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  1. #1
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    Default Season 7 - An Impossible Concept?

    Although I absolutely adore the four stories that make up Season Seven (Spearhead in particular is one of my all-time favourites, and the other three aren't half bad either), it has always been my contention that as a concept, in spite of the fact that the rising viewing figures saved the programme from its second cancellation threat in as many years, the continuation of longer, more serious and less monster-heavy serials would in fact have probably been more detrimental to the show in the longer run.

    In other words, I like the stories, but I don't like the 1970 series "as a whole".

    Anybody else have any thoughts on whether, despite the quality of what was seen on screen, the series might actually have benefited from the changes that Barry Letts wrought upon it from Series Eight onwards?

  2. #2
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    Almost certainly, if seasons 8 and 9 had been like season 7, 7-part stories with the main 'villainy' being amongst the human protagonists rather then the 'monsters' themselves, probably yes by 1972 the audience would have got a bit bored, and certainly when DWM used to witter on nostalgically about 'the UNIT family' they clearly meant the Jo Grant era...

    ...but you could probably make that case for most seasons. If you watch season 5 in sequence, the classic 'base under siege' thing starts to get a bit samey, so a 6th season in the same vein would have been a bit dull. Last year's 'season long story' was largely a success, but I don't think anybody would want to see that kind of 'arc' every year. Even I, who love season 17, would have got fed up with that house style if season 18 had been the same...

    So I guess I'd answer, "Yes, but that's not just season 7!"

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Curnow View Post
    So I guess I'd answer, "Yes, but that's not just season 7!"
    That's fair comment, although I might argue that Derrick Sherwin had very obviously intended for the Season Seven template to become a continuing house style, riffing on the success he'd made of The Invasion (longer stories with human villains - or human villains as the "face" of an alien force). I do think there's legs in the approach... I just don't think it's "Doctor Who"!

    Arguably, Season Seven is a continuation of Season Five's "base under siege" approach, but whereas in the Troughton series the monsters had been the main adversaries - albeit with relatively complicated relationships between the human characters to give the stories their drama - by the time the Pertwee series came along, the monsters were very much side-lined, and increasingly so across the 1970 series. As much as I love the stories that make up Season Seven, I do by and large prefer the overall approach of the four years that followed...

  4. #4
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    It's certainly interesting that almost as soon as Letts & Dicks were fully in place they started working to at least loosen the terms of the Doctor's exile - so if much of season 7 was in place before they were in charge, by the third story of season 8 they'd already introduced the idea of being sent on missions by the Time Lords - and season 9 opens with a sneaky way of letting him travel in time (albeit still on Earth), then off to an alien planet, back to Earth, then back out to outer space again. So one could argue that even by season 9 the Doctor was only really "in exile" on paper (much the same way that UNIT in season 11 is only really "top secret" on paper, since a journalist can casually wander in and out as the fancy takes her!!)

    My point, I guess, is that one of the many things I love about Doctor Who is "you never quite know what you're going to get" - so although I didn't take so much to last year's run, or (initially) to season 18, I appreciate that the show always needs (and at its best, always thrives on) change.

    At a slight tangent, in the good old days, particularly the 80s, each story would have a different writer (obviously) & director (obviously) but also probably a different composer, and in many cases (in those pre-tone meeting days) a different 'house-style' which, rightly or wrongly, made it one of the most changeable and unpredictable shows around. Planet of Fire followed by Caves followed by Twin Dilemma?? Amazing.

  5. #5
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    Well, unlike Jonathan Morris who seems to think the whole season was a massive mistake I quite like the shift in tone. However, as Andrew says DW succeeds at its best because of its variety, so a further 2 or 3 seasons of this kind would start to get very wearing. 7 parts is also just a little bit too long.

    Still it does lead to some interesting thoughts on how an 'alternative DW history' might have developed. Stories like Daemons, Axos, Time Warrior, Dinosaurs and Spiders would all fit with the basic premise - imagine them in the gritter style of Season 7. Imagine an arc across season 8 where the Doctor gradually discovers that all his recent problems have been caused by one mastermind, a Moriarty of space and time who didn't actually directly meet the Doctor until the last story.
    Bazinga !

  6. #6
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    The Daemons done in a season 7 style would, I must admit, be quite something to see - it would be the sort of thing that would need Christopher Lee in it, and would have Mary Whitehouse on the phone to the Beeb before the end titles had even finished!

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    One of the great joys of Doctor Who is how they've often innovated and experiments, whether it's been in times of crisis (see: Season 7) or just for the hell of it (see: Season 18).

    What's been made clear by many involved at the time is that things needed to change after Season 6. The show was on the verge of cancellation. This, to me, seems like it was probably known for quite a while - the seeds of this change were really sown over the course of Season 6. We had the introduction of UNIT and the introduction of the Time Lords, culminating in them exiling him to Earth for his crime of interference.

    So, the setting is done. The producers were also aware of the MASSIVE success of the three Quatermass serials, over ten years previously. We see a huge switch in tone in Doctor Who, to being far more Quatermass-y. To me, this works really well, even if it's over the course of all four serials that comprise Season 7.

    The result is that we get a much more "adult" Doctor Who. Everything feels slightly more doom-laden. We have serious issues, with some pretty big moral grey areas. In the majority of stories in Season 7, no-one is really the villain, per se. As an experiment, it's absolutely wonderful. On a personal level, I absolutely adore it.

    But, ultimately, I'm glad that they only did that for one Season. The next season, we have The Master playing the role of the villain in every story. We have monsters hell bent on taking over the Earth. The pitch shifts again, and we get something different.

    Basically, what I think I'm trying to say is that the first two seasons of the Pertwee era really exemplify Doctor Who at its absolute best.

    And I agree that The Daemons done in the style of Season 7 would have been something really quite wonderful!

    Do you know what they call me in the ancient legends of the Dalek homeworld? The Oncoming Storm.

  8. #8
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    Like others have said, Season 7 works so well because it's the only one of its kind and that makes it special.

    It's rather good that what they did was take what had worked so well in the Troughton era and make it work for the new Earthbound stories. So we get bases with great big sets, because they know they work and that they're a good way to spend the budget over cost effective longer stories. They keep mad base commanders to a minimum because they've been done to death, so we only get one, and the others are cool and calm (especially the unflappably cool Ralph Cornish). Big confrontations between soldiers and monsters worked well in The Invasion, so we get it staged again in Spearhead...

    But what they do too is give it other recognisable settings too, to contrast with the big bases- playing fields, road chases, shops and streets... make it feel more real and grounded. It all feels very real and very solid.

    And serious. There's not huge amounts of humour.

    And I like it. But I wouldn't have wanted more of it.

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

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