Sly and Enigmatic


Review of the Seventh Doctor's era

1987 - 1989
Time and the Rani
Paradise Towers
Delta and the Bannermen
Remembrance of the Daleks
The Happiness Patrol
Silver Nemesis
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
Ghost Light
The Curse of Fenric

For fans who liked the way Series Six wrapped up and the hints of where the show is going next (all that business with The First Question), Seven ought to be right up your alley. Part of the production team's new vision during Seven's tenure was to bring back a bit of the character's innate mystery and make the show a little darker and more engaging thereby.

It really starts up during the 25th anniversary season's opening story, Remembrance of the Daleks. Some of the Doctor's word choices are suggestive of his presence in the time of Rassilon and Omega (possibly as The Other: "...and didn't we have trouble with the prototpye"). In the following story (Silver Nemesis), he again elaborates on Gallifreyan history, mentioning Rassilon and Omega in the same breath once more. More tellingly, though, antagonist Lady Peinforte has learned the Doctor's secret, taunting Ace with, "Doctor Who? Have you never wondered where he came from? Who he is?" before talking of the Old Time and the Time of Chaos on Gallifrey. Seven seems apprehensive until the moment passes, his secret safe. In yet a later story, he's asked if he has any family. His quiet "I don't know" makes the certainty of the upcoming Last Great Time War almost seem like a relief.

And if his history isn't enough, then there's his future. Hints are dropped that at some point in his personal future the Doctor will become Merlin, helping King Arthur himself and crossing Morgaine again/for the first time. Head spinning yet? How about the fact that the second-to-last story (The Curse of Fenric) included in the denouement the revelation that there were clues to Fenric's involvement all the way back to Dragonfire, two seasons before? A "Bad Wolf," indeed...


Nu-View #6: An Auspicious Introduction


Remembrance of the Daleks  (Story #152, 1988)
Viewed 07 Dec 2011

Doctor/Companion:   Seven, Dorothy "Ace" McShane
Stars:  Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred
Preceding StoryDragonfire (Seven, Mel, Ace)
Succeeding Story:  The Happiness Patrol (Seven, Ace)
Notable Aspects:

Seven often gets a bad rap. I've never understood that, but perhaps it's because this is the first of his stories I ever saw. Not only does it have some interesting plot points (a few that never quite get explained), but it also includes a bit of fan service in the sense of bringing everything back to 76 Totter's Lane, where it all started (this was, after all, the beginning of the 25th series; there needed to be some nod to The History). Further, this regeneration comes across as genuinely fond of his young Companion, which is a nice change of pace after Six and Peri (though the Ladies didn't react as poorly to Six as I initially did).

All three Ladies were sitting down with Seven for the first time - a situation I don't believe we've had since The Movie (our first ever WhoFest viewing). You may recall from their introductions that though jA and jO came to Who as I did, through the post-Hiatus stories, jE grew up with it. However, she had such a negative reaction to Six that she stopped watching. That makes this story, and Seven in general, a more even field than ever before.

On the other hand, the extreme Eighties-ness created a divide that we don't often feel so acutely. The rest of us were ready either to sink into decrepitude or throw something at her when jA asked when this story aired and then casually mentioned that it was a mere year after she'd been born. And although I noticed it (having "come of age" in the '80s myself), I hadn't been particularly fazed by the incidental music that jA declared "so bad!" - while jE and jO hadn't even consciously registered it.


A Viewer's Purgatory


Review of Paradise Towers (#149)

DVD Release Date:  09 Aug 11
Original Air Date:  05 - 26 Oct 1987
Doctor/Companion:  Seven, Mel
Stars:  Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford
Preceding StoryTime and the Rani (Seven, Mel)
Succeeding Story:  Delta and the Bannermen (Seven, Mel)

While I wouldn't call Paradise Towers "awful," it certainly wasn't a scintillating piece of work, either. It suffers from a strong story concept poorly realized. Not all of that is due to the special effects (though they certainly contribute), but one wonders what could have been if there had been a bigger budget.

In the manner of a disclaimer, I suppose I should start by saying that Mel is among my least favorite Companions. Therefore, anything that starts with the Doctor pandering to Mel's desire to go for a swim (because he'd jettisoned the pool from the TARDIS - something she's obviously regrown since) and includes dialog with even a passing reference to one of her typically tragic outfits (as if we hadn't been trying really hard to ignore it) is unlikely to yield an unequivocal thumbs-up from me.

The pool serves as a plot device to bring our heroes to Paradise Towers (a supposedly utopian high-rise presumably located on Earth, somewhen post-21st Century), though it's a pretty thin one. I mean, when the pool appears inaccessible, Mel is ready to abandon the plan as well as the whole damn planet ("You don't happen to know another planet with a swimming pool, do you?"). What - there's only one pool left on the entire Earth? Get real...


Pearls Before Time


Review of Time and the Rani (#145)

DVD Release Date:  14 Jun 11
Original Air Date:  07 - 28 Sep 1987
Doctor/Companion:  Seven, Melanie Bush
Stars:  Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford
Preceding StoryThe Ultimate Foe (Trial of a Timelord) (Six, Mel)
Succeeding StoryParadise Towers (Seven, Mel)

It was with mixed trepidation and excitement that I awaited the release of this particular title. As a regeneration story, it ranked high in my want-to-see list, but knowing the history behind this particular change of Doctors (Colin Baker, who played Six, was canned - the scapegoat for falling ratings; unsurprisingly, he was none too keen to return to do a regeneration scene), I was wary of the event itself. Sadly, this is the one instance in which a YouTube viewing does not detract from the in-context regeneration. We get no more explanation than the TARDIS hurtling through space, with Companion Mel and the Doctor both unconscious on the floor of the control room. Upon landing, the Doctor is rolled over by a Tetrap minion, triggering the regeneration process. Even the magic of television can't hide the fact that Six is just Seven in a bad wig and old costume. In that sense, this story starts out extremely disappointingly.

The rest of it, though, is surprisingly entertaining. I say "surprisingly" because, knowing ahead of time that the Rani (one of my all-time favorite foils for the Doctor) would be impersonating Mel, I was ready to cringe. However, even those sections came across relatively well. They were saved, of course, by the brilliance of Kate O'Mara (the Rani) and the perfect tone she kept while being simultaneously ingratiating and condescending (the unintentionally one-sided snarking between the Rani and the Doctor is great fun). Once she got out of Mel's atrocious outfit (and the equally atrocious ginger wig), I was able to enjoy her performance fully.



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