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The Seventh Doctor Era Survey Results

Statistics by Paul Scoones
Analysis by Felicity Fletcher


There were 102 respondents to this survey. 89 were male, 12 were female and 1 provided no information on gender or age. The age range was from 10 to 35yrs with the average age being 17. When taken separately the average for males was 16 and for females 19yrs. Many people provided comments on the Seventh Doctor and his era - fortunately the NZDWFC logo erroneously printed in the space left for comments did not deter those who had some thing to say as can be seen in the analysis of the survey which follows.


1stThe Curse of Fenric13.1%
2ndRemembrance of the Daleks12.5%
3rdGhost Light10.2%
7thThe Greatest Show in the Galaxy8.1%
8thSilver Nemesis8.0%
9thThe Happiness Patrol5.9%
10thParadise Towers5.6%
11thTime and the Rani5.0%
12thDelta and the Bannermen4.6%

"The Curse of Fenric may well be Doctor Who's finest hour (or 90 minutes)" writes Warwick Gray. "Easily the best story of the 80s, if not the entire series, it succeeds on every level: script, direction, special effects, acting - there's a depth there unmatched in any other story in the show, although Ghost Light comes close. With these two stories Doctor Who has finally begun to gain an adult perspective." Michael Kinraid also "loved The Curse of Fenric for the atmospheric, claustrophobic feeling in the later episodes."

Remembrance of the Daleks was also very well received though David Lawrence claims "The story moves far too fast and relies too much on visual effects, but this is alright as the story itself is well constructed." As can be seen later in the survey, the Daleks play a considerable part in the popularity of this story though Ben Aaronovitch's writing should not be undervalued.

David Lawrence goes on to say, "Ghost Light would have to be the most intelligently written Doctor Who story I've ever seen. There is so much in the story it's just amazing. The acting is brilliant ... I can't describe the story. It's just wonderful." In the same story Michael Kinraid appreciates "The little one liners and such from Sylv: "Quiet, Eliza, I'm making some small talk', etc."

Battlefield is an "innovative" story according to Paul Scoones "if only because it sets the scene for happenings in the Doctor's future." I enjoyed this story, particularly for its treatment of secondary characters, which came over as well rounded personalities with histories of their own.

Jessica Smiler felt that Survival was the best story of the era, saying "They really got into the feel of it. Ace's performance was wonderful, especially in the scenes with Karra," while a number of people commented that the special effects really made the story for them.

Silver Nemesis generally seems to have been received with disappointment and David Ronayne probably sums up public opinion when he says "Silver Nemesis - a story that brought back the Cybermen, explored the Doctor's mysterious past, an anniversary special following the brilliant Remembrance, it managed to pull off the impossible - with all this going for it, it was still utter crap! The only interesting thing about the book was that it was worse than the show."

Unexpectedly Delta and the Bannermen beat out Pip and Jane Baker's offering for story held in least regard. Paul Scoones feels it is "Just not typical Doctor Who, but it is indicative of everything that is wrong with the JNT era - it is light entertainment, not high drama."


1stTom Baker28%
2ndSylvester McCoy26%
3rdPeter Davison21%
4thJon Pertwee13%
5thPatrick Troughton9%
6thWilliam Hartnell2%
7thColin Baker1%

Tom Baker continues to be the archetypal Doctor for many people, but the results show McCoy also to be firmly appreciated. Vaughan Slinn offers an explanation for this: "I thought McCoy really stood out against the others. His portrayal was far more interesting, he made himself mysterious and in his own mind he had everything under control." Jamas Enright agrees with this, saying "From the start of each adventure the Doctor knows exactly where they are and what is going on and no one else has any idea what's happening."

Warwick Gray, another enthusiastic supporter, feels that "Sylvester had it all - the mystery of Hartnell, the vulnerability of Troughton and the eccentricity of Tom Baker." He then goes on to compare Doctors: "Try and imagine Jon Pertwee in The Happiness Patrol, or Peter Davison in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy and it becomes obvious what an accomplished actor McCoy really is." For my part I think McCoy's Doctor was very accessible to the audience. In The Curse of Fenric we can identify both with his concern for Ace and his sense of purpose in protecting the world. His liveliness and sense of humour also stand out in welcome contrast after Peter Davison's detached portrayal of the role and Colin Baker's off-putting aggressiveness.

Age Split Results

10 - 16 yrs

1stPeter Davison30%
2ndTom Baker28%
3rdSylvester McCoy26%
4thJon Pertwee10%
5thWilliam Hartnell4%
6thPatrick Troughton2%
7thColin Baker0%

17 - 35 yrs

1stTom Baker32%
2ndSylvester McCoy26%
3rdPatrick Troughton21%
4thJon Pertwee10%
5thPeter Davison8%
6thColin Baker3%
7thWilliam Hartnell0%

The respondents were also split into two categories on the basis of age to see if there were any differences in the preferences of older and younger fans. Both groups placed McCoy and Tom Baker among their top three preferences for Doctor but the younger group firmly put Davison there too, while the older group put Troughton in third place. It has often been suggested that because Peter Davison is the youngest actor ever to play the Doctor younger viewers may find it easier to relate to his portrayal of the character. Paul Scoones suggests that "A greater appreciation of the history of the series comes with maturity" and this may account for the bias towards Troughton in the older group. Furthermore there is the allure of the missing Troughton episodes to the seasoned fan.



"Anyone who picks Mel over Ace is probably blind and definitely deaf," Paul Rigby states. Certainly Ace is very popular. Many people describe her as being one of the best companions ever, and Ace's character development is cited as being one reason for her appeal. Leigh Hendry feels that "The allowing of Ace to be a great part of the show in her own right has really added another dimension to a classic show!" However not everybody had an unqualified appreciation of Ace. David Lawrence tells us that "She'd be a bit more realistic if she swore a lot," and Chris Noaro has an even more extreme view; "Ace with her pathetic street talk would have to be one of the worst companions ever." Alistair Hughes also comments, "Essentially I liked Ace but felt that her 'Nitro 9', baseball bat etc ... threatened the credibility of the Doctor's foes more than K9 ever did. She's one companion I really wish had been killed off (the Cybermen got Adric, I bet they'd love another go at Ace!)"

Few people actually commented on Mel in her own right. The instruction on the survey form was 'Circle your favourite companion from the McCoy era: MEL ACE', and Jessica Smiler's response was typical: "One question - is anyone going to vote for Mel?"


1stThe Brigadier47%
2ndThe Master20%
5thThe Rani6%

"The Brigadier has easily the best return" David Bishop states, and obviously a lot of respondents agreed with him. The Brigadier is a popular character to start with. Since his first appearance with Patrick Troughton he has appeared with every Doctor except Colin Baker's. He provides a valuable continuity link in the series; his knowing the Doctor in five different incarnations yet accepting him as being the same person helps give credibility to the idea that despite the transformations the Doctor is but a single person whose memories and experiences remain unchanged. However the same could be said of the Master s relationship to the Doctor and therefore more is needed to account for the audience's preference for the Brigadier. The Brigadier is a likeable character, always seeking to do what is right and gallant with it as can be seen in Battlefield when he prevents the Doctor from having to shoot the Destroyer. He is also a character who changes over time. When we first meet him he is an army Colonel, then he becomes head of the British section of UNIT. In Davison's era he is teaching Maths in a school and in McCoy's era he has retired and married Doris, all showing us that in Doctor Who characters do have lives independently of the title character.

By contrast the Master has remained relatively unchanged throughout the duration of the series. Elvis Bowring feels that "the Master is the Doctor's perfect foe, they can meet anywhere at any time and are perfectly matched." Nevertheless his impact on the audience is considerably less than that of the Brigadier in this era.

"Glitz went through an interesting change in character," says David Ronayne, "in The Mysterious Planet he was a dangerous profiteer, in Dragonfire he was a pantomime pirate."

Davros appears in a very strong story and according to Paul Scoones was "possibly overshadowed by other, even stronger elements in that story," the presence of the Daleks as a whole and the links to An Unearthly Child for example.

David Lawrence offers an insightful comment on the limited appeal of the Rani: "The Rani had the potential to become a good villain but turns into a typical megalomaniac wanting domination of the universe." However any character written for by Pip and Jane Baker could be regarded as being disadvantaged.



"Where's Mel in this section!" demands Darrell Patterson, however comments suggest that people feel considerably friendlier towards the Daleks than they do towards Mel. In past surveys the Cybermen have been more popular than the Daleks, but the Cybermen seem to have been. greatly let down in this era by appearing only in a story like Silver Nemesis and they scored even less well than might have been predicted before this story was shown. Alan Higgins illustrates this by writing "After seeing my favourite monsters, the Cybermen, being defeated so easily when compared to one of the best Dalek performances ever I couldn't vote for the whimpy Cybermen."

Christopher Owen was very impressed by Ben Aaronovitch's treatment of the Daleks in his novelisation of Remembrance of the Daleks; "The Daleks are a treat, with aspects of them revealed we have never seen before. Birthing crèches? Language? Battle tactics? I used to think Daleks just fired their guns at each other. Suddenly I am enlightened on the six-finger attack formation, electronic countermeasures, heads up displays, and redlining control systems. It also dispels the myth that Daleks are emotionless." Meanwhile David Bishop was much affected by the sight of the Daleks on screen; "Daleks going up stairs! I had this urge to go behind the sofa again, for the first time in years, it was quite uncanny!"

Finally on a lighter note Jessica Smiler confesses that she "only circled the Daleks because of Sophie Aldred's marvellous baseball scene."


2ndThe Destroyer32%
Cat People11%
5thThe Ancient One6%
6thSpecial Weapons Dalek5%
7th=The Cleaners3%

All of the following had one vote each: Husks, Clowns, The Gods of Ragnarok, Kroagnon, The Kandyman, Light, Glitz

On the subject of Haemovores Alan Higgins writes, "A fantastic design, one of the best monsters ever, enhanced so superbly by the innovative directing." Paul Rigby felt that "The creepy Haemovores with their unpleasant intentions came across as credible monsters, something from one's worst imaginings."

Geoffrey Tompsett thought that "the Cat People were excellent," but Nigel Windsor describes them as "People dressed up in those ridiculous cat costumes who seemed to be making it up as they went along."

"I know the Destroyer didn't do much," says Christopher Owen "But when they can get a monster to drool like that they deserve some credit."

The Special Weapons Dalek is "IM-PRES-SIVE" according to Edwin Patterson, and also "The best thing invented since the pepperpots which shout 'Exterminate!'"


3rdChief Clown14%
Josiah Smith5%

David Bishop firmly states that "Fenric was great," and Edwin Patterson feels that it was "a neat twist having a bad luck charm for a name," while David Ronayne says of Fenric "a villain with a style and presence not seen since Roger Delgado's Master. The absolute personification of ultimate evil."

The Chief Clown was thought to be "chilling" by Davids Lawrence and Bishop, while Jessica Smiler felt this adjective could be applied to all the clowns in the Psychic Circus.

I enjoyed Morgaine as a villain, largely because of her link to the Doctor as Merlin but also because of the strength and ruthlessness with which the character is played. She has an unshakable belief that what she does is right and will not compromise even for the sake of her son's life.

Finally Christopher Owen gives his view of Josiah Smith from Ghost Light: "Josiah Smith is probably one of the first intelligently designed villains in Doctor Who. Despite being Victorian in appearance and manner, he comes across as more dangerous than the Master, the Rani, or all the other host of arch-villains. The smoked glasses are the perfect touch to this sinister character - but interestingly enough with one weakness. In only three short episodes we find out more about Josiah Smith than in two decades of the Master. He is struggling to become accepted as a Victorian gentleman, he is terrified of Control, and he seeks to dominate the planet he is trapped on.

All of the following had one vote each in the category of Villains: Ratcliffe, Light, Cat People, Lady Peinforte, Whizz Kid, Ringmaster, Great Architect, Mrs Thatcher, Dalek Kid, Doctor Who, Sylvester McCoy.


1stBrigadier Bambera21%
2nd=Captain Sorin6%
Captain Cook4%
7th=Richard Maynard3%
Sergeant Paterson2%
Kingpin / Deadbeat2%
Earl Sigma2%

Brigadier Winifred Bambera, clearly the most popular character new to the McCoy era, is a wonderful contrast to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart yet still retains the original values of UNIT. David Bishop describes Bambera and Ancelyn as "a wonderful double act, almost worthy of Robert Holmes!"

Of Mags and Kingpin, Jessica Smiler writes "They put on a great show - next time their circus is in town count me in!"

Control from Ghost Light was Paul Rigby's favourite new character and he justifies this by saying "Right from episode one when she was a 'poor silent brute' until she evolved into a proper civilised creature I was intrigued by her, and after reading Marc Platt's novel my curiosity increased."

Altogether the McCoy era produced a host of interesting characters; 38 were nominated.

All of the following had one vote each: Inspector MacKenzie, Priscilla P, Pex, Nimrod, Dragon, Ace, Kangs, The Rani, Kane, Chief Caretaker, Toll Keeper, Fenric, Cheetah People, Gavroc, Karra, Mike, Mr Spock, Deputy Chief Caretaker, Gwendoline, Mrs Pritchard, Redvers Fenn-Cooper.


This section suffered greatly because at the time of the survey a number of the books were difficult to obtain, or in the case of Battlefield had not even come out, and therefore a large proportion of the respondents had only read a few of the books.

Books read by 15-21 people
Paradise Towers
Ghost Light
The Curse of Fenric

Books read by 46-58 people
Time and the Rani
Delta and the Bannermen
Remembrance of the Daleks
The Happiness Patrol
Silver Nemesis
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

All this being the case I believe it would be misleading to print the rather dubious results obtained in this area. However some trends did clearly emerge. Remembrance of the Daleks was a much enjoyed book, however when only those who have The Curse of Fenric and Remembrance are compared the two books come out exactly equal in preference. Therefore it is highly likely that had Fenric been as widely available as Remembrance those two books would have rated in the top two places and it is impossible to say which book would be first.

The commonly read Delta and the Bannermen, Time and the Rani, and Silver Nemesis all received low rankings and were not challenged in this by any of the less widely available books.

Understandably there were few comments on the novelisations but Alan Higgins believes that "the McCoy era has produced some of the best novelisations of the entire range ... many, especially The Happiness Patrol were more enjoyable than the televised versions."

Of Ghost Light Christopher Owen says "The atmosphere of the television programme remains, and the characters are developed wonderfully. The conversations between Redvers Fenn-Cooper and Nimrod have got to be the strangest moments in the show's history. One's living in another continent, the other in a different time. The dialogue could only have been created by a suitably twisted mind."

But Owen found The Curse of Fenric a disappointment perhaps because it reminded him "too much of the ubiquitous Terrance Dicks factory-made article, even down to the large type making an unwelcome return." By contrast Paul Rigby describes The Curse of Fenric as "Just excellent... this story explains any problems you may have with the plot ... the extra documents are wonderful."

Elvis Bowring comments "Delta and the Bannermen was well written and full of suspense. It made me want to see the story." Of his novelisation placement Chris Rainbow says "I have only entered Time and the Rani because it's the only Seventh Doctor story I've read. I've put it twelfth because it was awful!"


1stBen Aaronovitch17.2%
2ndIan Briggs17.1%
3rdMarc Platt13.2%
4thStephen Wyatt10.8%
5thRona Munro10.3%
6thKevin Clarke9.7%
7thGraeme Curry8.9%
8thMalcolm Kohll6.7%
9thPip & Jane Baker6.1%

The difference in the scores for Ben Aaronovitch and Ian Briggs was so small as to be meaningless and it is safe to say that among the respondents to this survey these two writers are equally liked. "After watching Remembrance," writes Gareth Moore, "I knew we had found our man, if there is a season 27 I'll want Aaronovitch to write it." According to Paul Scoones, Ian Briggs is "an intelligent and innovative writer who has provided the series with one of its most thought provoking and exciting stories." One might also be tempted to think that his popularity is partially due to the fact that he is the writer who got rid of Mel. Lastly Gareth Moore tells us "When I read Pip and Jane Baker wouldn't write any more I nearly cried with happiness.


1stMark Ayres38%
2ndKeff McCulloch34%
3rdDominic Glynn28%

"Mark Ayres' atmospheric incidentals were a vital ingredient in the final result in making his three stories [Greatest Show, Ghost Light, and Fenric] the successes they were," Alan Higgins tells us, and Christopher Owen feels that Ayres' stories " have a different mood from Keff McCulloch's mainly synthesised offerings." But David Lawrence writes that in "Ghost Light the music was too loud in places and blotted out dialogue. I don't believe incidental music should be that dominant in a story." However according to David Bishop, "Glynn pips Mark Ayres - his music in The Happiness Patrol was wonderfully evocative and easily the best technical feature of Survival."


1stAlan Wareing22.8%
2ndNicholas Mallett21.9%
3rdAndrew Morgan21.6%
4thChris Clough19.3%
5thMichael Kerrigan14.4%

"Alan Wareing made Greatest Show menacing, Ghost Light almost comprehensible, and Survival visually interesting, despite a script worthy of Pip and Jane for dullness!" claims David Bishop. Paul Scoones also comments on directors: "Nicholas Mallett proved with The Curse of Fenric that here was a director with talent - something not obvious from the uninspired Paradise Towers. But best of all has to be Alan Wareing, who displayed considerable skill when tackling all three of his stories. The direction was to my mind the best feature of Greatest Show, especially the atmospheric circus interiors. Ghost Light was a story which could easily have failed on screen, but Wareing succeeded in providing a very claustrophobic and spooky tale. The sequence where Ace is 'trapped' by the various noises including the sirens is especially memorable. Survival, despite being a rather thin and insubstantial story, was transformed into an interesting and attention grabbing adventure with Wareing's skilful handling."

There is no particular relationship between ranking of directors and the ranking of the stories they directed, suggesting that the respondents were judging directing on more than just their own enjoyment of the stories. Michael Kerrigan was placed last but this may be due to the fact that he only directed one story on which his ability could be assessed.


1stSeason 2644%
2ndSeason 2535%
3rdSeason 2421%

"I think Season 24 was the biggest load of crap I've seen on Doctor Who since The Twin Dilemma and Timelash. The plots and especially the incidental music were absolute drivel," states Antony Waite, and Fleur Hardman thinks that "JNT deserves a lot" of credit for not quitting after the Season 24 effort." But Stephen Austin while regarding Season 24 as "mediocre" does say in it's favour "I think that cast and crew made the best job that they could have on slightly crumby sets and scripts (see, I'm standing up for Bonnie Langford here!)" He then goes on to say that Season 25 "improved on the previous season, but I don't think they really found the right mix of light comedy and serious drama that they got for season 26."

Ken Tod comments "The Ace/Doctor partnership is a good one and it was at its best in Season 26. Of particular note was the development of Ace's character. Also it was good to see in Seasons 25 and 26 that the programme is finally being taken seriously again by both the production team and the guest actors alike." But Nigel Windsor would not agree; "Season 26 has to rank as one of the worst seasons on record since Season 17. The stories were muddled, confused and made little sense."

However as far as the majority are concerned I think the results of the story ranking speak for themselves. With the exception of Remembrance of the Daleks from Season 25 in second place, the top five positions go to Season 26 stories, the next three places are occupied by Season 25 stories and the bottom four places are taken by the stories of Season 24; Season 26 was an unqualified success. I think Ehren Stowers sums up the general view well when he says "I feel that the McCoy stories are getting better with each new season."


1stTom Baker's Era34%
2ndJon Pertwee's Era27%
3rdPeter Davison's Era13%
4thWilliam Hartnell's Era10%
5thPatrick Troughton's Era7%
6thSylvester McCoy's Era5%
7thColin Baker's Era4%

Below are a number of comments on the McCoy era:

Christopher Owen The McCoy era as a whole was a welcome relief after Colin Baker's time as the Doctor. The production values were better which meant that even disaster areas like Delta and the Bannermen, Silver Nemesis or Battlefield were easy to palate, and it was only later in the dissection that they fell apart.

Haydon Brunning I believe this era to be very 'un Doctor Who-ish' as it is becoming far too like any other sci-fi show whereas it used to be unique.

Paul Rigby Unfortunately when I come to compare McCoy's era, of stories with other Doctors' I feel, to be fair, I must place it near the bottom, not because the stories are bad but because there are so few of them to compare with the masses of good stories from most of the other Doctors.

Chris Rainbow Although I like the McCoy era I think it lacks Whoishness because: (1) It's been really short. (2) There are too many people suddenly cropping up from the Doctor's past that we've never met!

Keith Harrison The McCoy era marks a return to more traditional Doctor Who values, especially non (physical) violence, mental agility and lateral philosophy.

This item appeared in TSV 23 (June 1991).