Hello everyone! 🙂
This is a response to the DVD special feature called ‘The Crowded TARDIS’ on the ‘Castrovalva’ DVD from the ‘New Beginnings’ DVD box set of ‘Doctor Who’. This short documentary focuses on the TARDIS team of Season 19 from the classic series, including the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric.
In this article, I will be sharing my thoughts and feelings of the Season 19 TARDIS team and identifying what the strengths and weaknesses of the team were. This will be an enjoyable article for me to write and I hope to make reference to the Big Finish audios and books as well as the TV series.
First things first, here my thoughts on what I make of the actual DVD documentary ‘The Crowded TARDIS’ on the ‘Castrovalva’ DVD. I love that documentary as it features behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew including Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor); Peter Davison (the Fifth Doctor); Sarah Sutton (Nyssa); script editor/writer Christopher H. Bidmead and director John Black.
I love seeing the documentary with Sarah Sutton in it. It was interesting to hear Sarah share her thoughts about the set-up of the Season 19 team and how there were problems with the TARDIS being so crowded as well as identifying the positives on it. I enjoyed Peter Davison’s comments on the TARDIS being crowded and it was good Tom Baker shared his thoughts on the crowded TARDIS.
Anyway, let’s talk about the Season 19 TARDIS team itself. The issue of the Season 19 TARDIS team was in how many companions were assembled at the end of ‘Logopolis’ with Tom Baker’s Doctor before he regenerated into Peter Davison. The three companions have very distinct personalities and they all made their first appearances in the TV series of ‘Doctor Who’ in Tom Baker’s last season.
But what were the circumstances of the TARDIS being crammed with companions at the end of Season 18? At that time, producer John Nathan-Turner had just started his run of producing the show and had made many radical changes to the show at the turn of the 1980s. Of these changes was the departure of Lalla Ward’s Romana and K-9 Mk II in ‘Warriors’ Gate’ of ‘The E-Space Trilogy’.
The introduction of the Fifth Doctor companions in Season 18 went on these lines. Adric first appeared in ‘Full Circle’, the first story of ‘The E-Space Trilogy’; Nyssa first appeared in ‘The Keeper of Traken’, the penultimate story of Season 18 and Tegan first appeared in ‘Logopolis’, the season finale of Season 18. All three companions assembled in ‘Logopolis’ to see Tom Baker depart from the series.
I honestly don’t know what the real reason or logic there was to have three companions at the end of Tom Baker’s era to carry on forward into Peter Davison’s era. Peter’s theory in ‘The Crowded TARDIS’ documentary was that producer JNT wanted three companions to ease the transition from one Doctor to the next and just in case Peter’s Doctor didn’t work out so well in the end.
I presume that maybe JNT was attempting to evoke something of the original William Hartnell era by having three companions with the Doctor. That was what happened with the First Doctor when he had three companions including Ian, Barbara and Susan from ‘An Unearthly Child’ onwards. This also applied with Patrick Troughton’s Doctor when he had Ben, Polly and Jamie in Season 4 of the show.
However the problem with trying to evoke that same TARDIS team from the 60s into the 80s is that you have less time to develop the characters in shorter action-packed adventure stories that the series had developed into. With the 60s stories of ‘Doctor Who’, more time was developed on the characters of Ian, Barbara and Susan, since the stories were longer by either six or seven episodes.
Also, the story-handling of ‘Doctor Who’ in the 80s was very messy and disjointed, since script-editors kept changing during the making of Season 19 and producer JNT wasn’t a writer himself. The production order of stories in Season 19 was also random as it began with ‘Four To Doomsday’, then ‘The Visitation’; then ‘Kinda’, then ‘Castrovalva’, which made development of the TARDIS characters very disjointed.
Anyway, enough of that! Let’s talk about the actual characters of the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric. Despite the inconsistencies of character development, I really like these four characters of ‘Doctor Who’. This is helped by the camaraderie shared between the four actors playing them and giving very good and enjoyable performances. It was interesting how they bounced off each of their characters.
I agree with Sarah Sutton’s comment that the teamwork of Five with Tegan, Nyssa and Adric works better than the teamwork of Four with Tegan, Nyssa and Adric. Tom Baker clearly stated in the documentary that he preferred working with just one companion with the likes of Sarah Jane, Leela and Romana. Also, I don’t think Sarah, Janet and Matthew would have coped well working with Tom Baker.
Tom was notorious for being a temperamental actor, despite being a great actor to play the Doctor. Also, Tom had been playing the Doctor for seven years by the time the 1980s arrived, and he was getting very opinionated about how the show should be instead of how the new production team thought it should be made. This partly resulted in the reason why Tom decided to quit the TV show.
From reading Matthew Waterhouse’s memoirs of ‘Blue Box Boy’, and hearing the interviews with Janet, Sarah and Matthew about Tom Baker, I can understand why they would prefer to work with Peter Davison instead of Tom. Peter was a fresh face for ‘Doctor Who’, having come off working from ‘All Creatures Great and Small’. He’s also a generous actor as he clearly embraced his ensemble of fellow actors.
From watching Season 19, Peter’s Doctor was clearly a fresh start and a complete contrast to Tom Baker’s Doctor. Peter was approaching the Doctor from a new angle. It took a while to decide on what angle it was, but he was willing to have his Doctor take an interest in his companions and the stories. He didn’t command with so much authority as Tom Baker had done with his era of the show.
The way that Peter’s Doctor interacted with his companions was interesting. Adric, Nyssa and Tegan were each different and the Fifth Doctor had accommodated on a way to handle them with different approaches. This is true in the case of Tegan, who he sometimes found difficult to cope with as she was always complaining about wanting to get back to Heathrow Airport and not travel in the TARDIS.
Janet Fielding’s Tegan was the invention of producer JNT as the companion for the 1980s with Peter Davison’s Doctor. I must say that while I like Tegan and found her interesting as a companion, I don’t agree with JNT’s vision for what a ‘Doctor Who’ companion should be. Peter Davison is on the same lines as me, as producer JNT’s vision for a companion was to be very combative and argumentative.
What I think makes a ‘Doctor Who’ companion work well is that she/he should be compassionate, caring and very easy to like. Nyssa certainly fulfils those qualities of a ‘Doctor Who’ companion for me, as does Sarah Jane Smith and Rose Tyler. Tegan doesn’t exactly fulfil those qualities as a ‘Doctor Who’ companion. This is for the fact that Tegan never wanted to be in the TARDIS once she arrived.
However, I must say that Tegan’s journey as a companion in Season 19 is very interesting. She starts off from wanting to go back to Heathrow Airport at the beginning of Season 19. This is clear in how Tegan behaves in ‘Four To Doomsday’. But by the time we get to ‘Black Orchid’, Tegan announces she wants to ‘stay with the crew for a while’ and asks the Doctor to stop taking her back to Heathrow.
This was a nice development for Tegan’s character, as it shows how she’s changed her mind about travelling in the TARDIS since the beginning of the season. Not sure why or how she came to changing her mind, but it’s something for Big Finish to address I suppose. Eventually by the end of ‘Time-Flight’, Tegan is clearly indecisive about whether to stay at Heathrow or go off into the TARDIS.
I actually like this development in Tegan’s character. Her bursting into tears at the end of ‘Time-Flight’ clearly shows how she’s enjoyed being in the TARDIS, despite the dangers she’s faced and also that she’s a different person to how she was at the start. It’s such a shame her argumentative nature hasn’t mellowed by the time she reunites with the Doctor and Nyssa in ‘Arc of Infinity’ in Season 20.
Now we’ve come to the bit that I’ve looking forward to – Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa, who is my and Peter Davison’s favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion. Nyssa is clearly the definite companion role model in ‘Doctor Who’ for me. She demonstrates the compassionate, caring side that I look for in a companion, and she’s also nice, friendly and tries to be helpful when she can to support the Doctor.
Nyssa is also an alien, a Trakenite, from the planet Traken. It’s interesting to note that the Season 19 team is a multi-national TARDIS crew in ‘Doctor Who’. While the Doctor is Gallifreyan, Tegan is human, Nyssa is Trakenite and Adric is Alzarian. It is hard to see the difference, as the four heroes seem human. I’m reminded of lines said between Ten and Lady Christina from ‘Planet of the Dead’.
Lady Christina: “You look human.”
Tenth Doctor: “You look Time Lord.”
Anyway, as well as being from Traken, Nyssa is also a scientist, specialising in the field of bioelectronics. Whilst I’m not into science like Nyssa is, I’m pleased that her character shows her to be very intelligent and clever, compared to Tegan who isn’t so clever and is an Australian air hostess. Nyssa is also the daughter of a high-ranking Consul of Traken and is born from an aristocratic family.
Sadly for Nyssa, she suffered a lot at the time she joined the Doctor, since her father was murdered and taken over by the Master and her home planet of Traken was destroyed. But unlike Tegan, Nyssa doesn’t go into an emotional rage. She tries to be calm and shrug off the dangers and horrors she faces. This is sometimes confused with poor character development on Nyssa by many.
But if you watch the TV stories closely and listen to the Big Finish audios with Nyssa in them, it’s clear that Nyssa is trying to be very brave and not lose control of her emotions when she sees something terrible happening on her adventures in the TARDIS. Also, as stated in ‘The Haunting of Thomas Brewster’, Nyssa tries to honour the memory of her parents by not grieving for them but be happy.
Nyssa’s role in the TARDIS team of Season 19 is essentially to be the referee. Whilst Tegan and Adric are companions that the Doctor finds difficult to cope with, Nyssa is the one who tries to ease the tension and be the sort of ‘mother’-figure among the family of the TARDIS team. It’s also clear that Nyssa is the companion that the Fifth Doctor’s closest to and most fond of compared with Tegan and Adric.
By the way, I like how the Fifth Doctor gives roles to his companions whilst he’s in the Zero Room in ‘Castrovalva’. The Doctor calls Tegan the ‘co-ordinator’; Nyssa the ‘technician’ and Adric ‘the navigator’. I thought it was great of writer Christopher H. Bidmead to give these companions such roles. It’s such a shame that their roles are never addressed again in the latter stories of the season.
Now it’s time to talk about who everybody has been waiting for – Adric, the mathematical boy genius from Alzarius. I must say I was rather disappointed that Adric wasn’t touched much upon in ‘The Crowded TARDIS’ documentary on the ‘Castrovalva’ DVD. All that’s touched on was that one companion had to go, then a clip of Adric’s death in ‘Earthshock’ and that’s it. That doesn’t seem fair.
Matthew Waterhouse’s Adric is a companion that was meant to appeal to younger viewers who were watching ‘Doctor Who’ at the time of the 80s. It backfired however, as many fans hated Adric and found him annoying. I was quite surprised when I found out how many people hated Adric, especially since I first saw him in his final story ‘Earthshock’ when I was getting into the classic series.
Now whilst Adric tended to be annoying and a brat in his time on the TV series, I admit I don’t mind him as a character or a companion in ‘Doctor Who’. No, the problem with Adric is in concept. Originally Adric was conceived to an Artful Dodger-type character with a mathematical brain. Now that’s a very difficult character description to write on, no matter how hard you try to bring it to life.
I did wonder why having a teenage boy with a mathematical brain would appeal to young fans of the show when they were watching it. Adric was like Wesley Crusher from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’, except he was written to be ‘dodgy’. I also wonder why an Artful Dodger-type character. Why not Oliver Twist? Oliver Twist is actually more appealing than Artful Dodger for me.
Another problem with Adric was that he was a companion that didn’t have much character development during his time on the series. Every time we saw him, he was always the same: immature, annoying and brat-like. It did seem that writers on ‘Doctor Who’ didn’t have the initiative to progress the character forward into coming-of age during the series, as he remained the same.
However saying that, there were times when Adric could be pretty good in ‘Doctor Who’ stories. Most specifically he was good in ‘The Keeper of Traken’ as writer Johnny Byrne wrote well for him as a companion. Also Adric was very helpful to the Monitor when he read out numbers from a print-out in ‘Logopolis’. And he was helpful to the Doctor when they were disabling the bomb in ‘Earthshock’.
Mind you, there were times when Adric can sometimes seem stupid and useless in ‘Doctor Who’ as writers approached him. I’m thinking in particular of ‘Four To Doomsday’ when Adric stupidly believed that Monarch was wonderful and he tried to side with him. Eventually the Doctor talks Adric out of it in order to save Nyssa and he helps the Doctor when they try to get the TARDIS back.
Also Adric seemed to be siding with Hindle in ‘Kinda’ and managed to get out of a prison cell with the Doctor and Todd. But eventually it turned out that Adric was trying to get the key off from Hindle in order to set the Doctor and Todd free. It failed miserably of course, but at least Adric was trying his best. It echoes something he tried to do in order to rescue Romana from the vampires in ‘State of Decay’.
So yeah, Adric can be annoying and useless at times when he was in ‘Doctor Who’. But I’ve seen a lot worse regular characters in ‘Doctor Who’ and other TV shows and movies. So I don’t mind Adric so much as many other fans do. Adric isn’t one of my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companions admittedly, but I do like him in a strange way and feel sorry for him since he had a sad tragic end in ‘Earthshock’.
The decision to kill Adric off in ‘Earthshock’ was done out of lessening the TARDIS crew with companions for the Doctor. This was something that the production team had problems with when dealing with companions. Early on in the season, they had Nyssa stuck in the TARDIS for most of ‘Kinda’, as a way of giving Tegan and Adric to do more. This seemed unfair, as I wished Nyssa was in ‘Kinda’ more.
I would have thought that having removed Adric from the TARDIS team would have meant more stories with the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan for the rest of the Fifth Doctor era. Instead, the production team did the same mistake again by adding Turlough to the team in Season 20 and eventually removing Nyssa from the TARDIS. This was rather shoddy for me, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
I would have liked to have seen more of the Season 19 TARDIS team intermingling with each other and become very good friends with each other. They started being dysfunctional at the beginning, especially with Tegan wanting to go home and not getting on well with Adric. I’m glad that Jonathan Morris addressed the TARDIS regulars working together as a team in the audio story, ‘Psychodrome’.
There are rare times in the TV series when the TARDIS regulars are enjoying themselves. I like how the companions get to enjoy themselves in ‘Black Orchid’, when they attend the fancy dress ball at Cranleigh Hall and also when they see the Doctor playing cricket in the same story. I’m pleased that the Season 19 team mellowed towards each other and liked each other more before Adric’s death.
It also seems like there was a soap-opera atmosphere being created among the TARDIS team regulars of Season 19. This is especially when Tegan’s bickering and complaining a lot with either the Doctor or Adric. I’m not sure if it was the approach producer JNT was going for when he was making the show in his time, as there was that silence at the close of ‘Earthshock’ inspired by ‘Coronation Street’.
I sometimes get frustrated when some writers of ‘Doctor Who’ in books and audio get the wrong interpretation of the Season 19 characters. This seems to be the case with Gary Russell’s novel ‘Divided Loyalties’ and Paul Magrs’ audio ‘The Boy That Time Forgot’ where he wrote for an older Adric. I’ve written my own story with the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Adric and I hope I’ve done them justice.
To wrap up, the Season 19 TARDIS team of ‘Doctor Who’ is one of my favourites. I like the performances of Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse as the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Adric. Despite their faults, this TARDIS team has enabled me to embrace my fandom of ‘Doctor Who’, as I enjoy seeing and listening to their adventures in both TV and audio.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse at ‘Doctor Who’ conventions. I’m definitely looking forward to the upcoming audio releases of ‘Cold Fusion’; ‘The Star Men’; ‘The Contingency Club’ and ‘Zaltys’ that feature the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my article on ‘The Crowded TARDIS’ and that you have found it enjoyable, informative and entertaining.
Thanks for reading!
Bye for now!