Sunday 1 February 2015

The Great Doctor Who Poll 2014 - Musing & Moaning - Part One

Ye Gods! Where do I start? Perhaps, with a disclaimer.. "And, I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to..."; no, wait, DISCLAIMER. Not a bloody Proclaimer! Though I shall, no doubt, as I wade through the poll, do plenty of proclaiming, exclaiming, expleting, opining, and more expleting. So. Disclaimer. This is my OPINION. Nothing more. Nothing less. Some of it is based on personal preference, some on past polls, and most simply on whatever pours out of my brain. It will almost certainly contain a LOT of swearing. If this offends you, stop reading now. No. Really! If you're easily offended.. fuck off..!

It is said that profanity is the weapon of the witless. I don't agree, and whoever spewed forth that particular apothegm was talking out of their arse. When used to be cruel or deliberately malicious, the quote has merit. When used for humour, it can be very, very funny. I find it so. I have a crude side to my humour. If this offends you, you should have stopped reading a paragraph prior to this one. You have been warned...

I'm going to start at the bottom of the poll and work upwards. Why? Because I want to. Because the shorter answers to the poll questions lie there, and because it will give my brain time to formulate something vaguely resembling cogent sentences for what lies ahead in the full episode poll.

So, we begin with the first (or rather, last) category. Companion. The winner of this category was, frankly, a no-brainer. Had anyone BUT the magical Sarah Jane Smith won, I would be spitting feathers. There could be no other winner. She was, quite simply, "My Sarah Jane". And probably yours too. I don't know by what margin she won, but I suspect it was a comfortable lead. Deservedly so.

Second place is an interesting choice.. Donna Noble. She wouldn't be my second place, personally, but I fully understand why she's there. She was bloody brilliant, that's why. I don't need to opine on her merits. Suffice to say, when I heard Catherine Tate had been cast as a companion, I was horrified. In much the same way I was horrified when Billie Piper was announced as the first companion to board the TARDIS upon the series' resurrection. I was wrong about her as well. Both had qualities and capabilities, both as actors and as companions, which far exceeded my expectations. Tate, in particular, became my favourite of the New Era companions, and remains so. She is, quite simply, very likeable. Add her relationship with Wilfred into the mix and you've got a winning combination before you set foot aboard the TARDIS.

Moving further into the list proves to be disappointing, particularly for an "old school" fan like me. Clara "interesting as plankton" Oswald takes seventh place, above Jo Grant, Leela, The Brigadier and Barbara Wright. REALLY? Clara above ANY of those esteemed characters is just wrong (my opinion.. don't like it, feel free to comment. Or to fuck off. Your choice!). Barbara is, was, and always will be the "First Lady" of time travel. Much as Moffat has sought to shovel Clara into every aspect of the Doctors existence, is she really worthy of a place higher than companions like Barbara, the incredibly endearing Jo Grant, or the superb Brigadier, now, sadly relegated to the role of a fucking Cyberman. Thank you, Mr Moffat.

I can't move away from the companion poll without commenting on the bottom place. Tegan Jovanka. Presumably, Nyssa, Adric, Zoe, even Susan were not placed highly enough to even make the top 15. For shame. That Clara bloody Oswald would best any of them is a mystery to me. But Tegan? I loved her to bits. She was grouchy, irascible, bad tempered.. oh, Christ, she was ME..! No wonder I liked her! The idea that her place in history is bettered by Rose Tyler or Clara "I have the personality of a coffee table" Oswald, fair boggles the mind. Oh well. There's no accounting for taste!

The next category is, arguably, the most contentious. A category which never fails to divide.. 'Favourite Doctor'. I'll lay my cards on the table and state that I'm always torn. Tom Baker was "my Doctor"; my formative years, as a child and as a Doctor Who fan occurred under his tenure. That said, I have, as many of you are aware, an extraordinary fondness for the Pertwee era. I am a big fan of the UNIT stories, I adored The Brigadier, so, of my dvd collection, his era is probably the most viewed. The poll, rightly, I think, places Tom firmly in top place. As the longest serving, and probably most memorable actor to take the lead role, his position was, I thought, perhaps, only threatened by David Tennant. Tennant has an incredibly loyal fan base. There's no denying he is exceptionally popular. Understandable. He was bloody good. It is, therefore, curious that he was beaten into third place, by Matt Smith.

Don't misunderstand me. I liked Smith, for the most part. I found him endearing, although his flapping, flailing and childish nature could grate at times. It surprises me that he beat Tennant. It irritates me that he beat Pertwee. Frankly, it irks me that Tennant is placed above Pertwee. Or Troughton. He was good, but was he really better than EVERY classic series Doctor, bar Tom Baker? In my opinion, and since this is my blog, no he bloody wasn't. It saddens me that Hartnell always fares so badly in the polls, managing to secure ninth place this time around. Yes, he fluffed his lines from time to time. Yes, he was crotchety, on and off screen. But he was also the First Doctor. The definitive article, one might say.

I can only surmise that a vast majority of people voting have never heard the Big Finish audio stories. If they had, I firmly believe Paul McGann would have fared better than tenth place. Stories such as 'Chimes of Midnight' or the 'Dark Eyes' series demonstrate his capability as an actor beautifully. Which brings me to the bottom of the poll. With the inclusion of John Hurt, dear old Colin Baker is, this time, at least, elevated from last place. Hurt did a fine job in Day of the Doctor, but beyond that, his role is fairly Insignficant in the annuls of Who history. Personally, I would have much preferred his role to have been played by McGann, but that's a whole other conversation. Back to Baker...

Colin is, I believe, one of the most overlooked, underrated actors to play the Doctor. Treated abysmally by the BBC, he stll continues to pour his heart and soul into the role of The Doctor, perhaps moreso than any other actor to take the role. Some of his on screen adventures were less than sterling, but anyone who's ever heard him reprising the role in the aforementioned Big Finish plays knows how capable he truly is. That Matt Smith is placed higher than him indicates many more "Nu Who" fans voted than "Classic". If only they would take the time to enjoy stories such as 'The Reaping', 'Spectre of Lanyon Moor' or 'Jubilee', he might have fared better.

With Colin, to all intents and purposes, at the bottom (yes, I know,, John Hurt.. Not counting him!) I suspect many Classic era fans will be understably piddled off. Tennant fans will be equally irked at Smith's ranking. And every "Nu Who" fan on earth is doubtless highly pissed off that Sylvester McCoy ranked above Chris Eccleston. Personally, I am delighted to see him above Eccleston. Baffled that he ranks above McGann, but again, I suspect the "Big Finish" factor is again at play. With that said, the Big Finish audios serve McCoy well, and while perhaps not in quite the same league as Colin Baker (for me), they do give us the pleasure of more time in the company of the Seventh Doctor. If you haven't listened to any of the Big Finish audios, you really are missing a treat. To digress from the poll for a moment, they really are worth hearing. They offer extensions to all of the Classic Doctors, from Tom Baker to Paul McGann, and surely, spending some more time in the company of any of those Doctors can't be a bad thing. They also greatly expand the Who universe, with epic stories such as the Dalek Empire saga, Gallifrey, UNIT and Counter-Measures, which continue the adventures of characters first established in 'Remembrance of the Daleks'. I cannot extol the virtues of Big Finish enough. Frankly, I should be on bloody commission!

The next category is 'Best Nu Who Series'. Taking the lead, rightly, is Season Four, so I have nothing complain about there! The rest of the poll is a bit of a mess, frankly. That Season Seven managed to beat ANYTHING, much less Seasons Two and Six, is a fucking miracle. That Season Five beat Season Three is questionable, and that Season Two ranks in seventh place is a bit of a mystery. Fuck me, what a lot of numbers to digest! As you're probably bored off of your tits after "Season this and that", here's a picture of a cat wearing a fez.

Moving swiftly on.. Next up is 'Best Nu Who Episode'. Predictably, the top spot is taken by 'Day of the Doctor' and followed by 'Blink'. Both hugely popular episodes. And both bloody overrated in my opinion (my blog, my opinion!). 'Empty Child' manages a respectable third place, although I would place it above the two aforementioned stories. By a LONG way. It pleases me to see 'Vincent and the Doctor' so highly ranked (8), likewise, 'School Reunion', both stories which dealt much more with emotion and personal relationships than with the threat of alien incursions. Dont worry.. I'm not going to go through every episode, one by one. Otherwise this is going to get very boring. If you aren't asleep already.

Highly ranked at 13 is 'The Doctor's Wife'. A hugely popular story for reasons I will NEVER understand. I fucking hate the damn story. I hate the Doctor's Wife almost as much as I hate MY (ex) wife! Still, at least, unlike her, it only drones on for 3/4 of an hour. 13 bloody years.. Never mind. That's another story!

Quite how 'Time of the Doctor' fared better than anything amazes me. Even 'Fear Her' which takes pride of place at the bottom of the poll (almost where it belongs.. but, as you'll see, not quite!) was better than 'Time'. Staring at a fucking coffee table for three hours was better than 'Time'. Personally speaking, I would have placed 'Time' in the second from bottom place. Just ahead of the interminably dreary, lacklustre, steaming, fetid pile of shit that makes up 'Nightmare in Silver', a story which has few, if any redeeming qualities. It is a story which, until 'Forest of the Night' came along, would have ranked as one of the worst stories ever. Thankfully, 'Forest' isn't in the 2014 poll, or this page would have so much swearing in, it would read like 59 Shade of Grey, without the sex. Neil Gaiman is a talented writer, but, for the love of all that is sane, keep him the hell away from Doctor Who. Please!

The remainder of this particular poll question is pretty hit and miss. 'Let's Kill Hitler' ranks above '42' so I can only assume the cat pictures above was randomly stabbing at a keyboard for six hours to illicit that particular ranking. 'Midnight', an outstanding epsiode, is served fairly well at 18, although the equally superb 'Planet of the Ood' scrapes in at a meagre 49. *sigh*

The Classic Series poll does, for a short time, appease my irritation, with Season Seven at the top spot. This pleases me immensely, both as a Pertwee fan and as a fan of Liz Shaw, a companion who, I believe, is woefully overlooked. A lot of people talk about Ace being the first "feisty" companion (a term, incindetally, which I detest, as each companion has their own, respective merits). However, Liz was more than a match for the Doctor, particularly one as vibrant as Jon. She was intelligent, brave, rational, sceptical.. Strong characteristics lacking from even some present day companions, in a time when we are (allegedly) more enlightened in attitudes toward women. A female scientist in the 1970's, while not groundbreaking, was unusual, and a welcome addition to the series. So to see S7 take the top spot satisfies me greatly.

I'm not sure how I feel about Season 13 taking second place, while Season 12 resides at seventh. Season 13 is, undoubtedly, outstanding. After all, it contains 'Terror of the Zygons', 'Pyramids of Mars' and 'Seeds of Doom'. Perhaps it deserves its ranking. Season 12, however, contains 'Genesis of the Daleks', which surely must rank it higher than 7th place. The biggest problem with ranking the classic era by season is that each series contains some very strong episodes. With Season 3 containing only 3 extant episodes, none of which are stellar, it is no surprise to find it in 24th place. Colin Baker fares marginally better here, although still close to the bottom. 'Trial of a Timelord' is, I believe, worthy of a higher place than 25th. The bottom position goes, unsurprisingly, to Season 24. Any season which contains 'Time and the Rani' (which I don't mind.. much!) and 'Paradise Towers' (which I'd rather gnaw my own legs off than watch) is never going to fare particularly well.

I confess a fondness for 'Delta and the Bannermen'; I find the setting, the music, the whole 50's holiday camp "vibe" rather charming. But, this is a season containing, what is, I believe, the single biggest pile of excrement ever committed to video (at least until 'Forest of the Night' came along). I bloody loathe 'Paradise Towers'! I'm sorry, if you happen to be one of the four people on earth who likes it. I don't. It's shit. Grade A fertiliser. Dung. Crap. Turgid, tedious, silly, tiresome rubbish. In case you haven't gathered from my astute assessment, I don't like it very much! For that reason, S24 is welcome to the bottom spot. And 'Paradise Towers' is welcome at the bottom of a pit.

And so, I am concluding, for the moment, here. This post is already quite long enough, and frankly, if you've managed to stay conscious throughout it's entirety, I'm impressed! Tomorrow, I'll be looking at the remainder of the poll, which focuses largely on individual episode rankings.

Until then, I welcome any comments, dissenting or otherwise. And please, bear in mind, all of this is only my opinion. It isn't right. It isn't wrong. It's simply the musings of one individual. There is no "right and wrong" when it comes to Doctor Who. We like what we like, and that's fine. Unless you place 'Paradise Towers' as the single, greatest episode ever. If that happens to be the case, you're probably a complete twat...! ;)

Until tomorrow..



DASP said...

On the topic of the companion category...

Sarah Jane Smith fell into that sweet spot. She reflected the feminist movement of the time. Her profession as a journalist gave her a sensible reason for her character to take a proactive role. This made it very easy for writers to effectively use her character. And, of course, she was portrayed by one of the best actors in the classic series.

I think Barbara is one of the most underrated characters of the classic series. Irrespective of the fact that she was one of the first companions, she was also one of the most heroic characters of the entire franchise, because the realism depicted during the Hartnell era raised the personal stakes and sense of danger.

Tegan grated on me during the classic series. Someone who didn't want to be there, wouldn't shut up about it, and was dim, stubborn, and a source of endless negativity. I do, however, love listening to Janet Fielding's interviews and commentaries. I also love that Big Finish has given her character much more depth and sensible motivations in the audio adventures.

In the new series, I find my arguments are much more divided into like versus well-used. Donna was very well used, but I couldn't stand her. I really liked Martha, but I couldn't stand how they used her.

Anyhow, it's always interesting to read how fan opinion differs on the companions.

DASP said...

On the topic of the favourite Doctor...

For most of my time as a fan (and most of my life), I had been able to neatly avoid this question. For years, I really didn't even want to answer it. I was so indecisive. I didn't even like the question, because I thought it was invalid. As far as I was concerned, all the Doctors balanced out.

This changed several years ago when I started listening to the Big Finish audio adventures. As an old classic series fan, I got nostalgic for those bygone eras. Big Finish managed to recapture and improve on those classic series eras. Finally seeing all those Doctors receiving such great material to work with reinvigorated my love for the franchise in a way that the new series never could.

Every Doctor Who fan should give Big Finish a try. They are written more for fans, not casual television viewers. They are far deeper and more immersive than the television stories. Ironically, the Big Finish audio adventures allowed me to see the characters in far greater resolution.

I didn't make a conscious choice in selecting a favourite Doctor. I simply had no choice but to recognize my subconscious excitement every time one of my favourite Doctor's stories were released. Colin Baker is one of the best voice actors I have ever heard. His voice contains so much nuance and emotion. I love hearing his portrayal of the Doctor and his reaction to the situations in which he ends up. I am so pleased that Colin was given a chance to reprise the role, and I am glad that I chose to collect the audio adventures. Every time I see a Colin Baker story on the horizon, I can't wait to hear it.

It's such a shame Colin is so overlooked. His Big Finish stories are worlds apart from his original run. In my personal opinion, his run is now clearly the best and that's down to the Big Finish writers writing to his strengths and the talent of the actor himself.

MetalOllie said...

Thanks Daspy One! I find it hard to disagree with much of what you've said, with perhaps the notable exception of Tegan. Personally, I always enjoyed the fact she had no particular desire to stay with the Doctor, and that they frequently butted heads. It made for an interesting dynamic that the series hadn't really seen until then.
Equally, I found her departure quite moving. That she parted in such sad circumstances was quite powerful, perhaps moreso than any other companion, including Sarah Jane, who was simply, and rather unceremoniously, "dumped" back on earth at the end of her travels.

As to your comments regarding Big a Finish, you are absolutely spot on. Given they are audio plays, and (obviously) lacking in visuals to distract the listener, they have to rely in strong storytelling and outstanding acting. For the vast majority of their stories, they achieve this quite comfortably.

In regards to Colin Baker, he has become a firm favourite with me. I would probably rank him in third place, bettered only by Tom Baker, as he was "my Doctor", and by Pertwee, who's era I enjoy perhaps more than any other.

Certainly, when it comes to the Big Finish range, I enjoy Colin much more than any of the other Doctors, which isn't to take anything away from their performances. Quite the contrary, All have been positively superb, but for some reason Colin just absolutely shines on the audios. A taste of what could have been...

Thanks for taking the time to read all my posts, and for your continued support. It is hugely appreciated, and immensly satisfying to know that someone is getting a kick out of my nonsense!

DASP said...

On the topic of Tegan, I liked idea of a companion who doesn't want to be there. In fact, I think it worked very well in the sixties when the Doctor couldn't control their destination. But it's much less effective when the Doctor could very well control the TARDIS and every story starts with an excuse that makes the Doctor seem increasingly incompetent. Then they finally got rid of that endless source of constant complaints, only for her to change her mind...having her return in the very next story! (She's half-boomerang on her mother's side.)

I also like the idea of a companion that will challenge the Doctor. Once again, it worked very well during the first three seasons, until companions started deferring to the Doctor's authority. But Tegan seemed to go out of her way to butt heads and spread negativity, and she couldn't easily be swayed by reason. It doesn't help that the trigger for her anger was usually her own ignorance.

Like everything else about Tegan, her departure was abrupt. Tegan left on her own terms during a very tragic story, but I didn't find her departure moving at all. In my case, I found her too unlikeable to care and was relieved for her to finally go after three long grating years of relentless bitching.

DASP said...

Your blog is a very enjoyable read. It's really nice to read your opinions outside the confining 140 character limit of Twitter. I'm normally not one for writing myself, but I do like to respond to the occasional point.

MetalOllie said...

And your comments are always welcomed, and very much appreciated, as is your support. That anyone takes the time to read the burblings of my brain is very satisfying. That people such as yourself enjoy it is a privilege.

Ah, Tegan.. She really is a divisive character! Almost as much as Clara..! It does seem rather bizarre that she voluntarily rejoined the Tardis crew, given her desire to be absolutely anywhere else, bar on board the Tardis!

I was always baffled by Five's complete inability to operate the Tardis. He managed to get to the bloody Eye of Orion when it suited him, and his previous incarnation had no difficulty making it jump six inches in Logopolis!

Her life is explored a little more, once again, courtesy of Big Finish. I don't know if you've heard her first story, but it's quite poignant (unless, you detest her, in which case, you may not care on not what happens to her!). Aside from 'The Gathering', I've yet to listen to any of Tegan's other Big Finish appearances. There are so many BF audios I have yet to listen to, and for some reason, the Davison ones always get shoved to the bottom of the pile, probably due to my fondness for Six and Eight. I'll get there.. Eventually!

DASP said...

"I was always baffled by Five's complete inability to operate the Tardis. He managed to get to the bloody Eye of Orion when it suited him, and his previous incarnation had no difficulty making it jump six inches in Logopolis!"

It always felt like a contrivance to me...a series of particularly lame excuses.

"Her life is explored a little more, once again, courtesy of Big Finish. I don't know if you've heard her first story, but it's quite poignant (unless, you detest her, in which case, you may not care on not what happens to her!)."

Yes, I've heard it. I'm not a big fan of poignant (depressing shit that happens post-Doctor) companions stories.

"Aside from 'The Gathering', I've yet to listen to any of Tegan's other Big Finish appearances. There are so many BF audios I have yet to listen to, and for some reason, the Davison ones always get shoved to the bottom of the pile, probably due to my fondness for Six and Eight. I'll get there.. Eventually!"

Tegan does pretty well as a character with Big Finish, and Janet seems to enjoy herself. It helps that she isn't moaning about going home and not harassing the Doctor out of frustration. She actually gets to positively contribute in those stories.

MetalOllie said...

As a Tegan fan, I'm (naturally) looking forward to hearing more of her in the Big Finish stories. From what you say, it sounds as though her character has mellowed somewhat. I hope, personally, it hasn't taken too much of her brashness away, but by the same token, it would be nice to see, or rather, hear, her enjoying and embracing her time with the Doctor.

******* SPOILER ALERT ******
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There. That gives fair warning. If anyone reads these comments and is pissed off with the next bit, hard luck! ;)

I found The Reaping and The Gathering to be outstanding stories. I certainly preferred the former, as the insight it gave into Peri's family gave a much needed depth to her character. The losses she suffered in the story were handled extremely well by Big Finish. With the The Gathering revealing that Tegan is dying, I felt it gave the 5th Doctor more of an emotive element than it did to her. The feeling of hopelessness that he could do nothing, or that she wouldn't allow him to intervene gave his character a vulnerability not exploited since Adric piled into the earth at several million miles an hour.

Likewise, it added a new dimension to Tegan's character. Having not heard any more of her audios, I don't know if this is explored further. I hope so. In fact, I hope she, like Evelyn, gets a 'death' story. As the Big Finish range can jump around in timelines, it needn't put an end to her character. We now know we are getting a proper regeneration story for Colin, which I am looking forward to immensely. We also know this won't be the last we hear of him..

On a closing note, it's such a shame we won't have the pleasure of any more travels with Evelyn. Maggie Stables was absolutely wonderful in the role. Undoubtedly, my favourite off-screen companion, she was so different from any of the companions the Doctor had travelled with. She worked so well with Colin's Doctor.. The perfect Doctor/Companion pairing, arguably the best since Tom and Lis Sladen. Like Lis, she is missed. I wonder if she knew how many people loved her character. Certainly, Lis was aware of her popularity. That she achieved five seasons of her own show is a testament to that.. Maggie Stables role may not have been enjoyed by the same quantity of people, but I've yet to hear a single, solitary person say they didn't like Evelyn. The audience quantity may have been less, but the character, and actor quality certainly was. In abundance. I hope she knew that...