Doctor Who Blog

50 Glorious Years: Episode 18 - 1980

The 1980’s! Doctor Who’s third different decade that it has existed in, and one that started so brightly. Not with the UK ratings, which saw the show take a ratings dive in large part because the BBC were now losing the Saturday ratings battle in general from new and networked competition. But 33 years later it’s really tough to care about ratings in one country too much when the quality of the episodes being made and shown were so incredibly high-quality. 33 years later one can watch the first season with new producer John Nathan-Turner at the helm (with Christopher H. Bidmead now script editing) and seeing a show that is trying very hard. There was a whole new musical style to the show (which included a new energetic version of the theme tune, but also all of the incidental music now done by the Radiophonic Workshop at the BBC). Whereas previous seasons usually only tended to feature one or two new writers per season, Season 18 featured as many as 5 stories that had new writers (including one script, Full Circle, written by a 17 year old fan, Andrew Smith - something that you’ll never see happen nowadays with the television series). The show had never looked more stylish, with an entire new set of directors used by John Nathan-Turner - Lovett Bickford, Paul Joyce and Peter Grimwade amongst them. It made for a fantastic set of episodes for Season 18, although only 16 of the 28 were broadcast in 1980 - the rest we’ll get to in the next entry, for 1981.

John-Nathan Turner wanted to take the show into the 1980’s and even 30-plus years later, when you watch Doctor Who from beginning to end (or rather, beginning to present day) you can still see what a great job he did. 1980 will always be remembered by Doctor Who fans as the year that JNT came on to the scene and put his stamp on the show.

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