By this point Baker’s relationship with Ward had grown a
It’s September 27, 1980. The Police are at number one with “Don’t Stand So Close To Me. It stays in number one for all four weeks of this story. Stevie Wonder, Queen, Diana Ross, Thin Lizzy, and Barbara Streisand also chart. Those who notice a tendency for the music charts to suddenly go a bit dull right when Doctor Who is having a rough time of it get further ammunition today.
While in real news, it’s announced that The Evening News will be closing and merging with The Evening Standard, James Callaghan announces that he will resign as leader of the Labour Party, the Metro is released by British Leyland, and Margaret Thatcher gives her “The lady’s not for turning” speech in which she basically declares that she doesn’t much care if her economic policies are disastrous, she’s not going to change them. They are, and she doesn’t.
And if none of that sounds terribly exciting, you should see what’s on television, namely Meglos. To paraphrase an old joke, it’s terribly boring, plus the episodes are too short. But all of this masks something approximating a sensible decision. Meglos is the second story of the John Nathan-Turner era to make it to screen, but it’s actually the third story of the era to be made, coming after State of Decay in production. Notably, State of Decay features Adric, the new companion, meaning that Meglos marks an active decision to go back and create a fill-in story before Adric’s introduction instead of transitioning straight into the E-Space stories.
On the one hand this means that the Nathan-Turner era began with the three stories least like how it meant to carry on. Two were by and large Graham Williams stories with the serial numbers filed off, and the third is basically a Philip Hinchcliffe story. But even given this there is a sense that a deliberate effort to make a steady transition away from the Williams era and towards a new model. The second, subtler John Nathan-Turner revolution is rumbling along here. It’s just that this is an excruciatingly rocky step along the way. The Leisure Hive was rocky, but this is an out and out disaster.
First, then, why? Frankly, the answer here is writers again. It’s almost entirely that simple. Certainly, and this doesn’t get admitted enough, for all that the script is two steps backwards from the Williams era the production is at least one step forward. It’s clear that the show is trying to do more than point cameras at Tom Baker and some other people and hope entertainment happens. That isn’t anywhere near enough, but it’s something. But my God, John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch turn out an insipid script almost entirely lacking in characterization or depth. Bidmead focuses more on getting the science right than on improving it. The result is horribly flat and insipid.
Christopher H. Bidmead is an interesting figure. There are some writers who come across much better and saner in interviews than they do in their scripts.…