Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Doctor Who's Greatest Moments: Part Two - The 70s

Following on from last month's walk through memory lane at the best moments in Sixties Doctor Who, now we turn to, you've got it, the seventies, which saw two very distinct eras go by (or almost, in Tom Baker's case). While the sixties are usually seen as the show's experimental decade, playing with what the series could do, the early seventies were really far more so. With a whole new look for the show - the Doctor now finally travelled in colour, as well as through time and space - Doctor Who was also made into a contemporary thriller series; marooned on present-day Earth, the Third Doctor is attached to a division of the army dedicated to thwarting alien threat. By the later seventies, however, the show went back to its roots - with the Doctor once again a hobo in space - but retained the Third Doctor's era's rousing sense of adventure, arguably becoming the most assured era of the series' original run. Whatever your viewpoint, the seventies certainly contains some of Doctor Who's greatest stories - and, by extension, some of its greatest moments.

10. In Paris, City of Death

Near the beginning of Douglas Adams' City of Death, one of the show's greats, comes a low-key but special moment. Making the most of the episode's overseas filming, we are shown a medley of the Doctor and Time Lady Romana, enjoying themselves around the city, accompanied by Dudley Simpson's memorable score (recently heard at this year's Doctor Who at the Proms). In a story full of great comedy moments and a rather fabulous monster reveal, this beats the lot by giving us something a little rarer in Who; the chance to see the Doctor and his companion having a good ol' time away from extraterrestrial shenanigans. And, you know what, they look like they're having fun.

9. The Doctor in the shower, Spearhead from Space

In the previous regeneration up to this point, the Doctor had changed from Hartnell to Troughton with virtually no problem whatsoever, going off to defeat the Daleks and be back inside the TARDIS in time for tea. However, for a long while after the Third Doctor's 'birth' he remains unconscious in a hospital bed before crying out for his shoes and, later, indulging in a spot of singing in the shower. Apart from the fun seeing comic actor Pertwee larking about in a role that he usually played straight, this moment's also significant for being the first of the post-regeneration 'silliness' scenes, in which the still-cooking Doctor will be rather hyperactive. Nowadays, every regeneration is accompanied by something reminiscent of this scene but it remains the original and one of the best.

8. Alternate 1980, Pyramids of Mars

From the moment the Fourth Doctor discovers that Sutekh the Destroyer is trying to break his bonds, his signature toothy grin is nowhere in sight; it is clear this is a fierce opponent. Knowing how much trouble they could be in, Sarah Jane suggests they get in the TARDIS and leave. In answer, the Doctor does just that and returns to Sarah's hometime of 1980 - and it is a barren wasteland. This is the future of the Earth, the Doctor tells her, unless they stop Sutekh. It's a brilliantly effective scene and one that perfectly captures who the Doctor is. Despite the danger posed to himself, he will do anything to ensure that human - or any - lives will be saved. In short, he's a hero. And gawd bless him.

7. The Many Faces of Doctor Who, The Brain of Morbius

We may know that the Doctor's a hero but, as a fantastic moment in Fourth Doctor story Brain of Morbius shows us, we don't really know much about him at all. The Time Lord criminal Morbius, his brain inhabiting a mish-mash alien creature, has engaged the Doctor in a battle of the minds and is pouring through his thoughts. We see all four of his faces appear on screen and then - what?! - several more. 'How long?' the creature cries. 'How long have you lived?' The idea of the Doctor living more lives than those we have seen is a tantalising one - and something I'm glad to see is being explored in the coming The Day of the Doctor. This is such an important scene as it reminds us of that eternal question; Doctor Who?

6. A dandy and a clown, The Three Doctors

Multi-Doctor stories are always great fan-pleasers - what could be better than several incarnations of your favourite hero coming together in a big nonsensical celebratory bash? And for seventies viewers who watched the first occasion this happens on screen, in The Three Doctors which marked the show's tenth - aw, bless - anniversary, it must have been simply the best. Brought together by the Time Lords, the Second and Third Doctors argument is cut short by the appearance of the First Doctor on the TARDIS scanner. However, he doesn't treat his other selves with much more respect. 'So you're my replacements,' he says. 'A dandy and a clown', thereby creating one of the most famous of Doctor Who quotes. This November's 50th anniversary shindig will hopefully provide some fun multi-Doctor moments but it will be hard pressed to beat the first. The original, you might say.

5. 'Where there's life, there's a...', Planet of the Spiders

Realising he is to blame for the attack of the Eight Legs, a race of giant spiders (see number 3), the Third Doctor returns to Metebelis III to stop the Great One and her plans to rule the universe (don't alien monsters ever want a quiet life?). With the spider destroyed, the Doctor returns to his TARDIS having saved  the world - but at a cost. He has been hit with a deadly dose of radiation. Arriving at UNIT HQ, watched by Sarah Jane and the Brigadier, the Third Doctor dies and a new man rises from the ashes. With its Buddhist undertones and many facets that would be used in later deaths of Doctors - accepting their own passing for the greater good, for instance - this is a superior regeneration scene.

4. 'Do I have the right?', Genesis of the Daleks

At the climax of this Dalek-origins story, the Doctor has a tough decision to make. At Davros' incubation room - the birthplace of all Daleks - the Doctor has only to connect two wires to destroy the room, and the Daleks will be wiped from history. But the Doctor's moral conscience is too great. He would be committing genocide - surely making him as bad as the Daleks themselves. Thankfully, though, the decision is taken out of his hands as the Doctor and his friends are found. Not only a brilliant character moment for the Doctor - Russell T Davies has said that the Doctor's meddling in the Daleks' creation sparked the Time War - it also embodies a thought-provoking philosophical and moral question. What would you do in that situation?

3. A Parting Gift, The Green Death

Companion exits are always among the most memorable and, let's admit it, emotional of Doctor Who moments and the time the clumsy but lovely Jo Grant decided to leave the Doctor's side is sure to tug at any Who fan's heart. At a UNIT celebration, Jo announces she is getting married to another adventuring scientist, Professor Cliff Jones. Cut up, the Doctor gives Jo her wedding present, a crystal from Metebelis III (a crystal the spiders of the planet will later want back...) and, as the rest of the party congratulates the couple, the Doctor slips quietly away. The scene is played to perfection, with so much left unsaid by the pair. Sadly, the Doctor is used to goodbyes...

2. 'Don't Forget Me', The Hand of Fear

After a trying adventure, Sarah Jane is feeling tired of travelling the universe.And, at the same time, the Doctor receives a call from Gallifrey, where he must go alone. Departing on good terms, the Doctor and Sarah Jane say farewell. 'Don't forget me,' she tells him. 'Oh, Sarah Jane,' he replies, 'don't you forget me.' A masterclass of underacting, Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen are both excellent here. As with Jo's leaving scene, both the Doctor and his companion know their time together is up. They have grown-up. And the Doctor can't stand to see that happen; the one thing he can never do. Overall, this is a bittersweet ending to perhaps Doctor Who's best TARDIS team.

1. Indomitable! The Ark of Space

The moment from seventies Doctor Who I'm naming as the best is not a fond farewell to a much-loved companion or a heartbreaking death of a Doctor, but is in fact a moment of reflection by the Time Lord on his favourite species. Finding themselves on Nerva Beacon, the last refuge of humanity in the far future, the Doctor and Harry discover countless humans cryogenically frozen, sleeping until they find a new world. 'Homo Sapiens,' booms the Doctor, beginning a speech that waxes lyrical about the invincibility of the people of the Earth. We know that the Doctor loves Earth but in this scene we get to see the full extent of his admiration for us. He's almost proud, like a father pleased with how his children have turned out. 'They're indomitable,' the Doctor wraps up. 'Indomitable.' Much like Doctor Who itself, really. No matter how much it changes, it just keeps going. Ready to outsit eternity...? Who knows.

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