My favorite classic episode has been on the top of my list since I first saw it. It fills me with glee every time I think of it. It has so much going for it– companions old and new, my favorite Doctor, a case of mistaken identity, a planned noble sacrifice, and, best of all, wibbly-wobbly timey-whiney!
Have you figured out what I’m talking about? Need another clue? How about “it means the end of me as a Time Lord!”? Got it now? I’m talking about….
I honestly can’t remember if I saw it at U.S. 20 (August 1983, and, yeah, not addressing the con until 2012, sorry!) or if it actually aired on WTTW first. All I know is that by fall quarter junior year (1983), I was already obsessed with the story. Using the novelization as a guide (I think), I wrote a spoof of the story as part of the portfolio that got me into the first class of Northwestern University’s Creative Writing For the Media program.
What appeals about the story? Let’s look at my claims one by one.
Companions old and new. I actually like Tegan in this story, and that’s saying something. Usually I think she’s an obnoxious, self-centered bitch, but in “Mawdryn,” she’s more forceful than bitchy. She gets things done! She gets help for Mawdryn, and doesn’t let herself be persuaded that Mawdryn could be the Doctor. Nyssa rocks in this story, too, because she stands firm in her beliefs (even though wrong). She always acquiesced to Tegan’s opinions until this story, so it’s nice to see her stand up for herself. (Also? My fave rave Nyssa costume. And, yes, I recreated it early on. And at this point, the only thing on it that needs revision is ME because I don’t fit into it!)
And then there’s Turlough. I adore Turlough. In part, he’s a rarity among classic companions in that he gets several episodes of backstory and growth before being forced into the “Yes, Doctor; No, Doctor; What does it mean, Doctor?” groove required of an old school companion. In part, he’s got some hot ginger goodness about him (in a suit and tie, no less, schwing!) Finally, the Brigadier! A double dose, say no more! The Brig made many a Pertwee episode bearable, so it was brilliant to have him return.
My favorite Doctor. I am sparing you from my love letter to the Fifth Doctor for now, because there’s a prompt later in the month that will have me going on and on until I’m foaming at the mouth and falling over backwards over Five.
A case of mistaken identity. Yep, one of my fave story contrivances. Any story that has someone posing as someone else, either on purpose or by accident, gets a big up in my book.
A planned noble sacrifice. The Doctor sacrificing the rest of his lives (supposedly) in order for Tegan and Nyssa to be able to time travel again? Proof positive that Five is the noblest Doctor of them all. (And foreshadowing for his regeneration, really!) Plenty of incarnations wouldn’t bother giving up their life for a mere companion….
Wibbly-wobbly timey-whimey!!!!! My favorite bits of DW always revolve around time, playing with time, messing around with time, etc. (So, yeah, I adore the Moff, and all the playing with time and alt.dimensions that have gone on with the Eleventh Doctor!) Having “Mawdryn” take place in 1977 and 1983… and having the Brigadier from both years meet… oh, the sweetness is exquisite! (And those haters who go on about “oh, but the 25th anniversary of the Queen wasn’t like that at all” can go stuff themselves, because they probably don’t remember it, anyway! Also, being American, I haven’t a clue what it was all about. Too busy coming off the Bicentennial high, yanno?)
So, yes, “Mawdryn Undead” for the win! I think I’ll watch it again over the weekend, and see what Valerie thinks of it….