Season 7 is generally credited as one of the most perfect seasons in Doctor Who history. Jon Pertwee’s inaugural run was astonishing in that it gave us FOUR consecutive brilliant stories. Admittedly, Spearhead From Space may have set us up for future disappointment in the way it was shot.* But the story quality didn’t diminish right away, as it was immediately followed by Doctor Who and the Silurians, which is fantastic (aside from the infamous production error in the title). And the final story of the season, Inferno, gave the actors two different universes to play in.** But because it falls right in the middle of all those, there’s one that (despite being just as good as the others) sometimes gets overlooked.
Which is why I think the most underrated Classic story is The Ambassadors of Death.
The Ambassadors of Death is a proper sci-fi action film in and of itself. It’s got mystery, conspiracy, rockets, chase scenes, fight scenes, gun battles, helicopters, creepy aliens, and the Doctor and the Brig get to play good cop, bad cop. And Liz gets some truly excellent stuff to do. And it looks absolutely fantastic to boot. This is the first story featuring Havoc!, the stunt team that became famous for the action sequences that came to define the Pertwee era. There are different “Martians” in this story as well. Or at the very least, they’re somehow associated with the planet Mars, but they’re not Ice Warriors. And they REALLY like radiation. And THEY aren’t even the enemy. In this case, you’ll be looking to the government and high-ranking military for the baddies. Brilliant!
If you’re in North America, it’s somewh recently become insanely difficult to find and watch CLASSIC Doctor Who. I’m sure this problem isn’t exclusive to us, either, but I can only tell you my experience from this particular continent. As a result, I’ve very slowly been amassing a collection of Classic Doctor Who on DVD. It sounds expensive–and it is–but I’ve found a few tricks to make it a bit easier on my wallet. I’m sure there are already lots of people who know this, but for the ones that don’t, I thought I’d share.
- Save up (or splurge, whatever) and buy a region-free DVD player
- After AGES of deliberating, I finally broke down and bought this one. I paid around $60 for it at the time and it has genuinely already paid for itself in the amount of money I’ve saved by being able to by Region 2 and 4 DVDs instead of Region 1. Lots of the Region 2 and 4 Doctor Who DVDs can be bought BRAND NEW or LIKE NEW on Amazon for less than $10. The DVD player itself is now, admittedly, gone up to about $73, but it’s still not a bad deal if you’re an avid collector. And it does still play Region 1 DVDs (but not Blu-ray, sadly) as well, so it’s not like you can’t use it for the DVDs you already have.
- Buy the BBC Radio Play
- include link here
- Read the Target Novelisation
- Written by Terrance Dicks
- Link here
- Befriend/date/marry someone who already has the DVDs
- I’ve heard of people doing this. Maybe not practical, but I thought I’d just mention it.
Also, if you’re a fan of this serial–and let’s face it, you should be–I highly recommending this book by LM Myles. It’s part of the Black Archive series being put out by Obverse Books. These are book-length looks at single Doctor Who stories from both the Classic and New eras. They’re fantastic and you should absolutely check them out!
What do you rate as the most underrated Classic serial? Where does Ambassadors fall on your list? Let us know in the comments!
* Because it looks THAT GOOD.
** And in Nicholas Courtney’s case, an eye patch.