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Season 16 Poll

Compiled by Paul Scoones

Another season of Doctor Who has flashed by our screens at lightning speed in just over eleven weeks. This time, it was the 16th Production Season 1978/9 comprised of 26 episodes or 6 serials from The Ribos Operation in December last year to The Armageddon Factor in February this year. Unofficially subtitled The Key to Time Season, it was the second of a trio of seasons produced by Graham Williams, and his script editor was Anthony Read, who joined the team during the previous season.

My thanks to the thirteen of you who bothered to put pen to polling form - it's the biggest response we've had since instituting the TSV Season Polls with Season 14. This is due in no small part to members of NZDWFC, whom it is hoped will be continuing the Season Polls as the new TSV Editors! As usual, voters' comments are included, along with my own commentary following each set of results.

1. The Stories

%Points 1sts6ths
The Pirate Planet21.25840
The Stones of Blood20.95730
The Ribos Operation16.14444
The Armageddon Factor15.44211
The Power of Kroll13.63715
The Androids of Tara12.83503

From the outset, the top three stories were always the first three of the season. Whilst The Ribos Operation remained steadily in third place, The Stones of Blood held a narrow lead, only to lose out to The Pirate Planet when the final votes were counted. Douglas Adams and David Fisher's stories were both their first time writing efforts for Doctor Who, and here managed to edge out the popular favourite, Robert Holmes. Holmes also fared quite badly with The Power of Kroll, significantly his last until his stunning comeback in Season 21 (also dealing with the theme of gun-running). In fact, Holmes' two stories came last more often than any other story in the season.

Warwick Gray was prompted to write: "Robert Holmes didn't really write The Power of Kroll did he? Nah..." It is possible that The Ribos Operation was crippled by being shown in two parts instead of four, thus it would not stick in peoples' minds as much as the others. Gerald Joblin was one who thought it worthy of first place, citing the Shrievenzales as a highlight of the story. Andrew Freeman adds the Ogri and Kroll to this: "All were first class monsters worthy of any sci-fi show," and called for the reinstatement of the Best Monster Category. Kingi Milward cited the most memorable scene as that of Kroll rising out of the water, but Murray Jackson thought only The Stones of Blood, The Pirate Planet and perhaps The Androids of Tara were much good. "Writing was restricted by the umbrella theme, so ideas were limited by a climax which had to include the Doctor discovering what the segment was, which quickly became repetitive." Andrew Freeman thought there were "no outstanding stories and no poor ones." For some time as the votes came in, the final three stories remained ranked in story order, and it was only towards the end that The Armageddon Factor shot ahead to take fourth place, narrowly missing out on third. Indeed, the final ranking allows the stories to be grouped into pairs, with only a matter of a couple of points between the stories in each pair, but a significant gap separates each pair.

2. Favourite Villain

The Pirate Captain24.7209
Vivien Fay (Cessair)22.21810
The Black Guardian13.6114
The Shadow11.195
Count Grendel of Gracht9.984
The Graff Vynda-K6.253
Queen Xanxia of Zanak3.732
Mr Fibuli2.521
The Marshal of Atrios2.521

Again, it was only in the final tally that the winner overtook the favourite. In this case, The Pirate Captain of Zanak, servant of Queen Xanxia won over the creepy and sinister Cessair of Diplos, also sometimes known as the Caillech, Lady Montcalm, Senhora Camara, Mrs Trefausis, and Miss Vivien Fay. Valentine Dyall's Black Guardian also scored highly, although he must have appeared in all of two or three minutes of one episode at the most. Jon Preddle voted K9 best villain, but I am not sure if this is a dislike of the dog, or a reference to the fact that K9 was working against the Doctor in The Armageddon Factor?

3. Favourite Supporting Character

Professor Rumford35.92811

"Prof Rumford (Beatrix Lehman) was brilliant, so eager and natural in front of cameras" said Scott Walker, and Kingi Milward added "Prof Rumford would have made a good companion despite her age." Whereas both Professor Amelia Rumford and the con artist Garron both received votes from 11 out of 13 readers, Rumford almost always got first place, whereas Garron was usually put second or third. There is a staggering gap between these two characters and the rest. Garron's accomplice, Unstoffe rated well probably because the two rogues made such a good classic Holmesian team. Lalla Ward's Princess Astra also received votes, and it is conceivable in this case that her Season 17/18 role as Romana had some bearing on her popularity here. If she had only appeared in The Armageddon Factor, would she have got the same votes? Drax appeared in only two episodes of that same story, though, but still proved to be popular - "Factor was saved at the eleventh 'hour by the appearance of Drax, a terrific character. Finally we get to meet a none-too-bright Time Lord, who obviously hails from Gallifrey's East End. Hope he pops up again sometime," said Warwick Gray.

4. Favourite Single Episode

The Pirate Planet 410.9135
The Stones of Blood 210.0126
The Armageddon Factor 610.0125
The Ribos Operation 110.0123
The Stones of Blood 48.4104
The Pirate Planet 36.783
The Pirate Planet 15.972
The Stones of Blood 15.972
The Pirate Planet 25.062
The Power of Kroll 35.062
The Armageddon Factor 35.062
The Armageddon Factor 53.442
The Androids of Tara 13.442
The Power of Kroll 42.531

All but 6 of the 26 episodes of Season 16 got at least one vote. For this reason, all but the highest scoring one vote episode are omitted from the list. At least 50% of every story was voted for, but The Stones of Blood and The Pirate Planet were the only ones voted in their entirety. The story totals (all the votes for episodes of each story added together) are as follows:

The Pirate Planet34
The Stones of Blood31
The Armageddon Factor25
The Ribos Operation13
The Power of Kroll11
The Androids of Tara5

As expected, these results roughly match those of the first category, although The Ribos Operation and The Armageddon Factor have quite significantly changed positions with each other. Very few voted for episodes of the first story, perhaps partly due to it being the furthest away in peoples' minds, and also due to the format in which TVNZ chose to show it. Jon Preddle had this to say of the final episode of the season: " Armageddon 6 was disappointing, with the season building up to the climax with the complete key, but fizzled out."

5. Best Direction

% Points
Pennant Roberts (The Pirate Planet) 46.26
George Spenton-Foster (The Ribos Operation) 23.13
Darrol Blake (The Stones of Blood) 23.12
Michael Hayes (The Androids of Tara / The Armageddon Factor) 15.42

The missing man is Norman Stewart, director of The Power of Kroll. He didn't get any votes. Interestingly, the best direction votes don't totally follow story preferences. Until near the end, all four directors were evenly matched, with two points/votes each, but the last five returns pushed Pennant Roberts into first place and George Spenton-Foster into second. Spenton-Foster made only two Doctor Who stories; his Image of the Fendahl won our Season 15 Poll, and not only in the director category either! Pennant Roberts didn't do so well, but has a firm win here: I have yet to see a season poll where the director of the winning story doesn't win as well

So there are the results. Also of interest are the readers' comments. The general opinion seemed to be that Calufrax and Princess Astra were the best disguised segments, and most thought the 'umbrella' theme of the season worked well, apart from constantly re-examining the reason behind the quest, and the need to work the segment into each story. Most cited memorable scenes, and these included that thrilling bit where the lifeblood was sucked out of those poor campers by the Ogri - pure horror! Also the Doctor pleading his defence when on trial before the Megara, his confrontation with the White Guardian and Kroll rising out of the lake, not to mention the 'dogfight' between K9 and the Polyphase

Avatron: Warwick Gray liked the idea of K9 meeting his match "like the Doctor has the Master, K9 got a corresponding adversary." By far the strangest comment was that made by Chris Noaro, who said that he didn't think it was in character for the Doctor to go fishing in The Androids of Tara. "It would be perfectly all right for Colin Baker's Doctor to go around killing innocent fish just for the fun of it, but not for the first five Doctors who have generally shown respect for the existence of all lifeforms."