It’s not easy being green – Four Fifth Doctor stories

Four Fifth Doctor stories of, er, variable quality with one remarkable point in common: the villains are green. (Though in one case for only half the story.)

Fandom is generally rather forgiving of Four to Doomsday, but it didn’t grab me. Adric is at his most annoying, seduced by the Urbankans’ insane plan and pathetically scrapping with Tegan. Davison is uneven, this being the first story he filmed. The villainous amphibian Monarch is far too static – and why does he not supervise his staff properly? I suppose if we have to sit through numerous set-pieces I prefer ethnic dancing to gun battles, but I would prefer, you know, plot. I must admit I did cheer again at the cricket ball in space scene.

This was the first story since Underworld, broadcast four years before, where the Doctor is the only Gallifreyan character. (We’ve had The Invasion of Time, followed by Romana for most of the next three seasons and then three stories with the Master.)

I found myself again at odds with fan consensus in that I rather liked The Visitation. The opening scene of the Terileptils wiping out the local gentry is a gripping start, and Michael Robbins is very watchable as actor / highwayman Richard Mace. The whole thing looks confidently 17th-century and conveys its setting far better than most stories of this era. So what if the villagers blend into the scenery? That is what they are there for. The weakness is actually the overpopulated Tardis crew, who start the story bickering pointlessly about last week’s episode.

I commented after watching The King’s Demons that it was the worst Fifth Doctor story yet. Well, Time Flight is awful. Not quite as bad as The Twin Dilemma but it comes close. How can I count the ways? The woeful special effects – especially the utterly pathetic use of Concorde. The appalling direction – it is always a danger sign when the actors stand around delivering their lines with their hands hanging limply by their sides. (The only exceptions, oddly enough, are the spectral Xeraphins, but this is spoiled by the obvious zips in their body suits.) And the utterly peculiar disguise that the Master adopts has no narrative or aesthetic justification. Dire.

There is lots to hate about Warriors of the Deep: to start with, the Myrka, which is, honestly, not the worst monster of Doctor Who – compare the Fungoids of The Chase – but is certainly among the bottom five. The Silurians are almost passable, but the Sea Devils just look like stuntmen wearing funny hats. Yet, like The Sensorites, I felt that there was a good sf story here trying to get out; and the cast play it more convincingly than in, say, Time Flight. It is still pretty poor though.

So, in summary, The Visitation is not too embarrassing; the other three, however, are – with a particular demerit for Time Flight, the worst story since The Mutants.

One thought on “It’s not easy being green – Four Fifth Doctor stories

  1. I didn’t mind so much about the breach of LJ-etiquette – the fact is that despite LJ users acting as if they are within a closed community, when they post openly, they have made these statements to the world, and can be quoted.

    My objection, and the reason no project I’m involved in will ever be hawked around Telos, is the massive and multiple breaches of copyright, both of LJ posts and of newspaper reviews, may of which were quoted in toto. Basically, that’s against the law, and Telos are lucky not to have been sued into the ground.

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