Saturday, 10 September 2011

Top 7... 80s Who

Spanning 1983-89, or Seasons 20-26 if you prefer, these were out preferred viewing choices from the dog days and declining years of the Classic Series. Unfortunately Darth's taste for the Colin Baker years was not shared by the other two, and Vengeance on Varos and Revelation of the Daleks failed to make the cut. Those that did were (now with the respective votes of myself, Matt and Darth in that order):

Ghost Light (1989, D, 422)  Let me guess. My theories appal you, my heresies outrage you, I never answer letters and you don't like my tie. The genius of Marc Platt, Sylvester at his most mysterious - finally the series was back on track. Unfortunately the last story made prior to cancellation. None of our favourites, but top by consensus as one of only three in all our lists.

2 The Curse of Fenric (1989, M, -13)  Evil, evil since the dawn of time! Not in my list, though it wasn't far off, but as can be seen I was comprehensively outvoted. Very atmospheric and Nicholas Parsons proving that celebrity casting doesn't have to be a disaster.

3 Terminus (1983, T, 15-)  Short term memory... always the first to go...  My favourite Davison story despite it's poor reputation in fandom, and Darth only abstained from voting as he's never seen it. Nyssa in her undies and a star turn from Peter Benson as Bor, the radiation-ravaged Vanir.

4 The Caves of Androzani (1984, M, -33)  More of a tennis player than a cricketer.  Again not a favourite of mine, but I seem to be in a small minority. 80s Who at its bleakest, but as least in the hands of Bob Holmés rather than the Sawardinator done with some panache.

5 Frontios (1984, M, 646) I got this one cheap because the walk's not quite right... And then there's the accent...  Chris Bidmead's best Who script by a mile - Tegan as a defective android, a hatstand used as a weapon, and a quite clever story at its heart.

6 Paradise Towers (1987, T, 38-)  Red Kang eye-spy says we can't go through usual carrydor. Blue Kangs out and lurking... No yellows. All unalive now.  Hardly an unalloyed masterpiece, this had typically poor late 80s lighting, uninspired direction and Richard Briers not so much chewing the scenery as swallowing and regurgitating it, nonetheless after years of unremitting turgidity PT showed there was vitality in the old corpse yet - an intriguing backstory, some sharp political satire and Clive Merrison putting Briers to shame as a genuinely chilling Chief Caretaker.

7 The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1988, T, 577)  Clowns are creepy.  Dr Who goes all postmodernist, a full 18 years before Love & Monsters. Creepy clowns, annoying fanboys, alluring vampires and Peggy bloomin' Mount, what's not to love? In fact how did this end up as low as 7th on this list?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Top 7... Punk & Nu-Ro Who

Well it seems as good a title as any for a set covering 1977-82, otherwise known as Seasons 15-19, or the Williams and early JN-T years...

It was another chat in which we had difficulty in all agreeing, with only one story in all our top 7s, but unlike the last poll this was because there were more than a dozen stories each of us liked, just not all to quite the same extent. In fact every one of the five seasons under review got at least one entry in the list. With regret, as we all liked them anyway, we rejected Black Orchid and the sublime Androids of Tara, leaving us with :-

1 City of Death (1979, M) - Can anyone join in on this conversation or do you need a certificate? Tom, Lalla, Douglas Adams and Paris. 'Nuff said?

2 Warriors' Gate (1981,T)I don't know what these levers do, but it's pointing in your direction...
The end of the E-Space trilogy, the end of an era, and a story with more quotable lines than possibly any other Who. Influenced by Cocteau - how many Tennant stories can boast that?

Horror of Fang Rock (1977,M) - Gentlemen, I've got news for you: This lighthouse is under attack and by tomorrow morning we might all be dead. Anyone interested? Pure scares, deaths a-plenty and almost a trip back to the Troughton days with the scientific research base replaced by a lighthouse under siege.

4 State of Decay (1980, D) - Do you know, it just occurs to me there are vampire legends on almost every inhabited planet. Vampires in E-Space. As with WG, even Adric wasn't bad in this one...

5 Kinda (1982, T) - It is the Mara who now turn the wheel. It is the Mara who dance to the music of our despair. Our suffering is the Mara's delight. Our madness - the Maras' meat and drink. And now he has returned. The only Davison story to make it - forget the rubber snake and revel in the psychological drama played out largely in Tegan's head, but reflected in the entire world.

6 The Pirate Planet (1978, M) - I’ll never be cruel to an electron in a particle accelerator again! Douglas Adams' debut TV script. Notable for the battle to the death between a robot dog and a robot parrot .

7 Nightmare of Eden (1979, T) - My arms! My legs! My... everything! Ostensibly written by Who stalwart Bob Baker, this has more than a touch of S17 script editor D Adams about it. For my money, the most underrated Tom Baker story of the lot...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Top 7... 70s Dr Who

Our latest project was to find our favourite stories from the Pertwee and "classic" Tom Baker years, spanning 1970 to mid 1977. It initially seemed like we might struggle to find seven we could agree on, as Martin loathes all of the Pertwee era and I'm not too keen on most of the early Bakers, but in the end we discarded The Mutants and The Seeds of Doom to end up with...

1 The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977; DM) - Yes, we can be conventional at times; though this wasn't actually top of any of our lists, it's the only story to be in all our top 3s. Oozes mid-late Victorian atmosphere and has one of the most popular supporting casts ever in the redoubtable Jago and Litefoot.

2 Pyramids of Mars (1975; MI) - a moody Doctor, Sarah-Jane at her most appealing and robot mummies to boot, along with Gabriel Woolf as a superbly evil Sutekh.

3 Inferno (1970; MI) - the top-ranked Pertwee in the list and again no departure from fan orthodoxy there, but for two of us at least this is right up there in the lexicon - parallel universe, dirty great  mineshaft, and a very real sense of danger. And an eyepatch of course...

4 The Robots of Death (1977; MI) - "Please do not throw hands at me" - almost certainly the best of Who's occasional stabs at an Agatha Christie pastiche, this also takes advantage of the standby budget saving "Base under Siege" trope to provide excellent drama and makes a star out of new assistant Louise Jameson.

5 Carnival of Monsters (1973, TC) - for me, a Troughton story that crossed the striations of the timeline, this is by far my favourite Pertwee (and even Martin's least disliked one!) Dry wit, topical humour and a neat idea combine with unusually good acting performances for the time.

6 The Green Death (1973, TC) - our second pick from Season Ten, and Jo Grant's last story, as we invstigate giant maggots and green slime in a Welsh coal mine. By turns gripping, touching and corny, it gets away with it all by dint of the sheer force of will of a team determined to go out on a high.

7 The Deadly Assassin (1976, DM) - truthfully not in the top seven for two of us, but the closest we could get to agreeing one, this is a tour de force of innovations, some of which work (decaying Time Lord society) and some of which don't (the Doctor usually has a companion for a good reason) but if nothing else it was disliked at the time both by the NVLA and DWAS, which can't be a bad thing...

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Top 7... 1960s Dr Who stories

Back to familiar ground for this top 7 - though trying to find a 7th we could all agree on proved to be something of a struggle...  we eventually rejected Tomb of the Cybermen and Dalek Invasion of Earth to leave us with

1 The Evil of the Daleks (1967,TC) - the plot at times makes as much sense as a RTD special, but the atmosphere just oozes out, Pat T is at his best and Debbie Watling's in crinoline. Just sublime. Only thing to decide is which is the better quote to her - the dalek's "You will not feed the flying pests" or Jamie's "Quick, Miss Waterfield - up your back passage!"?

2 The Gunfighters (1966,DM) - "He gave me a gun, he extracted my tooth,what more could you ask?" Long considered one of the worst historical Whos ever, with its appalling American accents and cavalier approach to the facts, Gunfighters has more recently been reconsidered and is now widely accepted as a pretty good satire on the TV Western genre of the 50s and 60s. On the other hand, we've always loved it as a screamingly good and utterly intentional comedy.

3 The Mind Robber (1967,TC) - From a first episode written at the last of last minutes with no budget (the previous story had to be cut from 6 episodes to 5 (which was still 5 too many)) by shoving the crew into a featureless white world, to Jamie becoming the first companion to "regenerate" when Hines caught chicken pox and was replaced for a while by his cousin (via the Doctor wrongly reassembling his face in a jigsaw puzzle) this should have been a disaster but proved a triumph - and very much a blueprint for much of MoffatWho in its fairytale setting.

4 The Power of the Daleks (1966, MI) "We are your... servants" Hartnell was gone and Who would never be the same again, as Pat Troughton was now the Doctor - or was he? It seemed unlikely at the time, about as unlikely as the Daleks providing a slave labour force for humans rather than the other way round, but only one of those two things proved to be a devilishly cunning ruse...

5 The Macra Terror (1967, TC) - "Macra do not exist. There is no such thing as Macra!" As a prequel to Gridlock, Macra Terror is unusual in having no cast members in common, but it nonetheless seems to work pretty well as a standalone story..

6 The Romans (1965, MI) - "Suitable only for morons" according to an anonymous member of the BBC's Audience Research panel, but "absolutely flawless" according to the Times TV review, this was Who's first overt attempt at comedy, with the humour mostly played out as an exquisite farce in the manner of (but much better than) the Tennant/Tate interplay in the Series 4 opener.

7 An Unearthly Child (1963, DM) A cliche, perhaps, but still a genuinely superb start to the Series - was a nation still taking in the news of Kennedy' assassination really ready for that unsettling theme tune and titles, with everything that followed? Only time will tell...

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Top 7... 70s Sitcoms

More precisely British 70s sitcoms, defined as those whose prime years were pre-Thatcher. Some heated debate here, but after swiftly rejecting by a two-thirds majority On The Buses and The Good Life we finally decided on:

1 Fawlty Towers (mi) - Much as we like to break with tradition, not having this top would be just perverse.

2 Are You Being Served? (mi) - lost its way in later years but the early series are still mostly hilarious

3 George & Mildred (tc) - a rare example of a spinoff completely outclassing its parent, this took the Man About the House landlords and created a classic 2-hand snipefest

4 Sykes (tc) - Eric and Hattie, ably supported by Derek Guyler, offering subtly absurd fare as only they could

5 The Life & Death of Reginald Perrin (tc) - also of the absurd, but this time faintly subversive to boot. And with a hippopotamus. That probably tasted like a Ukrainian unicyclist's jockstrap.

6 Rising Damp (dm) - more Rossiter, what's not to like?

7 Porridge (dm) - and we couldn't leave out Mr Barker's ouvre, could we?

No space for the likes of Dad's Army, or even the Likely Lads - good but not in any of our top threes, so not eligible to be in the top seven, sadly. If you want to tell us they should have been, or indeed suggest any others we've missed, please do leave a comment, we're very open to persuasion. Or bribery. or threats...

Monday, 4 July 2011

Top Seven... 5-minute cartoons

As ever, myself, Martin and Matt each picked three choices which were laughed at and voted on by the other two to create a final and definitive top 7. On this occasion the rejected choices were Paddington and The Perishers, so you know the threshold is pretty high...

1. The Clangers (Mr Postgate, we are not worthy)

2. The Magic Roundabout  (original series, none of your Nigel Planer nonsense thankyouverymuch)

3. Roobarb & Custard (original series, though the new ones were OK too)

4. Willo the Wisp (oh, go on, stop messing about...)

5. Dangermouse (the only rebel entry in an otherwise BBC 5.40 dominated list, but the original series was in 5-minute chunks, so I had to let it in)

6. The Wombles (the Cribbster! My favourite is still Wellington, though.)

7. Ivor the Engine (just for a change the remake, as we've not seen the original B/W episodes)

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Top 7 Children's TV Presenters

1 Johnny Morris (Animal Magic) - my hero while growing up [tc]

2 Tony Hart (Vision On, Take Hart) [M] - all-round top bloke [mi]

3 Johnny Ball (Think of a Number) [T] - an inspiration (just don't google for his recent activity...) [tc]

4 Kenneth Williams (Jackanory) - pushing the definition slightly, but he was always there back in the day [dm]

5 Brian Cant (Playaway) - the face and voice of '60s and '70s TV for those of us growing up then [mi]

6 Janet Ellis (Blue Peter, Jigsaw) - because we couldn't have a list without a BP presenter. Oh and she was utterly gorgeous, as well... [tc]

7 Bernard Cribbins (Jackanory) - see avuncular (adj.) [mi]

As ever, all comments and pointing out of glaring omissions welcome...

Introduction & Top Sevens

Hello world, this is Tân. After 14 years online and three defunct websites, this is my first blog, so expect dancing babies, oodles of unskippable flash animations and... no, actually, I think it'll just be text, with maybe the occasional piccie.

The inspiration for the blog was a conversation with a couple of friends on a car journey, during which we shamelessly ripped off an idea from the wondefrul Retrogaming Roundup podcast and decided to come up with our own series of Top Seven lists (RRU has top tens, but we can't count that high...)

In brief, we each choose three picks on a given topic, then the other two decide whether the picks are worthy of inclusion and how high - obviously with nine picks there will be two that don't make it, ensuring that all the picks chosen make the grade with at least two thirds of us. The first list will be posted almost immediately, so look out for our Top Seven Children's TV Presenters...