Seriously, what is wrong with Doctor Who fans? I genuinely don’t mean to be contrary, but it seems like every time I approach a story with no preconceptions, I like it a hell of a lot more than the people who, for example, voted it 222 out of 241 in the most recent DWM survey, below The Bloody Web Bloody Planet. And Before The Flood wasn’t that bad, but I’ll get to that in about three years.
Anyway, this story combined a huge amount of fun with all the drama you’d hope for in a season finale. You can’t fail to be delighted by The Master pissing about with time to thwart UNIT, or perfectly impersonating The Brigadier, or turning The Doctor’s voice backwards just to shut him up. The souped-up super-fast Bessie was also brilliant, as was Baby Benton. Little moments of joy sprinkled liberally throughout.
And as for the drama, the stakes were really ramped up. A lot of the cliffhangers were superb, particularly at the end of episode three with the Doodlebug crashing down on Captain Yates’s convoy, and the subsequent rare loss of composure from The Brig sold it as genuinely perilous. The Doctor’s speech about the hermit in the last episode was beautifully written and perfectly acted – both in Pertwee’s reading and Manning’s reactions.
A special mention for Katy Manning and Jo Grant, who both continue to absolutely shine. Jo is utterly fearless thanks to her total devotion to The Doctor – twice in this serial she has moments where she accepts the prospect of death, because life wouldn’t be worth living without him. Plus, her costume in the Atlantis scenes was really quite something.
It was nice to see a return to a historical setting, albeit a mythical one. I hadn’t quite realised how long it had been – you’ve got to go back to relatively early Troughton since we’ve seen anywhere that wasn’t contemporary, futuristic or alien. That said, episode five being set entirely in Atlantis, with no cutting back and forth with the present day, was a bit of a mis-step. It all went a bit Clavdivs and it was weird.
Also, obviously, great to have UNIT back for only the second time this season, but it’s a shame there wasn’t more for them to do towards the conclusion. Yates was hardly in it even before he was hospitalised, and Brig got frozen in time for half the serial. It was a strong outing for Benton, what with his various run-ins with The Master and the aforementioned Baby Benton, but it was disappointing that he wasn’t seen for two episodes after being youthed.
This lack of following through on ideas is all that stops this story from getting full marks. (Which reminds me, for those of you who have been paying attention – I’ve gone back and altered my rating for Day of the Daleks). Well, that and the initial manifestation of Kronos as a big flappy bird being a bit daft. It’s also hard to take something called a “TOMTIT device” seriously, and the time sensor thing, pictured above, totally looks like a cock and balls. Oh, and the inside out roundels are crap.
But seriously, that speech about The Doctor’s origins – along with the sheer number of times this serial made me exclaim with joy, shock or horror – makes this a worthy conclusion to what has been an excellent season. Not the season I was expecting, but with the exception of the damp squib of an opener, you can’t fault the results.
So yes, with the season over, let’s have a look at the scores so far (with totals correct at time of writing):
SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 8.4
- Seasons/Series watched: 9 of 34 and a third
- Stories watched: 64 of 255
- Individual episodes watched: 329 of 817
Very much looking forward to what’s coming next, even though I’m already familiar with the next couple of stories. Weirdly though, the prospect of The Doctor being free to explore the universe unhindered once more doesn’t feel as exciting as it should, thanks to the fact that this season has played out like his exile has already been lifted. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see a couple of old friends again…