Thursday 19 May 2011

Season 17

I really do like the Graham Williams era, but I don't think I can really put in much of a defence for Season 17. It really is poor in a number of ways.

This season saw the arrival of a new script writer, Douglas Adams, who had written The Pirate Planet. Adams' strength was in comedy. It is fair to say that he was not well attuned to writing serious science fiction. This is very obvious in the way that Season 17 allowed comedy to become too central to the show. Tom Baker seemed to cease being a protagonist in the stories and became a sort of comic host. At times it could be very funny, but at other times the excessive humour seemed to swamp any sense of atmosphere or menace. When in The Horns of Nimon, the Doctor is threatened with arrest, execution and torture, he jokes about it. We all laugh at that moment, but there is a sense in which there are too many moments like this. The Doctor had become invulnerable an almost uninvolved.

The other problem of this season was the woefully poor quality of the productions. Of course, the cheap sets and costumes could be explained away by the much reduced budget, but this is not an excuse for some of the terrible acting and direction. It seems like everybody at this stage had ceased to take the show seriously. Contrast this with An Unearthly Child, the very first serial of the show. Even people pretending to be grunting cavemen and women avoided the pitfall of sending it all up. This would be unimaginable in the 17th season. The program was desperately in need of a big shake-up. Thankfully, this was to come in the next season under new producer John Nathan-Turner.

Season 17 saw a new face of Romana in Lalla Ward. Lalla lacked the strong acting talent of Mary Tamm, but she seemed to take her role more seriously than her predecessor. She was also helped by the fact that writers made Romana into a much stronger character. The Horns of Nimon sees her become in every way a female Doctor.

For all the underwhelming efforts of this season, strangely it gave us one of the greatest ever Doctor Who stories, City of Death. This truly is a quite delightful story its glorious humour accompanied by the most delightful portrayal of a Doctor/ Companion relationship ever. City of Death seems to have everything that one could want in a Doctor Who story, plus an added touch of class.

I don't find this season at all impressive, but I would rather watch one of these stories than one of the more awful Pertwee stories or one of those frightfully grim Hinchcliffe efforts.

Destiny of the Daleks- 5/10

I frequently change my mind on the merits or demerits of this story. It is basically a Terry Nation space-romp revitalised with Douglas Adams' humour. It makes the worrying suggestion that the Daleks are robots.

City of Death- 10/10

A diamond in mud. How did such a brilliant story get into this season?

The Creature from the Pit- 3/10

A really unimpressive story. Those Fagin-wannabes were a really bad idea.

Nightmare of Eden- 4/10

A great story let down by atrocious acting and appalling production values. This has to be one of the cheapest looking stories ever.

The Horns of Nimon- 6/10

I do like this story, even if it is a bit silly. Best of all, I love how Romana is used so effectively in it.

Shada- ?/?

The great or not so great unfinished story. Fans like to imagine Shada would have been the redemption of Season 17. What is left of it looks like a load of rubbish to me.

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