Sep. 13th, 2015

dc: The Doctor looking out from Laurel & Hardy film (fez)

A couple of health problems which enforced some rest gave an opportunity to watch Series 13 in fairly short order. It generally feels like an organic continuation of the Doctor as we'd seen him in Series 12. Doctor Who continues its tradition of drawing inspiration from any sources it can lay its hands on, and often to very good effect. This series, there's more than a touch of Hammer, some Forbidden Planet, a hint of Westworld, an enormous dollop of Frankenstein, and it finishes with a mélange of Quatermass, The Thing, and an Avengers episode*. It also features the last appearances of U.N.I.T. for many years (oddly, in three out of six stories, though I never remember this series like that).

It's a lot of fun. Quality seems more even, on the whole, and if nothing is quite at the peak of Genesis, Pyramids is pretty close. Only the U.N.I.T. stuff feels a little out of place, out of time perhaps, and if there's a really weak story it is The Android Invasion; it really feels like well-trodden ground. Particularly odd is the way the Doctor enters the action in Seeds - almost as though he's his predecessor, basically stuck on Earth (and it's quite an odd continuity slip that the Tardis takes them “back” to Antarctica at the end when it didn't take them there in the first place). Tom Baker is fully inhabiting the role, which is no surprise, really. because he pretty much did that from Robot. Elisabeth Sladen is very settled in as Sarah and the two play off each other beautifully. Some of the guest cast do particularly well, notably Tony Beckley as the completley unhinged Harrison Chase, Sylvia Coleridge as the eccentric but sharp artist Amelia Ducat, and the lovely Michael Sheard as Laurence Scarman, tortured by what has happened to his brother and unable to accept it. As always, effects and sets could be the weak link (no one mention the Skarasen!), but the jungle set for Planet of Evil is exceptionally good, a beautifully atmospheric set.

What I always remember about watching Who back then was that it wasn't always good, there were disappointing stories or even episodes, but there was always the expectation, each week, that the next episode would be good. This season pretty much bears that up, even the poorer episodes are entertaining, and the Doctor and Sarah work very well together. As when it was broadcast, I finished looking forward to seeing the next series; unlike then, I'm slightly sad that Series 14 will (already!) be Philip Hinchlciffe's final as producer.

*The Man-Eater of Surrey Green

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