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The Sixth Doctor Era Survey Results

By Felicity Fletcher

Forty-nine people responded to the Colin Baker era survey. Not all people responded to all parts of the questionnaire, but many people provided comments which help to make the data obtained more meaningful.

I did not write the questionnaire from which these results were compiled and feel that some of the questions were worded somewhat ambiguously and that the writer's intentions were not always clear. In order to interpret the data provided as accurately as possible I give only the top 2 - 4 and worst 1 - 2 items in each category. The number I isolated was dependant on how clear cut the result was.

The exception is in the categories of Best and Worst Story and Story Ranking. Here I combined the results of these two categories to form a list of stories in order from best to worst. As Slipback (a BBC radio play) has not been broadcast in New Zealand I omitted it from this section, but took it into account when interpreting the results from the section on novelisations.


BestThe Two Doctors
2ndAttack of the Cybermen
3rdRevelation of the Daleks
4thThe Mark of the Rani
5thThe Mysterious Planet
6thVengeance on Varos
7thThe Ultimate Foe
8thTerror of the Vervoids
WorstThe Twin Dilemma

The Two Doctors was the clear favourite, ranking easily above everything else in all categories except Aliens, Villains and Best and Worst Performances. This popularity seems to be mainly due to the involvement of the Second Doctor and Jamie, as Alistair Hughes rather hauntingly writes "Troughton and Hines show us what once was but never will be again." In this story Nigel Flockhart appreciates "Pat Troughton's superb comic timing", Graham Howard "very much enjoyed seeing Pat Troughton and Jamie again" but "didn't really like the story," while it is David Bishop's favourite story "simply because of Troughton and a wonderful (if padded) Holmes script... it's fun."

Although Attack of the Cybermen rated second in story popularity the comments made don't really support this. Edwin Patterson points out that "Cybermen being killed by bullets, guns going off in the TARDIS and Cybermen entering the TARDIS without keys" blatantly contradict Doctor Who continuity. Graham Howard feels that "Attack of the Cybermen should have been a classic, but the Cybermen came over as being so pathetic, and the plot so dependant on Who history that it didn't work." But perhaps for the majority of respondents it did work. Certainly the Cybermen retained their popularity and as Paul Scoones suggests perhaps the viewers appreciate the "attempt to tie up series continuity with respect to the Cybermen."

According to Edwin Patterson Revelation of the Daleks was one of only two stories in this era which had "real Doctor Who feel in the plot and action." Certainly Jessica Smiler thought that it was "better than most" and that "the DJ was one of the saving qualities." Another respondent agreed with her, describing the DJ as "original and interesting", and Alistair Hughes offered what he liked about Colin Baker's performance in this story: "His face when he first sees the Daleks, his humbleness after attacking Orcini and the scene where he mockingly offers Davros his hand to shake are all wonderful moments." However Warwick Grey did not like this story "mainly because the Doctor was reduced to minor supporting character status. He had no real impact on the plot, and could have been removed from the story altogether quite easily." Given how unpopular the Sixth Doctor seems to be perhaps this minimal status helps to account for the popularity of this story.

Timelash was close on the heels of The Twin Dilemma for worst story. Michael Kinraid probably represents the general perspective when he writes "Timelash was pathetic, with its tinsel covered Kontron tunnel, the stupid Borad, third rate acting and fourth rate story" although Alistair Hughes actually appreciates the "delightfully tacky Timelash Corridor."!

As for The Twin Dilemma it scored lowest in every category except Director. David Bishop describes Colin Baker as having "the most inauspicious debut in TV history", Kevin Piper "hated the colours", Jessica Smiler thought it was "complete and utter rubbish" and another respondent strongly feels that in this story the Sixth Doctor was "completely HATEFUL!! Completely out of character!!"


"Not a lot to choose from." says Jessica Smiler "Personally I favour Peri since she had a better screaming voice than Mel whose rasp got on my nerves." Peri proved to be the preferred companion, scoring 33 votes, while Mel got only six for Best Assistant. The category of Worst Assistant seems rather redundant since the scores were simply reversed for this.

Darrell Patterson suggests a reason other than screaming for Mel's unpopularity: "I felt we didn't see enough of Mel to really get to know her and the full extent of her relationship with the Sixth Doctor."

But David Bishop is not so forgiving: "I refuse to call Mel 'best' in anything, except a straitjacket underwater!" I think that Peri's scoring well in this category is not an indication of true popularity but merely reflects the fact that while viewers generally did not like Peri they thought that Mel was even worse.


Sixth DoctorPeriMel
BestThe Two DoctorsMindwarpTerror of the Vervoids
WorstThe Twin DilemmaTimelashTerror of the Vervoids

The Sixth Doctor's best and worst appearances are in the stories which are regarded as being best and worst overall. This suggests that the quality of the Doctor's portrayal and the quality of the story are firmly interlinked in the minds of the audience.

For Mel and Peri stories from other eras could also be nominated for this category, and it is notable that while Peri's best story is Mindwarp. (10 votes) perhaps because, as David Bishop puts it "Peri actually got to do something" here, The Caves of Androzani scored her five nominations - a significant minority. That Terror of the Vervoids is regarded both as Mel's best and worst story suggests that it had more impact from her character than The Ultimate Foe at least.

Six People also felt that Mel had no best story. As for Dragonfire rating equally as her best story Tavish Fraser remarks: "What can I say about Mel? Dragonfire is her best story because it was when she left."


BestVervoidsTerror of the Vervoids
2ndAndrogumsThe Two Doctors
3rdCryonsAttack of the Cybermen
WorstGastropodsThe Twin Dilemma

"Appearance alone" is how Paul Scoones explains the popularity of the Vervoids, and adds that "the voices were almost impossible to hear and they have virtually no character." David Bishop felt that the Androgums were "easily the wittiest, most memorable monster" and Jessica Smiler describes the Cryons as "very pretty and quite believable."

The Gastropods were unequivocally unpopular. This might be because as Paul Scoones suggests, they had "no redeeming features whatsoever," or perhaps it is due to their featuring in the ever unpopular story The Twin Dilemma.


BestThe ValeyardThe Trial of a Time Lord
2ndThe MasterThe Mark of the Rani, The Ultimate Foe
3rdThe CybermenAttack of the Cybermen
WorstMestorThe Twin Dilemma

"There was something really evil about the Valeyard," writes Michael Kinraid, while another respondent elaborates, saying that the Valeyard is "a fascinating character; is he the Doctor's predestined future or only a possible future incarnation?" The Valeyard's popularity may also be related to the fact that he is in four linked stories.

According to Jessica Smiler "the Master did his usual chilling performance" and others evidently felt so too, as he was ranked second. The Cybermen's popularity seems partially due to their already being established in Doctor Who history.

Alistair Hughes writes: "I enjoyed seeing the Sixth Doctor getting batted about the TARDIS like a bluebottle in Attack of the Cybermen by the Cyberleader and cohorts. A case of 'mind your place - we've been in this programme for years!'" The Sontarans were also returning villains and as such might have been expected to rate highly, yet they did not. Tavish Fraser offers a reason for this: "The Sontarans are definitely not as good as in the first Sontaran story. The design is the worst Sontaran design I've ever seen. The skin is too light, the head is too lumpy and the features stand out too much."

"For naffness" David Bishop tells us "it is hard to top Mestor", and both being a Gastropod and featuring in The Twin Dilemma it is predictable that Mestor should be considered the worst of the villains.


BestSecond DoctorThe Two Doctors
2ndLyttonAttack of the Cybermen
3rd =GlitzThe Mysterious Planet, The Ultimate Foe
3rd =JamieThe Two Doctors
WorstRomulus and RemusThe Twin Dilemma

David Bishop sums up the Second Doctor and Jamie's success in this category when he says "Obviously the Second Doctor and Jamie win here, so easily established, already familiar and brilliantly brought to life by Troughton and Hines.

Paul Scoones claims that Lytton was "a wonderfully enigmatic character, poorly used in this story." And Michael Kinraid writes: "I loved Glitz, he was a typical Holmes creation - full of character. I was delighted to see him in Dragonfire - I hope he bumps off Mel!"

While it is predictable that the Second Doctor, Jamie and Lytton, who were all popular in their own times, should maintain that popularity over the newly introduced supporting characters it is good to see that one - Glitz - has stood out even though those who rated him highly may have been thinking of his performance in Dragonfire rather than his appearances in Sixth Doctor stories.

Romulus and Remus, representative of The Twin Dilemma disaster were described as "absolutely dreadful" and were, according to Kevin Piper "total brats". No other characters came close to rivalling them for worst place in the survey.


BestPeter MoffattThe Twin Dilemma, The Two Doctors
2ndChris CloughTerror of the Vervoids, The Ultimate Foe
3rdGraeme HarperRevelation of the Daleks
WorstPennant RobertsTimelash

Very few people commented here, suggesting that viewers are not particularly aware of individual directors. David Bishop felt that Graeme Harper was the best director for "making the best of a bad situation" in directing Revelation of the Daleks. Paul Scoones believes that the best way to describe Pennant Robert's directing is as "very, very average, showing a distinct lack of anything even vaguely resembling imagination." It is notable that this is the one category in which the subject of the worst position did not come from The Twin Dilemma. Instead it came from Timelash, the story originally ranking second to worst. This anomaly is presumably because Peter Moffatt who directed The Twin Dilemma also directed the most popular story The Two Doctors.


BestRobert HolmesThe Two Doctors, The Mysterious Planet, The Ultimate Foe
2ndEric SawardRevelation of the Daleks, Slipback
Worst =Pip & Jane BakerThe Mark of the Rani, Terror of the Vervoids, The Ultimate Foe
Worst =Anthony StevenThe Twin Dilemma

Jeff Stone states that Colin Baker stories "were not of an excellent calibre," and David Ronayne describes some of the scripts as "real turkeys". But Gerald Joblin is "continually amazed at the amount of criticism heaped on the Colin Baker era," and also asserts that "all the scripts were absolutely brilliant." Robert Holmes wrote the most popular story and as such is the most popular writer showing perhaps that a writer more than anyone else involved with creating a programme, is inseparable from his or her own work in the perceptions of the audience.


BestThe Two Doctors
2ndAttack of the Cybermen
3rdThe Nightmare Fair
2nd to WorstMindwarp
WorstThe Twin Dilemma

Terrance Dicks wrote most of the novelisations for Robert Holmes' stories but Holmes himself novelised The Two Doctors. In light of this Paul Scoones comments: "The novelisation of The Two Doctors is clearly superior to Terrence Dicks' writing and it is a pity that Holmes didn't do more of his own novelisations." Although Attack of the Cybermen rated second in this category as it also did in the stories category Darrell Patterson writes: "How can Attack of the Cybermen be any worse, yet the novel makes it seem like trash. The Doctor seems to be doing nothing in the story (he is really), the best part of this novel is the end - the blank pages at the end!" Finally the novelisation of The Twin Dilemma was evidently considered too bad to merit any comment.


Many people made interesting comments about Colin Baker's portrayal of the Doctor and about his era in general. Below I include a selection of these.

Jeff Stone I liked Colin Baker's Doctor. Sure he was arrogant, conceited and so on - but why not? His Doctor reminded me somewhat of Hartnell's incarnation - remote, alien, haughty and totally aware of his superiority to humans, yet the compassion was still there. The original 23rd season, had it gone ahead, would have saved Baker's Doctor with such brilliant classics as Made In Singapore and The Nightmare Fair, he couldn't have gone wrong."

Warwick Gray I think Colin was hamstrung from the very beginning when his basic personality was decided upon. It's important for the viewers to like the hero in an adventure series - if you don't then there's no real involvement in the stories, you just don't care if he's going to survive. I watched all of Colin Baker's stories in a very detached way, I never really thought of him as the Doctor, he was just filling in until the real thing (or real McCoy) arrived.

Apart from the irritating personality another minus was his outfit. All of the other Doctors may have dressed eccentrically, but they all wore real clothes. This was the first Doctor to wear an out-and-out costume, and I think it probably amplified Baker's staginess. How could you take him seriously when he was dressed like a circus clown? I don't think it's a coincidence that when he had a chance to ditch the coat in The Two Doctors he came across as a much more credible character.

Murray Cramp A quick think about the Colin Baker era confirms it as definitely the worst in the programme's history. His short time in the role produced the worst Doctor, Companion (Mel or Peri), costumes, scripts, acting, production, tacky camera work and scenarios. Apart from that it wasn't too bad.

Colin was a poor choice for the role. Although if he hadn't tried so hard, he might have been more tolerable. In him there was a distinct lack of character depth. I blame Saward for this. The Sixth Doctor's most prominent personality traits were not his most appealing. He was arrogant, egocentric, vindictive and very intelligent. The makings of a classic Doctor Who villain - and for me that is exactly what he was.

Three comments, one in favour of, one tolerant towards and one disparaging of Colin Baker's portrayal of the Doctor and of his era. In my own opinion the Sixth Doctor was completely out of character with the others, but responsibility for this should fall first to the producer, John Nathan-Turner, who reputedly instructed Colin Baker to play the Doctor in that way. Overall the one redeeming and notable feature of the era seems to be Patrick Troughton's appearance in The Two Doctors. Ironic.

Finally a comment from Alistair Hughes which seems to me to sum up the general view of the whole era: "Half a dozen of '6' wasn't worth one of the other half dozen!"

This item appeared in TSV 22 (April 1991).