A Regeneration for the Ages


Review of The Caves of Androzani: SE (Story #135, 1984)
DVD Release Date:  14 Feb 12
Original Air Date:  08 - 16 Mar 1984
Doctor/Companion:  Five, Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown
Stars:  Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant
Preceding StoryPlanet of Fire (Five, Turlough, Peri)
Succeeding Story:  The Twin Dilemma (Six, Peri)

There are plenty of Long Term Fans out there (and polls, no doubt) that will tell you that The Caves of Androzani is The Best Doctor Who Story of All Time. I'd heard that about Caves ever since I started immersing myself in Who, and was really eager to get to it that first time, some three-and-a-half years ago. I have to admit I was underwhelmed.

Don't get me wrong; I liked it well enough. I just didn't think it was "all that." Recently, I was discussing it with an Internet friend who is a Long Term Fan. I eventually decided that, in part, it was because I first saw it while I was still largely unfamiliar with the pre-Hiatus canon. Having now re-watched it both during my pre-Gallifrey One Marathon and for review of the Special Edition DVD release here, I have to conclude that most of it is more likely to be a difference in the Long Term Fan v. neowhovian perspectives.

There are unarguably some brilliant facets. The regeneration - more correctly, the series of events that lead up to the regeneration - is the most poignant, selfless, Doctor-y one ever. I am in complete agreement with those who cite it as The Best Regeneration of All Time. If for nothing else than being able to see the Doctor completely swept along with events out of his control and paying the ultimate price in order to pull it out for his friend at the last moment, you should definitely go watch this one. But I'd be lying if I told you I thought there were none finer.


Excitable and Exasperated


Review of the Fifth Doctor's era

1982 - 1984
Four to Doomsday
The Visitation
Black Orchid
Arc of Infinity
Mawdryn Undead
The King's Demons
The Five Doctors (Special)
Warriors of the Deep
The Awakening
Resurrection of the Daleks
Planet of Fire
The Caves of Androzani

There's a lot about Five that feels eminently Doctor-y to me. It could be that Ten is "my" Doctor, and Five was Tennant's, so a lot of mannerisms and such carried over. But the way Five gets so excited about possible solutions to the problems he faces - almost frenetic at times - is very much part of what I consider "the Doctor." He's quick-witted yet fallible, and has great love for his Companions even as he gets irritated with them on a regular basis.

Nowhere is that more obvious than in his relationship with Tegan, one of the longest-running Companions. They constantly snark at each other, yet in threatening circumstances each strives to protect the other. When his off-kilter regeneration threatens his well-being, Tegan takes charge, keeping control of the situation with an "excuse me - I'm responsible for the Doctor!" Conversely, he often tries to bolster her courage with a "brave heart, Tegan!"

As for that regeneration, it's the first one that seems to go a bit wrong (later Six, Eight and Ten all have problems settling into their new bodies). It makes not only for a good story hook for Castrovalva, but also for some fun impressions, as Five re-inhabits his former personae in turn (I particularly like that he gets to say "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow" and "when I say 'run,' run!"). Add a stalk of celery, though, and he's right as rain...

I don't know what it is about Five that I find so relatable yet simultaneously impossible to describe. Clearly, he's the Doctor, so he's fabulous in his own way. For example, when he's told he shouldn't get into a duel with someone because "he is said to be the best swordsman in France!" he merely responds with a cool, "well, fortunately, we are in England" (four years before The Princess Bride).


Nu-View #4: My Job Here's Not Done


Resurrection of the Daleks (Story #134, 1984)
Viewed 19 Jul 2011

Doctor/Companion:   Five, Tegan Jovanka, Vislor Turlough
Stars:  Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson
Preceding StoryFrontios (Five, Tegan, Turlough)
Succeeding Story:  Planet of Fire (Five, Turlough, Peri)
Notable Aspects:

  • departure of Tegan

Having felt that I'd not yet given the Ladies a good feel for Five, I decided to trot out some Daleks (the vote was in favor of them over the Cybermen). I'm not sure I still managed to get across a good feel for his character, as evidenced by some of the general reactions (see below), but at the very least, a good time was had by all.

First impressions were that this one seemed more '70s than '80s (aside from costuming). It was also rather Star Trek, what with the crashing around and the doctor in battle, ready to "take the fight to them!" Someone also opined that Turlough looked like a Romulan with a red wig (also apropos because he claims to be on the side of the "good guys," but we (the Ladies, anyway) never quite trust him...). However, it was really the Doctor and the Daleks that brought the most comments.

Our first sighting of the Daleks brought the comment that they seemed to be more tolerant than they are these days. I'm not sure that that still held true by the end of the story, but they had a lot to do. I mean seriously - a plot to assassinate the High Council of Time Lords? They got so busy with everything else, they couldn't even remember to come back to that after its toss-off mention, so obviously they had a lot on their proverbial plates. I wonder if that's why they can't handle a little eyestalk impairment ("for being such badass warriors, they get so panicked," observes jA).


Malus Aforethought


Review of The Awakening (#132)

DVD Release Date:  12 Jul 11
Original Air Date:  19 - 20 Jan 1984
Doctor/Companion:  Five, Tegan Jovanka, Vislor Turlough
Stars:  Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson
Preceding StoryWarriors of the Deep (Five, Tegan, Turlough)
Succeeding Story:  Frontios (Five, Tegan, Turlough)

For various reasons explained in the extras, it was deemed that the story that eventually became The Awakening needed to be reduced to two episodes. I suppose that's one reason that it didn't grab me as a particularly inspiring installment. It starts out feeling very Doctor-y, with something going wrong with the TARDIS yet landing in the right time and place. Some villagers are "in on" the odd happenings and others aren't, and we're left wondering why.

However, after that, it gets a tad jumbled. It's not that it's a bad story, by any means. I never really understood the motivation of the Malus, though. It was all just a bit... foggy. What finally defeated it in the end was unclear, too, but aside from the Malus itself looking a bit rubbish once it began to animate (sorry - I know the production team did a fabulous job given the times and the budget, but...), I actually did enjoy several bits, even if they were oh-so-stereotypical.


Nu-View #3: Foray Into Five


The Visitation (Story #120, 1982)
Viewed 19 Apr 2011, 21 Jun 2011

Doctor/Companion:   Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan
Stars:  Peter Davison, Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding
Preceding StoryKinda (Five, Adric, Tegan)
Succeeding Story:  Black Orchid (Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan)
Notable Aspects:

  • demise of the sonic screwdriver, which would not be seen again until The Movie in 1996

I found it difficult to decide at what point in his tenure to trot out Five for the Ladies' viewing. Eventually, I decided I wanted one that involved the classic trio of Adric, Nyssa and Tegan, and settled on The Visitation because it gave a good sense of the three of their personalities. I'd have used Castrovalva, but I wanted to save that as the denouement of the whole regeneration arc for another time.

Due to various scheduling conflicts, the Ladies had to watch this one in shifts. Each time we had at least one n00b and one veteran (here I include myself). Among other things, it was entertaining to hear the first impressions of appearances. One initiate commented that she wasn't sure about Five's outfit (to which jE immediately responded, "wait'll you see the next one!"). The other thought he reminded her of Chevy Chase. Everybody commented on the '80s-ness of the episode, from make-up to hair to costuming (jO thought Nyssa "would have looked so amazingly cool in 198[2]") to the TARDIS herself. There was also some consternation - coming from those accustomed to the modern "just swap 'em out" era - that the poor sonic screwdriver would disappear from the Doctor's toolbox for nearly a decade and a half after its destruction at the hands of the Tereleptils.



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