thuviaptarth: golden thuvia with six-legged lion (Default)
thuvia ptarth ([personal profile] thuviaptarth) wrote2010-08-21 12:35 pm
Entry tags:

Okay, I give in

Rec me Classic Who.
laurashapiro: (fantastic)

YAY!

[personal profile] laurashapiro 2010-08-21 05:07 pm (UTC)(link)
I started with the Fourth Doctor, and I can't help but suggest you do the same -- he is iconic for a reason.*

Douglas Adams wrote a couple of series for Four, so if you like Douglas Adams, you might try The Pirate Planet, Shada, or City of Death.

The transition from Four to Five I remember as being very interesting narratively, encompassing as it does critical elements of the epic Key to Time series. Lots of good stuff there, including Romana and Turlough.

I have heard fabulous things about Seven and Ace, but I haven't got there yet.

You know to expect epic low-budget scenery, monsters, and effects, right?

*I've still not seen any One, Two, or Three so I can't offer comments on those series, but I know [personal profile] ellen_fremedon and [personal profile] trelkez can.
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Re: YAY!

[personal profile] ellen_fremedon 2010-08-22 05:11 am (UTC)(link)

*I've still not seen any One, Two, or Three so I can't offer comments on those series, but I know ellen_fremedon and greensilver can.

Psst! Look downthread!
laurashapiro: Sarah Jane looks happy. The Fourth Doctor looks concerned. (four and sarah jane)

Re: YAY!

[personal profile] laurashapiro 2010-08-22 06:00 pm (UTC)(link)
Holy cow. That's a lot of work you just did.
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[personal profile] ellen_fremedon 2010-08-21 05:38 pm (UTC)(link)
CLASSIC WHO YAY YAY YAY!!!

If you've been enjoying Eleven, you will probably like a lot of oldschool Who. Some of the earlier stuff, especially-- Eleven has been reminding me strongly of Two and Three.

You can pretty much start anywhere with oldschool-- there is continuity, but it tends to be the sort where knowing context makes the story richer, not the sort where you have to know the background to come in. And as you've probably noticed with newschool, each Doctor and each Doctor-companion(s) team has a different vibe, so if you don't click with one Doctor, you can move on and find something more to your liking-- with 26 years of the classic series, plus huge swathes of contradictory paracanon, there is no shortage of Who!

As for where to start-- back when I was doing Who 101 for people who had only seen Eccleston, I always used to suggest starting with a sampling of episodes from different Doctors, to illustrate the breadth of the character, but since you've seen three Doctors already, I don't think there's any reason not to just jump in with one Doctor and stay there for a while, if you find one you like.

(Rambling on specific Doctors in next comment.)
Edited 2010-08-22 03:38 (UTC)
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[personal profile] ellen_fremedon 2010-08-23 01:29 am (UTC)(link)
My thoughts on yaoi Who, let me show you them. I have rather strong opinions on the subject /o\.

Regarding Five through Seven, my brief recommendation is "Don't Start Here." Five is better when you come in from the last season of Four, Six you mostly want to watch as homework for the excellent Sixth Doctor audioplays, and by Seven's time there's a lot of storytelling shorthand that assumes you're familiar with the universe and more interested in the characters and the worldbuilding than in this week's monster, and I don't know how well his episodes play without that familiarity.
loligo: River, with a gun (rivergun)

[personal profile] loligo 2010-08-21 05:40 pm (UTC)(link)
Like so many other people, I watched the Fourth Doctor in syndication on PBS when I was in high school. I don't remember anything about the episodes; skimming the summaries on Wikipedia, I know I watched them all, because the names are all familiar, but nothing about the plots stands out. All I remember is that my crush on Tom Baker was epic, TRULY EPIC -- and that must count for something, right?

I must have watched the whole Fifth Doctor run, too, because again, all the names are familiar, but he didn't leave nearly the impression on me that Tom Baker did. When I see Peter Davison, I don't think "Doctor", I think "Tristan".
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[personal profile] ellen_fremedon 2010-08-21 05:48 pm (UTC)(link)
One thing to remember about the black-and-white era, the tenure of the First and Second Doctors, is that a lot of the episodes were destroyed by the BBC and exist only in fan reconstructions-- we have complete audio for all the eps, and there are fan circles that put together slideshow versions with production stills and text crawls describing the action. They integrate the surviving clips, and in some cases they've reshot footage, or redone the effects sequences.

Some of these reconstructions are very good-- Loose Cannon in particular does a very good job-- and many of the lost episodes were well-written enough that the audio carries the story quite well; some of my favorite serials are recons. But it's still a weird viewing experience until you get used to it.

Basically, if you're enjoying the First or Second Doctor, do seek out the reconstructions. If you're not, don't bother-- you won't like them any more without the pictures. By the time we get to the Third Doctor, all the episodes are extant, though some exist only in black and white.

One other thing to remember about oldschool is that, for all of the first seven Doctors, each story was a serial, made up of anywhere from two to twelve 25-minute episodes. (Usually four or six. Season 22's serials consist of two 45-minute episodes, but this format wasn't used again.) PBS stations in the US frequently air a whole serial on one night, with the credits and previouslies cut out-- I grew up watching Doctor Who this way. DON'T DO THIS. Watch the way it was filmed, with the breaks in place-- the pacing is much, much better this way.
thingswithwings: martha jones goes oooooooo (dw - martha goes ooooooooo)

[personal profile] thingswithwings 2010-08-21 06:52 pm (UTC)(link)
The Fifth Doctor! Five is my favourite, by far, and I recommend him highly. As Laura says above, the transition from Four to Five is some of the best Old Who out there - Four goes out in this amazing way, and Five comes in by doing something very different - being weak and having to rely on companions for a while, having an identity crisis, etc. Five maybe plays better when you've seen a bit of Four for the contrast (and the Key to Time series and City of Death, from Four, are great anyhow), so that's Logopolis and Castrovalva; then after that some of my favourite Five serials are Black Orchid, Earthshock, Four to Doomsday, and Resurrection of the Daleks. Nyssa is by far my favourite Five companion, but the interesting thing about Five is that he travels around often with multiple companions at once (even if Adric and Tegan can get annoying, I still like the ensemble-cast sort of feel of it). The way Five goes out, in The Caves of Androzani, is also great, and will illustrate to you sufficiently, I think, why Six is an asshole and a waste of time.

Also, the feature "The Five Doctors," which is made during Five's time, is really great - perhaps one of my favourite old Who things of all time. It's Five Doctors and their companions all falling into this one bizarre trap, with the Master and Time Lords and cybermen and daleks and a yeti and all sorts of things thrown in for fun. Technically it's three doctors - they hire a guy to play the First Doctor, since the actor died, and they only sort of have footage of Four (Tom Baker didn't want to do it) but nonetheless it is amazing. There's this whole thing where Five is embarrassed by who he was when he was One, it's great. Plus it might be a good way to get a feel for some of the doctors and companions to see who you like.

I also really adore Seven, especially during his time with Ace, which begins with "Dragonfire," which is a great serial on its own; I'd also recommend Ghost Light VERY highly (Ace crossdresses! In a very hot way!), and I like The Curse of Fenric and Survival. Ooooh, and Remembrance of the Daleks.

Old Who! I hope you let us know how you like them as you watch them. :)
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The First Doctor

[personal profile] ellen_fremedon 2010-08-21 07:06 pm (UTC)(link)
William Hartnell, 1963-1966

There are worse places to start than right at the beginning, as long as you're willing to bear with the extremely low budgets and the fact that, for the first year, they really were learning how to make televison as they went. If nothing else, I would highly recommend watching the first episode of the first serial, "An Unearthly Child." The rest of the serial is about cavemen, and it gets a bit silly, but the introduction of the Doctor and his first three companions in part one is quite good.

The First Doctor is a white-haired old man, usually tetchy, sometimes whimsical; he's interested in humans, he hasn't really warmed to them yet, and he has the manner of a slumming aristocrat around them. He's on the run from his people, about whom he does not talk. His first companion is his granddaughter Susan, who I'm very fond of. She appears to be in her mid- to late teens, though she's not human and often has some trouble passing. We don't know how long they've been traveling together, but Susan seems to have grown up on the run with the Doctor, and sometimes complains of feeling rootless and alone.

(The Doctor, at this point, cannot control the TARDIS at all. It has some mechanical faults, and his piloting skills are pretty much non-existent. When the Doctor leaves a place, it's for good-- he has no way of knowing if he'll ever find his way back.)

In the first serial, the Doctor and Susan have been living in London for a while, while Susan settles in and goes to school, and when two of her teachers discover the TARDIS, the Doctor takes off with them aboard, kidnapping them so they can't tell anyone about it. Barbara is the history teacher and Ian is the science teacher-- the show originally alternated historical eps (with no science-fictional content) with SF, for educational purposes.) Barbara is one of my favorite companions ever, and her influence on the Doctor, in getting him to understand that humans are people and worthy of compassion, really cannot be overstated.


Recommended, or at least Notable, Episodes. Those in boldface would be good episodes to start with.


  • 001, "An Unearthly Child."
    Watch the first episode, if nothing else. If the rest of it gets tedious, skim or skip.

  • 002, "The Daleks."
    The TARDIS lands on Skaro. This version of the Daleks' origins was slightly overwritten by later canon (in an episode considered, now, to be one of the opening salvos of the Time War.) It's a good story-- overly long, but visually iconic and establishing huge amounts of later canon.


  • 003, "The Edge of Destruction."
    A short (two-part) bottle show, just the four principals trapped on the TARDIS.


  • These three are all available on DVD, as a boxed set with some good special features, including commentary tracks by Verity Lambert, who was the BBC's youngest, and first female, producer when she was given the show.


  • 006, "The Aztecs."
    Available on DVD. This is an important episode for Barbara's character development (and also for her costumes, which are fantastic), and has some good moments for everyone. The treatment of the Aztecs is… really pretty good for 1963, but everyone is played by white English actors and there's a high level of meta-fail in the way the story completely avoids talking about what happens when the Spanish arrive.


  • In general, early Doctor Who is surprisingly good on gender, certainly better than the later eras of the show. On race, it's… not. Really at all.

  • 009, "Planet of Giants."
    I don't know whether this one is out on DVD, but it's the now-obligatory miniaturization epsiode, and it's utterly charming.


  • 010, "The Dalek Invasion of Earth."
    Susan's last serial, and good on almost all metrics--it's a tremendously creepy and plausible occupied Britain, the supporting characters are good, and Barbara runs down Daleks with a truck. Where it falls down is in Susan's departure: she's torn between staying to help rebuild Earth with the boy she's fallen in love with and leaving with the Doctor, and the Doctor locks her out of the TARDIS to force the decision.

    As crap as the Doctor is with goodbyes today? HE HAS GOTTEN BETTER. So much better. The episode, to its credit, presents this as more sad than romantic, and the Doctor does seem to second-guess himself a few times in later episodes.

  • 011, "The Rescue."
    012, "The Romans." These two are available on one DVD set; they introduce Vicki, the new companion, the teenaged survivor of a spaceship crash; her first episode is not a universal favorite but I'm fond of it, and it is short, and quite creepy.

    "The Romans" is a favorite, but I'm not as fond of it as a lot of people are; it has some excellent character development for Ian and some really sweet scenes with Vicki and the Doctor playing interstellar tourists-- think of the Rose/Ten dynamic, only completely platonic and less self-centered. It also treats Barbara's being sold as a slave to a lecherous Nero as the occasion for Benny Hill-style slapstick, so, be warned.

  • 017, "The Time Meddler."
    Ian and Barbara have gone home by this point; most of their remaining serials either have episodes missing ("The Crusade"), or are good but deeply weird and I wouldn't recommend them for the novice ("The Web Planet," which really needs to be viewed as… I dunno, interpretive dance, but in the right frame of mind is kind of awesome), or are just not that memorable. "The Time Meddler" features Vicki and the new companion, Steven, a space pilot rescued from Dalek captivity. It also features the Meddling Monk, the first Time Lord besides the Doctor and Susan that we've met. The Meddling Monk likes to change history for the lolz; when we meet him, he's trying to prevent the Norman Conquest by heading off Harald Hardrada so Harold Godwinson's army can be fresh for the march south to Hastings.

    Quite good. Warning for offscreen rape: it's not really discussed-- it's still a kids' show-- but the characters and story treat the matter seriously.


  • 021, "The Daleks' Master Plan."
    This one is a reconstruction, and it's twelve parts long. And it's just that good; it's one of my very favorites. Features two companion deaths; Jean Marsh kicking ass as Sara Kingdom, futuristic space security agent; Nicholas Courtney, later to play the Brigadier, in his first appearance on Doctor Who; the return of the Meddling Monk; ancient Egyptians; a summit of aliens; an evil dictator; DALEKS WITH FLAMETHROWERS; and a truly tragic and wonderful ending. Also the TARDIS landing in a movie set and a cricket pitch and a kind of hilarious Christmas episode.

  • 029, "The Tenth Planet."
    Three-quarters extant; the last episode is missing. Several companions have come and gone by this point (Vicki, Steven, Katarina, Sara Kingdom, and Dodo); the Doctor is traveling with Ben and Polly, a sailor and a secretary from 1965 and the first contemporary companions since Ian and Barbara. Features the introduction of the Cybermen, who are chilling here-- they've never really been scary in color, but here they're in black-and-white, before their appearance was standardized. These are clunky, string-and-baling-wire creations-- their faces are just painted ski masks-- and their complete inability to understand why you don't want to be like them is horrifying.

    This is also the First Doctor's last episode; he regenerates at its end, in a clip that, fortunately, survived, though I'd give much for the lead-up.

Edited 2010-08-21 19:14 (UTC)
geekturnedvamp: (shiny!)

[personal profile] geekturnedvamp 2010-08-21 08:11 pm (UTC)(link)
Wait, have I never shown you City of Death? How did that happen?
mswyrr: (dw 5 - old skool kinky non-con femme!dom)

[personal profile] mswyrr 2010-08-21 11:19 pm (UTC)(link)
City of Death is the most awesome of all the awesomesauces!
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The Second Doctor

[personal profile] ellen_fremedon 2010-08-21 08:22 pm (UTC)(link)
Patrick Troughton, 1966-1969

The Second Doctor may be my favorite Doctor of all. And he's the one Matt Smith seems to be drawing on most heavily in his performance. He's still very much a slumming aristocrat-- the main difference between him and the First Doctor is that he's much more willing to get his hands dirty, and much more openly enthusiastic about humans and other life forms in general.

Two is also the one whose episodes suffered most heavily in the BBC purge-- only seven of his serials are available in their entirety, and one of those has two animated episodes commissioned by BBC to replace lost segments. (It works really well; I don't know why they're not doing more animated recons.)

So he's probably not the best Doctor to start with unless you're willing to watch recons, but he's good enough to make it worth the effort-- and if you like Eleven, I think you ought to catch at least a couple of Two's stories.

The production values have picked up by this era-- the staging and direction is generally quite good, and the sound design is frequently excellent, which helps when you're listening to recons-- the Radiophonic Workshop was continuing to do excellent effects, but they had the money to commission some good incidental music now, too. (And made good uses of snatches of Bartok where they couldn't.)


Recommended, or at least Notable, Episodes. Those in boldface would be good episodes to start with.

  • 030, "The Power of the Daleks."
    Troughton's first episode, and so the first time the companions, or viewers, ever had to deal with a new Doctor. But Troughton establishes himself quickly, in what may be my favorite Dalek episode-- "Victory of Daleks" borrowed heavily from it, but somehow didn't get any of the awesome bits.

    A scientist on an Earth colony has discovered a crashed Dalek ship, not knowing what the creatures inside are, and has revived one of them, and it's going around serving tea and saying "I am your serrrr-vant" in response to all questions, and it is the creepiest thing ever.

    This one is all recons-- no episodes extant-- but it's worth listening to.

  • 034, "The Macra Terror."
    Another all-recon serial, alas. The Macra made a comeback in "Gridlock," but they'd devolved into mindless giant crabs there. Here, the giant crabs are running the show, through a puppet governor that no one ever sees; the colony they've taken over is basically The Village, only cheerier. (The serial predates The Prisoner; it must have just been the zeitgeist.)

    By this point the Doctor, Ben, and Polly have picked up Jamie at Culloden, who is with the Second Doctor from his second episode through the end of his tenure, one of the longest-serving companions. (It's either him, Sarah Jane, or Tegan, depending on whether you count by episodes, serials, or months.) Jamie and the Doctor are adorable together; I go back and forth on whether or not I slash them, but it really doesn't matter-- they're good for each other, however you construe their relationship. Jamie has an amazing talent for cutting through technobabble and the Doctor's endless digressions and focusing the Doctor on the problem at hand, and he adapts to life on a spaceship with surprising ease and aplomb.

  • 036, "The Evil of the Daleks."
    I think this one has one part extant, but the recons are good. After dropping off Ben and Polly, who by chance have fetched up on the day they left, the Doctor and Jamie run afoul of a Victorian time-traveler who steals the TARDIS and kidnaps them to a country house in 1865, where Daleks are holding his daughter prisoner.

    This is an important episode for Jamie, who finally has it with the Doctor's manipulation, and who demands-- and gets-- a more equal relationship, or at least a more informed one. And it's an important one for Dalek lore, and an exciting plot.

    It also introduces Victoria, the new companion, who does not really get a chance to shine until subsequent episodes. She's often dismissed as a useless screamer; I like her, and think she's impressively resilient, but this episode doesn't show her at her best.

  • 037, "The Tomb of the Cybermen."
    Finally! An extant episode! This one is out on DVD, with all parts intact.

    Visually very important-- the way the Cybermen are shot and framed in this one influences every one of their subsequent appearances-- atmospheric, and creepy. Large cast of mostly unpleasant people, but they're being picked off by Cybermen, so that's all right. A very good episode for Victoria, who has some good scenes with the Doctor, and more than holds her own in the action.

    Warning for racefail-- there's one black character, who is a servant, largely mute, the first to be taken over by cyber-mind-control, and sacrifices his life to save the white people. Doctor Who usually isn't good on race, but it's usually not this bad, either.


  • The rest of Season Five is all recons-- there's an extant episode every now and then, but no complete serials-- and it's pretty much all base-under-siege stories, which could get tedious if you're not fond of that.

    I love a good base under siege story, and I love Season Five pretty much unreservedly-- it's got some solid scripts, active female characters in almost every episode, and the introduction of the Ice Warriors, the Yeti, and Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart. So if you're enjoying the Second Doctor and not minding the recons, you could do worse than just settling in for the duration.

    In short:

    "The Abominable Snowman" gives us alien robot Yeti in a Tibetan monastary in the twenties, controlled by a Great Intelligence who's been retconned in the paracanon as Yog-Sothoth from the Cthulhu mythos; the Tibetan characters are mostly played by white actors in yellowface but are otherwise reasonably non-faily for the era. "The Ice Warriors" gives us Ice Warriors from Mars-- this one has several extant episodes and a good, short reconstruction glossing over the missing material. "The Enemy of the World" has Troughton playing the Doctor and his doppelganger, a would-be world dictator. "The Web of Fear" has Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, later the Brigadier of UNIT, investigating robot Yetis in the London underground, and Ann Travers giving the best answer ever to "What's a nice girl like you doing in a job like this." ("Well, when I was a little girl, I wanted to be a scientist. So I became a scientist.") "Fury From the Deep" has creepy foam creatures attacking a North Sea gas refinery; it is Victoria's last appearance, and the first appearance of the sonic screwdriver. And "The Wheel In Space" has a multinational space station beset by Cybermen, a great EVA sequence, and the introduction of new companion Zoe Heriot.

    Zoe is a young math prodigy who feels that her training has interfered with her emotional maturation, and yet is written and played totally without angst. She simply decides she should have adventures, and she's going to have them, dammit. And she does. And it is wonderful. And she and Jamie have wonderful, bantery chemistry. Jamie was very protective of Victoria, but Jamie and Zoe easily trade off being the one with expertise; with their different backgrounds, one of them is usually at home and one of them is at sea in just about any situation, and they're both quite at ease with that.

  • 045, "The Mind Robber."
    We're into Season Six now, which is almost entirely extant (YAY!) but which has a couple of clunkers (BOO-- 044, "The Dominators," which is just silly; 047, "The Krotons," which is also silly but has Philip Madoc in it, and 049, "The Space Pirates" (not extant), which has some good OCs but doesn't do a good job of integrating them with the main cast.)

    But the good eps from this season are some of the best they've done, and "The Mind Robber" is, IMO, one of the best episodes of anything ever-- or at least one of the most meta. This is the one where they land in a fictional universe, controlled by a master narrative. I don't want to spoil too much, except to say that every fan of anything ever NEEDS TO WATCH THIS, because it is brilliant and wonderful and has comic book characters and pulp adventure writers and killer unicorns and the best ever in-universe explanation for why an actor has suddenly been replaced. (Out-of-universe, Frazer Hines, Jamie's actor, had chicken pox.)


  • 046, "The Invasion."
    Long, plotty, episode, with Cybermen invading contemporary Earth. This is the one with two animated reconstructions, in a black-and-white simple style that blends well with the extant eps.

    This is also the first episode with UNIT: Col. Lethbridge-Stewart from "The Web of Fear" has been promoted to Brigadier and put in charge of dealing with alien incursions in Britain. I love the Brigadier. Everyone loves the Brigadier. He will be a regular in the Third Doctor's era; here, he's one of several excellent guest stars in a good solid episode with some classic scenes.


  • 048, "The Seeds of Death."
    In the future, space flight has been largely abandoned, because travel anywhere on Earth, or between Earth and the Moon, can be accomplished instantaneously by transmat; the routing station on the Moon is taken over by Ice Warriors, and the Doctor and companions have to refurbish an antique space capsule to get there and deal with them. (The TARDIS is still largely uncontrollable.)

    Not one of their very best, but a good solid adventure with some good guest stars; I especially like Miss Kelly, the young transmat guru whose authority on the subject goes unquestioned by men twice her age.

  • 050, "The War Games."
    This is Troughton's last episode, and while that seems an odd place to start, really, you could do worse than to jump in with this one. It's ten parts long and the tension never flags, and by the end of it, you will be very sad to see him go.

    The TARDIS lands in No Man's Land on the Western Front of WWI-- or seems to; the battlefield is in reality a facsimile of Earth, and while the soldiers are human, they've been brought here by aliens who are building an army and training officers for a galactic conquest-- aided by a renegade from a high-tech society, who recognizes the Doctor even with his new face.

    This is possibly my favorite serial of Doctor Who. (It's in a perennial tie with "City of Death.) It's got a huge cast of guest characters, and even the small roles are well written and well-played; big ones include some of the series' best villains, like Philip Madoc's War Lord. The sets are innovative-- they'd really figured out how to work on a budget-- and the plot is Byzantine without being (overly) silly; every faction-- and there are many-- has plausible internal politics.

    And at the end, we meet the Time Lords. This is the first episode in which we learn their name. And we learn to fear them. The ending is one of the most tragic in all of Doctor Who, and the more so because it's so believable.

    Seriously, watch this episode. It's amazing.
Edited 2010-08-21 20:23 (UTC)
mswyrr: (dw 2 - 2 & zoe)

Re: The Second Doctor

[personal profile] mswyrr 2010-08-21 10:59 pm (UTC)(link)
I second the recs of The Mind Robber (epic meta where Two writes fanfic! LOL) and The War Games, which is quite, quite ambitious and actually succeeds in many of its aspirations. Personally, I started with The War Games and it was just fine. I ended up wanting to write fanfic for two of the minor characters that are featured in it! :)
mswyrr: (DW 4 - ivy)

[personal profile] mswyrr 2010-08-21 11:09 pm (UTC)(link)
Other people have recced Four, but I wanted to make a special point about his story Genesis of the Daleks. It has some silliness and some serious weak points, I won't deny, but when you see how the Doctor related to the Daleks in Classic Who and the choices he made and then reflect on what all that has led to it just... gorram, it blew my mind.

Positives:

-Davros actually being an amazing villain who's motivations make sense. He's chilling here.
-The perfect creation story for the Daleks
-Four's epic conversations of greatness with Davros
- The benefits of being a story with one of the great TARDIS trios [Four, Sarah Jane, and Harry]
-Decisions that reverberate and contextualize Nu!Who canon
-Four being so very much like the Doctors we know and yet so different, so much less damaged
-Kinky bondage
-Four snarking on bullies and pulling his legerdemain tricks

Negatives:
-It drags
-Plot goes wonky at times
-Freaking... Giant (paper-mâché) Clam WTFF
-Wobbly Daleks
-Four in the Worst Silvery Costume Evah
mswyrr: (DW 4 - layers)

[personal profile] mswyrr 2010-08-21 11:10 pm (UTC)(link)
*whose
ellen_fremedon: overlapping pages from Beowulf manuscript, one with a large rubric, on a maroon ground (Default)

Third Doctor

[personal profile] ellen_fremedon 2010-08-22 03:28 am (UTC)(link)
Jon Pertwee, 1970-1974

From here on, all episodes are extant!

So, at the end of "The War Games"-- SPOILER!-- the Time Lords try the Doctor for interfering in the affairs of other worlds and sentence him to exile on Earth, disabling his TARDIS and stripping him of the knowledge of how to repair it. For Pertwee's first three seasons, the Doctor doesn't leave Earth, except for when the Time Lords hijack the TARDIS and send him on missions to interfere on their behalf, while maintaining their own plausible deniability.

It's a departure for the series, but it's also very similar in some ways to newschool Who-- lots of contemporary Earth settings, human companions, a larger-than-usual regular cast, and a Doctor who feels like he has something to prove. The beginning of Season Seven was a complete restart for the show-- new Doctor, new companions, new settings, no familiar characters but the Brigadier, and in color for the first time-- and it's a good place to start viewing. If you like Three, you could do much worse than just starting with "Spearhead From Space" and going from there.

As for Three-- there's a theory, not mine but I subscribe to it, that the Doctor's regenerations are always a reaction to whatever went wrong in the previous life. The Second Doctor was well over his initial angst at being on the run; he had the whole universe to have fun with, and he knew he could call in the Time Lords if he got in over his head. The Third Doctor has already tried that and knows where it leads; while the Second Doctor hung around Earth for kicks, the Third has no choice but to stay there, and it rankles. The Second Doctor was silly, slovenly, almost clownish, and always preferred to let you underestimate him. The Third is prickly, vain, phenomenally arrogant, and won't let you forget for a moment that he is a Time Lord and you are not. He dresses in velvet and ruffles, practices esoteric martial arts, and makes up for the TARDIS's indisposition by driving a fast little yellow car named Bessie.

Some people find the Third Doctor insufferable. I love him, but if you can't swallow the arrogance, you're not going to like him.

Recommended, or at least Notable, Episodes. Those in boldface would be good episodes to start with.


  • 015, "Spearhead From Space."
    You could really do worse than start here. The Doctor arrives at Earth, in exile, s recruited by the Brigadier to serve as UNIT's scientific advisor, and foils a Nestene invasion, in the first Auton story. (He also steals clothes from a hospital locker room, in a scene that's been echoed by both Eight and Eleven now.) It's a good introduction to UNIT, the Brig, the long-suffering Sergeant Benton, and companion Liz Shaw.


  • Poor Liz. At the start of the episode, she was being recruited for the scientific advisor position, and by its end, she's been demoted to the Doctor's assistant. She only lasts a season before she's had enough of, in her own words, handing the Doctor his test tubes and telling him how brilliant he is, and goes back to Cambridge.


  • 055, "Terror of the Autons."
    This would be another excellent one to start with. It's the other Auton episode-- there are only two-- and it introduces the Brig's assistant Captain Yates, new companion Jo Grant, and the Master, all in a wonderful Robert Holmes script, complete with sinister plastic daffodils, mayhem at a radio telescope, and the Doctor being attacked by his phone.


  • Of the episode's new characters: Captain Yates, despite dating Jo for a while and occasionally flirting with women, is the character most likely to represented in paracanon as hugely, flamingly gay. He's the one who gets tied up or brainwashed, while Sergeant Benton is the one who gets beaten up or regressed to infancy by time anomalies.

    Jo Grant is another one of those companions who gets dismissed as an airhead by a lot of fans, but whom I really like. She's such an effective Slytherin that she has most of the world convinced she's a Hufflepuff-- and manages to take people who should know better by surprise with her lock-picking and escapology skills. She can be very self-deprecating in her speech, which gets tiresome, and I want to smack the Doctor for letting her get away with it, even though he clearly doesn't believe a word of it. Actually, in a lot of ways, Jo prefigures Rose-- she's blonde and very young and she looks up to the Doctor more than she really should, when he's at a very low point.

    And then there's the Roger Delgado's Master, who is in every episode of Season Eight. He's a straight-up pantomime villain, not the least bit subtle, but utterly wonderful. He and Pertwee have fantastic chemistry; and when the Doctor and the Master have to work together, which happens often, they have a wonderful bantery rapport.


    I recommend starting with the Third Doctor in one of the two Auton stories-- either that or later in "The Time Warrior--" all of which are very good introductions, but there are a lot of other highlights in his five seasons that should not be missed:

  • 052, "(Doctor Who and) The Silurians." (The title is a mistake.)
    Silurians! Much more interesting than the ones in New Who! With Liz, doing science and being awesome.

  • 054, "Inferno."
    Liz's last episode, though she doesn't get a sendoff. It's a classic, and rather bleak and nihilist, mirror-universe episode, done very well. (Following the rule of Inverse Facial Hair, the evil AU Brigadier is clean-shaven.)

  • 056, "The Mind of Evil."
    You know those cloud creatures that feed on negative emotion? Yeah, the Master's trapped one of those and is feeding prisoners to it. That works about as well as you'd think. I love this episode A LOT. It has the Master and the Doctor doing Science together, and the Brigadier employing subterfuge, and Yates leading the world's most ineffectual missile convoy, and a Chinese character played by an actual Chinese actor for a change! (Her boss is still in yellowface, but we can't have everything.)

  • 057, "The Claws of Axos."
    Another one where the Doctor and the Master do Science together. I may have a weak spot for this trope. Also, there are tentacle monsters. And a random and really offensive comedy village idiot in episode one; be warned.

  • 059, "The Daemons."
    The one with Crowleyite magick! In which the Master masquerades as a small-town vicar, and then summons demons in the church crypt. (It's okay-- they're alien demons.) There's also a local white witch who flirts with Benton and is one of my favorite guest characters-- she brains a mind-controlled minion with her crystal ball-- and evil Morris dancers, and the Brigadier's famous line "Chap with the wings, five rounds rapid." There is no bad here.

  • 061, "The Curse of Peladon."
    The Time Lords whisk away the Doctor and Jo to the planet Peladon, where someone is trying to sabotage negotiations for Peladon's entry into the Galactic Federation, and the sacred beast Agador is not as extinct as his worshippers believe. Guest stars David Troughton, son of Patrick, and a lot of aliens in really, really bad costumes-- the Ice Warriors are the best of the lot. But if you can get around the phallic green WTF of the delegate from Alpha Centauri, it's a delightful episode, in which the Doctor croons Venusian lullabies and Jo steps in to chair a galactic peace conference.

  • 064, "The Time Monster."
    This is not accounted one of the best Third Doctor episodes, and admittedly it has some bad acting and some seriously WTF plotting in parts, as well as actors pantomiming being trapped in a time field because they couldn't afford to do slo-mo. But it also has an awesome female temporal physicist and her loyal male grad student, one of the Doctor's sillier timey-wimey devices, an entire episode where the Doctor's TARDIS and the Master's are materialized inside each other, and the Master romancing the queen of Atlantis. Also Sergeant Benton being regressed to infancy, and an affecting scene with the Doctor telling Jo about an old hermit who was his mentor, and whom we will later meet. Well worth viewing for any of these features.

  • 065, "The Three Doctors."
    The first multi-Doctor episode, but not a good introduction to One or Two. William Hartnell's health was failing and he had to do his segments separately and be edited in, and Troughton, while he has an amusingly antagonistic chemistry with Pertwee, really doesn't get to show off much of his range.

    However, if you've already seen some of both of them, it's a fun romp, and fills in some interesting Time Lord backstory-- the villain, Omega, is one of the architects of Time Lord society, now trapped in an antimatter universe. And it's got some good dialog-- the Brigadier and Sergeant Benton both have fabulous reactions to seeing the inside of the TARDIS for the first time.



  • At the end of "The Three Doctors," the Doctor's exile is rescinded and his knowledge of the TARDIS returned to him-- and apparently augmented, since he was never able to pilot it as well before as he can after this. He stays with UNIT, or at least checks in with them every now and then, for several more seasons.


  • 067, "Frontier in Space."
    Roger Delgado's last episode as the Master. It wasn't intended to be-- he was slated to come back for a farewell arc in the next season, and to be written out properly, but the actor was killed in a car crash, on location for a film.

    This is a matryoshka-doll of a plot, with schemes opening on schemes opening on schemes, and the Master sometimes the Doctor's ally, and sometimes opposing him. Also features the Draconians, lizard-aliens with court politics based on imperial Japan, who never showed up again, unfortunately. (I think the makeup was too expensive.)

    This one loosely segues into 068, "Planet of the Daleks," which is a fun episode-- invisible aliens! Ice volcanos! Bernard Horsfall, whom I'll watch in pretty much anything!-- but not as good as "Frontier."

  • 069, "The Green Death."
    Jo Grant's last episode. Her departure is painful-- she leaves the Doctor to marry a Nobel laureate she's described, to the Doctor's face, as "like a younger you." The Doctor is-- not happy. Really not at all. I think he's been staying with UNIT for Jo's sake for the last season; I honestly don't know what brings him back after this, though something clearly does.

    Other than Jo, this one is about giant slimy glowing maggots down a mine in Wales. It's also sort of the start of a mini-arc for Captain Yates, who has an undercover assignment that doesn't go terribly well. And it's the one where the Doctor finally gets to Metebelis Three, which he's been trying and failing to get to all season.

  • 070, "The Time Warrior."
    Introduces Sarah Jane Smith! Also has the first appearance of the Sontarans, and first use of the name "Gallifrey." A good script, a good time-travel story, involving a Sontaran warship crashing in the twelfth century, and really a great introduction for Sarah-- this would also be a good place to start with the Third Doctor, and it shouldn't missed.


  • 071, "Invasion of the Dinosaurs."
    I will warn you now, the dinosaurs are hand puppets. Really. The effects are laughable. But the story is good, taking several unexpected twists, and it has good parts for Sarah, and for Captain Yates, whose story also takes an unexpected twist. And one of my favorite scenes with Sergeant Benton: When a superior has ordered the Brigadier to have the Doctor arrested, and the Brigadier has passed the order on to Benton and left, Benton sends his subordinates out of the room to prepare a cell and then turns to Doctor and says "You'd better get on with it. Overpowering me, I mean." &heart;

  • 074," Planet of the Spiders."
    So, it's not the best regeneration episode, but if you've watched some Three and you're going to watch some Four, it's good to watch the transition.

    That said, this is a weird one-- it's got moments of awesome, moments of serious fail, and moments of deep WTF, crammed up right next to each other. Fully half of episode two, in deference to Pertwee's love of weird vehicles, is a chase scene involving a police car, Bessie, an autogyro, a speedboat, and two hovercrafts. There's yet more yellowface-- this time, the Doctor's old hermit mentor, who is slumming on Earth as a Tibetan lama. There's a scene where a mentally disabled character's cognitive skills are 'fixed' by an alien device-- though, props to the actor and the script, that subplot isn't nearly as faily as it might have been and they don't, thankfully, do the "Flowers for Algernon" thing. But still. It's a decidedly mixed episode, and there are better ones I haven't recommended, but it introduces a point of regeneration lore that will be important again later-- twice, in fact-- and the Doctor's death is quite moving. Recommended in context; not one to watch out of sequence.
Edited 2010-08-22 03:30 (UTC)
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Fourth Doctor

[personal profile] ellen_fremedon 2010-08-22 05:06 am (UTC)(link)
Tom Baker, 1974-81

The iconic old-school Doctor, with the ridiculous scarf and the coat pockets full of random objects a la Harpo Marx. He's many people's favorite for good reason, and he's a good one to start with.

Sarah Jane continues traveling with the Fourth Doctor, and Harry Sullivan, the UNIT medical officer, comes with them; they're a good TARDIS team, but after a season, Harry leaves and Four begins traveling with a single companion, like Three (but unlike One and Two.)

There are several distinct eras of the Fourth Doctor's tenure, and several good places to start.


Episodes! (You know the drill.)

  • 075, "Robot."
    It's a solid enough UNIT episode, with a giant robot, but I think a better starting point might be the next one:

  • 076, "The Ark in Space."
    The TARDIS materializes on a space station full of cryogenically stored humans-- and something else. Good script, good dynamic between the TARDIS team, and some really creepy body horror-- this is the one with the infamous bubble wrap monster, but actually it's a really fucking scary bubble wrap monster.

  • 077, "Genesis of the Daleks."
    I'm going to point to what [personal profile] mswyrr said upthread. This one is not to be missed, and it's not a bad starting point, either.

    It also internally retcons quite a lot of Dalek lore up to this point-- it's often interpreted now as being a part of the Time War.


  • Also-- when the Time Lords sent the Third Doctor on missions, without ever giving him a choice in the matter, he would grouse about it, but it was very pro forma-- since those missions were his only chance to get offworld, he always relished them. In this episode, the Time Lords charge the Doctor to go back into Skaro's past, and he accepts voluntarily, though with very ill humor; and in subsequent episodes, Four's attitude toward the Time Lords and other powers is generally helpful, cooperative, and graceless. I've thought for a long time that a large part of Four's clownish persona was his attempt to convince himself he was still a rebel at heart, despite feeling like he was the Time Lords' man, bought and paid for. They gave him back a lot more knowledge of temporal navigation than he ever had to start with, and he acts, often, like he owes them for it.

    Which is really neither here nor there. But I really think that, while the Second Doctor's silliness was calculated to convince other people not to take him seriously, the Fourth Doctor's is calculated to convince himself not to take himself seriously.

  • 080, "Terror of the Zygons."
    Harry leaves the TARDIS, the Brigadier wears a kilt, and THE. LOCH. NESS. MONSTER menaces the populace. And there are aliens, and doppelgangers, and Sarah and Harry and the Doctor being generally adorable. Probably better if you already know the characters.

  • 082, "The Pyramids of Mars."
    This one, though, would be a fine place to start-- a 1920's adventure with… well, with a modicum of eye-rolling orientalism, but mostly with robot mummies, an excellent villain and his creepy henchmen, Sarah being a dead shot with a rifle, the Doctor being mind-whammied and at the villain's mercy if you like that sort of thing, and using SCIENCE to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.


  • 084, "The Brain of Morbius."
    Guest stars Philip Madoc, whom I would watch read the phone book, as a mad scientist in the Frankenstein vein; also, there is Time Lord lore and a secret sisterhood worshipping a sacred flame. Very over-the-top, but in the good way, mostly.

  • Season 14 in its entirety.
    The whole season is excellent, and it will introduce you to Sarah Jane, Leela, and the Time Lords; you could do worse than to just watch it straight through. It comprises:


    • 086, "The Masque of Mandragora."
      A Renaissance Italian setting with fabulous costumes; I don't know where they got them, but everyone in this is beautifully dressed. Also features very young Tim Pigott-Smith acting rings around everyone else as the young Duke's love interest. ("Companion," but it's pretty clear they're a couple.)

    • 087, "The Hand of Fear."
      Sarah Jane's last episode. Not one to start with, but not one to miss, either, if you've been watching any of Sarah Jane's episodes; even just "Masque" would be enough of a lead-in.

    • 088, "The Deadly Assassin."
      The Doctor goes back to Gallifrey and gets framed for murder by-- let's just say an old enemy-- and there are the most awesome robes and headdresses ever. How did the Time Lords conquer space-time? ROBES AND HEADDRESSES. Introduces the Doctor's former teacher, Cardinal Borusa, in the first (and my favorite) of four regenerations we'll see him in. Again, not the one to start with, but not one to miss.

    • 089, "The Face of Evil."
      This one, on the other hand, would be a fine place to start. The Doctor goes to a planet, scattered with human artifacts, where everyone seems to know him-- and think he's The Evil One. Introduces Leela, a warrior of the Sevateem tribe, who is fifty different kinds of distilled awesome.

    • 090, "The Robots of Death."
      Another good place to start. The plot is basically an Agatha Christie novel in space: lots of broadly defined, beautifully dressed characters-- seriously, the costumes on this show were never this good before or since this season-- all with good reasons to wish each other dead are cooped up in a vaguely Art Nouveau-influenced mining ship and start to drop dead. A great script from Blakes 7's Chris Boucher, and some good guest stars.


    • 091, "The Talons of Weng-Chiang."
      Okay, so I love this episode deeply, but it is really offensively orientalist. It's a Fu Manchu parody that doesn't really manage the parodic part and mostly is just Fu Manchu pastiche, complete with yellowface (for, I think, the last time. Thankfully.)

      That said, it's also a Sherlock Holmes pastiche with the Doctor wandering around Victorian London in a deerstalker, the dialog is fantastic, and the guest cast is excellent. There's a lot to like. And a lot to deeply deplore.



  • 095, "The Sun Makers."
    The Doctor and Leela have picked up the robot dog K-9 by this point. I'm fond of K-9; he's gimmicky, but John Leeson's voice acting brings some welcome snark to the role.

    This is one of my favorite episodes, but it's not as good a starting point as either of Leela's first two. Colonial capitalism, or capitalist colonialism, done broadly but with great humor.

  • 097, "The Invasion of Time."
    Not one to watch out of order, but do watch in sequence for Leela's departure, the invasion of Gallifrey, and a lot of wandering around the TARDIS-- a scene with some people-- sad, sad people!-- apparently find boring, but which I love.


  • Season 16 in its entirety: The Key To Time
    This season is one long arc, as the Doctor and his new companion, the just-out-of-college Time Lady Romanadvoratrelundar (Romana for short) track down and assemble the segments of the Key to Time. Again, you could do much worse than to just start here and watch the whole thing.


    If you're going to pick and choose: 098, "The Ribos Operation," is probably the best of the lot, and introduces Romana; 099, "The Pirate Planet," is a zany Douglas Adams script; 100, "The Stones of Blood," has one of the best guest characters ever, the elderly archaeologist Professor Emilia Rumford, and also fake-Druids; 101, "The Androids of Tara," is a Prisoner of Zenda take-off; 102, "The Power of Kroll," is probably the most skippable but it does have a depressingly believable plot about colonialism and economic exploitation, and also Philip Madoc; and 103, "The Armageddon Factor," is kind of interminable but you will want to see how everything turns out, and the villain is quite good.


  • 104, "Destiny of the Daleks."
    Romana I regenerates into Romana II. (We handwave the circumstances. Just go with it.) Both Romanas have their partisans; I love them both. Romana II is the one played by Lalla Ward, who married Tom Baker; if you want Doctor/Companion chemistry, these two set the standard.

    Features the return of Davros and several games of rock-paper-scissors. Watch this one in context; I don't think it would work as well without having met Davros before, at the very least.

  • 105, "City of Death."
    On the other hand, this is a fine place to start-- it is, in fact, the first Doctor Who episode I remember watching. And it gave me nightmares for months. And it is still one of my two very favorites. Script by Douglas Adams, guest stars Julian Glover as one of my favorite Who villains.


  • 106, "The Creature from the Pit."
    Features an angry green blob, skulking around in a pit eating people. A romp, though possibly a little thinker than that description makes it sound; good script.

  • 108, "The Horns of Nimon."
    Wonderfully over-the-top villain, horribly grim scenario, and some funky '70s corridors that look disturbingly like the middle school in the neighboring town where district all-state band auditions were held. This is a good ep for Romana, who is very competent and very fetchingly dressed.


  • Season 18 in its entirety

    Four's last season. As Laura and Twings said upthread, the transition from Four to Five is very good. You need a little build-up, but the start of the season should be enough.

    This season had a thematic arc, rather than a plot arc. It's not the first time the show had done it-- Season 13 (eps 080-085) was organized around monster movies-- but it really works here, where the theme is Entropy. Every episode deals, in some way, with time passing and things falling apart.


    The two opening episodes, 109 "The Leisure Hive" and 110 "Meglos" are fairly zany-- the villain of "Meglos" is a cactus-- though they're both darker in tone than the same stories might have been in other seasons.

    The next three together form the E-space trilogy: in 111 "Full Circle," the TARDIS is stranded in an alternate space-time dimension, and picks up a new companion, the boy math genius Adric. I kind of like Adric-- he's a teenage boy who acts like an entirely believable teenage boy-- but many, many people hate him for the same reason. Also, poor Matthew Waterhouse can't act at all, bless his heart. 112 "State of Decay" is my favorite of the E-Space episodes; it's the one with the space vampires. And in 113 "Warriors' Gate," Romana departs and the TARDIS finds its way home.

    The next two also fall together: in 114, "The Keeper of Traken," we meet Nyssa, who will join the TARDIS team as a companion in the next episode. She's the girl math genius, wears wonderful velour jackets, and is sensible and level-headed to an almost eerie degree sometimes; I like her. We also meet the new Master, played by Anthony Ainley, who will stay in the role through the end of the classic show. Ainley!Master is more flamboyant, and less well-balanced, than Delgado!Master; he will be very much the defining villain of Five's run, as Delgado!Master was of Three's.

    And in 115, "Logopolis," we meet Tegan Jovanka, an Australian air stewardess who takes the TARDIS for a police box and wanders in; she's the last of the new companions to come aboard, and she'll be with the Doctor the longest. Tegan is sometimes overconfident, and sometimes gets discouraged way too easily-- she's very competent, but doesn't have a good sense of her own abilities. She grows a lot over her three seasons. And she gets possessed a lot-- well, twice.

    "Logopolis" has a lot of plot going on, besides the assembly of the TARDIS team, and it's a creative plot, featuring the Master, an attempt to repair the TARDIS's chameleon circuit, the introduction of the cloister bell, a whole planet full of mathematicians sitting like Nutches in niches intoning their calculations, a climactic showdown on a radio telescope. And, finally, the Doctor's regeneration. It's a great episode, and not to be missed.
Edited 2010-08-22 05:09 (UTC)