a good story." Letts says he replied, "I agree it's a good story. I thought so when I bought it from you last year and when I bought it from you the year before that.")

And, yes, I agree that Vicki is just a Susan replacement, though Vicki is a much better character. And Steven is just an Ian replacement. (Barbara gets dropped as a character.) As Terrance Dicks has pointed out in defending his decision to replace Liz Shaw with Jo Grant, a character function formula is sort of written into the form (though you can fight that if you're bold). Deviations can be pretty disastrous - see Adric.

Gavin Burrows said...

'I happen to enjoy most of 'The Chase.'"

Okay, but make sure you do it in the privacy of your own home.

Susan is only an interesting character in her first story. You could maybe add 'The Sensorties', but that would mean thinking about 'The Sensorites'. Vikki is only an interesting character in her last two stories. If only she could have been like that from the start.

Steven is a much younger character than Ian, more Vikki's older brother than father figure. He has a more fractious relationship with the Doctor for that reason, like he wants the Doctor to be a kind of role model and gets aggravated when he doesn't live up to it.

Jo Grant would seem quite a different character to Liz Shaw to me.

The next big rupture point to my youthful devotion to the show, after the introduction of K9, was the departure of Leela. In fact I look back with some bewilderment at how few good stories she was actually in. I didn't take to Nyssa much more than I did Adric.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I think that was Dicks' point wasn't it? Liz was an attempt to give the Doctor a grown up, intelligent scientist as a companion, and it didn't work within the format: so she is replaced with "I know I'm a bit thick" Jo, whose job is literally to to hold the Doctor's test tubes and tell him how brilliant he is.

There is no doubt that the first Season and a bit of the Hartnell era feels like a high quality, experimental, serious and slightly weird drama series; where Season 3 has turned into something much more like kids TV. But I think it was losing its way; I had a sense watching (recons) of Dalek Masterplan and Massacre and War Machines that I was watching Doctor Who becoming Doctor Who, where Aztecs and Invasion of Earth felt like -- something else.

Gavin Burrows said...

' I had a sense watching (recons) of Dalek Masterplan and Massacre and War Machines that I was watching Doctor Who becoming Doctor Who"

I started watching the Hartnell era with the sole interest of finding out how Dr Who became Dr Who. I was soon confronted by the fact that that's absolutely the worst way to watch the Hartnell era.

Andrew Stevens said...

Stories I liked Susan in: An Unearthly Child

Stories I liked Vicki in: The Rescue, The Romans, The Crusade, The Space Museum, The Time Meddler. I suppose I'll throw in her final story, The Myth Makers, but honestly I was rather disappointed with her storyline in that. I don't know if she was interesting in any of these stories. I'm not sure that's the point of a Companion of the Doctor. Jo Grant was never interesting, but she's still my wife's favorite Companion.

There is no doubt that the first Season and a bit of the Hartnell era feels like a high quality, experimental, serious and slightly weird drama series; where Season 3 has turned into something much more like kids TV.

Huh. I would have said I have almost the opposite opinion, but I suppose it depends on which part of Season 3 you're looking at. The problem with early Season 3 was that it was all a bit too adult - in the sense of not being all that appropriate for kids anymore. The Myth Makers, The Daleks' Master Plan, and The Massacre, at least. It's all perhaps a bit too grim with all the deaths and historical massacres and all. But then it flips to The Ark, The Celestial Toymaker, and The Gunfighters, which do seem like kids TV, fun and experimental though they are, and then The Savages and The War Machines which are when Innes Lloyd is exploring and discovering what would become the "Doctor Who format." He is unquestionably the producer who did that.

Andrew Stevens said...

(And, yes, The Myth Makers is funny as well as grim.)

Andrew Stevens said...

I started watching the Hartnell era with the sole interest of finding out how Dr Who became Dr Who. I was soon confronted by the fact that that's absolutely the worst way to watch the Hartnell era.

Like a very old person who watched from the beginning on first transmission, I had the advantage of not actually knowing what Doctor Who was really like when I watched the Hartnell era. I knew it had been running forever and I had seen bits and pieces of it, but I didn't know yet the Doctor Who formula or much of the lore or mythology or anything.

Andrew Stevens said...

I remember sharing the Hartnell stories with a friend who was a Tom Baker fan and he would remark, "But they got that wrong! We know blah blah blah." I would reply, "You know all that stuff happens 15 years later, right?"

Andrew Stevens said...

I have the same mixed feelings about Innes Lloyd as Gavin does about the experimentation of the Hartnell era for the opposite reasons. On the one hand, Lloyd made the series much less experimental - historicals got the axe, the show became increasingly about "monsters" and settled down into the now familiar formula - but from a producer's perspective, this all made sense. Daleks and Cybermen got ratings; the historicals did not. In the end, it's difficult to argue with his success. Had he not succeeded, we likely wouldn't be talking about the show now, 55 years later.

Andrew Rilstone said...

"I remember sharing the Hartnell stories with a friend who was a Tom Baker fan and he would remark, "But they got that wrong! We know blah blah blah." I would reply, "You know all that stuff happens 15 years later, right?"

His name wasn't Ian Levine, by any chance?

Gavin Burrows said...

'Stories I liked Vicki in"... isn't really the same as "stories where I liked Vikki". If a character's going to be on-screen so much, isn't it a bit of an idea to make there be something interesting about them? Rather than that other thing. The Vikki of 'Space Museum' and 'Myth makers' is just more fun than the Vikki of 'Web Planet'. Why can't we have had that Vikki all along?

Besides it seems kind of essential to me that it's his travels which made the Doctor who he is, rather than the Doctor was something which drove him to go travelling. (Which is partly why I dislike the whole Timeless... oh, you know.) So it makes sense for a similar thing to happen to the companion characters.

"Daleks and Cybermen got ratings; the historicals did not"

Is that any more than a fan myth?

'His name wasn't Ian Levine, by any chance?"

At this point, under ordinary circumstances, you would have won the Comment Of The Thread award. As is is, we're had the "imagine Blake and Shakespeare read in a Brumme accent". And there wasn't much point still playing after that.

Andrew Stevens said...

His name wasn't Ian Levine, by any chance?

Levine is the opposite, of course. Like me, he watched the series in broadcast order so he wouldn't accuse the older episodes of having gotten something wrong.

Is that any more than a fan myth?

Yes. While this has been "debunked," the debunking really consists of explanations and excuses for the lower ratings of the historicals. I'm not saying they aren't good explanations and excuses, but The Gunfighters really did lose audience which didn't recover until The Tenth Planet. The Highlanders were a dip between Power of the Daleks and The Underwater Menace. If I'm a producer of a show which is in a bit of trouble, I'm going to react to those numbers, rightly or wrongly. I don't blame Innes Lloyd for the decision he made, even though I don't like the decision.

Why can't we have had that Vikki all along?

I think we did. I think she was also a lot of fun in all the other stories I mentioned, bar The Rescue. She's quite fun in The Romans and The Time Meddler at least.

Gavin Burrows said...

Ratings in general dipped as the Hartnell era went along. Though that had started before 'the Gunfighters'. But back when it was getting ratings, the historicals were getting good ratings. 'Marco Polo' didn't just manage this, it was originally planned as the 'seller' that was going to bring audiences on-board. 'The Romans' and 'The Crusade' also got good ratings.

This chart shows 'The Smugglers' as the worst performer, but with 'The Savages' not far behind. It's not at all the simple picture of ratings dropping every other story, then picking up again once they were back in space.

http://www.themindrobber.co.uk/ratings.html

Andrew Stevens said...

Sure, if you go back. Even then, you see The Aztecs losing viewers and The Reign of Terror not helping. And then there's a precipitous drop-off from Daleks' Master Plan to the Massacre. On the other hand, The Romans and The Crusade, as you say, did not cause Doctor Who to come off of its Dalek-inspired high.

However, Innes Lloyd produced The Gunfighters, The Smugglers, and The Highlanders. None of those three did well compared to the rest of the stuff he was producing. Particularly the drop-off from Celestial Toymaker to The Gunfighters is pretty steep. Though admittedly The Highlanders didn't lose as much as I thought it did. (Looking at the average rather than episode-by-episode and averaging in my head.)

Andrew Stevens said...

Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge fan of the historicals. I wish they hadn't been axed. But I have to admit I might very well have made the same decision Lloyd did, faced with the reality of having to produce a TV show and get ratings. It's easy to say, "Up with art and the hell with commerce" and the BBC, unlike commercial television, can afford to say that sometimes, but Innes Lloyd also had a job to do.

Andrew Stevens said...

Humphrey Appleby: How would you feel if they took all the culture programmes off television?

Jim Hacker: I never watch them.

Sir Humphrey: Neither do I, but it's vital to know they're there!

Gavin Burrows said...

There's a bigger drop from 'Daleks Masterplan', initially for 'The Massacre' but not picking up anything for 'The Ark'. 'Celestial Toymaker' then seems an outlier of popularity. (God knows why, as it's awful!)

It's quite well known that 'Dr Who' was designed to compete with ITV, and was always made with an eye on the ratings. Any connection to "art" in the Beebs' mind was snagging viewers and hopefully keeping them. If the historicals had consistently under-performed they'd have been cancelled more quickly than after three seasons.

postodave said...

I happen to enjoy most of 'The Chase.' It's silly, but it's also fun. (See The Invisible Enemy.) It's funny how Terry Nation's first three Dalek scripts are 'The Daleks,' 'Dalek Invasion of the Earth,' and 'The Chase,' none of which are much like the others, but later he just starts phoning it in with 'Planet of the Daleks' and 'Death to the Daleks.' (Barry Letts tells the story of commissioning 'Genesis of the Daleks,' saying that Nation originally gave him a different outline for his Dalek story and Letts said, "Can you do something different?" Nation said, "What? It's a good story." Letts says he replied, "I agree it's a good story. I thought so when I bought it from you last year and when I bought it from you the year before that.")

I too like The Chase. I definitely watched most of it when it was first broadcast though my memories of that are vague I do remember that we missed the last episode because we went on holiday and my auntie sent me a letter explaining what had happened with a picture of the mechanoids. I then read the novel before it was available to view again in the UK. Then had the video which I watched with my daughter when she was at primary school; she still likes it. It's a good story for children. Nation is using the same technique he used in The Keys of Marinus of breaking the story into parts with separate locations for each.

(a reviewer in Dr.Who magazine said in most planet based stories you only get to see when terrain or nation but in The Keys of Marinus you get several terrain nation stories in one)

For kids that makes it a good watch.

And, yes, I agree that Vicki is just a Susan replacement, though Vicki is a much better character. And Steven is just an Ian replacement. (Barbara gets dropped as a character.) As Terrance Dicks has pointed out in defending his decision to replace Liz Shaw with Jo Grant, a character function formula is sort of written into the form (though you can fight that if you're bold). Deviations can be pretty disastrous - see Adric.

The thing with Steven is that you now have two characters from the future and that changes the dynamic. Steven talks about being part of the crew of a time machine, Ian would not have said that. They have to find a way to get new companions from earth, but from here on they are younger. I think the later companions are the age of many fairy tale protagonists because people are starting to realise these are coming of age stories.

postodave said...

I think that was Dicks' point wasn't it? Liz was an attempt to give the Doctor a grown up, intelligent scientist as a companion, and it didn't work within the format: so she is replaced with "I know I'm a bit thick" Jo, whose job is literally to to hold the Doctor's test tubes and tell him how brilliant he is.

I don't know if anyone from the production team has said this but I know at one point there were plans to keep Zoe into the Pertwee era and I suspect Liz is an attempt top do the same kind of clever, scientifically knowing character. But without Jamie as a foil and with a Doctor who is more earnest, more often the dynamic has changed.

There is no doubt that the first Season and a bit of the Hartnell era feels like a high quality, experimental, serious and slightly weird drama series; where Season 3 has turned into something much more like kids TV. But I think it was losing its way; I had a sense watching (recons) of Dalek Masterplan and Massacre and War Machines that I was watching Doctor Who becoming Doctor Who, where Aztecs and Invasion of Earth felt like -- something else.

I could not possibly think of Invasion of Earth as not Doctor Who. It coloured my childhood. Admittedly in black and white but I dreamed of daleks in colour, probably thanks to the TV 21 cartoons and the film which I saw at the cinema. But there is a turning point in the Invasion when the Doctor tells the daleks he will fight and defeat them. Nation had to make the tardis inaccessible to force them to stay but the doctor is just about turning into a moral hero. Before I read Dicks and Hulke's The Making of Doctor Who I thought the first doctor was the real doctor and the later ones were actors.

Andrew Stevens said...

It's quite well known that 'Dr Who' was designed to compete with ITV, and was always made with an eye on the ratings. Any connection to "art" in the Beebs' mind was snagging viewers and hopefully keeping them. If the historicals had consistently under-performed they'd have been cancelled more quickly than after three seasons.

I think that's a bit too cynical. Sidney Newman's creation of the show was clearly with one eye on the BBC's educational remit - thus the history and the science teachers who travelled with the Doctor.

But let's do a thorough review of all the ratings of the historicals (using your link) which neither of us did:

Marco Polo: slight drop-off from Inside the Spaceship, but not large
The Aztecs: big drop-off from Keys of Marinus
Reign of Terror: very slight drop-off from Sensorites
The Romans: high ratings, but a drop from The Rescue
The Crusade: still high ratings, but a big drop from The Web Planet
The Time Meddler: decent drop-off from The Chase
Myth Makers: decent drop-off from Galaxy 4 (ignoring Mission to the Unknown as a one-off episode, but admittedly it ever so slightly improved on that)
The Massacre: huge drop-off from The Daleks' Master Plan
Gunfighters: big drop-off from Celestial Toymaker
The Smugglers: slight drop-off from The War Machines
The Highlanders: slight drop-off from Power of the Daleks

I think that's pretty consistent. Historicals never helped the ratings; at best they came close to sustaining them. All gains that Doctor Who saw were from serials like The Daleks, The Sensorites, Planet of Giants, Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Rescue, The Web Planet, The Chase, Galaxy 4, Daleks' Master Plan, The Ark, The Celestial Toymaker, The War Machines, The Tenth Planet, Power of the Daleks, The Underwater Menace, and The Moonbase.

We may think now that some of those stories suck, but they all helped the ratings at the time. The historicals did not.

Andrew Stevens said...

(You said The Ark didn't pick up anything. I put it on the list only because it did pick up a very little bit from The Massacre, but I agree it took Toymaker to return the ratings to reasonably good. The Ark's ratings were probably not good enough to fend off cancellation.)

Gavin Burrows said...

Ah, but this just says more of the same rather than responds. Seeing each story only against the next misses the bigger picture. Hence you’re keener to stress ‘The Ark’s marginal increase from ‘The Massacre’ than ‘The Romans’ getting more than double the viewers of ‘The War Machines’.

Ratings-wise, Season 3 is effectively a series of successive drops, significantly broken only by the Daleks coming back (again) and (no accounting for taste) ‘Celestial Toymaker’. Were I an ausience-driven BBC Exec, there’s no point I’d have said “these historicals have to go”. Whereas by mid-season 3 I might very well have been saying “this show has had its day”.

Interestingly, from ‘Marco Polo’ the historicals had a kind of high-minded drama and speechifying to them. Whereas as they went on they largely became genre adventure stories which happened to be set in the past. This was probably more to do with the proclivities of individual writers than any plan. But it does mean they went more populist just as they went less popular. Which would suggest to me they didn’t have a major effect on the third season decline. It was more a general malaise.

postodave said...

WANA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrfrqUgFXfA

Andrew Stevens said...

Seeing each story only against the next misses the bigger picture.

Seeing each story against the prior is vital. Even better is looking at ratings for a story episode by episode. Is the story losing or gaining viewers as people see what the story is about? But my analysis is close enough - looking at each story compared to the prior story. Is it keeping the audience, building on it, or losing it?

Why my analysis is not missing the "big picture" is because I'm looking at every single detail. Not a single historical gained viewers.

I am not "keen" to stress The Ark's marginal increase. I noted it.

Interestingly, from ‘Marco Polo’ the historicals had a kind of high-minded drama and speechifying to them. Whereas as they went on they largely became genre adventure stories which happened to be set in the past. This was probably more to do with the proclivities of individual writers than any plan.

More to do with Lucarotti than anyone else.

Andrew Stevens said...

But really all my analysis says is that when people say, "The historicals did not get good ratings compared to the science fiction stories," they are correct. It's not simply a fan myth; it's just a fact. And I prefer the Hartnell historicals to the science fiction ones. I too do not think much of The Keys of Marinus, The Celestial Toymaker, or The Web Planet. When I watch them (or listen to them in Toymaker's case), I try to enjoy them as much as I can, but it's hard. Meanwhile, there isn't a single Troughton historical I don't like except The Reign of Terror and maybe The Smugglers. But I can't defend the ratings of the historicals.

The Romans got much better ratings than The War Machines because The Romans was aired at the height of Dalekmania and people had stopped watching the show by the time of The War Machines. It's not that people watched The War Machines and didn't like it, but that they didn't watch it at all.

Andrew Stevens said...

(Whoops, said "Troughton," but obviously meant "Hartnell.")

Andrew Stevens said...

Whereas by mid-season 3 I might very well have been saying “this show has had its day”.

This was clearly in the minds of the producers as well. I think recasting the lead role was, in part, due to Hartnell's illness and increasing difficulty in working with, but also to try to give the show a shot in the arm. As we can see from the ratings, this worked. Many more people tuned into The Tenth Planet than The Smugglers and The Power of the Daleks sealed the deal.

Actually, the most interesting thing in the ratings history is that it's not at all obvious why you would cancel the show after Season 22, when it was still going strong. I don't like Season 22 either, but its ratings were fine.

Gavin Burrows said...

The summary of this argument would seem to be "the evidence bears me out, provided we look at the evidence I am saying to look at."

"people had stopped watching the show by the time of The War Machines. It's not that people watched The War Machines and didn't like it, but that they didn't watch it at all."

Yes, that is indeed the thing I'm saying. Show that graph to any non-Who newbie and say "what's the story?" How many do you think would say "was there some weird structure where they kept switching story type to something no-one liked?" Versus how many would say "did something happen mid-way which caused the viewers to desert?"

Andrew Stevens said...

The summary of this argument would seem to be "the evidence bears me out, provided we look at the evidence I am saying to look at."

Yes, that's right. And also that you should be looking at the evidence I am saying to look at. By the way, I think I may have given the impression that Innes Lloyd stopped the experimentation at the end of the Hartnell era and settled into a formula for Troughton. That is not the impression I mean to give. Lloyd kept experimenting through Season 4 as well. He only really settled on the "Doctor Who formula" in Season 5.

Andrew Stevens said...

Yes, that is indeed the thing I'm saying. Show that graph to any non-Who newbie and say "what's the story?" How many do you think would say "was there some weird structure where they kept switching story type to something no-one liked?" Versus how many would say "did something happen mid-way which caused the viewers to desert?"

It's actually pretty obvious from the graph. The Massacre killed the ratings, The Celestial Toymaker got them back, but then The Gunfighters killed the ratings again. This is the data Innes Lloyd was looking at when he cancelled the historicals.

Andrew Stevens said...

Admittedly it was more obvious and visceral to Lloyd than it is to us because he was looking at the ratings week by week.

Andrew Stevens said...

I do thank you for this conversation. I've always kind of known how important Innes Lloyd was to Doctor Who, but I'm not sure it ever really sunk in for me before. He is probably the most important producer in the show's history (barring perhaps Verity Lambert). He took over a show which was beginning to flounder and, by the time he left, he had ensured it could run for years and years. I still don't like his decision to axe the historicals and settle the show into a formula, but it's hard to deny that it ensured the show's success.

Andrew Stevens said...

In other news, I just picked these up for my daughter.

K9 slippers

Gavin Burrows said...

”Yes, that's right. And also that you should be looking at the evidence I am saying to look at.”

And you are a Republican, you say?

”The Massacre killed the ratings”

In retrospect it’s not so surprising ‘The Massacre’ wasn’t a hit. It’s almost literally purgatorial, with just enough action-adventure elements for swashbuckling fans to keep hoping it’ll get going soon. (It’s actual merits and demerits let’s leave to another day.)

But ratings had already taken a dent. And the unpopularity of ‘The Massacre’ doesn’t mean the unpopularity of the historical. Were that so, audiences would have en masse sat it out and come back when the SF was back. By this point, it was the show which was unpopular. At first they cut down the historicals. Didn’t help.

’He took over a show which was beginning to flounder and, by the time he left, he had ensured it could run for years and years. I still don't like his decision to axe the historicals and settle the show into a formula, but it's hard to deny that it ensured the show's success.”

Now this I agree with. It’s okay to take the view that Lloyd clamped the show inside a formula it never got back out of. But those who say that need to accept there wasn’t some rosy alternative where it swung from strength to strength. The only alternative to Lloyd’s way was no way, was cancellation.

It’s also true that setting a formula ended the historicals. At most there would have been two formulas, rotating and competing with one another. And it’s unsurprising that, having been hired to rescue the ratings, he’d explain away any change he wanted as “good for ratings”. But the truth remains that while audiences were watching the show they watched the historicals, and the other way around.

Andrew Stevens said...

But ratings had already taken a dent.

Are you simply talking about the drop from the height of Dalekmania (Dalek Invasion of the Earth through The Web Planet) to Daleks' Masterplan? Because Masterplan was plenty popular. At the time, 9.4 million viewers would keep you running for forever. You didn't need the 12.5 million of The Rescue and The Web Planet. 6.4 million (The Massacre) is a big drop from 9.4 million and does get you into dangerous territory.

Were that so, audiences would have en masse sat it out and come back when the SF was back.

This is not really how viewership works. Watching a weekly TV show is a habit. Anything which gets viewers out of the habit is bad, anything which gets viewers into the habit is good. The SF shows did the latter and the historicals did the former. You generally either are watching the show or you are not. How many shows have you ever watched where you just watch the best episodes? Maybe an anthology series like The Twilight Zone. Again, go back and look at my analysis of all the ratings. Not one historical story in Doctor Who history ever gained viewers. The best any of them did was not lose too many viewers. But now look at the SF shows - The Daleks, Dalek Invasion of the Earth, Galaxy 4, and The Celestial Toymaker all made huge gains. Others made smaller gains, but still quite substantial - The Rescue, The Web Planet, The Daleks' Masterplan. Those were the stories which drew people to Doctor Who. And anyone looking at three years of ratings would have said to themselves, "More Daleks."

Andrew Stevens said...

We can think what we like of Galaxy 4, The Celestial Toymaker, and The Web Planet, but they drew viewers, like them or not.

Andrew Stevens said...

For example, I have no opinion of Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor. Why? I haven't seen a single episode of hers. I stopped watching before the last season of Peter Capaldi. Now, I still do own all of the Blu-Rays and intend to watch them with my daughter when we get there, but by the end of his reign, Steven Moffat got me out of the habit of watching Doctor Who.

Andrew Stevens said...

And you are a Republican, you say?

I'm definitely not a Trump Republican. He basically agrees with the Democrats on foreign policy and economics, the places where they are most clearly wrong. Plus I'm a dove on immigration. But, sure, I supported the Reagan-Bush Sr.-McCain-Romney Republican Party (only one of those - Romney - was a hawk on immigration). Even W, I suppose, though he was no good on spending and bungled Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War.

Gavin Burrows said...

”You generally either are watching the show or you are not. How many shows have you ever watched where you just watch the best episodes? Maybe an anthology series like The Twilight Zone.”

Sure, that’s how they want you to watch their show. In the same way that if I owned a restaurant I’d like it if you eat there every night. But, in those pre-catch-up days, shows were deliberately designed to allow people to jump on, which inevitably also enabled jumping off. (As one example, there’s no “arcs” like in NooWho.) Otherwise the audience from your first episode was the best you were ever going to get. Also ‘Who’ was at this point effectively an anthology show with recurring characters. There can be big tonal shifts from one story to the next.

”Again, go back and look at my analysis of all the ratings. Not one historical story in Doctor Who history ever gained viewers.”

It’s a familiar rhetorical trick to exaggerate and caricature someone’s argument, then complain they’re not substantiating that caricature. It’s no part of what I’m saying that the historicals were consistently more popular then the SF stories. I’m saying the once-widespread belief that they were substantially less popular but were insisted upon because they were deemed “educational”, that has been proven wrong.

”I'm definitely not a Trump Republican”

It’s being made increasingly untenable to be a non-Trump Republican, and made so by the Republicans, but that’s probably something for another day…

Andrew Rilstone said...

Also: the choice was BBC 1, ITV or nothing. I think people had a loyalty to a channel or series. (I can remember kids and adults saying "Do you watch Softly, Softly?" in the way you might have said "Do you read Punch?" or "Do you read the Times" meaning do you watch it every week, do you subscribe to it.) So if you watched Episode 1 of the Gunfighters and hated, you would make a decision not to switch over and see what was on the "other side". And if it was, for example, a very well made, slick, sci-fi show in which puppets rescued other puppets from exploding oil rigs, you might become one of the people who "watches" Thunderbirds, rather than one of the people who "watches" Doctor Who. With no repeats or DVDs, it was a bit of an either-or.