The Blue Box Blog

Emma Lou's adventures in Doctor Who fandom

Top Ten: My Favourite Doctor Who Stories (Part 1)

Posted by emmahyam on October 13, 2011

Welcome to my first top ten list of the post-season, and of course straight off the bat, I’m cheating (a bit) by doing a two part list, this is a list of my favourite  stories from the classic series, the second part will be a run down of the same for the post 2005 run. Be warned however, I’m not going to shy away from SPOILERS here, so if you’ve yet to see these stories and want to remain unspoiled, proceed with extreme caution.

So without further ado, lets begin..

10) Carnival of Monsters

My second favourite Third Doctor adventure, in this serial the Doctor and Jo, aiming for Metebelis Three and missing it end up on a mysterious cruise ship the SS Bernice and needless to say shenanigans ensue as they eventually realise that they’re trapped inside the Miniscope. This is a machine that keeps miniaturised groups of creatures in miniaturised versions of their natural environments as an entertainment, not least of all the notorious Drashig (see the pic above). This story is wonderful, the relationship between The Doctor and Jo is never better, Jon Pertwee plays his interpretation of The Doctor at his putting-the-world-to-rights best as he shuts down the Miniscope. I also love travelling showman Vorg and his assistant Shirna in some top notch support work, but I think I thing I love the most is the quality of the FX work, the scene where Vorg tries to extract the TARDIS from the Miniscope, and look at the Drashig! Its the skull of a fox inside a handpuppet but on screen its awesome and scary!

9) Tomb of the Cybermen

Without doubt my most loved of the Second Doctors serials, The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria tag along with an archaeological expedition on Telos who are trying to find the remains of the legendary Cybermen who apparently died out 500 years previously, this being Doctor Who, of course it turns out the Cybermen aren’t quite as extinct as everyone thought. This adventure is simply great, a rip-roaring boys own tale. Matt Smith cites this story as direct inspiration for his Doctors look and general demeanor and he couldn’t have picked a better model as Patrick Troughton is on fire in this one. The script is amazing and has two of my favourite bits of dialogue in all of Classic Who, firstly theres The Doctor’s withering put down of Klieg:

Eric Klieg: Doctor, you seem to be very familiar with this place.
The Doctor: Oh no, not really, um, it’s all based on symbolic logic, the same as you use in computers. The opening mechanism to this door, an or-gate you call it.
Eric Klieg: Yes yes, I can see that, but how did you know in the first place?
The Doctor: Oh, I used my own special technique.
Eric Klieg: Oh really Doctor, and may we know what that is?
The Doctor: Keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut.

Then theres The Doctor comforting a in mourning Victoria in a wonderful early glimpse into The Doctor’s loneliness:

The Doctor: Are you happy with us, Victoria?
Victoria: Yes, I am. At least, I would be if my father were here.
The Doctor: Yes, I know, I know.
Victoria: I wonder what he would have thought if he could see me now.
The Doctor: You miss him very much, don’t you?
Victoria: It’s only when I close my eyes. I can still see him standing there, before those horrible Dalek creatures came to the house. He was a very kind man, I shall never forget him. Never.
The Doctor: No, of course you won’t. But, you know, the memory of him won’t always be a sad one.
Victoria: I think it will. You can’t understand, being so ancient.
The Doctor: Eh?
Victoria: I mean old.
The Doctor: Oh.
Victoria: You probably can’t remember your family.
The Doctor: Oh yes, I can when I want to. And that’s the point, really. I have to really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they… they sleep in my mind and I forget. And so will you. Oh yes, you will. You’ll find there’s so much else to think about. To remember. Our lives are different to anybody else’s. That’s the exciting thing, that nobody in the universe can do what we’re doing.

Simply wonderful.

8 ) The Caves of Androzani

Recently voted the number one classic Doctor Who story by readers of Doctor Who Magazine to say this story is seminal doesn’t quite  do it justice. The Fifth Doctor and Peri get caught up in the politics of mining spectrox, the most valuable substance in the universe, things are further complicated when Peri contracts spectrox toxaemia and The Doctor makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his friend. Its such a crying shame that the Fifth Doctor’s adventures came to an end here but on the other hand what an incredible way for Peter Davison to bow out. His rescue of Peri at the cost of his own life is heartbreaking and Davison is magnificent, the story is also gifted with truly memorable baddies in the shape of Sharaz Jek and fourth wall breaking Morgus. I defy any fan not to join in with The Doctor as he yells “I’m not going to let you stop me now!” during the episode three cliffhanger.

7) Ghost Light

The Seventh Doctor and Ace’s finest hour, Ghost Light is a dark, gothic fariy tale where in 1883 the mansion house of Gabriel Chase in Perivale near London is under the control of the mysterious Josiah Samuel Smith the TARDIS arrives and there is a deadly test in store for Ace. This is a serial I’ve seen many times but I’m still not quite sure what actually happens! Its an unforgiving, complex tale that forms what fans call “The Ace Trilogy” a three-story arc that explores the turbulent personal history of the Doctor’s companion, Ace. Such detailed exploration of a companion’s earlier life was unusual in the original series and that dear reader is the origin of modern Doctor Who as we know it, emphasizing the Doctor and the companion equally.

6) The Time Meddler

Choosing a first doctor tale for this list was really hard, because so many of them deserve multiple spots here, although I love stories like “The Romans” and “The Aztecs” “The Time Meddler” presses all the buttons that for me make a great Who serial. The TARDIS lands in 1066 on the coast of Northumbria, and their arrival has been witnessed by a Monk who oddly does not seem fazed by the materialisation. It has great humour, a delicious baddie in the shape of The Meddling Monk (some fan theories hold that he is in fact an early incarnation of The Master), a wonderfully complex plot and a really cool “alternative history” setting. Its by no means perfect but I defy you not to shout “YES! IN YOUR FACE!” when The Doctor totally flim-flams The Meddling Monk to strand him in 1066.

5) State of Decay

This story marks the beginning of the “E-Space” trilogy of stories that came towards the end of Tom Baker’s reign as the Doctor, conventional fan wisdom holds that the quality of Tom Baker stories drops off sharply post series 17 but there is some real excellence to be had, and this story is by far my favourite of the bunch. Canny readers will probably be concluding that I tend towards the “goth” in my stories and there is no story more goth than this, the Doctor, Adric and Romana arrive on a planet experiencing what appears to be a feudal period. The villagers live under the thrall of three lords—Zargo, Camilla, and Aukon (AKA The Three Who Rule) who dwell in a shadowy Tower, for me the serial is like if Castlevania and Hammer Horror had a child and stuck Tom Baker in and its absolutely magnificent for it. The design alone makes this episode stand out, just look at the richness of the Tower, the relationship between The Doctor and Romana is never better (as in real life Tom Baker and Lalla Ward’s love affair was at its hight) and the story adds greatly to the mythology of Gallifrey and its ancient past.

4) The Mind of Evil

Number 10 on this list was my second favourite Jon Pertwee tale, and heres my absolute  favourite, this is another story that has several contenders for its spot (oh how it pains me to leave “Inferno” out!) but this story completely made me fall in love with Pertwee’s  interpretation of the good Doctor. In the serial The Doctor and Jo visit Stangmoor Prison to examine a new method of “curing” criminality, whereby the negative impulses are removed from the brain using the Keller Machine to enact the Keller Process, of course it turns out to be a nefarious plot by The Master to disrupt the first World Peace Conference, seemingly just to annoy The Doctor. The story features great work from “The UNIT family”, Jo at her resourceful and compassionate best, some brilliant Third Doctor zingers (“do you think for once you could arrive before the nick of time?!) and most intriguingly of all some real insight into The Master as portrayed by Roger Delgado, a performance never bettered in my opinion.

3) The Pyramids of Mars

If you want a Doctor Who story to show someone who wants to get into Classic Who, you can’t go far wrong with this absolute gem of a story, the TARDIS materialises inside a Victorian gothic mansion which formerly stood on the site where U.N.I.T.’s headquarters exists during the time of the Fourth Doctor. The Doctor and Sarah become aware that something is very wrong: the owner is missing and the estate has come under the control of a mysterious Egyptian. A dangerous alien power is at work, and the Doctor recognizes the mastermind of all this as Sutekh the Destroyer, the last of the Osirians. Mixing everything you’d come to expect from Doctor Who at its best, one of the best villans of all time, alternative histories, many horrifying deaths, genuine chills and an irresistible companion and Doctor combo. Its also one of the most quotable stories of all time; “I’m a Time Lord! I walk in eternity!”, “Kneel before the might of Sutekh!”, “Evil? Your evil is my good!” and “I am the servant of Sutekh, he needs no other!” to name but a few. Its this Doctor Who fans equivalent of comfort food and lovely cup of tea.

2) Genesis of the Daleks

Let me take you back to the heady days of 1994, when I was 11, I’d been brought up in a ‘Star Trek house’ and all I knew of Doctor Who was the kind of British pop culture stuff like, he has a TARDIS, he travels around with a load of screaming girls and there are these things called Daleks. I just so happened to catch a repeat of Genesis… on UK Gold, when they used to show Blakes 7 before it and you had to get up at about 5.30 am to watch it all. I did just that and lo, an fan was born. Its just an incredible achievement from beginning to end , that shocking beginning, the cliffhangers to episodes 2 and 5, the torture af Harry and Sarah Jane, Davros’ ‘tiny pressure of my thumb’ speech and most of all, the moment in episode 6 where the Doctor holds the future of the Daleks in his hands. Granted the serial is by no means perfect, there are plot holes you can drive a ford fiesta through, that never ending scene in episode 1 with the landmine and most of all, that god forsaken giant clam but it does contain all the elements of truly classic Who. It has all everything that you most associate with the classic series,Tom Baker’s portrayal of the Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith as resourceful girl adventurer and the dashing, wise cracking Harry Sullivan.The rest of the supporting cast are superb, especially Michael Wisher’s Davros, who dominates almost every scene he is in.

1) The Brain of Morbius

So here we are, my favourite Classic serial of all time, years ago, the Time Lord known as Morbius tried to lead a revolution but was executed for his ambition on the planet Karn. When the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane arrive on the planet, they discover that, thanks to Dr Solon, the dead may rise. This short synopsis hardly does justice to the most demented, wonderful, funny and down right amazing story. Incredible performances, amazing creature design and more quotable dialogue gems than you can shake a stick at (“you chicken-brained biological disaster!”) this story is for me the full package. Sure its cheesy, the Morbius creature visibly bumps into the camera at one point, The Sisterhood of Karn all seem to be auditioning for a Kate Bush video, Phillip Madoc appears to trying to eat the scenery and the set is audibly and visually made of plywood and cardboard but that doesn’t matter in the slightest, everything comes together to make “The Brain of Morbius” far more than the sum of its parts and for me, you cant get much more “Doctor Who” than that.

So there you have it, there are so many stories I wish I could included, it was so hard to narrow it down to just 10! I’d love to hear what your top classic stories are, leave your run down in the comments!

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One Response to “Top Ten: My Favourite Doctor Who Stories (Part 1)”

  1. I’d already downloaded some of these episodes from Itunes. I just downloaded “Ghost Light” thanks to you!

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