Wednesday, May 03, 2006

This is not a meme, it's just a question answered

So, after moaning constantly about dodgy plotting in last year's Eccleston-led season of Doctor Who, I was asked what my top ten Who stories were.

And here they are, in no particular order:

Ark in Space

When I was 6 this scared the life out of me - and when I saw it again when it came out on DVD it was just as creepy. Green paint covered bubble wrap it may have been, but the set design is terrific, the script excellent and the three regulars already utterly convincing. Add to that the fact that this is the absolute pinnacle of the body horror genre in UK television and you have a sure fire winner.

And the wonderful Britishness of Harry spending almost the entire story wandering around in his socks is simply perfect.

The Iron Legion

I'm not a comics fan, but the intitial Doctor Who Weekly run of comic strips (by Hill and Gibbons IIRC) have stuck in the momory for nearly thirty years and the recent Panini reprint of the entire run confirmed that these are special stories. Basically it's Doctor Who if Doctor Who had been a 2000AD strip rather than a venerable British TV institution, but it works so well that you don't even recognise how unlike anything on TV the strip is until you've finished reading. TV Comic had done much the same in the sixties, taking the TV series as a starting point and then wandering off into implausable comic capers style adventures with dinosaurs and giant wasps, but these DWW strips add to the strengths of the TV show, rather than dumbing things down for the kiddies.


Spare Parts

Prior to School Reunion this was the Who story (along with 'The Holy Terror')most likely to make me well up inside. The first three and a half episodes are pitch perfect - uniquely for BF the dialogue is so good that I can see the surface of Mondas and have no difficulty in connecting with all of the characters. Marc Platt then almost blows it with a naff ish continuity twist ending, but I'm willing to forgive him that when the rest is so good.

School Reunion

Just beautiful. I'd put this in my top 10 just for the shot of Sarah-Jane discovering the TARDIS, but there are too many other good bits to mention. It may not be the most complicated story ever, and there are a few glaring plot holes which could have been papered over very easily, but it doesn't matter when Tennant and Sladen are on such good form. As someone once said of 'City of Death' and John Cleese, 'and just when you think it can't get any better, Anthony Stewart Head turns up'...


Fear Itself

A very, very good sf novel with the Doctor in it. Could there be a higher recommendation?

Sanctuary

I seem to be in the minority here, but I thought Sanctuary was one of the high-spots of the New Adventures - well drawn characters, a lovingly researched and presented background, proper evil baddies, a love story and a tragedy all in the space of 250 or so pages.

The Dalek Masterplan

Twelve episodes long and yet it doesn't drag for a second. It'd got just about everything you could want in a Dalek story - planets named after their purpose or climate; the return of old enemies; cool looking new aliens; tragic deaths; a Christmas episode; the dream team of Hartnell and Purves; the way supreme creepy baddie Mavic Chen holds his pen...

I could go on, but really there's no point. This is brilliant, plain and simple.

An Unearthly Child

As the first episode of a new children's televison series, aUC may be the strangest and most unlikely pilot ever. But it works and without it (and The Daleks) any Top 10 Doctor Who stories would have to be taken from the first seaosn, since I don't suppose it owuld have lasted much beyond that.

The Blue Angel

Probably the best written Doctor Who book - it's certainly Paul Magrsbest Who novel and thus essential reading.

In the Sixties

And this is his best short story. Has to be read to be believed. As close to a prose elegy as the series will ever get (even though it 'stars' the Cushing Doctor).

I limited myself to stories actually featuring the Doctor, so no spin-offs, but even so I still had dozens of other stories which kept popping into my head which were equally worthy of inclusion. The final list apparently demonstrates that I prefer prose to TV (which I'm not sure is right) and that Paul Magrs is my favourite Who author (which is certainly true, although all those authors with three initials come in a close second).

Of course, I'll probably change my mind tomorrow (hmm, I might change it right now - I forgot all about Heritage and The Five Doctors and...)
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20 Comments:

Blogger TimeWarden said...

Interesting, in an interesting way! :) Especially the inclusion of "School Reunion", as good as it is. Better than "Empty Child"?

You can probably guess at least two of my top ten considering how often I waffle on about Graeme Harper! I could make a list comprised entirely of Troughton though.

"School Reunion" might be bettered. I expected to like "Unquiet Dead" most, last year, but ended up surprised by Moffat's two-parter. I have high hopes of the first cybermen adventure, this year, but think the "sleeper" might be the alien planet two-parter...

Tim

7:00 am  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Hmm, that's not actually the version which I meant to post - there were reasons for each choice orgiinally. Must go and see if I can see what Word has done to that version.

As for SR, well the list was more a snapshot than a 'Bestest Ever' sort of thing - even today I realise that I love all of seasons one and two and then seasons 7 and 12 more than any other continuous period of Who in any medium, and yet have only one full serial and episode of one story in my top 10.

So SR was in because it's the first Who story ever to have tears welling in my eyes and leave me all choked with happiness, sad fanboy that I am. 'Empty Child' was great, but increasingly I'm beginning to think that I don't care for the Eccleston Doctor all that much...

9:49 am  
Blogger SAF said...

Darn you, Stuart, I'm gonna have to do my own list now, aren't I? Still, as you say, these things are so fluid and changeable. As with music, it's a mood thing most of the time with me. :)

11:15 am  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Ah, you fell into my cunning trap :)

1:10 pm  
Blogger alienvoord said...

Doctor Who has never been about plot for me. I actually like how light on plot the new show is.

Anyway, I agree with you about In the Sixties and The Blue Angel, they are my favourite Magrs stories.

2:32 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Tim: "I could make a list comprised entirely of Troughton though"

Just noticed this, and I have to admit I couldn't name ten Troughton stories that I even like, never mind number amongst my favourites. The two Dalek stories, Tomb, Web of Fear...eh...well, there's...hmm.

No, that's about it.

alienvoord: "Doctor Who has never been about plot for me. I actually like how light on plot the new show is."

It's not lightness of plot which concerns me particularly, it's illogicality and laziness of plotting. Although I freely admit that the last couple of seasons have been no more illogical than the vast majority of the first 26 seasons, it would take so little effort to fix most of the plot holes and yet the writers didn't bother, which in my darker moments strikes me as a little contemptuous of the audience.

4:12 pm  
Blogger alienvoord said...

I tend to think that if there are plot holes that could be easily explained, then the audience can easily explain them without being told.
Perhaps the writers think that the audience can figure it out for themselves.
But it doesn't matter to me because for me the fun and spectacle is more important.

4:43 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Hmm, didn't express myself very well there.

It's not that there are apparent gaps in the stories but an intelligent viewer can extrapolate what's happening off-screen to fill what at first sight seem to be flaws in the plotting, it's where the writer leaves gaping logic holes which are not capable of simple solution by the viewer because any such solution has not been included or even hinted at by the writer.

It's not a massive annoyance really (I loved New Earth even though the denouement of that was just daft) but it does suggest to me a certain laziness on the part of the production team.

8:02 pm  
Blogger TimeWarden said...

Isn't the Krillitanes defeat by their own oil equally lazy, in scripting terms? It's another quick fix solution, literally! (If I was really cynical, I might suggest the "splat them with goo Dick an' Dom style" is dumbing it down for the kids.)

However, I don't think the production team are lazy per se. After 9 months solid graft, I'm sure they're all knackered but, in their haste to complete another batch of episodes, not enough time is spent at the writing stage. They can't afford the luxury allowed John Cleese and Connie Booth when refining each set of 6 episodes of "Fawlty Towers", for example.

Speaking of time (what else?!!), it seems a possibility, if Teletext is to be believed where RTD says the next series begins shooting in January (later because of Torchwood?), we won't see season three until much later in the year (September, 2007?)!

Tim

5:01 am  
Blogger SAF said...

I don't know that it can be a case of not enough time spent at the writing stage. Many episodes from the first season underwent numerous rewrites and yet still went into production with lazy endings. You're right - the Krillitane 'quick fix solution'is another example of that kind of lazy ending and as often as not it's a case of how much you're willing to forgive based on how good or poor the rest of the episode is. Hence, School Reunion can get away with it :)
(Whereas New Earth can't. ;) )

8:14 am  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Tim: "Isn't the Krillitanes defeat by their own oil equally lazy, in scripting terms?"

God yes - I'd be the first to admit that SR has glaring plot holes, but it's also got Lis Sladen which makes up for loads.

SAF: "as not it's a case of how much you're willing to forgive based on how good or poor the rest of the episode is. Hence, School Reunion can get away with it :)
(Whereas New Earth can't. ;) )"

That's exactly it.

Personally I suspect I just prefer the Tennant portrayal to the Eccleston one and that's ramping up my ability to ignore plot problems (plus it helps that the pacing seems better so far this year).

8:36 am  
Blogger SAF said...

Stuart: "God yes - I'd be the first to admit that SR has glaring plot holes, but it's also got Lis Sladen which makes up for loads."

Yeah, there's probably a mathematical formula for that, where SJS is > the sum of the rest of the episode, or something :)

11:20 am  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

SAF: "Yeah, there's probably a mathematical formula for that, where SJS is > the sum of the rest of the episode, or something :)"

LOL!

And if you throw in Liz Shaw and Nyssa you could safely not have a plot at all and I'd still be happy.

Sort of Charlie's Angels with the Doctor as Charlie would be nice.

2:24 pm  
Blogger alienvoord said...

The conclusion of New Earth makes sense. it follows the internal logic that the story has set up. It's the only right way to end the story. IMO of course, obviously you guys disagree.

I wouldn't call the writing lazy. I'd call it satisfying and fun and very Doctor Who. I don't see much difference between the writing in the new show (in terms of logic and endings) and any Paul Magrs story. :)

2:29 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

alienvoord: "The conclusion of New Earth makes sense"

Actaully I love New Earth - it's that torn-face Simon who doesn't :)

alienvoord: "I don't see much difference between the writing in the new show (in terms of logic and endings) and any Paul Magrs story. :)"

LOL! Granted the apparent logic might be just even more shaky if Paul were to write an episode, but it's be beautifully done as well, I'd bet.

3:19 pm  
Blogger SAF said...

Stuart: "And if you throw in Liz Shaw and Nyssa you could safely not have a plot at all and I'd still be happy.

Sort of Charlie's Angels with the Doctor as Charlie would be nice."

We can dream, I spose. :)

5:43 pm  
Blogger TimeWarden said...

Polly, Victoria and Zoe for me but surely the Doctor would have to be Bosley otherwise we'd never see him! lol!!

Maybe I'm showing too much knowledge of "Charlie's Angels" here!!!

Tim

3:39 am  
Blogger SAF said...

I'd have had much more intimate knowledge of Charlie's Angels had they been SJS, Liz Shaw and, oh, let's say Leela just for fun. Somebody's got to do the butt-kicking action stuff :)

(I'd have opted for Victoria, Zoe and Nyssa too, of course, but I guess it being Charlie's Angels you have to limit it to three ;) )

11:03 am  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Damn, forgot about Zoe - although, as Simon Messingham obviously realised, she's more suited to UFO than Charlie's Angels.

6:02 pm  
Blogger TimeWarden said...

Straker's just reassigned me to Moonbase! ;)

7:52 pm  

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