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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.

41 Comments

  1. Eric Gimlin
    February 15, 2012 @ 12:23 am

    Was Claws of Axos available in usable colour at this point? Even if the BBC had the tapes back, without RSC they might not have considered the quality high enough for broadcast at that point. For that matter, they may not have wanted to pay for the Daleks. For that matter, I suspect given the structure they were building around The Three Doctors from fairly early on.

    All of that is total nitpicking, though. As usual, another great post. I would add that, after seven years, this probably introduced a lot of people to the whole idea of the nth Doctor in practice rather than theory, something important to help people accept Davidson.

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  2. Anton B
    February 15, 2012 @ 12:44 am

    Coming so soon after the 'Pushing Ahead of the Dame' guest slot I assume 'Ice Ice Baby' was a slip or was it some kind of meta-textual joke?

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  3. John Callaghan
    February 15, 2012 @ 12:45 am

    People talk about the magic of Dr. Who. For me, it's autumn evenings watching The Five Faces. The dark black and white of An Unearthly Child seems perfectly aligned with the darkness outside. Maaaaaaaaaarvellous.

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  4. Wm Keith
    February 15, 2012 @ 1:00 am

    Some more imaginative options for the Hartnell repeats might have been:
    An Unearthly Child / Planet of Giants
    or even
    Inside the Spaceship (what were they calling it in 1981?) / The Rescue

    And either "Robot" or "Terror of the Zygons" would have been a perfectly serviceable UNIT story, particularly appropriate with the forthcoming Sarah Jane event.

    I think that the Playground Effect of the Five Faces season was not simply to diminish Hartnell and Troughton (boring stories) but also to give Pertwee a major, lasting appreciation boost.

    And this was, of course, 1981. The repeats were no more than 18 years old. The Pertwee repeats were nine years old. Today, that would be almost like repeating… the Paul McGann movie and "Aliens of London". Which are constantly repeated on satellite, and which can still be read as modern TV drama (as much as they ever could, you might say in the case of the TVM).

    People talk about an "Eleven Faces" season to celebrate 50 years of DW, but if in 1981 they'd wanted to show a Doctor Who story from 1931, the best they could have come up with would have been the Boris Karloff version of "Frankenstein". Although (and I had to look this up), "East Lynne on the Western Front" sounds fascinating.

    Oh, and the CofE vote was the first practical step in the ordination of women as deacons (which took another six years to achieve). The equivalent step in the ordination of women as priests was in 1984.

    N.B. Just because I'm reading and commenting on this post doesn't mean I'm not still stumbling around your damned Logopolis tree. Sandifer, I'm beginning to think you're the Shrike.

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  5. Carey
    February 15, 2012 @ 1:01 am

    If I recall correctly, the choice of Carnival of Monsters was far more prosaic than your own theory: Nathan Turner aired it as a tip of the hat to it's director (and his own departing executive producer) Barry Letts.

    The only other terrestrial broadcast of "out of Doctor" stories in the 80's was the following summer which featured Doctor Who's most popular monsters. The limitations were that, because this time the broadcast would be on BBC1 as opposed to BBC2, the repeats had to be in colour, so only the Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctor's were represented. The stories chosen were Curse of Peladon (to represent the Ice Warriors); Genesis of the Daleks (for the eponymous Daleks) and Earthshock (for the Cybermen). The choice of Genesis over Destiny was supposedly because of the poor reputation of the later, but because each slot was a four episode story (albeit edited to two fifty minute one slots) this necessitated an edited version of Genesis which, it has to be said, did the story absolutely no favours. Indeed, I thought Genesis to be incredibly over-rated for years as a result of this cut down version, at least until the VHS release of the story in the early 90's, when I realised what a masterpiece it actually was.

    How much this corresponds to your theory that Nathan Turner was scared of showing stories that would show up his own stories, I'll leave for others, but I would say that, if you were going to edit down a story to improve it, surely Monster of Peladon (featuring the Ice warriors as actual villains) would have been a better choice.

    After this, the VHS revolution hit past Doctor Who, with the release of Revenge of the Cybermen, followed by the Brain of Morbius. Albeit the later in an edited down format. Is there a pattern emerging?

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  6. David Anderson
    February 15, 2012 @ 1:23 am

    If the two Troughton camps only agree on The Evil of the Daleks, which camp likes the Invasion? The Cybermen are perhaps the classic Base Under Siege monster, but Tobias Vaughn doesn't belong in a Base Under Siege plot and while interacting with Vaughn the Doctor is in his subversive mode. Coming to Invasion from War Games and Mind Robber I'm not disappointed in the way I am by Seeds of Death.

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  7. Carey
    February 15, 2012 @ 1:39 am

    An addendum to my comment on Nathan Turner here: it should always be remembered that, especially in his first two or three years as producer, Nathan Turner was very much lead by the fan consensus of the time, as exemplified by him using Ian Levine as an "unofficial" advisor. So fan consensus said that Destiny of the Daleks was a bad story, whereas Genesis (albeit too long for the slot it was needed for) was a good one.

    Williams is a good example of Nathan Turner's opposite: his advice to his successor (and one disregarded) was to ignore the fans. The best example of this was Williams' own first season: Gallifrey was returned to in Invasion of Time not because the fan consensus of the time said that the Deadly Assassin was a great story. Quite the opposite, as your own entry pointed out, Assassin was hated by the fans, and came last in that years DWAS survey. Williams attempted a sequel to the Deadly Assassin because it was one of the most popular stories that year with the general audience. Nathan Turner, to the detriment of Doctor Who, decided to listen to its niche audience instead. Indeed, it could be said that Nathan Turners greatest tragedy as a producer was in listening too much to the opinions of others, and not in his own beliefs. Although that doesn't explain the casting, character nor costume of the sixth Doctor.

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  8. Wm Keith
    February 15, 2012 @ 1:58 am

    The Pertwee camp likes The Invasion. It is also appreciated by canoeists.

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  9. Jesse
    February 15, 2012 @ 5:12 am

    It's a joke (and a good one; it made me laugh out loud). The Bowie/Queen song that charted, "Under Pressure," was sampled in "Ice Ice Baby."

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  10. Anton B
    February 15, 2012 @ 5:43 am

    Well duh! I knew that. I just didn't think it was that funny. Oh well put it down to my self being 'under pressure' of work and that bloody picture of JNT putting me in a humourless mood. As you were people, carry on. 🙂

    Reply

  11. Jon Cole
    February 15, 2012 @ 5:53 am

    I was ill for the Krotons, so I had the little TV and Patrick Troughton in my room for a week – bliss.

    I had to wait for the Curse of Peladon to fall in love with Pertwee though

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  12. David Anderson
    February 15, 2012 @ 8:15 am

    It is a prototype Pertwee script. If you replaced Vaughn with the Master it would be a Pertwee script. However, Vaughn is not an outsider to the society he's trying to take over; he's as close to being the establishment as any character we see. So it seems to me that it plays to Troughton's subversive strengths in a way that the generic Base Under Siege doesn't and can't do.

    (I'm a little unfairly down on Seeds of Death as a Troughton vehicle – the parallels between Fewsham's behaviour and the Doctor's behaviour couldn't be pulled off with more ostensibly heroic Doctors.)

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  13. Zapruder 313
    February 15, 2012 @ 10:35 am

    I've always assumed that the reason this season even existed was to put up a giant sign saying "Look! People other than Tom Baker have played the role, so don't all turn off when the vet from All Creatures Great and Small turns up next time".

    If so, it succeeded brilliantly, and may be the single masterstroke that saved the show. To fans of my age, who couldn't remember any Doctor but Tom, it made these other versions of the character that we only knew from Target novelizations come to life, and was utterly seminal in a way that later fans who could see an old episode of of Doctor Who whenever they wanted on VHS, DVD or BBC3 must find hard to really appreciate. To the Doctor Who fan, this repeat season was as exciting, maybe even more so, than the new season itself.

    A quick note on the choice of The Three Doctors: surely the rationale there was simply that this was the only place you could ever see the first two Doctors in colour?

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  14. Alan
    February 15, 2012 @ 10:46 am

    Indeed, it could be said that Nathan Turners greatest tragedy as a producer was in listening too much to the opinions of others, and not in his own beliefs. Although that doesn't explain the casting, character nor costume of the sixth Doctor.

    Indeed. And I really would like to know who told him that the fans were clamoring for disagreeable companions who resented traveling in the TARDIS and complained about it in every episode.

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  15. Dan
    February 15, 2012 @ 10:48 am

    Me and my mates were just delighted with the choice of The Three Doctors. Less so with Logopolis, the last thing shown and we would have loved to have seen an early Baker again.

    But it is true and perhaps even ironic that this was one of the things that really cemented fandom at the time the show was just starting its gradual terminal decline. (I have never seen the last two seasons, but clearly the improvement was too late.)

    And it wasn't the same on a weekday, or with 45 minute episodes…oh, wait.

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  16. Zapruder 313
    February 15, 2012 @ 11:03 am

    You've never seen Seasons 25 and 26?

    Two of my absolute favourites, and the genuine, wonderful, "it's back and as good as it ever was" Indian Summer of Doctor Who, for me.

    I agree completely about the gradual, and, sadly terminal decline, but they not only pulled out of it, but reached the heights once again, at the very end. Too late, of course, but those last two years of Sylvester and Sophie are just plain classic Who, in my humble opinion. Strongly recommended.

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  17. Dan
    February 15, 2012 @ 11:21 am

    What are the best stories?

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  18. Jesse
    February 15, 2012 @ 11:30 am

    The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is my favorite.

    And I agree with Zapruder: After the dregs of the Davison and Colin Baker years, plus an interesting but uneven first season for McCoy, the last two years are an enjoyable return to form.

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  19. WGPJosh
    February 15, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    I think that may be the point. I read the message of "Seeds of Death" as twofold: One, it's Brian Hayles and Terrance Dicks showing a remarkable bit of foresight in deconstructing 1960s futurism and unintentionally anticipating the rise of corporatization (hence the Transmat company and outdated, outmoded rocket ships).

    More importantly though, it's Hayles and Dicks deconstructing the Base under Siege model itself by showing how just having The Doctor running around killing monsters who invade bases makes him no better than the monsters themselves. You're not supposed to side with The Doctor-You're supposed to react in horror when he mercilessly guns down intelligent, sentient beings. Read that way, I feel "Seeds of Death" is a very appropriate lead-in to "The War Games".

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  20. WGPJosh
    February 15, 2012 @ 11:37 am

    The Cartmel era is far and away my favourite era of Doctor Who. There's so much amazing work on display it's hard to pick a favourite, but massive props have to go to "Remembrance of the Daleks", "Silver Nemesis" (very unfairly maligned and shafted IMO), "Battlefield", "Ghost Light" and "The Curse of Fenric".

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  21. C.
    February 15, 2012 @ 11:48 am

    anything from Season 26 (except "Battlefield," which is ambitious enough and could've been great, but the limited production resources really let down the side, IMO) is up there with any era of Who, really. But it was just too late—the show had lost its audience. I've met several people who were teenagers in the UK in the '80s & who have no idea Sylv McCoy even played the Doctor—the last they remember is Davison or C. Baker (who seems generally hated). But we're getting ahead of ourselves here…

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  22. Zapruder 313
    February 15, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

    Dan: I'd start with Remembrance of the Daleks and just work your way forward from there . . . The extended editions on the DVDs are generally my recommended versions for the last two seasons, rather than broadcast cuts, which suffer a bit from not making as much sense as they might when you try to cram them into 24 minute episodes.

    Thank-you, WGPJosh, for the shout-out for Silver Nemesis, which I just plain love! If you just want to enjoy spending time with two series leads who actually like being in the show and enjoy each other's company, it can't be beat. After the unmatchable original four from An Unearthly Child, Sylvester and Sophie are my favourite TARDIS team.

    But yes, we are getting ahead of ourselves. We have a long, slow descent into darkness to negotiate first, and not in a good way. There are many good things to see along the way, though!

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  23. WGPJosh
    February 15, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

    My pleasure! I've never quite understood the flak "Silver Nemesis" gets, apart from it being dreadfully dismembered in its original broadcast version and the admitted problem of the Cartmel Masterplan never quite resolving itself satisfactorily. On that note though, wouldn't the extended VHS version of that story be better than the DVD given it goes out of its way to reinstate crucial scenes, where even the newest DVD version falls back on the broadcast cut? IIRC all the other Season 25/26 DVDs are fine, though we're long past-due for an extended recut of "Remembrance" and "Ghost Light" IMO.

    Also, would it not make sense to start from "Dragonfire", despite it being in the rockier Season 24 as it introduces Ace and has plot threads that are picked up again later on?

    But no more of that for now. We are indeed getting ahead of ourselves and we have some unpleasantness immediately ahead of us to attend to. However, Phil says he really likes the Peter Davison era, so it should prove to be intellectually stimulating and provocative at the very least!

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  24. Zapruder 313
    February 15, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply

  25. Zapruder 313
    February 15, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

    Sadly I think the deleted scenes in Ghost Light only exist with timecode striping, so there was no extended cut there. I'd still watch one with the timecode, of course: better than nothing!

    For Silver Nemesis, I've still got my DVD-R dub of the VHS Extended Edition, since the DVD failed to include it. Most vexing, and a rare black mark against a largely perfect DVD reissue campaign! The broadcast version, as you say, suffers badly, and leaves out several of my favourite moments from the entire run of the show!

    Dragonfire is the best place to start, yes, with the proviso that Dan will have to sit through some pretty poor stuff to get to the single most enjoyable moment in the whole of Doctor Who:

    Doctor: "Ace! Where do you think you've going?"

    Ace: "Perivale."

    Doctor: "Ah, but by which route?"

    Join us, Dan, as we sit back, open another bottle of red, and relax. The last few years have been all-but unwatchable, yes; our faith in this show we love so much has been tested to its very limit , and the end is near: but from now on until the end, can just enjoy ourselves. It is all going to be all right.

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  26. Dan
    February 15, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

    Thanks for the suggestions. It seems you want me to watch all of them.. it might have to be Remembrance and Ghost Light and maybe Silver Nemesis then, since I don't want to buy all the DVDs right now.. otherwise I'd have to buy everything.

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  27. Gavin Schofield
    February 15, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

    I agree – Silver Nemesis is pretty good stuff. I'm 25 so I missed out on having a doctor to call "my doctor" (although Matt Smith is nearly there!), but I did get to enjoy the VHS releases free from any sort of fan consensus, and my very favourites were Silver Nemesis, Terror of the Zygons and Revenge of the Cybermen. Bliss.

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  28. Wm Keith
    February 15, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

    The flak Silver Nemesis gets would be completely obvious to anyone who had watched Season 25 on first transmission. Nemesis is the same plot as the previous story (which is by any standard the best story transmitted for at least four years (some would say twenty-four), and clearly the best Dalek story for at least thirteen), only completely dumbed down and badly executed. "Straight blowing", you might say, to Remembrance's punk jazz. More than anything, this is the story that demonstrates how poor the Cybermen are when written as second-string Daleks.

    But don't start with "Remembrance". Start with "Time and the Rani", and watch the pieces gradually come together.

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  29. WGPJosh
    February 15, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

    I will admit the Cybermen at times feel a bit shoehorned in, but I fail to see how "Silver Nemesis" is the exact same story as "The Happiness Patrol" 😉

    There are maybe some more clear cut similarities with "Remembrance", but I think only insofar as they're meant as two parts of a big story arc Andrew Cartmel and his writers were planning, so naturally they'd address similar themes.

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  30. David Anderson
    February 15, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

    Remembrance of the Daleks is permanently number one on my personal list of best Doctor Who stories ever. I recently rewatched Survival and at the moment it's top ten.
    Ghost Light and then Curse of Fenric are somewhere in the top twenty or so – they are both slightly overcut, which means that Curse is a little difficult to follow if you watch the broadcast version and in Ghost Light the only way to find out what two of the central characters are is to watch the Making Of… Although both stories stand up to not knowing everything that's going on.

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  31. Alex
    February 15, 2012 @ 10:38 pm

    If the book "Wiped!" is correct then "The War Machines" wasn't returned to the BBC till 1985 and thus couldn't have been considered for the repeats. As for Pertwee, while "Axos" and "Peladon" were recovered in colour in early '81, they may not have been ready for broadcast at the time the repeats were decided upon given they were NTSC copies which would have require conversion into PAL.

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  32. SK
    February 16, 2012 @ 1:44 am

    Oh, that's easy: it was whoever said, 'You should go back to the classic set-up, you know, Ian and Barbara as reluctant travellers trying to get back to Earth.'

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  33. SK
    February 16, 2012 @ 1:55 am

    You cannot repeat the third story on mainstream terrestrial TV, and certainly you couldn't in 1981. It has the scissors scene.

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  34. Wm Keith
    February 16, 2012 @ 2:32 am

    My mistake! But never let it be said that I favour factual accuracy over truth.

    Again, at the time, not knowing anything about the nascent Masterplan, "Nemesis" just seemed like a bad copy of "Remembrance".

    Anyway, the fact that almost every story in this era is someone's favourite is a testament to its overall quality.

    Personally, for all that I think "Remembrance" is wonderful, I've always seen "Ghost Light" as the absolute pinnacle of the McCoy/Cartmel era. David Anderson mentioned that it is "overcut" and "the only way to find out what two of the central characters are is to watch the Making Of…", but I'd rather say that it refuses to provide glib answers to the viewer's questions.

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  35. WGPJosh
    February 16, 2012 @ 8:57 am

    No worries! I'm just being overly clever.

    It's so very hard for me to pick a favourite story from this era, but "Ghost Light" is very close. I do think it's a bit overcut, but on the other hand I do appreciate,a s you said, its unwillingness to tie things up in a neat little package.

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  36. David Bateman
    February 16, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

    As I see it, the first real attempt to historicize Doctor Who was the Radio Times 10th Anniversary Special. The story guide in that was where it was first possible to read an overview of the series' narrative from the beginning up to the, then, date (pub. 1974?). The Target novelisations had only just begun. And, all of these publications came on the back of 'The Three Doctors'.

    Aside from that, other glimpses of the beginnings were in the two 60's movies which sometimes got a showing on Saturday morning TV. I'm not surprised when you say that Hartnell's Doctor suffered from something of a bad reputation in younger fandom given the contrast between the series and Cushing's portrayal as Dr. Who.

    The Five Faces of Doctor Who was a slightly odd title, until of course the end of Logopolis. A neat bit of slight-of-hand, that. Do you think its derived from 'The Face of Fu Manchu' (1965) – another Saturday morning TV, er, 'favourite'? Or, is it from 'The Five Faces of Manfred Mann'(1964)?

    And, does anyone know, or even remember, what was on BBC2 on Fridays? Was it Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes? If so, chances are the Five Faces time slot would be a good candidate if you were looking for the origins of 'Sherlock'.

    'The Pearl of Death' was the just about the scariest thing on TV since 'The Ark in Space.'

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  37. David Bateman
    February 17, 2012 @ 1:51 am

    The first attempt to historicize Doctor Who was probably the Radio Times 10th Anniversary Special published in 1974(?). It's story guide was where it was first possible to read an overview of the narrative of the series up to the, then, date. It appeared just after the first few Target novelisations, and of course, all of this was on the back of The Three Doctors.

    The other way to see into the beginnings of the series was through the 60's movies, which were shown on Saturday morning TV. I'm not surprised when you say that Hartnell's Doctor had something of a bad reputation among younger fandom given the contrast between the series and Cushing's portrayal of Dr. Who.

    The Five Faces of Doctor Who seemed like a strange title at the time, but became quite clear at the end of Logopolis. Nice bit of sleight of hand, that. I wonder if it was derived from 'The Face of Fu Manchu'(1965) – another Saturday morning TV, er, favourite – or from 'The Five Faces of Manfred Mann' (1964)?

    Also, does anyone know, or even remember, what was shown on BBC2 on Friday? Was it Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes movies?

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  38. Matt Sharp
    February 19, 2012 @ 8:30 am

    '…it’s easy to see where the view of Hartnell as angry and unpleasant came from.'

    The choice of 'The Three Doctors' also seems to confirm the fan myth that Hartnell was too ill to play the part, I at least assumed that the ailing actor we see on the screen was representative of his era; in the same way that 'The Five Doctors' firmly established Troughton to be the short Doctor despite being slightly taller than Hartnell as he's no where near as tall as Richard Hurndall

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  39. Alex Wilcock
    February 28, 2012 @ 2:45 am

    Coming late to the party, a couple of points strike me that no-one's yet mentioned…

    In effect, only the first three Doctors had stories 'to themselves' – only the Second and Third, if you take the view that An Unearthly Child was a work in progress – as the "Five Faces" frame had to emphasise all five Doctors. Which is why they confusingly showed Carnival of Monsters immediately before The Three Doctors (despite the end of the 'latter' being a precondition for the 'former'). And of course that was because it was more important to establish the Third Doctor than to establish that the TARDIS was working – having The Three Doctors after showing those three Doctors was a summary or an exclamation mark to make sure you got the point. After which, there was simply no choice about showing another multi-Doctor story to finish – Logopolis, which had to be the pick for the "Five Faces" because it was the only one available with Peter Davison in it.

    Of course, before they settled on The Three Doctors as the 'fifth' story to complete the "Five" frame, Philip Hinchcliffe had asked for them to repeat The Masque of Mandragora, but I'm not going there again… 😉

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  40. othemts
    July 17, 2013 @ 10:17 am

    It really blows my mind that Doctor Who shows were not rerun regularly (not to mention that they videos were actively destroyed). Was this a standard practice of the BBC? I grew up in the 70s & 80s and due to the practice of American television syndicating old programs I was familiar with a lot of shows from the 50s, 60s, & 70s. In fact, there are some programs like Star Trek and The Brady Bunch that wouldn't be remembered without syndication. Anyway, no deep analysis here, just surprised by the different approach taken by British television.

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  41. David Gerard
    December 1, 2013 @ 1:34 am

    Viewing Doctor Who in Australia in the '70s and '80s was a bit more interesting. It was in the children's teatime slot (5:30pm), but daily on weekdays, rather than weekly. And so was repeated, over and over; so kids got very familiar with the stuff. Basically from mid-Pertwee on. I think we got as far as Colin Baker and ABC didn't even buy the Sylvester McCoy shows. But in the late '80s, they got into repeating the Dr Who they had in tacked-together movie format on Saturday afternoons.

    Reply

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