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 Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor

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Whovian
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PostSubject: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Mon Oct 05, 2009 10:50 pm

I've been watching the Sylvester McCoy episodes (after having watched Tom, Peter, and Colin) and I have to make these observations. Please feel free to comment.

First of all, let me go back in time when I first saw them back in the late 80s. I thought they were campy, hokey, and I thought the special effects were just plain weak. That was then. I've now watched them several times as an adult, and here is what I've found.

The good: the Sylvester Doctor and Ace are a great team. They are very compatible and it's fun to watch them interact. I even like the audios they've created together...in fact I think they are the best audio team in the Big Finish series. I do like the "camp" factor of the Doctor and Ace does a ton of stunts which is cool. Ghost Light may be the best McCoy episode because of its story. I like the all the characters in it, and it has a genuine Doctor Who feel to it.

The bad: the music is that cheesy late-80s (cheap) keyboard sound. Synth drum rolls and electronic horn hits to accentuate the action. It makes you want to hide your head in shame. What happened to the great music that we found in the Davison era only a couple years earlier? Then there's the effects. Whereas there are a lot more explosions (which ok some are cool) there are a lot of sparkly ricochet effects and tinsel blasters. This is inexcusable. The filming itself is perhaps the biggest detriment to the show. Everything looks like it was shot with a handheld camcorder. It has that "live" feel that you could easily get creating your own home movies. I don't particularly care for that. I think they started experimenting with this style back in Colin Baker's Mark of the Rani. It looked a little better, but still cheap. The Davison era looks super classy in comparison. I'm so glad they didn't film Tegan like that. I guess they tried to do less in-house studio filming and more outdoor scenes, which would somewhat explain it...nevertheless it looks pretty crappy. Finally, there's the model spaceships which they try to superimpose over the cheap outdoor shots. The models themselves are probably cool, but when you combine the two elements it's disastrous.

So my question is, why? If the Davison era could be so classy, and the Colin era wasn't even THAT bad, then what on earth happened to the McCoy era? The sets even got cheaper! (Just re-watch Dragonfire again.) To some extent I can excuse some of the laughable stories (especially in Season 24) by assuming that they wanted to reinvent the Doctor as a Saturday morning event for really young kids. That excuse would fly with me. But the overall cheapness of it all really seeps through. It's really a shame, because McCoy and Aldred were an awesome pair on the screen. It would have been cool to see them in some better environments.

Does anybody have any theories why it went so bad during this time?
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greenk9
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Mon Oct 05, 2009 11:08 pm

For starters...during the McCoy era they stopped shooting on film. Yes it does have the look of a cam corder.

The music was like chalk board scratching or some teenager that just got a beginner's yamaha keyboard.

Despite this, one has to keep in mind that at this time, Doctor Who was barely hanging to life- and for what little budget they had...honestly they did a pretty decent job.

What did work was the Doctor and Ace...they were a fantastic team. When it worked, despite the very tight budget, it soared. Curse of Fenric, the Dalek episode...poetry. Who does not like the special weapons dalek?

Where it failed... Delta and the Bannerman- can anyone defend this bad episode...it is so cringe worthy.

I still do like 7- I was in college at this time when it was on wttw in chicago- in it's time it felt real fresh and new. This may be a bold statement, but even the shows now will be dated- but in truth date does not matter...if it is a good story-time can not ruin a good tale.
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Tue Oct 06, 2009 4:30 am

If you listen to any of the new audio from The 7th Doctor and Ace it seams like the story line are even better then the TV shows. I wounder how things would of turned out if the BBC gave DW a better budget in the late 80's.
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:54 am

They were made on the cheap and it shows in nearly every aspect of the show. I agree that McCoy and Aldred were a great team, one of my favorites actually - even though I am not a fan of this era. The music is the worst ever. Some scenes don't need music, but by god every scene is gonna get some. The theme arrangement is awful, too. The videotape is too clean. The stories...ugh. Only Season 26, save for Remembrance of the Daleks in Season 25, has stories that are any good. By that time it was too late. John Nathan Turner killed the show, I believe, because he lost touch with the fans and did what he personally wanted.
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Tue Oct 06, 2009 11:10 am

I think the McCoy era gets a bum rap with fans. Yes, it's laden with flaws (the music, the video, the FX), but it's also got some golden moments. The Doctor and Ace are a wonderful pair, McCoy's spin on the Doctor is truly unique, and by the time that the Cartmel masterplan started kicking into gear, the show was really going somewhere! It's a shame it got killed when it did, because I think it was about to experience a genuine rebirth.

As far as the quality of the stories, a lot of that depends on the viewer and his or her tastes and predelictions. For instance, while most fans seem to hate Delta and the Bannermen, I think it's wildly entertaining: goofy and slight, true, but that very tone is itself a commentary on the button-down 1950s period in which the episode is set! Anyhow, rather than argue which McCoy episodes are good and which are bad, let's focus on individual moments that work even when taken on their own. There are some great moments during the McCoy era: the Doctor's philosophical debate with the guard in Dragonfire; Ace spying the "No Coloreds" sign in the window in Remembrance of the Daleks, reminding us that time travel into our own past isn't always going to be pretty (later in that same serial, she wails on a Dalek with a baseball bat!); the Brigadier, pistol in hand, joining the fray one last time in Battlefield; the Doctor's monologue at the end of Survival...some good stuff, there. I also think that fans tend to remember the McCoy era inaccurately. The pratfalls, for example, are widely hailed as one of the "flaws" in this period, though in truth they're fairly infrequent; furthermore, they make sense when they do occur (right after a regeneration in Time and the Rani, wandering around on ice during an adventure played for laughs, etc).

In the wake of Colin Baker's take on the character--which, in his defense, was never allowed to evolve to completion as he'd planned--McCoy had a monumental task put before him: make the Doctor likable again. He did it with a blend of comedy, introspection, and mystery, and whatever one may think of his episodes, he created an incarnation of the Doctor that was memorable, unique, intriguing, and entertaining.
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Tue Oct 06, 2009 11:51 am

I'm actually quite a fan of the McCoy era - even Delta and the Bannermen, which would be considered a touchingly emotional story in the new series but had the bad luck to be produced in the campy style of the late '80s.

I'm a huge fan of Mark Ayres' musical scores - Ghost Light, Fenric, Greatest Show in the Galaxy. Keff McCulluch had his moments - so help me, there's stuff from Battlefield and Time And The Rani that's actually good music - but the hand-clap-sample stuff was indeed crap, and sapped any and all dramatic tension out of many a scene that could've used some real weight.

The OB location video may have looked cheap, but it was at least consistent with the studio video - take your pick as to which irritates you more, video quality or the video-to-film jump.

The McCoy era was saddled with less support, both budgetary and otherwise, from within the BBC in the wake of the attempted cancellation in '85. Even those within the Beeb who still liked the show were in a position where it was more politically expedient to step back and keep one's distance from it - i.e. let it die. It's a small wonder, in that context, that some of the McCoy era was as good as it was.

Stuff that I still think is enjoyable: Delta and the Bannermen (there, I said it), Dragonfire (well, maybe if one ignores/excises the lamentable "cliff hanger cliffhanger"), Remembrance, Happiness Patrol, everything from Greatest Show onward. Cartmel trying his damnedest to drag the show, kicking and screaming, into more modern storytelling sensibilities; so much of what informed the novels and audios - and therefore so much of what has informed the new series, which bears the indelible stamp of the influence of those novels and audios - came from Cartmel trying to update the show. I agree with the blurb on the region 2 DVD case: there's more of a straight through-line from Survival to Rose than most people are willing to give it credit for.
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mysterylad
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Tue Oct 06, 2009 12:22 pm

Earl Green wrote:
I agree with the blurb on the region 2 DVD case: there's more of a straight through-line from Survival to Rose than most people are willing to give it credit for.

I concur wholeheartedly! Ace's character arc was the prototype for everything that the new series has done with characters like Rose and Donna. While we'd seen the Doctor develop over the years, we'd never really seen that from the companions until Ace came along. Now, half of what makes the modern series so good is that all the characters are fully-realized people who change and evolve along with our favorite Time Lord.
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Tue Oct 06, 2009 12:28 pm

This is all true and I too go along with all of that and always have. Ace is a lot like Rose in many ways. If only they would have had another year. They were canceled just as they were finding their mojo...
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Tue Oct 06, 2009 6:39 pm

Earl Green wrote:
there's more of a straight through-line from Survival to Rose than most people are willing to give it credit for.
I dare anyone to re-watch one of the very last scenes of Survival, when the neighbor comes out complaining about the racket. I know it's not her, but doesn't the neighbor look and act like a young Jackie Tyler? Talk about continuity. That would have been awesome if that really was her.
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Tue Oct 06, 2009 7:53 pm

I also did like Battlefield...it was such a great romp back into memory lane with the Brig and Unit. I liked Bambera and also seeing a glimpse into the Brig's retired life. It was interesting that originally they were to kill off the Brigadeer but chose a more Disney ending.
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:02 pm

I like delta and the bannermen! (cricket noises)
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PostSubject: Battlefield   Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:33 pm

I liked Battlefield too. However, the space knights jumping around and fighting really tried my respect for the show. I think they pushed it a bit there.
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:37 pm

I liked battlefield too. (more cricket noises)
and paradise towers (Yet more cricket noises)
and I love The Two Doctors! (More cricket sounds still)
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Tue Oct 06, 2009 10:56 pm

I have no problem admitting that I really like Battlefield; it's packed with good humor and sheer fan-friendly craziness. For that matter, Delta and the Bannermen is funny ("He was ionized!") and kind of heartwarming...the faraway look on the Doctor's face as he clutches that guitar and muses on the strange things love makes a person do really underscores his loneliness. And as far as monsters-that-aren't-as-monstrous-as-people go, I love the "Dragon" in Dragonfire! It's a great creature design, even if it owes more than a bit to the famous Alien/Aliens design by HR Giger.

By the way, if you guys haven't read any of the Seventh Doctor's comic book appearances, I highly recommend them. They give the fan a chance to enjoy #7 and Ace in an environment free from low budgets and the music of Keff.
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Tue Oct 06, 2009 11:09 pm

mccoy had 2 doctors(really). the comical, spoon playing doctor he had to be from the get-go(so people would forget about the violent, mean 6th doctor). then when sufficient time had passed, he was the clever-i-know-more-than-i'm saying doctor. people either love him or hate him. i enjoyed both of his persona's. i almost say he's the first david tenant. first, they both have their serious, i'm a timelord, i will save the day persona. then, they both have their manic, fun loving persona's. as much as they tried to give colin baker layers, it just didn't work. people usually just remember him as the mean doctor that got the show cancelled. peter davison was great, but he was the same youthfull, fun persona throughout his 3 years. tom baker was definitive, but can we describe him as anything but alien(and yes i'm talking about the actor, as well as the character he played). i truly think that mccoy was able to carry off bad stories, and good stories, and everything in-between. he was even in the horrible us tvm, and was able to make his moments great.
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PostSubject: Wow   Tue Oct 06, 2009 11:47 pm

Wow, I just re-watched Battlefield. It really is that good. The pacing and the humor were perfect. It actually felt like classic Who.

Oh, and one more thing. I liked The Two Doctors. The whole Androgum plot was quite interesting, how the scientist was trying to civilize one of them, but it didn't quite work out. And the Shockeye character was truly scary. I totally didn't see the death of Oscar coming when I first viewed it. Equally shocking was how the Doctor viciously dealt with Shockeye in the end. The Troughton/Shockeye duo was the icing on the cake. Loved it.

Oh oh oh! One more thing. Attack of the Cybermen - people bash it all day long and I don't know why. It was one of the first episodes I videotaped on VHS and re-watched a dozen or so times. There was a lot of action/violence in it. I think that's why. It wasn't boring, that's for sure. It was the episode that made the Cybermen scary to me. Earthshock was sort of scary, but it wasn't as intense. The way they blasted the ice creatures (heat blast vs. cold temp creature not good), how they knuckled Lytton's buddy in the head, and how they crushed Lytton's hands to bloody pulps...and then Cyberized him...wow. That's harsh viewing for a kid. But it didn't stop me from watching it over and over...such a classic.
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Wed Oct 07, 2009 7:48 am

Hey, if we're going to extol the virtues of the Colin Baker era, let's do it on another thread! We need more intelligent threads. (By the way: Attack of the Cybermen was pretty darned edgy...for better or for worse, it certainly has an impact on the viewer!)
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PostSubject: Re: Intelligent Discussion about the McCoy Era Doctor   Wed Oct 07, 2009 9:38 pm

mysterylad wrote:
Hey, if we're going to extol the virtues of the Colin Baker era, let's do it on another thread! We need more intelligent threads.
That was totally my fault. Sorry about that. I just get so carried away with Dr. Who. There are so many cool episodes it's hard to keep a thread down to one doctor.
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