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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Jenda
    August 27, 2013 @ 12:20 am

    I'd honestly give Greatest Show a 10 as well but other than that I agree with all of your scores – Sylvester McCoy era Doctor Who was my hook into the Classic series, and still my favourite in many, many ways. Absolutely fantastic stuff, especially considering what they were up against at the time, but even fantastic without the need for such qualifiers.


  2. Scott
    August 27, 2013 @ 1:08 am

    I think we're pretty much in agreement here FWIW; I'd possibly knock Happiness Patrol down slightly (to an 8 or a 9) maybe and bump Dragonfire up a teeny bit (but that's solely for nostalgia reasons, seeing as it was my first proper exposure to the Seventh Doctor and Ace — I can't really argue with it being inferior to Paradise Towers and Delta), but on the whole, I can't really argue here.


  3. Tallifer
    August 27, 2013 @ 1:13 am

    Thrilled to see one of my favourite eras trumpeted. For myself, Time and the Rano and Delta and the Bannermen each deserve 10/10. I loved the mixed proverbs, the spoons and the pratfalls when I first saw them.


  4. David Anderson
    August 27, 2013 @ 1:23 am

    And here are the top twenty five classic Doctor Who stories, as determined by the rigourous method of adding Phil's scores to the Wife in Space's scores. Ties broken by Phil. Additional ties broken using the Doctor Who magazine poll.

    1. City of Death.
    2. Caves of Androzani
    3. Remembrance of the Daleks
    4. Carnival of Monsters
    5. Enlightenment
    6. The Ribos Operation
    7. Power of the Daleks
    8. The Curse of Fenric
    9. The Brain of Morbius
    10. Ghost Light
    11. Genesis of the Daleks
    12. Horror of Fang Rock
    13. The War Games
    14. Survival
    15. Mawdryn Undead
    16. The Ark in Space
    17. The Mind Robber
    18. Kinda
    19. The Happiness Patrol
    20. Warriors Gate
    21. The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
    22. The Gunfighters
    23. The Invasion
    24. The Time Meddler
    25. Spearhead from Space.

    Two Hartnell (including The Gunfighters; Aztecs just misses), four Troughton, two Pertwee, seven Tom (three Hinchcliffe), four Davison (including Mawdryn Undead), and six McCoy. Vengeance at Varos is at 32, between the Autons and The Myth Makers.
    I think Mawdryn Undead is the surprise among that?

    The McGann TV movie could get in there if Phil gives it an 8 or higher. I'm going to stick my neck out and predict he won't.


  5. John Anderson
    August 27, 2013 @ 2:12 am

    Doctor Who finally stops striving to recreate Saward's hazy recollection of 1977 and reasserts it's own identity.

    The show itself visibly relaxes.

    Unwatchable to anyone born before 1980, but that's their loss.


  6. John Voorhees
    August 27, 2013 @ 2:17 am

    Yes, the stories are remarkable, and the classic series ultimately goes out on a secret high (not a lot of folks watching), but I wish there was a special edition of the McCoy years where the music has all been replaced.


  7. Lewis Christian
    August 27, 2013 @ 2:26 am



  8. AuntyJack
    August 27, 2013 @ 2:37 am

    Hey, I was born before 1980 and McCoy's final season is one of my favourites.
    Now get off my lawn, kid!


  9. peeeeeeet
    August 27, 2013 @ 2:37 am

    HDU! I was born in 1977!


  10. dm
    August 27, 2013 @ 3:29 am

    I second a 10 for Greatest Show, it is wonderfully creepy and rich. It has the unsettling strangeness that marks a classic for me- so it's unsurprising that my 10s for this era are Fenric, Ghost Light, Happiness Patrol and Greatest Show.


  11. Wm Keith
    August 27, 2013 @ 3:43 am

    Hey, I was born in 1970, then 1974, 1987 and 1963.


  12. ferret
    August 27, 2013 @ 3:57 am

    I'm a pre-80s person who has no idea why you'd think that


  13. Seeing_I
    August 27, 2013 @ 4:00 am

    Dragonfire is a twee, embarrassing mess that is frankly hard to watch now – except for the parts which are just lovely.

    I mean, it's got the delightful Tony Selby and Patricia Quinn both giving it their all, and Quinn gets special points for playing Belazs with absolute conviction. It's got that weird unrequited love thing going on, Kane's manner of execution is novel and creepy, it's got a random discussion of semiotics, plus that awesome melting head.

    What's more, episode one is where Sylvester McCoy became "The Doctor" to me, after a very iffy (though not unpleasurable) first season. The scene where he finally turned the corner was when Glitz shows him the map and points out all the dangerous and scary pitfalls to be faced, and the Doctor pores over it like a kid, oohing and aahing in delight. Now THAT's our Doctor, back again after the diffident, ineffectual Five and the pompous, self-righteous, and frankly no-fun Six (not that both of those gentlemen didn't have their moments of glory). I might have hated the sweater, the gurning and the spittle, but here at least was a Doctor it would be fun to knock around the universe with.


  14. Jordan Murphy
    August 27, 2013 @ 4:03 am

    In a similar vein, I'm tempted to dock every McCoy story a point for having the absolute worst opening in the history of Who.


  15. Seeing_I
    August 27, 2013 @ 4:13 am

    Greatest Show is my favorite of this era, for sure. If you can get past the rappin' Ringmaster (and hey, after 25 years at least they are finding fresh new ways of being absolutely naff) then the rest of it is an absolute treat. Plus the Chief Clown is one of the best villains ever, with his psychotic menace only enhanced by the glimpses of the desperate, cynical striver, just as scared as anyone, underneath the makeup.


  16. Seeing_I
    August 27, 2013 @ 4:24 am

    Yeah I was born in 1972 and I thought the McCoy era was a real renaissance, though plagued with taste issues which, to be frank, are the same aspects that annoy friends I have who were born in the Nineties. (Namely the music, the jumper, Ace's attempts at being streetwise, and McCoy's spluttering and gurning.)


  17. Seeing_I
    August 27, 2013 @ 4:26 am

    Yeah, it's true, but still – 45 seconds of CGI in 1987, that's really impressive in retrospect, even though the taste level is not exactly high.


  18. David Thiel
    August 27, 2013 @ 4:32 am

    Back in the day, my only source for the first McCoy series was pirated PAL-to-NTSC videotapes. I had "Time and the Rani" and the first three episodes of "Paradise Towers." What I remember most about the latter was that after watching three episodes of "Paradise Towers," I had no interest in watching episode four.

    And after "Delta and the Bannermen" I was indeed staring at the screen wondering what in the hell they were thinking.

    I despise "Ghost Light," not just for being pretentious gibberish, but for providing the model for fifteen years of "Dark Doctor" stories.

    I'm with the consensus on "Remembrance," "Fenric" and "Survival;" and have always had a soft spot for "The Happiness Patrol." Honestly, for me that's pretty much all that's good about the McCoy years.


  19. Carey
    August 27, 2013 @ 4:38 am

    The opening titles were viewed as worthy enough to be featured in Creative Review (the magazine designers would kill their studio juniors for a mention within) in 1987. Not bad in that context.


  20. Jordan Murphy
    August 27, 2013 @ 4:42 am

    The CGI is only half the problem, though I'm one who thinks they never improved on the howlaround (esp. the Pertwee version), but that theme! ugh.


  21. SpaceSquid
    August 27, 2013 @ 5:10 am

    I adore the McCoy era. I've never been so glad I insisted in hanging on for a few extra weeks to arrive on January 15th 1980. Close run thing!

    Every time I find Phil's comments on a given story baffling or even wrong-headed, I remind myself that the most watched TV program of my life is Curse of Fenric as well. Just thoroughly wonderful on every level.


  22. James V
    August 27, 2013 @ 5:30 am

    Keff is grating as hell, but I actually rather like Mark Ayres and Dominic Glynn's scores. Especially for "Greatest Show" and "Fenric"


  23. T. Hartwell
    August 27, 2013 @ 6:41 am

    I never got the dislike for the Ringmaster, honestly. I mean, he's bad, but it always felt intentionally so- this whole circus is just worn out and rather hoary so of course he's doing some stupid rap to open it.


  24. Doctor Memory
    August 27, 2013 @ 6:43 am

    Roughly with you. I think our host tends to give a little too much credit to stories based on their ambition. And hey, ambition is a great thing to have! Even better to have the right ambitions too: Saward after all had scads of it, it was just that his ambition wasn't to write Doctor Who. So points all around to the Cartmel/McCoy era for that…

    …but execution matters too. And even in his third season, Cartmel and company were still having occasional trouble with the basic task of writing a story that could be told in the time allotted. It's 1988: you don't get to say "but it'll make sense in the extended director's cut DVD release," you either nailed it as broadcast or you didn't.

    All of which is not to say that there's not some wonderful stuff in this era (Remembrance basically deserves all the praise heaped on it and more), but you'll never convince me to go back and watch any of McCoy's first season for anything other than archeological reasons.


  25. David Anderson
    August 27, 2013 @ 6:47 am

    My first Doctor Who memory is the chronic hysteresis. (I don't actually remember that the people trapped in it were the Doctor and Romana.) So Tom Baker for me whose glory days were remembered by people older than me. But I remember him just enough that Peter Davison was the Doctor that wasn't really the proper Doctor, and Colin Baker was er… the Colin Baker Doctor. So Sylvester McCoy is my Doctor.


  26. T. Hartwell
    August 27, 2013 @ 6:48 am

    That's…a pretty damned good list of stories. I'm perturbed at the absence of Sun Makers, Snakedance, and Logopolis (all stories WiS wasn't fond of), and probably Three Doctors as well, but other than that this is pretty solid. You could pick one of these and show it to someone new to the show and with a couple exceptions I think they'd all work fairly well.


  27. T. Hartwell
    August 27, 2013 @ 6:54 am

    I used to hate the theme, but it grew on me the more I watched the episodes, and now honestly I have a big soft spot for it. I don't quite know why.

    One thing that I do think is neat about it is that it's one of the only versions that kinda feels like it's own separate program from the rest…it's difficult to explain exactly but it gives the era as a whole an odd sort of cohesion and makes it feel like a single, solid show. Something that had definitely been lacking from the all-over-the-place Davison and C. Baker eras.


  28. Ross
    August 27, 2013 @ 7:10 am

    Having lived through the 90s on rec.arts.drwho, It's still intensely weird to me to see someone have anything nice to say about the McCoy era. For my part, and part of this I know is just "Because you were eight and your critical thinking skills were starting to grow in," I remember being really thunderstruck by Time and the Rani. At this point, the local PBS station was doing the standard PBS cycle from Robot forward, so I'd only seen the fourth and fifth doctors (I don't know if they were showing Colin Baker at this point; we're close enough to the beginning of my memory that all I can aver is that they hadn't gotten that far around the current cycle at the time, and they cycled back to Robot after Dragonfire). Then this thing came on, and it's hard to describe really the experience of it to my young mind. It looked like a TV show. I'm not sure now how to explain that, but when watching the third, fourth, fifth and sixth doctor's runs, there was never a time that it seemed like I was watching a TV show that had been made in the world I inhabited — it was more like watching an old movie. The sound, the colors, the style of acting, even the visual texture all seemed to have more in common with the low-budget 1970s movies they used to air on independent channels late at night. But then Time and the Rani came on, and the images were clear, and the dialogue was some approximation of natural, and the credits sequence was supernaturally clean, and it didn't inexplicably switch from tape to film between scenes. This is where my memories of Doctor Who start becoming systematic, where I was actually watching the show instead of just sort of happening to "see" it.


  29. Assad K
    August 27, 2013 @ 7:28 am

    I did have to wonder, though, why the character who sold his crew into slavery is.. the sympathetic comedy relief? And when Glitz was first introduced he was planning to poison gas an entire city. Oh well.

    I must cop to being one of those people who quite liked Dragonfire more than the rest of the season initially – though the plotting makes a zero amount of sense. But Kane was nicely elegantly evil, and I still love the shot of the starship taking off.


  30. Assad K
    August 27, 2013 @ 7:30 am

    Yeah, where's Snakedance? Darned statistics..
    Gunfighters? Hmmm – interesting.. certainly goes against conventional wisdom of Who fandom!


  31. Assad K
    August 27, 2013 @ 7:32 am

    The title sequence was fine, but the logo was… dire. Quite dire.


  32. Assad K
    August 27, 2013 @ 7:36 am

    Any time I scratch my head about Dr Sandifers love for Torchwood, and shake my head in disappointment at his negativity towards UNIT and Peter Davison, I guess I will have to come back to this list, and his avowed love of the McCoy era. Especially interesting as he is a big fan of post 2005, and based on my highly nonstatistical experiences on Outpost Gallifrey, those who were the biggest fans of the New Series crapped the most on the McCoy era.


  33. Assad K
    August 27, 2013 @ 7:38 am

    I never thought the rapping was all that bad. Heck, I found it entertaining. Certainly not something to have to come up every time Greatest Show is discussed.


  34. David Thiel
    August 27, 2013 @ 7:40 am

    The funny thing is that of the first season McCoy stories, it's "Time and the Rani" that I enjoyed the most. Kate O'Mara's Mel impression was hilarious, and the technical proficiency of the series was greatly improved by this point. That anti-gravity bubble trap remains an impressive special effect.

    Agreed about ambition vs. execution. "Battlefield" is ambitious in concept, but the budget wasn't up to it. "Greatest Show in the Galaxy" is clever–perhaps a bit too clever–but fails to "stick the landing." And "Ghost Light"…well, don't even get me started on "Ghost Light."

    Even "The Curse of Fenric," which I hold up as one of the best latter-day classic series stories, is a bit like "Pyramids of Mars" in that it succeeds on atmosphere and scares even if the plot doesn't quite cohere.

    I watched "Remembrance" again the other night, and yeah, it's that good.


  35. Assad K
    August 27, 2013 @ 7:57 am

    I believe the originally scheduled directors of Battlefield and Fenric got switched about. Battlefield could have done with some better direction, egads..


  36. Theonlyspiral
    August 27, 2013 @ 8:13 am

    There are some people who don't like Snakedance and Kinda…


  37. Matthew Celestis
    August 27, 2013 @ 8:40 am

    I don't care for Rap music, but that Ringmaster is sort of catchy. I quite like him.

    But maybe that's just because I love Greatest Show.


  38. Matthew Celestis
    August 27, 2013 @ 8:44 am

    Wow, I mostly agree with these scores. The main exception being Ghost Light, which I think is a confused mess. That's the only McCoy story I dislike.


  39. Nick Smale
    August 27, 2013 @ 10:07 am

    I'm a pre-80s person who has no idea why you'd think that

    I'm guessing he means after 1980; the implication being that new series fans will hate McCoy.


  40. jsd
    August 27, 2013 @ 10:27 am

    Yes yes yes to you and Doctor Memory. I am not a fan of the McCoy era in general. As you say, at some point you have to judge what's on the screen, and most of it just does not come together.


  41. Darren K.
    August 27, 2013 @ 11:26 am

    That's a really good way of putting it. It still startles me that only one calendar year separates 'The Trial of a Timelord' and 'Time and the Rani' because the show feels different in every conceivable way, as if six years had elapsed, not one. I watched Time and the Rani again and again, not because it was good – it does have a lot of charm – but because it was so different. I wonder what would have happened if this had been the Doctor Who to come back after the hiatus.


  42. landru
    August 27, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

    Music (which composer put those stupid synth claps in the score?) the logo, the even cheaper production … and frankly some of the stories … turned me off. I still find them very difficult to watch. I guess the problem is everytime I start, Time and the Rani just takes me down again.


  43. Theonlyspiral
    August 27, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

    I would rather watch McCoy than T.Baker. In a heart beat. There is not a single episode from his tenure that stacks up to "Remembrance" or "Fenric".


  44. David Anderson
    August 27, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

    Snakedance scrapes into the top quartile (no 37) on the strength of the particular tiebreaking rule I'm using. This is not wholly fortuitous. Three Doctors is at 36; Logopolis and Sun Makers are 54 and 55. The exact positions no doubt have deep alchemical significance.

    I think the story that's really hit by Sue not caring for it is Robots of Death (67) as Phil wasn't championing it.


  45. Elizabeth Sandifer
    August 27, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

    I would love to see the full list.

    (I also am assuming, perhaps wrongly, that McCoy got by some margin the highest average scores.)


  46. Elizabeth Sandifer
    August 27, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

    Start with Remembrance. The fan consensus that Season 24 was a disaster is largely unwarranted, I think, but the belief that Remembrance is the great renaissance of Doctor Who is completely accurate.


  47. T. Hartwell
    August 27, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

    I think McCoy is very gradually becoming my favorite Doctor…the more and more I watch (and by now I've seen all but Survival, which I want to hold off as the actual last extant Doctor Who story I watch) the more I realize that the era encompasses what I love most about the show and his Doctor is really what I think of when I think of the character.

    Bidmead's era is still my favorite(so much about the writing there that just strikes my interest in so many ways), but in terms of Doctor I really think McCoy is starting to edge out some.


  48. David Jones
    August 27, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

    I'm sorry but…

    I parted the ways with Doctor Who after Colin Baker series 1. The hiatus (1985??) would have coincided with me being about 15 and I consequently didn't watch Trial of a Timelord or any of the McCoy era, which would have taken me through my late teens…

    Unfortunately, as an adult I haven't been able to revisit McCoy's era without thinking about the underlying public perception of the time that McCoy was crap and killed Doctor Who. I now latterly realise that it was actually Colin B that killed Who – or at least a mixture of him, Michael Grade, Saward and JNT.

    But I find it hard to appreciate McCoy the way others on here do. I watched the majority of them on VHS in the 90s, but still watched them with disdain. I admit that Remembrance is good, but I really haven't re-watched enough of his other stories to change my mind.

    I still find Ghostlight unfathomable. I find Battlefield boring. I find Survival exceedingly dull and haven't watched Fenric in ages, so can't comment. Silver Nemesis… meh.

    Thinking back, I actually quite liked Dragonfire and recently gave Delta and the Bannerman a go – and it wasn't as dreadful as I thought, in fact it was ok.

    But the real elephant in the room here, for the revisionists is, Sylvester McCoy cannot act. He mumbles through all of his dialogue. He's admittedly a nice bloke and I enjoy his commentaries, but really his performances were poor.
    You can't compare him to Eccleston, Tennant or Smith in the acting stakes, I'd even rate Colin Baker ahead of him although he beat him in the humility stakes.

    The McCoy era was not the answer, though with the same scripts and a different actor, it might have been.


  49. Iain Coleman
    August 27, 2013 @ 2:59 pm

    You don't like McCoy's performance, and that's fair enough. But "Sylvester McCoy cannot act"?

    His gig prior to going for Doctor Who was a play at the National Theatre that was written specifically for him. He has more recently played the Fool in King Lear opposite Sir Ian McKellan (which for my money was the best performance of that role I have ever seen). He currently has a substantial supporting role in a massively popular (and massively expensive) movie trilogy.

    He's hardly a conventional leading man, and you may not like what he does, but there's no question the guy can act.


  50. David Jones
    August 27, 2013 @ 3:47 pm

    Ok. I was probably overstating the case there and take it back. I can see why people like him. For one, he had a likability factor that his predecessor didn't.

    I just can't go along with the 10/10 for so many of the stories here when there were so many flaws in them. I'm not just talking about Sylvester, I'm talking about the whole AmDram/National Youth Theatre ethic that seemed to be prevalent in this era – I really can't stomach the Youth Club acting that went on in Survival, for example.

    Budgets probably had a fair bit to do with that, but some of the praise that gets heaped on the McCoy era is really disproportionate when you think about it. I just don't get it.


  51. Elizabeth Sandifer
    August 27, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

    I stand by my argument that one of the things that's interesting about the McCoy era is seeing a very standard sort of children's television stretch itself into weird shapes. The show looks like children's television of the time – it's not, visually, out of line with Knights of God, Press Gang, or Dark Season, all of which are right around it. But then you have children's television that veers off and does J.G. Ballard or something as bizarre as The Happiness Patrol, or as moodily dark as Ghost Light. Survival, with its collision of feminist iconography, kitchen sink drama, and children's television, is another prime example. It's leaning into the series' problems at that point, but it works, or, at least, always has for me.


  52. Sean Daugherty
    August 27, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

    So… if Remembrance of the Daleks is "the best Dalek story of the classic series," that would logically make it superior to Power of the Daleks, no? But Power of the Daleks is in the running for "the best of the classic series" along with City of Death and The Curse of Fenric, while Remembrance of the Daleks isn't?

    In seriousness, I pretty much agree with every one of these scores, except that I would probably kick Dragonfire up one point and knock Silver Nemesis down one. But this is certainly the most consistently good runs of stories the show has ever managed.


  53. breyerii
    August 27, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

    Well, if this was yclept Adventurs with Phil in Space, by now the average would be:

    McCoy 7,6
    Troughton 6,9
    Tom Baker 6,3
    Pertwee 6
    Hartnell 5,655
    Davison 3,181
    C. Baker 3,181


  54. breyerii
    August 27, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

    Opps, Davison would average 5,55


  55. AuntyJack
    August 27, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

    Speaking of which, 'Utopia' was just repeated on TV here, and it struck me how much the 'Futurekind' seemed to be a throwback to the 80's/90s in their aesthetic and the way they delivered their performances.
    Like the Kangs from Paradise Towers were mashed up with the Leopard People from Survival.


  56. jane
    August 27, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

    Really? I mean, not that I'd know — I only discovered GB a couple years ago, never knew of OG — but just that as someone who loves the McCoy years and the Revival, unabashedly, that just strikes me as strange.


  57. Theonlyspiral
    August 27, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

    I agree. It just seems like McCoy would be the most like the new Series…I could see Eccelston in Happiness Patrol, Smith in Paradise Towers and Tennent in Survival easily.


  58. Matthew Blanchette
    August 27, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

    "City of Death". "The Ribos Operation". "Genesis of the Daleks". "Full Circle". "The Brain of Morbius". "The Deadly Assassin". "Horror of Fank Rock". "Logopolis". "The Ark in Space". "Warriors' Gate". "The Face of Evil". "The Keeper of Traken". "Shada".

    There aren't even that many episodes in the whole McCoy era! Now retract your ridiculous assertion, good sir.


  59. Matthew Blanchette
    August 27, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

    It's funny that you mention National Youth Theatre… because the current, very-acclaimed Doctor was spotted performing in that group — it's how he was proper "discovered".

    What's more, the person who discovered him found him the best actor in the play she saw. Yes, she; I refer to Wendy Padbury, better known to you all as Zoe Heriot, one of the best Troughton companions.

    Of course, Troughton is our current Doctor's favorite Doctor, upon whom he based his performance, so the idea of the Second Doctor's companion discovering the man who would eventually become the apotheosis of Troughtonalia… well, it's a funny old world, isn't it?

    It all leads back to Who.


  60. T. Hartwell
    August 27, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

    The question isn't the amount of good stories Baker or McCoy has, it's that if any of the good Baker stories are as good as "Remembrance" or "Fenric" (which, in Theonlyspiral's opinion, none of them are).


  61. Bennett
    August 27, 2013 @ 9:33 pm

    Sean: "So… if Remembrance of the Daleks is "the best Dalek story of the classic series," that would logically make it superior to Power of the Daleks, no?"

    Well…no. At least, not the way I interpret it. I think there's a subtle difference between "the best Dalek story" and "the best story with Daleks in it". One does a better job of utilising the Daleks as villains/narrative forces/cultural objects, while the other may be bolstered by additional elements that make it a 'better' story overall (say, the handling of the Doctor's rejuvenation).

    For another example, while I'm happy to say that Dalek is still the best 'Dalek story' of the new series, I personally think Asylum of the Daleks is the superior of the two episodes in a general sense.


  62. T. Hartwell
    August 27, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

    See, I dunno, personally I question anyone who's watched Curse of Fenric Episode 4 and still maintains McCoy can't act.

    Though in regards to why the McCoy era gets praised so much in spite of what some consider to be fairly obvious flaws, I always find it a bit like Rankin-Bass (which I similarly adore)- it's clearly a bit awkward and unpolished in some regards, but the whole thing is so ambitious and charming that the flaws just end up not really mattering.


  63. Matthew Blanchette
    August 27, 2013 @ 9:49 pm

    Well, then, I heartily disagree with Theonlyspiral. The way he puts it makes it seem as though his opinion is the only one that matters; that is what I take issue with.


  64. AuntyJack
    August 27, 2013 @ 10:42 pm

    Curious as to why you think Asylum was so good – I personally found it to be rubbish. For example, why didn't the daleks seed every other world they encountered with those nanos? Would have saved them a lot of time…
    Dalek is a great story – tight, to the point, tense, exciting. The Doctor (Eccleston) has some great moments.

    As an aside I finally listened to Jubilee and it was far cleverer and stranger than expected.


  65. Triturus
    August 27, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

    It's 1988: you don't get to say "but it'll make sense in the extended director's cut DVD release"

    That's my problem with Ghost Light in a nutshell. The story as broadcast just seems like an incoherent shouty mess. If you need to explain the story in a DVD commentary you're doing it wrong.

    I can't see how anyone could rate it above something like Greatest Show.


  66. SpaceSquid
    August 27, 2013 @ 11:58 pm

    I wish there was a special edition of the McCoy years where the music has all been replaced.

    Not to sound like a broken record (though you may prefer that to at least some of the incidental music), but the score to "Curse of Fenric" is utterly sublime. A perfect mix of building atmosphere and action stings, with the occasional brief flirtation with the music of the period. There's a four-note slice of it that still sends chills down my spine when I whistle it. The Jaws theme is about the only thing I can think of that carries so much menace in so short a range.


  67. David Anderson
    August 28, 2013 @ 2:14 am

    The list loses most of whatever meaning it had to begin with as we go into the middle. (For instance: The Rescue, The Robots of Death, The Savages, Talons of Weng-Chiang, and Seeds of Doom all get 13 points. This says very little.) But here goes:

    26-35: The Enemy of the World; Terror of the Zygons; The Aztecs; The Macra Terror; The Deadly Assassin; Terror of the Autons; Vengeance on Varos; The Myth Makers; The Androids of Tara; The Faceless Ones

    36-53: The Three Doctors; Snakedance; The Evil of the Daleks; The Ambassadors of Death; The Pirate Planet; Pyramids of Mars; The Ice Warriors; State of Decay; The Crusade; Full Circle; Frontios; The Mutants; The Stones of Blood; Castrovalva; Earthshock; The Green Death; The Silurians; The Masque of Mandragora

    54-63: Logopolis; The Sun Makers; The Krotons; Colony in Space; Paradise Towers; The Time Warrior; The Sea Devils; The Seeds of Death; Fury from the Deep; Day of the Daleks;

    64-75: The Rescue; The Curse of Peladon; The Face of Evil; The Robots of Death; The Dalek Invasion of Earth; The Savages; The Talons of Weng-Chiang; Web of Fear; Inferno; The Romans; Mindwarp; The Seeds of Doom

    76-90: An Unearthly Child; Planet of Evil; The Hand of Fear; Frontier in Space; Mission to the Unknown; The Space Museum; The Five Doctors; The Abominable Snowmen; Planet of the Spiders; The Two Doctors; The Claws of Axos; Planet of Giants; Nightmare of Eden; Invasion of the Dinosaurs; The Time Monster

    91-98: The Web Planet; The Tenth Planet; The Keeper of Traken; Battlefield; The Sensorites; The War Machines; Planet of Fire; Resurrection of the Daleks

    99-108: Edge of Destruction; The Awakening; The Daemons; Revelation of the Daleks; Robot; The Highlanders; The Smugglers; The Mysterious Planet; The Leisure Hive; The Power of Kroll

    109-114: The Wheel in Space; Delta and the Bannermen; The Creature from the Pit; The Underwater Menace; The Dalek Masterplan; The Moonbase

    115-125: The Massacre; Dragonfire; Tomb of the Cybermen; The Armageddon Factor; The Mind of Evil; The Sontaran Experiment; Planet of the Daleks; The Horns of Nimon; Marco Polo; Terror of the Vervoids; Arc of Infinity

    126-139: Image of the Fendahl; Black Orchid; Galaxy 4; The Visitation; Revenge of the Cybermen; Terminus
    The Reign of Terror; The Android Invasion; Death to the Daleks; The Ultimate Foe; The Ark; The Chase; The Kings Demons; Attack of the Cybermen

    140: The Daleks

    And the Christmas Specials:
    141. Meglos
    142. The Keys of Marinus
    143. The Invisible Enemy
    144. Warriors of the Deep
    145. The Invasion of Time
    146. Silver Nemesis
    147. Time-Flight
    148. Destiny of the Daleks
    149. The Mark of the Rani
    150. Four to Doomsday
    151. Underworld
    152. The Monster of Peladon
    153. Timelash
    154. Time and the Rani
    155. The Dominators
    156. The Twin Dilemma
    157. The Celestial Toymaker

    (The TV Movie and The Space Pirates omitted.)

    McCoy does get the highest joint average, just beating Troughton and Pertwee. (Pertwee's close enough to Trougton to overtake him if The Space Pirates is included.) It's a close thing though: Sue came down hard on the McCoy turkeys. But I doubt that the joint averages are meaningful.


  68. Jenda
    August 28, 2013 @ 2:35 am

    Swop Pertwee and Baker around and you've got my favourite Classic Doctors in order as well. (Though maybe that's low for Hartnell considering how much I've enjoyed the six or seven serials I've seen)


  69. David Anderson
    August 28, 2013 @ 2:35 am

    We are talking about an alien race who think sink plungers are functional manipulative tools. By rational humanoid standards the daleks are completely insane. They think invading the Earth to hollow it out and pilot it round the universe is an efficient use of time and resources.

    Moffat could have made up some handwavy explanation about the nanobots being dependent on the polarity of the neutrino flow emitted only by that particular star. Would the episode really have been improved by cutting something else to make way for that?


  70. Jenda
    August 28, 2013 @ 2:37 am

    For those curious (although why would you be), my favourite New Series Doctor is Smith by a country mile, although I enjoy Eccleson a bit more each time I see him, and Tennant a bit less.


  71. Scott
    August 28, 2013 @ 2:51 am

    To be honest, if true I can't see why new series fans would hate McCoy more than any other era; if anything, the McCoy era seems like the best bridge between the classic era and the new era, what with the increased focus on developing the character of the companion and the Doctor-companion bond, the stressing the brooding anti-hero qualities of the Doctor, the quick pace of the episodes and so forth.

    (Also, niggle; surely if we're talking about people who grew up on the new series, wouldn't they would be born mostly after 1990? People born in the early eighties would be in their mid twenties when the new series started.)


  72. Scott
    August 28, 2013 @ 2:53 am

    The McCoy theme is one of my favourites.

    It's so… 80s-synthy.


  73. David Anderson
    August 28, 2013 @ 3:52 am

    A more serious explanation would be that the nanobots would be overwhelmed on an inhabited planet with significant numbers of microorganisms.

    I think Asylum is brilliant. The major point of the episode is Oswin and her unreliable narrator situation. I don't think the Ponds' relationship subplot on its own is terribly convincing, but we see more of Smith's Doctor's character.
    I'm inclined to think Smith's Doctor is even more manipulative than McCoy's Doctor: in fact, I'd say that whenever Smith claims to have no plan he is lying, whereas more often than not McCoy is only pretending to have a plan and is really winging it.


  74. David Anderson
    August 28, 2013 @ 4:59 am

    I can't see anyone liking Ghost Light and hating Greatest Show. But I think Ghost Light is more overall impressive. In some ways it's the opposite of Davies' approach. Davies' approach is that if you throw enough exposition at a situation it won't matter that it doesn't make sense. Basically: people will go, ok, technobabble, this isn't important, we'll hold on till we get to the important bit. Whereas Ghost Light does largely make sense to the author; he's just skipped all the bits that are only there to exposit. So what one gets from Ghost Light is a feeling that everything is making sense according to its own logic that's just out of reach. It's got a consistent and unique aesthetic; it's got something serious and nuanced to say about ideas that are central to our culture; the aesthetic ties up with the ideas. The interactions between the Doctor and Ace are better written I think than in Greatest Show. I'd argue that the Doctor's operating methods here are different from, and more principled than, his reputation in the New Adventures.


  75. Anglocat
    August 28, 2013 @ 5:19 am

    So, a bit late to the party, but I'm basically on board with Phil's scores. "Time and the Rani" benefits mightily from Kate O'Mara's comic turn as "Mel"–you can see the Rani forcibly shaving off IQ points every time she speaks in character, and doing a lovely slow burn throughout, but wastes Donald Pickering, so excellent in "The Pallisers."

    As to "Silver Nemesis," yeah, I have nothing to say in mitigation, except for the wildly varying performance of Fiona Walker as Lady Peinforte–from outright comedy to over the top menace, to a rather touching exchange with her flunky, she's giving this role her all.


  76. Theonlyspiral
    August 28, 2013 @ 5:52 am

    @Matthew: You are welcome to your opinion sir, but I must say in all honesty it would not matter to me if you were Tom Baker's Son; I would still rather watch Fenric, Remembrance, Greatest Show, Bannermen, Survival, Battlefield, Happiness Patrol or Ghost Light than any of the stories you list. Doctor Who and Doctor preference is a very personal thing and it is important to have the confidence of one's convictions. Otherwise I would have to care about how the internet feels about Paul McGann, Matt Smith and Jon Pertwee and despise them. It was not my intention to intend, but to state opposition to the strong opinions above.

    Also Shada clearly stars the 8th Doctor. πŸ˜‰


  77. encyclops
    August 28, 2013 @ 8:43 am

    This list isn't my list; of the top ten I think I'd only keep three and replace all the rest. But other than Ghost Light, Fang Rock, and Mawdryn being overrated as usual (and I've still never seen The Gunfighters), I think it's pretty reasonable. These stats are just fascinating; thanks for compiling them!


  78. encyclops
    August 28, 2013 @ 8:50 am

    The logo is awful, but there's something about it that makes me nostalgic for all the SF I was reading around that time, mainly SF/comedy stuff like Hitchhiker's, the Stainless Steel Rat, and some odd little book called Terra! I hate it, but in a way I also love it.

    The RTD-era logo, on the other hand, is redeemed by its restraint and nothing else. It belongs outside a dotcom conference room, not on a TV show about curiosity and anarchy. I'm not sure the Moffat logo is a vast improvement but it's not worse.


  79. encyclops
    August 28, 2013 @ 8:52 am

    Also Shada clearly stars the 8th Doctor. πŸ˜‰

    We can agree to disagree about the rest of it, but now you've gone too far. πŸ™‚


  80. Theonlyspiral
    August 28, 2013 @ 9:14 am

    The Audio from Big Finish is absolutely brilliant. It's a bit of a nostalgia romp but it gets in some good jabs.


  81. landru
    August 28, 2013 @ 9:20 am

    Well, the truth is my comment was a very, very lightly worded version of … I don't like the McCoy years. I've seen most of the so-called good ones and they just don't do it for me. The consensus (which isn't actually a consensus) that Saward was living the past doesn't really ring true to me. Perhaps its because I'm in the US and was, at that time, in my late teens … but I just can't get my head around this era. Fenric … what in the world is that story about?

    McCoy's Big Finish stories are actually some of the better ones I've heard, so I feel he was just wasted on a low-rent kiddie version of Dr. Who. Flame me as you like, but it's my opinion.


  82. encyclops
    August 28, 2013 @ 9:55 am

    It's nice to have it, but it just didn't work for me with McGann saying those lines. They're for Tom Baker, and that's okay. I do like McGann, just not in that story.


  83. encyclops
    August 28, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    I like McCoy (as a convention guest, as an actor) and I like some of his stories but I don't much like his fan club, or more accurately I don't like the attitude surrounding his era. A perfect illustration is Tat Wood's "if you don't love Ghost Light it's because you don't get it, and if you don't get it, it's because you're stupid" critique in About Time, which I am barely paraphrasing and which is (a) wrong and (b) obnoxious, to say the least.


  84. Ross
    August 28, 2013 @ 10:21 am

    I kinda like Silver Nemesis, because of my irrational love of the Cybermen.

    The real problem with Silver Nemesis, to my mind, is that it tries to be have three different plots at once. And two of them are perfectly fine plots such as they are, but one of them is the same plot as last week. And the third plot is some random shit about Nazis from South America.


  85. encyclops
    August 28, 2013 @ 10:38 am

    I'm pretty frockish when it comes to the McCoy era. My favorites are "Paradise Towers," "Happiness Patrol," and "Greatest Show."

    I get the hype about "Remembrance" and "Fenric," I like them well enough, but I've never been able to warm to either one of them for some reason. Part of it is probably that "Dalek factions fighting" is the dullest thing ever in Doctor Who, unless it's "The Evil of the Daleks," which I finally heard for the first time this week and found largely magnificent.

    "Ghost Light" should be my favorite thing ever, but it isn't. I used to find it arid, uninvolving, and unconvincing, and for the most part I still do, though my appreciation for it is at an all-time high (let's call it a 5/10). I like the concepts it's playing with, but the drama of the whole thing needed to be reimagined from the ground up for me to find it visceral enough to seem threatening (to the Doctor, to Ace present, to Ace past, to England, to anyone, really). Is it not supposed to seem threatening? Are you sure?

    I agree with the general claim that the McCoy era was a renaissance in terms of acting and storytelling and points the way to the new series. I do still think it was let down in some key areas of production, particularly sound and lighting, which made the stories harder to appreciate on first viewing, and while the stories were sometimes more sophisticated, they weren't always actually better, or (for me) easier to love.

    It's a tough call, but I think I'd rather watch "Time and the Rani" again than "Silver Nemesis." The Rani beats Lady Painful every time.


  86. encyclops
    August 28, 2013 @ 10:44 am

    Oh, and: I'm okay with a little bit of "dark, mysterious, manipulative Doctor" — the way Troughton and Smith do it, for instance — but have always found it kind of a turnoff with McCoy and Tennant. With McCoy in particular it always felt rather desperate, kind of a comic-book idea of what makes a character seem cooler and more interesting. I like my Doctor kind and determined and clever; I think that's enough, and I don't need him also to be a cruel chess-playing demigod. Your mileage may vary, and that's okay.


  87. David Anderson
    August 28, 2013 @ 10:58 am

    Calling them stats is dignifying them with a degree of rigour that they just don't really have. What the list tells you is where the tastes of two fairly different people coincide. The exact top ten depends on my choice of tiebreaker method: if I were more likely to agree with Sue than Phil, 7-10 would have been Genesis, Horror, War Games, Survival. The breaks are after City of Death, Ribos, and Mawdryn.


  88. Ununnilium
    August 28, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

    Yeah, what T. Hartwell said. The McCoy era has definite flaws, but it's so fun that I find it terribly easy to just roll with.


  89. Ununnilium
    August 28, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

    See, what I find interesting with McCoy is that he mixes the dangerous manipulator with the friendly uncle. And he really is both at once, and that makes it a lot more interesting than a dangerous manipulator who's a cold logic machine. (This really comes out in the Big Finish version of Love and War. Absolutely splendid.)


  90. encyclops
    August 28, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

    He does, and it's a nice enough mix. He definitely makes it as charming as it can possibly be.

    I read Love and War when it came out, and had forgotten a lot of the details in the years since, so when I listened to the Big Finish version, I was thinking, "wow, he sounds like he's sleepwalking through this part." Which, once you know why, is absolutely brilliant.


  91. encyclops
    August 28, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

    I feel the same way about the New Series Doctors. I love Tennant himself, but I don't like his Doctor very much, not for the way he plays him, but for the way his Doctor was conceived. Which actually is almost how I feel about McCoy.

    For me it's still Tom and Pertwee at the top of the classic roster, with Troughton fighting it out now with Davison, McCoy chilling with Colin, and Hartnell down at the bottom. McGann is too special a case to rank anywhere.


  92. encyclops
    August 28, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

    After finally hearing "The Evil of the Daleks," I'm convinced it helped inspire "Asylum." That might only be news to me, because now that I know more of the details of the Troughton story, the connections are everywhere.

    The stuff with the Ponds is nonsense, though, for sure.


  93. Henry R. Kujawa
    August 28, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

    Well, I've finally caught up. Of course, I had to skip 75% of the posts I couldn't relate to to do it.

    My 1st Doctor was Peter Cushing. He was followed by Pertwee, Baker, Davison, Hurndall, Troughton, Hartnell, Colin, and THEN McCoy. And somehow, McCoy became my FAVORITE. Still blows my mind.

    I do sometimes wish he had writing as good as Tom Baker did, though. But the writing was such a HUGE step up from Davison & Colin. I mean, they made me LIKE– then LOVE– Ace, who I started out HATING. That's good writing. It was the first time since Ian & Barbara that they had real character growth over the seasons. It's a crime they weren't doing 26 episodes a year. Or that McCoy didn't get to do at least 5 seasons, each that long, and each as good as seasons 25 & 26.


  94. Henry R. Kujawa
    August 28, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

    I love the story about how Wanda Ventham & Donald Pickering– longtime friends– would drive directors crazy whenever they worked together, as they'd start talking and laughing non-stop. I had to see "RANI" several times before I realized it was the same lady who'd come to such a horrible end in "FANDAHL".

    Just watching "ASSAULT FORCE" on RETURN OF THE SAINT again today. I'm sorry, Kate O'mara just does NOTHING for me. Oh well…


  95. Matthew Blanchette
    August 28, 2013 @ 11:45 pm

    I love the Ponds, but they kind of should've left on the happy note of "The Wedding of River Song". That would've been a great jumping-off point; for the first time in a long time, you'd leave a relatively whole and undamaged companion.

    …but, no, they had to have a sad ending. I love that sad ending, but the half-season was kind of useless, I'm sorry. πŸ™


  96. Matthew Blanchette
    August 28, 2013 @ 11:48 pm

    Oh my god! Henry, YOU'RE BACK!!! πŸ˜€

    giant hugs


  97. Matthew Blanchette
    August 29, 2013 @ 12:06 am

    You forgot to mention that Ms. Ventham is the mother of Sherlock Holmes… πŸ˜‰


  98. Jenda
    August 29, 2013 @ 12:30 am

    "The mystery of Clara" couldn't have been dragged out for a full season (I know she appeared in Asylum, but as a full-time companion I mean), so it feels like the Ponds were tacked on for the first half of season seven when their story was already finished – I didn't buy the divorce story whatsoever (I hated it, in fact, absolutely hated it), but they do get some very nice individual moments in The Power of Three with the Doctor.


  99. Ross
    August 29, 2013 @ 2:34 am

    Bits of Shada worked for me as an 8th Doctor adventure. Where he picks Romana up on Gallifrey, and when he's persuading the ship that he's already dead. (And that second one only worked for me when I came back to it after having some more experience with BF's eighth doctor, since it "works" in the mindset of McGann's "sardonic adventurer" potrayal, but not in the "romantic edwardian" version of the eight doctor that's been preferred by all the other interpretations of the eighth doctor). But most of the time, it's Paul McGann reading lines clearly written for Tom Baker. (I daresay the final scene in particular just does not work with McGann's Doctor)


  100. bbqplatypus318
    August 29, 2013 @ 7:56 am

    I try to be respectful of the opinions of others, and I know full well it's just a TV show. But the McCoy era is one of those things for me where if someone tells me they hate it, I nod and say "Okay," very quietly, whilst privately feeling bad about myself for suddenly thinking less of that person.


  101. Henry R. Kujawa
    August 29, 2013 @ 9:32 am

    I'm pretty sure the first thing I ever saw Wanda Ventham on was UFO. She was in the pilot (which I never saw until the 90's), but after the break where they switched studios, she became a regular in the last batch of episodes before Lew Grade pulled the plug. The writing was immensely better, but, Grade wanted stories in space, and most of the end-run were on Earth (gee, kinda like WHO…!).

    I first NOTICED her on "Image of the Fendahl", where she struck me as a very beautiful woman, and I was horrified that she (like so many others in that story) came to a bad end.

    Later, I saw her on THE SAINT with Roger Moore… MY GOD, was she GORGEOUS when she was young!!!

    And speaking of Ian Ogilvy, her friend Donald Pickering was also in "THE ARRANGEMENT", a favorite RETURN OF THE SAINT episode of mine, which also features Sarah Douglas (from SUPERMAN I & II) and Carolyn Seymour, the latter as the wife of a politician (Pickering) who's, frankly, INSANE. The plot is an uncredited swipe of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. In the opening teaser, a drunk David Healy (a one-time Dr. Watson) come on to Seymour and gets the following response:

    "Why don't you give me your number– and if I'm ever feeling DESPERATELY DEPRAVED, I'll give you a call." (One of the best put-downs I've ever heard!)


  102. Henry R. Kujawa
    August 29, 2013 @ 9:36 am

    Sorry, in case anyone got confused, the WIFE was insane, not the politician husband.

    Pickering is so good at playing deadpan serious with no sense of humor types, it's hilarious to think of him off-camera being unable to keep a straight face when his good friend is around. Ventham, on the other hand, it's all too easy to believe has a mischievous streak.

    So, how many people have seen John Badham's DRACULA (1979) and wished Sylvester had had a MUCH bigger part in it?


  103. Henry R. Kujawa
    August 29, 2013 @ 9:38 am

    Well, I'm glad not everyone here was offended or baffled by my opinions… : )


  104. Anglocat
    August 30, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

    Fair points, both of 'em.


  105. kenziie bee
    February 10, 2024 @ 10:56 pm

    this is my favorite era of classic who and i love every single story in it, definitely including Time and the Rani my most tasteless Doctor Who favorite. im sure no one will ever comment on this post again so in extremis, without hope without virtue without reward, i wanna see the Rani again. and i hope she brings her stupid convoluted body horror traps


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