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Time's Champion - Stories of the Seventh Doctor

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Hello everyone, sorry I've not bee around much lately. This is not to do with the lack of Guyver so much as other stuff in my life. I've been planning a trip to China, which I will be going on the 14th, and have been involved in my first proper romance which has sadly recently ended after two short months. With this and work I'm naturally not had much time to be online. However befor I go I plan to start up a little blog on a recent intreast of mine. That is the Seventh Doctor from Doctor Who.

I am a long time fan of Doctor Who, sadly I was born on the very year the original series was cancelled, right in the middle of the shows final story. I did not become fully aware or interested until the new series started in 2005. But it was not just the new series I was interested in, not long after it daubed I began hunting down dvds of the original series, the first two being Carnival of Monsters and Ark in Space. I instantly fell in love the older serials. Sadly while I've collected and watched a number of them, money, space and other hobbies prevent me from fully collecting any version of the doctors full era. In the last few years I've been meaning to dedicate my intreast to at least on incarnation of the Doctor and collect all their episodes and stories outside the tv series. Naturally by the title of this thread you can guess which one I've picked but I want to go into my choice in more detail

To start with, as a premier for any who read this who may not now much or anything about the series, what is Doctor Who? In very short, Doctor Who chronicled the adventures of an eccentric time-traveling scientist from the remote planet Gallifrey, home of the Time Lords. The Doctor, a Time Lord himself, travelled through time and space in his unique craft, the TARDIS, an acronym for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. With an interior larger than its exterior, the TARDIS could take on various shapes to blend into its environment. Although capable of whisking the Doctor and his passengers to any time and any place in the universe, the craft was frequently parked on Earth in the form of a blue police box. Whether in England or in the far reaches of space, the Doctor and his colleagues battled a multitude of evils. 

An intreasting aspect of the title character is his ability to Regenerate. When a Time Lord dies this process allows them to cheat death a total of 12 times. Each time their body and mind undergo a rearrangement, resulting in a new version of the same person. This idea has allowed the series to keep going long after the original actor who portrayed the Doctor left the series as well as allowing it to likewise adapt and change along with it's new star. Each incarnation of the Doctor has their own style of stories in their respective eras. For example the First Doctor's era the show was very experimental and educational, with some of the stores being pure historical pieces with no alien menaces, while the Third Doctor's was more action/adventure with a touch of James Bond style spy drama mixed in.

It is from these incarnation's and era's I wanted to choose and explore to the fullest, but picking was not as easy as it would seem given that there 13 primary incarnations of the character and the series started in 1963.

First to be excluded were all the incarnations from the new series, that being the Ninth, Tenth Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctors. There are multiple reasons for this, the primary being that as I've gotten older I've simply become less interested the newer era. 


The Fourth Doctor was the next to be discarded. While the Fourth was the longest on screen presence of any incarnation (7 years) and is one of the most popular, this is exactly why I decided not to go with him. Call me picky if you like but as much as I love the character, his popularity makes him less intreasting to explore for me.


Next on the chopping block was the Fifth Doctor. This is for a more complex reason then the last two choices. While acted wonderfully by Peter Davison and considered the most "human" of all the Doctors incarnations, I persoanlly view the Fifth Doctor's era as being the collectively weakest of the original series. For me the stories of this era are mostly ok to serviceable with a few more duds per season compared other classic incantations of the character, there are some truly greats here and there but they are few. Then there is the Fifth Doctor himself, his more human and likable nature make him generally less intreasting then other incarnations with the actor himself never truly being shore of who his Doctor was until his final story. Further more Fifth was also lumbered with some of the least intreasting companions in the history of the show, most notable the much loathed Adric.


The Eighth Doctor was overlooked for similur reasons. Despite being the longest ongoing incarnation of the Doctor befor regenerating, 17 years, and being part of a lot of novel and audio adventures, I simply have never found Eighth that intreasting. That and the fact that his primary on screen apperances is in the ill fated Doctor Who movie.


The Second Doctor was a prime candidate to be picked. It is in his Era that the series would full crystallised into what it would be for  the franchises run, with the Doctor himself fully become the central hero. The Second Doctor is a brilliant incarnation, as seemingly whimsical cosmic tramp who uses his silly behaviour to mask his great, calculating mind. While all future version of the Doctor would possess this characteristic in some form or another, it originated with the Second. There is also the allure of the fact that most of this Doctor's episodes are lost and at this point likely unrecoverable. During the First and Second Doctors Era's the BBC was notorious for purging their archives for several reasons, which resulted in many old classic series being lost forever and Second's era was hit the hardest. What eventually made me decide not to go with this incarnation was that a close friend of mine told me they had begun collecting his stories already. 


With my first choice being taken up by my friend I began to look through other incantations.  The Third Doctor is one of the more unique incarnations, exiled to earth by his fellow Time Lords, this incarnation became the scientific advisor for UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce). The Third Doctor is considered the most technically minded version of the character as well as the one most willing to use physical force to defeat his enemies, thanks to his mastery of venusian aikido. This was also my late uncle's faviort incarnation. While I greatly enjoy stories from this era as well as the more unique character of this incarnation, in the end decided not to go with the Third Doctor as he just didn't feel like "my" Doctor.


The First Doctor came in third in my choices. His era is very different from that would come after, as the show was still in it's infancy and very experimental. That said this era has some of the most imaginative stories in all of Doctor Who and Doctor himself is at him most mysterious, with vertually nothing about his pasted ever being revealed. This incarnation is notable for being less generally heroic then his piers, in part due to his morality initially being more grey and his advanced age leading him to rely more on his companions then later Doctors. This incarnation also goes through a lot of character development, changing from a suspicious but intelligent old man to a wise grandfatherly figure. In his case he simple lost out to my number one choice.


The Sixth Doctor came very, very close to being number one as anyone who remembers that I once used his name for myself a while back. An intreasting incarnation who was initially intended to make the character darker and more mysterious again after the very human Fifth Doctor, Sixth suffered from a lot of behind the scenes turmoil. The Sixth Doctor was pompous, arrogant, mercurial and had zero fashion sense. But he was also larger then life and truly cared about people. This Doctor's mental state suffered greatly during his regeneration to the point he almost killed his companion and in later years would struggle much against his darker nature, sometimes very much literally in the case of the Valeyard, a being who is the embodiment of all the Doctor's inner evil. This incarnation is generally and, as far as I'm concerned, wrongly viewed as one of the worst incarnations of the character. This mainly comes from the fact that the BBC were looking to cancel the show and due to their interference the "Trial of a Time Lord" season was a total disaster. However these factors along with darker portrayal and technicolour costume as lead a lot of people retroactively blame the Sixth Doctor for the shows problems and later cancelation when in reality his first stand alone season was generally superior to any of the fifth Doctor's. All these factors are what lead me to take an intreast in this incarnation but he eventually lost out to my number one choice.


The Seventh Doctor was the last incarnation of the classic series and the seconds longest running incarnation in terms of years befor he regenerated. Described as both a chess master, time's champion and potentially the darkest incarnation of the character in the franchise's history, this Doctor is the one I find the most intreasting and the one I'll be exploring here. I'll start by watching all his televised stories and then move on his audio dramas, which I will go through in the suspected chronological order. Will the Seventh Doctor prove to be intreasting to examine?


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Time and the Rani


Plot: The Rani has returned after her last encounter with the Doctor, with yet another malicious scientific scheme. Taking advantage of the post-regenerative trauma the recently regenerated and unstable Doctor is going through, the Rani hopes to achieve control of an approaching asteroid composed entirely of strange matter. Can the Doctor figure out he is being used for the Rani's evil experiment, and what is behind the door the Rani won't allow the Doctor past?

Information and Thoughts: To say that the Seventh Doctor's era started with difficulties is like saying the Beetles were a mildly successful band. The show had been going through what was easily it's most tumultuous period over the previous two years, stuck in the middle of a three way battle between a producer who wanted to leave, a disgruntled head script-editor and BBC high up looking to cancel the show. While this didn't effect the 22nd season to badly, personally I think it's pretty great with only one poor story, things all came to a head in the 23erd Season. The BBC executives became actively hostile, messing with the shows budget and run time. The head writer, who had been ill during the production of the season long story arc "Trial of a Time Lord", died leaving the story without a proper conclusion. The script-editor quite and in an act of spite legally forbad the production team from using any ideas from the deceased writers notes on how the story would end. Naturally this all resulted in what is easily the worst season in the classic series entire run and left none truly knowing what the future held.

Fans and the general audience also turned against the show at this time, due to the bad stories, complaints of the shows increasing violence during the high of the video nasties scare and the BBC actively working to turn them against Doctor Who.

It was in this atmosphere that Seventh Doctor's era came into being, and it didn't get any easier. The producer, who thought he'd finally be leaving, was told at the eleventh hour that he was going to have to stay and that the show would continue but only if Colin Baker (the Sixth Doctor) was fired. So not only was the show going to now have less episodes and less budget, it now had no script editor and no leading man. By the time that was all rectified they also had only have the normal production time. 

An up cliff battle if I ever saw one.

Prior to starting this dedicated following of the Seventh Doctor's era, I have only ever watched stories from his later season were the character was more developed and the show back on track. I'd never watched any of season 24 till now and the difference from this story from what would come later is almost whiplash inducing. The story is clearly suffering from massive re-edits to compensate for the change in leading man as well as  possible other changes enforced by the BBC or fear of being perceived as to violent. This is made worse by the fact that it's not a particularly strong story anyway with parts of the Rani's plan making no logical sense. Production wise its a very mixed bag. Most of the story takes place on location in a quarry or on sets, with said sets looking about average for the show. The enslaved Lakertyrans, who are ment to be reptile humanoids, look passible enough but Rani's henchman, the bat like Tetraps, look positively awful despite having well functioning animatronic heads. Where issues crop up rather noticeably is in the animated/digital affects. The Tetrap's guns fire awful looking sparkles which turn into a net, which appear to be dropped on the actors head, a swarm of killer insects is represented by 3 or 4 green fly blobs on screen and while this is the first time a 3D model of the TARDIS is ever used in the series, it looks severely dated. On the plus side most of the miniatures used for the story look pretty good, save for the Tetraps's Lair. There are also one or two moments of green screen that don't look particularly good ether. 

Perhaps the worst part of the whole thing is how unceremonious the Sixth Doctor end is. While multiple later works would try to rework events preceding the TARDIS's crash landing to give Sixth a more dignified ending, which we will be touching on after we've gone though all the main episodes, at the time and within the continuity of just the show it really just looks like the Doctor fell and banged his head. It's easily the worst death suffered by any incarnation of the Doctor. This all came about becuase the BBC would not allow Colin Baker to reprise his role for one more full story. He in turn refused to come back for the regeneration, which resulted in Sylvester McCoy having to dawn a wig and have bad CGI affects put over his face.

It's pretty hard to judge the Seventh Doctor in this story. Not only becuase this is a regeneration story, in which the character is always more erratic, but also because McCoy had had no time to develop the character. The Rani giving him amnesia and trying to manipulate him only compounds the problem. As a result Seventh in this story comes off as a bumbling professor who constantly gets old saying wrong such as "Absence makes the nose grow longer" and "Time and tide melt the snowman". That said, while he lacks the darker intensity he would later have, characteristic's of the Seventh Doctor personality can be seen here. In particular moments were he broods about not now who he is or talks about sensing evil. He also has noticablie more humility then the Sixth Doctor. In spite of all the problems though I think McCoy performance is entertaining enough but it clearly lacks any kind of direction. Honestly if this was my introduction to the Seventh Doctor I'd likely not be as interested in his era. As for his outfit, I've always liked it. Yes the question mark jumper is a bit on the nose but you get used to it very quickly.

His companion Mel is a bit of an odd duck. She was introduced during the confusing Trial of a Time Lord story arc were we see her in the Sixth Doctor's future. How she came to travel with him is a total mystery within the series, though again later works have explained their meeting. Mel is ment to a computer expert and something of a fitness freak, though in this story you'd be had pressed to tell. While in the last season she was never written in a way that fully displayed what her character was described as being, here she' relegated to mostly being kidnapped, held hostage or screaming and generally dose little to advance the plot beyond finding the Doctor and getting him to come to his senses. That scene is also one of the better parts of the story as Mel was knocked out when they crashed and had no idea the doctor regenerated.

The Rani is sadly a noticable downgrade from her dabut in Mark of the Rani. The Rani is a rogue time lord like the Doctor and the Master, she is a brilliant chemist who suffers from a total lack of empathy. She see's the universe in chemical process and scientific facts, though she dose also possess a desire to rule and was the queen of at least two worlds at some point. She's was created to be something of an oppasite to the theatrical, over the top evil the Master displayed in his overly complicated schemes. But again you'd never have guess tat if this was your introduction to the character. While her end goal is very much in line with the her personality, her plan is full of logical flaws and pointless complications. It's a real shame because Kate O'Mara is fantastic in the role and dose a great job of elevating the material. 

The rest of the caste do an ok job, their are no real stand outs good or bad.

On a side note, while it dose look very dated by todays standards, I've always loved the Seventh Doctor's title sequence. In fact I'll say it's my faviort. I'm not shore if the 3D model of the TARDIS used in the episode was the same as the one used  in the title but the title model looks better at least to me. I also want to say that I have a real soft spot for this really old CGI even if I do give it the odd jab now and then. It gives the Seventh Doctor's era a distinct visual look from pretty much every other era of the show.

To sum up this is not a very good example of the show or introduction to our new leading man. It's very messy and in much need  of some polish but then given what was going on behind the scenes I can't be too hard on it. The is a lot of disagreement over wither Time and the Rani or The Twin Dilemma is the worst story in classic Doctor Who, ad the worst post regeneration story. In my opinion they are equal in different way. I feel that Time and the Rani has the better production values and story, for all it's flaws, but is really let down by not having a clear idea of the Doctor's character. Twin Dilemma a worst story and production but is elevated by Tom Baker's performance. While I can't say If this is the worst of doctor Who, I can only recommend this story on the fact that this is the Seventh Doctor's first appearance and not much else.

Final Score: 2/5


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