Three Classic Who stories

Managed to get through no less than three classic Doctor Who four-parters last weekend, from 1977, 1971 and 1965. One of them I had seen when it was first broadcast; I had read the novelisation of the second; the third was completely new to me. All three are good ‘uns; though few fans will put any of them in their personal top ten, they are all pretty good.

The Face of Evil was broadcast in 1977 between two other excellent Fourth Doctor stories, The Deadly Assassin and The Robots of Death. It features the introduction of new companion Leela, played by Louise Jameson, a warrior woman of a primitive far-future clan descended from the crew of a crashed spaceship. She had a difficult act to follow, and perhaps it’s as well that we had the companionless Deadly Assassin and a month’s break to help us get over the departure of Sarah Jane Smith (and more about her in a coming post). But she really does seem right for the part from the word go, as a new kind of foil for Baker’s Doctor, a woman confident in her own culture and not afraid to engage with the new and unknown.

The story itself is good rollicking stuff: hinges on one of my least favourite devices, an untelevised earlier adventure, but that aspect is brought unashamedly into the story at the end of the first episode and done well and unapologetically. The name of the other tribe who are enemies of Leela’s people causes some amusement in this household. (I must stop playing the litany when the in-laws are visiting.)

Terror of the Autons was the first story of Jon Pertwee’s second season, broadcast exactly six years before The Face of Evil, in January 1971. Not one but three new regular characters are introduced here, Jo Grant as the new assistant, Mike Yates as the Brigadier’s second in command, and the Doctor’s legendary adversary, the Master.

I’m a bit startled to realise that the only other Delgado series I’ve seen is his last one, Frontier on Space, which I bought on video ten years ago when I was working in Bosnia. He really makes the difference between standard and classic for this story (which is otherwise a routine alien invasion plot, the least impressive of the three Auton tales). Jo, I’m afraid, annoys me as much as ever, and the Third Doctor’s inability to tell her what he really thinks is one of his least glorious moments. Some great little bits though – the deadly phone cord and the asphyxiating daffodils, and Harry Towb’s doomed McDermott, sporting the best Ulster accent ever heard on Doctor Who.

Galaxy Four was the opening story for the original third season of Doctor Who back in September 1965. No new or departing companions, just the First Doctor, Steven and Vicki landing on a doomed planet and finding themselves forced to decide whether to help the beautiful but militaristic Drahvins or the repulsive Rills with their robotic Chumbly servants. I thought it was rather good, and I say this as one who doesn’t normally like reconstructions (I will probably get hold of the narrated audio as well to compare).

There is great violence done to astrophysics in the set-up – as so often, there seems a basic confusion between the concepts of “galaxy” and “solar system”, and I can’t quite believe the idea of a planet in orbit around several suns simultaneously, which is about to be destroyed by the gravitational stresses, and nonetheless is habitable with a breathable atmosphere. But hey, this is a story where a police box with an impossibly large interior travels through time and space, so we shouldn’t complain too much.

Anyway, I thought the idea of two completely inhuman races in the story, and appearances being deceptive, made a very nice tale.

One thought on “Three Classic Who stories

  1. Glad you all had fun. That picture of the mechanism is fantastic.

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