Wednesday 26 January 2011

Season 8

Despite disliking Pertwee, I quite like Season 7. That had been a very experimental period in the history of the show in which a rather gritty realistic approach had been taken. Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks felt that this approach would not chime well with the viewers and so quite a number of changes were introduced. UNIT were given a new set of uniforms and were changed from being a serious military unit into a sort of Dad's Army. The Brigadier was increasingly used for comic relief. The Doctor became increasingly chummy with him, yet also became even more arrogant and obnoxious.

Liz Shaw had been a bit boring, but she was intelligent and independent minded. This was not to the taste of Letts and Dicks, who decided to replace her with a companion who was rather less intelligent. Thus, we see the arrival in this season of Jo Grant, who is in my opinion the worst of all Doctor Who companions. Yes, Adric was annoying but teenagers often are. In Jo Grant we see the spectacle of a grown woman who talks and acts like a thirteen year old girl. She was an infantilised companion to accompany the infantilising of the show.

Season 8 also introduced Roger Delgado's Master. Letts and Dicks liked him so much that they stuck him in every story of this season. You might think even the Master deserved some annual leave. To be fair, Roger Delgado gave us some brilliant performances and few Whovians can fail to enjoy the camp fun he brought. However, in my judgment, the introduction of the Master was a bad move. In this season it lead to some rather lazy storywriting and with every appearance, his schemes became ever more ridiculous. Another problem of the Master was that he in effect acted as the Doctor's evil alter ego and this forced the Doctor to become a less ambiguous, more saintly figure. Thus, we had the Pertwee Doctor always moralizing and acting as a white knight in shining armour. The Third Doctor could never bring himself to find a final solution to the Master problem. We can well imagine that the First and Second Doctor would have made sure the Master died a violent death.

This season had some reasonable stories, but on the whole was rather lacking the inspired quality of the previous season:

Terror of the Autons- 6/10
Arguably it has a tighter plot than Spearhead from Space, but lacks the impact of the first Auton story. It also introduced an element of gimmickiness, with everyday objects becameing killing machines. RT Davies unfortunately had the idea that this was the way to do Doctor Who and gave us too many of such gimmicks in the BBC Wales series.

Mind of Evil- 5/10
This has something of the gritty realism of Season 7 and has UNIT acting as an effective military unit. However, it has an absurdly complex plot that makes little sense. The Doctor is incredibly unpleasent in this story, his worst moment being when he completely humiliates the Brigadier and boasts of being a friend of Mao Tse-Tung.

Claws of Axos- 7/10
The plot is a little silly, but it is a pretty decent production. The Axons are a well-conceived alien menace and their ship is one of the finest sets in the history of the show.

Colony in Space- 1/10
Oh dear. This has got to be the most boring story in Doctor Who ever.

The Daemons- 6/10
This story has some good ideas that were very suited to the earthbound setting, but it lacks the vital capacity to terrify. The ending is really stupid.


  1. Since the Time Lords gave the responsibility of dealing with the Master to the Doctor in Terror of the Autons, a 'final solution' was never in the cards. The Master is a wayward renegade much like the Doctor, albeit a troublesome one.

    Letts and Dicks had apparently planned to reveal that the Master was another facet to the Doctor's persona and not an actual separate person at all. JNT stated that the Master was the Doctor's brother in Planet of Fire. RTD heavily hinted that the Master and Doctor were brothers only to have the Doctor say that it was a stupid idea.

    Obviously the Doctor and Master have a close relationship that goes beyond 'school mates.' The Master as played by Delgado often seems to be gleefully spreading havoc just to put the Doctor in the position of stopping him. I recall a couple of moments where it looks like the Master's plan will result in mass destruction so great that even he is horrified. But the character is unevenly written even in season 8, so it's difficult to pin down what his motivation is.

  2. The Master is more than troublesome, he is a killer. The Second Doctor would have blown him to bits like he did the Dominators.

    I am glad they did not bring out the idea of the Master as the Doctor's evil side; that is such an awful idea.

    I am not convinced about the two of them being brothers; the Master only says:

    "will you not have mercy on your own.."

    He may have actually finished the sentence and simply have meant his own kind.

  3. Unfortunately, the complete line is 'will you not have mercy on your own brother.' They confirmed this on the DVD. I could never figure out what Ainley was saying on my VHS copy, to be honest.

    I'm not saying it's a good idea, nor am I siding with Letts and Dick's concept... but it's out there.

  4. It may have been the intention that 'brother' was the conclusion of the sentence, but it is not at all clear from the spoken line.

    Do we determine the canon of Doctor Who from the intentions of the creator, or only by what is said onscreen?

    If we accept the intentions of the creators as canon, then we must hold that the mysterious faces in Brain of Morbius are pre-Hartnell incarnations of the Doctor; contradicting a good deal of what we hear in other stories.

  5. It's no unclear, it's cut entirely. Someone decided that JNT was crazy and that having the Doctor and Master related was silly.

    I'm not saying that the Master is the Doctor's brother, or contradicting 'canon' but that was the intention and how the character was written for about 9 years. In Logopolis the Doctor even says 'we share the same mind.'

    As far as the Brain of Morbius scene, it's obvious that the production team intended those faces to be pre-Hartnell incarnations. It wasn't until Mawdryn Undead that the Doctor specified that he is the fifth incarnation.

    The program is hardly airtight in its consistency, but the intentions of the production team have an impact of what we see on screen, even when those ideas are not finalized.

  6. If the line was cut, it was never said. It only counts if it is on t.v.

    I don't think the evidence for the Doctor and the Master being brothers is as strong as you suggest.

    Pertwee's comment in The Sea Devils suggests they were no closer than school friends.

    What about The Five Doctors? The First Doctor does not recognise the Master in any way (and Time Lords sometimes recognise each other despite regeneration). The Master tells him that they were at the academy together. Not a hint that they were brothers.

    As for the Morbius images, the chancellor in The Three Doctors states that Hartnell was the earliest model.

    I really don't think we should put too much weight on authorial intentions in determining continuity (it rules out retcons anyway).

    Most fans seem happy to ignore authorial intentions when it comes to UNIT dating, with most fans favoring an early 70s date for UNIT stories as opposed to the clear indication of a future setting in the season 6 and 7 stories.

    Just as war is too important to be left to the generals, Doctor Who is too important to be left to the writers.

    I think fans often have a better idea of Doctor Who than the writers most of the time; hence the superb quality of the fan-written New Adventure novels and later books and audios.