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 Taking a Dive into Classic Who

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Rust
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PostSubject: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:17 pm

So I'm a relative newcomer to the Doctor Who fandom. I watched a few episodes here and there when the show was shown on SciFi Channel, and vague memories of it on my PBS affiliate on Saturday Nights, but it wasn't till I met my fiance' that I really started getting into the show. I found a great website that got me all four seasons of "New Who" for $70, bought the Complete Specials and generally proceeded to Who out (Even if I haven't gotten past Season 2 in my watching yet lol).

But my infatuation with the new series, and the knowledge it stretched for decades between over a dozen actors...obviously my appetite had been whetted.

Now, obviously I'm not planning on collecting all the DVDs and adventures. Not only are we talking about a massive amount of money, but frankly...given how long its taking me just to watch the four seasons of New Who, it'd take me the rest of my natural life just to watch them all.

So, I've decided to settle on a handful of examples from each era of the Doctor when possible, if only to give me a "taste" of the series' history. Thanks to YouTube, I decided my first foray into Classic Who would be the John Pertwee story "Inferno". Just recently, however, a local Video/Book store had a DVD Box Set sale that included many classic Who stories. So, Wallet be damned, I ended up snagging the 25th Anniversary DVD of "The Five Doctors", "The Two Doctors", and with this latest paycheck, the entire "Key to Time" saga.

So I've decided to use this thread to jot down my own impressions of the stories as I watch them. Thus far, I've managed to get through everything up to "The Key to Time" series, and only just started watching "The Ribos Operation" last night.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:25 pm

When I first contemplated getting "Inferno", a fellow Whovian who was a "Classic Purist", I suppose you could say, told me how much I would love it because the longer, seven episode format gave time for more characterizations then the hour long adventures I was used to.

While he was right the longer serial format gives more time for characterization, Inferno at least doesn't exactly take advantage of this situation. Everyone's character and personality is established in their introductory scenes and there's very little in the way of "revelation" of character. Stahlmann is a jackass in the beginning, and he's a jackass at the end. Heck, he's a jackass in the alternate universe, too!

To that end, I felt the show somewhat dragged a bit. The Alternate Universe plot is what drew me to the story in the first place (and it did not disappoint in that regard), but what I was disappointed in was that the major relationship building between Stahlmann's assistant and the Drilling Consultant was mirrored in both worlds.

Also, the first episode almost made me regret the purchase. It's not until Episodes 2 and 3 that the story really gets rolling. Episode One is a rather mundane affair that served as a vehicle to establish Stahlmann is a jackass. Unfortunately, they spend the next six episodes reminding us of this fact. As a foil and a character, Stahlmann's got as much characterization as "Plot Point Rich Guy" from End of Time.

The story itself was quality stuff though, no doubt about it. Spent a little too much time spinning the wheels in some places, but overall it kept me entertained and wanting to see more. My only real disappointment was the swift resolution of the plot after the return from the "Sideways" world. Yeah, a scene for scene rehash would have been completely inappropriate, but it just seemed far too convenient an ending.

The "Creature of the Week" - the Primelords - were a little hokey, especially in color where you could see some issues with the makeup. But it wasn't as bad as I figured it would be, indeed the makeup effects were actually quite good. Still trying to figure out why a creature that enjoys massive amounts of heat would be covered in fur, but eh. Same logic as Space Fish who hate the sun.

Overall, I found it completely worth the price tag (For a two and a half hour long DVD containing seven episodes plus a bonus DVD of special features). The feature "Can You Hear the Earth Scream? - Making Inferno" really does a good job of pulling you into the production, and making you appreciate the technical aspects of the story a lot more.

Finally, there is the fact this is my first exposure to Jon Pertwee as "The Doctor". I have to say, I enjoyed him. And it says something, I think, about the quality of the actors and writers of Doctor Who, in that something from so early in the series' run (relatively speaking), can still feel so familiar to some one who's only watched the post-2005 revival. He's a marvelous Doctor, well suited to the role. Though I do wish some of his "Venusian Karate" surfaced in the modern series. Pressure Point Mastery, gotta love it. I'd also love to see The Who 1 make a reappearance sometime as well. That car is far more entertaining then it has any right to be.


Though some questions, for the terribly misinformed since I'm literally jumping onboard mid-season...what was up with Pertwee's TARDIS? Or rather, the lack there of. That confused me a bit.

Also, what's the "Ambassadors of Death" storyline like? I caught some bits of it they showed in the Special Features talking about this particular season and I was intrigued. Is it worth hunting down and watching?


Anyways, I'll review "The Five Doctors" next. Though I think I'll wait a bit, so I'm not just constantly double posting in my own thread like I'm trying to pad my post count. Laughing
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:58 pm

If you ever pick up the Beginnings box set, feel free to skip all but the first episode of "An Unearthly Child." While, for the first serial, it's not bad, it is kind of dull. "The Daleks" is where the show really found its ground.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Sun Jul 11, 2010 6:41 pm

I find that with some of the classic stories it's better to watch one episode a night for instance as opposed to watching it all in one sitting. An Unearthly Child definitely benefits from taking it an episode a day. Be warned though that some stories are just too awful or filled with too much filler that it doesn't matter if you watch them slowly or quickly.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Sun Jul 11, 2010 7:16 pm

jfh1970 wrote:
I find that with some of the classic stories it's better to watch one episode a night for instance as opposed to watching it all in one sitting. An Unearthly Child definitely benefits from taking it an episode a day. Be warned though that some stories are just too awful or filled with too much filler that it doesn't matter if you watch them slowly or quickly.

Oh trust me, I figured that out with "The Two Doctors". Matter of fact, I might as well skip "The Five Doctors" for the moment and just touch upon that particular story...

From the blurb on the back of the case, and not to mention up front, it doesn't seem like a terrible story. The Second Doctor and Jamie visit a deep space research station, sent by the Time Lords to investigate reports that two researchers on the station are investigating Time Travel. The station soon comes under attack by unknown forces (Sontarans), and the Doctor is taken prisoner, and presumably killed.

Meanwhile, the Sixth Doctor and Peri are enjoying a vacation, when the Sixth Doctor registers something amiss in his own personal timeline.


Starting out, the story is wonderful. Unfortunately, by the time it's revealed the "execution" of the Doctor was a ruse the plot has fallen to pieces, and it never does address why the Sixth Doctor "sensed" his own execution.

The villains of the piece also can't shake themselves out in any kind of order. First it's the Sontarans in league with the renegade experiment Chessene. Then it turns out its a plot by Chessene and her creator to develop effective time travel while using the Sontarans as dupes. But the Sontarans are using Chessene and Dastari to develop Time Travel for THEM. All the while Shockeye, a member of the race called Androgum, is trying to get Chessene (who is a technologically augmented version of his own species) to double cross everyone.

Also eat any human who he happens comes across.


Really, by the end of everything, I started going crosseyed. It gets even worse when for some reason they decide to try to turn the Second Doctor into a Androgum, and hyjinks ensue.


While the plot falls completely apart (Especially when the writers gets bored with the Sontarans about halfway through the story and decides to just get rid of them), I do have to say that the Two Doctors do have a few things going well for it.

The Location Scenery and Shooting are really done quite well, as is the set work. I realize in Colin Baker's time the BBC was actively trying to kill the show, so it was nice to see a variety of sets (Some of which were quite complex).

Similarly, for all their absurdity, I really liked the Androgum, and Shockeye in particular. His obsession to "taste the flesh" of a Human was played with equal parts menace and hilarity. He and the Second Doctor (Post Androgum transformation) also had really good chemistry together.

And speaking of the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton is a delight. I fell in love with his Doctor (Who reminds me a lot of Matt Smith's Doctor, though I suppose that should be reversed. Laughing ) in "The Five Doctors", and was equally rewarded with his performance here, even if it was keyed down a bit and he was a hostage for the majority of it. I would really like to track down an independent adventure of Troughton's to have, but from what I hear a good chunk of his run was lost.

I also liked his companion, Jamie. After suffering from a lot of "Professional Hostages" like Rose and Martha, and not having a good feel for Pertwee's companion Liz Shaw (Since she was an "evil" Alternate Universe Double for 75% of it), and only being in a very brief cameo in "The Five Doctors", it was nice to see some of the Classic Companions. He certainly was a lot better (And not afraid to shiv somebody!), then Peri.

Ah Peri. Perhaps I'm just doing her a disservice given it's my only exposure to her character, but she seemed to be nothing more then a pair of tits and a tight butt. Admittedly, she had some good observations from time to time, but that perpetual, almost whining quality to her voice just grated on my nerves. Also, that open top and the Daisie Dukes were extremely distracting, I'm not going to lie. She also didn't seem to be the best actress, blandly commenting when the Station Computer was trying to roast/freeze/asphyxiate them, and that's not even mentioning her hilarious "chase" with Shockeye. By far, one of the weaker companions I've seen in the Classic Series thus far.

Now as for Colin Baker's Doctor, I've heard all the crap that gets heaped onto him from other sources, but I was relatively unbiased. Despite a questionable fashion sense burdened on the character by BBC execs trying to axe the show, I honestly liked Colin's Doctor. Again, he reminded me of a Doctor I am familiar with: Eccelston's. Every time he would give a speech (or rail against Peri), I kept trying to superimpose Eccelston's voice and look. Which says a lot of Eccelston, considering I now have to say Eccelston reminds me a lot of Colin Baker. Razz

Still, I had no qualms with his portrayal of the Doctor, and indeed enjoyed his performance. I could just wish for a slightly better story - but I opted for this instead of "Trial of a Time Lord" because I thought it'd be more fun because of twice the Doctor.

By far the weakest of the classic Who I've acquired thus far. Probably won't be keeping this DVD.


As an aside, the Sontaran makeup was serviceable but still extraordinarily laughable. The cheap rubber head wouldn't be so goofy looking if the one that lacked an open mouth didn't talk. Still, the muffling of a Human Voice speaking through a Rubber Mask did help give the Sontarans that "gruff" voice quality.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Sun Jul 11, 2010 11:01 pm

Rust, I would heartily recommend "The Three Doctors" for Docs 1 thru 3, "Talons of Weng Chiang" for 4, and the Rani episode for 6 for starters.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:07 am

"Ambassadors of Death" is one of my all-time favorites. I am admittedly a little biased because Pertwee is my favorite Doctor, but I believe most fans who have seen it would agree.

The Doctor, by the way, is TARDIS-free at this point because of his exile to Earth by the Time Lords at the conclusion of "The War Games." He has the TARDIS itself and all it contains, but they stripped him of his ability to time travel.

Also, on a side note, the original run of the show was way less sophisticated than it is now due to lack of money, so be careful of your expectations. As you noted in your review of "Inferno" (another of my favorites) things were a little dodgy where makeup, etc. were concerned. This never really improves throughout the series' original run. Also, the story tended to drag, which is common, too - particularly for longer stories. However, you overall enjoyed the serial so you got out of it what you really should have. Enjoy it for what it is - a pretty good story that was well played and realized the best way it could have given the production limitations.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Mon Jul 12, 2010 11:22 am

You might have more fun watching the classic stories if you choose a particular theme. Like for instance go with every story that features Davros. This way you get a variety of stories as well as Doctors.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Mon Jul 12, 2010 11:29 am

SeaDevil wrote:

Also, on a side note, the original run of the show was way less sophisticated than it is now due to lack of money, so be careful of your expectations.

Oh, I'm not expecting Classic Who to blow my mind with Special Effects. That would be lunacy on my part. And for the Primelords, in the Black and White it was broadcast in, the dodgy makeup wouldn't even be noticeable.

If anything, given the time period and budget constraints of such a show, I'm more impressed by the Special Effects and Locations they do have access to. Especially since, in Doctor Who, unlike so many other Sci-Fi Series, tends to do what they can to make it so most the aliens are as un-Human as possible. If I point out the ridiculousness of makeup or a costume, it's less "That's the best they can do?" and more "Well, doesn't this just look silly?"

It's not as if New Who is completely immune to goofy looking makeup/monsters either (Giant CG Wasps!).
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:28 pm

Ok good. I'm glad you accept the flaws as what they are. Some folks are not so forgiving when trying to get into the original show. Some serials are quite ambitious, but sometimes fall short. "The Web Planet" story-wise and set-wise is pretty good, but the Menopra costumes are poor. On the other hand, the Zarbi look fantastic! "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" is also a very good story, but the dinosaurs themselves are not very convincing. "Underworld" has virtual cave sets which was way before its time, but characters don't cast shadows due to the CSO process, which can be distracting. Some call these flaws hokey, but I call them innovative for their time.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:15 pm

The only thing in Classic Who that has honestly bugged me (Beyond Peri's acting, that is) is at the beginning of The Ribos Operation (Which I really should finish watching), when Tom Baker is standing next to the open door of the TARDIS and the camera zooms in on Tom's face and you get a second of blur as the camera comes back into focus.

Costumes and Special Effects are one thing. Shoddy Camerawork and Bad Acting are something else entirely.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:58 pm

Going back to a few other points you made in your previous posts, look for "Tomb of the Cybermen" and "The War Games" as two of the best Troughton stories on dvd. BTW, the Second Doctor/Jamie combination is truly one of the best matchups in the entire run of Who - then or now.

On to a few points about Jon Pertwee's Doctor. During his five-year run he had the same story editor (Terrence Dicks) and producer (the late great Barry Letts) which led to a certain consistency in how the Doctor was presented. A lot of times when one or the other changes, the show takes a bit of a shift. Tom Baker's tenure is an example of big jumps in style. Pertwee was also served with having excellent companions. I have a seperate thread extolling the virtues of Liz Shaw as a scientific assistant rather than a conventional companion. She's intelligent and the Doctor treats her as an equal. Jo Grant may be a "ham-fisted bun warmer" from time to time, but the Doctor is truly fond of her (as Jon was of Katy) and it shows in their performances with each other. He may get cross with her, but he always apologizes and gives her a reassuring smile (Six doesn't do this with Peri). Finally, there's Sara Jane Smith, who really needs no introduction. She's the quintessential companion. Sure, he has his share of clunkers for stories, but a pretty good run when you consider that its five good years in a row!

Oh...since you like Bessie, his car, you'll be pleased to know he uses it throughout virtually his entire run. He obtains it in "Doctor Who and the Silurians."
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:27 pm

I just liked in the behind the scenes content for "Inferno", talking about the big tower chase scene and how high it actually was - and how both Pertwee and the gentleman he was chasing were deathly afraid of heights.

I've also heard good things about "Tomb of the Cybermen" and "War Games". Though I'll likely opt for "Tomb of the Cybermen", since I'm a big fan of the Cybermen in general. Probably has something to do with my first real memory of Doctor Who was as a kid, and PBS was running their first appearance with the First Doctor. Gotta say, for as undeniably goofy looking they were back then, that "Open Mouth, commence talking" thing they had going on was positively nightmare fuel to a little kid.


But in any event, I might as well talk about "The Five Doctors". I picked this one up not only because it would give me a good feel for a lot of Doctors at once, but also because for as long as I've been aware of the franchise, I've heard "The Five Doctors" being spoken about as one of the high points of the franchise.

Needless to say, after viewing I can see why.

But in addition to Doctors 1-3 and 5 (Really, the "Five Doctors" title is a bit misleading), it also gave me a loot at the Classic Master, operating in the role of unwillingly ally. I have to admit, the Master went to the Death Zone with all intentions of helping the Doctor, and was always rebuked. I can't blame him for wanting a little piece of the reward for himself, at the end. I liked his interactions with the First Doctor the most though ("Try it Doctor. It's as easy as Pi!").

The story was solid and the sets masterful. Really, it's hard to comment on it beyond saying it was a very entertaining experience. The Cybermen felt like a bit of a tacked on addition, but since I've already said I'm biased towards them, I'm not going to complain. Their Classic design (once they settled on one, that is), really works well and you can see how the New Who design is merely an upgrade of that one.

If anything though, this story made me fall in love with the Second Doctor. He simply stole the show, for me. From his barging into U.N.I.T. to see the Brigadier off, to pulling all manner of oddities from out of his pocket, to just begin plain fun...I liked him from the outset.

Though that is something I feel they never did quite explain. The Second Doctor makes the passing remark to the Brigadier that "he shouldn't be here" as though he's aware he's jumped his own personal time track. I was under the impression the Doctor couldn't do that willingly.

Also, knowing what we know now about The Master and his connection to Rassilon, I liked Rassilon's remark about the Master's fate before transporting him away. While I know at the time of the airing of the show, that particular revelation about the Master's Character hadn't even been conceived, I do have to give RTD kudos for taking a throw away line of dialogue from 1983 and turning it into a foreshadowing of something that happens twenty plus years later. Course, it makes you wonder how at that point Rassilon knew what was going to happen. But then again, Rassilon is Rassilon.


I do feel I did Peter Davidson's Doctor a disservice though. He really is a bit of a background character to the story, especially when he's transported to Gallifrey, and I was too busy being wooed by the First Three's antics (I especially like how it's the First Doctor who figures out the meaning of the inscription first, thus condemning the Lord President to "immortality") to really pay much attention to him. Especially since half the time he was fading in and out of reality or being mesmerized.

Having said that however, that brief segment between when he encounters the Master and he is mesmerized, I liked what I saw of Peter Davidson's Doctor. He had a sort of "Cool Charm" to him like Pertwee, which is saying something for a man wearing a decorative vegetable.


I'm glad I picked up "The Five Doctors", though I think I might try to track down another of Davidson's adventures just to give the guy a chance when he's not sharing the screen with his predecessors (and those cast to replace his predecessors).
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:10 am

Finished The Ribos Operation, the first episode to "The Key to Time".

Gotta say, it was actually a lot of fun! A pity they were operating on such a shoe string budget back then though - because a little more money to devote to set pieces and costumes and this story could have been a masterwork. As it stands, it's a really good tale on its own.

The big practical effect of this serial had to be that of the creature, which honestly looks really good. It loses some of its luster in motion, but the upper torso's design and animation is the equivalent of a major monster effect for a Hollywood movie of the era. I was extremely impressed with it.


Like I said, my biggest thing with this story was the sets seemed so small and boxed in, but when you figure all the other stories I've seen thus far have all liberally used outdoor shots (And the set work they did have was vast in comparison), it's understandable that I might feel a little "claustrophobic".

Still, a good story with plenty of laughter and guest stars that were chewing the scenery (Which you almost have to, to stay in shouting range of Tom Baker's madcap performance).
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:23 am

Glad to read you liked The Ribos Operation. One of my all time favourites. I didn't catch if you bought just Ribos or the entire Key to Time set. If you bought the set, you're in for a real treat with the next episode, The Pirate Planet. Written by Douglas Adams, it's simply one of the greatest Who episodes ever. And by the beard of the great sky demon, it has one of the greatest villians of all time, the Pirate Captain.

I'd like to add I'm really enjoying this thread. I love reading people's thoughts when veiwing Classic Who for the first time! Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:28 am

Yup, bought the entire "Key to Time" saga.

And yeah, Ribos was just good fun. Though the ending did slightly confuse me at first. When the Prince handed his guard the detonator and proceeded to exit, then pitched a ranting fit, it almost seemed to me like he wanted to blow up, so the whole "Switched out the Detonator" confused me before I shrugged it off and discounted the previous scene as Crazy Prince-in-Exile being Crazy.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Fri Jul 23, 2010 6:31 pm

With me finally finishing up all that's available of New Who (Seasons 1-4, plus the Specials), I've only got "The Key to Time" to tide me over. This won't do at all.

I've got "Tomb of the Cybermen", "The Three Doctors", and "Earthshock" all inbound. Not only will it give me a Patrick Troughton adventure, a chance to evaluate Peter Davidson on his own merits (Free of the "interference" of other Doctors), not to mention the final "Multi-Doctor" storyline I lack, but I get two Cybermen adventures. I like the Cybermen.

I'm also eyeballing "Genesis of the Daleks" (Mainly due to Davros' comments to Sarah Jane in "Journey's End") and "The Invasion" (Again, I like the Cybermen).


I'm still curious about getting a Slyvester McCoy and William Hartnell adventure (Along with a superior Colin Baker story) to round out my study of the various incarnations of The Doctor, but I have to profess ignorance when it comes to what would classify as a good Hartnell or McCoy story.

Though there was a bit on a Doctor Who fan video I saw once, of Hartnell's Doctor wielding a pistol with a man and a woman flanking him, pushing the pistol away from each other. Thought that scene was hilarious, and wondered if the story to go with it was any good (or if it was even complete).


In the meantime, I suppose I should get working on "The Key to Time". I'm soon going to have a few other Classic Who stories to tide me over to the release of Season 5.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Fri Jul 23, 2010 6:53 pm

Genesis is fantastic. Although I love many classic stories, I usually don't have the patience to watch all 100 minutes at once. With Genesis, I watched it all at once, and it is not even four, but six parts.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Fri Jul 23, 2010 7:11 pm

A good Hartnell episode to start with: The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

A good McCoy: Remembrance of the Daleks.

Yes, that's two Dalek episodes, but they're both really quite solid.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Fri Jul 23, 2010 7:15 pm

I like either The Aztecs or The Romans, yes they are historicals, but I like those.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Fri Jul 23, 2010 7:23 pm

Oh, the historicals are my favorites, but they tend to be a hard sell for newcomers, I find. Hey, split the difference: watch The Time Meddler! It's a historical with a sci-fi villain.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Fri Jul 23, 2010 7:35 pm

I think The Romans is the best, it has the regulars getting split up and also a nice balance of tension and comedy.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:40 pm

Historicals?
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:41 pm

Rust wrote:
Historicals?

Stories with no sci-fi content beyond the Doctor, the TARDIS, and companions. Very frequent early on but they die out almost completely by the 2nd Doc's run and have only shown up a few times since.
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PostSubject: Re: Taking a Dive into Classic Who   Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:47 pm

Yep. The last historical during the B&W era was The Highlanders. There wasn't another historical until Black Orchid, and there hasn't been one since.

I wish they would try it now and then.
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