Friday, August 13, 2010

The Memory Cheats

It certainly cheats when trying to round out a second solid 5-post week of 'Doctor Who' theme blogs having already shot my companion wad yesterday! (In fact, when I checked back, my off-the-cuff plan was to split that last post in two! Oops.)

So today you poor souls get that meandering, waving-my-hands around wondering what to do next that happened so often in classic 'Who' seasons when the money simply ran out and there was still an episode left to make.

Many of them never made it.

A sour note at the end of 1979 was a strike that prevented Douglas Adams' story 'Shada' being finished. I saw what was left, and I also heard the audio adaptation. It is really very amazingly good. To think: they could have used the budget from that travesty 'Creature from the Pit' in the same season... gah!
What I mean to say, (and what this post is "about") is that I really DO remember liking classic "Doctor Who". I feel like I have to apologize or something. But here's to all the "behind the scenes" people, from the effects guys trying to make a new-ish planet every week out of chewed gum, to the writers taking their names off stuff that barely resembled their original drafts, to the producers who (if they were lucky enough to get noticed at all) took all the flak for it.

Here's what I know about them; using zero new research. And you get to share in the benefits of my "knowledge".

Sydney Newman & Verity Lambert were two of the heads on the committee beast that dreamed the show up in the sixties. Terry Nation wrote 'The Daleks' and his heirs are very, very lucky sons-of-bitches. Terrance Dicks wrote pretty good stuff, too, just not as good in my mind as Robert Holmes (a dead guy who wrote nearly all my favorite classics) or Douglas Adams (another dead guy who wrote good stuff and as story editor wrote extra stuff into other people's stuff to make it better stuff). Barry Letts was the producer in the early seventies, he liked James Bond. Philip Hinchcliffe was the producer in the late seventies, he liked Hammer horror.

And then there was John Nathan-Turner. Like Counselor Troi in 'Star Trek: Generations', JNT was sitting at the helm when the ship crash-landed. Was it John's fault? Not really. (It wasn't Troi's fault, either. I'm just saying.)

John Nathan-Turner was the dead gay guy nominally in charge of 'Doctor Who' from 1980-1989 and sometimes accused of 'wrecking' it. He liked musical theatre and loud shirts. He cast Doctors 6 and 7. He added question marks to the Doctor's shirt collars. He brought in old comedians to play serious parts, or vice versa. He wrote 'Dimensions In Time' (a nearly universally despised Who-EastEnders crossover charity special from 1993 which I didn't think was as bad as some. Liked it better than 'K-9 & Company' for example). JNT once said: "The Memory Cheats" in regards to fans who felt the series had been perfect bliss when they were kids, and was terrible now that they were grown-ups. Because that is both true, and false. Of a lot of things.

There is some talk to the effect that if Turner HAD left the series in 1985 when the fans were baying for his blood (and he offered to), the BBC simply would have cancelled it then and there.

In fact, as far as I'm concerned, that means Turner SAVED 'Doctor Who' for it's final three years!

And those were MY THREE YEARS.

That's when tweenage Mike NEEDED that show. To get across the barrier of changing schools, losing a bunch of friends, and inexplicably regenerating into a miserable teenager.

In the eighties 'Doctor Who' would make loads of changes, flip-flop in tone from somber to downright goofy and back again, failing as often as it succeeded. (Leaving sad old fans to verbally spar over which ones were the failures and which the successes. In 2009 a 'Doctor Who' magazine poll ranked 'The Happiness Patrol' 170th out of 200 stories. SERIOUSLY PEOPLE? That's one of the BEST! Yes, I even like it better than 'Caves of Androzani' (Ranked #1).)

So, scratch me with spectrox if you must, but I'm grateful for every scrap of classic series 'Doctor Who' that I can get. Because the alternative could be 15 years with none at all.

Thanks, JNT. Thanks, writers and producers and guys I've never heard of or paid attention too.

You know who you are. (But you're not reading my blog. Or you're dead. Maybe both.)

And thanks, BBC. Now- RELEASE 'THE HAPPINESS PATROL" on DVD, you b@#^@s!!!!

If you wouldn't mind.


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