So this month’s debate moves bang up to date and asks, is Amy Pond irritating or ingenious? Over to Joe...
AW: I don't think Amy is disillusioned at all. There's still a sense of wonder throughout the whole of her first series. Witness the trip to Starship UK, and the wonder at where the Doctor takes her for her first trip! The amazement as Churchill - yes, the Prime Minister! - calls the Doctor in the TARDIS! The horror at the Angels, the fear of the 'vampires', the shock of losing Rory (twice!), going underground to find another civilisation, meeting Van Gogh, taking a trip to Planet One...the girl is always in wonderment at what occurs and where she goes. And as for 'slutty'...one time does she try anything with the Doctor, and that's after she's ALMOST DIED for heaven's sake! All sorts of emotions and chemicals are whizzing around her body, I'm sure! She's just as fiery as Donna before her and the Doctor doesn't talk down to her or stand any nonsense from her. She's a well-rounded individual and just what the Doctor needed after almost losing it at the end of his last life.
JF: I would hardly say the only time she was slutty was in Flesh and Stone - although that is the most obvious and probably one of the most inappropriately lame sequences tacked onto a genuine classic. She flirts with him from the off, eyeing him getting changed, suggesting that Rory and the Doctor are 'my boys', trying to snog him on her wedding day - she's pretty damn lecherous compared to other companions. And frankly how she winds Rory up in doing so - and he is a far more appealing character - makes her even more unlikable. I would hardly say she is a well-rounded character, aside from a scant bit of information about her job we know nothing about the character, which I thought, was the point since her life has been eaten up by the crack. I agree that Amy is in wonderment for her first few stories but come the Silurian two parter her whole attitude screams of same old/same old...how can we care about a woman who is held at gunpoint and almost dies but stands there making sarky comments?
JF: I don't object to her being a sexual person, I'm one of those people who couldn't give a toss if the Doctor went down on his assistant. What I object to is Amy being so blatantly sexual with the Doctor when she is already engaged to be married and worse - in front of her intended which just isn't cricket. Yes the moment in Cold Blood is very heartfelt (if slightly overacted) but my feelings were you should have realised what you had when you had it, not once it’s gone. Amy is so busy looking at what other stuff she can grab hold of - time travelling and bonking the Doctor - that she hurts those people that really love her. You're right about Rose, that was nauseating but with Amy its distasteful and I like that even less. Amy would fit perfectly into the first series of Torchwood with its lack of morals and random shagging about.
AW: But after that scene in Flesh and Stone, not once after does she try to have sex with the Doctor! Sure she flirts, but that's it. It doesn't go anywhere and I don't think - deep down - Amy would really want it to. The Flesh and Stone scene is born out of an extreme situation and it doesn't happen - or get anywhere near that level of overt sexuality - again. Even in Vampires of Venice she may flirt with the Doctor, but it's Rory who gets the tonsil hockey! I don't think she's lacking in morals, she's simply a well-defined person with realistic character traits. Not everyone the Doctor meets is going to be holier-than-thou, and I like the fact that Amy has more of a kick to her than previous companions. She deeply cares for Rory - she certainly wouldn't marry him if she didn't as she's too opinionated and strong-willed to let anyone dictate her life for her!
JF: But if you and your wife were travelling with the Doctor would you be happy for her to be flirting with him all the time and leaving you out? It’s thoughtless, and that would be how I would characterise older Amy. It doesn't matter who gets the kiss, it’s where you are emotionally that counts. I don't mind companions with a bit of kick - Donna had more balls than Amy ever would but she was also far more likable a character, because deep down she was vulnerable and easy to relate to. It helps that Catherine Tate is a better actress but also Russell T Davies took Donna on a real journey to find herself - with Amy the journey seems to be that she discovers that she does in fact love her fiancé. Big whoop.
AW: See I don't find that journey any less important. The Doctor is basically telling Amy to get over him, and she does! She realises what's truly important to her while all the time exploring the universe and expanding her experiences of life. The Doctor enables her to see this, and that's her journey. Sure, I'd be annoyed if my wife was continually flirting with another man, but he doesn't reciprocate and that's what's important. Rory can see this, but he needs Amy to realise what she really wants on her own terms. Ok, it does take the massive jolt of removing Rory for it to ring true, but it works.
JF: Great, it takes her boyfriend to die for Amy to remember that she loves him! And it takes the end of the universe almost to get them married! And nearly the death of a spaceship full of people to survive their honeymoon! What a relationship! It just really bugs me that she can see what she is doing makes Rory seethe with jealousy but she DOESNT STOP. I am just hoping that given the events at the end of the series - Amy and Rory married and her parents brought back to her that we get to see more of Amy the person in the next series. I don't think it’s too late to salvage her character but whilst she should retain her confidence she should tone down her cockiness and she should remember that she can play about in the universe but its Rory that she goes to bed with in the evening. Although I have to be honest I am far more excited about Rory joining permanently in the next series than seeing more of Amy.
JF: Oh and she should put some clothes on - no one wears miniskirts that much!
AW: I think a large percentage of the audience would disagree with you there!
The Seventh Doctor’s era is one of the most contentious in fandom – is it good but misunderstood or a damning indictment of all that was wrong with Doctor Who in the Eighties?
Andy: The Seventh Doctor was the one I grew up with. My first Doctor, the one who drew me into the rich wonderful world of Doctor Who. With his air of mystery and his way with words he entranced the 8 year old me into this strange new place. He could destroy Daleks by talking to them, dazzle the Gods of Ragnarok with juggling and escapology - in short, here was a hero who clearly used his wits rather than his fists.
Joe: He was also played by Sylvester McCoy who was by far the most inconsistent and embarrassing performer in the role, a far better entertainer than he is an actor. Some interesting things were done with the seventh Doctor but in making him a trickster who has set up most of adventures before they have even began he loses his spontaneity and wit and becomes a plotter, which lacks sparkle. There are many moments when McCoy looks uncomfortable with what he is being asked to perform because it is clearly beyond his range, he is such a weak protagonist he needs his companion to take the lead in practically every story of his last season.
Andy: Anger clearly isn't his strong point, but witness the concern he has for his companion is stories such as Survival and Ghost Light, both times when he oversteps the mark regarding Ace's safety. As regards the setting up of lots of adventures prior to them happening, this wasn't true for the whole of his era. The Greatest Show in the Galaxy - one of his finest in my opinion - may make mention of previous encounters with the Gods of Ragnarok, but even the Doctor isn't aware that they're behind it all until he meets them. He's as busy piecing the jigsaw together as anyone else, which is what makes that particular story so unnerving. He doesn't know what's going on, and he's (almost) out of his depth.
Joe: But he does have a hand in setting up events in Remembrance, Silver Nemesis, Battlefield and Curse of Fenric and goes into The Happiness Patrol and Ghost Light with an agenda. Although not a fault of the era itself you can see how far this manipulation of his adventures would have gone had Andrew Cartmel continued his 'masterplan' - just look at the New Adventures where he hardly appears, pulls the strings from the sidelines and lets horrific things happen to good people to make sure things go his way. Is that really how we wanted the show to end up?
Andy: A fair point and it would have been interesting to see exactly how it would have progressed further had the Seventh Doctor been given more time on television. I certainly applaud the efforts of trying to inject some more mystery into the character, even if the results were not always as impressive as they could have been. That said, look at the quality of the stories in his last two seasons (Nemesis aside). There is a great deal of inventiveness and sophistication in the storytelling, and while they may not all be classics (stand up Battlefield), they all have some merit in furthering the character of the Doctor and trying to push the boundaries that the show had already established: the satire of The Happiness Patrol, the darkness of Ghost Light, the urban decay of Survival. All ideas that while not necessarily new per se could have seen the show survive and develop over further seasons.
Joe: Hmm...sophisticated storytelling? I applaud Andrew Cartmel for bring fresh writers to the series and it is clear that they had a lot of good ideas but I think the majority of the stories (especially in the last two seasons) that suffer from some very weak script editing. Silver Nemesis is padded beyond belief and mimics the plot from the other event story in the season two stories back. Greatest Show crawls to a halt in its third episode and has its character comment on the fact! Ghost Light fails to include the rather vital information of what the story is all about. The Curse of Fenric is a cluttered mess of a story that features far too many changes of location and expository dialogue. And Battlefield should have been binned rather than filmed, every other line is a stinker. Inventive stories? Yes. Sophisticated? No.
Andy: Nemesis is undoubtedly a rehash of Remembrance and I'd happily remove it if I could. Greatest Show still has much to offer in its last episode with Kingpin's revival, the Doctor fighting for his life and the rather nasty surprise of the Bus Conductor coming back to life. Ghost Light's plot is easily found if one watches carefully, but the fact that it's not written in flashing neon letters seems to confuse people! The Curse of Fenric does have its flaws, but is nonetheless engrossing for it. As I said before, Battlefield isn't original or innovative, but it's placed just before three very strong stories and undoubtedly looks even weaker by comparison. I still find much to enjoy in season 24 too, which - while not in the least sophisticated (though I'll argue that Delta is the most adult story in that season) - it is entertaining. Dragonfire does leave us on a weak note, but it does gives us Ace who, while not entirely successful, was a brave attempt to create a contemporary companion that young viewers could relate to.
Joe: I actually find from an 'ideas' point of view the much lamented season 24 is one of the strongest seasons - they just didn't seem to have a clue how to make the show during that season. Time and the Rani I would happily sit and watch at any time because it makes me laugh myself silly but it breaks practically every rule of good drama or even good television. Paradise Towers is possibly the strongest script of the season but it is rare to find the intentions of the author crushed so embarrassingly by the story's realisation. Delta and the Bannermen is not a popular McCoy story and (surprise, surprise) its one of my favourites - a genuinely fun, good time piece. Dragonfire ends the season on such a drab note, apeing good Doctor Who when never approaching it - looking for all intentions like a pantomime! People seem to think as soon as we head into the next season that all the production issues stopped but that is far from true - sure Remembrance looks great but The Happiness Patrol is laughably realised with some horrid studio sets and Silver Nemesis and Battlefield feel as though the director forgot to show up.
Andy: Season 24 does have its fair share of inventiveness, but is let down by script (Time and the Rani), performance (Paradise Towers) and sets (Dragonfire). Seasons 25 and 26 are more consistent in their quality and feel more confident in both tone and execution. Yes, there are elements of some that do not work as well as others, but overall they make up two quite satisfying seasons of Who. McCoy gets stronger as time progresses (though still has trouble with anger), and the matching of him and Anthony Ainley (giving his greatest performance as the Master) in Survival is a joy to behold. Yes, there are flaws in any McCoy story, but his era doesn't veer so wildly from one extreme to the other - a comment that couldn't be said of Season 19 (but that's a debate for another time...).
Joe: But I would argue that it is inconsistent in quality - in an era where 6 of its 12 stories are panned by fandom (not something I always agree with myself but it is usually a good indication of quality) you could hardly call this a well regarded period of Doctor Who. Besides if it was so good, why weren't more people watching it - season 26 has some of the lowest ratings ever for the show and don't give me any guff about it being up against Coronation Street - Doctor Who is up against the Street now and triumphs!
Is this the ultimate niche period of Who, loved by few?
Andy: This may be true, but those who love it really love it and will defend it to the hilt. I'm not going to say it's Who's 'golden age', but it does have a fair few crackers in it and is unjustly maligned by too many people. Doctor Who triumphs more readily now as at the time the BBC were embarrassed by the show, and effectively buried it against Corrie. Now, the love in the programme is far more evident (both in the making of it and by the Beeb itself) and it is giving far more time (the one thing McCoy always said there wasn't enough of) and money than it ever had. I think people should certainly give the McCoy era a try - they may love it, they may hate it. I think it may well be the most marmite era of the show.
Joe: I don't know if I buy that argument - the BBC were tentative about bring the show back and it wasn't until its overwhelmingly positive reception that they backed it whole heartedly. Perhaps if the McCoy era had been much cop then the audience would have lapped it up and the BBC would have fought to keep the show alive. The truth of the matter is at the time it was loved by little, the scripts were wobbly, the regulars lacked conviction, the quality went up and down and nobody really gave a damn anymore. It’s such a shame because there were some bloody good stories - Greatest Show you have already mentioned but both Ghost Light and Survival are great too.
Andy: Indeed there were, and I hope more people give them a chance.
Let us know your thoughts too – it’ll be interesting to see how much love there is for the McCoy era!
Next time: Amy Pond –Innovative or Irritating?