Continuing my “one under-rated story per Doctor” list.
The Invasion of Time
There are tons of Williams-era stories that I could argue are neglected, and I was tempted by The Armageddon Factor in particular, but I’m going with The Invasion of Time because it has a lot of nice bits, even if it doesn’t completely cohere. There is some padding and the ending (the Doctor gets a Space Gun and shoots the Sontarans) is awful, but the journey to get there is interesting.
Many Doctor Who stories have suggested that the Doctor’s morality isn’t entirely clear-cut and on several occasions he has cooperated with an enemy as part of a plan to defeat them, but here we spend over two episodes with a Doctor apparently gone completely to the bad. The scene when he admits his ploy to Borusa is one of the most touching in the series, their relationship being completely believable in a way that it failed to be with later Borusas while providing a rationale for Tom Baker’s increasingly eccentric performance. A similar scene two episodes later has the Doctor round on his mentor, searching for the Great Key and asserting that he wants to care about the deaths of innocent Time Lords, not to practise detachment like Borusa.
Rodan is an excellent character, really a prototype Romana, and while I like Mary Tamm’s performance, it is hard to see why Hilary Ryan was not asked back. The Outsiders are fairly uninteresting, but at least they give Leela something to do. Castellan Kelner makes for a more interesting villain than the Vardans or Sontarans and I like the surreal TARDIS interiors in the final episode.
Terminus is an odd, subdued story and not particular good for list posts like this; it’s not full of “Do you remember the one where… ?” moments or memorable jokes or monsters. It’s a curiously low-key story about character and mood, rooted in the memory of the programme’s earliest years, but more constructive about revisiting the past than stories like Arc of Infinity or Warriors of Deep, mirroring story style rather than continuity points and old monsters.
It’s bleak in places, a story of people stigmatised by society and the drug-addicted criminals tasked with helping them in a form of slavery. Yet it ends on a note of optimism, with Nyssa staying behind to build a new future for the Vanir and the Lazars and the Garm being granted his freedom. The sets are cheap, but the skull motif works and Turlough’s character continues to develop in a unique way. Sadly he would be largely neglected after the next story.
The Trial of a Time Lord Parts 9-12 aka Terror of the Vervoids
In many ways Terror of the Vervoids is the most traditional Colin Baker era story, despite being one of the few not to feature an old villain or monster. It’s not a million miles from The Robots of Death, a cross between a murder mystery and a base under siege. It’s easy to mock some less than realistic dialogue, but the story itself is fairly strong and the Doctor is recognisably Doctorish, after the bullying of season twenty-two and the confusion of the previous Trial instalment. Mel has never been a popular companion, but I appreciate the way that she actually wants to travel in time and space with the Doctor after Peri and Tegan always seemed to want to be elsewhere.
Part three coming soon…