Okay, I’m honestly sort of regretting ever wanting to do this challenge in the first place. I am, by nature, horribly indecisive and once forced into a decision, I will nearly always second guess myself and/or feel a sort of soul-crushing guilt for not choosing something else. Today is one of those days.
In thinking about this, during the extra MONTHS I gave myself to deliberate, I had to remind myself about the difference between best and favorite. And even after that, it still feels like pulling teeth. If you give me specific criteria (a Doctor, a Companion, UNIT, etc.) I could give you a favorite season for each. But to choose only one out of 26 years of Classic Who? Nope. However, that is the point of this, isn’t it? It’s a challenge. The point is to stop whinging and just do it. So here it goes.
My favorite season of Classic Who is Season Eight.
It’s got everything I hold near and dear to my heart. The stuff that I get the most nostalgic for. Jon Pertwee is still swanning around his laboratory (and at long last, his TARDIS) in his velvet jackets and ruffly shirts. The Brigadier has a prominent role in all but one story. Sergeant Benton plays a larger part and we meet Captain Mike Yates for the first time. Most importantly though, Season Eight sees the introduction of Katy Manning as Jo Grant–one of my absolute favorite companions, and we meet the Master for the first time, in the form of the legendary Roger Delgado.
The season kicks off with Terror of the Autons, written by Robert Holmes and directed by Barry Letts–the producer, with script editing by Terrance Dicks, who did the whole of Season Eight. The shop window dummies from Spearhead from Space are back (although personally I think they look a bit shit this time around) and working for the Master–a rival Time Lord from the Doctor’s past. Jo gets hypnotized and nearly blows up UNIT HQ, but later redeems herself by proving she is far more capable than the Doctor had given her credit for. UNIT also gets to do some actual military stuff and the Doctor gets attacked by a phone cable. There are also lethal plastic daffodils and the Master escapes. Brilliant stuff.
Next up is The Mind of Evil, written by Don Houghton and directed by Timothy Combe. The Master sets out to start a prison break, steal a nerve gas missile, and fire it at a world peace conference. There’s a machine that can move under it’s own power and uses people’s greatest fears to either “recondition” or kill them. Jo stops a prison riot and the Brigadier falls asleep at his desk. Oh, and he also masquerades as a grocery delivery van driver in a Trojan horse move by UNIT.
The third installment of the season is The Claws of Axos, written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, and directed by Michael Ferguson. The Master is back and has allied himself with the Axons who have just come to Earth. Gold body paint and orange tentacles abound, along with spaceship doors that don’t look entirely unlike vaginas. Benton and Yates have a bit of a chase scene and the Master gets to be the Doctor for a little while. Also, if you love to hate pompous bureaucrats, there’s a fantastically unlikable one in this story.
Colony in Space, written by Malcolme Hulke* and directed Michael E. Briant, finally puts the Doctor back in all of time and space for the first time since his regeneration. This should be tremendously exciting, but if I’m honest, this penultimate story is easily the weakest of the season. I’m sorry, it’s just dull. The Doctor and Jo find themselves on the planet Uxarieus in the year 2472 where colonists are struggling to survive thanks to dwindling crops, dangerous reptilian things, (seriously what did Hulke have against reptiles?), and an evil mining corporation. An Adjudicator is sent from Earth to deal with the problems on the planet, but he may not be who he says he is (three guesses who). The Doctor gets to play dress up for a bit and there’s a fantastic looking robot. I’ll let you judge the Guardian and the city for yourselves.
Finally, we end Season Eight on one of my all-time favorites, The Dæmons. Written by Barry Letts and Robert Sloman under the pseudonym “Guy Leopold”, this story was directed by Christopher Barry, who did a myriad of stories between 1963-1979, including the introductory stories of Patrick Troughton, Tom Baker, and the Daleks.** I just love this one. I’m sorry, but I do. The Master pretends to be a vicar and chants “Mary Had a Little Lamb” backwards. The Brig gets dressed up for a date. Yates and Benton watch football and nick the Brig’s helicopter. The Doctor is a complete dick to Jo but she tries to sacrifice herself for him anyway. Also Damaris Hayman is delightful. All in all, quite a fun romp.
Oh, and for you New Who fans who are still wondering about this:
This story is where that comes from.
Going back over every story in this season again has made me more confident in my decision. Season Eight may have some problems and maybe isn’t always the best, but it’s sure a hell of a lot of fun.
Which season of the Classic series would you choose as your favorite? Are you a fan of the UNIT years or would you rather give it a miss? Let us know in the comments!
* Hulke penned eight stories for Doctor Who between 1967 and 1974 including: The War Games (with Terrance Dicks), Doctor Who and the Silurians, The Ambassadors of Death (with David Whitaker, Terrance Dicks, and Trevor Ray), The Sea Devils, and Invasion of the Dinosaurs.
** Christopher Barry directed ten stories in the 60s and 70s including: The Daleks (1963), The Romans (1965), The Power of the Daleks (1966), Robot (1974), and The Brain of Morbius (1976). He also went on to direct the Doctor Who spin-off, Downtime in 1995.