Ahhh,1985, the year when it all went pear shaped. Suddenly Dr Who's supporters were gone from on high and in came Michael Grade and the infamous hiatus. By the time this story was shown we knew the series was on trial, and I don't remember TIMELASH being particularly reassuring.
At the time I was only 14, and couldn't really understand the fuss about season 22, but revisiting it paints a slightly different picture. After the Davison era- a good doctor who still had a lot more to offer when he bowed out, and generally very strong stories, particularly in his final season, we suddenly got Colin Baker's radically different portrayal and more violent stories. Old monsters galore appeared in place of new ones. Out of six stories, four harping back to the past was too many. Particularly when only REVELATION really did its returning characters justice. ATTACK is very watchable but fatally derivative and the gore content lost the public fairly quickly. MARK OF THE RANI was entertaining for the Master/Doctor/Rani banter but didn't have much of a plot to it, and was ultimately just another blast from the past wasting the Master yet again. THE TWO DOCTORS had some good ideas but was too long and ultimately dull. And REVELATION?
Thankfully this turbulent season was to end on a high note. REVELATION is excellent.
>From its very opening it drops you right in the thick of things. The Doctor and Peri encounter the mutant, Natasha and Grigory break into the base, Kara gets harrassed by Davros and hires Orcini to bump him off. The story sets itself up beautifully, on contrast to VENGEANCE ON VAROS say, where the opening Varos scenes are excellent but the stranded-in-the tardis-cue-whining-marathon bits are dreadful. It's not a good start to an adventure when the Doctor's first scenes make you cringe, and fortunately REVELATION is much better. The Sixth Doctor's regeneration troubles have eased out, Colin Baker is in confident command of the role, and Peri has ceased to be a brainless bimbo.
And so the story progresses- more of the Daleks in part one would have been nice, but Oh, well...the excellence of Davros in this tale more than makes up for it. Part One contains much that is great- the glass dalek scene is powerful, Terry Molloy's davros rises to the great characterization that the script offers him, and the direction is polished throughout.
Part Two is even better. The Doctor is captured, rival Dalek factions get their best battle, and the showdown with Davros is excellently done. This really was a great final story for Davros- bringing him back again in REMEMBRANCE was unnecessary, and it's great that in the new series the Daleks got the chance to function without him again. The DJ gives a nice surreal touch to the proceedings, and the regulars shine.
Ironically, considering the shadow hanging over the series,
things looked healthy by the end of REVELATION. The Doctor and Peri's relationship was starting to settle down, Colin Baker gives his best performance in the part, and the viewing figures were climbing steadily back up. A great pity that things weren't allowed to continue on their natural course at this point....
There were several tragedies resulting from the cancellation, but I am not sure that season 23 itself was one of them. The bits we've seen in book form and in articles largely reveal more old monsters in more half baked
plots. MISSION TO MAGNUS is crap, the auton/rani/master story sounds too overcrowded again, ULTIMATE EVIL could have been Ok but feels desperately underwritten ( I realise things were only in draft form att he time maybe, but even so it is shallow) and NIGHTMARE FAIR, while OK, doesn't fell like a Toymaker scheme- more the Master's league really.Autons and Ice warriors would have been good, but they needed better stories- like DYING DAYS for example......but it might have been better than TRIAL, which tries very hard but wasn't what the series needed right then. It needed radical new stories with dynamism and drive and originality... and we got MYSTERIOUS PLANET.
The real tragedy was that when the series returned it felt like no one noticed. The habit of DR WHO was broken and the series never recovered. There should also have been a new producer- JNT delivered excellently in season 18 and the Davison era but thereafter things faltered badly.
And of course there was Colin Baker. I find him a patchy doctor at best- fine with a good script and good direction but unable to transcend weaker material as all the previous doctors could, including Davison. By the end of season 22 he WAS the Doctor- however in MYSTERIOUS PLANET he was dreadful and the TRIAL format gave him little room to progress in characterising his doctor. And when he was boooted out we got McCoy, the all time worst doctor. I am not as much of a Colin convert after Big Finish as many seem to be as I still find his performance in audio these stories irritating at times,and I still wonder whether he was ever a suitable choice for the part, but I do think he was denied a chance to do better. Not just by Grade, but by JNT and Saward as well. Oh well..
At least REVELATION gives him a chance for greatness. Definitely one of the eighties' best.