Home : Archive : TSV 11-20 : TSV 12 : Feature

Season 18 Poll Results

By Paul Scoones

This is what happens when you complain: I criticised TSV's Season 17 Poll results (Letters, TSV 10), and now I find myself responsible for writing up the results of the Season 18 Poll! Ah well, I shall know better next time... Long-time TSV readers will recognise the style of this article and its format from the Season 14, 15 and 16 results in TSV 3, 4 and 6 respectively. It's been almost a year since I last compiled one of these things, but here goes...

A radical new look for Doctor Who is the best way to describe Season 18. In my opinion, a steady decline had set in by the previous season; after the poor standard of stories like Nightmare of Eden and The Horns of Nimon, The Leisure Hive was like a breath of fresh air. Few can have failed to be instantly impressed upon seeing the stunning new title sequence and hearing the distinctly up-tempo theme music for the first time. It grabbed the viewers' attention, and 28 episodes, varying from good to classic status, held the attention of most people. It began on a cold day on a beach at Brighton with the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K9 and ended beneath a radio telescope in Cambridge on another cold day. The stranger struggling to sit up wore the Fourth Doctor's clothes, but not his features. There to greet this new arrival were not the Time Lady and the Doctor's dog, but three young people, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan. It was the end of an era - Tom Baker's era.

TSV's recent poll of this season drew a total of 24 returns from Auckland to Invercargill. I was able to place the ages of 18 of the voters from the TSV 'Fan of the Month' column - they ranged from 11 to 25 years, with an average of 19 years old. Regrettably, few took up the offer to add comments on the back of the voting form, so this article contains more of my own views than I would have liked. What comments that were received have been included, as facts and figures on their own do not tell the full story of NZ fan reaction to Tom Baker's last year in what has to be his most famous role. I shall tackle the nine categories in the order in which they were originally presented, so first up is...


2The Keeper of Traken11340
3Warriors' Gate9553
4State of Decay9122
5=The Leisure Hive8433
Full Circle8405


Australian Fourth Doctor Era Survey      Marvel Doctor Who Monthly Season Survey
1Logopolis (4 in whole list)1Logopolis
2The Keeper of Traken (12)2The Keeper of Traken
3State of Decay (14)3Full Circle
4=The Leisure Hive (18)4State of Decay
Warriors' Gate (18)5Warriors' Gate
6Full Circle (23)6The Leisure Hive
7Meglos (36)7Meglos

It is interesting to note here that three stories occupy the same positions in all three surveys, each held in a different year and in a different country. Logopolis is the undisputed top story; arguably a 'classic', the story was heavily steeped in series continuity, and undoubtedly benefited from direction that accurately captured and expressed the sombre tone of the tale. Jon Preddle suggests that its popularity largely stems from the fact that it is a regeneration story - these always seem to be good. Consider where it might have been in the results of this survey had the Doctor survived his fall. I think the return of the Master also had a lot to do with it: his appearance in The Keeper of Traken is probably the reason that story takes second place, but Logopolis is the first full battle of wits between the good Doctor and the now reinstated evil Master. Perhaps, I might venture to add, the timely entrance of the gifted Janet Fielding (Tegan) might also have helped matters...

"I picked Logopolis as the best story due to the fact it had the best atmosphere," writes Graham Muir. "Episode One was very well done - you could tell the Doctor was about to face an immense threat to his life and the Universe."

Adam Schwarz found it "particularly satisfying from the point of it featuring a bunch of those most wonderful of people - mathematicians." Adam also commented on memory - with such a long season (the longest since Season Six) it was difficult to recall some of it when it came time to fill out the survey. If this is the case in general, it is little wonder that the last stories of the season - those most forward in the memory - got so highly voted, and the first ones - not so well remembered - suffered from lower scores. If The Leisure Hive had screened just prior to Logopolis, would it have fared better in our survey? A point to ponder.

Nigel Flockhart was very impressed with the second favourite story, The Keeper of Traken, describing it as "a stylish, well acted and set out tale of intrigue," rather than "a shoddy, studio-bound story," as it could have been. Andrew Freeman, however, thought Full Circle and State of Decay were excellent but the rest were "so bad they made me ashamed to be a fan of the series." He puts this down to JNT's style of production not suiting Tom Baker's Doctor, but adds that it suited Peter Davison's. Season 18 is of course John Nathan-Turner's debut as producer, having served a three-year stint as production unit manager.

Most voters were not overly fond of Full Circle; although it did well in the British survey, held immediately after the season screened in 1981, it fared rather badly in both the recent Australian survey and this one. My theory is that it has achieved a degree of notoriety for introducing the universally unpopular Adric as a companion. He wasn't at his worst until the following season, so this prejudice hanging over the story now is unlikely to have formed at the time of the British survey.

Nor, however, did The Leisure Hive fare too well. It is interesting to note that the two lowest-placed stories are those commissioned by the outgoing script editor, Douglas Adams, and his replacement, Christopher Bidmead had to tone down the jokey aspects, not always successfully. Nigel Flockhart's comments bear testament to the level of humour that remained: "I like those statues, the one the Doctor ties his scarf around. Overall my personal favourite bit that always cracks me up is when the Doctor is drawing complex equations on the TARDIS and the Argolin watching groans and collapses as his mind cannot take it." Graham Muir remarked on the almost total lack of 'silly jokes' after the very jokey Season 17, as a positive aspect of Season 18.

I personally consider Warriors' Gate to be the most adult-orientated story of the season. Sure enough, all those who voted it first or second are in their twenties (In fact, I am one of the youngest to have placed this story first). It is a very confusing story, but extremely rewarding if you actually bother to sit down and work out what it was all about. Having a copy of the novel helps tremendously. It is my belief that Doctor Who should have more stories of the standard of Warriors' Gate, but obviously they don't appeal as much to the teen and pre-teen audiences.

Meglos is obviously the least liked, judging by the results of all three surveys. Perhaps it was the talking cactus that caused its downfall, but this theory is discredited by the results of the favourite villain category. The story is, to my mind, a very traditional Doctor Who story in a season of exceptional tales. It is probably not so much that Meglos was a 'bad' story so much as that the other six stories were so good.


1Logopolis Part 43212
2The Keeper of Traken Part 4 147
3The Leisure Hive Part 1104
4=Logopolis Part 174
The Keeper of Traken Part 173
Logopolis Part 373
7=State of Decay Part 464
Full Circle Part 164
The Keeper of Traken Part 363
10=State of Decay Part 343
The Leisure Hive Part 442
Warriors' Gate Part 342
13=Warriors' Gate Part 433
Warriors' Gate Part 131
Warriors' Gate Part 231
16=Meglos Part 122
Meglos Part 222
The Leisure Hive Part 221
The Leisure Hive Part 321
Full Circle Part 221
Logopolis Part 221
22=Meglos Part 411
Full Circle Part 211
Full Circle Part 311

Story Totals (Points,Votes):
Logopolis (48, 20); The Keeper of Traken (27, 13); The Leisure Hive (18, 8); Warriors' Gate (13, 7); State of Decay (10, 7); Full Circle (10,6); Meglos (5, 5).

Marvel Doctor Who Monthly Season Survey:
1 Logopolis (episode 4)

Again, Logopolis is far and away the winner in this category. Almost certainly, the reason is the regeneration at the end of the favourite episode, Logopolis episode 4. Trailing some way behind is the fourth episode of the previous story - again one featuring regeneration, though this time that of the Master. I expected The Leisure Hive episode 1 to do well as this episode spearheaded the 'new look' for the series.

Adam Schwarz admits to a difficulty in remembering individual episodes: "It is really only the endings, hence episode 4, which stick in my very leaky mind, along with a few random scenes which I am unable to place episode-wise."

It has been my long-held belief that episode 2 is the poorest of a 4-parter. Episode 1 sets the scene and engages the viewers' attention, whilst episode 3 builds up the threat to its height by the cliffhanger, and episode 4 has the Doctor saving the day and tying up the loose ends, making this part the most enjoyable. This is borne out by the results - the top two are both fourth episodes, and the top twelve (half the episodes voted for) don't include a single episode 2. Only four episodes failed to gain a single vote: State of Decay 1 and 2, Full Circle 4 and Meglos 3. One person chose not to vote in this category, and another had to be discounted as, mistakenly or otherwise, they took the opportunity to vote for their favourite episodes of all time in place of those from Season 18.


1The Master471318


Marvel Doctor Who Monthly Season Survey
1The Master

Australian 4th Dr Era Survey

Favourite Villain/Enemy
1The Master (1 in whole list)
2Meglos (13)
3=Pangol (17)
Aukon (17)
5Rorvik (22)

Least Favourite Villain/Enemy
1Meglos (1 in whole list)
2Pangol (4)
3Rorvik (9)
4=The Master (19)
Aukon (19)

The Master is the outright winner in this, the only category he should really be placed in (see the next two). Meglos followed some way behind, but with a respectable enough score to suggest that the cactus wasn't the reason behind the last placing in the story category. Melkur is the other villain to do well here, although it is debatable whether Melkur should be a choice in voting here, considering that it was the Master all the time. Certainly the Australians didn't think so.

Meglos was however disliked as a villain by some: "Sorry, can't take talking cactuses seriously," remarked Murray Jackson. Ken Tod thought the Master "was again very evil, and just that bit more of a maniac than Roger Delgado's version." Gerald Joblin agreed that it was "good to see the return/revenge of the Master," and Wendy Toynton summed up her voting with a one-line warning: "These results are biased in favour of Logopolis and the Master."

My own favourite was Aukon, whom I found very chilling with his mesmeric eyes and powerful, mysterious presence. As Jon Preddle accurately points out, Katura wasn't a villain although listed in this category (she was one of the Consuls on Traken). Thankfully, everyone appears to have realised this, as no one voted for her. The unpopularity of Adric, mentioned earlier, caused one voter to express his feelings on the subject by placing him first, even though Adric was not among the choices, didn't they, Murray?!


3The Master20310
11=The Keeper201
The Watcher201


Marvel Doctor Who Monthly Season Survey
2The Monitor
3The Keeper

Australian 4th Dr Era Survey
Favourite Companion
1Romana (3 in whole list)
2K9 (5)
3Nyssa (6)
4Tegan (7)
5Adric (9)
Favourite Supporting Character
1Tremas (6 in whole list)
2The Master (8)
3K9 (12)
4Romana (14)
5Tegan (15)
6Adric (16)
7Nyssa (17)
7=The Monitor (17)
9Hardin (18)
10=Varsh (19)
Kassia (19)
12=Tharils (20)
Draith (20)
14=Rorvik (21)
The Watcher (21)
Deedrix (21)
Aunt Vanessa (21)
Least Favourite Supporting Character
1Adric (1 in whole list)
2Tegan (3)
3Tremas (7)
4=Grugger (8)
Rorvik (8)
7Mena (9)
8=Pangol (11)
The Monitor (11)
10=Brotodac (12)
K9 (12)
12=Kassia (14)
Nyssa (14)
Romana (14)
15=Aunt Vanessa (15)
The Master (15)
Zastor (15)
18=Meglos (Earthling) (16)
Varsh (16)
20Draith (17)

After the debacle (sorry, Scott), of the Season 17 Poll, I sent TSV a number of suggestions for improving the Poll, most of which were adopted for this survey. One that regrettably wasn't was a separate category for Favourite Companion. This means that with only three votes available to them (1st, 2nd and 3rd), most people would, and did, vote for their favourite companions, with the result being that the highest true supporting character, Tremas from The Keeper of Traken is in fifth place with only five votes. It was also a mistake, I feel, to include the Master in this category, as people have already had the chance to express their appreciation of him in the Favourite Villain slot.

But enough criticism - what's done is done. Romana was the longest-serving companion this season (If we don't count Adric in Full Circle; otherwise they're equal). Lalla Ward's performance was in my opinion, an improvement on Season 17. She was confident and self-assured as to where the character was going, and by Warriors' Gate, we all knew that with the Tharils in E-Space she'd be 'better than good, she'll be superb'. Sarah Sutton's debut as the gentle Nyssa was obviously well received to get her into second place not far behind Romana and just ahead of the Master. My personal favourite was another companion making her debut, Janet Fielding's Tegan. Biroc was another stunning character and it was good to see identifiably alien characters in leading supporting parts; usually the people the Doctor befriends are the humans or at least those who are outwardly human.

On the negative side, Adam Schwarz confesses "I actually tried to like Adric over the last 11 stories he's been in - but to no avail." Graham Muir was pleased that Romana left "She irritated me no end." Only one person seems to have picked up on the fact that you could actually vote for the Doctor - albeit the Fifth Doctor - in this category, because as Nyssa said, "the Watcher was the Doctor all the time". Another chose to vote for Grugger's second-in-command from Meglos, Brotodac, even though he wasn't listed, but that didn't matter: the poll should have had an 'Other' option anyway.

The last word on this category goes to Murray Jackson: "Nyssa and Tegan would prove popular companions - what a shame the one thing that spoiled it all was Adric. Matthew Waterhouse was either going to prove inspired casting or reckless thoughtlessness. Unfortunately it was the latter, one of JNT's two errors in his first season. The other error was not to make K9 go out more violently. The dog should have died!"


Zolfa Thuran1134
8Marsh spiders1016


Marvel Doctor Who Monthly Season Survey:

Australian 4th Dr Era Survey
Favourite Monster/Alien
1Tharils (7 in whole list)
2Marshmen (12)
3Argolins (14)
4Foamasi (19)
Least Favourite Monster/Alien
1Marshmen (3 in whole list)
2Tharils (6)

Does the Master's TARDIS really classify as a Monster? Is it a reflection on the standard of monsters this season that his TARDIS wins the category? Of course the choice was actually worded: Master (Melkur), but can we really classify the Master as a Monster, except in the metaphorical sense? So the vampires from State of Decay were the real victors in this category, and a placing deserved as well, though I rather favoured the enigmatic Tharils, who at the same time weren't really monsters.

This survey really should have followed the Australian trend and titled the category 'Favourite Monster/Alien'. Of course it is fortunate that there were no Dalek/Cyberman stories this season, as most monsters appearing in one story only wouldn't get a look-in if that were the case. Voters could have voted for either the Daleks or the Cybermen as they appeared in the flashback sequence during the Doctor's regeneration, but it probably didn't occur to people as TVNZ in all their 'wisdom' saw fit to chop that bit out when we saw the repeat of Logopolis. Gerald Joblin (14) must remember this from its original New Zealand screening - "The new title sequence is excellent, as was the flashback featuring the Fourth Doctor's companions and enemies."

The extremely low placing of the Zolfa Thuran in this category leads me to think that perhaps when people voted for Meglos the villain they were voting for Meglos as played by Tom Baker, but when they voted (or rather didn't vote) for the Zolfa Thuran, then they were meaning the cactus?!


1Peter Grimwade (Logopolis)56
2Paul Joyce (Warriors' Gate)53
3John Black (The Keeper of Traken)48
4Lovett Bickford (The Leisure Hive)46
5Petter Grimwade (Full Circle)37
6=Terence Dudley (Meglos)29
Peter Moffatt (State of Decay)29
1Paul Joyce53
2John Black48
3Peter Grimwade47
4Lovett Bickford46
5=Terence Dudley29
Peter Moffatt29


1Tom Yardley (The Leisure Hive)102
2Tony Burrough (The Keeper of Traken)100
3Malcolm Thornton (Logopolis)98
4Graham Stone (Warriors' Gate)95
5Christine Ruscoe (State of Decay)87
6Philip Lindley (Meglos)62
7Janet Budden (Full Circle)49


1Paddy Kingsland (Full Circle, State of Decay, Logopolis)47
2Peter Howell (The Leisure Hive, Meglos, Warriors' Gate)42
3Roger Limb (The Keeper of Traken)31

First a quick explanation for the two different lists of results for Best Director: On the polling form, Peter Grimwade was given two spaces in which to vote for him, when he should have only had one, as it is the best director you are voting for, and not the story with the best direction. Thus for the 'Amended' list I have taken the average of the two scores Grimwade received for Full Circle and Logopolis and used that as his (proper) score. Also, it seems strange that you could only vote for five directors, but seven designers (hence the larger scores in the designer category). I can only suppose that one of the two contained a typographical error.

Chris Noaro claimed that the best designer category was "too boring to even think about," so chose not to enter any votes for that one. Nevertheless, 22 out of 24 people voted for both Direction and Design, and 20 voted for music, perhaps because it is often more difficult to remember the music than any other aspect of the story if you don't have access to a video recorder or even audio to make a recording you could refer to. What do readers think? Should the Best Musician category be removed from future TSV Season Polls?

I thought Paul Joyce's direction on Warriors' Gate was superb, especially the time-overlap sequences in the banquet hall. This reminded me very much of Sapphire and Steel, and it intrigues me that Joyce has not returned to Doctor Who since.

Tom Yardley was always the hot contender for Best Designer, for the stunning visual appeal of The Leisure Hive but the final result was a close-run thing, with Tony Burrough only 2 points behind. Burrough of course did that marvellous work on the sets for The Keeper of Traken, creating a very believable planet for once.


1Dr Who - LogopolisChistopher H Bidmead53615
2Dr Who and The Leisure HiveDavid Fisher37412
3Dr Who and The Keeper of TrakenTerrance Dicks36113
4Dr Who and Warriors' GateJohn Lydecker33312
5Dr Who - Full CircleAndrew Smith29111
6Dr Who and the State of DecayTerrance Dicks2008
7Dr Who - MeglosTerrance Dicks1807

Events cast shadows before them, but the huger shadows creep over us unseen. When some great circumstance, hovering somewhere in the future, is a catastrophe of incalculable consequence, you may not see the signs in the small happenings that go before. The Doctor did, however - vaguely.
Doctor Who - Logopolis

Season 18 was the first in which the majority of stories were novelised by their original authors for quite some time, with impressive results. The three novels by Christopher H. Bidmead, David Fisher and Steve Gallagher (writing as John Lydecker) must rank among the very best Target has ever published. Bidmead took the opportunity to tighten up his script a little whilst leaving it relatively unchanged. Fisher delved deep into the background of both the Argolin and Foamasi races, and conveyed a convincing picture of future entertainment and galactic business. Gallagher went further, and produced one of the most important works in the Target series in that it is extremely difficult to fully comprehend Warriors' Gate without reading the novel as well. Gallagher's style is also the most 'adult' of any of the five novelists here, perhaps because he is also the most experienced science fiction novelist.

The young Andrew Smith produced a competent novel as well, proving that a Doctor Who fan can not only write a good Doctor Who script but also a good Doctor Who novel. The prolific Terrance Dicks wrote the remainder of the season's stories in novel form, in his usual standard adaptation of the script. It is interesting to note that his own story, State of Decay doesn't rate particularly highly as a novel, and it is clear that readers think more highly of his novelisation of Johnny Byrne's The Keeper of Traken.

"David Fisher's novelisation," says Nigel Flockhart, "is just as Paul Scoones says -'a delight, easily one of the best Doctor Who novels.' I found it paralleled Douglas Adams' style of writing somewhat. The Argolin prehistory is just brilliant, not to mention Hyperion C. Blackadder and the hyperspacial drive system." Chris Noaro wrote that he didn't vote in this category "because I found watching most of the stories so tedious I don't think I could ever force myself to wade through the novelisations."

Season 18 Overview

"Really I liked all of the stories, though Full Circle wasn't quite as good." - Margaret Lambert

"The three top stories to me were 1. The Keeper of Traken, 2. Logopolis, 3. Full Circle. Because the stories were original and interesting and held my attention, especially The Keeper of Traken." - Ken Tod

"Overall the whole season was better than the previous season which offered little or no atmosphere but at least Tom Baker made up for it before leaving." - Graham Muir

"I thought the season was excellent." - Paul Kelly

"How about a category along the lines of Best Ideas/Concepts/Originality?" - Michael Chisnall

"New producer John Nathan-Turner has produced his finest season with a mix of stories: thriller, comedy, monster, vampire, traditional, surrealistic, mathematics. He has broken away from Graham Williams' down-trend (something that JNT himself has since followed - JNT, what has happened to you?)" - Jon Preddle

"For some time now, Doctor Who has been an outstanding and imaginative television programme. It has provided viewers with some mind-boggling scripts, costumes, characters and not to forget the monsters." - Timothy Blackburn

"An excellent season and just what the Doctor ordered. JNT made a startling impact here and one wonders where it's all gone wrong since." - Murray Jackson.


1987/1988 Doctor Who Survey: The 4th Doctor - Tom Baker. Written and tabulated by Scott Gardner. Published as supplement to Data Extract (The Australasian Doctor Who Fan Club Newsletter) Issue 63, October 1988, edited by Scott Gardner.

Doctor Who Monthly Season 18 Survey. Marvel Doctor Who Monthly, No.55, August 1988, Edited by Alan McKenzie.