So, of the nine or so serials that I've watched, I haven't been impressed, but once in a while, there's one story that really knocks me out. Here, then, are the serials that I've seen, and brief thoughts on each (roughly in order of when I first watched them).
- "City of Death" (Fourth Doctor, with Romana II)
The consensus choice for getting people into the original series (it was written by Douglas Adams), "City of Death" was a serious letdown for me. One line of dialogue that gets singled out as an example of its wit:
Romana: Where are we going?Pretty keen, to be sure, but I always imagined it being a seamless part of a larger scene, where in fact, it's pretty much its own scene, and as such, too satisfied with its own cleverness. (Sound familiar?) DOCTOR, I AM DISAPPOINT. Also: lots of walking back and forth, between a receiving room and a dungeon. No caves, fortunately.
The Doctor: Are you talking philosophically or geographically?
The Doctor: Then we're going to lunch.
- "Doctor Who and the Silurians" (Third Doctor, with Liz Shaw, Brig. Lethbridge Stewart)
Silurians are ancient bipedal lizard-people who had once populated Earth when a planetary catastrophe forced them to seek dormant refuge, underground... in caves.
- "Genesis of the Daleks" (Fourth Doctor, with Sarah Jane Smith, Harry Sullivan)
Relentlessly grim, occasionally spiked with agonizing over heroic genocide. In short, very little fun.
- "The Ark in Space" (Fourth Doctor, with Sarah Jane Smith, Harry Sullivan)
I liked this one, oddly, even if the story is fairly potboiler stuff: humans have sought refuge from a planetary catastrophe (sound familiar?), not in caves, thank god, but aboard a space station where they're held in suspended animation. But they've been infected by space worms, see, which slowly transform them into giant, malevolent grasshoppers. Only four episodes -- short, but sweet and definitely on the lighthearted side, even if it exemplifies the series' persistent preoccupation with the transience of humanity, the ease with which we can become monsters.
- "The War Games" (Second Doctor, with Zoe Heriot, Jamie McCrimmon)
"The War Games" is the 10-parter I alluded to above, so the amount of elliptical traveling is unavoidable, and as a result, I found the bulk of this serial to be slow-going, even though it made John Seavey's list for people new to old Who and even though Zoe (capable, calm, stands up to authority) is the best companion that I've seen. But! The finale is a total trip, in which the story suddenly shifts from a standard bit of Aliens With Plans For Universal Domination, and into straight-up German Expressionist weirdness. So cool, so eerie, and well worth the preceding nine, meandering episodes.
- "Remembrance of the Daleks" (Seventh Doctor, with Ace)
Another series I watched based on Seavey's list, "Remembrance of the Daleks" is marked by everything that's bad about the '80s, most of all in the figure of Ace.
- "The Caves of Androzani" (Fifth Doctor, with Peri Brown)
More caves! It's right there in the title! BARF. The whacked out Phantom of the Opera villain barely breaks through the tedium of cave tramping, though I did have fun trying to figure out what accent Peri was supposed to have. I guessed South African, when, actually...
- "The Three Doctors" (Third Doctor/Second Doctor/First Doctor, with Jo Grant, Brig. Lethbridge Stewart, Sgt. Benton)
An unambiguous, romping hoot. Love this to bits. The Doctor is always the smartest guy in the room, and he lets you know it. But what happens when there's more than one Doctor is in the room? The answer: unalloyed awesome. Seeing arrogance bumping up against arrogance and the ensuing bickering is a camp joy, and the Second Doctor sparkles like your favorite, incorrigible, whimsical uncle.
- "Inferno" (Fourth Doctor, with Liz Shaw, Brig. Lethbridge Stewart, Sgt. Benton)
Aside from getting a kick at the Doctor amazing a soldier at his AMAZING technological gadgets by showing off a---GARAGE DOOR OPENER---one of the villains is a green Borat.
Anyway, as you might guess from its title, "Inferno" is an apocalyptic story with a heavy dose of dystopic parallel universe, none of which prevents it from exhibiting some classic British drollery. Really solid installment. (And by the by, Liz Shaw really looks like a young Barbra Streisand here.)