Doctor Who Nostalgia
February 19, 2006

I ran across a cache of Doctor Who episodes from the first Peter Davison season. He’s always been my favorite, and it was a treat to think about watching his adventures from the beginning.

Oh, I was so misguided. The first, Castrovalva, was terrible. I remembered them getting trapped in a town square that became wrapped around itself like an Escher image. That was still there, briefly, but I had to get through an awful lot of “oh, my regeneration is failing, I must clutch my head and pretend to faint” and “what will we do without the Doctor?” and “Adric’s been captured and tied up in a metal spiderweb” first.

The second, Four to Doomsday, was an improvement, because it at least had a story behind it. Three frog-like aliens are travelling to Earth to turn them all into robots as an improvement on humanity. They’ve captured various representatives of ancient civilizations over periods of thousands of years, providing an interesting cross-cultural view of history and lots of things for the group to discover and investigate over the four episodes that make up a storyline.

Adric’s taken in by the aliens, thinking that they really do mean to help, which made me think him incredibly stupid. Especially since he just got done being captured by the bad guy, you’d think he’d be a little more cynical. It was also surprisingly creepy to see Tegan sketch modern Earth fashion (for 1981) and then have two of the aliens show up looking just like them in the next scene. It’s the little oddnesses that create a spooky atmosphere.

I’m afraid to try the next one, Black Orchid. That was my favorite of Davison’s stories, and I would hate to lose my pleasant memories of it. It’s only two episodes, though, so I don’t think it can be too bad.

9 Responses  
Alan David Doane writes:  

Davison’s my fave, too, but much better enjoyed in memory than in viewing marathons. :-)

kalinara writes:  

Oddly, I still enjoy Castrovalva. I’m not sure why. I think it’s the originality of the problem. And it was a good episode for showcasing Tegan and Nyssa’s individual strengths as characters without the Doctor’s leadership.

Davison’s run was, I always thought, the best for individual character moments. (Not counting Eccleston’s and likely Tennant’s runs, given Davies’s brilliance with complex characterization through very small moments, it’s not a fair comparison). The Doctor’s youth and relative approachability made it seem a lot more like they were a group with him as the leader, instead of just the hero and his plucky human sidekick.

That and I’ve always enjoyed Tegan and Nyssa’s competence. They screamed a lot, but at least one of them got to do clever things that tipped the scales in the good guys’ favor in every episode, it seemed.

Johanna writes:  

Kalinara, maybe I tuned out at the wrong time, but what WAS the problem? Rescue Adric? Get the doctor to Castrovalva? Something to do with the library? (which people kept mentioning meaningfully but I never figured out)

Good point about Tegan and Nyssa. In 4tD, it was shocking to see Tegan crying over not being able to fly the Tardis when she thought she’d done it in the previous episode, and to hear Nysaa kept being called a child. It seemed a step back for both of them from Castrovalva.

Bill Doughty writes:  

I’ve always been a Davison fan, too (probably because he was the Doctor I remember watching first), but his stories don’t start getting really good until Adric makes a date with an out-of-control freighter and a certain planet’s prehistory. ;) From there, we get the Doctor’s arguments with Tegan and Nyssa about why he can’t just change history because he doesn’t like the outcome (as in the case of Adric’s death) and the whole Turlough/Black Guardian storyline, which I always liked a lot.

Johanna writes:  

Yes, Turlough, I’d forgotten about him. I think I only saw one of his stories a while ago. I look forward to that.

Scott writes:  

Peter Davison was my favorite doctor as well (though it took me a while to stop thinking of him as Tristan from “All Creatures…”). Of course looking back, I think a great deal of the appeal of those episodes was not Davison himself, but instead Nyssa (mmm, Nyssa).

Johanna writes:  

Nyssa was great — a smart, cute woman with a nifty purple velvet wardrobe.

kalinara writes:  

It was the idea of the geometry of the city, being stuck in a life-sized example of mathematical recursion was a nifty idea, even if the pacing probably could have been vastly improved.

Also, I liked the way the Doctor was largely taken out of the occasion for most of the story, letting the two women find their footing without his guidance. It was a nice way to strengthen their bond and emphasize the Doctor’s presence by his absense…if that makes any sense at all.

Of course, I’ve got a really bizarre fondness for any and all regeneration episodes anyway. :-)

Gemma writes:  

I know this goes against the grain, but Peter Davison is my favourite Doctor and “Castrovalva” is my favourite episode. I think it is because it is a beginning. Acting out the first one is always the most difficult, especially when the actor before you had had 7 years playing the part, but I suppose even Peter Davison himself would think I was daft for liking Castrovalva. I see it as a test for the new Doctor, and the favourite, and last fifth Doctor, “The Caves of Androzani” showed the experience and a bit more money spent by the BBC on that episode.

Everybody has their favourite Doctor, episode, or both, but why do fans have to hate this or that Doctor, or actor for that matter. I have seen all the Doctors accept the latest, they are all different, isn’t that how it is supposed to be.

Maybe I’m just getting old, having seen the first “Doctor Who” in the early 60s, though being a few years older than Peter Davison, I didn’t feel the need to hide behind the sofa!

Cheers, Gemma


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