So, Your Humble Blogger has been re-watching Doctor Who with the Youngest Member. We’ve just finished the entire Tom Baker era (1975-1981, for those who don’t have that information at their fingertips). We actually started with the last series of the Third Doctor, as what we were really watching was the Sarah Jane Smith episodes and just carried on from there.
I had seen all of them before, of course—forty-one stories, 172 episodes at mostly four-episodes a story, a total of 71 and a half hours, according to a probably incorrect infographic. That’s actually quite a lot of television, innit? I suppose it’s reasonable to have a good deal of variation, there. I had watched many of the episodes a few years before with the Perfect Non-Reader of this blog, but I think at the time not all the episodes were easily available on-line in useful form, or perhaps she was simply less interested in going through episode-by-episode. This time through, we watched (if I remember correctly) everything in order, except that we skipped two stories from 1977-78, because there were a bunch of lousy stories in a row there and my boy wanted to skip ahead to something that wasn’t lousy.
I found it was a lot of fun to revisit them, and for a lot of them I didn’t remember much about them at all. The Masque of Mandragora and The Hand of Fear I certainly hadn’t seen more than once, and I don’t know whether the total lack of specific detail in my memory of Underworld is because I had in fact never seen it at all or because it was so dull and unmemorable. On the other hand, I can pretty nearly recite The Talons of Weng-Chiang and City of Death. Stories I enjoyed more than I expected to include The Creature from the Pit and Planet of Evil and even Full Circle. I won’t rank them top to bottom, but if I had ranked them top to bottom in 1987 or so, I would probably switch a few up now.
When I see a lousy episode of Old Who, for the most part I enjoy the experience, hooting at the production errors and mocking the excesses of the acting and clarifying the plot with helpful suggestions shouted at the screen. When I see a lousy episode of New Who, for the most part I silently grind my teeth, getting crankier and crankier. The difference is in me, largely, but I think also in the show. The show was fundamentally a silly entertainment, back in those days, and the difference between a terrific episode and a lousy one was both narrower (in the sense of the best ones being also silly entertainments) and wider (in the sense that the new ones never look like rookie night at the con). Also, there was no way to be a fan of the old show if you didn’t find the cheap production endearing; there is nothing endearingly cheap about the new show at all. This is not to disparage the show as it is, or to disparage those who enjoy it, but it is a very different show than the old one and has very different Sources of Viewer Pleasure and Irritation.
If we carry on watching Old Who, we will be mostly watching stuff I have not seen before. Well, I think I’ve seen all the 1970-1973 Pertwee Era stuff but I haven’t seen more than about ten stories from all the rest of the run. It’s up the The Youngest Member, who in the short term is more interested in old episodes of Robot Wars and who can blame him?
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,