For any long-term fan who has thought ‘seriously’ about their ‘top ten’ stories or lists to that effect, what that list ultimately shows–especially for a show like Doctor Who with an enormously long tail to it–is when that fan got into Doctor Who, or what era imprinted itself. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out which era worked its magic on the Tour.
#6 — The Ark in Space — The Tour argues that Ark was the most successful second story for any Doctor ever. It’s certainly a stark shift away from the slightly frothy tone of Robot. At once both bleak and hopeful, this is where Tom Baker made his bones as the Doctor, and was given some memorable speechifying to make the point. He also does a lot of expressive eye-acting. There’s tension from the jump, from the airless episode 1 where Sarah Jane gets caught in the works to the Wirrn advance in episode 4, it’s just terrific throughout. The Tour Honchos can’t begin to be objective about The Ark in Space. It was the first story we saw (oh so many years ago) so to say it made quite an impression would and should be obvious. Not a bad way to start is it?
#5 — Inferno — An epic story (and, in the opinion at least of this fan, his favorite UNIT story, noting also that his favorite Pertwee overall, The Sea Devils, is not a UNIT story in any real sense) and also makes my Top Ten from the classic series. It’s a tribute to Caroline John how well her ‘Section Leader Shaw’ squared off in intellect and reserved cool against both Pertwee and Nick Courtney when the whole world was crumbling around them. At seven episodes the story still seems taut and never flags, even if some of the interpersonal dealings, especially with Stahlman, did seem repetitious after awhile.
#4 — Pyramids of Mars — An ancient Egyptian tomb, a possessed human professor, killer Mummies, a deranged, evil alien god and menacing organ music – what more could you want?
#3 — The Deadly Assassin — So much of what we call Doctor Who mythology happened in The Deadly Assassin from Time Lord fashion to the 12-regeneration limit (a problem that one couldn’t have envisioned needing solving at some indeterminate point) that it would not be facetious to state that The Deadly Assassin should be required viewing for any dedicated Doctor Who fan. Then again, the beauty of Doctor Who lies in that (mythology) this is simply accepted today and some clever writer can still make both it and the future continue to propel Doctor Who forward.
#2 — The Talons of Weng-Chiang — While it’s hard and perhaps needlessly difficult to claim any single Doctor Who story as required viewing, even for relatively new converts to the show, Talons certainly comes close. Tom Baker in a deerstalker, Christopher Benjamin as Henry Gordon Jago, Leela at least partially as a proper English lady, magic and mysticism. This is a dark story from the pen of the absolute master of the craft Robert Holmes, and it all works amazingly well. Thanks in part to Big Finish one of the lingering impressions from Talons is the combination of Jago and Litefoot as Victorian Adventurers. They’re certainly in the pantheon of great Holmesian double-acts no question about it, but at least in Talons it’s worth remembering that the characters didn’t actually meet until midway through episode 5.
#1 — The Caves of Androzani — It’s hardly an audacious statement to say that Caves has been so loved and for so long that it’s almost dismissed in some corners. But if it’s been awhile since you either saw Caves or even considered watching it. curiosity will not be your downfall. The Tour regards Caves as an old reliable friend. and we make sure to watch the story once, perhaps twice a year, but not more than that. Holding the memory of a great story is every bit as important as the story itself, and the occasional booster shot makes the story indelible.