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Thursday, 20 June 2013

Best Of Who Awards: Top 10 Worst Episodes

Every good drama needs its low points from time to time- and in 50 Years, Doctor Who has found its fair share of duffers. Brace yourselves...
Our Best Of Who Awards feature series is naturally focused on highlighting the greatest moments and stars of the past fifty years of Doctor Who...for the most part. On occasion, though, in good jest we'll have a look at some of the weaker elements of the show, either those which created somewhat self-intended parody or indeed the unintentionally weaker stories and stars of the last half-century of science-fiction adventures.

With that in mind, before we even begin to recap some of the greatest ever episodes Doctor Who has provided us with, it seems only apt that we have a look at the direct other end of the spectrum, i.e. the worst stories viewers have ever witnessed on their television screens. Here, then, is our countdown of the Top 10 Worst Episodes of Doctor Who ever...
10. LOVE AND MONSTERS (2006)- It may come as something of a surprise for you to see this loathed Season Two tale appear only at the bottom of this 'prestigious' list. In all honesty, Love And Monsters does actually have its fair share of redeeming elements- Marc Warren shines brilliantly as Elton Pope, an obsessed fan of the Doctor, and the initial sequences with LINDA feature much of the show's trademark charm and humour. Of course, once Peter Kay's laughable Abzorbaloff enters the fray, it all takes a turn for the worst, and indeed the silly 'Ursula on a slab' ending seals this episode's infamous status on a slab of concrete.
9. THE TWO DOCTORS (1985)- How on earth do you go from The Five Doctors to this? Coming off the back of the incredible success of the 20th Anniversary feature length special featuring five (well, three) classic Doctors, it made sense for John Nathan-Turner to commission a new multi-Doctor adventure. However, that the chemistry between Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton's Doctors is atrocious scuppers up proceedings from the outset, not to mention that the returning Sontarans fully inhabit their potato-like status with disastrous costume design. Here's hoping that the 50th Anniversary Special takes no cues whatsoever from this as it melds together three Doctors come November.
8. TV MOVIE (1996)- This is an interesting case. To me, there are several elements of the Doctor Who TV Movie that actually work quite well, such as an electrifying new title sequence, Paul McGann eventually serving his incarnation of the Doctor as a strong new version and a great pace to proceedings. All the same, Eric Roberts' pantomime-esque Master, the rubbish special effects that display his snake form and the strictly American nature of the piece all served to sadly ensure that a new series of Who would not come about for another nine years after this.
7. THE TRIAL OF A TIME LORD (1986)- It probably seemed like a fantastic concept to John Nathan-Turner to place the Doctor on trial at the hands of the Time Lords for an entire season, with flashbacks to new adventures contained within four stories. Sadly, the concept here is far more successful than the execution, as this thirteen-part run fails to pick up momentum for some time, only to botch its big reveal of an alternate evil version of the Time Lord (another similarity to the 50th Special which we hope doesn't ruin it!) in a rushed finale. Trial has great ideas, but particularly the reintroduction of Sil and the haphazard transition between two companions makes it an infamous member of Who's episode roster.
6. ARC OF INFINITY (1983)- One of just two stories which managed to dampen the 20th Anniversary Season's spirits- and funnily enough, the other is on this list too- Arc of Infinity made the ambitious move of reviving Omega in Doctor Who's lore. Again, it's a concept that fares better than its execution, with much of Arc feeling like a dull re-tread of the territory that The Three Doctors covered a decade before. Omega remains a compelling villain, yet one who might have been better served as a one-off rather than any revival.
5. THE LAZARUS EXPERIMENT (2007)- What with Season Three containing so many highlight episodes in its latter half- 42, Human Nature/The Family of Blood, Blink and Utopia/The Sound Of Drums are all ace- it is often easy to forget that the first half of the run wasn't so strong. The Lazarus Experiment followed up on the average Gridlock and Daleks In Manhattan/Evolution Of The Daleks with a dismal retelling of the legends of Lazarus, as Mark Gatiss was given a shallow monstrous role to play with little real emotional resonance to speak of. Lazarus is a bold example of the domestic nature of much of Russell T Davies' work during his time on the show, and how such drama could work to the show's detriment.
4. NEW EARTH (2006)- Another of Season Two's stories to enter the list (in fact, David Tennant's first run remains one of my least favourite series of the show with hindsight), there were probably far better ways to kick off a season than with this first excursion to a new incarnation of Earth. From the moment Cassandra body-swaps into Rose, it seems as if Doctor Who has descended into utter farce, with both Billie and David forced to give overexaggerated and ridiculous performances by Russell's absurd script. Gridlock made slightly better use of the new planet, but this initial romp was a simply dire opener to a flawed run.
3. BOOM TOWN (2005)- Boom Town is another interesting case on the list, seeing as there's often a lot of sympathy for it amongst those who dub the Christopher Eccleston era as Doctor Who's finest hour. Indeed, I can see the argument that Annette Badland shines brightest of all in this filler story, her restaurant discussion with Chris' Doctor actually beginning to head towards deeper territory at its climax. All the same, the rest of the story is pure filler through and through, with Captain Jack, Rose and Mickey all presented as a cheesy 'team' of companions and the worst parts of the Slitheen jokes from their dire two-parter still intact and present to torment us as fans. In this case, we wish that the end of the world could come as a whimper rather than as a dire Boom.
2. TIME FLIGHT (1983)- Fans must surely have been wondering how the 20th Anniversary Season could take two colossal missteps between Arc of Infinity and this, its immediate predecessor (the Season Nineteen finale). Whereas Arc at least had the intriguing return of Omega to work with, Time Flight simply focuses on Tegan's return to Heathrow Airport and how it goes wrong, throwing in a needless cameo appearance from Matthew Waterhouse as Adric to provide no particular closure whatsoever post-Earthshock. Quite why BBC Worldwide decided to couple this and Arc together for the 'Tegan Tales' DVD boxset is beyond this writer, unless they wanted to effectively showcase classic Who at its worst.
1. FEAR HER (2006)- And lo and behold, we're back to another Season Two story on our list, in this case by far the most diabolical offender of this entire list. Whenever we look back on the achievements of Doctor Who since its 2005 return and then compare it to its 'lowlights', Fear Her stands as testament to just how wrong things can go if a writer doesn't handle the show with the utmost integrity. Set to the London 2012 Olympics (at this stage still half a decade away), this atrocious prelude to the Daleks vs. Cybermen finale fails in its terrible unrealistic guest stars' portrayals, the borderline offensive special effects on the 'scribble' monster (as if the concept wasn't offensive enough), every disastrous attempt at comedy (the TARDIS parking the wrong way round a great laugh-less example) and in so many areas beside. Writer Matthew Graham did at least partially redeem himself with The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People in Season Six, an average but compelling future tale, yet here we can see in full force the effects of Doctor Who at its very worst. May things never reach such a lowly point again!

Honorable Mentions must go to a few modern-era stories which are mediocre in their own right, just not quite loathsome enough to make this list: Aliens In London/World War Three; The Long Game; Tooth And Claw; The Idiot's Lantern; Planet of the Ood; The Unicorn And The Wasp; The Beast Below; The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood; The Curse of the Black Spot and Night Terrors. With hindsight a Season Seven story may one day fit in there too, but for now those fourteen blockbusters seemed fairly consistently strong.

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