Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy - The Soul of Star Trek

I have been lost in contemplation after this morning's news that Leonard Nimoy passed away. From his recent emergency hospital visit, the signs were there that this might not be far off, but it was still quite shocking. I'm not sure how long it will take to truly process this, but one thing I quickly realized was the Nimoy was the soul of Star Trek.


Leonard and his son Adam, from a blooper reel

I guess to make sense of that I'd better first explain a few things. Gene Roddenberry had a unique vision of the future. It is one where racial and gender barriers are dissolved and humanity lives at peace with the other species in the Federation. This is best shown in the series by the Vulcan IDIC emblem. It stands for Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Roddenberry strove for this from the first pilot, filmed over 50 years ago. He cast a woman first officer and an alien science officer. While he was not able to keep the woman first officer, science fiction made keeping the alien an achievable task. So Spock stayed on.

Through the series, the character of Spock challenged viewers with his alien attitudes and logical outlook. He was a constant comment on humanity and Roddenberry's vision of our future. But in all the banter between characters, the differences between Vulcan and Human were never a cause for discrimination. A Vulcan stood in for all the differences in our own society that Roddenberry did not dare comment on, but since Spock was alien, he could, and in the way he wanted.

So while Roddenberry was the creator and dubbed the Great Bird of the Galaxy, it was Spock and the actor who portrayed him that were really the soul of Star Trek. The superior quality of the two movies he directed and had a hand in writing really speak to how in tune with Star Trek Nimoy was.

So today, with his passing, Star Trek has lost its soul. But he is not gone. He lives on in all the performances he gave, all the scenes he directed, all the lines he wrote or altered. Leonard Nimoy, the soul of Star Trek is gone, but Spock Lives.

And I just wanted to close with a message of condolence to his family and close friends. Especially to his wife Susan, daughter Julie, and son Adam, as well as his castmates, Bill, George, Nichelle, and Walter. Although Spock rarely smiled, Leonard had a very nice smile that was often captured when the cameras were not rolling. He will be greatly missed.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The McCoy and McGann Years - An Overview

The Classic Era ended with the shortest serving Doctors. While Davison, Baker, and McCoy each served for roughly 3 years each, the series ran for less and less time. From 1970 through 1985 (Colin Baker's first full season) the series roughly 26 half hour episodes or the equivalent in 13 45 minute episodes (if you edit pretty much any of the classic 4 parters into one movie, they usually run 90 minutes). However, during the Classic Era's last 4 seasons, it got dropped to 14 25 minute episodes. So while Sylvester McCoy has more stories, Colin Baker has more screen time, making each of the last three Doctors of the Classic Era successively the shortest serving Doctor. It was shortly followed by the 1996 TV Movie (alternatively titled The Enemy Within) which was the only screen appearance by Paul McGann who reigns as the shortest serving Doctor (I'm ignoring the War Doctor in all this as that would get entirely too complicated).

However, it also created a unique situation where both Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann are the longest serving Doctors. Sylvester McCoy first graced our screens in September 1987 and last appeared in March 1996. Paul McGann first appeared in March 1996 and wasn't technically replaced until March 2005 and didn't regenerate until November 2013. Stretching until 2013 is a bit much since that is the tenure of 3 other Doctors, but just going from the first appearance of their incarnation to the first appearance of the next incarnation puts McCoy at just under 9 years and McGann right at 9 years making them the two longest serving Doctors. And during that time, McGann was doing canon audio adventures.

So let's take a look at two of the shortest yet longest Doctors. I've included Dimensions in Time, Shada, and Night of the Doctor for the sake of completeness.

Time and the Rani - The Tardis is attacked and the Doctor is injured and regenerated. That might have been a bad enough start, but the Rani then gives him amnesia and pretends to be Mel. The Rani is up to another of her crazy plans and the Doctor must first see through her ruse and then stop her. It has some very good points, but it is overall a weak story.

Paradise Towers - This is the first spooky episode. An deranged architect haunts his last creation and seeks to kill everyone so that it is left pristine. There are some moments typical of the 7th Doctor's era that are kind of silly, but the danger seems real and the characters are good.

Delta and the Bannermen - A romp in the 50's including aliens and the CIA. Some parts of the story are a bit silly and somethings happen without much reason, but overall a fun story.

Dragonfire - The low point of the first season. The baddie never feels dangerous. It is nice to see Glitz again and the introduction of Ace is interesting. The young girl is a poignant sub plot that is really good, but the rest of the story just kind of fails. It features one of the most innovative and interesting alien robots of the entire series.

Remembrance of the Daleks - To celebrate 25 years, the Doctor ends up in London in late November 1963. Not only that, but Totters Lane and Coal Hill School are featured settings and the first touch of the Cartmel Masterplan appears - the Hand of Omega. It is a very good story. One of the best of the 7th Doctor's Era. The homages to the beginning are not heavy handed and really work. The Hand of Omega is probably the only weak point, but it provides a way for the Doctor to defeat his greatest enemy in an exciting way.

The Happiness Patrol - This had the potential to be a really bad story. In fact, in my mind it was. But on viewing it anew things came into focus and I really enjoyed it. The Harmonica player's scenes were the key. That really made me look close and see that this episode was very well written and the idea was very intriguing.

Silver Nemesis - Probably my favorite of the 7th Doctor's episodes. It is a second 25th Anniversary story and takes place in November 1988 and the first episode aired on the 25th Anniversary on November 23, 1988. It is another Cartmel Masterplan story, but this time it is more believable. Lady Painforth was a delightfully evil character and so obviously self deluded that it was fun to watch. But she had secrets that she only hinted at and she, the Fourth Reich Nazis, and the Cybermen played off each other with the Doctor brilliantly playing them all. I never tire of this one.

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy - This story started out bad. The first two episodes probably could have been edited together for a 3 part story and given some extra time for Silver Nemesis. But after two episodes of evil and seemingly murderous clowns, we start to get to the heart of the story and it turns itself around and the Doctor gets a truly great adversary.

Battlefield - Another great. We find out that the Doctor will be Merlin at some future point in time. But Arthur, Morgaine, and the entire Arthurian legends are revealed to be people from another dimension. Arthur is dead in a ship under the lake. Morgaine tries to obliterate him at last and grieves when she learns of his passing. We get to see the current UNIT Brigadier, the return of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (along with his wife which makes the later casting of Jemma Redgrave a masterwork of visual continuity), and the casting of Jean Marsh as Morgaine brings two stars of the epic The Daleks' Masterplan back 24 years later. The special effects are a bit of a distraction, but the story is well written and well done. Another favorite.

Ghost Light - This begins a trio of stories that has long had me disliking the character of Ace. The stories are too Ace centric, but on this viewing, I didn't find that such a bad thing. The Doctor takes Ace back to a mansion in Perivale that she torched when she was younger to find the source of the evil she felt. It was an ancient survey of Earth that has gotten derailed and the Doctor manages to derail the danger by setting some of the inmates free. Except for the Ace subplot, this was a story of gothic darkness worthy of the early Tom Baker years.

The Curse of Fenric - I didn't used to like this episode, but this time I really loved it. I think I was too focused on how this story is Ace related. This time, the heart of the story came through and this is one of the 7th Doctor's best stories.

Survival - It is sad that the series had to end with this as the last episode. The worst Master story every. Anthony Ainley did a fantastic job, but the story around the Master lacked... a lot.

Dimensions In Time - Ah, the lame 30th Anniversary special, aired in 2 parts. The shortcomings of this story relate to the hurried nature of the production, the short running time, and the merger with Eastenders. It has good potential and given a good script and a descent running time, it would have been fantastic. As it stands, it is more a fun romp through the living Doctors and their companions and it includes the only interaction of the 6th Doctor with the Brigadier, making both character and actor the only one to interact with each incarnation. The Brigadier met the First Doctor in The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors and Nicholas Courtney guested in The Daleks' Masterplan with William Hartnell. Everyone was looking good and even Tom Baker participated.

The Enemy Within - As a follow up to the Classic Series, this story had some flaws. When you compare it to the New Series, some of those flaws drop away. It features the Doctor's first kiss with a companion and a statement from both the Doctor and the Master that the Doctor his half human. That has never been touched on again. The story itself is Master centric and is the best Master story in years - probably since the Fifth Doctor's era. Eric Roberts does a good job, but nowhere near as good as some of the other actors to hold the role. Still, a well done effort. Bad ratings in the US kept it from being picked up as a series. That was bad at the time, but considering how it came back later, that may have been a blessing in disguise.

Shada - This story was written for Tom Baker. It was partially made, but production stopped because of a strike and was never finished. Several different releases of it have appeared, from an early fan attempt with the script text from the missing scenes to Tom Baker narrating the missing action, to Ian Levine's attempt to animate the rest (which got leaked but appears it won't be released because Tom Baker wasn't involved even though all the other living principle actors were). This is a different take. The premise is that because of the footage used in The Five Doctors, the events never happened so the Doctor goes to Gallifrey, where Romana II is the President, and cons her and K-9 into going back to find out what Professor Chronotis wanted. It follows the original script with Paul McGann proving that he was a strong Doctor able to pull off a classic story. It was animated in a primitive fashion, but is very enjoyable to watch. The story is brilliant and it was fun to see it completed for the first time in this way. Makes me wish Ian Levine could get Tom Baker to do his lines and get and official BBC release.

The Night of the Doctor - One of the most delightful surprises served up for the 50th Anniversary. This little vignette reveals that the Time War has begun but the Doctor is trying to stay out of it. A worthy effort, but the Sisterhood of Karn convinces him the the innocents of the universe need him to act, so he accepts their potion to direct his regeneration. The Doctor exits and the Warrior enters (aka the War Doctor)

As I have run through most of the John Nathan-Turner years, I have noticed a steady drop off of production values. The writing, music, directing, and special effects went from the solid years of Peter Davison in a downward spiral. I have no issue with the way each of the actors portrayed the Doctor, but the show definitely suffered. It then sprung back with the 1996 movie, laying the seeds for the 2005 revival.

Watching now it is quite easy to see why the show faded. Just what is behind the causes of that can be disputed. Some lay the blame on the BBC itself, some on John Nathan-Turner. Between the cancelled season in the middle of Colin Baker's Era and the lost Season 27 and beyond, and the poor production quality, the show just wasn't what it was. There are some magnificent stories that were told and all four of these Doctors, 5, 6, 7, and 8, have gotten to show another side of their era in the Big Finish audio stories. These additional stories often rival the televised stories and they really fill in a lot that was missing.

We almost had a chance to see what McGann could do, but hearing it is nearly as good. The popularity of The Night of the Doctor really shows what an important place his Doctor has in the series. It is really the end of the Classic Era and a transition to the new.

Now, I may have had a few complaints about the last 8 seasons of the Classic era, but they are full of enjoyable moments and enjoyable characters. Even the worst of the stories are still quite good compared to other franchises even if they don't hold up as well as other seasons.

My viewing now jumps to The Eleventh Hour from 2010. I'm watching all the Doctors where I haven't see every episode at least twice. I could write these reviews for John Pertwee, Tom Baker, Christopher Eccleston, and David Tennant era from my head (and for completeness I might go ahead and do just that, we'll see), but there were far too many stories from William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Matt Smith that I felt they deserved a separate viewing. The order has been a bit enlightening in many ways.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Star Trek at 50 - Beyond Shatner, Nimoy, & Kelley

As Star Trek begins hitting its 50 year milestones (which will culminate in the 50th Anniversary of the airing of the first episode on September 8, 2016), it seems like a good time to look at where Star Trek is today.

50 years ago, The Cage was in the can and the 11 foot model of the Enterprise had been delivered. Today we have three concurrent productions of Star Trek. Oddly enough for a franchise that started with a series that lasted only 3 years before launching a series of films, and spawning four other series with unique characters, today's Star Trek has ignored all of that. We aren't revisiting Picard, Sisko, Janeway, or Archer; it is Kirk that features in all the current productions.

Probably the most widely known are the feature films with Chris Pine playing Kirk. While they have been wildly popular, most fans of the original series have not appreciated the writing. I find the cast to be expertly chosen and they act the parts well, but the two movies they have done so far were created by people who were not fans of the original series and don't seem to understand it at all. They are more action adventure and less substance.

The other production is actually a pair. Star Trek: New Voyages and Star Trek: Phase II share virtually everything, but there are some major differences, including who plays Kirk. New Voyages is a continuation of the series. It has seen the return of Walter Koenig, George Takei, D.C. Fontana, and David Gerrold, as well as others. James Cawley both produces and stars and Kirk. Partway through production they decided to take a different approach. Before Star Trek arrived on the big screen in 1979, it was destined to return to the small screen in Star Trek: Phase II. Several scrips were written, sets were built, and work began on redesigning the ship. In the end all that got scrapped, but now Cawley and his production team are picking up a lot of those pieces. They have done two of the stories and the Enterprise has received a partial refit. Also Cawley has stepped down as actor to concentrate on production and Brian Gross has taken over the role of Kirk.

This production has been around a while. It started out with fairly low production values and has gradually increased. It has also had quite a variety in actors and features Scotty with a mustache. The writing and acting has been stellar. A far better offering that what the two movies by J.J. Abrams gave us. Chris Pine may be a fine actor, but his acting can't overcome the bad writing and questionable production choices.

The third production has been different from the beginning. Vic Mignogna has been associated both with the New Voyages/Phase II production as a director and guest star, and with Starship Farragut (where he first appeared as Kirk). Mignogna and the producers of Starship Farragut joined together to create Star Trek Continues. Starting with the vignettes, the production has striven to match the original series. The first was a remake of the last original series episode, Turnabout Intruder. While not an exact shot for shot remake, it shows how close they are trying to get. In my opinion they nailed it. Mignogna stars as Kirk, with the usual complement including Grant Imahara of Mythbusters fame as Sulu and Chris Doohan filling his father's shoes as Scotty. In the three released episodes, they have had Michael Forrest reprise his role as Apollo, Lou Ferrigno as an Orion slave trader, and Eric Grey as a Starfleet Officer. The production values match the original series and it is endorsed by Rod Roddenberry, son of Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett. Colin Baker is slated to guest star in their fourth episode.

For fans of the original series, Star Trek Continues is as close as you will get to that long dreamed of fourth season. Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase II is not more than a step behind. Every story out of both those productions IS Star Trek where the movies missed their mark. All three productions have new stories in the works. Episode 4 of Star Trek Continues has been filmed and episode 5 is in production. Star Trek: Phase II (as it will be know from here out) has three episodes in production at various stages. The film series is now in different hands, with Simon Pegg (Scotty) writing the third film (who happens to be friends with Chris Doohan). It gives hope the films might recover from the disaster that was Star Trek Into Darkness. What it does promise is an exciting 50th Anniversary for 2016. There will be plenty of new Star Trek and it will all feature Kirk and crew, even if the actors aren't the same. Each of these productions does the characters justice (well, we hope the new movie will succeed where the other two failed) and is a tribute to the vision Gene Roddenberry had.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Moving Forward

I have seriously been considering what my next step is and I think I have it. I have quite a bit I need to get done in 2015 that isn't writing related and other than a vague sketch, I really don't know where Ven Zaran and his friends and enemies are headed. I think I will visit with them in a new series of short stories, but I have two other ideas that are burning to be written. So, with the completion (expected to be soon) of the sixth novel focusing on Ven Zaran, I will step away from that journey for a little bit and delve into two other worlds in two stand alone novels.

As I did once before, I think I am likely to sky my annual November marathon. It has suddenly become very important to get the very cluttered basement of my house sorted out and arranged in a manner that will let me get some serious work done down there. It takes time to develop a new universe and for one of the projects I have in mind, it requires finding an old file before I begin.

So, after the release of the project I am currently working on (tentatively titled A Piece in the Game) sometime in November of this year, it might be a while before you see a new novel. But never fear, I have several in the works and one of them will be done before too long, but even a professional writer must make room for the mundane tasks of daily life. I'm a bit of a packrat and I've let it get away from me. Time to do something about it.

What you will likely see next from me are stories of some new traders and more about Stormy and Jim. I have quite a few ideas and some episodes in their lives that need to be covered before their paths meet up with Wally's and Ven's. For those who have grown fond of the Zaran Journals characters, there is much more coming, just be patient. I'm at least going to be a bit faster than Greorge R.R. Martin is with his next Song of Fire and Ice book.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Colin Baker Years - An Overview

As I watched Colin Baker's short tenure as the Doctor, I couldn't help feeling he got the shaft. His characterization was daring and bold, and not just in clothing. He tried to strangle his companion, temporarily fixed the Chameleon circuit, and was put on trial. But beyond the story, the show was put on hiatus with no new episodes airing from March '85 to September '86 and Colin Baker was fired, not even a proper exit.

In watching these episodes I wonder what might have been. If Colin Baker had more say in his character, if the series would have had a fresh producer to breath new life into it, or if the BBC had not been intent on trying to kill it. But then I am thankful to Big Finish for showing us what could have been.

Overall I rate Colin Baker's portrayal and excellent. However the writing and production declined from previous years and the format changes led to The Trial of a Time Lord being the shortest season yet of Doctor Who. Unfortunately the next three were just as short. The stories were good, but the execution left a lot to be desired.

The Twin Dilemma - The newly regenerated Doctor is suffering from manic episodes and is drawn in to a scheme by a former teacher to help save a world. While the manic scenes didn't play very well, the story is good. The end result is somewhat forgettable.

Attack of the Cybermen - In the season opener, the Doctor fixes the Chameleon circuit and for the first time we see the Tardis change, into first an organ than a cabinet. We also find ourselves back at 76 Totters Lane where we first found the Doctor. A nice touch. We get a revisit from an old human adversary from the previous season and a revisit to Telos from Tomb of the Cybermen. And not only are there nice references to the past, but they are all found in one of the outstanding episodes of the season.

Vengeance on Varos - We all have our personal tastes and this episode was not to mine. The ideas were interesting, but didn't come off well. The couple in their room were interesting and gave insight into how the voting worked, but was largely a distraction. The story had a lot of danger and action, but the drama didn't work well.

The Mark of the Rani - The return of the Master and the introduction of the Rani. The Doctor and the Master both stumble on the Rani's project to harvest a chemical from humans to help control the people of the planet she rules. The Rani is unscrupulous, but very intelligent and it really does take both the Master and the Doctor to beat her. A good outing.

The Two Doctors - This has always been the highlight of the Sixth Doctor for me. Unlike all the other multiple Doctor stories, this one really works and is more than a nostalgia fest. It is the longest story of the season and the first "6" parter since the unfinished Shada. The only down side is that the setup for the Second Doctor is completely anachronistic as the Timelords were not mentioned until Jamie's last story. But once you get past that conundrum, the two Doctors make this one of the greats of the series.

Timelash - This episode gets a bad rap, but in watching it I found it quite enjoyable. The inclusion of Herbert is fun and the rest of the story is typical Doctor Who fare.

Revelation of the Daleks - This episode had an interesting idea and some great guest stars, but didn't come off well. We have Davros trying to create a new breed of Daleks and between the Doctor and the others who call in the regular Daleks, he really doesn't stand a chance.

While Trial of a Time Lord was broadcast as a single story, it was written in four sections with the four sub-stories which is how I will review them.

The Trial of a Time Lord: The Mysterious Planet - The Doctor is put on trial for meddling. The first piece of evidence is his visit to Ravelox. He finds several mysteries there and the remains of a base controlled by a robot. Glitz is his main adversary as both are trying to get to the heart of the complex for different reasons. Glitz is trying to steal information from a bleeped out source. The story is well done and the characters are rich and interesting. The Valyard claims victory, but the story was not convincing for his case.

The Trial of a Time Lord: Mindwarp - When companions leave, you hope they have a good exit. Peri is probably the most misfortunate of companions since Dodo. We are left thinking she died and the impression that it is largely because the Timelords pulled the Doctor out when he still had a chance to save her. While this story works in the setting of the trial, for a companion we have spent the past two seasons with, it was an awful exit. I feel that it really ruined the episode. If we could see how the story really played out, it might be good, but as it is, it is less for the way Peri left.

The Trial of a Time Lord: Terror of the Vervoids - When it comes time for the Doctor to present his case, he pulls up a future encounter where he ends up on a ship and his help is requested. It is a great whodunit episode and Mel is nicely introduced. While the Doctor sees the episode as a good example of how he helps when the need arises, the Valyard pulls out that he committed genocide because he destroyed all the Vervoids.

The Trial of a Time Lord: The Ultimate Foe - It is rare that your best enemy comes to your rescue, but that is just what the Master does. He reveals the Valyard is really a side incarnation of the Doctor, an amalgum of evil from between his twelfth and thirteenth (this would be eleventh and twelfth in the new counting) incarnations who wants the Doctor's remaining regeneration. This leads to a confrontation in the Matrix, much like the one in The Deadly Assasssin. Mel and Glitz are brought in as witnesses and help the Doctor defeat the Valyard. Though only two parts of the overall story, it was well written and the bizarre nature of the matrix was fun to see again. The high point was finding out that Peri didn't die, but had been saved and married King Ycarnos (Brian Blessed).

Overall, The Trial of a Timelord is well done and the trial has some real danger to it as the charges keep getting worse. But the purported death of Peri left a sting that I think doomed Colin Baker, even though it had nothing to do with him. He became the scapegoat of the bad ratings and it got a facelift in the form of a new Doctor and new title sequence.

Colin Baker is not my favorite Doctor, but he had some really good episodes and he played the part with gusto. Thanks to Big Finish we can hear what we were denied on television and we have far more audio episodes that really do Colin Baker's portrayal of the Doctor justice. We get more Peri, more Mel, and a couple of new faces (voices?) for companions. None of his episodes are the worst the series has to offer and it has some gems, but overall these episodes are a letdown from previous seasons and it is obvious why the ratings declined, but it is more the production than the acting or even the writing.

Last Christmas

This years Doctor Who Christmas episode felt like it came from Philip K. Dick. That is a good thing in case you are wondering. I loved how it made you question reality and how it included Santa Clause.

We were immediately presented with Santa Clause and two elves on the roof of Clara's building. The Tardis soon materializes and the Doctor whisks Clara away to the North Pole. They find a base under siege and things quickly go bad, but it looks like they got out just in time.

The episode continues to play with reality with Santa Clause serving a very significant purpose right up to the end. The dream crabs were fantastic and terrifying monsters. While the majority of the story was kind of light hearted, the implications of not knowing if you are dreaming or awake are scary and very much in keeping with the type of story Philip K. Dick usually told.

But at the end we finally get an answer to whether Clara is stay on the show or not. I liked the way it turned out.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Davison Years - An Overview

Since during the 50th I ended up watching so many Pertween and Tom Baker stories (and since I have seen them over and over so many times) I have temporarily skipped them and gone on to the Peter Davison years. It was interesting watching the Fifth Doctor and the Twelfth Doctor at the same time. Some very interesting parallels. Some people think that story arcs are more part of the new series, but the Fifth Doctor had several arcs that were quite strong.

Peter Davison's era started with a return to the more filled out cast of the early Hartnell and Troughton eras. Other than the odd episode, none of the other Doctors have had such a full cast. Davison's era has one major flaw - the writers couldn't grasp how to deal with three companions at once and they used several tricks that in the long run make some of the stories weaker.

But as I traverse the end of the Classic Series, I find that I must rate the series in two ways. One by the individual stories, and the other by the Doctor, his companions, and his adversaries. While the individual stories are sometimes a bit weak, the characters remain good in spite of that.

Castrovalva - This story is mostly a vehicle for the Doctor's post regeneration trauma. It is also the third Master story in a row. The Escher-esque location is interesting and the Master's trap is good, but the story seems weak. Davison gives a masterful sequence where he channels his previous personas and the touches of past incarnations are nice. 

Four to Doomsday - Some really excellent guest stars help carry off this story. The Doctor and his companions need to save the Earth from a danger before anyone on the planet is even aware that there is danger. The aliens have been to Earth before and the time spans are astounding and the characters who populate the ship add some nice depth.

Kinda - Insanity is the danger in this story. Not one, but several people, including Teagan, go a bit crazy. The Doctor has to trace the problem back to the source and finds that Teagan has set something loose.

The Visitation - While trying to land at Heathrow, the Tardis misses and lands hundreds of years earlier. The Tardis crew discover an alien invasion and a plot to destroy humanity. In the process of stopping the alien menace, they witness a fire start in London.

Black Orchid - The first historical drama since Highlanders using one of the same tricks to keep the Doctor and his companions in place, The Tardis vanishes so the Doctor accepts a mis-identification and has a chance to play cricket and get involved with a mystery. The story is short but memorable.

Earthshock - The Cybermen are back. They are set on crashing a ship into Earth, setting off a huge explosion. The Doctor tries in vain to stop it, only managing to move the ship in time. Adric is determined to succeed and stays behind needlessly and is killed when the ship crashes on Earth in Mexico leading to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Time-Flight - A Concorde vanishes and the Doctor has a plan to find it and rescue the passengers. The Master is back, this time in disguise and trying to take control of a powerful artifact. The cast of characters all have something to do, including the second Concorde crew. It makes for a very exciting episode. At the end the Doctor leaves Teagan on Earth since he has finally returned her to her own time.

Arc of Infinity - What do Amsterdam and Gallifrey have in common? Omega is back, exactly 10 years after his first appearance. Teagan is looking for her nephew but only finds his friend. The Doctor is faced with death because the Timelords don't realize the nature of the being trying to take over his body. It is a fascinating story. It gets off to a slow start, but by the end it is really good. A nice cameo by future Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker.

Snakedance - The Mara (from the story Kinda) is back, this time trying to regain physical form. This was an interesting story guest starring a very young Martin Clune. He is superb as the spoiled heir to the throne.

Mawdryn Undead - Not only is the Brigadier back, but twice over. Several stories weave together to come to a single conclusion. A race who pilfered Timelord regeneration technology are cursed with eternal life in quickly degenerating bodies. They want the Doctor to free them by giving up his remaining regenerations. In order to save Nyssa and Teagan, he must do that. Because the Brigadier is not a Timelord nasty things can happen if his two selves touch, but that is what happens at the exact right moment, saving the Doctor, Nyssa, and Teagan. This episode also introduces Vislor Turlough, a person out of time or place (it is never clear if he is alien or a future human - I assume future human is the more likely) who is in service to the Black Guardian, who has finally tracked the Doctor down (check out The Armageddon Factor from several seasons previous).

Terminus - Turlough's sabotage forces the Doctor to land in a very unusual way (by linking a door inside the Tardis with a door in a ship). They are tied to a plague ship that is docking at a healing facility, except few get healed and the process is far from accurate. They are taking advantage of a unique radiation leak from a derelict ship. The Doctor realizes that this ship may have caused the explosion commonly known as The Big Bang. This story holds a special place for me as I read the novelization long before I got to see it. Probably one of my favorite Davison episodes, except the part where Nyssa decides to remain to perfect the treatment process.

Enlightenment - A unique race with ships sailing on solar winds, with one of the contestants out to kill the others. Turlough is conflicted and doesn't want to do what the Black Guardian wants. The prize of the race is big and the Guardians power rests on who wins. This is a fun episode and really well done.

The King's Demons - This nice two parter is almost a historical story, except the Master is up to his normal tricks, this time trying to disrupt history by preventing the Magna Carta from being signed. It introduces Chameleon, a robot who can take on different identities. Chameleon ends up joining the Tardis crew, but isn't significant until his last story.

The Five Doctors - A personal favorite (and I only watch the original version, not the special edition). A wonderful romp through Doctor Who history with the return of 2 of the previous actors and a marvelous stand-in for the First Doctor. The sad point is the Fourth Doctor, but I think that makes the story stronger. Lots of familiar faces, including from Arc of Infinity. A wonderful way to celebrate the 20th Anniversary.

Warriors of the Deep - The Tardis lands in the future where the Silurians and Sea Devils have formed an alliance with the intent to attack a human missile base to set off a global catastrophe (reminiscent of the US/USSR cold war). The Doctor tries to act as negotiator, but is thwarted by circumstances and stubbornness. It is a very poignant story as he is once again unable to save the ancient species.

The Awakening - A quiet village is reenacting a series of battles and events from their past. But this is awakening an ancient evil that crashed there long ago. The Doctor manages to save the day with little loss of life, though historians would not appreciate him sacrificing the village church to do so.

Frontios - Far in the future, at the end of time, past where Timelords are supposed to travel, one of the last human colonies is struggling for survival and feel that the meteor showers that have killed so many are a form of attack. It turns out they are right. Tractators are behind their troubles and a race memory that Turlough carries provides the key to beating them. Lots of people die, but the colony survives. A bittersweet victory for the Doctor.

Resurrection of the Daleks - The Daleks are at it again. They are after a cure for a virus and seek the help of Davros, a prisoner of the humans. They have linked to 1984 to overcome the prison's defenses and it catches the Tardis. Again many people die. The Doctor manages to win by using the virus. Davros, who thinks he is immune, is caught by the virus on the prison after he releases it himself. Teagan chooses to leave, finding all the death to be too much.

Planet of Fire - An artifact is uncovered on Earth, but it is not terrestrial. The Doctor investigates even though Turlough tries to prevent it. The Master is back and is controlling Chameleon again. This time a young girl gets trapped in the Tardis while they go to a planet where Turlough's people have been exciled. In the end, Turlough risks his freedom to call in help from his people, only to learn his punishment has been lifted. The Master's plans go awry, Chameleon is destroyed, Turlough stays with his people, and Peri begs to stay on the Tardis.

The Caves of Androzani - While looking for quality sand to make a new glass part for the Tardis, the Doctor and Peri are poisoned. The only remedy is a legendary creature, but to get it, they have to contend with a convoluted situation that pits two men and their followers against each other. In the end the Doctor is only able to get enough of the remedy for Peri. Instead of dying he regenerates. This episode has some glimmers of genius, but is obscured by too many things going on.

The Davison era has some really great stories. Few are terrible, the worst ones being just a bit weak and not truly bad. But the good ones are truly great. Davison's Doctor is fresh and different, while still being every bit the Doctor. The companions are fresh and different. It is nice to see how Turlough wants to be good, but his past never quite lets him come up to what we expect of a companion. Though not my favorite era, it is quite enjoyable.

Next up is the Sixth Doctor. My old video tape collection was missing a large chunck of the Fifth and Sixth Doctors so many of these stories are ones I have not seen very often. Then I'm just going to finish off the original series and the 1996 TV movie before jumping to the Eleventh Doctor. I've only watched most of his stories once.