Friday, April 10, 2015

THE FIVE SONGS: THIRTEENTH INSTANCE

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY BACK IN 2008, I BEGAN AN (INFREQUENTLY) REOCCURING FEATURE ON THIS BLOG CALLED "THE FIVE SONGS".  I sadly haven't done a new one since 2010.  But since this is the 10th anniversary of this here blog, I thought I'd revive it.  Now, I doubtless let it fall by the wayside after I created my audio blog "BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA" where I could post all the songs I wanted.  However, the actual concept of "The Five Songs" wasn't about posting audio but conceptually choosing a block of five songs which somehow went together.  If you click on the label "The Five Songs" at the bottom of this post, you can see all the previous instances as well as a "Mission Statement" explaining the concept.  Basically, the idea was inspired by Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Five Mystical Songs", the songs must be carefully handpicked by me from only songs I actual own and any reader of this blog may suggest a "subject" for a future "Five Songs" post which I may choose to "accept" if I think I can choose five appropriate songs for said subject.  

Since this is the 10th anniversary of this blog, I thought songs about the past would be apropos.  Some of you reading will no doubt think "Does ever look in any OTHER direction?"  The simple answer would be:  Nope, not really.  And until the present gets less tedious and more interesting (and as long as this 10th anniversary is going on), I don't see that changing anytime soon.  With that, "The Five Songs" brings you a group of ditties which I really resonate with and capture that "reminiscing about bygone days" vibe I'm looking for.  And for this week, you'll be able to listen to "The Five Songs" over in that box on the right hand column over there.  Just click on the first sound file and listen away (you can also have them play one after the other by selecting that little sprocket-looking icon and clicking on the autoplay thang.

  1. REMEMBER (CHRISTMAS)  by Harry Nilsson  -  Ever since I was a child I've loved this song.  And it happens to be from one of my favourite albums of all time, too.  Me parentals bought this album new upon release and it spun quite often in the old wood-paneled living room on Linwood Avenue in Maple Surple.  The song, contrary to the parenthetical in the title, has nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas.  I suppose the word appearing in the parentheses is due to the use of "sleigh bells" in the song.  These are not meant to evoke the yuletide season per se but are instead, I think, meant to drum up feelings of nostalgia which are readily triggered by the sound of these sleigh bells and their associations with childhood Christmases.  But this is not a Christmas song, I swear!  It's also not about STAR WARS despite it's opening line:  "Long ago/Far away/Life was clear/Close your eyes".  These words hopefully cause the listener to immediately open themselves up to remembering as the dreamy instrumental piano brings us to the line:  "Remember/is a place from long ago/remember/filled with everything you know/remember/when you're sad and feeling down/remember/turn around".  This, to me, warns that in our seemingly endless surge towards this "future" that everyone's so concerned about, it's important to stop and turn around towards our past so that we don't forget what brought us to this point and what formed us as human beings.  I have to stop myself from simply printing ALL the lyrics to this magnificent song but here's the next important line:  "Remember/life is just a memory/remember/close your eyes so you can see".  There's something of the "stop and smell the roses" philosophy going on here which I think is very important.  This is such an exquisite jewel of a song that I'm still shocked to this day that it's not as famous as the Beatles' YESTERDAY.  And no, that overplayed song will not appear in this "Five Songs" list.  The endless, blind drive toward setting goal after goal after goal (which this current society seems to value above all else) does not leave room for what it means to be human; and what is the use of working yourself to death if you're not living an actual conscious life every day?  It's not getting to some end goal that's important; it's how you live your life on the way.  "Remember/life is never as it seems/Dream".
  2. LOOKING BACK by Nat King Cole  -  This 1958 song has Nat seemingly veering into a little country and western area.  If that might seem a little odd, it's also quite odd that this is the only song in these five "looking back" songs which is about regret and the mistakes we make throughout a lifetime.  "Looking back over my deeds/I can see signs a wise man heeds/and if I just had the chance/I'd never make that same mistake again".  Songs about looking back might seem the opportune time to think about where we went wrong or what we'd do differently but that's not what I wanted this "five songs" group to be primarily about.  There may be a small aspect of that to it but overall these songs to me are more importantly about memories and what make us who we are. 
     
  3. NIGHT MOVES by Bob Seger  -  This is exactly what I'm talking about.  Probably the ultimate "coming of age" song, Seger raps rhapsodic about his teenage years.  That time when we're somewhere between being a kid and being an adult.  This theme will be revisited in the very next song, funnily enough!  But right here, Bob Seger really takes us on a trip in the wayback machine to the high summer of life.  In fact, the frequent repetition of the lines:  "in the summertime/in the sweet summertime" drives this point home quite vividly.  This is an intensely summery song; however, Bob Seger is looking back into his past so he doesn't leave it all rosy-coloured glasses on bright sunny summer days. At the song's three minute mark, he seems to break from his reverie: "I woke last night to the sound of thunder/how far off I sat and wondered/started humming a song from 1962/ain't it funny how the night moves/just don't seem to have as much to lose/strange how the night moves/with autumn closing in".  And at that moment in the song, where he's brought it down to an almost hushed quiet with no accompaniment but a softly strummed acoustic guitar, Bob Seger brings the song to an complete stop for a few seconds.  One of the most arresting moments in pop music.  Before once again restarting the song.  This particular song goes out to my friend and co-worker Angel who likes to torment his girlfriend by randomly breaking out into a chorus of this song at the most unexpected moments!
  4. 1979 by Smashing Pumpkins  -  Once again, we're back to that "coming of age" thing and vivid flashes of memory this time from Billy Corgan's adolescence.  Corgan too has said that this song arose from a vivid memory of him sitting in his car in the rain at a traffic light during his teenage years (between being a kid and being an adult once again) with the strong feeling of waiting for something to happen but nothing's quite happening yet.  "The street heats the urgency of now" really captures that odd moment at the end of high school when we seems to be idling (like Corgan's car in the rain) in a momentary holding pattern before we burst forth into the "real world" of forming a grown-up life for oneself.  The future stretches out before us at that age and we have that feeling of immortality:  "With the headlights pointed at the dawn/we were sure we'd never see an end to it all". 
  5. IN MY LIFE by the Beatles  -  And I'd like to end the five songs with this perhaps obvious but I think vital choice of perhaps the finest song about looking back at one's life.  "There are places I remember/all my life/though some have change/some forever not for better/some have gone and some remain".  We all know the song.  There's really no need to quote the whole thing; which I could very easily do.  The crux of the song, to me, is sort of a conquering of death through memory.  There's that old cliché that those we've lost live on through our memories of them and, to me, that's something of the truth.  It's the closest we can get to still having them with us.  That's why our memories are so vitally important.  To me, the song loses its way when John Lennon veers off into the rather typical "love song" territory that Bob Dylan criticized the Beatles about; that is, how he suddenly starts singing to a girlfriend that, above "lovers and friends I still can recall/some are dead and some are living" he loves her more than any of them.  I think he'd find, after the passage of time and the probability that whomever he was singing too probably didn't stay in a relationship with him for very long (at that young age) and that those "people and things that went before" are still just as important memories as they ever were.  A momentary infatuation which hasn't lasted the test of time can't really compare with those past important people and events which remain with us in our memory throughout a lifetime.  If this momentary woman Lennon is singing to, in fact, lasts to become that important, she will still not supercede those others but will join their ranks as equally important.  There's more than enough love in the human heart to go around!
So there you have it:  The Five Songs look back into the past.  As I've said, it is our memories that make us who we are.  Our memories also keep alive those who are dead and past places and events which don't exist anymore.  Please consider making a donation to the fight against Alzheimer's Disease.  This terrible disease not only robs a person of the very memories that make them who they are but it also robs those of us who love them of that very person we love long before they leave us.  Please make a donation today.   

EASTER . . . 40 YEARS AGO!



With my cousins Jimmy & Kathy!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

CLASSIC DR. WHO FIELD OF 64: THE CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND

AT THE RISK OF THIS BEING SOMETHING OF AN ANTI-CLIMAX,  I WROTE EXTENSIVELY ABOUT THESE STORIES IN EARLIER POSTS SO THERE'S NOT MUCH I CAN ADD ABOUT THE DETAILS OF THESE TWO STORIES.  But the sash of Rassilon and the fishbowl of Morbius must be awarded to crown the winner of my greatest classic DOCTOR WHO story of all time.  Therefore, it seems like there's nothing for it but to cut to the chase!  You will recall that the final match-up is between two number one seeds:  THE SEEDS OF DOOM versus PYRAMIDS OF MARS.  So there's nothing more to it than to announce that the winner of the greatest classic DOCTOR WHO story is:

THE SEEDS OF DOOM
 

Sorry, MEGLOS fans.  Hey, I said "cut to the chase" back there.  Harrison Chase, that is.  See what I did there?  Ahem.
 

 But seriously, ladies and jelly babies, I've watched and rewatched SEEDS OF DOOM for decades (and I just, in fact, watched it AGAIN last month for this field of 64) and it's always superb!  Interestingly enough, I see that on the wonderful, hilarious and indispensable  "ADVENTURES IN SPACE WITH MY WIFE" blog, the notoriously hard-to-please Sue Perryman gave SEEDS OF DOOM a 10/10 score.  Sue has spoken the eternal judgment:  "That was excellent!  What do you want me to say?". 
When husband Neil asked for elaboration, Sue replied:  "I’m not happy about the Brigadier being stuck in Geneva again. Are aliens attacking Switzerland? If not, where the hell is he? And Benton should have been there at the end with the weed killer. But apart from that, it was great. It’s a proper drama. There aren’t many characters in this, but the ones we do have are all brilliant. We get to spend lots of time with them and the actors are playing it totally straight. I love their little back-stories and quirky mannerisms; I really care about them, even the Butler was great. It reminds me of a Hammer Horror film with loads of really good character actors in it. I can’t really fault it – the direction, the music, the lighting, the performances. Yeah, you could repeat this on BBC1 tomorrow and people would still enjoy it."  I couldn't have put it better myself! 
 

Growing up in the 70s, I was always a "horror kid" with a lesser-but-still-profound love of science fiction and fantasy.  On CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURE (Channel 48) as well as the beloved Dr. Shock programmes MAD THEATER and HORROR THEATER (Channel 17) every Saturday afternoon, horror movies were routinely interspersed with science fiction films from those classic fifties romps (THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL) to all manner of other sci-fi goodies.  I grew up watching the occasional reruns of TWILIGHT ZONE and was of course a huge fan of STAR TREK (which was constantly airing on UHF all through my childhood years).  Certainly when the phenomenon of STAR WARS occurred in 1977, when I was 12 years old, I was also immediately captivated.  And there is no doubt that the importation of DOCTOR WHO onto U.S. television screens on PBS in 1978 owed something to Mr. Lucas' success; anything remotely "science fiction" was uber-in!  I've mentioned before how my Dad's friend Ronnie mentioned this cool show that just started airing on Channel 12 and how I should take a look at it.  I've also mentioned previously how the first episode of DOCTOR WHO that I ever saw was in fact the second episode of PYRAMIDS OF MARS which, owing to nostalgic importance alone makes it's second place showing here a bit of a shocker!  Of course, unlike STAR WARS (and to a great extent STAR TREK), DOCTOR WHO in the Tom Baker/Philip Hinchcliffe era (which were the first to air over here in the States and the first I saw) often combined it's science fiction with a healthy dose of horror:  the ubiquitous "watching from behind the sofa" cliché about DOCTOR WHO which made me love it all the more.  The Doctor, as played perfectly by Tom Baker, was unlike any hero I'd ever encountered in my baker's dozen-years of existence; he never used a gun and eschewed fisticuffs unless there was no other choice.  Instead, the Doctor outwitted his opponents often with a fantastic sense of humour (as only Tom Baker could bring to the character) combined with a quirky "alien-ness" and a pathological rebellious aversion to authority figures.  Could there be a better hero for any kid to follow on adventures?!?!?  I should say not!  Tom Baker was and always will be THE Doctor; those who came before him or after him, however superb and wonderful most of them are, will always be compared to Baker's example.  The fact that Tom Baker is a genuine British eccentric in real life, not just acting the part for a role, brought a lustrous sparkle to his performance.  The spark may have dimmed during the latter part of his tenure due to his disheartened exhaustion with the show but it still burst forth every now and then to remind us how truly perfect for the role he was. 

This having been said, the very concept of DOCTOR WHO is probably one of the richest in possibilities I've ever seen:  an alien runaway Time Lord "appropriates" a TARDIS and can travel anywhere in space AS WELL AS anywhen in time.  Oh, and he can also regenerate now and then so any actor in the role can be replaced with any other actor without missing a beat!  Does this make the possibility for stories anything less than infinite?!?  That's why, during this "field of 64" we've had everything from the (admittedly showing my leanings towards) horror episodes to straight science fiction to straight historical dramas.  There are very few television programmes which could feature stories like THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG and THE GUNFIGHTERS and THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI and THE AZTECS and THE MIND OF EVIL . . . all in the same TV programme!  Whereas another show might seem hopelessly schizophrenic, this refreshing mixture of all genres is par for the course in DOCTOR WHO.  This extends to the wide range of actors who have portrayed the Doctor in all his incarnations; all of them wonderful in their own ways even when, in the case of Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy, they were sabotaged by their own producer's seemingly unending string of bad decisions . . .  or, in the case of Paul McGann, who only got one shot at the role in a botched production.  McCoy, of course, had the show beginning to start getting things right (before the BBC sadly pulled the plug on him) and Colin Baker and Paul McGann have now proven how great they could have been with their superb audio work for Big Finish.  To any actor, to any writer, to any producer, to any director, to anyone involved with the show, DOCTOR WHO can be a limitless opportunity to tell the best stories one can.  The premise of DOCTOR WHO is so incredibly rich that it can be all that imagination and passion can make it.

Simply put, this show means a lot to me.  After all, it seems an inescapable  fact that I've been watching DOCTOR WHO without interruption for 37 years now.  Even during the time when the show wasn't being produced (and, for that matter, even in the years BEFORE it's cancellation), I was rewatching it on video and, latterly, dvd.    And I still find to this day an incredible "rewatchability" to all these DOCTOR WHO stories; because, in the final analysis, whether THE SEEDS OF DOOM beat PYRAMIDS OF MARS or not really doesn't matter because we don't have to choose.  We can watch ALL the DOCTOR WHOs we want (those that exist, that is) over and over again.  And that is more valuable to me than the key to time, the ring of Rassilon and K-9's dog whistle all rolled up into one!   

Monday, April 06, 2015

CLASSIC DR. WHO FIELD OF 64: OUR CONTENDERS

TAKE A PEEK BELOW FOR SOME NICE VIDEO OF OUR FINAL TWO CONTENDERS IN THE BEST CLASSIC DOCTOR WHO FIELD OF 64:

It's PYRAMIDS OF MARS vs. THE SEEDS OF DOOM.

Happy viewing!

Doctor who - The Seeds of Doom Tribute


Doctor Who Episode Tribute No.71 - Pyramids Of Mars


Wednesday, April 01, 2015

APRIL WITH THE SUPER-HEROES

CONTINUING WITH OUT 10TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, WE BRING YOU THE MONTH OF APRIL AS SEEN THROUGH THE PRISM OF THE MARVEL & DC COMICS 1970'S CALENDARS.
Marvel's Bicentennial Calendar features Conan the Barbarian for April with art by Gil Kane.

DC's 1977 calendar features Ramona Fradon's portrayal of Plastic Man.

DC's 1978 calendar finds Aquaman battling Weather Wizard by the superlative Jim Aparo.

1975 finds the Avengers dominating the month of April at Marvel Comics.

The Bicentennial calendar by DC provides a group portrait of some of the greatest super-villains provided by Neal Adams & Dick Giordano.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

CLASSIC DR. WHO FIELD OF 64: THE FINAL FOUR

WELL, WHAT A LONG, STRANGE TRIP IT'S BEEN WINDING OUR WAY THROUGH THE QUARRY OF THE CLASSIC DOCTOR WHO FIELD OF 64.  But we've dunnit and now arrived at the final four, cor blimey!  So here's our big bracket:

with a lil close-up showing our final four:

3 Tom Bakers and a Pertwee.  Not too surprising, I suppose.  So, since I provided a very detailed account of all the stories in the "Elite 8" leading up to this final 4 punch-up, there's probably no point in beating about the Yeti. . .so I'll just get right to it.  Oh, and they're all number one seeds so the first match-up is:

THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG
 
VS.

THE SEEDS OF DOOM

THE WINNER:  THE SEEDS OF DOOM

And the second match-up is:

SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE  
 
VS.

PYRAMIDS OF MARS

THE WINNER:  PYRAMIDS OF MARS 

Be with us at the beginning of the month to find out who will take the crown (of Rassilon, presumably) as the greatest DOCTOR WHO story of all-time!    

CLASSIC DR. WHO FIELD OF 64: THE ELITE 8 (PART TWO)

THE SECOND HALF OF THE ELITE 8 NOW COMMENCES.  And I can honestly say that, by this point in the field of 64, we have no surprises with two #2 seeds going up against two #1 seeds.  I guess my ranking system was pretty spot on from the beginning, then.  For another glimpse, lets have the bracket to show us again how we got there.


And now on with the second half of our detailed "Elite 8" thingy:

#1 seed) SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE Vs. #2 seed) THE GREEN DEATH

#1) SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE - The luck of the draw has brought two Pertwee stories into head-to-head conflict!
Shockingly ranked number 36 on the DOCTOR WHO magazine's "Mighty 200" readers poll! 
The debut of Jon Pertwee's Doctor as well as the debut of colour on the show. This is also the start of the Doctor's exile on Earth and U.N.I.T. as a weekly staple headed by Nicholas Courtney's Brigadier as well as the debut of Caroline John's Liz Shaw. On top of all that, this is the show which was shot ENTIRELY on film with no video whatsoever. So it naturally was the first classic DOCTOR WHO to be released on blu-ray. As the new-faced Doctor tumbles out of his TARDIS and deals with his scrambled personality, the Autons (or the Nestene or whatever else they're supposed to be called) tumble to Earth like the projectiles in QUATERMASS 2 and begin taking over prominent civil servants etc.
The infamous early scene featuring shop window mannequins springing to life, smashing through plate glass and terrorizing the local citizenry is still remembered fondly to this day as one of the creepiest, "dive-behind-the-sofa" moments on the programme. The new Doctor's penchant for flashy clothes and fast cars is established early as he steals a nappy outfit and a classic car; can it be long before the Doctor gets his souped-up Bessie? Oh yes, and of course we get to see the Doctor's tattoo in the shower scene.
Liz Shaw's opening interview with the Brig is wonderful as the character is shown to be supremely capable to join U.N.I.T. and become an equal partner with the Doctor in his adventures. We only get Liz for this one series but she sure was a breath of fresh air from some of the usual bumbling/screaming female companions of the past.
The character could be feminine as well as matching the boys on their own turf but still demonstrating a fine sense of humour; Liz did all this without being the stereotypical severe mannish female scientist and was, in fact, quite the fashion plate besides. A good match to the new dandy Doctor.
SPEARHEAD has a nice action orientation as well as horror/science fiction atmosphere and an AVENGERS vibe; DOCTOR WHO would seldom be as "secret-agenty" again. A really superb start to a new era!


VS.

#2 ) THE GREEN DEATH - Ranked also at the relatively low (for its showing in this field of 64 anyway) ranking of #39 in the "Mighty 200" poll. 
Yeah, it's perennially known as "the one with the maggots" but there's quite a lot more going on. While SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE marked many beginnings, GREEN DEATH marks an ending with the departure of the daffy but loveable Jo Grant. It's a shame because by this point, Jo had become more than a klutz and was being allowed (sporadically) to actually be a helpful companion to the Doctor.




This story also marks the final appearance in the regular series of the classic "howlaround" opening title graphics as well as the DOCTOR WHO logo which first appeared in SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE. A miner in South Wales turns up dead and, oh by the way, glowing bright green.


The Doctor and Jo interrupt their planned "idyllic" holiday on Metebelis 3 to investigate. There they meet "dishy" Nobel Prize-winning environmentalist
Clifford Jones who is convinced local Global Chemicals' new process to increase the yield of oil is causing naughty things to happen i.e. a glowing green dead miner. Once down in the mines,
the Doctor and Co. find a lot of green slime (wait that's ANOTHER movie) as well as huge maggot creatures living it up down there. Meanwhile, inside Global Chemicals the BOSS (a supercomputer called the Bimorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor) is running the company and also mind-controlling people including UNIT's own Mike Yates.





The importance of this story is manifold. Not only does it mark the departure of Katy Manning
as Jo Grant but also pretty much crystalised Jon Pertwee's decision to leave the role the following year. Manning's departure coincided with the recent tragic death of Roger Delgado (The Master) and the announcement that Barry Letts would soon be leaving the series as producer. The fun and heart seemed to go out of the show for Pertwee and all these factors made up his mind to leave. Interestingly, Jo Grant leaves the Doctor's "employ" at the end of "The Green Death" because she gets engaged to Professor Clifford Jones; in real life Manning and Stewart Bevan (who played Jones) were actually engaged to be married at the time. And on a fun note: this is also the story where the Doctor is required to say the line "thick chitinous skin" when describing the maggots' hides. Neither Pertwee nor Barry Letts new how to pronounce "chitinous" so Letts told Pertwee to say "chit-inous" rather than the correct "kite-inous" pronunciation. Several days after the episode was broadcast, Letts received a letter from a fan containing only the following verse: "The reason I'm writin' Is how to say kitin".


THE WINNER:  SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE 


#1 seed) PYRAMIDS OF MARS Vs. #2 seed) GENESIS OF THE DALEKS

#1) PYRAMIDS OF MARS - Ranked at # 7 in the DOCTOR WHO magazine 2009 "Mighty 200" readers poll. 
All the trappings of an Egyptian mummy Hammer Horror but skewed through the prism of DOCTOR WHO. We get the fanatical worshipper of ancient Egyptian gods a la Universal's series of Mummy movies as well as in the Hammers usually portrayed by actors like Turhan Bey, George Zucco or George Pastell; however, this time the ancient Egyptian god Sutekh is actually there physically on screen participating in the story.
And what a villian he makes with the fantastically-designed helm (evincing echoes of the helm of Dr. Fate, in fact). When he takes the helmet off, Sutekh is somewhat less successful although still authentically designed as a jackal-headed god. We also get mummies; however typically DOCTOR WHO changes things up by making the mummies robotic servants disguised in mummy-wrapping. This also famously gave Tom Baker the opportunity to wander around inside one of the mummy costumes while a visiting group of school children were unaware who indeed was actually underneath the wrapping until he surprised them all by suddenly revealing his identity.
Once again, like several storylines in this era of Tom Baker's tenure, we have a splendid English pile providing exterior location footage allowing the Doctor and company to roam about the verdant English underbrush and decaying statuary. The interior sets are also sumptuous; reminding one of the aforementioned Hammer Horror's designer Bernard Robinson who seemed to construct gorgeous sets with no money. As always, the chemistry between Baker and Elisabeth Sladen by this point was flawless and they are a joy to watch interact with each other. The guest cast is also top notch with a splendidly sepulchral Bernard Archard as Marcus Scarman, Michael Sheard as his put-upon brother Laurence,
Peter Copley as Dr. Warlock and the rich voice of Gabriel Woolf hissing Sutekh's evil lines.  Lawrence Miles & Tat Wood, in their seminal DOCTOR WHO book series ABOUT TIME sums it up by stating:  "Everybody involved puts in a top-flight performance here, so much so that this may be the story which sums up Tom Baker's Doctor (or, at least, people's memories of him) better than any other." 
And Marcus Hearn, in the much-cited DWM # 413 says:  "The flexibility of Doctor Who's format, or more specifically its ability to subsume any genre it plunders, allows PYRAMIDS OF MARS to disguise its sometimes implausible story beneath a superficially faithful adaptation of Hammer horror.  (Robert) Holmes would revisit the same territory in THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG . . .PYRAMIDS and TALONS both discard their gothic trappings for a resolution that sees the Doctor employ cunning pseudo-science to rout the menace.  Unlike the Hammer Horrors, there is no place for magic in DOCTOR WHO.  Wherever the (Philip) Hinchcliffe stories too their window-dressing from, they remained ultimately faithful to DOCTOR WHO's enduring principals.  Our continued appreciation of these episodes is therefore multi-layered, with scenes evocative of the films that scared us as children, fantastical science-fiction plots and the ultimately reassuring presence of Uncle Tom Baker to wrap the whole thing up." 
 

VS.

#2 ) GENESIS OF THE DALEKS - Unsurprisingly ranked at the # 3 spot in the "Mighty 200" poll. 
The monumental storyline which establishes (as much as we can in the long history of DOCTOR WHO) the "origin story" of the Daleks as well as the introduction of one of the greatest, most iconic villains in the show's history: Davros. A design triumph combining the decaying humanoid top half with the traditional bottom half of a Dalek. The Doctor is "hijacked" by a Bergmanesque Time Lord and given the assignment to travel back in time to the beginning of the Daleks' development and to either eliminate or alter their initial creation. Quickly joined by Sarah Jane and Harry, the Doctor is soon plunged into the grim and gritty, war-torn Skaro (probably the most reminiscent of a war film since Troughton's swan song THE WAR GAMES). Poison gas and gas masks, rat-a-tat guns and Naziesque uniforms abound.
Skaro has been laid waste by a seemingly endless war between the Thals and the Kaleds. During a poison gas attack, the Doctor and Harry are taken inside the Kaled dome while Sarah Jane is separated from them and becomes mixed up with the Mutos (mutated victims of early chemical weapons) and this group (along with Sarah) is captured by the Thals who use them as slave labour in the construction of a missile to be fired at the Kaled dome. Whew! Inside the Kaled dome, the Doctor and Harry try to convince General Ravon and Security Commander Nyder that they are from another planet which their leader Davros has proclaimed as impossible. Enter Davros with his new "Mark III travel machine" he calls "the Daleks". Can't be good, can it?


Indeed it isn't for most of those concerned. After a lengthy absence from the series, Daleks creator Terry Nation was invited back by producers Barry Letts & Terrance Dicks to write another story but they found his first draft to similar to past stories. The suggestion was made that Nation should write an origin story which he did; however by the time the story was finished Letts and Dicks were leaving the show and transferred the project to their successors Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes who encouraged a "darker" tone to the proceedings.  The bloody great cast is headed by Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter who as usual are absolutely perfect. 
The guest cast features the superlative Michael Wisher bringing the evil Davros to (I guess you'd call it semi-) life and Peter Niles as the slimy Nyder.  "The moral of GENESIS OF THE DALEKS is this:  Daleks -- 'can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em'.  " Alan Barnes opens his write-up of GENESIS in DWM's "Mighty 200" issue,  "For the Doctor, for the character whose adventures in time and space we've followed for 12 long years to this point, 'can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em' amounts to a revolutionary insight, a man at last understanding the purpose of his seemingly random adventures. . ."  Barnes brings us into Joseph Campbell territory as well:  "...the hero's journey is about the gaining of wisdom, a wisdom won by passing a number of trials and ordeals.  For me, GENESIS OF THE DALEKS is all about the Doctor's journey.  It begins with a Time Lord inviting the Doctor to undo or amend the creation of the Daleks.  It's never stated, but were the Doctor to succeed, he'd be undoing or amending his own personal past -- wouldn't he?  The stakes could not be any higher:  the Doctor has the chance (at last?), to play God. . .You know what?  I don't believe that Time Lord is serious. . .I think:  this is a story about the gods tormenting the hero.  The mission itself is a trial:  the possibility of success a punishment.  And the Doctor knows it. . .GENESIS OF THE DALEKS isn't about the Daleks.  It's about the Doctor -- about his mission, his trials, his choice."

THE WINNER:  PYRAMIDS FROM MARS

So there we have it:  the final four has been established.  Probably not a surprise that there is a heavy "Philip Hinchcliffe-era" presence in the top stories chosen.  Perennially a fan favourite, these darker, more gothic-flavoured stories have long been considered the apex of DOCTOR WHO's long run and I'm inclined to agree with the majority of fans who, for instance, placed more Hinchcliffe stories in the "Mighty 200" fan poll than any other producer.  When asked about this, Hinchcliffe himself said:  "Well, I'm very pleased that a number of my stories are still all-time favourites and not yet completely supersede by the new ones!  My personal favourites are also ones that come high in the poll; TALONS, PYRAMIDS, GENESIS, ROBOTS.  I think they had good scripts and the production elements and direction came together well without any obvious failures."