Friday, July 8, 2016

Whovian Chatter: The Colin Baker Years Season Twenty Three

Ghost here, thanks for joining.

I'm going to be examining Doctor Who... every single episode.  I'm going to take you on a journey through the 50+ years worth of this show, showcasing the good and the bad along the way.  For each episode I'm going to give you a very brief rundown of the plot, how good/bad the story is, and anything interesting about the episode.  Basically I'll just talk about whatever comes to mind for each of them.  These will be a more in-depth overview of the series as a whole so you can see which stories or episodes (if any) you want to check out for yourself.  Today I'm going to be talking about

The Sixth Doctor
Colin Baker
Season Twenty Three

Season twenty three ran from September 6, 1986 to December 6, 1986.  It contained fourteen episodes across four stories.  We have the second season-wide story most often referred to as The Trial of a Time Lord.  It can honestly be seen as either one story of fourteen episodes or four stories.  I prefer the latter.  It had been eighteen months since the last season when the show got cancelled but due to public outcry the BBC had brought it back.  It was clear that they didn't want to because they didn't restructure the show or provide any more money... in fact they cut the budget and from this point on there would only be four stories a season.  There were arguments going on behind the scenes too.  John Nathan-Turner wanted to leave the show but the BBC wouldn't allow him to.  Head writer Eric Seyward vehemently hated Colin Baker as the Doctor and disliked his job working on the show.  Because of this they jettisoned the entire set of stories we were going to have for this season and went in a new direction.  Since the show itself was sort of on trial to see if it would continue they decided to put the Doctor on Trial through the whole season... a move that even Colin Baker thought was risky.  The show also returned to it's original 25 minute run time per episode.  This season we also say goodbye to Peri and gain quite possibly the worst companion in all of Doctor Who, Mel.

For anyone interested, the original Season 23 that was discarded entirely was supposed to include a story about a strange video arcade which saw the return of the Celestial Toymaker (a lost 1st Doctor story), a fairly standard story called The Ultimate Evil, and a story featuring the return of the Ice Warriors who hadn't been seen since Pertwee's era.  Also it was planned to include one of the strangest entries of all; it was a story set in Singapore, it was to feature The Master, The Rani, the return of the Autons who also hadn't been seen since the Pertwee Era, as well as the return of the Brigadier.  It held the title *cough* Yellow Fever and How to Cure It.

This Season is going to be hard to discuss as there are constantly interruptions, questions, and explaining going on in the courtroom in the middle of each of the first three stories.  To top it off, the evidence seems to be tampered with as stuff is skipped over, edited, or even been changed.  I'll try my best to keep these stories as understandable as can be. 

Story 144
The Mysterious Planet

The first story is The Mysterious Planet and it's four episodes long.  The Doctor and TARDIS are summoned to a Time Lord space ship and has been put on trial for meddling in the affairs of other people.  The prosecution is The Valyard who decides to show the court an adventure from the Doctor's Past.  The Doctor and Peri arrive on the planet of Ravalox where there is a struggle going on between the Saxon-like natives living above ground, and the more futuristic people living below ground who are being controlled by a giant robot.  It seems that some sort of apocalyptic event had taken place in the planet's past.  At the same time, a pair of mercenaries are attempting to destroy a generator in order to destroy the robot below.  Eventually the Doctor finds out that the planet Ravalox is actually Earth who was moved across the galaxy for some reason.  In the end, the above ground tribesmen attack the underground workers and the Doctor and Peri work with one of the mercenaries, Sabalom Glitz, to get him to take the giant robot off the planet.  The Doctor and Peri leave allowing both sets of humans to work things out together.  The Valyard uses this adventure to prove that the Doctor has been meddling in the affairs of other worlds.

This story is weird and not very good.  It is the last fully completed script by Robert Holmes as he passed away midway through writing the finale of this season.  This is really kind of boring and the things that have been edited, muted, and changed in this story make the whole thing confusing.  There are only two things that really stand out in this episode.  The mercenary duo are quite excellent and the books that have survived the apocalypse are really funny.  In most post-apocalyptic tales there are a few books that survive and structure the world around them.  Here it's The Water Babies, Moby Dick, and The UK Habitats of the Canadian Goose...which is just weird and great.  Past that there's nothing here worth seeing.

Story 145

The next story is Mindwarp and it's four episodes long.  The Valyard has decided to show an adventure from the present.  In fact, this was the adventure the Doctor was on when he was summoned.  The TARDIS lands on the planet Thoros Beta.  There they discover Sil who they last saw on Varos.  Sil's boss Kiv is dying and is having a scientist transplant his brain into another beings body so that he may live on.  When the Doctor and Peri are discovered they run for it with one of the test subject, King Ycarnos.  Later the Doctor betrays Peri and Ycarnos and begins working directly with Sil (the Doctor does not remember doing this.)  Eventually Kiv's brain is transferred into another body but it is rejecting him.  While Ycarnos gathers his men to take on Kiv's guards, the scientist decides to use Peri's body to house Kiv's mind against the Doctor's complaints.  Ycarnos and his men storm the complex and as the Doctor is rushing to save his companion, the Time Lords summon him away.  The Doctor tries to say that the Time Lords interference put Peri in mortal danger but the Valyard says his interference in the first place is what caused all this.  They watch as the operation is successful and a grief stricken Ycarnos, who had fallen in love with Peri, kills her.  The Doctor is grief sticken but starts to think there is another reason for this trial and in his defense he plans to find out why.

This is the best story of the season.  It's still not fantastic but it's far better than any of the other stories we get.  It's very surreal and confusing but it's confusing for a reason.  It's obvious that the evidence is being tampered with at this point which is good for the trial but it's bad for the story as we never really find out what truly happened.  This is the story we finally get Brian Blessed in Doctor Who as King Ycarnos and he's everything you would hope he would be.  It also has a very bitter and strong ending for Peri... an ending that will be retconned later in this season.  If there's one story to watch in this season it's this one.

Story 146
Terror of the Vervoids

The next story is Terror of the Vervoids and it's four episodes long.  It's time for the Doctor's defense and he decides to pull from the Matrix an adventure that he hasn't had yet with a companion he hasn't met yet in order to prove that he will learn from his mistakes.  The Doctor and Mel land on a space liner and quickly find that everything isn't right as people start to die, cabins on the ship are being guarded, and strange plants are hanging in the hold.  A new lifeform of plant-like aliens called Vervoids appear from the plants and start killing people.  The Doctor realizes that he must not allow the Vervoids to reach Earth or they will wipe out the planet.  With Mel's help, the Doctor finds the one and only way to stop them, which is to kill them all and save Earth.  The Valyard is pleased because now the Doctor has shown evidence of another crime...genocide of which there are no exceptions.

This story is simultaneously standard as can be but also awful.  The plant creatures look absolutely ridiculous and the story should have been called Terror of the Plant Vaginas.  I'm not entirely sure how the Doctor works out that the human race will go extinct if the Vervoids land on all.  Tagging along for her first episode is Mel who is probably the worst companion we've ever had.  Mel was designed to be a throwback to the kind of companions people thought existed in the 60's but really didn't.  Basically she's there to run around and scream...A LOT.  She does very little but get into trouble and scream.  I even prefer Adric to her.  I understand Nathan-Turner's logic in hiring a well known actress for the part but she just wasn't given any character to work with and it made her a terrible companion.  There's one other thing that really bugs me about this story.  The Valyard now says they can convict him for a story that hasn't happened yet.  The biggest part of this story is that it's a mystery and the Doctor doesn't know enough to stop the events.  Now that he's seen his own future the mystery is gone and he may not actually cause genocide in the process.  It's just...this is a mess.

Story 147
The Ultimate Foe

The last story is The Ultimate Foe and it's two episodes long.  As the Valyard closes in for a verdict on the Doctor, the Doctor claims that the evidence has been tampered with once more.  The Master appears on the Matrix screen and informs the trial that the Doctor is, indeed telling the truth.  The master has brought Sabalom Glitz and Mel to the courtroom to assist as well.  He then reveals the truth about the Valyard.  He is actually a combination of the Doctor's evil sides made flesh somewhere between his 12th and 13th regenerations.  The Valyard made a deal with the Time Lords to get the Doctor's remaining regenerations.  His plan discovered, the Valyard runs into the Matrix and the Doctor and Glitz follow.  After several weird and surreal happenings in the dream-like Matrix with help from Glitz and the Master, the Doctor and Mel finally catch the Valyard to find he intends to murder everyone in the courtroom with a disintegration bomb.  The Doctor stops the bomb and returns to the court room.  All charges are dropped and the inquisitor informs him that Peri survived and married King Ycarnos.  The Doctor leaves to take Mel back to her own time. 

This story is an absolute mess, and in many respects that was all it could have ever been.  Robert Holmes was supposed to write this two parter.  He got the first episode written but then passed away.  Eric Seyward decided to pick up the second episode but there was another argument between him and John Nathan-Turner.  Seyward wanted to end the season with the Doctor and the Valyard falling into the Time Vortex kind of like a deep space Reichenbach Falls.  JNT demanded the more happy ended we got and so Seyward quit the show.  JNT hired Pip and Jane Baker to finish the story but due to legal problems they couldn't read Holmes finished first episode or use anything Seyward had done.  They just sort of had to make things up as they went the best they knew how.  I honestly left a lot of the strange and confusing out of my description just to make it sound more coherent than it actually is.  That being said it was nice to see Geoffrey Hughes playing a role in the show.


That concludes season twenty three and the Colin Baker era.  BOY was it bad.  Somehow after the hiatus, this season was even worse than the previous one.  This is a situation where if you are a Colin Baker fan or just want to fully watch the show then check this out.  If you are neither then there's nothing here for you in all honesty.  Colin Baker deserved so much more than what he got.  He was a fantastic Doctor who drew the short end of the stick with the production.  As I've previously stated, he wanted to be the Doctor for eight seasons and he only got two as he was fired not long after this season.  It's truly the end of Colin Baker as we have yet to see him on screen again.  He was so pissed off at his treatment that he refused to return for his regeneration story/regeneration scene.  But I'll talk about that next time.  Please join me again as we continue to examine all of Doctor Who.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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