Doctor Who: Season 10 (1972-73) - Review
The season opens with the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), Jo Grant (Katy Manning) and their U.N.I.T family investigating a mysterious black hole that threatens the entire Universe. Realising the catastrophic threat it poses, the Time Lords send Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor and William Hartnell's First to help out, giving us 'The Three Doctors'. Or, more accurately, the Two-and-a-half Doctors, as Hartnell barely appears in the serial due to bad health. Troughton and Pertwee are a wonderful double-act, and the story's villain Omega is a great antagonist, but despite solid build-up, the story never goes anywhere. The production values range from pretty great to poor, and there's the general feeling that the production team felt obligated to make a multi-Doctor story as opposed to having a great creative desire to. 'The Three Doctors' feels too cheap, and either too short or too long for what ultimately comes down to a rather small story.
'Carnival of Monsters' kicks it up a notch, trapping the Doctor and Jo in a miniscope as they're forced to contend with time-loops, Drashigs and threats outside of the 'scope. It's a wonderfully charming Doctor Who serial, with the Drashigs wonderfully realised and a great sense of creativity all around. Perhaps Episode Four drags a little, and with a particular action sequence cut from the final broadcast, it does seem to miss it somewhat. I'm not sure if the whole plot makes sense, and there are some notable inconsistencies, but it's a lot of fun nevertheless.
Thus we enter our twelve-episode epic, kicking things off with the six-episode 'Frontier in Space', featuring the final appearance of the legendary Roger Delgado as the Master. It's a huge space opera, with a sprawling narrative that packs a punch with themes of prejudice, fake news and imperialism, but somehow manages to condense itself down to the Doctor and/or Jo being imprisoned somewhere - over and over again. The big twist in Episode Six is unfortunately obvious in hindsight, but from then on the serial falls apart with a messy ending that neither concludes the story nor sets up the following one properly. The Master just seems to disappear, and the hasty re-shoots are all too obvious.
'Planet of the Daleks' might as well be a standalone serial for all the connective tissue it shares with 'Frontier in Space', dropping the pretense of an elaborate epic and instead rehashing familiar Dalek stories we've seen millions of times over. I wrote a full review of 'Planet of the Daleks' not too long ago, and whilst the story is undeniably fun, I didn't feel particularly excited to revisit it so soon after watching it at the BFI. Naturally, I watched the Behind the Sofa feature, which was filled with wonderful commentary from Katy Manning (Jo), John Levene (Benton), Richard Franklin (Yates) and Phil Collinson (producer 2005-08), Joy Wilkinson and Pete McTighe (both writers from the most recent series of Who). 'Planet' is worth watching, but it's probably the weakest Dalek story in Pertwee's tenure, lacking the scope of 'Day of the Daleks' or the intriguing premise of 'Death to the Daleks'.
Finally we come to 'The Green Death' - a beloved "masterpiece" of classic Doctor Who that certainly lives up to its reputation. Some of the effects work is a bit shoddy, but that can easily be forgiven with a story as good as this. The character drama is great, the monsters are fun, and the story explores some interesting themes. It fills its six episode run amazingly well, and certainly ends the season on a high.
Also worth mentioning for those thinking of picking up the new Blu-ray boxset is that it also contains a new documentary - 'Doctor Who and the Third Man' - which takes a look at Jon Pertwee's tenure on the show. It's a wonderful overview, and features some great interviews, either archive ones from the great man himself or a fun discussion between Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. It's a cracking watch, and one that really helps to cement Pertwee's role in Doctor Who history - it might even be worth watching prior to Season 10, just to put it into context...
Doctor Who: The Collection - Season 10 is available on Blu-ray now.