Part Six: Season 23 (1986)
Faced with popular and critical acclaim for the 22nd season of Doctor Who, the production team was once again in the position of wondering how to follow their previous success.
JNT and Saward had been brought closer together by their shared trials and tribulations of the past year, and decided they could dispense with Letts and Dicks (all accounts agree that this was an amicable decision) and continue on their own. Colin Baker was reconciled to his relationship with co-star Paul Darrow - although Darrow’s character had the ‘dark’ edge that Baker had wanted for his Doctor, and the sardonic Nova Rek frequently got the best lines, Baker was still the star, and Darrow’s presence constantly drove him to up his game in the acting stakes so as not to be upstaged. Critics of this era of Doctor Who often regard it as the show’s hammiest period.
Thus season 23 continued in much the same vein as season 22, with a few returning old foes (popular with the fans and JNT, himself a fan) including the Ice Warriors (last seen in 1974), the Celestial Toymaker (not seen since 1966), and Sil (introduced in season 22’s Vengeance on Varos).
Although season 23 did not have the time and scheduling issues of season 22, it did have budget problems. Around this time budgets were being cut throughout the BBC, which is usually attributed to the introduction of daytime TV. The re-use of old monsters, for which designs and/or costumes already existed, could therefore be seen as a sensible cost-cutting exercise.
Nevertheless, season 23 is usually regarded less well than its immediate predecessor, and chief among the criticisms are a certain complacency or lack of ambition, and the instances of serials looking ‘cheap.’ The show’s enemies within the BBC seized upon these criticisms, and between seasons 23 and 24, Doctor Who was attacked by the enemy within…