AS a kid you loved Doctor Who no matter how shoddy and repetitive it was. But in our age of big-budget streaming shows, viewers would struggle to believe these were real episodes on actual TV.
Warriors of the Deep (1984)
This Peter Davison story features the weighty theme of breaking the cycle of war and retaliation – and the Myrka, an ultra-shit sea monster that is two blokes in a costume exactly like a pantomime horse. Then Ingrid Pitt attempts to use karate on it before dying instantly, in possibly the most baffling and embarrassing scene ever filmed in any genre.
A slightly trippy story, unpopular with fans and dogged by bad special effects like so much older Who. For reasons we won’t go into there’s a big snake called the Mara which honestly looks like a giant inflatable kids’ toy for the back garden from Argos. The Mara may be an evil entity from the depths of the subconscious, but it looks as if Tegan and Adric should be trying to throw hoops over its head.
Orphan 55 (2020)
Even some ‘Nu Who’ resembles bad am-dram. Orphan 55 includes a horribly cliched twist (they’re on Earth in the future!), companion Ryan sucking his thumb like a twat, and a clearly windswept ‘idyllic holiday planet’ (actually Tenerife but it looks like Margate in October). The icing on the cake is incredibly lame monsters with zero facial articulation. With such terrible production values you’d think it would have a certain retro appeal, but it doesn’t. It’s just shit.
The key to understanding the regrettable Timeflight with its lousy FX is that it’s about a Concorde going missing in space and time and Britain was still excited about Concorde. Much of the story is filmed at Heathrow Airport and it certainly captures the atmosphere, ie. you want to get pissed to take your mind off the boredom.
Carnival of Monsters (1973)
There was no escaping the fact that the terrifying Drashigs – dinosaur-cum-caterpillar monsters – were very obviously small hand puppets. Meanwhile a plesiosaurus was only marginally more scary than Baby Shark. In fairness it was a triumph of special effects on a 1970s BBC budget, but none of the monsters look as if they’d stand much chance against a small Yorkshire terrier. It’s got Jo Grant in it though, so that cancels out any and all shortcomings.
The Ambassadors of Death (1970)
Today’s Doctor Who cracks on at a fast pace, partly to hide the nonsensical plots but also because of stretched-out old episodes like these. Much of the story is characters going back and forth between a very cheap space command centre and a very cheap villains’ hideout. It’s so low-budget and samey it looks like Crossroads or, more correctly, Acorn Antiques.
Planet of the Spiders (1974)
The final Jon Pertwee story isn’t terrible, but it’s a good (ie. bad) example of the producers trying to do things beyond their budget. At this stage they wanted the show to include more action, so there were chases in the Doctor’s antique car, Bessie, which weren’t exactly Bullitt, and this, a ridiculous pursuit during which the Doctor runs over a comedy tramp in a hovercraft, complete with rubbish dummy. It’s as strange as it sounds.
Arachnids in the UK (2018)
As showrunner Chris Chibnall departs, it’s only right to remember one of his scripts. The pun title should set alarm bells ringing, but so should ‘Written by Chris Chibnall’. The spiders look fine, the problem is Doctor Jodie first battling them, then suddenly lecturing everyone on respecting other species, then killing them anyway. It’s impossible that no one noticed this obvious inconsistency, because, like all Jodie’s speechifying, it goes on for ages.
The Twin Dilemma (1984)
The nadir of hated stories. Due to his regeneration the Doctor is incredibly annoying and unpleasant in these cheap-looking, talky episodes with intellectual pretensions and bad costumes and haircuts. Realising the show had problems, shortly afterwards the producers deliberately put companion Peri in tight, low-cut tops all the time. Even during the lowest points of Nu Who they never said: ‘Jenna, could you just hop into this leotard? Thanks.’