I begin tangentially with a fact: I love regeneration stories. I didn’t fully appreciate the first one I saw (The Caves of Androzani) at the time, but I didn’t grasp the significance of the Doctor renewing himself. Probably though, it was Logopolis that fully converted me to enjoying regeneration stories. I think it is for the simple reason that Tom Baker is my Doctor – to borrow the lovely expression used by Matt Smith: “The first face this face saw.” The whole of that episode is brooding, melancholy and dramatic, building to the climax of the Fourth Doctor falling to his death – to regenerate. Stirring stuff!
This serial really confused me when I first saw it. The BBC did repeats of one serial for each Doctor – and I started watching from Genesis of the Daleks. I accepted the change to Peter Davison with confusion but reasonably equally, but was confused when Colin Baker appeared in Revelation of the Daleks, with no explanation to his change. Of course, I very soon figured out that the BBC had not shown the serials in order!
My first experience of The Awakening was when my dad bought it in a VHS double set paired with Frontios. I think it is fair to say that I hated both. Ten years later or so I got my hands on the DVDs. I had bought Frontios and been more than pleasantly surprised – I thoroughly enjoyed it. Whereas The Awakening came in a boxset with Hartnell serial The Gunfighters – a serial widely lampooned in fandom. I had therefore not been in a massive rush to buy the boxset, and slightly dreading what I might discover when I finally settled down to watch.
This was a story that severely disappointed me when I got my hands on the DVD. As a youngster I had rather enjoyed the other multi-doctor stories (The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors) – I think mainly for the sheer novelty of having more than one doctor in the story. This story is rather different to the other multi-doctor stories in that the others were written to celebrate the 10th and 20th anniversaries of the show respectively. The Two Doctors was sparked by producer John Nathan Turner’s desire to write a multi-doctor story that was not a celebration story, but genuinely an attempt to ask what happens when two doctors get involved in the adventure. The window of opportunity arose after Patrick Troughton enjoyed his return for The Five Doctors and mentioned he would love another opportunity to return.
Rule number one of plagiarism – don’t make it glaringly obvious where you have stolen the idea from. So when Ace remarks at the end of Silver Nemesis that the Doctor tricked the Cybermen “Just like the Daleks” (in earlier season story Remembrance of the Daleks) the script writers inadvertently drew attention to the fact that both stories are essentially the same – specifically:
This story is infamously remembered for the moment when Nyssa decided to take her clothes off for no readily apparent reason. For those wondering how this escaped the watershed, I should perhaps point out that she was still wearing an underlayer that by present standards is moderately modest, but it says a lot about the rest of the serial that this is the talking point most fans take away. (For the record, as Sarah Sutton knew it was her last story and had heard of complaints from fans that she’d been too well covered up, this was her response. Misogyny is sadly timeless)
We continue our theme of not-terribly-good Fifth Doctor serials with the story that concluded Peter Davison’s first season as the Doctor. This story is similar to Delta and the Bannermen insomuch that it was a serial I partially caught on UK Gold (never whole episodes – only snippets of each) and therefore wanted to see at some point. I was also very intrigued to see the very beginning of the story. As long-term fans of the show know well, the previous serial Earthshock ended with a massive departure for the series – the death of a companion. For a long while I could only imagine how the TARDIS team dealt with this death, and of course the challenge of time-travel that Tegan expresses so passionately: “You have a time machine! You can change the past!”