Saturday Waffling (June 7th, 2014)

(47 comments)

Hello everyone. I'm out of town for the weekend and checking the blog minimally, so will keep this brief.

So, many of us have seen the 50th Anniversary poll from Doctor Who Magazine. For those who haven't, TheSmilingStallionInn gave the top and bottom 40 in a comment over here.

I cannot imagine that this is not enough to fuel a solid weekend's discussion. So. Thoughts?

Comments

William Whyte 2 years, 9 months ago

Top 40: Interesting to see Power overtaking Evil, wonder if that's because there's been so much buzz recently about Power being returned. I remain baffled by why everyone likes Pyramids of Mars quite so much, especially given how weak most of the last episode is.

Bottom 40 features four that would be in my top half (The Gunfighters, Dragonfire, The Web Planet, Love and Monsters -- the last one in my top quarter) and I think unfairly underrates The Space Museum, The Long Game, Delta and the Bannermen and Paradise Towers. I suspect when Underwater Menace episode 2 gets more widespread (and if the others are released too, all hail the OMNIRUMOR), that story will get a bump up.


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xen trilus 2 years, 9 months ago

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Anton B 2 years, 9 months ago

The results suggest that, incredibly, there are still some DWM readers who evidently don't subscribe to the Eruditorum. The Web Planet at 219, The Sensorites at 225!? The Talons of Weng Chiang at 6!

Anyway I find lists quite boring. The reduction of subjective opinion to a quasi-democratic voting system seems pointless to me.
To those of you who find this kind of stuff interesting I applaud you. I'll enjoy reading you all having fun picking over the bones.

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xen trilus 2 years, 9 months ago

It makes perfect sense as a measure of how beloved each story is right at this instant.

But I'm interested in why exactly Akhaten is so insanely low, when it was essentially just sort of naff. I wonder if it's perhaps because it tried to pull the "Murray Gold makes them cry" card - which usually goes down immensely well - but lacked the actual material to back it up, thus making the audience manipulation blatantly transparent and cynical (and cliché) to even the casual viewer.
Or perhaps it's a case of disappointed expectations? It was supposed to be the exciting first off-world voyage with a brand new companion, full of aliens and flashy action and other such gubbins. Instead it was a somewhat misconceived waitaround which was actively awkward to sit through in the same room as another human being (also partially goes for the similarly low-ranked Widow and the Wardrobe, which had the added onus of being the Christmas special).

For the record, I think the base ingredients of Akhaten could probably have been made into a great story. Akhaten just isn't it. It strikes me as unwisely ambitious for someone's first Doctor Who script.

(Argh. Deleted earlier version as I was mistaken about the placement of Widow and the Wardrobe relative to Akhaten.)

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Scott 2 years, 9 months ago

Let's be honest; hugely enjoyable though it was, there's no way The Day of the Doctor is where it is on that poll for any other reason than rose-tinted goggles (in particular, the special edition limited release 50th anniversary ones).

And also, Paradise Towers is wonderful and anyone who seriously thinks it should be the twelfth-worst Doctor Who story in existence is no longer my friend.

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Bennett 2 years, 9 months ago

The results of this poll were no more and no less wrong than the last time this was attempted - there were just new things for it to be wrong about. Which is inevitable when you're surveying a subset of a subset of a subset of the show's audience (I still find them a very useful reference as they are wrong in illustrative ways, working more as a measure of the sub-sub-subset that completed the poll than of the relative merits of the episodes themselves).

...but I'm just stating the obvious. So to make better use of my comment I should throw a few more stats out there that might interest Eruditorum readers. Using Phil's "Act of Madness" from earlier this year, these are the stories on which his ranking diverged the most from the DWM poll (in terms of raw position differences):

Love & Monsters: +196
Paradise Towers: +172
The Web Planet: +153
The Space Museum: +152
The Rescue: +149
The Rings of Akhaten: +147

Tomb of the Cybermen: -172
Inferno: -162
The Seeds of Doom: -154
Earthshock: -143
The Mind of Evil: -143

The positions agreed on three stories: The Evil of the Daleks, The Stolen Earth/Journey's End and Partners in Crime.

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David Anderson 2 years, 9 months ago

The first three episodes of Pyramids of Mars are really effective as scary tension. If what you're looking for in Doctor Who is scary monsters and ranting megalomaniac villains, then Pyramids delivers until Tom Baker stops being possessed. That said, I'm pleased to see that the under-35s don't seem to rate it quite as highly as the older voters. Also, the Wilderness Years generation seem not to share the older voters' disdain for The Happiness Patrol.
I have terribly mixed feelings about Love and Monsters.

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Pierce Inverarity 2 years, 9 months ago

I have such mixed feelings about Akhaten. It's so ambitious, but good grief it needed three more drafts. I firmly believe that there are some great ideas in there that don't get properly fleshed out by the script and the direction. For example, it seems to me that there's a worthwhile point in there about the value of past experience vs. future potential - an ideal theme for a story where a new companion takes her first trip with a Doctor who's been unhealthily fixated on the past.

I think it'd be no lower than the middle of the pack on my list. I'll take an ambitious failure that gives me something to think about any day.

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Kit 2 years, 9 months ago

It strikes me as unwisely ambitious for someone's first Doctor Who script.

It was Cross' second Who script, apparently commissioned in a rush after Hide turned out so well. (And presumably written largely to order - the opening sequence feels entirely written by Moffatt.)

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 9 months ago

"I wonder if it's perhaps because it tried to pull the "Murray Gold makes them cry" card - which usually goes down immensely well - but lacked the actual material to back it up, thus making the audience manipulation blatantly transparent and cynical (and cliché) to even the casual viewer."

I actually cried. I mean, I'll admit a lot of my attachment to to this episode is because of the way it presents singing--I wrote about it recently--but this episode does have a lot of other themes and ideas I just love to think about. I watched it recently and it still holds up. Sometimes I forget that the story has aliens and "monsters"...and I understand that's now how everyone else watches the show, and some of it is sloppy, but for me it was a treat.

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 9 months ago

I'll check out the full list when I get the issue of DWM (still not in my local Barnes and Noble yet, although they had the 2013 series special edition...wow, that is so thorough). While ultimately polls like this don't determine the merits of a story, they are at least interesting in displaying what "fan consensus" is--or what people think it is--which is another dimension to the lore of the show.

I think what I'm more interested in and what I'd love to see DWM (or the website, etc) do sometime (although it is done to a small extent with the end-of-year polls and the letters), is compile some snippets from people who write in about how much some episodes are important to them--whether it got them into the show, pulled them out of rough times, helped them bond with others, etc. It would be especially nice to eschew the negative comments on episodes without that great of a reputation.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 9 months ago

Plus polls aren't all that good at expressing subjective opinions, at least not stable ones. If I had to rank all those I'm sure many of my choices would be arbitrary or depend on my mood at the moment.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 9 months ago

Plus I'd be willing to bet that some respondents were ranking episodes of which they have only hazy memories, while others are ranking episodes they haven't actually seen.

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Sean Daugherty 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm still depressed that, 30 years after Peter Haining wrote his personal dislike for the serial into the consciousness of fandom, "The Gunfighters" is still showing up on "worst story" lists. Also kind of sad to see both "Love and Monsters" and the entirety of season 24 on there (where only "Time and the Rani" really deserves it, IMO). But I can't really argue with the bottom 5.

As for the top 40, I still don't understand why everyone adores "The Caves of Androzani," but I can't say I'm surprised to see it so near the top. Ditto for "The Pyramids of Mars" and "The Daemons." I'm actually gratified to see "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End" do so well: it's a big, loud, bombastic mess, but it's basically RTD's version of "The Five Doctors," and I find it extremely endearing despite its flaws. And "Power of the Daleks" outranking "Evil of the Daleks" is wonderful, even if I suspect the placement has less to do with "Power"'s superior storytelling and more to do with the fact that it's the first post-regeneration story.

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Daibhid C 2 years, 9 months ago

What I found most interesting wasn't the actual list, where my eyes quickly glazed over as my dyscalcula became more pronounced in the face of a neverending parade of numbers. The interesting bit was the analysis of the top episodes in each decade, which confirms that the best Doctor Who episodes are always open to new perspectives.

Over the years I have read so much analysis of "Genesis" or "Androzani" or even "Blink", and yet observations like the idea of Davros being more the main character of "Genesis" than the Doctor is, or Sally Sparrow and Larry Nightingale are basically proto-Amy and Rory, are entirely new to me, and give me a new insight into how the story functions. This is, of course, the same enjoyment I get out of TARDIS Eruditorum.

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xen trilus 2 years, 9 months ago

@Kit
My mistake, I misremembered Moffat's quote.

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Jesse 2 years, 9 months ago

Lots of ugh moments in the bottom 40 list. It includes two of my favorites (The Gunfighters and Love and Monsters), and several others that don't deserve to be anywhere near so low, whatever their flaws (who the hell rates The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe lower than Warriors of the Deep?).

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Simon Simmons 2 years, 9 months ago

Peter Haining isn't to blame. That section of 'A Celebration' was written by Jeremy Bentham.

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 9 months ago

Just glanced over it, but it's interesting how there are more new series stories in the bottom than the top...I expect because of recency, nostalgia for old stuff, not being a child any more, knowing the "concensus" from the Internet...

There's also a big favoritism for monster and event episodes. Nostalgia.

So naturally, the most interesting thing will be watching Matt Smith's episodes probably rise as his era gets older.

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Triturus 2 years, 9 months ago

I haven't watched Warriors of the deep since first broadcast. But bad as it may be, I bet it doesn't have anything in it that is as bad as the suggestion that a good way to woo someone is to follow them home and pester them until they give in.

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 9 months ago

That line isn't great, although it does sound like what couples from that time might say (I swear I heard a story like that once, but memory may cheat), but I doubt that's what people who ranked it low were thinking of.

Also newer episodes may get more votes (and viewers) than older, unpopular episodes?

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Nyq Only 2 years, 9 months ago

"Plus polls aren't all that good at expressing subjective opinions, at least not stable ones. If I had to rank all those I'm sure many of my choices would be arbitrary or depend on my mood at the moment."

I wouldn't invest too much in polls but the reason you cite are actually a positive feature of polls. Yes, as individuals are feeling about particular episodes will fluctuate but assuming these fluctuates vary randomly across the voting population that should make the poll a more reliable ranking than any given individuals.

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liminal fruitbat 2 years, 9 months ago

Sample size of one, but that's part of why I ranked it low.

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David Anderson 2 years, 9 months ago

Looking at the top of the poll, and comparing to the poll five years ago during Tennant's last year:
Significant rises are: War Games, Inferno, Five Doctors, Green Death.
Significant falls: Turn Left, Stolen Earth, Girl in the Fireplace, Army of Ghosts, Evil of the Daleks; possibly also Last of the Time Lords and Impossible Planet.

All of Davies' season finals have dropped, although I'm surprised Army of Ghosts dropped out of the top 40 rather than Stolen Earth. Also that Girl in the Fireplace is the Moffat episode that's dropping in popularity. There don't seem to be any Davies-era episodes showing a significant rise in popularity.
Looking at the bottom, all of McCoy's episodes that I can see (except Time and the Rani - fair enough) seem to be rising. The great Paradise Towers reevaluation may yet happen.

The Smith era is underrepresented among the top 40, but not horribly so. I think it's equally underrepresented among the bottom 40.

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Anton B 2 years, 9 months ago

At least it has the distinction of being a recent poll where UKIP didn't get any votes. (A possibly too obscure Eurocentric reference). Actually though, thinking about it, the recent rise of disturbingly right-wing political parties in the European elections illustrates precisely why I find democratic processes where the results are determined by the minority who bother to vote, but are taken as consensus, unappealing.

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William Silvia 2 years, 9 months ago

Can anybody explain how Neil Gaiman scored below the worst-written and worst-edited episode of all time (Journey)?

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Daniel Tessier 2 years, 9 months ago

It's standard romantic comedy bullshit, isn't it? Actions that in real life would be considered stalking presented as charmingly persistant.

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Daniel Tessier 2 years, 9 months ago

With that caveat, though, I really like Doctor, Widow, Wardrobe.

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Bennett 2 years, 9 months ago

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Bennett 2 years, 9 months ago

Sure. Firstly, Journey being the "worst-written" and "worst-edited" episode of all time is a subjective view not necessarily shared by all fans (personally I wouldn't say either to be true by a long chalk). Secondly, "Neil Gaiman" did not score below Journey - the episode Nightmare in Silver did. Whatever cult-cred Gaiman has, it isn't enough to buoy up an episode perceived to be that weak.

Not that I'm down on Silver in particular. Both episodes have faults. Both episodes have strengths. And both made for an entertaining evening's viewing.

I think both suffer unduly from the backlash of fan 'anticipointment'. Neither really delivered on the hype of the "TARDIS episode" or the "Gaiman episode" - but that was always an unattainable goal. Of course, this sub-sub-subset of fandom is unwilling to accept such failings, so I'm not surprised or even disappointed by their low positions (or their proximity).

Now, as for the story sandwiched between them....

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, I definitely agree with that analysis of Blink, proto-Amy and Rory, and The Angels Take Manhattan is the place where Amy refuses to accept Rory dying when Sally couldn't save the old Billy.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 9 months ago

'That line isn't great, although it does sound like what couples from that time might say (I swear I heard a story like that once, but memory may cheat)'

I was reading that 'Blink' analysis and it brought up that scene where Kathy Nightingale met her future husband after being sent back in time--he was following her then...

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BerserkRL 2 years, 9 months ago

I still can't get over the fact that someone would actually name their kid after Jeremy Bentham.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 9 months ago

What bugged me about "Widow" was the whole "women's strength comes from motherhood" stuff.

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David Anderson 2 years, 9 months ago

If it's any comfort Gunfighters is has risen compared to where it was five years ago.

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elvwood 2 years, 9 months ago

I agree with what you say, but don't over-emphasise the sub-sub-subset thing. Yes, it's a teeny tiny proportion, but it's massive compared to (say) GallifreyBase, where the rankings attract 2.87% of these numbers of voters. Or, say, people who comment here. These things will never represent the vast majority of viewers, but it's the closest we'll probably get to an idea of what fans en masse think.

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ScarvesandCelery 2 years, 9 months ago

Nightmare in Silver and Love and Monsters being in the bottom 40, Rings of Ahkhaten in the bottom ten all disappoint me - to some extent I agree with Love and Mosters criticism, but I've never been able to hate "So much darker, so much madder and so much better" - it's a story that gets way too much vitriol.
It seems to me Nightmare in Silver is only so low because of the expectation that came with it. It's lovely little oddball story, too flawed to be great but definitely worth rewatching
As for rings of Ahkhaten, there's a story for which the level of hate simply baffles me. It poetic and beautiful and probably the most underrated Doctor Who story there is, IMO.

As for dissapointing Highs:
Talons? Really, fandom? It's undeniably well made television, but are we really excusing/ ignoring/ not noticing the racism to the point where it comes sixth in the poll?

Tomb of the Cybermen - it's racist and it doesn't even have the good story excuse - all it has is some nice sets and good performances by the regulars. And I'll admit, it has one of the show's best ever speeches. It's still poor as hell, though

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 9 months ago

@TheSmilingStallionInn: With the comparison to "Blink"--I think "Widow" just is way more forgettable so those lines stick out. I enjoyed it, but almost forgot about it entirely until I got the S7 DVD.

As for Warriors of the Deep? Less people have seen it.

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elvwood 2 years, 9 months ago

Okay, I've done some number-crunching just for fun. Accuracy not guaranteed. First, the number of voters was down on the Mighty 200 by about 4.2%, but the number of under-18s was up while the big drop came from the over-36s. Which has to be hopeful for the future!

Onto the Doctors, then, with Paul being ignored where including his lone story makes little sense.

Last time, Bill and Jon shared the honours for most consistent Doctor, and were the only classic Doctors not to have any stories in the bottom 5% (Chris managed this as well). This time Bill takes a clear lead in consistency, but unfortunately this is mainly due to some of (the still second for consistency) Jon's stories climbing a lot - Jon's average rating is now 6½% ahead, as opposed to 5% last time. Jon and Chris are now the only two avoiding the bottom 5%, too.

Average ratings were up for every Doctor except two. Particular winners in this regard were Sylv (+3.76%), Paul (+3.37%), Jon (+2.53%), Colin (+2.19%) and Pat (+2.15%). Bill (+0.97%) did worst of the classic Doctors by this measure, but the RTD era suffered most with Chris (-0.01%) and David (-1.61%) dropping. It's important not to read too much into this - all of Matt's scores except The Eleventh Hour were down from the DWM's season polls, so there is a cooling off that happens which should be particularly noticeable for the back end of David's run, though I haven't looked at this in detail.

If I get time later on I'll look at seasons, too, but I'm probably not going to find the space until tomorrow.

Anyway, now I've got the numbers input, I can probably work out more if there's specific stats people want to know. The one thing I most wish DWM would do is post S.D. or similar for each story, so we can get some idea of how marmite they are!

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 9 months ago

Question. If Clara is talking to the TARDIS--in fact, they have a relationship!--does that pass the Bechdel test?

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 9 months ago

Not that I'm exactly trying to defend it...I'm just not sure the same people who gave such high marks to Talons and Tomb were thinking about sexism.

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Bennett 2 years, 9 months ago

Only if the TARDIS talks back.

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elvwood 2 years, 9 months ago

Here's the season results (mine are different from the printed Mighty 200 ones, at least partly because (a) I am doing the Trial of a Timelord as four stories, and (b) I am including Christmas specials):

1. 13 (80.40%, up 1.13%)
2. 7 (80.24%, up 2.07%)
3. 14 (79.41%, up 0.65%)
4. 12 (76.70%, up 0.99%)
5. 10 (76.28%, up 3.09%)
6. 5 (75.86%, up 1.93%)
7. 26 (75.29%, up 2.70%)
8. S1 (74.42%, down 0.01%)
9. S4 (74.22%, down 0.89%)
10. 8 (72.73%, up 2.40%)
11. S5 (72.48%)
12. S3 (72.05%, down 1.97%)
13. S4b (71.20%)
14. S7b (71.11%)
15. 25 (70.57%, up 4.60%)
16. 4 (70.28%, up 2.10%)
17. S2 (69.97%, down 2.38%)
18. 11 (69.72%, up 2.62%)
19. S6 (69.17%)
20. 1 (68.76%, up 1.04%)
21. 18 (68.59%, up 0.34%)
22. S7a (68.41%)
23. 9 (68.26%, up 2.36%)
24. 16 (68.17%, up 2.13%)
25. 19 (67.76%, up 0.79%)
26. 20 (67.48%, up 2.22%)
27. 6 (67.42%, up 1.74%)
28. 17 (66.55%, up 2.99%)
29. 3 (65.82%, up 0.93%)
30. 21 (65.81%, up 0.41%)
31. 2 (65.66%, up 0.96%)
32. 15 (64.77%, up 1.48%)
33. 22 (64.09%, up 1.67%)
34. 23 (62.43%, up 1.60%)
35. 24 (53.42%, up 3.98%)

Sorry for omitting commentary, I need to get to bed!

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breyerii 2 years, 9 months ago

What I really find baffling is that, even though they were recovered at the same time, and the Web of Fear still lacks an episode, it ranks in the top 40 while Enemy of the World does not...

To quote inspector Maigret: people are so silly...

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GeneralNerd 2 years, 9 months ago

I actually really dislike The Gunfighters for reasons that have nothing to do with received fan wisdom. As in I watched it but I couldn't really stand it. I can't really articulate why but whenever I watch it I just cringe.

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Alan 2 years, 9 months ago

It's undeniably well made television, but are we really excusing/ ignoring/ not noticing the racism to the point where it comes sixth in the poll?

I think people who ignore the racism of Talons (which, to be honest, includes me) do so because we tend to view the serial as a product of its time. Yes, Talons is racist because the lead Chinese character (a very interesting, well-developed character) is played by a white actor in yellowface and every other Chinese character in the story is a coolie/tong member. That said, when you consider that this was 1977, and the BBC would still be running the Black and White Minstrel Show for another year, "racist" can become a relative turn.

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John 2 years, 9 months ago

I'd think the best way to do this would be to have people pick their ten favorite stories, perhaps ranked, and then base the results on that. Ranking all 250 or whatever is silly.

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