And so we come to number one! My absolute favourite story from the whole classic series of Doctor Who. Along the way we have reviewed some sensational adventures that are deservedly mentioned in the same breath, and others that require slightly more effort to love. Some adventures were genuinely difficult to place; even now I find myself looking at the list and wondering if one should be higher than another. For all of my pondering however, there was never any doubt which story would come first … the earliest adventure from the Patrick Troughton era to survive in its entirety; The Tomb of the Cybermen.
Everyone remembers their very first Doctor Who adventure. This one was mine. Sure, I had been in the room when my dad had occasionally watched the odd older episode on UK Gold, but I had never taken in any of it. Not until 1993, when the BBC repeated the adventure on BBC Two, did I finally sit down to actually watch a Doctor Who adventure from start to finish. By the end of the episode one cliffhanger, I knew I was hooked, as thirty years after they first appeared on British TV screens, I experienced the same thrill that six year olds in 1963 must have felt when they first saw a Dalek on their television screens. Six weeks later, each week all the more painful as I was itching to find out what happened next, I had very firmly transitioned from mild interest to absolute adoration. From this point on, countless teachers would lament my regular attempts to cover my school books with drawings of the menacing pepperpots from Skaro …
I begin my top three Doctor Who adventures with a wonderful story that rounded off Jon Pertwee’s second season as the Doctor. It is a testament to the production team that they managed to work within the constraints of the Doctor’s enforced exile on Earth with such skill and creativity, and they saved the best in Season 8 until the very end.
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 …