wwhyte (wwhyte) wrote,

Doctor Who: The Ultimate Foe

This was to be Colin Baker's last story, although no-one knew it at the time. The Trial of A Time Lord season had been troubled from the word go: although prior to the season Doctor Who had been suspended for fifteen months rather than the usual nine, in fact slow and indecisive management at the BBC meant that John Nathan-Turner, the producer, and Eric Saward, the script editor, had even less time than usual to plan out a season that had the potential to save or ruin the future of the show.

Matters got worse. Robert Holmes, who had produced some of the most groundbreaking work of the Tom Baker years as well as writing the Caves of Androzani, by some way Peter Davison's most successful story, was originally contracted to write the closing two episodes of the season. He was knocked back by criticism of his opening four-parter by Jonathan Powell, the BBC's head of Drama, spent more time than he'd anticipated revising that script, was taken into hospital with a liver complaint, and tragically died before the script for The Ultimate Foe was completed. His death brought to a head the bad relations between Saward and Nathan-Turner, both of whom at that point hated their jobs: Nathan-Turner had been trying to get a new assignment for two years and Saward had lost faith in him and in the BBC. (In fairness, the BBC's lack of support for Saward could be justified by the fact that many of the scripts over the previous few years had been pants). Saward edited the first episode and turned in a self-written second episode which ended with the Doctor and his evil final incarnation, the Valeyard, fighting in the Matrix on Gallfrey, potentially for eternity.

Nathan-Turner objected to the downbeat end; Saward stormed off the show, withdrawing all rights to use his version of the final episode. In desperation, Nathan-Turner turned to Pip and Jane Baker, who had written The Mark of the Rani, not because he thought they were good but because he knew they were quick. Given three days to turn in a script, they obliged, providing the required number of pages, all of which had words all over them.

And the result was this. Now, given all that had gone before, there was some excuse for a bit of messiness. Neverthess, this story is not just boring and not just stupid: it is boring AND stupid. It also features the line "It's too late, Doctor! There's nothing you can do to prevent the catharsis of spurious morality!", which frankly does nothing to make the stakes clearer. Never show this to anyone who is not already a Doctor Who fan under any circumstances ever, ever. Ever.
Tags: doctor who

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