Today is the last day you can get the Storybundle deal.
The Twin Dilemma: The most jarring gap in quality in Doctor Who’s history. The most colossal lapse of judgment in Doctor Who’s history. A story that had everything riding on it that just completely blew it. Every single thing about this story is a bad idea. It’s outright impossible to figure out what they were thinking. On top of that, you have the Doctor and Peri in a creepy domestic violence/Stockholm syndrome scene. No wonder the series was cancelled. 1/10
Attack of the Cybermen: As I have noted before, there is nothing more damning about this era than the fact that when Eric Saward and Ian Levine argue over who wrote this story, they each try to take credit for it instead of just blaming the other. An ugly mess of fanwank that doesn’t make sense in the context of previous stories and isn’t remotely interesting in its own context, papered over with violence as garrish as Colin Baker’s coat. Horrid. 1/10
Vengeance on Varos: It’s easy to confuse “best of the Colin Baker era” with “actually one of the best Doctor Who stories.” This is merely the former – a competent and at times very clever story that is nevertheless hobbled by many of the bugbears that plague the rest of this era. The TARDIS scenes in the first episode are intolerable, the action is slow to get going, it’s never quite clear if the satire is as wide-ranging as it has to be to forgive several elements, and several scenes, most notoriously the acid bath scene, are horrifically misjudged. Yes, it’s a very clever and prescient media satire, but it’s also Colin Baker-era doctor Who, with all the disaster that entails. Still, 8/10
Mark of the Rani: The Master becomes a complete self-parody, the Rani starts there, and Pip and Jane never have the wit to be self-parody, instead writing an unfathomably inept and awful script. There’s nothing good to say here – like all the other Pip and Jane scripts, this is actively painful to watch in a way that nothing else in Doctor Who quite manages to hit. I’m trying to think of an upside to this story, and I cannot remember one for the life of me. 1/10
The Two Doctors: Maybe it is Robert Holmes at his angriest, as Rob Shearman wittily suggests in About Time. There’s a case for it being bitter satire that makes Vengeance on Varos look fluffy, certainly. But this is still a mess. The 45 minute format means that a six-parter cannot just have one or two bad and slow episodes – instead the flab is distributed throughout, and this story never gets going. And if you don’t buy that this is a vicious satire then it’s just… ugly. Let’s pretend it’s the vicious satire we hope and then just take lots of points off for the bad structure and call it a 5/10.
Much of what is awful in the Colin Baker era is at least fascinatingly awful – a slow motion car crash you cannot look away from. This, however, is just banal awfulness – an absolute mess of a script that’s a mess because it’s just a bunch of fairly lame ideas done badly. Imagine, if you will, anyone tuning in after the hiatus was announced to see what had gone wrong with Doctor Who, or because they were spurred by The Sun’s campaign to save the show. They’d have realized immediately that Michael Grade was right. 1/10
Revelation of the Daleks: There’s a lot of cleverness in the first episode, and a pathetic and slow deflation in the second. Still, it’s well directed and shows that Eric Saward was, for better or for worse, learning. It doesn’t quite come off, turning to dull and violent runaround instead of postmodern genius, but oh, that first episode is a thing of beauty. 6/10
The Mysterious Planet: The Best of Robert Holmes, by which I mean like a best-of album, and not that it is in fact the best Robert Holmes story. Unfortunately, Holmes is one of those writers whose real genius lay in the overall, and a collection of his standby tricks is flabby and dull. Still, quietly and behind the scenes they’ve figured out how to make the Doctor and Peri work. The real problem is the Trial format. This bodes poorly. 4/10
Mindwarp: The story itself works better than anything else in Trial. Unfortunately, the Trial itself is becoming more and more of a burden. The fact that the plot actually does not make a lick of sense whatsoever is a real problem here, and the best idea that Mindwarp has is undone with the worst one that The Ultimate Foe does. Still, the actual story here works, and that counts for something. 5/10
Terror of the Vervoids: It deserves some credit for the funniest moment in Doctor Who, in which Bonnie Langford screams at the right pitch to blend into the sting. Beyond that, omnishambles. The plot’s come off the rails completely, and the underlying story is a Pip and Jane catastrophe of the highest order. 1/10
The Ultimate Foe: There are moments in the Robert Holmes episode that suggest this could have worked, though it would have been in an alternate universe very different from the one in which the series was being made. Unfortunately instead we get a megabyte modem and a catharsis of spurious morality. It’s tough to blame Robert Holmes for dying, given this story. 2/10