Friday, 31 January 2014

Overview: Doctor Who Classic: Season 15

Written between 17th and 19th July 2013
Tom's look of despair sums up my thoughts.
It appears that I'm not exactly a Graham Williams fan. Make no assumptions - I didn't start out with an agenda against him, it just seems like the two full seasons of his that I've seen have been rather diappointing. There's still the Key To Time, so I can't write it all off, and by saying this I am by no means saying that I found nothing in Season 15 to entertain me. The changeover from Hinchcliffe and Holmes to Williams and Reed feels like a difficult and turbulent one, as the series jerks back and forth between stories which emanate the gothic roots of previous seasons and then newer, less well-done stories with their own charms. It feels like there was a desperate attempt to capture what has been previously successful.
     The season's two gothic stories, The Horror of Fang Rock and The Image of the Fendahl, both have highly atmospheric writing and both are incredibly similar to the bread and butter of the Hinchcliffe and Holmes era. They both suffer, like those stories, from fundamentally underdeveloped concepts, and due to that they threaten to bore me silly. Horror is especially dry, but special mention must be made for Fendahl, which rattles along like a tumbleweed on a dry windy day until the final episode, where the concept gets thrown at us in spades. They appear as remnants of the prior era, but I don't know in my heart if that's a bad thing consider the rest of the season.
     The first few glimpses into the new era's style come in the form of The Invisible Enemy and The Sun Makers, two stories which I love and the only two in this season I can say that for outright. The Invisible Enemy is filled to the brim with an inescapable charm that surpasses its technical limitations, whereas Robert Holmes' temporary swansong The Sun Makers is a biting and hilarious parody of the UK tax system, which feels relevant despite how vicious it can be, perhaps unfairly in some areas. That these two different types of stories oscillate like this is very, very odd and marks the season's unevenness.
They tried, they did.
     And then we get to the stinkers. While the gothic stories and Underworld are the only stories in the season which I found truly unwatchable, one gets the feeling that the budgetary problems weren't being met with the same vigour as before, and for reasons that I don't know (but which likely do exist and an are fully justifiable), the season's budget tends to run incredibly low near the end, resulting in the horrifically bad Underworld and The Invasion of Time, which is badly executed even if charming in its own incompetance. (I mean, green screen is visible in some of the corridor shots. They used the green sheet itself as a wallpaper cos they couldn't find anything else.)
     The final season in my runthrough of Four will be Season 16. After the relative shambles of this season, Anthony Read will move onto the series' first official arc. It was a move brought on to unify the season, the one that came after this season, one in which you never know from story to story what the style or theme or general level of competance is going to be. It ranks almost effortlessly at the bottom of my list of seasons from the Classic Series, and that's a shame because I'm sure that the production team at the time were really trying to follow up what had been considered by many to be the show's Golden Age.


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