I've watched three Doctor Who serials since I last wrote about the show here--Silver Nemesis, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, and Battlefield. The best of the three was Battlefield, Silver Nemesis was good, and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy was mostly lame.
Stephen Wyatt, who wrote The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, also wrote Paradise Towers and the two are similar, both involving the Doctor and his companion becoming involved with a small society of people living within a game or show, seemingly a post-modern commentary on the entertainment industry, which makes both similar to Vengeance on Varos and we can say I guess that this is a particular type of Doctor Who serial. One could even go back as far as the third Doctor serial Carnival of Monsters or perhaps the first Doctor's Celestial Toymaker. These sorts of episodes in sixth and seventh Doctor eras don't really work for me, though. There's a smugness about them that feels distinctly unearned, particularly with something like the faux-rapper Ringmaster in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.
Though The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is better than the previous two of the entertainment-commentary type in that it has Ace and the rapport between her and the seventh Doctor could probably make the worst ideas bearable. I also liked the werewolf chick with Siouxsie Sioux makeup.
But as I said, the other two serials were rather good. Silver Nemesis had one of the most unabashedly pulp plots with an almost Indiana Jones-ish tale of the Doctor versus the Cybermen versus the Nazis versus a Lady Peinforte from 17th century England.
Anton Diffring played the lead Nazi, who expressed an interesting perspective on Der Ring des Nibelungen, referring to the Cybermen as the Giants and the Nazis as the Supermen--I guess in this case meant to refer to the gods in the play. Maybe old fashioned translations of Wagner refrained from referring to any god but Jehovah?
I really liked seeing the Brigadier again in Battlefield, as well as Jean Marsh, playing Morgaine pretty much exactly the way she played Bavmorda in Willow. She'd appeared with Nicolas Courtney (who went on to play the Brigadier) in the mostly lost first Doctor serial The Daleks' Master Plan. I'd been watching the remaining episodes of The Invasion, a second Doctor serial, recently--it was the second serial to feature Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, and the contrast between The Invasion and Battlefield not only served to highlight the span of time evident from actor Nicolas Courtney's appearance, but also emphasised how much smaller the late 1980s production values made the show seem. Despite the far superior costumes and makeup in Battlefield, it's hampered by footage recorded entirely on video tape and a typical 80s synthesised score. Even though the existing recordings of The Invasion's episodes are in pretty bad shape, the fact that the episodes were originally filmed in 16mm with a score using actual instruments gives it greater scope.
Still, I loved the alternate universe King Arthur stuff in Battlefield--it felt like the show had been overdue for another medieval episode. I also have to say I liked the cosy ending with the Doctor making dinner at the Brigadier's house. I loved when Ace called the Brigadier "Colonel Blimp"--I'd just been thinking, actually, what a Colonel Blimp he is. As an older man, he's not far off from Roger Livesey's Major General Wynne-Candy.