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The Bottom 10

A Celebration of 35 Years of Doctor Who

By Paul Scoones

One year ago Doctor Who Magazine extended an invitation to its readers to take part in a survey of fan opinion. The principal category in this survey involved rating Doctor Who stories on a scale of one to ten. The porportionate tally system used to tabulate results meant that readers were only asked to evaluate the stories they felt they could give an honest opinion on. Approximately 2600 responses were received, making the survey the largest ever poll of fan opinion. This has resulted in what is arguably the most definitive expression of collective fandom's assessment of the worth of the television stories. The results appeared in DWM 265, published last May, featuring critical essays on the ‘top ten’ stories.

November 1998 marked the 35th anniversary of Doctor Who. The passing of one of the show's anniversary milestones is often marked by a celebration of the best that the series has to offer. In a departure from the norm - and unashamedly taking our inspiration from DWM's survey results - TSV has taken an opposite approach.

To celebrate the so-called ‘Bottom Ten’ of Doctor Who, TSV has assembled a group of writers and asked them to cast a fresh eye over those stories fandom has collectively decided are the absolute nadir of televised Who.


The stories which didn't quite make it into the bottom ten, placed 140th to 149th in the DWM rankings...

20The King's Demons56.26%
19The Krotons55.47%
18The Mutants55.43%
17The Web Planet55.41%
16The Time Monster55.28%
15The Power of Kroll54.47%
14Warriors of the Deep54.37%
13The Space Museum52.63%
12The Dominators52.57%
11The Horns of Nimon52.42%

In common with DWM's decision over the canonicity of the 1993 Dimensions in Time, we have not included this controversial tale in the rankings. For the record, this multi-Doctor charity drama-sketch would have occupied first place in the bottom ten, with a score of 30.63%. Shada is also banished to non-canonical limbo, and K9 and Company was not included in the survey.

McGann aside, Jon Pertwee is the only Doctor to escape inclusion in the bottom ten. Pertwee is apparently fandom's ‘Average Doctor’, because he is also absent from the top ten. The third Doctor's least-liked story is The Time Monster, 16th from the bottom of the list.

A diverse group of writers has been assembled to assess this bottom ten collection. Some need no introduction to any well-read fan of the series - Gary Russell, Andrew Pixley, David J. Howe. Gary also contributed to DWM's top ten collection, writing about The Robots of Death. The two incomplete Troughton tales on the bottom ten are handled by Bruce Robinson and Robert D. Franks, two fans who are dedicated to producing amateur video reconstructions of the missing episodes using a combination of high-quality soundtracks and telesnaps (TSV will feature an article on their work in a forthcoming issue).

The other half of the group is comprised of TSV regulars and not-so-regulars. Self-confessed Mel fan Alden Bates covers one of Bonnie's three entries in the bottom ten. Bevan Lewis, Graham Howard, Peter Adamson are all past TSV reviewers, and the elusive Phillip J Gray makes a welcome return to these pages after a long absence. Phillip is an old hand at defending arguably unjustly-maligned stories, having previously written articles for TSV about Dimensions in Time (issue 42), and The Horns of Nimon (issue 41), the latter gaining considerably wider exposure when it was selected for inclusion in Licence Denied, published by Virgin in 1997. The unleashing of Phillip's article on the wider world of fandom may well have contributed to The Horns of Nimon's narrow escape from the bottom ten - it falls just outside this collection, with a score of 52.42%.

In all but two instances, the writers have worked to an imposed word limit. The two exceptions are deliberate; one piece doubles as the usual TSV review of a recently-released video, and the other has been accorded extra wordage by virtue of occupying first place.

Here, then, in reverse order, are the ‘worst of the best’ - those adventures which two thousand, six hundred fans have collectively decided are the absolute dregs of the series. And, if the ten writers assembled here individually conclude that there's something of real worth in their chosen subject, then perhaps in some small way the series as a whole gains a form of redemption; that is to say that if the worst that the show supposedly has to offer is really not all that bad, then what better way to celebrate the overall worth of our favourite show?

Happy 35th birthday, Doctor Who...

This item appeared in TSV 56 (October 1998).