Archive for the ‘BATTLE OF THE SEASONS’ Category

So – how did it end?

Friday, January 25th, 2008


You’ll laugh, really, but it appears that with 2007 being such an enormously busy year what with the blog starting, the blog’s teething problems, commitments to other zines, broken arms and trips hither and yon, Battle of the Seasons, the possibly-awaited follow up to 2006′s controversial Companion vs Companion series (it was in the pubzine. Leela won), was never completed. Colour us stupid!

For the sake of anyone who was following at home, and in order to prevent any future discoveries of the thing in a Mormon Church basement in Hong Kong or something, here’s how it was going to turn out:


Season 5 VS Season 13

So it comes to this – monsters. How clairvoyant! But which season has the best? Which offers the most originality between a year of stories that feature two returning monsters from the stable, and a new monster with built-in sequel to boot; and one based around the idea of pastiching other people’s classics? They’re both the Devil’s sweetmeats! And it’s the Devil’s job deciding between the two.

It seems false to elect the season of which very little survives because the implication therein is that one is basing their choice on the reputation of fan mythology. On the other hand, choosing Season Thirteen surely smacks of populism and a lack of originality! Perhaps the choice is Solomon’s: if we were to lose both seasons right this moment, which would we miss the most – that which we’d enjoyed or knew the less about? Which would we want back?

Feeling all a little Meryl Streep at this moment, if we HAD to choose, Season 13 could be surrended, letting go of one year of Tom Baker whilst knowing there are two, maybe three other years which are about as good. With Pat Troughton, S5 is the one to watch out for. Fans can be wrong about the things they revere – they’ve been wrong before and there are still some out there who think we were wrong to be so rose-tinted about ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ once it was discovered.

But you know what? The reputation it once enjoyed was great not because it was misplaced, but because for those fans in the 80s who carried a flame for it, it had been to some a formitive experience – Season Five was the monster season built for kids to enjoy with a friendly Doctor, young companions and plenty of harmless scares, compared to which the sophisticated horrors of the Holmes-Hinchcliffe era Season Thirteen come across as something a little harder, a little less childlike, a little more bloody, a little more frightening, without the reassurance of an uncle-like Time Lord to steer the young viewer through. It’s that formula of childlike wonder and frights that makes the new series the success it is today – not the more mature ‘serious’ adult horror of later years that older and slightly more complacent fans would embrace in its wilderness years.

So in the end, with our three intrepid voters unanimous in agreement, the Best. Season. Ever. crown goes to:




Saturday, July 28th, 2007


Oh… it’s getting down to the nitty gritty now, isn’t it! 4 seasons battle it out for the title of Best. Season. Ever. Ooooh… the anticipation…..

On the face of it, Series 1 has the unfair advantage of being intact and ready for inspection, but it has that oft-claimed emotional depth, while Season 5′s quiet moments are far between in among a, to be fair, cracking set of stories. But in breaking it down further, the folly of youth is exposed - Series 1 had soap-opera moments between Doctor and companion, Season 5 did that first. Series 1 had big green monsters, Season 5 did that first. Series 1 had the Daleks, Season 5…didn’t. But where Doctor 9 stood back, Doctor 2 got stuck in, and presented us with the ultimate hobo hero. Season 5 is the winner on all counts.

Mighty Season 13 versus new kid Season 19! Baker settling into his role, Davison dipping his toe in the water, with squabbling kids all around him at the edge of the pool. Jump, Peter, Jump! Oh, no. This time Tom’s pool is deeper – pastiche so clever it runs several sources deep (Forbidden Planet meets Jekyll and Hyde? The Avengers meets The Quatermass Experiment), and there’s really only one dodgy old band-aid lurking at the bottom of it, courtesy of that Nation kid. Davison’s watering hole tastes refreshing to be sure, but there’s only one really good sweet spot, in the shade of Deva Loka and the sting of Adric’s death. Trust us – you’ll stay long enough in Tom’s billabong to have prunish Zygon-looking fingers and toes in comparison!

Battle of the Seasons – Quarterfinals

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007


It’s on to the quarterfinals, as we aim to find out which season of Doctor Who was the best ever… 


How do you like your eggs done? Sunny-side up or hard-yolk Gothic? It’s all a matter of taste, and neither season can sustain the flavour long enough to be the ‘definitive’ Fourth Doctor season (if there is such a thing). By Season 17, the series is winging along without a care in the world. Tom Baker could do no wrong, and Lalla Ward was the delight of the nation. The scripts were witty and life was high. But when push comes to shove, it’s Season 13, because spine-chilling cliffhangers built the series, and it’s the programme’s birthright to every young sofa-shielded viewer.  


Now the weak parts begin to show themselves. The Key to Time season – the first ‘arc’ in many a year, is, sadly, an imperfect beast. It has its ups and its downs, and structurally, it’s a bit wobbly with Megaran meanderings and a finale that’s at least one episode and an OTT performance from the lead too long. They say memory cheats, but Season 19 does have a more pleasant ‘aftertaste’ about it that Season 16, more fonder moments. So Season 19 it is. And by God, Season 19 – it’s so YOUNG! 


Mummy! Monsters everywhere – which to choose from? Season 14 definitely has the scares, but Tom in his ‘back off, I’m an alien’ phase does lack the warmth of Pat Troughton’s cosmic fun uncle. If all of Season 5 were still about and intact the answer might be different (as it was with its last-recovered story), but for many it’s still a gem waiting to be unearthed. People, it’s worth the dig. The quality of the stories, the acting and the heart behind Season 5 is a tough call to beat, and Season 14 just hasn’t the chops to stand up to it. 


What a difference fifteen years make, eh? Season 26 is a series in its dotage, still learning new tricks through denial of the old ones. Mysterious? Aloof? Unearthly? Done that – here’s another spin before tea-time and an early night. Truth be told, some of Season 26 creaks a little after all these years, and while Series 1 is by no means self-assured, it symbolically opens with a buzzing alarm clock, the rest has clearly done it good, and those old criticisms and bad jokes about Daleks, stairs and wobbly sets get sent packing. General “fan” opinion certainly makes this match-up a foregone conclusion, but when you consider the scripts and the care that was taken, and the gloss (taking into account the budget available)…well, in this case, the fans are right. Series 1 is the winner.

Battle of the Seasons – Round Two

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007


16 seasons made it through the first brutal round to find the best season of Doctor Who ever. Now they go head to head…

An intriguing face-off. In Season 1 we have adventures that neatly alternate between Earth’s History and Outer Space, laying down the framework for what was to be the standard range of stories. By Season 14 everything’s different, and the format is tighter, faster, more generic. Tellingly, the best of Season 14 involves pastiche, be it Sherlock Holmes and Fu Manchu, Agatha Christie or the remaining Hammer Horror of the previous year. Season 1 has no previous year and no source inspiration. But we know which one we’d rather sit down and watch again – it’s hard to beat the original but stylistically its counterpart is far superior. Season 14 by a whisker.

SEASON 2 VS SERIES 1 (Eccleston)

Okay, the gloves are coming off now. Season 2 gives a range of stories, including several stories set nowhere near Earth, a feat Series 1 never accomplished on-screen and only teased us about. Season 2 is the first year the show began to laugh at itself with outright comedies and farcical episodes supporting more heavyweight community-based thrillers like ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ and ‘The Crusade’. The adventure is high, but strangely aloof – the departures of Susan, Ian and Barbara already seeming routine and survivable. Eccleston’s season is the opposite, with the emotional investment between Doctor and Companion – and Viewer, at an (at that point) unsurpassed high. With that as its vital ingredient, the ride of Rose’s first year far surpasses that of Vicky’s.

The Monster Season versus the Anniversary Season! Both continuity-heavy, Season 5 will always wear the crown of not only reinventing the Cybermen just when they needed it most badly, but also including every iconic Yeti story (i.e. both of them) and introducing the Ice Warriors for future generations. It’s the attack of ‘sequalitis’ for Season 20 as innovative ideas are passed over for recycling previous elements of the show. Season 5 manages to recycle even within its own season, but starts trends more than continues them. Win to Season 5.

Season 24 offers an aborted version of the Seventh Doctor, created almost in absentia from a collection of showman gimmicks and question mark motifs – kill it, kill it now. Season 16 is the Fourth Doctor about to reach full swagger, with only one companion’s regeneration away from total indulgence. Each season is settling into a dangerous rut. Though it has its flaws and sloppy internal structure (‘Tara’ dispenses with the umbrella theme in five minutes!), Season 16 is the bolder season – it presents a better range of stories and had an overarching theme to boot. Season 24 goes down in a bubble-gum-esque heap


The end of the Fourth or the end of the Seventh, eh? The Burgundy and the Brown. Which to choose? The answer is in the wearer, it seems, for while the mental image of the Seventh Doctor is one of an actor enjoying his newly empowered role, Tom Baker’s maroon ensemble is quite plainly a straitjacket, and so it’s a slow lonely shamble for him towards the radio telescope while Sylvester slyly strolls off optimistically into some bushes with Ace at his side. It’s the end for both of them, but the Seventh Doctor, perhaps the one who is simultaneously most and least prepared, is the one that goes out with a song.

Serious versus silly! Both Doctors are at the height of their game story-wise (has any Doctor since had such a strong opening as Pertwee?), but it’s the stories that make these seasons so utterly difficult and different. Season 7′s world is ultimately a cynical one of human failure and folly, with the Doctor mankind’s last hope against himself. Season 17 is an intergalactic romp around time and space with an unbeatable team. It’s safe, and it’s fun. You know where you are, and it’s the perfect tea-time treat. Even sawn-off as it is, Shada-bereft, Season 17 still takes some beating. Season 7 is glorious, but not what you think of when you think of Doctor Who. In fact, it almost feels like a completely different show. It’s controversial, and one of us will be crying for a while, but majority rules – Season 17 it is.

Oh, the silver anniversary season. Only problem is, it absolutely failed to be that spectacular, though it did contain some interesting stories and arguably Sylvester’s finest in ‘Remembrance’. Season 19 has an arsenal of Quantel, Paddy Kingsland, Christopher Bailey and the best surprise return of any classic monster in the old series’ history (Silver Nemesis – the least surprising?). Season 25 is good – but it’s not there just yet.

Terror and evil mark both seasons, but where 8 has claws, 13 has a brain. Can we just say Season 13 “because”?! No, the reason Season 8 falls behind season 13 is the same reason it starts and ends strongly – it has a flabby middle while the latter year’s work is really only the less for one story. The result? Season 13′s Gothic quality is the better all-rounder.

Monday, April 30th, 2007


Some are classics, some are dogs, some are wildly different. But when it comes down to it, which season shines through as Doctor Who’s Best. Season. Ever?


So there haven’t been 32 seasons… to make this crazy game work, 3 seasons get a free pass to round 2. Here’s what was chosen and why:

SEASON 16This season was a wonderful idea for Doctor Who. Yes, there is still basically the same structure as in other seasons of differing stories, but they are all tied together under one ‘arc’ that has varying impacts on the stories involved. It added a nice extra layer to the stories (the Doctor had to do more than just ‘win’ the story, he had to get the next puzzle piece), as well as providing an important ethical moment in the last third of The Armageddon Factor which revealed a nice humanistic touch in dealing with Astra’s life. JE

SEASON 20 – Season 20 is often maligned for not bringing anything new to the table – most of its stories are sequels in one way or another and the season relies on the return of several villains – the Black Guardian, Omega, the Daleks, the Mara. The stories are fine, and some of them have some great moments, but to a good number of reviewers the season is seen as being somewhat less than the sum of those parts, and just too self-indulgent by far. It would be a tough call for any season to bear that sort of reputation, so I thought it needed a leg up. PA

SEASON 25 – It may not quite have delivered on its anniversary season promise, but Season 25 shouldn’t be hampered, just because it contains Silver Nemesis! Leaving that little nugget of joy aside, in terms of diversity, you can’t really beat it. Greatest Show is still in my mind a hugely underrated gem, and Happiness Patrol for all its faults was suitably bonkers. As an example of improvement on the season before it, Season 25 deserves a free run. The ride ahead may not be so smooth though… JP