Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Seventh Doctor

Finally finished "the Psychic Circus" so thought id comment as felt compelled to,
They say that you always have a loyalty to the Doctor that you grew up with, and in my case, by the time I was seriously getting into Doctor Who at age 12 ,13 , it was Sylvester McCoy.
I had the VHS Tapes early fledgling titles( Remember these are the days of VHS costing as much as £20)  and "Death to the Daleks "The Pyramids of Mars"  "the Five Doctors" and "Revenge of the Cybermen" Will forever be all time classics for me
And i had the Target novelizations of previous episodes (Boy was i disappointed when i finally got to see invasion of the Dinosaurs)  the fun books like knitting album ,Dr who cook book and the Matt Irvine special effects book and Dr Who Technical manual (as i had yet to see this sonic screwdriver i was unaware of its importance to the Dr)
And i had the BIG reference books from messers Howe ,Stammers and Peter Haining ,
Ah the days before mighty Wikipedia and a search engine was a library

Granted, I’d been watching the show for a good few years by this point, I caught the State of Decay, the first story I ever watched. But while I enjoyed the Davison era and tolerated Colin Baker, (I wasn't a avid fan or dedicated watcher nor am i now it is a show i do enjoy watching periodically and do follow it is a show with great stories and entertainment and unique in the world of media )
 The eighties were dominated by producer John Nathan-Turner, who entered his role in 1980, heading season 19 until the shows cancellation in 1989 and season 26
I really found myself warming to the Sylvester McCoy (real name Patrick Kent Smith) reign in the Tardis,heck i even like his logo, tho not the opening titles or music

The man himself is the first factor. McCoy wasn’t an obvious choice to play the Time Lord,
 I loved that little bit of eccentricity,(and in real life is a really nice quiet man friendly and entertaining )
I felt that he had an identity in the role. and physically was a lot like the 2nd Dr in he was a small fun physical actor that had done a variety of shows and performances and physical theater,

His appearance once again dictated by John Nathan Turner ,(who you would of thought  would of learned his lesson after the sixth Drs costume) this is a man who is dictating and involved in design and look of costumes, yeah, same man who thinks the hight of fashion is Hawaiian shirts and bright colored trousers and shoes ,
it was ok, he kept his panama hat that he used at the audition and as well as a prop coming from his back ground in physical theater ,i liked ,the rest was strait from the 2nd Drs wardrobe baggy checked trousers crumpled shirt baggy oversized jacket with huge pockets ,
I liked McCoys touches of scarf in the Jacket lapel ,along with a unique iconic question mark Umbrella  and the Doctors pocket watch and TARDIS key in the Jackets top pocket ,but what was that jumper about?????? ,covered in question marks he looked like the riddler ,talk about ruining the character ,a item soon ditched in the books and audio novels and comics

He’s not the best Doctor Who ever, but he proved to be a good choice, and his passion for the show since is no surprise.
He also changed the tone of his performance a surprising degree over his run. and improved immensely,he may of struggled with the angry scenes and shouting but thats one small fault 

The early McCoy episodes, where he was playing the role a lot lighter, were certainly his weakest, as his portrayal of the Time Lord got much darker towards the end of his run.he improved
(A theme maintained in the New Adventure books i enjoyed and currently in the Big Finish audio plays )

Furthermore, once he managed to rid himself of Bonnie Langford (surely the worst assistant for the good Doctor of all time) and got Sophie Aldred in as his companion, things improved considerably. Some of McCoy’s earlier stories were the wrong side of ropey (Time and the Rani, Paradise Towers,anyone?), but when he teamed up with Ace it gave the writers an interesting, almost parental dynamic between the Doctor and his assistant that harked back to genuine old-time Who. It would have been interesting to see how the duo of McCoy and Aldred would have developed had the show kept going, although John Nathan Turner was believed to be looking to phase Ace out in the following series that never came.
A successful partnership that was very popular and endured in the spin off media and has proven extremely successful ,when free of budgets and time restraints  it gos to show what could of been
Although i hate the way she constantly calls him 'professor' that grated then and now he is the Doctor
nor do i agree completely with the Cartmell plan of the good Doctor as a god and one of the first ever Timelords, alongside Rassilon and Omega

And before we lay all this trouble and the show's woes on the shoulders of the producer Johna Nathan Turner,Who did yes stay to long ,but could not leave due to the BBC despite wanting to and would of given  new lease of life to the program  ,he did yes make it his own personal show and was involved way to much in to many parts of it  and it did yes become his personal view and fantasy and he made some terrible errors (like his successor Russel Davis and Stephen Moffet but unlike them he didnt influence the storys or writing or actually write for the show  ) and yes it did become as camp a show as the 60's Batman TV series

  I will say in its defense, his era took the show on some phenomenal highs and  into the 1980's. and definately glossed it up
Graham Williams left as producer at the end of the Horns of Nimon ,Shada  and it was up to John Nathan-Turner to vastly improve the series,

Season 17 was a very poor season, dominated by Tom Bakers performance and one man show , poor production and overly comic stories including cartoon noises  and scripts from then script editor Douglas Adams
Graham Williams had left in his wake some very appalling stories,and direction ,production  standards were exceedingly poor,
The show did gain some high production ,and some unique stories under John Nathan Turner's (JNT) tenure at first, with some definitely adult in tone,with high viewing figures and generally enjoyed and liked family show in the beginning of his tenure  it improved as he made his changes and settled into the program ,
a weekday slot loosing Bidmead and his confusing inexplainable plots to going through several Script Editors eventually to Eric Saward ,
The fifth Dr  Mara stories dealing in strong psychological levels and demonic possession, control and domination very adult in tone to fun adventures like the Arc of Infinity , Awakening and the visitation  and organizing and running the Marathon 20 yr anniversary and season

He promoted the show endlessly and kept it in the media ,he got it firmly established abroad and oversaw the first videos and mass market of the show ,
He also worked under some appalling conditions and dictum's by the BBC and had no money or time or any discernible talent around him and his ambitions often exceeded the budget and means at his disposal  ,
He was a variety style producer who although had worked for some time on Dr Who was at times out of his depth in the world of Science Fiction ,and he had to take his work and adapt it to Sci Fi ,which sometimes wasn't altogether successful, sometimes it was
But that Changed when he got new writers and script editors in Cartmell /Aranovitch they helped bring new life into the show and turn it round in its last season it was more like the show of old
And the improvements in technology of effects ,camera filming etc helped along with a good solid Dr Companion  team in Sylv and Sophie
He new Doctor Who having worked for the program on and off since troughtons time and regular as Production Assistant  as of Talons of Weng Chiang  1977 but alas this just was not the 70s anymore it was the eighties and the demands of the program were not met by BBC,he did much to modernize the program but he ran out of ideas and rest became regular light entertainment needing fresh ideas new production from 85 onwards
But he wasn't helped by lack of writers lack of money lack of some key talent and resources to develop make the program and being at logger heads with his script editor wasn't helping
His ego new no bounds and as a result lots of directors refused to work on the program the talent pool of old writers or anyone from shows past he resented this didnt lend itself to smooth running

Then there were some of the stories. Detractors of the McCoy era  (and I am not blind to its problems)  will quickly point to  the likes of Dragonfire and Ghost Light as bad episodes that did nothing but hammer a few more nails into the show’s coffin .
The tepid Cybermen outing Silver Nemesis didn't help either, especially as it was designed to mark the programe’s 25th anniversary.in fact that year was a big turn around for writing and performance and improvement of the show but was let down by some stories

But what about Remembrance Of The Daleks?, that’s as a good a Dalek story as we’d seen since Genesis Of The Daleks. The same writer, Ben Aaronovitch, also gave us the King Arthur-inspired Battlefield, which too was quite a piece of work, even if the effects  left a lot to be desired plastic Knights Armour and wooly jumpers for chain mail  and a sadly unrealized Monster in the Greater Deamon (Sue Moore another upcoming talent that made her mark firmly in the late 80s Doctor who and was defiantly brilliant at what she did from Heamovors to Greater Deamon to the ancient one etc can only think how if she had gone on or been in Hollywood she would of ended up) ,Destroyer, that was squandered and was generally

Hampered by lack of budget,EG Jean Marsh was wonderful as Morgane the witch but really ,stand in middle of blacked out studio in front of a black curtain ,get the dry ice machine and give her a lamp to hold as a magic ball ,that's it!.
 it was like a cheap pop 80s video,this is BBC late 80s for you and what Doctor Who the program was battling against,it looked better quality in the 70s but this aside Battlefield is a great story and some great performances and really does much to have one eye on the future but a hearty nod to the past

The Greatest show in the Galaxy  is a realy good story ive just enjoyed Nice sets simple yet effective Tardis console room looked good (why did they feel the need to skip it i don't know)  the Doctor and Ace on good form ,creepy Alien robot Clowns and maniacal bus conductor and strange Gods creatures ,and the setting in the "Desert of Dorset" was more convincing than the actual recent trip to film in the deserts of Dubai.

And then there’s The Curse Of Fenric, the finest episode of the McCoy era, and a good candidate for one of the top five stories in the show of all time.
This put the Doctor to the side of the action for the most part, instead developing the character of Ace quite dramatically,(NOT in a Soap Opera way or about her in a way that is outside of Doctor Who but a part of it .)
in a strangely moving and brilliantly constructed story. It stands up particularly well, not least because the DVD release has edited the story into one full story with subtle new effects it has great monsters chilling atmosphere and a good story well directed and shot

Even throughout the low points of his era,and remember BBC had not a clue putting it schedule against a popular soap and not advertising or promoting it and giving it no resources or funds

  McCoy had a gusto, energy and quirkiness that served the show well, often at times when a story around him was sinking without trace.
And yet when he did get good material to work with, he made the most of it, and helped deliver some stories that simply shouldn’t be overlooked in the world of classic Who.
Given the cheapness and lack of care from  the BBC at this time  it is amazing what in some stories was achieved , and it really deserves some reassessment.
Try to ignore the lack of money and cheapness and theres some good story's 
McCoy's brief appearance in the TV Movie shows what could of been with money time and effort on behalf of the production staff, new costume and all

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