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A Month of TV Commentary: A meme in 30 parts, Day 6

From , via , the 30-Day TV Meme.

Day 06 – Favourite episode of your favourite t.v show

I’m really struggling with this one. As noted, if a show is your favourite, there’s not likely to be one single episode that stands head and shoulders above the rest. In my case, having declared my favourite show to be Doctor Who, I have over 30 years worth of episodes to choose from. I think it would be hard to nail down my favourite episode from each Doctor, but I’ll try…

(Yes, I’m cheating. It’s my journal. I get to make the rules.)

William Hartnell (1963-1966): An Unearthly Child
The episode that set the whole thing in motion, introducing us to the mysterious Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and the TARDIS. The show would later develop a huge and cumbersome mythology, but what this episode gave us was character and mystery. (Technically, this is part one of the first 4 part serial, which includes a trip back in time to visit cavemen, but let’s just pretend it isn’t. It holds up better that way.

Patrick Troughton (1966-1969): The Web of Fear
I’ve actually only seen the one episode of this, as the remainder are lost (along with the great majority of Troughton’s run, alas), but it was my favourite story from my favourite Doctor. I don’t recall now if the Yeti are the only recurring monster to only be encountered by a single Doctor, but something about them captured my imagination. This story also introduced UNIT, which was to play a major role in the adventures of the third and fourth Doctors.

Jon Pertwee (1970-1974): The Daemons
This one had everything. The Master in top form, played by the incomparable Roger Delgado. A quiet English village where a mysterious cult is meddling in dark occult forces, which ultimately (of course) turn out to be alien in nature. The unflappable Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, who confronted with a living gargoyle, calmly orders, "Sergeant. Chap with wings. Five rounds rapid." This serial had everything I loved about the Pertwee era of the programme.

Tom Baker (1975-1981): The Pyramids of Mars
Every time I think I’ve picked a favourite episode from this series, I change my mind. While, unlike most American viewers, Tom Baker isn’t my personal favourite, he’s the image most over here are familiar with if they know the series at all, and over seven years he did a lot of great stories. I’m going to finally settle on this one, which has a lot of fun with trippy Egyptian mythology motifs, and features some of the best Sarah Jane Smith moments the series had to offer.

Peter Davison (1982-1984): The Caves of Androzani
Sadly, Davison’s best turn in the role was his last, in a stellar script by Robert Holmes that played to all his strengths in the role. (Davison said, in fact, that if he’d gotten more scripts of this quality, he might have stayed for a fourth season.)

Colin Baker (1984-1986): The Two Doctors
Honestly, there’s not a lot of great Colin Baker stories to choose from. This wasn’t really a high point in the series, as it was constantly on the verge of cancellation, and Baker’s Doctor never really seemed to gel for me. (It’s a pity. I’ve met Colin Baker and he’s a lovely man.) I picked this one not because it’s a superior story, because it’s a relatively pedestrian effort for a writer as good as Robert Holmes, but it does feature Patrick Troughton reprising his role as the second Doctor, and so I’m choosing it for sentimental reasons. (I note with amusement that this is the third consecutive Robert Holmes story I’ve chosen…)

Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989): Ghost Light
As with Baker, McCoy never got a lot of good scripts to work with, but story editor Andrew Cartmel had ambitions that were never realized (for good or ill, its hard to say). Ghost Light is a trippy episode featuring one of McCoy’s best performances. This story was the penultimate episode broadcast in the original series run.

Paul McGann (1997): The TV Movie
There are problems with the movie. It has some questionable continuity assertions, most of which fandom has decided to collectively ignore, and the actual plot (involving an unlikely Eric Roberts as the Master) is regrettable. But none of that should take away from Paul McGann, whose sole foray as the Doctor on the screen hinted at what might have been. This was a pilot project to relaunch the series in collaboration with FoX-TV, but it never went anywhere. (After seeing how they handled Firefly, I can’t say I’m terribly unhappy.)

(Since this is an essay on TV, I’m not considering McGann’s extensive "radio" work, but he recorded several seasons worth of audio adventures for Big Finish, and that canon contains many stories superior to this one.)

Christopher Eccleston (2005): The Empty Child
The highest point in the first season of the relaunch, Stephan Moffatt contributes the first in a series of brilliant stories that would ultimately win him the head writer position when Russell T. Davies departed. No obvious alien menace here, just creepy zombie children in gas masks, the ongoing London Blitz, and introducing the roguish Captain Jack Harkness, a character so popular he’d not only recur, but get spun off into his own series, Torchwood. At the time of its airing, this was only the third Doctor Who story in twenty-seven seasons which did not feature a single death of a character. ‘Just this once,’ the Doctor cries exuberantly, ‘Everybody lives!’

David Tennant (2006-2009): Blink
Another Moffatt script, easily the best single episode of the new series and arguably the best Doctor Who story ever, Blink was a triumph of taut, scary storytelling using the time honoured DW motif of ‘innocuous everyday thing becomes an object of fear’. The Doctor himself is notably absent from much of the story, which revolves around the delightful character of Sally Sparrow, who I for one would just as happily traded for any of Tennant’s three regular companions. The Weeping Angels are wickedly effective as the monsters, and the resolution is wonderful. Tight writing and great acting make this a must-see episode.

Matt Smith (2010- ):  (no entry)
It’s too early to pick a favourite eleventh Doctor story. Of the first half-dozen I’ve seen, I’ve liked some more than others, and some less than others, and there were none I’d find no fault in. What I can say without reservation is, despite my scepticism, Matt Smith’s take on the character of the Doctor is brilliant, and he can just play the part for several years as far as I’m concerned. I’m utterly in love with Karen Gillan (down boy) as Amy, and I fear from the hints being dropped about her as the season-arc progresses that she may be yet another one-season companion, but I’m hoping not. Regardless, the part is in good hands, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the latest incarnation of our hero.

So there you have it, then. Ten actors playing one part, and ten episodes of one of the greatest and longest-running science fiction epics in television history. If you’re not familiar with the history of the series and wanted an overview, you could do worse than the episodes I’ve chosen, I think.

Day 01 – A show that should have never been cancelled
Day 02 – A show that you wish more people were watching
Day 03 – Your favorite new show (aired this t.v season)
Day 04 – Your favorite show ever
Day 05 – A show you hate

Day 07 – Least favorite episode of your favorite t.v show
Day 08 – A show everyone should watch
Day 09 – Best scene ever
Day 10 – A show you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 11 – A show that disappointed you
Day 12 – An episode you’ve watched more than 5 times
Day 13 – Favorite childhood show
Day 14 – Favorite male character
Day 15 – Favorite female character
Day 16 – Your guilty pleasure show
Day 17 – Favorite mini series
Day 18 – Favorite title sequence
Day 19 – Best t.v show cast
Day 20 – Favorite kiss
Day 21 – Favorite ship
Day 22 – Favorite series finale
Day 23 – Most annoying character
Day 24 – Best quote
Day 25 – A show you plan on watching (old or new)
Day 26 – OMG WTF? Season finale
Day 27 – Best pilot episode
Day 28 – First t.v show obsession
Day 29 – Current t.v show obsession
Day 30 – Saddest character death

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A Month of TV Commentary: A Meme in 30 Parts: Day 7

24 Comments

  1. They say that Dr Who was best when the viewer was between the ages of 12 and 15, and the “best” Doctor was who ever was playing the part at that time. That makes William Hartnell “my” Doctor, and for me he really was the best. And I absolutely agree about “An Unearthly Child”. A really spooky episode.

    • It’s a bit skewed for me, because growing up in the US meant that the Doctor we were seeing at any given moment wasn’t necessarily the current one. When I was 12, Davison had just taken the role, but you were just as likely to see Tom Baker or Jon Pertwee episodes on North Carolina Public Television, which aired it.

      For one brief shining moment, we had DW on 12 times a week. Every weekday at 5:30pm, they’d run a Hartnell/Troughton era ep, at 11pm weeknights we got a Pertwee ep, Saturday afternoon at 2pm they’d run an entire TBaker serial, and on Sunday afternoon we got an entire Davison serial. Those were the days. (They eventually pulled the 5:30p slot, after complaints from parents that it was “too scary”. It’s lead-in was Mister Rodger’s Neighbourhood. I kid you not.)

      Troughton has always been my favourite Doctor, for reasons that are difficult to explain as I’ve seen only a handful of his episodes, thanks to the BBC purge. He captivated me in “The Three Doctors”, and I loved a lot of his stories when I read the novelizations. Matt Smith’s take on the part reminds me a bit of Troughton in some very positive ways.

      I actually met Patrick Troughton the day before he passed away. We sat and chatted for about a half-hour, just the two of us. He was a kind, charming man, and I was broken hearted when I heard the news the next morning.

    • With that range (I’ve previously heard the single age 14) I could have either William Hartnell or Job Perwee, but in fact it wass the latter who was ‘my’ Doctor, with the Brigadier my favourite non-companion (such wonderful dead-pan lines, as a-cat says).

      • The popular saying is “The Golden Age of science-fiction is 14.” Google attributes it widely to “Anonymous”. I for some reason wanted to put it in the mouth of Damon Knight, but probably only because Knight did say “Science fiction is what I point to when I say ‘science fiction’.”

        • This is an old and not necessarily reliable memory, but I remember it as Isaac Asimov saying that the Golden Age of science fiction is 12.

          • Possible. I think it’s one of those witticisms that is going to migrate into any number of famous mouths.

            No one seems to really dispute the sentiment, though. 🙂

  2. ‘Just this once,’ the Doctor cries exuberantly, ‘Everybody lives!’
    This scene makes me cry every. single. time. I absolutely love that two-parter, and out of the DW episodes I’ve seen (which, granted, are only the new seasons) this is my ultimate favourite.

    • There’s something about that story that stirs up dust in my apartment. I swear, every time, there’s something in my eye. 🙂

      I really wish Eccleston had taken a longer tour as the Doctor. still thinks of him as her Doctor, as she never watched the old series, and he was her first.

  3. The Daemons was the first Doctor Who episode I ever saw, though I saw it in black and white as the color footage had not yet been rediscovered at that time. What a great way to start. I don’t know that I can say it’s my all-time favorite, but it still holds a special place in my heart.

    • I kinda think it’s better in Black and White. But it may be because, like you, that’s how I first saw it.

      • I kind of thought so too, but felt like I shouldn’t. >:) I was a little disappointed when I saw it in color. It seemed to diminish the atmosphere to some extent.

  4. the only show i can think of for which i have a clear “best episode” is the buffy musical ep.

    • I’m afraid I’m a bit of an outcast in fandom over that one. I thought the Buffy musical episode was…..well…..okay. It was a cute idea, I’m glad they did it, some of the songs were nice, but….I’m not sure it’d make my *top 10* list of favourite Buffy episodes, let alone be my clear and away favourite.

      I find this makes me somewhat unusual within the filk community.

  5. Since I semi-cheated by naming two favorite shows, I’ll carry through on that here.

    From “Babylon 5”, it’s a tough, tough decision, but I’ll go with “The Coming of Shadows”.

    From “The West Wing”, it has to be “Two Cathedrals”, the second season finale, with the revelation of Bartlet’s MS, the question of whether he’d run again, and that incredible, magnificent rant in the National Cathedral. (“Have I displeased you, you feckless thug?”)

    The list needs a place for favorite episode independent from a show. For me, the candidates there would include “Chuckles Bites The Dust” from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and the “turkey drop” episode of “WKRP in Cincinnati”, among others.

    • The list needs a place for favorite episode independent from a show. For me, the candidates there would include “Chuckles Bites The Dust” from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and the “turkey drop” episode of “WKRP in Cincinnati”, among others.

      For those of us who work in radio, the turkey drop episode is nothing less than legendary. At least two of my former workplaces had “turkey drops” of their own; KDON-FM (Salinas, CA) dropped rubber chickens from a helicopter in 1984 (and from a balloon in 1985); the chickens were stuffed with prize vouchers and the whole thing was done live on the air. It was a lot of fun.

  6. My own Dr Reflections

    Hmmmm…I have to say I had problems with Hartnell and Troughton just because the video quality was so poor that I had trouble watching them. As a result, my favorite episode for them is probably The Five Doctors. I loved Tom Baker but mourned at the departure of Peter Davison. I always felt he had such enormous potential and wished he had stuck it out just a bit longer.

    I seem to be one of the few people who genuinely liked the McGann TV Movie as an acceptable American version that tried to stay true to the spirit of the original. Still, given what Fox did to a number of good SF shows, it’s probably best this died on the vine.

    I liked Eccleston a lot, but found him a bit too dark and edgy sometime. Still, I think my favorite episode of his was “Dalek.” Seeing the Doctor lose it like that was very effective for me.

    Hard to pick a favorite Tennant ep. I disagree on Blink, in part because Tennant was not featured much in the ep. It was good, but not a favorite. In some ways, I think “The Man In The Fireplace” had all the right elements and is in some ways the quintessential Tennant Ep. But I also have a sentimental favorite for “School Reunion.” “K-9 is a good dog.”

    • Re: My own Dr Reflections

      I like a lot of sixties television that doesn’t necessarily hold up to modern storytelling, but still has its own charms. I’m a sucker for reruns of The Avengers or The Saint, too. TV was very differently paced back then, and sometimes it’s hard to sit still for it after getting used to the more frenetic pace of modern storytelling. This will, like many things, come down to a matter of taste.

      I actually don’t dislike the TV movie. I think it was a flawed product, but it was enjoyable enough, and I really liked McGann’s Doctor. One of the reasons I love the audio adventures is they correct a great injustice by giving McGann some more time in the part than he was afforded by the whims of the lords of television.

      “Dalek” was *superb* and would probably be a strong #2 on my list for Eccleston. Yes, he was dark and edgy, but I thought it was handled very well; he wasn’t dark and edgy for the *sake* of being dark and edgy -- it was part of the story and part of a transformation process he had to go through to get to where he is now.

      I don’t disqualify “Blink” for its lack of Tennant. It’s my favourite episode of the programme from that era, even if he’s hardly in it. “Girl in the Fireplace” is certainly a winning choice (and another Moffatt script, no surprise), and I do love “School Reunion” for two important reasons: 1) It has Lis Sladen in it, and 2) it explores the question we’ve all had for ages: what happens to the companions afterward. It’s a theme that the new series has explored with a great deal of attention, and one which the original series never really gave any thought at all to.

    • Re: My own Dr Reflections

      Aw, but Hartnell isn’t even in The Five Doctors! >:(

      • Re: My own Dr Reflections

        Aw, but Hartnell isn’t even in The Five Doctors! >:(

        If I remember right, some old footage of him made it into T5D. Tom Baker was represented the same way, IIRC.

        • Re: My own Dr Reflections

          You might be thinking of the limited footage of the first Doctor (newly filmed, but brief and not directly interacting with the other two) that is used in The Three Doctors. In The Five Doctors, the first Doctor is played by actor Richard Hurndall, who does resemble William Hartnell quite a lot.

  7. I’m suddenly seeing this tv commentary thing all over the place, and never heard about it until now.

    Where did it start, how did it start, who started it, and what comm was it in that I missed hearing anything about it? And who decides that everyone has to do these things?

    Serious questions, seriously.

    I’ll make comments about DW later.

    • Well, as I note at the top of each of my posts, I got it from my sweetie , who got it from , who got it from Agnes. Several people on MY friends list got it from me. It’s an honest to goodness meme. I know where I came from, but where did all you zombies come from?

      It looked like a fun way to try and make 30 consecutive days of updates, and maybe get back into the habit of posting to LJ at least once a day.

    • No one has to do it, it’s just the sheeple who follow every meme on the net *g*. I’ve seen it on quite a lot of my flist, which is one reason why I’m not doing it (if I did, I’d just stick all the answers in one post and not clutter up the flists). As it is, I’m just occasionally commenting…

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