Weirdly, number four in my classic Doctor Who countdown comes an adventure that I took a little while to warm to as a child, quite possibly because it is very much the epitome of the Philip Hinchcliffe gothic horror era of Doctor Who, and features a rather high body count. It is a sign of how much I now enjoy the adventure, that when I travelled recently to visit my family, this was the adventure I chose to sit down to watch with my dad – and we both enjoyed every minute of it!
We enter my top five with no shocks remaining, least of all this adventure. Often voted one of the very best Doctor Who adventures ever, Peter Davison’s swansong is one of the most emotive and gripping stories to ever grace the classic series. It is also however, one of the grittiest, with an incredibly high body count, an undeniably brooding and sinister tone, and cliffhangers that left a seven year old Dan very confused.
Of all the stories in my top ten, I think The Deadly Assassin is the one that will be most surprising. Not because it is in any way a bad story – but it is not necessarily one that is universally acclaimed as a classic. The story however is very important in Doctor Who’s history on two counts; it is the first time we travel to the Doctor’s home world of Gallifrey (not counting the brief scenes in The War Games and The Three Doctors), and it is the first time we see the Master portrayed by an actor other than Roger Delgado.
City of Death is perhaps the finest example in the entire classic series run of how a simple science-fiction concept can be elevated to superb drama with the right author and the right cast. The story was developed from its initial concept by Douglas Adams, aided by producer Graham Williams, and the result is an adventure that was a wonderful blend of Adams’ esoteric style of humour, and good old fashioned British storytelling. Which is ironic given that the story is set in Paris, and features the theft of a famous Italian painting …
When it comes to iconic villains, fans often think of the Daleks in Trafalgar Square, or the Cybermen advancing from St Paul’s Cathedral. It is amazing therefore that one villain has become firmly lodged in the memory of fans despite only one appearance – but oh what a glorious appearance it was!
What do you get when you combine the gothic horror of that typified the era when Philip Hinchliffe was producer (Seasons 13 and 14) with the humour that that typified the era when Douglas Adams was most involved with the series? Well, my humble opinion is that you would get The Stones of Blood – and that is what makes it such a masterpiece!
The closing story of Jon Pertwee’s debut season is one of the finest pieces of fiction ever produced, not only for the story concept, but also for the peerless delivery of a very clever idea. Parallel universes are not a new concept by any means, and in 2017 might almost be considered old hat. Inferno however is one of the very best examples of using a parallel universe to make a good story into a great story – and the amazing thing is, that if the BBC hadn’t been facing financial pressures, it might not have happened …