We look back on the final season of Doctor Who’s original run. What made it so fresh and original, and what were its limitations?
Recently, I’ve rewatched the whole of Doctor Who‘s final classic season on Blu-Ray. I’ll be writing a review on the box set itself soon. But while I’m still making my way through its vast collection of special features both new and old, I thought it was worth reviewing the season on its own terms. How strong was Season 26 overall?
It’s ironic that the BBC did decide to end Doctor Who at this point (or, as they preferred to describe it at the time, “rested”). The series had admittedly struggled at particular points during the 80s. But during the final two seasons, it was gaining its drive and passion back with a vengeance. Season 25 gave us a couple of underrated stories, including Remembrance of the Daleks and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, while The Happiness Patrol is a massively underrated slice of satire.
The following season was perhaps even stronger in its approach. This is partially because of the overall quality of the stories told, but even more importantly, the production team made a clear decision on who to focus on. Season 25 gave us hints of the Doctor’s past, but Season 26 was much keener on exploring his companion Ace. While the season begins with the rather light and fun opening story Battlefield, the rest of Season 26 explores Ace in far greater depth than previously seen with companions.