The twenty-second season of classic Doctor Who was the first for Colin Baker as the unstable Sixth Doctor, and debuts on Blu-ray this month in a collection of fully loaded box sets.
Breaking with a long tradition of introducing a new Doctor at the start of a season, Colin Baker made his debut in the season twenty-one finale story, The dilemma of twinsfirst broadcast in March 1984.
Sporting a garish, candy-colored clown-like costume and with a manic, irascible persona far removed from Peter Davison’s mild-mannered portrayal, the Sixth Doctor’s arrival immediately polarized the show’s legion of fans, leaving them equally exasperated. than his companion, Peri (Nicola Bryant).
While it was far from an auspicious start, the following season – originally aired in early 1985 – thankfully saw Baker settle into the role properly and face off against a host of famous foes, including Cybermen , Daleks, Sontarans and the Master. It also featured the return of the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and his companion Jamie (Frazer Hines) in a story written by acclaimed screenwriter Robert Holmes.
Another significant change introduced in Season 22 was the change from the long-running 25-minute episode format to 45 minutes, bringing Doctor Who in line with other ’80s series. (However, the series would revert to its traditional episode length for the following season.)
Season 22 kicks off with The attack of the cybermena story largely inspired by the series’ past – from the very first episode, A supernatural childto Cyber-classics like The tenth planet and Tomb of the Cybermen. This time, the silver adversaries are trying to change history, which will lead to the destruction of the Earth.
Revenge on Varos sees the Doctor and Peri arrive on the titular planet, where televised executions keep the population content. A clever satire of reality TV and the “wicked video” hysteria that gripped Britain in the 80s, this mind-blowing story also features a superb new villain in the form of Sil – a gurgling slug-like creature bent on plundering the mineral wealth of Varos.
A new renegade Time Lord, the Rani (Kate O’Mara), debuts in the historical adventure The Mark of the Raniwhich also features The Master (Anthony Ainley) attempting to prevent the Industrial Revolution.
The two doctors reunites Patrick Troughton and Colin Baker for a darkly humorous Spanish adventure starring the Sontarans and a guest role for Jacqueline Pearce, who played the villainous Servalan in the popular British sci-fi series Blake’s 7.
The much mocked timelash is indeed not one of the best, but remains a very traditional Who story that fits into HG Wells as well as another Blake’s 7 regular, Paul Darrow, whose truly over-the-top performances add to the corny fun.
The best is saved for last. Revelation of the Daleks is another all-time classic story featuring the Doctor’s deadliest foes and their creator, Davros, who has taken over the mortuary planet Necros in order to create a new race of Daleks.
In the end, Colin Baker’s Doctor wasn’t as obnoxious as fans initially thought, and Season 22 was a hit. But the Doctor was about to face a threat even greater than the Daleks: cancellation!
At the end of February 1985, the controversial decision to abolish Doctor Who after twenty-two consecutive years on the air was announced, causing the inevitable outrage. BBC1 controller Michael Grade and series manager Jonathan Powell claimed the series had become too violent and had lost its appeal – a superficial argument to hide the fact that the BBC was in financial difficulty after ordering 104 episodes of new soap opera. EastEnders and the launch of a new daytime television service.
Fortunately, following a public backlash and an 18-month hiatus, Doctor Who returned for a twenty-third season, albeit in a drastically truncated form of just 14 episodes that would make up the epic adventure The Trial of a Time Lord.
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