Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited: Fifth to Eighth DVD Review: Spotlight on Classic Villains

As part of the 50th anniversary celebration of Doctor Who, BBC America has been airing a series of monthly specials entitled The Doctors Revisited, each dedicated to one of the eleven incarnations of the character and the series during his tenure. They serve as good introductions to the different Doctors, although those already familiar with them may find the special too brief. In conjunction with the specials, a classic serial would follow.  

The Doctors Revisited: Fifth to Eighth is a four-disc DVD set that collects the programming devoted to the Fifth (Peter Davison), Sixth (Colin Baker), Seventh (Sylvester McCoy), and Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann). There is a disc for each Doctor, and they feature The Doctors Revisited; a serial available in both omnibus versions and the individual parts, except in the case of the Eighth Doctor, who only appeared in a television movie; and an introduction from current Who showrunner Steven Moffat. Three of the serials find the Doctor taking on classic villains from the series.

Earthshock is the 122nd story of the Doctor, and the sixth serial of the 19th season. It aired between March 8 and March 16, 1982. It finds the Fifth Doctor and his three companions trying to stop the Cybermen from destroying life on a future Earth. I enjoyed this serial quite a bit. Writer Eric Saward finds a clever way for the plot to be historically significant in the real world. The companions are interesting characters and integral parts of the story rather than acting like damsels in distress. Adric is dissatisfied with his time in the TARDIS and wants to to return his homeworld and argues with the Doctor who says it’s too dangerous to re-enter E-space. The serial also offers a true act of heroism as a companion must make a sacrifice to save the day rather than the Doctor neatly tying things up as he usually does.

Vengeance on Varos is the 139th story of the Doctor, the second serial of the 22nd season. It aired on January 19 and 26, 1985. The Doctor and Peri head to Varos because the TARDIS needs Zeiton-7. However, getting it is not an easy task because it is the Varos’ greatest commodity and the planet is in turmoil as food shortages have led to a rebellion against the government. Baker’s Doctor is not as heroic as other versions. He’s not as caring about the loss of the lives of those who stand in his way like past Doctors, but I liked that aspect of the character. The serial suffers from having too many ideas crammed into it, but better too many than too few.

Remembrance of the Daleks is the 149th story of the Doctor, the first serial of the 25th season. It aired between October 5 and October 26, 1988. The Doctor and the tomboyish Ace appear on Earth 1963, around the time of the very first episode An Unearthly Child. The Daleks become more interesting villains as two different factions have come to this time to seek out a device the Doctor hid called the Hand of Omega. While fun for longtime fans to see the Doctor revisit a location of a past story, I am not sure the continuity holds up. Ace has a grand time smashing Daleks with a bomb and a bat, and they have a great surprise of their own, which made for a great cliffhanger.

Doctor Who: The Movie is the 157th story of the Doctor. It aired in May 1996 and was intended to restart the franchise after a seven-year hiatus as an international production, but the poor ratings in the U.S. stopped the series from moving forward, resulting in this being the only Eighth Doctor adventure to include. And it’s not only “the only Eighth Doctor adventure,” it’s also the first Eighth Doctor adventure as the story begins with the Seventh Doctor, revealing this new series to be a continuation and not a reboot. However, there are a few things that occur in the story and with the character that make this version of Who different from the Classic series, which may explain the poor reception.

After the Daleks execute The Master, his remains are transported to Gallifrey by the Doctor. Naturally, things don’t go as planned and the Master’s essence, for lack of a better word, is able to get the TARDIS to land in San Francisco, December 30, 1999. The Doctor is gunned down by an Asian gang and taken to a local hospital where Dr. Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook) unintentionally kills him due to not understanding his alien physiology. In the morgue, the Doctor regenerates and grabs clothing intended for a New Year’s Eve party. The Master takes over the body of an ambulance driver (Eric Roberts) and plots to steal the remaining regenerations from the Doctor.

McGann’s Doctor is a little more of a swashbuckler, jumping right into action when need be. His romancing of Grace is a surprise, but an understandable creative choice that hopefully wouldn’t have lasted long. Making his mother human was a bad one, though. This movie was a decent restart and it had potential if they had given it more time to develop.

For those that don’t already own the serials included and especially for those who don’t know these Doctors, I very much recommend The Doctors Revisited: Fifth to Eighth.  Greg Barbrick previously reviewed The Doctors Revisited: First to Fourth.

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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