I am well aware that the concluding story in the Key to Time arc is not highly regarded in Doctor Who fandom. But I unashamedly include The Armageddon Factor in my top 100 (albeit it at the bottom end) as a story I manage to get great enjoyment from. I grant you that as with The Ribos Operation and The Power of Kroll, it would probably be less enjoyable were it not for the overall story arc for Season 16. But the fact is, it is the concluding episode of the season long story-arc, and a very satisfying conclusion at that.
We continue with Jon Pertwee’s final season with another 6 part story, Invasion of the Dinosaurs. And let us acknowledge the proverbial elephant (or should that be Tyrannosaurus) in the room – the dinosaurs are pretty naff. And unless you allow yourself to see past the dodgy special effects you won’t be able to appreciate the story in any way, shape or form. Do I wish they offered a version with upgraded effects when they released the DVD? Maybe just a little … but then we can’t have everything!
I have enormous fondness for Jon Pertwee’s Doctor and thoroughly enjoy most stories he features in. Sadly, this adventure suffers not so much from inherent problems as paling in comparison to other great Pertwee classics, and being but a shadow of The Curse of Peladon that preceded this adventure some two seasons previous.
There is a certain charm and mystery about the very first story of Doctor Who. There was no indication of what the show would become in future years, or even that there would be future years. Indeed, when one watches the 50th anniversary tribute, An Adventure in Space and Time, one appreciates just how fragile Doctor Who was until the series achieved audience breakthrough with The Daleks. At this point viewers knew nothing of this mysterious person simply identified as ‘The Doctor.’ Indeed by the end of episode one, the viewers’ sympathies would be largely with his unwilling first companions, schoolteachers Ian and Barbara, and perhaps for his granddaughter Susan, who seems much more gentle than the old man, but also somewhat under his thumb.
Following on from historical (and sadly
supposedly missing) epic Marco Polo, this six part adventure was a firm indication that Sydney Newman’s “No bug-eyed monsters” policy had been torn up. From here on, the Doctor and his companions would alternate (approximately) between a historical adventure and a sci-fi adventure, until finally deciding to scrap historicals in Season 4. At this stage however, the producers seemed to have revelled in the prospect of creating as many outlandish scenarios as they could reasonably get away with.
We resume the countdown with a two-part adventure from Season One. The Edge of Destruction was written to fill the block between The Daleks and Marco Polo while having to accommodate not having the budget for a major storyline. This apparent weakness actually led to a story that probably helped the show in the long run by giving two episodes only featuring the TARDIS crew, and focused entirely on their relationship with each other – and not least the relationship of Ian and Barbara to the still unpredictable character of the Doctor.
I have made several pleas in this short series for Steven Moffat to bring back enemies to Nu Who. Steven – if by some miracle you are reading this, and you only take away one request, then please take away this one: Bring back Sutekh in Series 9
Sutekh, the last of a powerful race known as the Osirians (basically the gods of ancient Egypt) makes his one appearance in Pyramids of Mars – but what an appearance. Gabriel Woolf produces a masterclass in voice acting – when Sutekh speaks it chills the bone. You forget that he is bound to a chair, seemingly imprisoned forever and instead sense the aura of his power and malevolence. In a rare event for Doctor Who, the show purposefully shows what the future would look like if Sutekh wins, showing an utterly devastated earth. Right until the very end you hold your breath, fearful that somehow he may yet win, and wondering how the Doctor can hope to stop him.
Need I make more of a case? As I have said before, Doctor Who hires very creative writers to come up with very creative ways to demonstrate that a person/species/planet isn’t actually dead – so Sutekh’s seeming demise need be no barrier. A story featuring the malevolent awfulness of Sutekh, and the full threat of his evil power would be genuinely frightening and exciting concurrently – not least to imagine Peter Capaldi facing off against him. We very rarely see the Doctor face an enemy who possess the means to destroy all of creation (the Daleks really don’t count) and carry the clear understanding that if freed they will proceed directly to destruction. Sutekh is such an enemy, and he is long overdue a comeback.
This then is the last of my enemy reviews, until later in my countdown I review my best loved recurring enemies. In my next post we continue the countdown with a William Hartnell adventure at number 100 …