Saturday, 26 October 2013

Doctor Who's Greatest Moments: Part Three - The 80s

Taking a break from the gothicism for one day, we come to the third in the ongoing series of posts dedicated to Doctor Who's greatest moments. This month, it's the eighties.
After two decades of being one of the nation's most popular programmes, it was always going to be tough for Doctor Who to keep up the momentum so, to do so, the people behind the show made a sharp change of track. After, the larger-than-life Fourth Doctor cavorted about, saving the universe every Saturday teatime, the eighties saw the show develop a harder edge, with increasing violence and a growing streak of dark in the Doctor's character. Occasionally, it did stray to far - the most famous example being the newly-born Sixth Doctor's strangling of his companion! However, the soul of Doctor Who was still there and while there are moments of the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors tenures that are perhaps misfires, it has more than its fair share of excellent parts, with the decade providing some of Doctor Who's best scenes.

10. 'It's the end... but the moment has been prepared for...' -Logopolis

As it still feels part of 70s Who but does fall into the 80s, the demise of the Fourth Doctor comes in at number 10. After saving the universe (see, told you) from collapsing in on itself - in the midst of halting a last-ditch chance of the Master's for universal conquest, the Doctor falls from a radio telescope and, surrounded by his friends, he dies. With the inclusion of the ethereal Watcher (a wraith-like spectre of the future Doctor), this is a strangely enigmatic and melancholy end for such a popular and lively incarnation of our hero.

9. The Time Lords on trial! - The Trial of a Time Lord

The Time Lords have captured the Doctor and put him on trial for his various 'crimes'. However, this is the Doctor - the brash, vocal Sixth Doctor - and he will not go down lightly. Discovering the full extent of the Time Lords' corruption from the Master, of all people, the Doctor lambasts his people for their villainy. 'Daleks, Sontarans, Cybermen,' he says. 'They're all in the nursery compared to us. Ten thousand years of absolute power - that's what it takes to be really corrupt.' It's a strong scene on its own merits but also stands up as a great showcase for Colin Baker's often unfairly judged portrayal of the character. It works well because it plays to his strengths - his Doctor loves telling people off and here he gives the Time Lords a hell of a talking to.

8. 'His days like crazy paving.' - Dragonfire

The Seventh Doctor's first series is one still finding its feet, but in the overall uneven finale 'Dragonfire', there comes a moment of magic. At the end of another adventure, the Doctor's companion Mel decides to leave the TARDIS to go travelling with space Del-boy Sabalom Glitz. A sad, contemplative Doctor then talks about the difficulties of living life out-of-order like he does and asks her to remember 'the homeless traveller in his police box' when she's enjoying her life 'all in a neat pattern.' It's an unexpectedly touching scene very well-played by Sylvester McCoy with a twinkle in his eye. Casting the Doctor as a timeless wizard who sometimes laments his 'crazy paving' life, it's simply quintessential Doctor Who.

 7. In a Glass Dalek - Revelation of the Daleks

On the other end of the Who scale, we have one of the show's nastiest ever scenes. In the cellars of the corrupt Tranquil Repose facility on Necros, Natasha Stengos is searching for her father who is meant to be in cryogenic storage but she suspects has met a more sinister fate. And she's right - in a Dalek casing made of glass, she discovers what her father has become - a Dalek mutant. As Stengos battles his new Dalek nature, he pleads for his daughter to kill him to put him out of his misery.
One of the most extreme examples of how violent the series could be at this time, there's a convincing argument to be made that this does not belong in Doctor Who but it's this very reason that makes the moment so riveting. This version of the show was totally unpredictable with apparently even this level of horror up for grabs, which makes it all the more exciting to watch.

6. 'Every decision creates ripples...' - Remembrance of the Daleks

There's many excellent moments to pick from the fan-favourite corker 'Remembrance of the Daleks' - the first occasion of a Dalek hovering up the stairs, the return to the show's beginnings at the Totter's Lane Junkyard and Coal Hill School or the moment the Doctor tricks Davros into destroying Skaro (a significant event in the context of the Time War). However, amongst all this action there's a tiny gem of a scene where the Doctor takes a breather from dealing with a Dalek Civil War breaking out in London. Visiting a cafe, he talks to the man behind the till about the affect every decision has on the rest of the world, clearly feeling the weight of what he does on his shoulders. The soul-searching Doctor gets a simple, yet inspiring reply from the man: 'life's like that. Best thing is just to get on with it.'

5. The F(our) Doctors! - The Five Doctors

After travelling across the Death Zone on Gallifrey, facing a plethora of their greatest foes, Doctors One to Three and Five plus their respective companions meet in the Dark Tower to find the tomb of Rassilon together and foil the corrupt President Borusa's plans for immortality. Now, isn't that a thrilling sentence? There's something very special about Doctor Who anniversary celebrations - logic is thrown to the wind and everything becomes a big old party. Which is an apt description for this scene as the Doctors and companions greet each other like old friends at a social occasion. There's the Brigadier and Sarah Jane and - shock horror - the Master shows up at his most pantomimic to stop the fun. It's indulgent, of course, but on its birthday it's allowed to be. 'The Day of the Doctor', we are all waiting for you...

4. There's something about Ace - The Curse of Fenric

Classic Doctor Who rarely had companion-centric stories. The Doctor was clearly the lead. However, the Seventh Doctor's era was a partnership between the Doctor and his companion, Ace, with several episodes exploring her demons that she ran away from. This comes to a head in the penultimate story before the show's great hiatus when a long story arc (extremely unusual in the classic series) is tied up; and Ace's origins are revealed. She has been a pawn in a chess game of unanimous proportions...
In the days of the mystery of the Impossible Girl, this may seem like bread-and-butter Doctor Who but in 1989 this was groundbreaking stuff for the series. And proof of how the show was possibly more inventive than it had been in years, right before its plug was pulled.....

3. Adric's Death - Earthshock

The Cybermen have returned and they are at full-force. With them planning to crash a cargo ship into the Earth, the Doctor is out of options and must escape before it explodes. However, the Doctor's companion, Adric is still onboard - trying to halt the ship's destruction. He's close but a lone Cyberman destroys the controls. Unable to go back and save him, the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are forced to watch as the ship explodes.
One of Doctor Who's most famous scenes, the death of Adric is a brilliantly unexpected moment and one that demonstrates an important reminder to the audience - the Doctor's world is not cosy and, occasionally, he can't save everyone, even his closest friends.

2. Saving Peri - The Caves of Androzani

At the opposite end of his life, at the conclusion of the stonkingly strong 'Caves Of Androzani' (voted fan's favourite ever story in a poll a few years ago), the Doctor and Peri are both dying from Spectrox Toxaemia. With his last ounce of strength, the Doctor battles the caves of Androzani to get the antidote - but there's only enough for one...
Haunted by Adric's death, he is determined to not let one more person die. And so the Doctor gives the antidote to Peri, someone he doesn't know all that well - having only met in the previous adventure. The poison finally gets the better of him and, in a fevered dream of his companions (and the Master), the Doctor dies. Not saving the world or the universe but sacrificing himself to save one single life, this is simply how every Doctor should regenerate.  His final word, by the way, is 'Adric...'

1. 'Come on, Ace, we've got work to do.' - Survival

At the end of the Seventh Doctor's third series, the Doctor and Ace walk off after another adventure. Over the top, we hear the Doctor give a final speech:
'There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea's asleep, and the rivers dream: people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do.'
These were the last words of the show's original run.
Now, hear me out. I do not mean the best thing about an entire decade of Doctor Who is when it ended. Its the bittersweet promise of more adventures to come, that we will not see, that makes the moment so affecting. Despite the series being cancelled, this is Doctor Who telling the world that it can be taken off screen but it will never end. The Doctor and his companion will always rattle around time and space in the TARDIS. And, one day, the TARDIS might materialise on your television screens once more.

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