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Season 26 Overview

By David Bishop

So Season 26 is over and Season 27 is unlikely to screen during 1990, if ever. What follows is a comparison of the season just past with the Silver Jubilee season that proceeded it. There is a high degree of similarity between aspects of the two seasons - indeed most of the stories can be linked from one year to the other. The most obvious comparison is that of Battlefield with Remembrance. Both were penned by Ben Aaronovitch, both opened their seasons, both were four partners, both ripped off the show's past for their inspiration.

Of the two, Remembrance shines out because it signaled Doctor Who's renaissance as the real McCoy and revived the fortunes of the much-abused Daleks, placing them firmly centre and leaving Davros to deal with the unlimited rice pudding. By comparison Battlefield is a series of bits and old plot elements, hashed together and spread out over too many episodes. The attempt to receive UNIT for the 1990s would have better over three parts.

The next pairing is The Happiness Patrol and Ghost Light, both seem to generate a love-it-or-loath-it reaction from viewers. Patrol was slagged off for being too silly, too pantomime when it was really a biting political satire of Thatcher's Britain dressed up in gaudy clothes. Viewers missed the subtleties and just heard the screeching of the delightful Kandyman. Like Patrol, Ghost Light benefits from repeated viewings, both are oddball stories to a degree, Ghost Light so because of the darkness of its humour. It suffers because it is too subtle and too much is squeezed into its 75 minutes. To fully appreciate this great but dense piece of writing by newcomer Marc Platt, watch it several times. Of the two stories, Patrol might win out because it is comprehensible on first screening but Ghost Light is extolling its virtues.

Just for a reversal of running order, let's compare the other pair of three-parters together although Silver Nemesis ran third in Season 25 and Survival fourth in Season 26.

The last two adventures are almost opposites - whereas Nemesis had four episodes worth of story and characters crammed badly into three parts, Survival scrapes two parts worth of plot, etc. very thinly over three episodes. Nemesis will because legend as a story of lost opportunities (plus it has the Cybermen always a bonus no matter how badly treated). But Survival is just predictable, standard and dull. Nemesis wins by default.

Finally Greatest Show in the Galaxy is sadly mismatched against the wonderful Curse of Fenric. Curse almost needed a fifth episode such was its class, whereas Greatest Show is refreshingly original but only has enough material for three parts, not the four it got. Paired back an episode it could have achieved near-classic status too.

Overall I would rate Season 26 slightly higher than 25.

This item appeared in TSV 17 (January 1990).

Index nodes: Season 26, Battlefield, Ghost Light, The Curse of Fenric, Survival