Thursday, 21 January 2010

Postcards from Another World 12

Disclaimer: this is a work of fiction.

Part Twelve: Seasons 28-29 (1991-92)

As Colin Baker approached, and then passed, Tom Baker’s record of seven years as the Doctor, it was clear that his era was drawing to a close. Baker believed he had done all he could with the character, and announced he would leave at the end of his eighth season. JNT began the search for a replacement.

Continuity would be retained through the Doctor’s two companions - Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Richard (Gerard Murphy), a 17th century former henchman of Lady Peinforte (introduced in season 25’s Silver Nemesis, but Murphy did not join the regular cast until season 28’s Timewyrm).

Timewyrm was co-written by a new writer, but one who would go on to become a regular contributor to Doctor Who - Paul Cornell. Cornell had been a long-time fan of the show, often citing the story Twin Dilemma as an inspiration for him to become a writer. Like Twin Dilemma, Timewyrm is often cited as a turning point in the history of Doctor Who, being the climax of Andrew Cartmel’s Masterplan - the Doctor confronts himself within his own psyche and is reconciled to his past (the exact nature of which remains unspecified to the viewers). Thus Timewyrm could also be said to see a turning point in the character of the Doctor.

Ratings had once again begun to slip around this time, and they would continue to gradually decrease throughout the 1990s, though this trend was observed across all British TV during this decade due to the introduction, and growing popularity, of satellite TV, which diluted ratings across the board. Instead of four channels, a status quo maintained in the UK since 1982, there were now dozens, and the number grew with each year that passed.

JNT saw only that his audience figures were reducing season by season, and feared another attempt by his BBC bosses to remove him or cancel his show. He was therefore determined, as he had been in 1984, to make as much capital as possible out of the publicity surrounding Colin Baker’s departure.

He had decided to cast a relatively unknown children’s entertainer-turned-shakespearean actor called Sylvester McCoy, who had recently been critically acclaimed in the role of Macbeth. McCoy, though a critical success, was not a financial one, and he accepted the part on the grounds that it would be regular paid work for at least a year, as well as increasing his public profile immensely.

Colin Baker finally departed the role of the Doctor at the end of the last episode of season 29, Paul Cornell’s Love and War, the regeneration an event that had been extensively - yet carefully - foreshadowed, both in and out of the series, in a manner not seen since Tom Baker’s final season in 1980-81. It was the end of an era.

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