Doctor Who, Season Nine: Back out in space and time (#SFWApro)

Jon Pertwee’s third season was a season of changes. After using the Master in every serial the previous season, the producers decide to cut back so his appearances would be a welcome surprise. They were also tired with using the UNIT format in every story, so they found ways to get the Doctor and Jo Grant back into space and time without untethering the Doctor completely from Earth.

doctorwho_dayofthedaleksDAY OF THE DALEKS, for instance, has time travelers from the future attacking a peace conference in the belief one of the diplomats is plotting to launch a nuclear war. However that war gave the Daleks control of future Earth so they’re coming back to see everything plays out the way it’s supposed to. There’s time travel in this one, but only using the future travelers’ tech, not the TARDIS. It’s a good story, though hamstrung slightly by only having access to three Daleks. The serial introduces the Dalek’s orc-like hench-aliens, the Ogrons, but they didn’t take: one more serial next season (IIRC) and they were gone (all rights to image with current owner).

THE CURSE OF PELADON has the Time Lords once again pluck the TARDIS into space so that the Doctor and Jo can intervene on the planet Peladon, as the forward-thinking monarch and his reactionary ministers lock horns over whether they should join the Earth federation and enter the modern world. This is a rather old-fashioned costume drama in many ways (even though it was inspired by debates over Britain joining the European Union, known back then as the Common Market), but it’s fun, and makes good use of the Ice Warriors. However unlike the previous season’s Colony in Space it’s hard to see any reason the Time Lords should care enough about Peladon to deploy the Doctor.

THE SEA DEVILS are kin to last season’s Silurians who like their brethren are disgruntled to wake up and find evolved apes have taken over their planet. The Doctor hopes that this time he can broker a peaceful solution, but the Master is just as determined to unleash the Sea Devils on humanity. This could have been great, but at six episodes it feels padded, included a protracted fencing scene between the Master (Roger Delgado was a skilled fencer) and the Doctor (because every high-security prison has fencing foils on the wall).

Then the Time Lords once again use the Doctor as an errand boy in THE MUTANTS, sending him to a planet where the oppressive Earth colonial regime is struggling against granting the natives independence — and what about the strange mutations among the inhabitants? This is too stock, with way too many familiar tropes, to work for me.

THE TIME MONSTER plays like an unsuccessful knockoff of last season’s The Daemons. This time the Master wants to destroy Earth by trapping the cosmic entity Kronos, a time-devouring chronovore. This turns out to require a time trip back to ancient Atlantis, with the Doctor following along to stop him (the TARDIS is up and running again) so we get a lot of Lost Continent sword-and-sandal adventure along with the SF. Although Roger Delgado is in fine form as the Master, overall this is pretty mediocre, particularly the visuals for Kronos (looking something like an acrobat in a white costume and floppy sleeves).

Overall this was inferior to the previous season, but still enjoyable—of course, I’m a diehard fan so YMMV. Haven’t started Season Ten yet, but I’ll return to the topic when I do.

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