Monday, 30 May 2016

BOOK OF LISTS: GUILTY PLEASURE #1

                                                        TIME FLIGHT




Yet another story from the 80s that suffers from "The Curse of Time" (a nice title for a Who story but we know, already, it won't be good!). Any story that has the word "time" in it doesn't tend to fare well among fandom. Particularly stories from the 80s. One of my other stories on this list exemplifies this idea quite well.

In some ways, Time Flight was dealt the same bad hand as Twin Dilemma. A super-intense Peter Davison story was just shown that was flat-out amazing and this is the story that has to come after it. It's like having to follow the guy in an open mic show who just did an awesome set. It's incredibly daunting and there's a good chance you're just not going to measure up. Even if you're just as good as he was - he went up first and rocked the House. You're the guy going after him and the House is a bit worn out from clapping so hard for the first guy.

There is, of course, a second similarity that Time Flight shares with Twin Dilemma: a tremendously poor budget. There was just no money left for either of these stories. And we can totally see that. It's pretty damned embarrassing, actually. Particularly any time the Plasmatons appear!

Here's the thing: I can put up with poor budgets and rough placements in the story order. There are countless other examples in Who where such dynamics occurred and everything was fine because we had a well-written script with a good director and some fine actors who were able to overcome the obstacles thrown at them. Unfortunately, both Time Flight and Twin Dilemma were not gifted in such areas. Both have sloppy scripts, lazy direction and less-than-stellar performances in them. Twin Dilemma does suffer from all these problems but not quite enough for me to officially declare the story bad. There are enough redeeming qualities to it that inspire me to defend this story to the bitter end and give it a "not as bad as everyone says it is" status.

Time Flight, however, is just plain bad. Not only is it hindered by a lack of budget and having to come after Earthshock - there's just not a lot of good stuff to say about the writing, acting or directing, either. It's just really weak. Not just the worst Fifth Doctor story, but one of the worst stories, ever.

And yet, I do love watching Time Flight just after I wrap up Earthshock. Or just before I dive into Arc of Infinity. Or I'll even just enjoy it all by itself. Can't for the life of me understand why - but I do really enjoy Time Flight.

What the hell's a matter with me?!

I am quite pleased with how the story started. Self-contained episodes were still very big back then in television. Even in Doctor Who, we often saw a new story start that didn't acknowledge at all what had happened in the previous one. It just put less pressure on everyone when you made TV that way. Writers didn't have to take on what the previous writer did. Script editors didn't have to work in extra references. Even actors could just dump out of their memories what had happened last week and start the slate fresh. But something so big happens in Earthshock that Time Flight has no choice but to pick up where things left off. The mourning between the three remaining TARDIS crewmembers is still woefully brief (which is your first clue that there might be something wrong with this story) but it's still good that it's there. The fact that Adric also appears in the illusions being thrown up against Nyssa and Tegan an episode later is also a nice touch. The Alzarian Brat might not have been too popular with the fans, but his passing is still handled somewhat respectfully. I like that.

Episode 1, in general, seems quite promising. We have a few shots that blatantly scream: "My God! Where has all the money gone?!". But then we also have some very nice location work at Heathrow to help atone for some of these low-budget sins. More importantly, there's a suitable amount of intrigue to the plot and some nice supporting cast that are introduced as the Doctor talks his way into riding on a concord jet. Even the reference to the Brigadier and UNIT isn't overworked. It's simply used as a quick device to get the Doctor into the story. I also quite like the fact that if the Doctor hadn't bothered to stop and check the cricket scores, none of this would've happened. There was a definite attempt to pull away from quirkiness because Tom Baker's Doctor had so much of it. It's nice to see the Doctor Five starting to indulge in his own version of eccentricity.

Part Two is where things starting getting a bit pear-shaped. There's some definite padding starting to creep in but it's still not actually too bad. Still, we can sense trouble on the horizon. Time is being marked for a big reveal at the end of the episode and that's never a good thing. Delaying plot development just so it lines up with a huge revelation can have huge consequences on pace and flow. We see some of this happening as the episode nears its climax.

The first time I saw Time Flight, the surprise return of the Master was very exciting. I was still very new to the show and had only seen a handful of stories. Those had included Logopolis and Castrovalva so I was familiar with the whole Doctor/Master rivalry and had greatly enjoyed it. But the format of the show was still so foreign to me. I didn't know that the Master was in the habit of "living to fight another day" so it was great to see that he was that sort of villain. I waited in eager anticipation for Episode Three.

Within moments of that new episode that excitement died away. Some very clear bad writing was presenting itself. "So you escaped Castrovalva, after all...." was all we got as an explanation for how the Master had survived his last peril. Really? That's it? Writers do know that when you seem to have killed off a character and he's suddenly still alive that an audience wants an explanation, right? No such luck, though. The scene moves on and how the Master survived Castrovalva is now an eternal mystery.

But the Master's return presents a second significant problem. Why was the Master dressed as Kalid in the first place? I mean, once the Doctor meets him in his control center - disguising himself just before the confrontation might make some sort of vague sense. But we see lots of shots of Kalid just by himself before this ever happens. Short of creating a really great ending to Part Two, why would the Master do this?

Episode Three begins with these two huge problems and just gets worse. Those who site Ainley's Master as being infinitely inferior to Delgado's Master are thinking of this episode. Ainley does really seem to go pretty over-the-top in this story. I actually have little or no objections to his performances in any other stories. But, here, he's just a bit too big of a ham. He's a full-on panto villain.

The storyline with the Xeraphin and the Master's need for them isn't too bad. A bit over-contrived in places and difficult to believe. But Who has dealt with far worse premises. The confrontation the Doctor has with them in the sarcophagus is one of the few moments where Episode Three seems to go well. Otherwise, it's all just a lot of silly runaround. Particularly when you consider that the Master has gone to all this trouble to get a workforce and then he just puts together an induction loop to achieve what he wants. Why didn't he just do that to begin with?!

Part Four doesn't improve too much. There is, of course, a certain amount divisiveness in Fandom about Professor Hayter's saving of the Doctor and his companions from the inner sanctum. Some say it was a very profound moment where Doctor Who offers just the slightest glimpse into the nature of the afterlife. Others say it was just a cheap cop-out to get the protagonists out of the corner they'd been painted into. I sit somewhere in the middle about this.

The rest of the episode has problems and strongpoints. A concord taking off in prehistoric times is a bit of a hard pill to swallow. Ainley does settle his performance down a bit - particularly during his bartering with Davison. Those are actually some fairly nice scenes that show a very different dynamic between the Doctor and his arch rival.

Overall, though, Time Flight's conclusion is fairly lackluster. The resolution, in general, is pretty unsatisfying. I remember when I first watched this story, I wasn't even totally sure how the conflict had been solved. It's a bit contrived.

So, there you go: a bit of a breakdown to help better understand why I enjoy this extremely weak story so much. The deeper problems with the story only start to really present themselves' in the later episodes. And, even then, there are some still some nice moments. It probably doesn't help, though, that I watch this story with a sense of retrospectiveness that colors it even more negatively. I know that Time Flight marks the beginning of a series of adventures where the Master just keeps on being left in horrible situations and no one makes the slightest attempt in his next appearance to explain how he made it out. It's very frustrating.

Still, even with all these problems - I love putting on Time Flight. As horrible of a visual as they may be, those swaying Plasmatons do seem to have a sort of hypnotic quality to them. Maybe, if you turn up the soundtrack really loud during the Plasmaton attacks, you can hear a voice faintly muttering: "This story is actually good. You will enjoy it. You will enjoy it...."


The other Four: 

#5 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures.html

#4
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures_11.html

#3
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-five-guilty-pleasures.html

#2
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures_21.html





And, just for fun, here's a link to my 10th Favorite Who Story Of All Time. It will have links to the other Nine of them....

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/12/book-of-lists-top-ten-who-stories-10.html



I have also referenced my "Not As Bad As They Say It Is" List once or twice in these posts. Here it is: 

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/07/book-of-lists-5-not-as-bad-as-everyone.html







Saturday, 21 May 2016

BOOK OF LISTS: TOP FIVE GUILTY PLEASURES #2

                              FEAR HER


I have never been much of a Disney fan. The man, himself, led a fascinating life and I'm impressed with his achievements. But, within seconds of his death, Satan appeared to take over his company. Nowadays, Disney comes across as just a gang of greedy bastards who want to run everything in the world. There should almost be an episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor takes Disney on and defeats them in their evil plans.

But the thing I hate most about Disney is the "shmaltziness" that they have to put into almost all of their films. Even in their more classic days, when they weren't trying to just pluck our heartstrings to get more money from us, sentimentalism was often taken just a bit further than it needed to be. Lots of these movies were made for children so the creators felt they could push the emotional factor a bit harder. But, even as a kid, I would watch certain moments in a Disney project and just say to myself: "This is getting too sappy!".

Fear Her is, very much, a Disney version of Doctor Who. Particularly since one of the central characters is a child and her character progression becomes key in the resolution of the conflict. There's also a big nasty monster who just seems big and nasty but doesn't actually do anything that bad and nasty. A very kind and friendly hero also decorates the storyline. All popular elements of Disney tales that we see over and over. Even the aggressive ball of pencil scribbles has a very "cartoony" feel to it. Making the whole thing feel even more like a Disney flick.

But, of course, the biggest Disney influence is the shmaltziness. A lonely lovey-dovey alien takes root in the heart of a disenfranchised girl and starts bringing her dreams to life. Even the fact that there are some sinister consequences to this still gives the whole thing a Disney feel (magic going wrong and creating some "darkness" in the plot happens in many of these films - Magician's Apprentice, for instance).

So, having taken so much time to explain my hatred of All Things Disney and the bearing it seems to have on Fear Her should make this an open-and-shut case. Disney sucks. Fear Her sucks. End of story, right?

I still don't think I've made it through Fear Her without my eyes, at least, watering up a bit. I hate to admit that. Really, I do. But if I'm admitting to guilty pleasures, I need to come totally clean: Fear Her has reduced me to tears. It doesn't hit me as bad Father's Day. But then, nothing does!

I can't entirely figure out why the story affects me the way it does. It shouldn't, really. It doesn't have a lot of plot. The actual storyline that does exist is pretty ludicrous, at best. Particularly as we near the end. I mean, would we really keep the olympic torch moving along if all the people in the arena that were waiting for it had suddenly disappeared? Would a random stranger out of nowhere be allowed to keep carrying it after the proper runner fell? Is it, perhaps, just a bit too coincidental that the olympic flame is nearby when an alien needs lots of heat and a focus for love and hope to propel itself back into the cosmos? It's a bit much to swallow.

But I still can't fight back those warm fuzzies as the space ship dives into the relay torch. Or the Isolus proclaims: "I love you Chloe Weber" and departs from her body. Or the Doctor picks up the torch and carries on the run. Moments like that get me every time.

And I hate it.

I shouldn't enjoy that kind of shmaltziness - it's always made me cringe. But, somehow, Fear Her slips under the wire and hits me in the feels. I wish I knew how it did it.

One of the things that genuinely impresses me about the story is the fact that it deals with domestic abuse. A topic we haven't seen covered since Keys of Marinus (there's a wild theory that the Doctor's attempt to strangle Peri in Twin Dilemna is also domestic violence - but let's not go there!). Marinus only faces the issue in passing whereas Fear Her makes it a fairly central part of its plot. I quite like that it even dispels a common myth that domestic abuse survivors tend to believe in. That, once the abuser is removed from the situation, everything is all right. Poor little Chloe is dealing with all kinds of fallout because even if Daddy might be gone, what he did to her still affects her. The abuse might be over but she still needs help. I like that this was written into the story. It's Doctor Who actually passing on an important message about a delicate subject. Fear Her needs to be commended for that.

Some folks like to rip on the performance of the child actress. I think she actually did pretty good. To play a kid possessed by an alien has got to be pretty tricky. Particularly since it wasn't just an evil one. But, rather, one with a few "layers" to it. To just run around being vicious and scary cause an alien has taken over your body wouldn't have been such a tall order. But to have a benevolent-but-confused-and-petulant alien controlling you is a bit tougher. I think she fares well in the portrayal - particularly for a girl of her age. Could someone have played the role better? Probably. But a whole lot of people could've played it worse.

But as much I try to stress the good points of this tale, Fear Her has the distinct feel of a New Who version of Time Flight. The money appears to have run out (unlike Time Flight, this isn't the last story of the season - but the real budget is being pumped into a huge Cybermen/Dalek battle that is just around the corner) Because the production team has five pounds to make the whole thing, they drive out to a nearby suburb and try to create a story, there. They can afford one cheap CGI effect for about half-a-dozen shots. Otherwise, everything's gotta be shot practically. They can't even afford a real monster suit - just scary lights coming out of a closet.

But instead of working around the budget limits, the writer seems to fall victim to them. A whole lot of nothing happens for most of the first half of the episode. The Doctor and Rose investigate where the kids disappeared but don't really discover much. Chloe keeps sucking stuff into her pictures. More investigation that doesn't really turn up anything. More stuff sucking from Chloe. And so on...

Waiting for characters to figure out what's going on when we already know what is happening is always a tricky thing to do when plotting a story. It can become tortuous pretty quickly. Fear Her has to mark some serious time to fill out the episode, though, so it milks this for all its worth. We finally get a bit of excitement from the scribble attack - but it's such a silly idea that one has to wonder if it was worth it all. We also get a mid-episode TARDIS console-room visit - another notorious time filler.

Finally figuring out that it's Chloe causing the problem and discovering how she's doing it is probably the high point of the adventure. The Isolus are an interesting and cleverly-devised race. The symbiotic relationship that has developed between Chloe and the alien is quite touching (Rob starts getting his first few sniffles right around here).

But then the second half of the story kicks in and things get more and more preposterous. Rose running around with the pick-ax is a bit fun (the man from the Council seems to veer between amusing and annoying) but even that seems a bit hard to swallow. Would a mother really let a crazy pick-ax-wielding blond smash her way into her daughter's room? From there, of course, credulity gets stretched more and more. As does the shmaltziness of it all. Murray Gold's score has never tried harder to heighten the emotion of a moment. It's especially needed since we have a fairly boring story that gets flat-out silly toward the end.

And yet, somehow, I fall victim to a lot of the emotional manipulation. I get caught up in the rush and even end up having a little cry, now and again (still so embarrassed to admit this!). Overall, I enjoy this goofy little story that is considered by many to be the biggest mistake the New Series has made. I agree entirely with what the critics have said. And yet, I still love it when that little egg-shaped spaceship shoots out of the olympic torch and races off into space as David Tennant coos at it.

Hits me right in the feels every time.


Other Guilty Pleasures:

#5

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures.html

#4

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures_11.html

#3

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-five-guilty-pleasures.html






Monday, 16 May 2016

BOOK OF LISTS: FIVE GUILTY PLEASURES - NUMBER 3

                                                               THE CHASE


I still remember the very first time I watched The Chase. If you read my first anniversary post (http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/03/first-anniversary-special-something.html,) you'll know that I discovered Doctor Who way back when the internet was barely a glimmer in a programmer's eye. Learning about what the show was like back when I first became a fan was very much like making a patchwork quilt: you assemble a bunch of mismatched pieces til they eventually make sense. As The Chase was being broadcast on a local PBS station for the first time after I'd started following it, I'd heard about how Dalek Mania was all the rage during the show's earliest days. I'd even heard about how Dalek Masterplan had been made at the behest of a BBC executive whose mother wanted to see more Daleks. But I hadn't learnt how an entire six episodes had been devoted in Season 2 just to feed the frenzy.

There's a poignant moment in The Chase that probably a lot of fans my age experience. That moment where we realize: "Holy Crap! This is it. This whole story is going to be nothing but Daleks chasing the Doctor."

There is absolutely no real plot in The Chase. In fact, the premise gets established at the end of the previous story. There's a recap of it in Episode One to help mark a bit of time, and then it's nothing but two TARDISes in a protracted pursuit sequence. It's like that overindulgent chase scene in Planet of Spiders but it goes on for a whole six episodes.

Most likely, most fans my age shut down shortly after they made the: "This is going to be the whole story" realization. They gave up right there and then and sat through the remaining episodes just to be completists - but hated the whole thing! The Chase seems to be one of those Dalek stories that fandom avoids talking about as much as possible. It's an embarrassment, really. A blatant attempt to keep the groundlings happy. Like any other sane person, I should've shut down too when I made that horrific realization. But, instead, my brain seemed to go in a different direction.

"There's nothing to this." I resolved, "So let's just have fun with it!". So I just checked my brain at the door and just let The Chase do what it's meant to - entertain me for a bit!

This is another Who story that looks like Ed Wood directed. As if plotless adventure wasn't damage enough, there's some major gaffs that occur during the filming that are just left in. And yet, seeing a Dalek in the background in the haunted house when they're not meant to arrive yet or a BBC camera being in plain view in the jungles of Mechanus doesn't seem to bother me much. Nor does the whole business with the android double of the Doctor really upset me (could there be a more obvious sequence in the history of television where a body double is being used?!). All of these mistakes just add to the charm.

The writing's pretty awful in spots, too. Aliens living on an ocean planet called Aridius that ended up completely drying out kinda had it coming to them. And how exactly does Peking cancel the Festival of Ghana? This seems to be a pretty hastily-written script. This should grate on me more than anything. I do actually make a bit of a living as a writer - I'm even starting to make some headway into television. So a poorly-written TV script should legitimately outrage me. And yet, I'm okay with it all.

The absolute silliest stuff in The Chase tends to be what I enjoy the most. The business on Aridius and Mechanus nearly becomes a genuine sci-fi story - a fan can almost appreciate these settings. But I'm more fond of the absolutely ludicrous stuff like the Marie Celeste or the haunted house. And, most significantly, that glorious sequence on the Empire State Building. Morton Dill seriously deserves his own spin-off series. At some point, of course, he meets his double: Steven Taylor. If Nyssa can do it in Black Orchid, we can see this happen.

Just once in a while, The Chase does actually manage to legitimately impress. That grand battle between Daleks and Mechanoids near the story's end does actually look pretty sweet. And Ian and Barbara's departure is quite touching - particularly the whole montage of still images. It's actually pretty neat that the six episodes aren't just pure kitchiness - there's a moment or two of sincerity thrown in there, too. Which adds greatly to the delight of it all.

Still, The Chase is mainly about feeding Dalekmania and not much of anything else. And if you can accept it at face value - it's a pretty fun story. Frankenstein's Monster throwing around a Dalek is an image that will forever burn in my memories....

....that cane fight between the Doctor and his android double is pretty wicked too!  

Missed my other guilty pleasures? 

#5
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures.html

#4
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures_11.html







Wednesday, 11 May 2016

BOOK OF LISTS: TOP FIVE GUILTY PLEASURES - #4

                                                          TIMELASH

            
Sometimes referred to as: "The Horns of Nimon of the 80s" (even though part of Horns of Nimon was actually broadcast in the 80s), Timelash comes in just a bit higher in my rankings because I do find it just a bit more fun to watch.    Kontron crystals are, basically, a bit cooler than hymetusite!  
            
Like Nimon, Timelash is a somewhat two-dimensional tale.    Villains, for the most part, are blacker than black -  and the heroes are utterly innocent.   We know, within seconds of seeing someone onscreen, which side they are on.    While such a writing style does lack imagination, it doesn't mean that it still can't produce something that is largely entertaining.  
            
The Borad, for instance, is a really great baddie.   As much as fandom wants to cloud its judgement by talking about tinsel tunnels or an awful turn by Paul Darrow, if you strip away those distractions - you find yourself really loving the Borad.   I would even say you could put him in the Gallery of Greatest Who Villains and not bat an eyelash.   He's that good.   He builds androids as well as Sharaz Jek and twists time as deftly as the Master.    On top of that, he's got a terrible self-image problem.   Boasting endlessly about how being a Morlox hybrid is so great, he still forbids any reflective substances so that he can never see his own appearance.   That's some classic villainy, if you ask me.   In a nutshell, the Borad kicks ass. 
            
The Timelash, itself, while lacking visual splendour - is a really well-done plot device.    The fact that it captures the TARDIS and drags the Doctor into the story is a nice way to get him involved in the adventure.   Rather than use the whole: "Oh look!  I just happened to show up on a planet during a period of great political upheaval" method, we get a feasible way of involving our main character and his travelling companion.   The Timelash keeps getting used effectively throughout the storyline.    It creates a nice plot complication when Vena falls into it with the amulet.   It provides us with a good cliffhanger.  It even dispatches our antagonist at the end.   And, of course, it provides the Doctor with a means to defend himself in battle.   
            
Yes, that last sequence also contains one of the most notoriously cheap effects in the show's history.   But, again, if you look past the Christmas tinsel, it's a very imaginative sequence.    The Doctor "dangling on the edge of oblivion" works quite well in a theoretical sense.    It's only the visuals that let the whole thing down.    And, of course, we get a couple of Kontron crystals out of the deal.    Which leads to some more fun with the plot.    
            
Long before Moffat gave us the term "timey whimey", Timelash did something cool and non-linear with the exploding android that appears out of nowhere and then gets sent back in time an hour later.     As much of a thorn in the side that Glen McCoy might have been, that's a clever way to use time travel in a storyline.    The other application of a Kontron crystal also plays out in a very fun way.    Particularly as the Doctor faces the Borad down in his lair.    These are some clever ideas that not only work out well in theory but are backed by some nice visuals on top of that.
            
There's also the fact that Timelash is a sequel to an unseen previous adventure involving the Third Doctor and Jo.    Yes, this is the era of Who where we all claim the series was getting too self-referential and relying too heavily on its own past (although, coincidentally enough, the Third Doctor era does something quite similar but never gets criticized for it) but I really like it when a story does this sort of trick.  It's a nice device that allows the Doctor to get on with what he does rather than getting locked up all the time because people think he's a spy or an infiltrator of some sort.    Terror of the Vervoids would pull a similar trick in the next season and get similar results.   The fact of the matter is, when a writer uses the "sequel to unseen story" technique, the story flows a bit better.   The painting of Jon Pertwee on the wall is also quite nice and the fact that there's a mirror behind it that is used against the Borad at a crucial moment is very effective.   
            
Like Nimon, of course, I have an objection or two with Timelash.   Some of which I've already stated.   But my biggest bone of contention is, easily, our awful "filler scene" in the TARDIS console room near the story's climax.   It does bring the whole pace of the story to a grinding halt and I am frequently tempted to just fast-forward through the whole thing.    What makes this piece of filler all the more shameful is the fact that a scene in the console room with the Doctor explaining to Peri how he escaped the Bendalypse Missile would've worked quite nicely.   Instead, we are merely given an "I'll explain later" resolution.   Yes, the shot of Herbert's card is a great way to the finish of the story, but couldn't the Doctor have shown Peri the card after he explained his escape?    It's a remarkably bad piece of writing that finishes off the whole tale and leaves a very nasty final taste in all our mouths.   There was hope for Timelash before this sequence.    It was still cheap-looking and had some bad acting in it but it was also a lot of fun.   But when we get subjected to the filler scene and then an "I'll explain later" resolution - the story becomes legitimately troubled.    Which is a pity, really.   Because this story would make it much higher on my Guilty Pleasure List if it hadn't ended so poorly.   
            
Or, I might not even call it a Guilty Pleasure.  I might actually just call it a pretty good story.   

Missed Number 5? Here's the link: 

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures.html                                                                 

Thursday, 5 May 2016

BOOK OF LISTS: TOP FIVE GUILTY PLEASURES


My Top Ten Doctor Who Stories Of All Time list that I posted over the new year seemed to get such a good response that I thought I might try something similar. This time, we're looking at my Top Five "Guilty Pleasure" stories. I decided not to make such a long list, this time (especially since fan review sites are a dime a dozen on the internet!) so we should get through this in the month of May. 



DEFINITION:

What constitutes a "guilty pleasure"? Well, a guilty pleasure, to me, is a story that we all agree is pretty bad but I still like it. There may be all kinds of elements to the production that are downright cringe-worthy but, for some unknown reason, I still find the thing enjoyable to watch. I shouldn't, really, but I do. It's the same idea as that pop song we hear on the radio that we know is completely awful but we still sing to it quite happily every time it comes on. So long as we're alone in our car when it does! 

Which means that you won't see stories on this list that I feel fandom has misjudged. Twin Dilemma is a great example of this. It's not the greatest story in the world, of course. But I feel fandom comes down on it way harder than it should. By no means does it deserve the ranking it gets in Doctor Who Magazine's: The Mighty 200 (or whatever number we're up to, now!). So I wouldn't call it a guilty pleasure because I actually think it's half-decent. I did a "Not as Bad as They Say it is" List a while back (http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/07/book-of-lists-5-not-as-bad-as-everyone.html). That's the category a story like Twin Dilemma would full under.

Whereas the stories you'll see here are ones that I'm actually embarrassed to admit that I like. They are legitimately crappy Doctor Who stories (which doesn't mean they are completely awful television - a bad Who Tale is still better than a lot of other stuff one finds on TV) but I still get an almost perverse enjoyment out of watching them. Can't even completely understand what it is that I like about them so much, but I still find them fun. 

Here's Number Five:


HORNS OF NIMON

I place Horns of Nimon at the end of this list for two chief reasons:

            1)  I only like it so much.

            2)  The story is only so bad.   In fact, a lot of fandom actually defends it and claims it's rather good.    So, if it's so well-liked, that only makes it so much of a "guilty pleasure".    As I've explained in the intro, the more a story is detested - the more it increases its status on this particular list.    So, with only a mild degree of unpopularity, this particular tale gets a fifth-place ranking.   

Now, let's go back to my first point.   Why do I only like Horns of Nimon so much?   For much the same reason as anyone only likes it so much, really.   There are some blatantly bad aspects to this production.    The most blatant being the acting.   Even our leads seem to be "phoning it in" throughout most of their scenes.   Lalla Ward seems largely disinterested in the whole affair.   As if she's busier learning her lines for Shada rather than concentrating on what's been put immediately in front of her.    And Dear Old Tom seems to have decided to thoroughly take the piss out of everything that's going on in the plot.    When fans argue about the comedy going too far during the Graham Willaims Era, it is Horns of Nimon and Creature from the Pit that they hold up as their best pieces of evidence.    At least in Creature from the Pit, Baker seems to still care about the words he's saying.    So much of his dialogue in Nimon looks so rushed that you'd swear Ed Wood was directing the whole thing ("Right then, Tom, terrible delivery but I'm no mood to do a second take so let's leave it as it is!").

But our supporting cast is no better.   Our Athenians, of course, can only take so much blame in this.   They are given little to work with.   They wander from scene-to-scene, looking terrified about everything.   But, that's all the script has handed them.   And, to their credit, they are showing genuine fear rather than going over-the-top like so many other people in the cast did.
            
Sadly, as we move through the rest of the supporting cast, things take a turn for the worst.    That Skonnon Captain who loves to shout "Weakling scum!" doesn't just need a new pair of pants - he needs a new acting coach!   He seems to have taken a page from Tom's book and is muttering so hurriedly through those lines  that it seems like he didn't get his script til ten minutes before the camera started rolling.   The interrogation scene with Soldeed is the best example of this.   It's, pretty well, the worst example of bad acting that Who has ever seen.   
            
And, since we mentioned Soldeed, I seem to recall hearing that James Crowden was actually being considered for the role of the Fourth Doctor way back when Pertwee was bowing out.    If Horns of Nimon is anything to go by, then we can believe that a better choice was definitely made with Tom Baker.    The campiness with which he approaches the role is tolerable in his earlier episodes.   But as he descends into madness, he becomes unwatchable.   I've heard fans defend Crowden's entire performance.   These are the same fans who get upset over the fact that Richard Briers is having a bit of fun in Paradise Towers when he gets possessed by Kroagnon.   The irony of this stance astounds me to no end.   Crowden has obviously decided to go full-on panto villain by Episode Four of Nimon.   Any credulity the character had left has been chucked right out the window of the House of Good Acting.   Whereas Briers is merely playing the villain with a bit of a wink in his eye.    It astounds me that fans can't see this.   But then, any Who pre-dating the JNT era seems to be viewed under an entirely different light. 
            
"Now wait a minute, Rob." some of you might be saying, "You referred to this story as a guilty pleasure.   So far, all you've been doing is trashing it.   Where's the part where you talk about what you liked about the story?"
            
Well, if you recall, the fact that I do have some strong criticisms about this tale is the main reason it's coming in at Number Five and not getting a stronger ranking.    But still, let's get on with the good stuff:
            
Horns of Nimon has a very memorable alien in it (and it's not only the ridiculous platform shoes that get us to remember him!).    So much so, that he's gotten honorable mention in the New Series.   Parasitical Alien Races always make for good sci fi, yes.   But the fact that our Nimon is also rooted in Greek myth makes him that much more interesting.    Factor in that he also exploits mankind through moral corruption and we get what is probably one of the best "layered" Parasitical Alien Races the show has ever produced.   It helps that the Nimon are also pretty damned fun to watch storming around corridors and shooting concentric circle lazer beams from their horns!    Yes, the artistes within the costume are having a good time overdoing their mannerisms, but this all ties in quite nicely with everyone else going so OTT with their roles.  
            
There are moments, too, where Tom's antics are genuinely amusing.   Where we don't feel like his humor isn't just tearing down the credibility of the scenes he's in.   Instead, he's actually being entertaining.   It's usually the more subtle stuff.  Like when he tries to steal Romana's sonic screwdriver or his joke about getting the order right when the Nimon threaten him.   Those sort of moments do really add some charm to the production.
            
This is also a great story for Romana.   She spends a good deal of time separated from the Doctor and accomplishes a number of useful things during those times.   One could even argue that Romana accomplishes far more than her counterpart in Horns of Nimon.   The Doctor tends to wander aimlessly and just get himself into trouble throughout a good chunk of the story.   Even when he does start proving useful, it's because he's got K9 helping him out.   Romana propels most of the plot, herself.    It's always interesting to watch when a show allows someone who isn't the titular character to be the protagonist.
            
We also get a nice little twist in Episode Four where Romana journeys to the previous planet that the Nimon exploited.   And there, amazingly enough, she finds the one actor who seems to be taking the story seriously.   The Head Scientist who brought the Nimon to that world and is now trying to fight them actually does a surprisingly good job in his role.   

Particularly as he confesses his sins to Romana.  There's a nice element of pathos, there.  In a production where everyone else is having way more fun than the audience is or just doesn't seem to care about their role at all, this particular actor gives us a much-needed breath of fresh air.   He also helps to really lift the story.    One almost wishes he'd been given the role Crowden got.  

            
So, there you go.  Horns of Nimon -  Number 5 on the list of Guilty Who Pleasures.   Earning its position because it does have problems - but there's a fair amount about it that I really like!