The Top Ten Doctor Introduction Stories
|LISTS - TV LISTS|
With Matt Smith set to 'find his Doctor' on Saturday, let's see how his predecessors fared in this delicate moment...
Pretty handy that there's ten stories to chose from in a Top Ten list, huh? That's the beauty of Who - it's the TV gift that keeps on giving, and it'll be giving us rabid fans - and the equally-enthusiastic general public - even more when, this Saturday, Matt Smith takes over from everybody's favourite lanky, allons-y! spouting goofball-cum-lonely-god Tenth Doctor. Anticipations are high and the media guffstorm is in full swing, so what better way to celebrate Smith and Gillan's Who debut than a quick critical run-down of the stories that have introduced us to the newest incarnation of TV's Top Time Lord*.
*After Castellan Spandrell, obviously.
9/10: The Twin Dilemma and/or Time and the Rani (equally lacking in merit)
It's a bit of a shame that two of Who's Doctor-introducing stories are arguably two of the worst stories in the show's history, and choosing which one of these crapsacks comes in shameful, shameful last place is like picking between dog shit and cat shit. The Twin Dilemma edges slightly ahead thanks to Colin Baker's performance which, though obnoxious, is at least an attempt to take the character in a new and interesting direction. Unfortunately, the rest of Dilemma pulls it back to the level of gaudy, ill-conceived schlock, with a boss-eyed slug, some fist-chewingly poor design, execrable dialogue and an eminently slappable pair of twins all vying loudly to the worst thing about it.
Time and the Rani fares no better. Penned by Pip and Jane Baker, easily the worst writers to ever have worked on the show, it starts off piss-poor and trickles downhill from there. Kate O'Mara chews the scenery like she hasn't eaten in weeks, McCoy hasn't a clue what he's doing (blame the script, folks) and, well, Bonnie Fucking Langford...we don't even get a proper reason for the regeneration, dagnabbit. Still, there's some nifty effects and the Tetraps look kinda cool.
8: The TV Movie
I'm sticking this one low on the list purely 'cause it's a massive missed opportunity. It looks lavish and, up to that point, was the most visually assured episode we'd ever seen. McCoy gets a mournful send-off while McGann gets off to a cracking start - in all honesty, the first half of the movie (Chipmunk-voiced Daleks aside) is a smart and engaging bit of Who. Ah, but then we get to the storyline, a mishmash of plot-holes, half-cocked canon and magic TARDIS fairy dust. A for effort, E for execution.
Ah, the curate's egg of the bunch. There's a lot about Rose that's very, very good, but the bad bits sour what would have otherwise been a fine introduction to RTD's NuWho. Eccleston's goofiness doesn't convince and there's some truly horrible comedy moments from Mickey (who only gets better as the series progresses, thankfully) and that goddamn burping bin. The Autons are totally wasted here too. RTD gets a lot of flak for the episode's failings, but cool your boots when it comes to criticism - let's lay that squarely at the feet of director Keith Boak, who mangles the style and tone of the ep to jarring, uncomfortable effect. Lucky things picked up, eh...?
There's not an awful lot to be said about Castrovalva, to be honest. It's not bad, but neither is it an epoch-making introduction after Doc Four's inimitable reign. The first episode, mostly set inside the TARDIS, gives Davison some much-needed opportunities to show us what kind of Doctor we're in for, which is lucky, seeing as bugger-all else happens. When the action moves to Castrovalva the pace is similarly slack. It's by no means an uninteresting story - it's just a rather slow one. The cliffhanger for episode three is a corker, though.
5: Power of the Daleks
If we ever get the chance to see Power in all its glory, chances are it'd appear far higher in the list. Daleks and Troughton? I should coco, especially when the former are back to their malevolent, plotting selves as opposed to the stock robot villains of The Chase and Masterplan - they haven't been this creepy since their introduction three years ago. Troughton's portrayal must've been a bit of a mindfuck for contemporary audiences, but Power abides, historically and thematically, as the story that first introduced the world to the Doctor's ability to renew. Fingers crossed it turns up, perfectly preserved, in the basement of some Estonian TV station someday.
In fourth place it's number four: Big Bad Baker himself. It's easy to dismiss Robot as silly, chiefly because it's really fucking silly. But there's a verve and joy here, and some bits are really nicely shot. Others aren't though, and you ain't gonna see me defending that stupid tank. There's also some cracking performances from Edward Burnham and Michael Kilgariff, and Baker shows signs of his impending greatness when he winds his neck in around episode two. The Robot itself is a flawless piece of design work, and heck, I like it 'cause it's among the best Who stories to watch when you're totally pissed.
3: The Christmas Invasion
In the same way Rose introduced us to the Doctor through the eyes of, well, Rose, here we get the same treatment with regeneration. It's pretty unique in the list in that the Doctor's barely in it, so we don't get much insight into his character until the concluding fifteen minutes. What we get instead is a ballsy, brash, alien invasion, with some nifty character development and chunky, satisfying plotting. More spectacle than subtlety, The Christmas Invasion works by dint of proving Who had life after Eccleston, and also 'cause we get to watch Who on Christmas Day which, let's face it, is pretty awesome by anyone's standards.
2: Spearhead From Space
I'm a massive fan of series 7, so it's no surprise that Spearhead takes second-to-top spot. After his previous, rather lacklustre offerings The Space Pirates and The Krotons, writer Robert Holmes shows us what he's really capable of. The Autons are creepy in concept and execution, The Brig's on top form and Pertwee manages to nail it from the second he says "shoooooooez". It's a rollicking ride, scary and effective, smart without being preachy and action-packed without seeming forced. An absolute classic that still stands up today.
1: An Unearthly Child
Only really one possibility for the top spot, I'm afraid. OK, so it's cranky and a bit naff in places, but c'mon, if it wasn't for An Unearthly Child we wouldn't have any of the stories above. Yup, there are ones above that have better stories, better acting, better design... but none of them introduced us to the concept of the lonely wanderer from Gallifrey and his knackered old time machine for the very first time. And that alone, my friends, is worth the top spot.
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