Fri
Oct 4 2013 10:00am

Classic Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor’s Essential Episodes

You think you know the meaning of the word daunting? I assure you, you don’t—unless you, too, once pondered the Herculean task of whittling down the many, many worthy serials on the Fourth Doctor’s tenure to a mere five “essentials,” which would then go on to be judged (and doubtless found wanting) by a jury of your Whovian peers.

The First Doctor—easy enough, he didn’t have too many serials remaining to him from which to choose. Likewise The Second, and even the Third Doctor while harder, was doable. But this one was an assignment I feared might be my undoing... until I really looked at it objectively, and realised that it actually wasn’t that hard at all.

Oh, sure, there are so many excellent stories that I had to exclude here, including personal favorites like Pyramids of Mars (I still think those face-like rock formations on Mars are man-made), The Ark in Space (Harry Sullivan’s finest hour) and The Horns of Nimon (“Weakling scum!”). Plus, who doesn’t love Sherlock Holmes-ian The Talons of Weng-Chiang, the Agatha Christie-an The Robots of Death and the “Hey, consequences!” rumination that is The Face of Evil? This period has rightly been considered the golden age of Classic Who for a reason, after all, even if it is marked by several changes in tone, as Gothic Horror leads to Fantasy Humor leads to Hard Science Fiction and a depressing we’re-all-domed vibe. But when it comes to the completely necessary, cannot-miss, absolutely indispensible outings, it turned out that there really were only five that cried out to be so honored, of all the Fourth Doctor’s seven seasons and 41 adventures.

You will note a significant absence of serials from the Season 16 arc The Key to Time here, by the way, and I’ll tell you why. The season is all very well as a whole, but once you start breaking it down into individual stories, each becomes increasingly difficult to recommend. I mean, it’s basically a six-serial intergalactic scavenger hunt, with the Doctor having to put together a puzzle that might destroy the universe, and what with the White Guardian vs. the Black Guardian and someone actually called Princess Astra, never has Doctor Who been so... children’s television as it was in that season. (The final episode is pretty compelling, though. I’ll give it that.)

By the way? I think this landscape would have changed had the unfinished Season 17 serial, Shada—written by Douglas Adams, and released in excellent book form in 2012—been completed. Fortunately for me, his other serial, The Pirate Planet, while fun, doesn’t quite make the grade, because it would have been tough to leave any of these out, given the grandeur that is...

THE FOURTH DOCTOR

Played by: Tom Baker
First Appearance: Newly regenerated in “Part Six” (Planet of the Spiders, June 8, 1974), but really in “Part One” (Robot, December 28, 1974)
Last Appearance: “Part Four” (Logopolis, March 21, 1981)—but with later guest appearances.
Episodes: 172
Serials: 41
Seasons: 7
Style: Harpo Marx chic
Catchphrase: “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

Characteristics: At first, it seems very much as if the clothes maketh the man here, as the most recognizable and memorable facet of this particular incarnation is his egregiously long knitted scarf. The mop of curls, tall lanky frame and mischievous twinkle in his eye register later, and it is only as one really gets to know this Doctor that the abiding sadness within reveals itself. (His seeming bi-polar nature accounted for by several changes in leadership behind the scenes.) For all that Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor is purportedly most closely based on the Second Doctor, there can be no denying that there is at least a dash of the Fourth in him as well. His fellow Time Lord, Romana—a truly excellent companion, in both her regenerations—once called him “capricious, arrogant, self-opinionated, irrational,” all of which is undoubtedly true. But added to these traits are a winning enthusiasm and a genial wit that go a long way towards mitigating against his occasional callousness and far more frequent bouts of righteous indignation. Also: dude really likes jelly babies. (Which: who doesn’t?)

Companions: The Fourth Doctor’s cup ranneth over with companions, for besides the stalwart and delightful Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), carried over from the Third Doctor, he was also joined in his travels by UNIT surgeon Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter), alien warrior woman Leela (Louise Jameson), aforementioned Time Lady Romana (Mary Tamm/Lalla Ward) and the much-despised proto-Wesley Crusher, Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), as well as very briefly by alien gentlewoman Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) and Australian flight attendant Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding). Also, there was robotic dog K-9, though I’ve always felt he was more a pet and servant than a proper companion, especially as he is so easily replaced and upgraded.

THE ESSENTIALS:

1. GENESIS OF THE DALEKS, Season 12, Episodes 11-16
Written by: Terry Nation
Directed by: David Moloney
Setting: The planet Skaro
6 Episodes: “Part One” (March 8, 1975), “Part Two” (March 15, 1975), “Part Three” (March 22, 1975), “Part Four” (March 29, 1975), “Part Five” (April 5, 1975), “Part Six” (April 12, 1975)

There are Dalek stories, and then there is Genesis of the Daleks, THE Dalek story to end all Dalek stories. Not that it did, of course—what are they, crazy? But given there are only two outings of this rolling menace throughout the Fourth Doctor’s reign, we can only be grateful that this is one of them. Here, the Doctor, Harry and Sarah are diverted to the planet Skaro by the suddenly genocidal Time Lords, in order to nip the whole Dalek race in the bud. Their creator, the mad genius Davros (Michael Wisher), believes them to be the ultimate superhuman melding of man (or in this case, Kaled—nice wordplay, show!) and machine, all the better to destroy the enemy Thals and finally end the thousand-year war of attrition besetting his planet. Banish from your thoughts the question of just how two city states so close to each other can possibly have been conducting a thousand-year war! Forget that it is all a rather heavy-handed Mengele metaphor! Just sit back and enjoy the Doctor’s struggle with Big Themes while also taking pleasure in what is without a doubt the best Who villain origin story ever, the only thing missing some kind of justification for the Daleks’ early trouble with stairs.

EXPLAINED! The, er, genesis of the Daleks (and exactly how the enchanting Oswin Osgood could have been turned into one of them).

 

2. THE BRAIN OF MORBIUS , Season 13, Episodes 21-26
Written by: “Robin Bland” (Terrance Dicks/Robert Holmes)
Directed by: Christopher Barry
Setting: The planet Karn
4 Episodes: “Part One” (January 3, 1976), “Part Two” (January 10, 1976), “Part Three” (January 17, 1976), “Part Four” (January 24, 1976)

In a season full of notable awesome, The Brain of Morbius stands out as, woah. Awesome. The Doctor and Sarah find themselves on the planet Karn in the distant future, on which exist two separate yet equally troubling entities: one, the Sisterhood of the Flame, which produces a mystical, if dwindling, “Elixir of Life” and two, a Dr. Solon (Philip Madoc), bona fide Frankenstein-level mad scientist who is assembling a new body to house the consciousness of an evil Time Lord, the titular Morbius. At once a clever adaptation, a meditation on the nature of obsession and an admonishment on the importance of basic home maintenance (come on, ladies: the chimney!), this is an atmospheric, chilling and yet ultimately life-affirming outing, sporting unforgettable an evocative lines like “The impossible dream of a thousand alchemists, dripping like tea from an urn,” pronounced in Tom Baker’s most dulcet tones.

EXPLAINED! What the First Doctor looked like as a young man. (Unless there is another explanation for all of the past faces that flash by during his mind-battle with Morbius? I’d love to hear it!)

 

3. THE DEADLY ASSASSIN, Season 14, Episodes 9-12
Written by: Robert Holmes
Directed by: David Moloney
Setting: The planet Gallifrey
4 Episodes: “Part One” (October 30, 1976), “Part Two” (November 6, 1976), “Part Three” (November 13, 1976), “Part Four” (November 20, 1976)

Ah, Gallifrey! A planet so shrouded in mystery that we didn’t even know its name for the first two incarnations of its most famous son. Here, the Doctor pays a visit home (sans companion—the only Classic Who serial in which this happens) and finds himself Manchurian Candidated by his aging nemesis, the Master (Peter Pratt). One thing this episode does—aside from entertain, with its taught sci-fi thriller-style narrative—is thoroughly demystify the Time Lords, making of them just as petty and as, well, human as any race encountered anywhere in the show. But while this can be a bad thing in some cases (cf. what Voyager did to the Borg), here it goes a long way to explaining so much about the Doctor, about his attitudes, and even about ourselves: power corrupts and reality is an illusion and perhaps we are all living inside the Matrix. Sorry, Wachowskis! Doctor Who got there first.

Note: The previous serial, The Hand of Fear saw the departure of Sarah Jane Smith as the Fourth Doctor’s regular companion. It featured a heart-felt goodbye that surely gives the lie to any notion that the two were “just friends,” and is not included here because it is otherwise not very good, and also because… well, it’s the departure of Sarah Jane Smith (though she will return in the time of future Doctors), and that is just sad.

EXPLAINED! Why everyone believes Peter Capaldi’s forthcoming Twelfth Doctor will be our last. (Except we don’t really believe that, do we?)

 

4. CITY OF DEATH, Season 17, Episodes 5-8
Written by: “David Agnew” (David Fisher/Graham Williams/Douglas Adams)
Directed by: Michael Hayes
Setting: Contemporary Paris, Rennaissance Italy
4 Episodes: “Part One” (September 29, 1979), “Part Two” (October 6, 1979), “Part Three” (October 13, 1978), “Part Four” (October 20, 1979)

Romana! Whether you prefer her in her first or second incarnation (personally, I’m Team Romana II, but that is probably the minority opinion), this Time Lady companion is one of my absolute favorites, right up there with Sarah and Zoe (and the much later Jack and Amy). In this outing, she and the Doctor are in Paris where they discover a temporal distortion in the Louvre (I always knew there was something hinky going on with time in that place!) and the Doctor ends up visiting with Leonardo Da Vinci and uncovering the origins of life on Earth—it was the explosion of an alien spacecraft, which its adrift-in-time pilot is eager to go back in time to stop. Aside from some pointed hypocrisy (“You can’t change history”—oh, really, Doctor?), the serial is pretty much flawless, and is as enjoyable—and unutterably amusing—on its tenth viewing as it is on its first. And even after you think you have surely seen all the glory and wonder that City of Death has to offer, suddenly: John Cleese!

EXPLAINED! Uh… the origins of life on Earth. Thanks, Skaroth!

 

5. LOGOPOLIS, Season 18, Episodes 25-28 Written by: Christopher H Bidmead Directed by: Peter Grimwade Setting: Contemporary London, the planet Logopolis 4 Episodes: “Part One” (February 28, 1981), “Part Two” (March 7, 1981), “Part Three” (March 14), “Part Four” (March 21, 1981)

Is this serial among the best of the Fourth Doctor’s tenure? By no means. Season 18 was a…. let’s just call it a troubled season, full of Hard SF and an increasingly weary Tom Baker, his broad, cat-ate-the-canary smile all but absent in favor of somber meditation on the universe’s inevitable death and decay. But is it an important, nay, essential serial? Yes, and for more than just the Doctor’s regeneration at the end. More crucial is the fact that magic—real, honest-to-goodness magic, since what else can you call incantations of words that must be said just so in order to somehow save the universe?—is couched as science, as mathematics, and is taken completely for granted here, as the Doctor and the Master (Anthony Ainley) team up to help the Logopolitans drain existence of its entropy and thus save it from oblivion. (Also present: Adric, Nyssa and new accidental companion Tegan, of whom more in the Fifth Doctor’s installment.) In all, Logopolis is certainly nowhere near as entertaining as many of its precursors, but as a representative sample of what the show had at this point become, I believe it to bee compulsory viewing.

EXPLAINED! How we’re all still standing, apparently.

Okay, I know it’s coming. Let the filleting begin!


Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.

35 comments
Paul Weimer
1. PrinceJvstin
EXPLAINED! What the First Doctor looked like as a young man. (Unless there is another explanation for all of the past faces that flash by during his mind-battle with Morbius? I’d love to hear it!)

The classic explanation is by the time the Mind Battle goes back past the First Doctor, the 4th Doctor really has the upper hand, and is showing false images to us, and to Morbius. Its the turning point.
Thomas Thatcher
2. StrongDreams
I was prepared to be outraged by the exclusion of Talons, but you included City of Death so that's ok in the end.
Cain Latrani
3. CainS.Latrani
Ah, the scarf. Nothing says the 4th quite like it.

Though, I admit, I am enchanted by that hat. The Doctor doesn't wear hats enough. Especially not awesome hats. That was one awesome aht.

I really liked that hat.
Brian Mac
4. Brian Mac
You're right that the task isn't quite as daunting when you realize that you've got a couple you simply can't ignore. I'm sure there are people who could take issue with "Genesis of the Daleks" or "City of Death," but there's a clear consensus that both belong on this list. I can even accept your argument of "Logopolis" as being "not great, but definitely essential." The Master's entire characterization for the rest of the classic series is dependent on Logopolis, and that's a lot of episodes.

I've never liked "Brain of Morbius" as much as everybody else does. The Sisterhood never seemed to fit in with Time Lord mythology as well as they should, and if you've seen one Frankenstein homage, you've seen most of them. I think you could swap that out for "Pyramids of Mars" on the strength of the timey-wimey present in "Pyramids," and the explanation that yeah, you certainly can change history and die before you were born.

It also seems criminal to leave out Leela, so if you want to swap Morbius for "Talons of Weng-Chiang" (for obvious reasons), or "The Horror of Fang Rock," I can support that. "Fang Rock" is one of my favorite "base under seige" stories, where everybody dies...it's almost a Fifth Doctor story.
Brian Mac
5. Fenric25
I was wondering how you'd come up with a list of five Fourth Doctor stories and your list is pretty damn good, I'll admit, especially as you keep it tied into a theme of essential stories, not necessarily favorites (if that was the case, Logopolis, while a still pretty decent episode, would never be on this list). Of these five, "City of Death" and "Brain of Morbius" would be tied for my favorite (two very different stories that are just both so good), with Genesis of the Daleks and The Deadly Assassin close behind. I, too, am very hard pressed to decide on a favorite and can't pick. I will note that "Planet of Evil" is a sentimental favorite as it was the first classic story I watched in its entirety (I had seen bits of "Revelation of the Daleks" and "Ghost Light," two of my favorites, as a little kid, and saw the TV Movie when it first aired when I was 11, thus convincing me to watch the show proper and tune into PBS every Friday). Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Fourth Doctor era-still the best after all this time.
Terry Lago
6. dulac3
Ah, the Fourth Doctor...MY Doctor! (Though I have strong connections to, and affection for, Three and Five, Four will always be THE Doctor to me.)

You did an excellent job:

City of Death? - Check!
Genesis of the Daleks? - No doubt!
The Brain of Morbius? - Love it!
Deadly Assassin? - Sweet!
Logopolis? - Um....I guess?

Anyway, nice job. Like others I would have pulled in Talons, or The Face of Evil, or the The Pyramids of Mars, but your list is very, very good. Man, now I want a jelly baby!
Christopher Bennett
7. ChristopherLBennett
"The Brain of Morbius" is popular? Really? I never knew that. I don't enjoy it much at all, particularly since the first episode is missing its music and sound-effects tracks (at least in every version I've ever seen) and is thus rather hard to enjoy or follow. True, it's one of the most blatant exemplars of the "Gothic horror" era under producer Philip Hinchcliffe and story editor Robert Holmes, but that doesn't make it the best story in that era.

As for the supposed "earlier faces" of the Doctor, that's a continuity error, period. The dialogue makes it clear that they were meant to be pre-Hartnell incarnations of the Doctor, but "The Three Doctors" had already stated explicitly that Hartnell was the earliest Doctor, an assumption which every later story has also followed. So "Morbius" is the lone exception to the rule, a pure continuity glitch -- kind of like how Star Trek's "The Alternative Factor" claimed that a matter-antimatter reaction would destroy the universe, even though it had been established over a dozen episodes earlier that matter-antimatter reactions powered the Enterprise.

I'd nominate "The Ark in Space" or "The Robots of Death" as alternatives -- although "Ark" is more noteworthy as part of a sequence. They did an interesting thing in Baker's first season, a loose serialization between stories that took the Doctor and his companions away from the TARDIS for several serials. At the end of "Ark," they transmatted (beamed) down from Nerva Beacon to Earth to fix the transmat equipment at that end, which led them into "The Sontaran Experiment." Then they beamed back up but were intercepted by the Time Lords for "Genesis of the Daleks," and then they returned to Nerva Beacon many centuries earlier for "Revenge of the Cybermen," with the TARDIS eventually catching up with them (or catching down, since it was going backward in time?). At the end of which they got an emergency message from the Brigadier calling them back to Earth for the next season's premiere, "Terror of the Zygons."

The thing is, the reason this was done is that two different BBC unions were arguing over the TARDIS console room prop, with the set department saying it was the responsibility of special effects and vice-versa, so the producers just threw up their hands and did a whole season where we never saw the interior of the TARDIS. In the following season, we only saw the console room in "Planet of Evil" and "Pyramids of Mars," and in the year after that, they replaced it with a retro-styled console room -- what we'd now call steampunk, sort of foreshadowing the console-room design of the 1996 TV movie -- whose console had no moving parts.

I don't much care for anything in the Graham Williams-produced era, where the show got way too goofy and ineptly written. The only real high points in that era are "City of Death" and the Robert Holmes serials like "The Sun Makers" and "The Ribos Operation." I consider "The Invisible Enemy," "Underworld," and "The Horns of Nimon" to be three of the worst serials in the show's history. The final season, the first produced by John Nathan-Turner, was much better.

I particularly like the two consecutive Christopher H. Bidmead serials that bridged the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, "Logopolis" and "Castrovalva," because they're both clearly influenced by ideas from one of my favorite nonfiction books, Douglas R. Hofstadter's classic Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.
Noneo Yourbusiness
8. Longtimefan
Frankly I think you should have picked 10 essentail series since the 4th doctor had twice the number of years so he should have twice the number of essentail episodes. :)

Totally not because the 4th doctor is my doctor and every moment is a delight.

Also Romana II and Sara Jane Smith are my favorite companions. Romana I is good but she seems to lighten up a bit after her regeneration and not just by hair color.

So feel free to have a 5 essentials part 2 for the 4th doctor. :)

After all, with the longest time between regenerations don't you think he deserves it?
Christopher Bennett
9. ChristopherLBennett
@8: Well, to split hairs, the Doctor with the longest time between regenerations is Sylvester McCoy (1987-1996). The interval between Paul McGann becoming the Doctor and Christopher Eccleston taking over is also nine years, but I guess that doesn't count since McGann only appeared on TV once and didn't actually regenerate onscreen. (The "Eighth Doctor's Essential Episodes" post is going to be really short, unless it delves into the audios.)

It would be more accurate to say that Tom Baker had the most episodes between regenerations, or the most storylines.


Oh, by the way, I have to quibble with the article's statement that Tom Baker made "later guest appearances." His only return "appearance" was in "The Five Doctors," but that was made using stock footage from the unaired "Shada," because Baker declined to participate. The only time he's reprised the Fourth Doctor on TV, outside of a few commercials and variety-show spoofs, was in the dreadful and non-canonical Dimensions in Time anniversary special, and that was only a cameo.
Brian Mac
10. Athreeren
And that's where I'm lost. Let's be honest: I'll never have the time to watch the last 16 seasons of Who before the anniversary. I just hope I'll know what a Zygon is by that time.
Christopher Bennett
11. ChristopherLBennett
@10: Don't worry about it. Just let Zygons be Zygons.
David Levinson
12. DemetriosX
This really was an impossible task (you may well have the converse problem with Colin Baker) and I don't envy you. Still, I think maybe a case could be made for Warrior's Gate, since it may be the best companion departure of them all. Ramona leaves on her own terms and has clearly learned everything she possibly could from the Doctor.
Brian Mac
13. Aucon
What about 'The Horror of Fang Rock?" Or 'The Talons of Weng-Chiang"?
Noneo Yourbusiness
14. Longtimefan
@ 9 well yes, in the most strict sense it is television I am speaking about. Radio I am not as familiar with.

Still.... can't we have a 5 essential episodes part 2? Please? :)
Christopher Bennett
15. ChristopherLBennett
@9: I'm speaking about television too. Sylvester McCoy regenerated into Paul McGann in the 1996 TV movie, so he had nine years between regenerations while Tom Baker only had seven. He certainly didn't have as many stories as Baker did, since he was offscreen for the latter 2/3 of that interval, but it does technically count (again, splitting hairs) as "the longest time between regenerations." (The Big Finish audiobook series didn't even begin until 1999.)
Walker White
16. Walker
So are we grading episodes based on quality, or their contribution to the mythology? Because the Key to Time season is pretty crucial for the introduction of the Black and White Guardians.
Christopher Bennett
17. ChristopherLBennett
@16: Is the introduction of the Guardians really all that crucial in the grand scheme of things? Sure, they return in the trilogy introducing Turlough, and in a smattering of tie-ins, but otherwise they're not a major part of the franchise.
alex
18. jerec84
I can't fault these choices. City of Death is so sharply written and well-paced that a New Series viewer would feel right at home.

"I say, what a wonderful butler, he's so violent!"
alastair chadwin
19. a-j
Like a few others, I'm not fond of 'Brain of Morbius' and would replace it with 'Pyramids of Mars' to represent the Who does gothic era. And while I take your point about 'Logopolis', it's too messy and Baker is so obviously bored and fed up. I would replace it with 'The Androids of Tara' which is such good fun. I know it's a Key of Time story but, if memory serves, the arc story is dealt with either in the first few minutes or as a throwaway moment in the last. Otherwise, good choice.

Mildly interesting Who-fact:
I'm of a mind that 'City of Death' holds the record of having the highest viewing figures of any Dr Who story at any time. Mind you, this was mainly due to ITV (the UK's then sole commercial TV channel) being on strike at the time. Which left us with only two channels. That's right kids, only two channels. Incredible! (to be spoken in a Professor Brian Cox voice).

ChristopherLBennett@11
Oh dear.
I can only quote that other great doctor, Stephen Maturin:

'He who would make a pun would pick a pocket!'
Brian Mac
20. RobinM
The 4th Doctor was my 1st Doctor and one of my favorites. I'd have swapped Talons and Pyramids for Morbius and Logopolis even though it's a Master episode I think he's better in Castovalva. I'm not sure since I haven't seen any 4th Doctor since around 1982 except what they showed for the fiftieth specials on BBCA.
Brian Mac
21. JAWolf
I'd have put in 'Ark in Space' and definitely a Leela serial.
Mary Thorman
22. mbt777
Talons and Fang Rock! Two of my favorites! I loved the homonculous (sp?)! Baker was, of course, my favorite doctor. Maybe I liked the bipolar character, the clever word play, and the somehow "macho" image Tom Baker creates. He had a lot of great supporting cast, too.
Brian Mac
23. Dave Cordes
My Essential Tom Baker:

1. Pyramids of Mars
2. The Talons of Weng-Chiang
3. The Deadly Assassin
4. Genesis of the Daleks
5. Destiny of the Daleks
6. Terror of the Zygons
7. The Android Invasion
8. The Robots of Death
9. Robot
10. Horror of Fang Rock
Andy Thompson
24. Andy_T
When I saw this post title come up, I made my own predictions of what would be on it.

Really, City of Death and Genesis had to be on there.

The mention of Douglas Adams’ “other serial” is off a bit, as most people consider the final script of City to be mostly his work.

I also expected Talons to be on there - although it never made that huge of an impact on me when I first saw it some 30 years ago, but I rewatched it last year and found it pretty good. (and the Big Finish audo spinoff, Jago and Litefoot, is wonderful!) Also, a Leela episode should be included as essential.

I also thought something from Baker's subdued final season should be on there. Warrior's Gate was such an unusal episode, visually and with the flashbacks in time and on either side of the mirror gateway. I don't think, however, that Romana's exit was that great, while it wasn’t totally out of the blue, she has been resistant to a return to Gallifrey previously, but it still had a tacked-on feel to me. Keeper of Traken, was good too, if you like Nyssa, (To me, she’s OK, but not great) and as the Master’s re-generation/body snatching story. Logopolis, I liked that one quite a bit, the recursive-TARDIS bits early on (leave out the rubbish idea of flooding the Tardis though, although the TARDIS landing on the river barge made for a great visual) and there’s other things I liked in there too. But the ending, the regeneration, I was pretty baffled about what that all meant when I first saw it as a kid. I think it wasn’t until I bought the Target Programme Guide or saw a documentary about the show that I finally got that what happened there at the end was a good thing! (…back when you saw it only once without the option of a rewind button!)

I never thought Morbius was that great, nor essential.

Assassin– I expected either this one or the other Gallifrey episode, Invasion of Time to be on here. Invasion had the plus that we finally got to the see deep inside the TARDIS. (It also had the minus that we finally got to see a lot of bad location shots being pawned off as what was deep inside the TARDIS. The Bidmead era explored the TARDIS better) It also suffered from 6-episode-padding. Assassin was better at 4 episodes and proved that Baker’s Doctor could work without a companion.

I’m surprised that Nimon was even mentioned on the page. It had a decent sci-fi premise, but wow, the finished product was pretty horrible. But not quite horrible enough for the so-bad-it’s-good category.

I think I agree that Baker should have had a top-10 list. All this bicker about “how long were they the Doctor” is meaningless. The number of viewable episodes, or stories should be the determination. Really, these threads should be Essential Stories anyway, not Episodes. Doctors 6 and 7 only had 11 and 12 stories, (if you can even count McCoy’s terrible first season) and as such I think a Top Three for them will be sufficient.
Christopher Bennett
25. ChristopherLBennett
As with "Morbius," I never expected "Horror of Fang Rock" to be popular. I didn't care for that one much at all. Mainly because literally nobody survives except the Doctor and Leela. Which is a pretty crummy job of heroing. Sure, technically they saved the Earth, but they didn't save any of the characters actually featured in the story. Not that I really liked any of those characters much, as far as I can recall.


@24: Of course it's meaningless. That's why I said it was splitting hairs. I like trivia, but I don't claim it's actually important.
Brian Mac
26. Brian Mac
@25: I agree that "everybody dies" is a pretty lousy job of heroing...and yet, it happens rather a lot. "Fang Rock," "Androzani," "Pyramids of Mars," "Warriors of the Deep," "The Two Doctors," and if you want to count the modern series, "Parting of the Ways" and "Time of the Angels." And that's not counting the multitude of episodes where only one or two characters make it out alive, and the Doctor calls that a win. Sometimes it's just gratuitous (I'm looking at you, Two Doctors), but in "Fang Rock," I think it's atmospheric.
Becca Hollingsworth
27. bibliobeque
I'd probably swap out Morbius for "The Face of Evil." Partly for Leela, of course, but mostly because the Doctor actually has to clean up the consequences of his own good intentions for once.
Christopher Bennett
28. ChristopherLBennett
@26: Hmm, and those are all pretty good ones. But "Fang Rock" just doesn't work for me.
Luis Milan
29. LuisMilan
Now I see where Douglas Adams' "Dirk Gently's Holystic Detective Agency" came from.
Brian Mac
30. BrianEwell
First time commenter. I was living in the UK during the early/mid 1970s, and Jon Pertwee was my first Doctor. But the episode burned into my brain (age 8) was Ark in Space. Giant alien space slugs that turn you into one if it just touches you! I must say, watching them as a weekly serial the way they were originally broadcast was a very different experience than watching them in their entirety in one sitting. And, observing the aforementioned space slugs as actors rolling around, wrapped in green spray-painted bubble wrap also tends to take the edge off... Having said that, I don't have any strong disagreement with the episodes selected here, though I am also very fond of Weng-Chiang.
Brian Mac
31. Wordwizard
The REAL question is not WHICH FIVE essential episode should you see, but WHY the earlier "Classic" Who Doctors are no longer shown on TV (cable) so that we could see ALL of them, without having to pay for them! They used to be rerun on an endless loop on PBS, but then they just STOPPED. I don't care what the technicalities of contracts are, they should get it worked out, and show ALL the surviving episodes for the 50th anniversary. There's no way around it that that is the one fitting way to celebrate.
Brian MacDonald
32. bmacdonald
@29, Actually, "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" is 50% "City of Death," and 50% "Shada," with the latter being the episode that was half recorded, but never aired because of a union strike.

I have never been more angry at an author than I was when I got to the end of "Dirk Gently" and realized that I was reading a story that I already knew. Ripping off yourself is better than ripping off another writer, to be sure, but it certainly takes the suspense out of the story when you already know how it ends.
Ursula L
33. Ursula
@31 - Actually, if BBCA were to go back and show all of the classic episodes, it would take a huge amount of time. And I'd hate to loose things like Broadchurch or Orphan Black for the sake of reruns, even for the anniversary. Same thing if PBS were to pick up the classic episodes, as they did in the past. What amount of their excellent new programming would be lost this year?

People who want to watch the classic episodes can find them. Even for free, such as if you get the disks from your public library, either if it is in your system's collection or via interlibrary loan.
Brian Mac
34. old aggie
To me, "Warrior's Gate" was the very best from Doctor # 4, who is my favorite Doctor. I also quite liked "The Hand of Fear."
But the one I quote most often is "Nimon" - *Lord Miiii-monnn, it is I, Soldeed ... *
Second most quoted is the aforementioned HoF - *Eldrad must LIVE! Eldrad MUST live, and we must all obey!*
The other commenters are correct - this needs to be a list of 10. :-)
Brian Mac
35. lorq
@7: Yes! I always liked the Hofstadter connection in "Logopolis" and "Castrovalva" too.

I've long felt "Logopolis" was a relatively unsung great among the Baker episodes. Its sense of ominous portent and cosmic catastrophe always impressed me. I suspect the writers of the new Who series learned a *lot* from that particular episode.

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