It’s January 5th, 1984. The Flying Pickets are at number one with “Only You,” with Paul McCartney’s “Pipes of Peace” knocking them off a week later as they manage one of the most impressive drops I’ve ever seen from a number one single, plunging down to ten. Billy Joel, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, Culture Club, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood all also chart, the latter with “Relax.” (Frankie Goes to Hollywood, it should be noted for Americans, were not a one hit wonder in the UK at all.)
In the month and change since The Five Doctors, Lynda Mann is murdered, though the newsy part of that came many years later when the murderer, Colin Pitchfork, became the first person in Britain to be convicted based on DNA evidence. An IRA car bomb exploded outside Harrods in the Christmas shopping center. And Pope John Paul II visited the man who attempted to assassinate him to forgive him. While during this story a hurricane-force storm kills six in Britain.
While on television. A commenter made the quite valid point that my entries on the Davison era have been markedly closer to the critical consensus than in any other era. This is true, and I’ve kind of internally conceptualized much of this stretch as being about providing a more thorough account of the logic behind the consensus than about changing it. Largely because I think the overall consensus on this part of the Nathan-Turner era is solid, which, in turn, is because it’s just about the most analyzed portion of Doctor Who around save, perhaps, for the new series, which is so deliciously oversignified that the existing critical consensus can’t be grasped at all.
All of which said, I think the era as a whole gets an unfairly rough ride. There are systemic problems, which I’ve pointed out at length and will continue to do so, but there are also moments of real quality, including in oft-overlooked stories. And then there is Warriors of the Deep, about which I sadly, if unexpectedly, find myself with virtually nothing good to say.
That said, much of the criticism of the story is, if not inaccurate, at the very least faintly unfair. Yes, the effects on it are lamentable, but I’ve kept a decent policy of not criticizing Doctor Who for poor effects and I’m not going to break it here. The Myrka is deeply, deeply unfortunate, but to suggest that it, or any of the shoddiness of this story, is the actual problem with the story is ridiculous. They’re symptoms of the problem. The story wouldn’t be significantly improved by better effects. It just wouldn’t have quite as obvious a punching bag.
Michael Grade, responsible for pulling the trigger on the 1985 hiatus, has apparently cited this story as the one that persuaded him that Doctor Who was crap, a claim that Eric Saward took issue with, pointing out that Grade was in a position to give the program more money. But the flip side of this is what possible reason Michael Grade would have for giving more money to a program that’s blowing what it has on a pantomime horse.…