WHAT IS HOT and WHAT’s NOT on TV for FALL 2012!!

I don’t have cable. I jumped off the band wagon years ago, and really have not been seriously tempted to jump back on. I’m content with waiting for products to hit DVD, and in the interim there are a lot of great shows out there on DVD to try.

I did that with both season 5 and season 6 of Doctor Who. Watching the shows over a few nights rather than the dubious experience of lengthy waits over several months, to invest in a story that may end with a whimper rather than a bang.

Which is how I tended to feel about Moffat’s Dr. Who seasons. While an imaginative and talented writer of “done in one” episodes or two parters, as a season wide story arc writer, his work tends to be swiss-cheese and disappointing.

So the ability to find that out by renting the DVDs over a couple nights, rather than an investment of months of ‘live’ watching, suits the way I like to view seasons.

That said for those of you who do watch TV/cable here are the shows I think you should be watching this fall, ones I’m intrigued in picking up when they hit DVD.

WHAT’S HOT

LAST RESORT on ABC- Why I’m interested? 1/Stars Andre Braugher of HOMICIDE fame. 2/Premise of a naval commander and his sub crew hunted for refusing to commit mass murder, has me incredibly intrigued. 3/One of the few dramas/genre/thrillers on an increasingly whites only TV shows, that has multiple actors of color

TREME- I’ve heard much about this Orlean’s based show. So look forward to catching up with it on DVD.

DOCTOR WHO- While I think Moffat should stick to done and one episodes or 2parters, and give up his attempt to outdo Russell T. Davies with big elaborate universe ending story arcs (Note to Moffat…, you may be a more imaginative writer than Russell, he is the better story arc guy. And your tenure is suffering in an attempt to outdo Davies rather than play to your strengths.

Particularly Moffat’s take leaves a lot to be desired. It gets old, the elaborate universe ending story arcs and over-hyping the Doctor into a God like protagonist. It just reads as bs and failed one-upmanship, and leaving your character no place to go or grow to. It tends to get boring, and while it’s fantasy and some level of inconsistency is inherent, season 5 and 6 have plotholes you can drive a truck through), I am interested in seeing where Season 7 takes the show. If Moffat would play to his strengths, smaller, intimate, done-in-one stories or two parters… the show could be fantastic.

WHAT’S NOT
ELEMENTARY- Sherlock Holmes is a recovering smart-alec drunk, Watson is his Asian female Bodyguard and Watcher, and the setting is New York. Really?!! I’m not a huge fan of the BBC SHERLOCK series, it’s okay, I just don’t think the writing is always up to the strong acting and direction, so my objection to ELEMENTARY has nothing to do with that BBC show. The more great shows the better. My objection is, if you’re going to change everything about it that is Sherlock Holmes, why even call the character Sherlock Holmes? I have no interest in seeing it, the premise just sounds insipid. However I’m willing to be proven wrong. If it makes it a full season and people are raving about it I’ll pick up the DVD, but otherwise this goes in the “What were they thinking’ trash pile.

That’s all for now! Feel free to leave your own recommendations, comments!

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DVD Review: DOCTOR WHO THE SEEDS OF DOOM

DVD Review: DOCTOR WHO THE SEEDS OF DOOM

Presaging John Carpenter’s seminal film THE THING by a full six years, The 6-part 1976 DOCTOR WHO serial SEEDS OF DOOM, is not only one of the best Tom Baker era Doctor Who episodes, but is one of the best Doctor Who story-lines; in its going on 50 year history(2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the show).

Mixing space born terror, cronenbergesque occupation with body horror, ecological concerns, and human madmen it is a surprisingly brutal and more than a bit horrific entry, in the oft imaginative, but usually tame, family show.

An intelligent, engrossing, exciting and risk taking script by Robert Banks Stewart (script edited by the great Robert Holmes and produced by Philip Hinchliffe, so SEEDS OF DOOM is the highlight of what many consider the best Doctor Who producer/script editor team), is complemented by one of the best directed episodes of Doctor Who by the equally great director Douglas Camfield, and all tied together by stellar performances from the usual suspects (Tom Baker giving one of the most commanding and passionate performances of his seven year run) as well as the guest stars.

It was typical for serials longer than four parts to feel padded, not this one, it starts out engrossing and just gets more intense each episode. My first impetus, upon my original viewing was to grade this an A/A+. Having let some time pass, viewing the episode again, it lives up to that first impression, it rates a solid A+.

If you want a modern comparison it is the BLINK (the best episode of the David Tennant era) of the Tom Baker era. DVD sports a commentary with Tom Baker (The Doctor), John Challis (Scorby), Kenneth Gilbert (Dunbar), Michael McStay (Moberley), Philip Hinchcliffe (Producer), Robert Banks Stewart (Writer), Roger-Murray Leach (Designer) and Joggs Camfield (son of Douglas Camfield, Director).

Final Grade: A+
Doctor Who: The Seeds of Doom (Story 85): Price Your Copy Here!

FAVORITE DOCTOR WHO DvD Commentary! THE POWER OF KROLL?!!

Recorded in 2002 (mere weeks after the death of Terry Walsh, one of Britan’s premier stunt-men, and a stunt man who had a visible role in many episodes of Doctor Who, most notably this one) the commentary by Tom Baker and John Leeson for the 4-part story THE POWER OF KROLL, first aired in 1978, is nothing short of great.

From tales of performing Sherlock Holmes, to a party for Sean Connery, to autograph seekers, to rumors of death, to Migraine Acting it’s just everything a commentary should be.

Tom Baker always a sharp, if at times distracted, speaker on commentaries, here manages to feel completely on… for this one, and delivers a really fun and funny commentary. And it helps that the episode of Dr. Who that this commentary adorns, is actually a very good story (starring Phillip Madoc whose performance elevated every Doctor Who episode he was in [including the 2nd movie]). So a fun story, with a must listen commentary.

And this story is part 5 in THE KEY OF TIME series, a 26 episode storyline. So rather than just purchasing this individual episode, I would recommend the 2009 Boxset that includes the entire KEY TO TIME storyline as well as extras that were not on the earlier individual DVDs (Including an interview with the aforementioned Phillip Madoc).

While this storyline is not in my best Doctor Who storylines (it has major flaws most notably the tedious and lackluster ending which basically made the whole storyline unnecessary) it does have some fun moments in the buildup, and THE POWER OF KROLL is one of those moments.

In addition it is something of a watershed moment in the Tom Baker years. After this his enjoyment in the series, and for the most part the quality of the series (while there would be some peaks, there would be far more often valleys) would be in steady decline, with the uneven John Nathan Turner years on the horizon.

So this is a great DVD to get a sampling of a time in a seemingly immortal series, when it glimmered… very bright… against the coming night.

Doctor Who: The Key to Time (Special Collector’s Edition) (Stories 98-103)! Price your copy here!!

The following breakdown is courtesy of Violin MD @ Amazon.com:

“The NEW 350 minutes-worth of special features details are as follows. All the making-of features are new and NEW commentaries are marked with an *:

I. The Ribos Operation: Special Edition (1 DVD; 4 episodes; 98 mins)
1. Commentary with Tom Baker and Mary Tamm
2. A Matter of Time – A new 60-minute Documentary
3. The Ribos File – Cast and Crew Interviews about the making of
this story
4. Continuities – off-air continuity links from the story’s
original BBC1 transmission
5. Season 16 Trailer – BBC1 trailer for the forthcoming season
6. Photo Gallery

II. The Pirate Planet: Special Edition (1 DVD; 4 episodes; 100 mins)
2 Audio Commentary Tracks:
1. Commentary with Bruce Purchase and director Pennant Roberts
2. * Commentary with Tom Baker, Mary Tamm and script editor Anthony
Read
3. Parrot Fashion – Documentary that includes old and new
interviews, including Douglas Adams
4. Film Inserts, Deleted Scenes & Outtakes
5. Weird Science – A funny look at the science seen in The Key to
Time
6. Continuities – off-air continuity links from the story’s
original BBC1 transmission
7. Photo Gallery

III. The Stones Of Blood: Special Edition (1 DVD; 4 episodes; 95 mins)
2 Audio Commentary Tracks:
1. Commentary with Mary Tamm and director Darrol Blake
2. * Commentary with Tom Baker, Mary Tamm, Susan Engel and writer
David Fisher
3. Getting Blood from the Stones – Cast and Crew Interviews about
the making of this story
4. Hammer Horror – Featurette about the influences of horror films
on Doctor Who stories
5. Stones Free – Mary Tamm visits the Rollright Stones location and
talks to local experts
6. Deleted Scenes
7. Continuities – off-air continuity links from the story’s
original BBC1 transmission
8. Excerpt from ‘The Model World of Robert Symes’
9. Blue Peter segment about the 15th anniversary of Doctor Who
10. BBC’s Nationwide news program segment about the 15th
anniversary of Doctor Who
11. Photo Gallery

IV. The Androids Of Tara: Special Edition (1 DVD; 4 episodes; 97 mins)
1. Commentary with Tom Baker, Mary Tamm and director Michael Hayes
2. The Humans of Tara – Cast and Crew Interviews about the making
of this story
3. Now & Then: The Androids of Tara – compares and contrasts
present day locations as they are now with how they appeared in
the story
4. Double Trouble – a brief history of ‘doubles’ in other Doctor
Who stories
5. Photo Gallery

V. The Power Of Kroll: Special Edition (1 DVD; 4 episodes; 90 mins)
1. Commentary with Tom Baker and John Leeson
2. In Studio – a glimpse inside the studio during recording of the
story
3. Variations – a BBC local news programme visits the story’s
location during filming
4. There’s Something About Mary – Mary Tamm looks back at her
single-season starring role as the Doctor’s companion
5. Philip Madoc: A Villain for All Seasons – Madoc looks back on
his numerous roles as a Doctor Who villain down the years
6. Continuities – off-air continuity links from the story’s
original BBC1 transmission
7. Photo Gallery

VI. The Armageddon Factor: Special Edition (2 DVDs; 6 episodes; 147 mins)
2 Audio Commentary Tracks:
1. Commentary with Mary Tamm, John Woodvine and director Michael
Hayes
2. * Commentary with Tom Baker, Mary Tamm and John Leeson
3. DVD-ROM: 1979 Doctor Who Annual in Adobe PDF format
4. Defining Shadows – Cast and Crew Interviews about the making of
this story
5. Alternative / Extended Scene
6. Directing Who – Michael Hayes looks back on his directing career
on Doctor Who
7. Rogue Time Lords – a potted history of errant Time Lords
8. Pebble Mill at One – Tom Baker interview from 1978
9. Radiophonic Feature – a Pebble Mill at One interview looking at
Radiophonic music and effects in Doctor Who
10. The New Sound of Music – Dick Mills talks about creating Doctor
Who sound effects
11. Merry Christmas, Doctor Who – a special Christmas sketch,
recorded on the set of ‘The Armageddon Factor’ for the BBC
Christmas Tape that year
12. Continuities – off-air continuity links from the story’s
original BBC1 transmission
13. Photo Gallery
14. Late Night Story – Tom Baker reads five spine-chilling stories
from this 1978 series:
a. The Photograph by Nigel Kneale
b. The Emissary by Ray Bradbury
c. Nursery Tea by Mary Danby
d. The End of the Party by Graham Greene
e. Sredni Vashtar by Saki (never broadcast)
15. Easter Egg

Adding up the running times gives us 627 minutes for the box set. All episodes are presented in full frame video, with the original English mono audio and with English subtitles.”

DVD REVIEW: DOCTOR WHO – THE HAND OF FEAR aka the SEXIEST DR WHO Villain?!!!?

Well that’s a strange heading for a blog post I admit, but I was re-watching the 1976 episode of DOCTOR WHO: THE HAND OF FEAR, and man is this a ‘rocking’ episode of Doctor Who!

Okay the following contains spoilers for the episode (as well as a smattering of risque adult themed humor :)), now you regular readers know I typically avoid spoilers like the plague, but there is no way to really sell this episode and not describe its reveals. And it is still a great episode, even when you know what is coming.

However, jump to the last paragraph if you want to avoid any spoilers (or avoid tasteless humor :)).

For the rest of you… into the mystery.

This 4 part episode works in large part because of the villain of Eldrad played by Judith Paris. A silicone rock based creature who is one of the first scifi gender-bending characters I’m aware of. This alien menace starts out off camera as a dude, becomes a dudette, and in the final episode returns to a dude form. It’s probably just as well that I didn’t see the whole serial as a kid, as my young mind may not have been able to compute all that. But as an adult I can appreciate the entire serial.

But yeah the first three episodes, and much of the fourth are just great, and again largely it’s because the villain of Eldrad is such a rich and complex character. Powerful, a bit violent, but also a bit vulnerable, it’s just a well written part, that Judith Paris I thought performed the heck out of.

It didn’t hurt at all that she was drop-dead gorgeous. Between her and Catwoman in the Adam West Batman reruns… I knew puberty had arrived. 🙂

Wait did I say that out loud?!!

What can I say that woman was frigging gorgeous. Okay there were slight problems, she was an alien menace, and she was made out of rock. Okay I see that being a minor hiccup, but hand me my ‘Ben Grimm’ condoms and cry ‘Clobbering Time!’, and I’m good.

(Heh, Heh! That joke is only for fans of the FF. Yes, I am evil! 🙂 )

Okay getting my mind out of the gutter (I’m telling you, I’m going to find that costume and put my girlfriend in it— wait… did I say THAT out loud?!! DOH!!) it’s just a great 4 part storyline, right up till the last episode, when Judith Paris’ Eldrad gives way to a male version.

Now, I’m not a sexist, and I’m not going to hate on the rock dude villain, because he’s a dude, but I am going to hate on him because… he is effing rubbish! Eldrad turns from a complex, intriguing, nuanced character, to this blustering, shouting, scenery chewing, mustache twirling stock villain… yeah.. it is just disappointing; a glaring combination of bad writing, and horrendously bad over acting.

But thankfully the screen-time of the male Eldrad is brief, and the episode ends on one of the pivotal scenes between the Doctor and his companion, Sarah Jane Smith. It was a good four part-er that really showed how well these two work together and what they mean to each other, which made the ending all the more… bitter-sweet.

All in all it is not a perfect episode of Doctor Who, largely because of dropping the ball with the demise of Eldrad, but that aside it’s a beautifully directed, and well performed episode that comes highly recommended. Plus the DVD offers a commentary with the cast, so it’s worth getting for that alone. Grade: B/B+.

Doctor Who: The Hand of Fear (Story 87)

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RATING THE DOCTORS: On William Hartnell THE FIRST DOCTOR & the First Season! 1963-1964!

This heat is kicking the proverbial posterior.

But hey I’m not complaining, I’ll take heat over cold, any day.

But you guys didn’t come here to hear weather talk, onto this installment’s insanity.

I’ve seen all 30+ seasons of Doctor Who, including the recreations (largely still shots and the audio recording of the shows) that exists through the hard work of dedicated fans, who preserved these shows for the love, when the suits couldn’t see any monetary value or re-watchability to these shows and could not delete the tapes fast enough.

It’s why I’ll side with the so-called file-sharer or collector or peer to peer proponent who does it for the love, over suits any day. Because I KNOW how much of our history (television shows, radio shows, silent and sound films, books, manuscripts) still exists not because of the money grubbing corporation who would (and have) let everything burn if they couldn’t make a penny off of it; but exists because of the dedicated fan and collector.

I’ve said that before, but it bears, particularly in our current environment, constant repeating. That the people who profit off a thing, are not the people that should be trusted with the preservation of that thing. And history bears out, that it’s necessary to have the dedicated collector out there doing for the love, what corporations will fail to do in the absence of monetary incentive.

Our cultural history owes much to the dedicated collector, that are being criminalized by the ‘Johnny-come-lately’ corporations, who have finally wised up to the fact that… people are interested in this old stuff.

Case in point, I still await official SPENSER FOR HIRE DvDs, or the full seasons of the live-action ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY that have been unavailable for over 20 years, and these things should not be sequestered away until some suit can find a way to profit off of them. In the absence of someone making them available, the collector is there to make them available. So thanks to great collectors… there’s a rumor that I may actually own both series :).

And if that rumor is true, I’ll hold onto those collector DVDs, at least until such time as the studios get off their ass, and release official high quality versions/DVDs, which I will be more than happy to support/purchase. But in the interim… to all the suits/companies out there, support and work with fans/collectors… they are the heart of your business. And more than that, they are the heart of the preservation of culture and art and history… in the absence of business. Give them their due.

Okay, off my soap box.

*****

The reason I got on that soap box is because, I have been rewatching Doctor Who, and much of that series has been lost through corporate stupidity and short-sightedness, but almost all of it has been preserved and recreated, even the pretty much devastated Patrick Troughton years (which I’m currently re-watching), and you can not watch those shows without being extremely mindful and extremely thankful, for the fans and collectors, who preserved those shows to the best of their ability.

I mean, now, today the BBC gives a damn about Doctor Who, because the show is making them a boatload of money, but you have to care about preserving culture and art… even in the absence of money, and that is what collectors do.

So yes, I’m thankful that we have shows such as:

William Hartnell’s four seasons as the doctor.

He’s remembered, unfairly I think, for flubbing his lines. However, what he should be remembered for is being the man who set the template, the tone, and the consummate “play this for real” passion that allowed the show to be a success.

Think about it, if Hartnell or those first companions did not make the premise work, the show would have been canceled in that first season and NO ONE would today be talking about Doctor Who.

Patrick Troughton gets a lot of praise for ‘saving’ Dr. Who, when it became necessary to replace Hartnell due to his deteriorating condition.

For continuing Doctor Who, I would agree, but for saving it? … no. The show would have gone on with or without Troughton. It was that popular. Hartnell had help make it that popular.

Don’t get me wrong, Troughton was a great actor and he made a fantastic 2nd Doctor, and the very, unavoidable medical issues with Hartnell pushed the writers and producers into coming up with one of the most brilliant and iconic ways to keep the series going… ie the idea of ‘Regeneration’.

I mean that idea, that was born under pressure and calamity and potential cancellation, remains one of the greatest ‘hail marys’ of television history, as can be seen by a whole new generation, wowing to the adventures of yet another whole new Doctor.

But had Hartnell and crew, not made DOCTOR WHO a success out the gate, no one would have been pressed to try and keep the show alive. They would have done the normal thing, canceled the show and put something else on, and DOCTOR WHO becomes, like many shows of the time, a forgotten footnote.

But Hartnell was a GREAT Doctor Who, an iconic Doctor Who, who loved and championed the show. And he did four seasons of the series, back when the workload was a YEAR ROUND weekly series, basically performing the shows in a live-run, like a play, performed beginning to end, no time for retakes, you hit the mark at the beginning of two hours, and at the end of two hours, they filmed the entire show… JUST LIKE YOU SEE IT AIRED!

With filmed segments cut in on queue, and effects and sound done live in camera….the amount of pressure and work, is beyond ANYTHING that television actors, or indeed directors, editors, crew are doing today. It was the work of master actors and crew, to basically have to learn and crank out a play a week, under budget restrictions and time restrictions that can only be called… crushing.

And William Hartnell did this. For going on four Years, largely without vacation, with seasons FAR LONGER than the laughably short seasons the BBC has today… William Hartnell did this. While suffering with what today we would call early signs of Dementia or Alzheimers.

*****

For nearly four years he bled and sweated and carried Doctor Who, when his younger companions were folding left and right under the pressures and issues of a financially challenged, somewhat ghettoized show. Hartnell’s tenure as the Doctor saw him with the most companions (A whopping TEN companions. And every departure cut Hartnell like a knife, who saw the show as a familial thing), and having to ride the most tumultuous time in the history of the show, when it was figuring out, on a weekly basis, what it was, and who the characters were.

That he was able to play the series as long as he did, when suffering from a condition known to cripple, says everything about the nature of Hartnell’s professionalism, his “the show must go on” ethic. I just think a lot of people focus on the occasional flubs, when he was given tons of gobblydeggok to say, and he made it work. I don’t know of any actors today, in their full health and prime, who could have done week in and week out what Hartnell did, producing basically live televison in a fantastic setting.

Which is far more difficult than just soaps, because you have the additional hassle of effects and costumes and elaborate monsters and cut in scenes, and hitting marks, it’s really a big budget type cinematic production, done on a shoe-string budget and with no retakes and no time, and everything music, etc… done in camera.

Actors today would piss themselves.

I just have a tremendous amount of respect for Hartnell as a performer, and he could really perform and act and emote, and bring it when he needed to… which more often than not… was always. Add to all of that he also had some of the best episodes under his tenure, namely:

SEASON I 1963-1964

AN UNEARTHLY CHILD- PILOT- It does everything a first episode needs to do. Incredibly ambitious, for the time. A time ship, bigger on the inside than the outside, and looks like a simple police phonebox. It is just a genius conceit, even 50 years later. GRADE: B+.

100,000 BC- 3 episodes- It’s not a great episode by today’s standards but it is a necessary one, as they are still defining the Doctor, and his crew of travelers. And it is pretty brutal for a kid’s program. GRADE: B-/C+.

THE DALEKS by Terry Nation, directed by Christopher Barry and Richard Martin- 7 episodes- Terry Nation’s script and idea, fleshed out and realized, made concrete by the producers, and designers and voice actors, resulted in an immediate worldwide sensation… The Daleks. And the story, is quite good, quite ambitious, though of course hampered by the budgets and limitations of the time.

It is a great intro to one of the great iconic creations of television history. The serial falls apart in the last episode, the whole “live” thing, the director just couldn’t pull it all together, so it’s a bit of a mess. But the serial is strongly recommended in-spite of that; and it highlights, the rare times when it goes wrong, just how masterful the cast and crew was, to enable it to go right… most of the time. GRADE: B.

INSIDE THE SPACESHIP aka The Edge of Destruction- 2 episodes- This is another example of them not really having the time to make the story come across, it’s a bit of a confused mess. But it’s an intriguing watch, and is available with a nice commentary with the actors. The commentary worth the price of admission.

Marco Polo- seven episodes- A recreated episode, stills and audio, watched this recently it’s quite good. From the few shots of sets in color, it was quite an elaborate period piece.

The Keys of Marinus- 6 Episodes- Terry Nation returns, this is a great, exciting serial. Even with a bit of implied rape. Terry Nation always wrote excellent scripts that explored not only man against the alien, and man against nature, but far more interestingly man against man. His scripts and the crews performance transcends dodgy sets and questionable effects. GRADE: B+.

The Aztecs- 4 episodes – One of the best Doctor Who stories! This historical episode, sports great acting, great sets, and a great story. And wonderful direction. This is available with commentary, and I highly recommend it. One of my favorites. GRADE: A+.

THE SENSORITES- 6 episodes- This is one of the most successful of the scifi themed serials (the first season nearly equally divided between the historical episodes and the scifi/fantasy episodes) for season I. As it allowed some growth for the character of Susan, and real thrills for the rest of the characters. Lots of fun. Grade: B/B+.

THE REIGN OF TERROR- 5 episodes- This Dennis Spooner penned tale is quite enjoyable. The last two episodes are recreations (stills, audio) but is perfectly understandable and builds to a fun end. GRADE: B.

Those are my grades for season #1. Counting the pilot, Thirty eight weekly episodes!!! Wow! Episodes I didn’t grade are worth a look, for historical reasons, but may not be the show at its best.

Stay tuned for upcoming season reviews!

Doctor Who: The Beginning (An Unearthy Child / The Daleks / The Edge of Destruction)

Doctor Who – The Aztecs (Story 6)

RATING THE DOCTORS: The Best & Worst Doctor Who Companions Pt. 2 of 2!

While picking the companions I disliked was easy. Narrowing down my five favorite companions is a LOT more difficult, because in 30+ years there have been some great companions. On the whole the good companions far outweighing the ones I dislike.

So narrowing down all those great companions to my five favorite, very difficult, and very subjective. But as stated, having recently watched all 30+ seasons of the show, you can call my choices informed subjectivity.

So without further ado:

I have some issues with Russell T. Davies as discussed in my worst companions posting, but one thing you can’t fault him with is in building up the dynamic/relationship between the Doctor and his female Companion, and doing a great job of casting that companion role… well, and writing it… well.

I think one of the common complaints many actresses who played a companion to the Doctor had, was in the writing of their roles. Davies with the characters of Rose and Martha created companions who had it all, beauty, brains, guts, and adventuresome spirit, and a personality, an aura… magnetic. And roles that complemented the Doctor.

So while I really love a lot of the companions that have been in and out of the ship of time, the two I come back to the most, which is a way of saying the two who are great characters, brought to life by great actresses, and they have great stories under their belt, and a great complement to the doctor… in other words they have it all…

Martha Jones played by the stunning Freema Agyeman and Rose Tyler played by the effervescent Billie Piper. They get the one, two spot.

Sarah Jane- I don’t think any list of best companions would be complete without Sarah Jane, played by the fantastic Elisabeth Sladen, who brought such a caring, and humanity, and belief to her role, and whose tenure bridged both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.

Liz Shaw, played by Caroline John, acted opposite Jon Pertwee’s Doctor. And she brought beauty, brains, wit, sophistication to the role, and at the time they thought that was too much. She was too capable, and she was replaced in a single season, with a dumbed down companion Jo Grant(that’s not a kick against Kathy Manning, who played Jo Grant, she quite made that role her own, and made that dynamic work, and became a great, woman of action companion for the bulk of Pertwee’s run). However, it was still an unfortunate replacement because she was a fantastic companion. And you look back at the handful of stories she did and they all stand out as fantastic Doctor Who episodes.

The last spot is a tie between Leela and Ace.

Leela- I really liked the character of Leela, playing opposite Tom Baker’s Dr. Who. Played wonderfully by the beautiful Louise Jameson, I thought she was a very interesting character, but her relationship with Tom Baker’s Doctor, and seemingly Tom Baker himself, was seemingly frictious and dismissive. Possibly because she was such a strong and striking character, and a strong and striking actress, and Tom Baker at the time wanted no competition for the spotlight. But despite the less than stellar dynamic between them, they still were in 2 or 3 of the best story-lines in the history of the series.

And tying her for fifth place was Ace played by Sophie Aldred. Ace was just a fantastic companion, and had a great relationship/chemistry with Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor. And they were in some amazing stories together. Their REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS being easily in the top ten of any list of best Doctor Who stories.

Honorable mentions are:

Ian Chesterton – played by William Russell from 1963 to 1965 with William Hartnell
Barbara Wright – played by Jacqueline Hill from 1963 to 1965 with William Hartnell
Susan – played by Carole Ann Ford from 1963 to 1964 with William Hartnell
The first companions, if they had failed, if their chemistry had failed, we wouldn’t still be talking about the show.

Jamie – played by Frazer Hines from 1966 to 1969 with Patrick Troughton
His chemistry with Patrick Troughton, was a great, almost vaudevillian dynamic.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart – played by Nicholas Courtney from 1968 to 1989 with all the “old” Doctors apart from Colin Baker.
While not a companion, Nicholas Courtney’s reoccurring role as Brigadier Stewart, head of the UNIT, was a great addition to the Who mythology, particularly during the earthbound Pertwee era. He’s just a fantastic straight man for the Doctor’s craziness.

Jo Grant – played by Katy Manning from 1971 to 1973 with Jon Pertwee. She took the ditzy role she was given, and made it into a courageous character who would risk anything for the Doctor.

Peri – played by Nicola Bryant from 1984 to 1986 with Peter Davison and Colin Baker.

Let’s be honest, Nicola Bryant was brought in, by hit-and-miss producer Nathan Turner, for T&A… to sex up the show in hopes of salvaging the lackluster Peter Davison years. She was brought in for her huge breasts, and they were paraded prominently.

(Oh come’on don’t get offended, we’re all adults here, and that’s absolutely the truth. They were real, and they were fabulous. :). Oh, I’m joking! )

With the exception of Davison’s last episode, the only thing that was watchable about his tenure, was Nicola Bryant. But surprisingly enough, she was more than just a pretty face and a stunning body, she was a solid actress, and she was exceptionally likable, and this became very obvious during the Colin Baker Doctor years.

Colin Baker off-putting pompous portrayal of the Doctor, only made somewhat palatable because of Nicola Bryant’s Peri. I quite liked her, and unfortunately she was saddled with questionable characterization by the writers of her and her Doctors. But despite that she does manage to be part of 2 or 3 stories that transcended those issues, to be quite entertaining.

So that’s it for this installment. Five favorite companions and the honorable mentions! Feel free to mention your favorite companions.

RATING THE DOCTORS: The Best & Worst Doctor Who Companions Pt. 1 of 2!

Update:

Okay waiting for my trusty photographer to send me the pictures from Wizard World Philly, and then the 2nd and final part of that convention coverage will go up. Part II of the Pulp article, and the Charles Saunders MONARCH OF MAYHEM are both being worked on.

And working on WEDNESDAYS WORDS for tomorrow, Have not missed a Wednesday yet! (Knock on pixels)

So in the interim of all that heavy lifting I’m doing, here’s an easy, breezy post…

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THE BEST AND WORST DOCTOR WHO COMPANIONS

This year I made it through watching all 30+ seasons of Doctor Who, counting the old (with the exception of lost episodes) and the new.

I first ran across Doctor Who as a kid watching the Tom Baker episodes on PBS. Incredibly low budget even by my childish standards of the time, it was okay. Quirky, not something I really made a point of following, but would watch if nothing else was on.

Re-watching the entire 30+ year series in a matter of months, I have a far better appreciation and understanding of the series as an adult.

There were some really smartly written and exciting and imaginative episodes in the show’s 30+ year history, and we’ll get into those. But in this post I wanted to discuss the barometer for what is best and worst in Doctor Who… namely the companions.

If you dislike the companion, or find them annoying, or their dynamic with the Doctor just doesn’t work, the show seldom rises above your assessment of them. ie bad Companions translating to bad and annoying episodes. This is very subjective of course, but informed by the context of watching 30+ seasons of Dr. Who. So informed subjectivity if you will. 🙂

So without further ado the five best and worst Dr. Who companions:

We’ll start with the negative in this post, and do the best next time at bat.

WORST

Adric – played by Matthew Waterhouse from 1980 to 1982 with Tom Baker and Peter Davison – The character of Adric was an annoying whining and joy eroding albatross stuck on the end of Tom Baker’s tenure and throughout Peter Davison’s tenure by the long running and both creative and stifling producer, John Nathan Turner. John Nathan Turner was a hit and miss producer, responsible for an equal share of Doctor Who successes as he was missteps and failures. His choice of companions being one of his most obvious. Adric being the worst of Nathan Turner’s lot of disagreeable companions. “Wow we are getting to travel in space and time, so instead of being thankful or awed let’s just bitch and be upset all the time, and wear the same stinking clothes for no apparent reason”. The reason for wearing the same clothes, was another Nathan Turner misstep, wanting the companions to wear a consistent uniform, which just came off as stupid, and eschewed the fun brilliance of the first companions who every episode carried over pieces of clothing and garb from their adventures through time and space. Quite a fun idea if you think about it. So the character of Adric, was the most egregious of Nathan Turner’s bad decisions, but not, unfortunately, the only flawed bit of casting and character.

Turlough – played by Mark Strickson from 1983 to 1984 with Peter Davison, along with the characters of Nyssa and Tegan and Adric, he was part of Nathan Turner’s whiny, unlikeable companions. Which is a dig against the producer and writers rather than the actors. Despite Tegan being written unnecessarily combative and whining, and the character of Nyssa being completely underwritten, I didn’t find them too grating, or ‘turn off the show to avoid’ bad. However I did feel that way to a great degree by the character of Adric, and to a lesser, but still unsatisfying, degree, Turlough. So hence him making my worst list.

Mel – played by Bonnie Langford from 1986 to 1987 with Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy- In her defense she’s bubbly. But beyond that she just seems an odd choice that never quite works for me. She is not as bad as the others listed, I don’t dislike the character, I just don’t care for the character.

Amy Pond & Rory- I found her from the first incredibly annoying and uninteresting. Her whole pouty thing, and the Rory/Amy show… not remotely interested. Stopped watching after the first season with them.

Mickey Smith- Ugghhh. A Shakespearean trained actor and you have him doing a bitchy step&fetchit neutered character. Just annoying from the first episode of the revived Doctor Who series. I disliked the character so much, that it would not be until many years later, when given the chance to view the whole series cheap, that I would go back to Doctor Who. A character that defines the negative connotations of the term ‘Black faces, White messages’. Russell T. Davies who is to be applauded for reviving Doctor Who and making it a world-wide phenomenon had some very negative uses of male characters of color in his first few seasons, and Mickey Smith was that dynamic at its worst. Ironically with the character of Martha Jones, he would introduce a fantastic female companion, and a fantastic character of color; Davies issues relegated seemingly only to the male. Whatever the reason Mickey Smith was an awful character, redeemed only marginally in his last few appearances.

Those are the five worst companions in no specific order, though I think you can tell by my descriptions, my personal ranking of them. See my rating for the five best companions here!