Season 20 of the classic series was mostly regarded, even at the time as something of a well-intentioned failure. JN-T was fully cognizant of the impending 20th Anniversary, but unlike what the Moff had to stare down with the 50th wherein some sly callbacks to the series history were littered throughout the Series 7, JN-T lacked that kind of subtlety. Every story in 1983 prominently featured a villain from the past. While this may have gone unnoticed by the great unwashed, to fans, even in 1983, it was too much. Too much navel gazing for a program which relied on innovation.
This is not to say however that the individual stories themselves didn’t have their points of interest. Snakedance brought back the Mara to good effect. The King’s Demons cemented the annual bringing-back-the-Master pattern which was okay in small measure. Then there’s the ‘Black Guardian’ trilogy of stories from the middle of the season which called back the ‘Key to Time’ season. What was lost in these stories though was that unlike the Tom Baker run, where the White Guardian appears only once in The Ribos Operation and the Black once in The Armageddon Factor, from Mawdryn Undead to Enlightenment in 1983 they seemed much more central. Taken together the overall effect of the 20th season then was somewhat discomfiting. As fans found their voice around this time, the collective question being asked was more or less, where was the originality?
Truth be told it was there all along. The best remembered story of the 20th season was also the most original. It was Enlightenment.
Eternals. Sailing ships in space. Lusty pirates. All there, and more importantly a lot of character building. Turlough is the main beneficiary here. Understandable really as the fulcrum of the trilogy. Lynda Baron, whose Doctor Who appearances span from Hartnell (The Gunfighters) to Matt Smith (Closing Time) is a hoot as Captain Wrack. But the center of the story is the relationship between Tegan and Striker. It was all wonderfully surreal, and original. Definitely the best story of the 20th Season. In fact not even close.