Norfolk, 2006 – I remember it vividly. Weâ€™d been invited down for a weekend break, as there was a Doctor Who event in town with guest star Colin Baker. As I clutched my newly purchased poster of Attack of the Cybermen and queued for his autograph, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of guilt â€“ because the undeniable truth was, I never really warmed to the Sixth Doctor. It didnâ€™t help that he had replaced â€˜my Doctorâ€™ or that his brash, provocative style was such a contrast to his predecessor; but there was more to it than that.
The Colin Baker years were a troubled time for the show and arguably the start of a decline that ultimately left us with the hugely popular and enduring Eldorado â€“ which was a bit like putting out your recycling only to find a pile of junk mail on your doormat when you got indoors; you hope something positive will come from your sacrifice, but thereâ€™s always a chance youâ€™ll receive something worse.
However, something strange happened to me that day when I got home; I sat down to listen to Big Finishâ€™s Curse of Lanyon Moor. Thereâ€™s something about Doctor Who and the sleepy British village that ticks all my boxes: The Eleventh Hour, Human Nature, The Awakening, The Daemons, Terror of the Zygons – the list goes on. Being a sucker for a good Miss Marple, maybe itâ€™s not too hard to put your finger on it…. or why The Unicorn and the Wasp will forever be top of my list of favourites â€“ but we digress.
I enjoyed the story so much, that I did something I never thought I would â€“Â I bulk ordered the Sixth Doctor’s back catalogue and set off to explore the â€˜Colin Baker yearsâ€™. Okay, letâ€™s be honest, there are more than a few painful memories in these years that, in time, we will pay homage to; but there are surprisingly a few hidden gems â€“ amongst which, the afore-mentioned Attack of the Cybermen. Now no doubt there will be some who wince at that statement, but I stand by it â€“ continuity errors and all.
Unusually, the Sixth Doctor’s tenure began immediately after his regeneration, as the last episode of season 21. The Twin Dilemma, referred to as â€œthe beginning of the endâ€, by Russell T Davies, was quite simply dreadful â€“ why Anthony Steven was entrusted with writing Doctor Who will always be a mystery to me; perhaps as much of a mystery as John Nathan-Turner’s costume decision – referred to by Colin Baker as â€œan explosion in a Rainbow factoryâ€.