Battle of the Seasons – Round Two


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.

2 Responses to “Battle of the Seasons – Round Two”

  1. Peter A Says:

    Argh. My sick-note Season (20) has gone down to Troughton and a poorly-spelled “sequelitis”. Jono – the way you had it had me reading it as ‘Segalitis’, a horror far beyond anyone’s imagining*. Still, it’s not like you can change the spelling now, or this reply will look even less pointful!

    *(although who’s to say having Erica Eleniak springing out of a giant cake wouldn’t have improved Terminus no end?)

  2. Foo Says:

    Mmmm, cake

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