56 – Remembrance of the Daleks

Okay – I think it is vitally important I start with one clear statement: I really like this story.

It’s important to begin there, because every Seventh Doctor fan and apologist will be apoplectic with disbelief that this story does not feature in my top 50 stories. Indeed, they will notice some of the stories not yet reviewed (thinking for example of Terror of the Vervoids or The Three Doctors) and wonder how I could think these stories better than Remembrance of the Daleks. So, let me repeat again, I don’t think this is a bad story – it is an excellent story, and a fine example of what the McCoy era should have been like. I have no hesitation in saying that if McCoy had been given a full 26 episode season with stories like this (and the budget of the 1996 TV Movie) I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. This story is fantastic Doctor Who.

Why then is it not in my top 50? For no other reason than personal taste – I hugely enjoy the stories in my top 100, and even have a soft spot for patently rubbish stories like Four to Doomsday (absolutely NOTHING however, will make me ever like Paradise Towers). Remembrance of the Daleks suffers from no great flaw other than being slightly less enjoyed than the stories above it. But that is no shame at all – rather a testament to 26 superb seasons of drama.

This story could have come directly from the classic era of Pertwee and the UNIT family, even featuring characters pretty much in the style of the Brigadier (Group Captain Gilmore), Mike Yates (Sgt. Mike Smith) and Liz Shaw (Dr Rachel Jensen). It features not one but two Dalek factions, each fighting to gain control of a Timelord artefact known as the Hand of Omega – a device that engineers stars to enable time travel. In a plot device later revisited to less good effect in Silver Nemesis the Doctor intends that the Imperial Daleks (under the control of the ‘Dalek Emperor’) should gain control of the device rather than the rebel Daleks.

A superb combination of well paced action and intrigue, the story features several memorable moments – not least that cliffhanger showing a Dalek hovering up a flight of stairs, debunking the myth of Destiny of the Daleks that Daleks are foiled by elevation changes. Also memorable is the revelation that the rebel Daleks are not controlled by Davros (as the TV angle suggests) but by a child conditioned to be a battle computer for the Daleks, and the the Dalek Emperor is in fact Davros. Ace famously takes on a Dalek with a souped-up baseball bat, and Sylvester McCoy gives his most memorable speech, in which the phrase ‘unlimited rice pudding’ features to describe Davros’ insane and insatiable desire for universal domination.

I cannot enthuse enough – this is a great story, and a great way to introduce anybody to classic Doctor Who. It’s only a pity that there are 55 stories I like better …

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78 – The Curse of Fenric

As I typed the story title in for this review, I had a vivid sense of fans of the Seventh Doctor reaching for their cutlasses and crying for my blood – evidence (if need more be presented) that I have it in for poor Sylvester McCoy! So let me unashamedly begin by saying that I really enjoy The Curse of Fenric, and as with all stories I am currently reviewing the problem is not that it is a poor story, but simply that I get more enjoyment from the stories above it! And that, really, comes down to personal taste as much as anything else – you will have already noted by the absence of large numbers of Troughton, Pertwee and Tom Baker stories, that their eras are the ones I hold in the highest esteem.

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120 – Silver Nemesis

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:

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125 – Ghost Light

We return to the adventures of the Seventh Doctor, but in contrast to Black Orchid, this is a serial that went from being very badly regarded by myself to being rather enjoyed when I bought the DVD. It therefore also marks a new stage in my reviews – until now the stories were to fault ones that I did not enjoy, or had very little to commend them. From this point on, we are dealing not with stories that I did not enjoy, but rather stories that I enjoyed less than those that come later.

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The Season 24 that should have been

Having now consigned Season 24 almost exclusively to the bottom ten, I would now like to conjecture on what could have been done to salvage the show – because in reviewing the four serials that made up Sylvester McCoy’s first season I was struck that none of the stories were irredeemable, merely badly executed.

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128 – Dragonfire

As readers who have followed this blog from the beginning will have already grasped, Season 24 of the classic series is easily my most disliked season of the original series run. I have mentioned five other series in the bottom ten (granted, all produced in the 1980s) but the point is that each series has had at least one decent story to redeem it. Rather tragically this is not the case for Season 24, which is why Dragonfire rounds off our bottom ten.

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