KOJAK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (23)
June 16, 2022
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite TV shows of the Seventies (1974–1983).
DR. WHO | 1974–1983 seasons
When I was growing up, there were two key elements to my perfect solo evening: Grape Crush pop – we didn’t call it ‘soda’ because this was Minnesota – and Doctor Who. This quirky British series that had somehow found a home on my local PBS station Friday nights at 10pm has since become a big-budget hit for the BBC. But back in the early ’80s, the show was known for expansive, intellectually challenging sci-fi stories married to bargain-basement special effects. It was like watching Inception shot in your neighbor’s garage, if your neighbor was an underpaid Isaac Asimov.
With the plastic ray guns, one-man synthesizer score and a section of hallway set used multiple times from different angles, the show was almost a spoof of itself. But the good doctor, not a human but a Time Lord, traveled via TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), a ship shaped like a British telephone box on the outside but mind-blowingly massive on the inside.
Because Time Lord bodies naturally regenerate — usually around the time an actor is ready to try something a bit more legitimate in the eyes of the critics — the Doctor during those years was played by the unflappable Tom Baker, later Peter Davison, and later still many others. But no matter the human husk, each Doctor made every predicament feel just real enough and magically solvable.
It was all fun and games and jelly babies — the Doctor’s favorite candy — until “EarthShock,” a Peter Davison episode about a damaged space freighter pulled back in time 65 million years. Adric, the doctor’s teen math wiz assistant, volunteered to remain aboard to attempt to alter the ship’s course.
So far, fairly typical stuff.
But my fingers froze above my bowl of popcorn when one of the Cybermen blew out the control panel just as Adric had an idea of how to solve the navigation problem. As Earth grew larger in the ship’s windows, he realized his fate was sealed. “Now I’ll never know if I was right.”
The Doctor watched helplessly from his damaged TARDIS. The show’s special effects were as bad as ever, but no one noticed. The young Earthlings in the audience realized the dinosaurs weren’t wiped out by an asteroid but by a damaged space freighter — with Adric still aboard. It was a shocking, gut-wrenching twist and an alternative theory to established historical events all rolled into one.
The last shot was a silent freeze frame of Adric’s broken badge that the Doctor had been holding.
In the 40 years since, I’ve never cried so hard.
KOJAK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Lynn Peril on ONE DAY AT A TIME | Dan Reines on THE WHITE SHADOW | Carlo Rotella on BARNEY MILLER | Lucy Sante on POLICE WOMAN | Douglas Wolk on WHEW! | Susan Roe on THE LOVE BOAT | Peggy Nelson on THE BIONIC WOMAN | Michael Grasso on WKRP IN CINCINNATI | Josh Glenn on SHAZAM! | Vanessa Berry on IN SEARCH OF… | Mark Kingwell on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA | Tom Nealon on BUCK ROGERS | Heather Quinlan on LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE | Adam McGovern on FAWLTY TOWERS | Gordon Dahlquist on THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO | David Smay on LAVERNE & SHIRLEY | Miranda Mellis on WELCOME BACK, KOTTER | Rick Pinchera on THE MUPPET SHOW | Kio Stark on WONDER WOMAN | Marc Weidenbaum on ARK II | Carl Wilson on LOU GRANT | Greg Rowland on STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES | Dave Boerger on DOCTOR WHO | William Nericcio on CHICO AND THE MAN | Erin M. Routson on HAPPY DAYS. Plus: David Cantwell on THE WALTONS.
JACK KIRBY PANELS | CAPTAIN KIRK SCENES | OLD-SCHOOL HIP HOP | TYPEFACES | NEW WAVE | SQUADS | PUNK | NEO-NOIR MOVIES | COMICS | SCI-FI MOVIES | SIDEKICKS | CARTOONS | TV DEATHS | COUNTRY | PROTO-PUNK | METAL | & more enthusiasms!