Friday, 10 February 2012

Overview: Doctor Who Classic: Season 19

As part of my Five marathon, at the end of each season in Five's era I'll examine the characterisations of the main TARDIS crew. You could also see these as similar to my Character sheets. Season 19 was a brave new time for Who, as Davison's Doctor had to follow on from the immensely popular Tom Baker, as well as fighting with a Tardis that had far too many companions. Why only the characters? Well, that's all I care about.

The major parts of Davison's cricket-loving
persona are found in this season.
Five (Peter Davison) - Tristan but brave
(All Season)

He was fresh. Energetic. After the bitterness of Tom's final years, Davison was a breath of fresh air for a production team used to working with a lead actor more experienced than themselves. The character itself was a bold change for Doctor Who; a precursor of sorts to the 10th and 11th Doctors. Five was by the far the youngest Doctor that we'd ever seen.
      In Season 19, Davison's portrayl does draw a lot from his previous work on All Creatures Great And Small. In a now-famous interview before the season aired, one young fan asked that Five's personality be "Tristan, but brave." Such is inevitable after Davison's long time on All Creatures, and one of the major changes between Five and Four is that while Baker could command authority instantly, Five is very much the wanderer who has to work diplomatically to gain people's trust.
     Fundamentally speaking, this first season is the one in which Five plays less of an active role in the story's resolution. Instead, his character is given a lot of emotional beef to deal with - Adric's death especially played for tears. If anything can be said, it's that Davison certainly suits it better than any that had come before.

Adric whined incessantly and then died quietly.
Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) - Whine whine
(From Castrovalva to Earthshock)

Adric. Where to begin? The character was introduced in the previous season as part of JNT's preparation for the regeneration. Let's just say that it wasn't the best choice. Adric is characterised by his whiny, arrogant slip of a personality. He assumes authority and superiority in every given situation regardless of tact or convenience.  
     Despite his many list of characterisation crimes, he really hits his irritance peak in Four to Doomsday, in which he is sexist and idiotic enough to believe that the megalomaniac Monarch has benevolent intentions for humanity. Despite the fact that he only has four more stories left, he doesn't really annoy me in any of them, shy of Earthshock itself.
      Earthshock is not one of my favourite stories. It's tacky, and its only real decent writing is on the first episode. However, to its credit, it really is Doctor Who's last surprise. The Cybermen, despite their reintroduction, aren't the most important part of the story - Adric, and his belated demise, is the story's only redeeming feature.

Nyssa never changed out of her regal
gear until the next season.
Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) - "The only one who wants to be there."
(All Season)

Nyssa of Traken was never intended to be here. Created by Johnny Bryne for The Keeper of Traken in the previous season, Nyssa was a bio-mechanist from the planet Traken -  a planet that was destroyed by the Master in Logopolis. She was only written into Logopolis and then the series when JNT was impressed by her performance. Despite this, Peter Davison fought with JNT to prevent him killing her in Earthshock, leading to Adric's demise instead. His reasons are immediately clear.
       Wheras the other two companions can be irritatingly in-your-face, Nyssa is the exact opposite. She's an intellectual, like The Doctor, and the only one of the three actually capable of understanding his technobabble. Because of the fact that she was a brave, intelligent woman, she of course got very little to do. The production team needed companions that could easily get into trouble, and for Nyssa that just wasn't logical. Because of this, she spends a criminally long amount of time in the Tardis, especially so in brilliant stories like Kinda in which she was randomly comatose.
    Unfortunately Nyssa doesn't get a hell of a lot of character development in Season 19, which is reserved for the next season. However, she does get some lovely character work in my favourite story of the season, Black Orchid, where her character is starkly opposed to her doppelganger Ann Talbot. Nyssa wouldn't get this sort of character work again until she leaves.

Tegan (Janet Fielding) - Mouth on Legs
(All Season, supposedly leaves at the end.)

Tegan's character was a twofold creation. She was mainly there to make the show popular with Australian viewers, but a popular tale told by Davison reveals that she was an airline hostess soley to get free flights on Quantus Airlines. Fundamentally speaking, Tegan never wanted to be there, and this entire season is spent trying to get back to Heathrow 1981. In fact, they finally make it in the season's final serial, Time-Flight. The results, if you remember from Monday, weren't all that pleasant.
     Luckily, despite all of her moaning and groaning and being generally all-round useless, Tegan does get a decent story in the form of Kinda. Her best stuff is in the first two episodes, which are a complex philosophical exploration of the self. The Mara stories are the only time that Tegan won't be irritating for the average viewer, and Kinda is certainly the more powerful of the two.
      The one thing you have to notice about Tegan is that she is the Jamie to Davison's Doctor. She is one of the longest running companions in the series' history, and her presence oft defines Five's era. If I'm perfectly honest, I don't know why. Tegan didn't want to be there, and we shared her thoughts exactly.


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