Burnt Toast#10, 1992
Like Chinese porcelain, Dr Who adventures are listed in eras which greatly affect their value.
Or do they?
Doctor Who is a strange little show in that it indeed has vastly different periods making up its history. Certainly, all television shows mature, become more assured in what they do, find comfortable formats. In something like The Young Ones, the diffrence between the early and later material is very marked, not so much in the quality of humour, but just in the 'slickness' of its production. It turned from an obviously experimental vehicle into a finely-tuned automobile, albeit still defying Motor Regestry guide-lines. Black Adder is similar, once it got past its slightly unstable first season.
But Doctor Who doesn't only do that. It does it, then throws everything out and starts all over again. Take the Third Doctor's era that Peter Smark so greatly loves. Alien invasions, environmental hazards, a team of regulars with their own internal conflicts. A Doctor that was fatherly and, despite the persistant alien jokes, about as human as you could get. It's not an era I have any great love for, but then, I wouldn't, would I? I like it, believe it is well-made, and that's about it.
A lot of Americans don't like Season 25 and 26. But they wouldn't, would they? To them Doctor Who is science fiction, and while S25-26 has certain similar characteristics, it is simply not sf.
The eternal discussion of favourite Doctor is necessary for fandom, the more differing opinions the better. It's a bit of a knife-edge, because while you have a comfortable, and smothering, consistency on one side, on the other you have the problem I'm sure Batman fans face. Some people are fans of the TV show, some of the old comics, some of the Miller/Moore version. And I don't think any group would have anything to say to any other.
I don't think anyone can say that any one particular season or era of Doctor Who is bad without being unfair. But that's an argument like Communism. It would be nice if it worked, but it doesn't, and it's more interesting this way anyhow. So, here is my statement of allegiance to the Fourth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors. My statement that I believe the Fifth Doctor's era to be brilliantly written and Davison himself, while containing great potential, boring. My statement that Twin Dilemma is abysmal, Season 24 is silly, Seasons 1-6 ancient history. My allegiance not only to the writing of Robert Holmes, but of Eric Saward. My statement that there are stories I will watch because they are Doctor Who, but are otherwise uninteresting.
But they are Doctor Who, part of a whole that is breathtaking. And that is because it is a show that never remains comfortable for long.
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