Baker - Williams - Read - Adams era

Talk about Doctor Who when Tom played the Doctor (1974 - 1981).

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Baker - Williams - Read - Adams era

Postby John on November 8th, 2009, 8:31 pm

The three seasons over which Graham Williams presided have been much maligned by fandom, and rarely receive the recognition they deserve. Williams took over the reigns of producer in 1977 following Philip Hinchcliffe’s reassignment to the hard hitting police drama Target. Under Hinchcliffe, Doctor Who had enjoyed some of the highest audience viewing figures since the shows inception, but had regularly come under fire from the National Viewers and Listeners Association’s spokesman, Mary Whitehouse. Whitehouse objected to what she regarded as unacceptable levels of violence and the use of frightening imagery, and in spite of the BBC having publicly defended the show, it was decided that Hinchcliffe’s talents would be better served elsewhere.

BBC Head of Serials Bill Slater -- sensitive to the support Whitehouse was receiving -- instructed Williams to tone down the violence, decreeing that Doctor Who should instead adopt a more humorous family orientated approach. This policy found favour with the shows leading man, who had previously voiced his concerns over a scene in The Face of Evil, as well as the violent nature of new companion Leela.

Joining Williams in the production office was script editor Anthony Read, an experienced drama producer who had been enticed back to the BBC by newly promoted Head of Series and Serials Graeme McDonald. Williams and Read set about defining a new ethos for Doctor Who, one based upon science fantasy; just as the Hinchcliffe / Holmes era had been defined by Hollywood films, so the Williams / Read era would become synonymous with myths and legends.

Following the controversy surrounding episode three of The Deadly Assassin, McDonald kept a close watch over the programme, rejecting anything he felt was inappropriate, and although much of the graphic violence had been excised, the more horrific subject matter of previous seasons would ultimately prevail.

Anthony Read remained on the show for two seasons, after which he was replaced by Douglas Adams. Adams had contributed the second story of the Key to Time season The Pirate Planet and would go on to write The City of Death, one of Tom Baker’s best loved stories. Under Adams guidance, Doctor Who would adopt a distinctly slapstick approach, and although this policy was much to the delight of Tom Baker, others including Graeme McDonald were far from satisfied with the results.

Unfortunately, the greatest challenges of the Williams era proved to be something over which the production team had little or no control. Throughout the late seventies, Doctor Who had been crippled by severe budgetary constraints brought on by an unbridled period of inflation, the story most notably affected by this being Underworld. But it wasn’t merely a lack of money which was blighting television around that time. Increased pressure from trade unions, and the all too real threat of industrial action hung in the air. Studio recording of The Invasion of Time and The Armageddon Factor had both been severely hampered by strike action, but the greatest tragedy would come in 1979, when a continuing demarcation dispute forced the cancellation of the season seventeen finale Shada.

Yet in spite of the enormous uphill struggle he faced, Doctor Who under Graham Williams succeeded in drawing in audiences of between eight and nine million; what’s more he was responsible for creating of one of the shows most popular companions, the Key to Time season, and for recognizing the potential of K9.
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Re: Baker - Williams - Read - Adams era

Postby merlinsseer on November 8th, 2009, 10:46 pm

going to bow out of this one
Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?
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Re: Baker - Williams - Read - Adams era

Postby Toothy Grin on November 9th, 2009, 2:22 pm

I love the Graham Williams era just as much as I love the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era, but for different reasons of course. While the budget undeniably dropped, the qualilty of the stories remained high, with some very clever, inventive writing and much more witty and sophisticated dialogue. Stories like City of Death, The Pirate Planet, The Androids of Tara and The Ribos Operation are mature in a way that earlier stories were not. Yes, there is a lot more humour in this era, but it's far from 'slapstick', the humour is far more knowing and sophisticated, and this is most apparent in the witty banter that often goes on between the Doctor and both incarnations of Romana. I stronlgy disagree with many views that Tom Baker started to send himself and the series up, when the occasions demand it, he is still often as serious as he ever was during the Hinchcliffe era (witness his confrontations with the Pirate Captain, Borusa and Scaroth). The stories were alot more 'science fictional' and imaginative, inparticular Nightmare of Eden, The Pirate Planet and The Horns of Nimon were very good science fiction, even if the production values struggled to cope with he demands of the plots.
So yes, I do rate the Williams era highly, it's not gritty or scary, but it doesn't have to be to be good drama and good entertainment.
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Re: Baker - Williams - Read - Adams era

Postby John on November 9th, 2009, 3:02 pm

Couldn't agree more, Toothy Grin, there just isn't enough love for this era. I think it's nice that there was such an obvious contrast in styles, it kept the stories fresh and interesting. If you fancied watching something a bit thought provoking or gritty, you had The Seeds of Doom, on the other hand if your mood needed a bit of a lift, there were stories like Pirate Planet and City of Death.

But in spite of the coffers being perpetually empty, Williams and co managed to pull off some absolute corkers. Stories like Horror of Fang Rock and Image of the Fendahl which were every bit as tough and atmospheric as anything produced under Philip Hinchcliffe, other notable examples include the beautifully made Ribos Operation, The Stones of Blood and The Androids of Tara.
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Re: Baker - Williams - Read - Adams era

Postby The Cloaked One on November 16th, 2009, 8:25 am

Genesis of the Daleks and Revenge of the Cybermen were a bit too dark for my tastes. While it is true that a protagonist doesn't always have to win, those were some very dark times. My favorite seasons would be Tom's first with the Ark in Space, and then seasons 4 and 5 under Graham Williams. The doctor constantly pulling items from his pockets (the yo-yo :lol: ), tripping people with his scarf, trading items with a sleight of hands, and his constant wit were what made the show for me. I also really liked his ability to stop his heart, especially in the Armageddon Factor. When the doctor was in control, he was the best. Under Graham, though, I had hoped more for the Key to Time arc. I was not bothered by the lack of budgets, because it is the plot and characters which carry the story for me. I would have preferred the Key to Time arc to have been more interrelated. Aside from the piece collected from the Ribos Operation and Pirate Planet, both episodes remained almost separate entities. The Black Guardian showed up for only a second at the end and the key to time was never really used to do anything. I'm wondering if they are going to go back to the Key to Time. It would seem to be one of the ultimate weapons to have during the Time Wars since it is used to 'restore balance.' It could also have been used to stop Logopolis and have the know universe being destroyed forever.
Si-Fy and Fantasy, that is where my heart lies. To Doctor Who and its 18 years of brilliance, still waiting on the 50 yr anniversary!
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