Day 06 - Favorite episode of your favorite TV show
The fact that it's a firm fan favourite means absolutely nothing (yes, sometimes Received Fanboy Wisdom isn't always wrong, like The Talons of Weng-Chiang
and The Sea Devils
being "classics"), because I had no idea how highly-regarded this story was when I first sat down to watch it aged 13. It absolutely blew me away, and every time I've watched it since it still has the same impact, the same power. This is a story that makes me wish Russell T Davies had toned down his "more, more, more!" approach to his season finales, because this is the perfect example of a dramatic, incredibly intense story that is hugely important, but yet the Fate of the Universe isn't at stake in the slightest.
I don't want to waffle on too much about this story, but I'll try and explain why it's my favourite. Firstly, the Doctor. Peter Davison gives not only his best performance in the role, but also the best singular Doctor performance in the entire history of the series. Certainly of the classic series at any rate, but I'd be tempted to include the new series in that as well. His Doctor is still the same vulnerable, somewhat more innocent figure of his Fifth incarnation, but it's almost as if every single quality of the Doctor, be it good or bad is channelled in just the one story as he goes through absolute hell, culminating in a final act by him that is breathtakingly good
, so noble, that it affirms exactly why the Doctor is the greatest fictional hero of all. This is the ultimate Doctor story.
I definitely think the script by Doctor Who
writing legend Robert Holmes plays a very important part in the success of Caves
, but it's certainly a script that could've gone badly wrong had it been misjudged by a lesser cast and indeed, a lesser director (featuring as it does insults like "prattling jackanapes" and numerous moments where a character talks directly to the audience). Graeme Harper's direction is practically cinematic
, probably the best direction of the classic series, giving everything the adrenaline rush it needs in the action scenes, but also doing real justice to the drama and the performances. Honestly, Classic Who
has never looked as good as this.
Then there's the plot. It's about revenge. I don't think many Doctor Who
stories have ever been squarely about that and I guess that's just another reason why The Caves of Androzani
is so special, because its revenge story is the best kind of revenge story, worthy of The Count of Monte Cristo
, so compelling and dark as it is. Indeed, Sharaz Jek must be one of the best and most memorable one-off "villains" ever seen in Doctor Who
(Baines from Human Nature
/The Family of Blood
is second), a tragic and terrifying Phantom of the Opera
-esque figure who veers from being terrifyingly monstrous to abjectly pitiful. You won't forget him, ever.
It's not 100% perfect. The obligatory monster looks crap, but is thankfully barely in it. And that's more than made up for by the chilling music, by the incredible ending to part three, by the amazing performances from a uniformly fantastic cast,
by the Doctor finally explaining why he wears a stick of celery
... and ultimately, the fact that Peter Davison, Robert Holmes and Graeme Harper were/are three of the most talented men to have ever worked on the series and this one story is a mighty testament to that fact.
If you like Doctor Who
in any shape or form and have never seen The Caves of Androzani
, then you really, really should. It's a prime example of the series at its best, and for me remains a still-unbeaten benchmark for every new story since.