I don't know whether this season can be anyone's favourite, but despite its poor nature I find I can and will defend it regardless. And that is down to its context.
This was a wounded new era of the series that was just coming out of the blackest period in the series entire history, four stories, all commissioned on the fly and with low budget and short lead time. There was a new lead actor who wasn't a professional actor and who certainly wasn't anyone's ideal choice, indeed he was scarcely an actor at all. There was also a new young script editor with little or no previous experience was also newly installed. And the strain of all of these factors does show in the finished season. And yet in there, amidst all of the desperation, flapping, and camp, you do still see little glimpses that the hapless and under-prepared Sylvester McCoy isn't just a drowning man - he is thinking! There are those little touches to be seen in Paradise Towers and Delta and the Bannermen where he is working to show us something is going on beneath the surface of his hapless façade as the Doctor.... and then comes season 25 and 'Remembrance of the Daleks... and it is almost the difference between night and day - between seasons the 7th Doctor has truly arrived.
The chaos of season 24 gave way to something far more considered and professional, and it was all the work of McCoy himself and his Script Editor Andrew Cartmel - two underpaid and largely untested figures who had something to prove and had ambitions to make this damaged series something deeper and stronger than what they found. And that Passion the two had brought that needed transformative effect to the series and showed the worth and value of it on the finished production on-screen. The BBC may have had antipathy towards the series by that point, but as was always the case in the past it was the attitude of the people that were making it at the time that saw it fighting back and managing to punch well above its weight even when all the odds were stacked against it. The original series was always a tough nut and a scrapper, and mostly always thanks to the efforts and convictions of the people running it at the time. And it all had its seeds here, in Season 24.
It's largely pap, let's be perfectly upfront on that. We can look at Time and the Rani and praise the visuals, which were and are impressive for the time. I can also move to praise the Tetraps for the imagination given. But the acting is diabolically awful, the script just awful, the story is only a little less awful... elsewhere I absolutely loathed Delta and the Bannermen and the very video-tape it was recorded on, until the DVD release and the passing of time made me suddenly see it in a new light, a fun well-meaning pastiche and tribute to the 1950s and Dan Dare and The Eagle style sci-fi pulps of that era... and I finally reconciliated with it and embraced is as a well-meaning story. Paradise Towers is a terrific story on paper, brought down by diabolically bad casting and production choices and a muddled finale. Dragonfire is a cheap glitzy run-around that again suffers from bad casting, bad directing, and just very ill-considered lighting...
Season 24 is bad 1980s Doctor Who. And yet it is also a bridge - a bridging season that carries some of the sins of the Colin Baker era and its production approach, but also showing that there are clear signs here that something is happening, something is changing in the series and it is slowly moving away from all of that stagnancy that hallmarked the series by the mid-1980's. You can see Sylvester McCoy's performance showing he is thinking it through, he is trying to adapt to these scripts and the difficult circumstances of production in a way that we saw Jon Pertwee doing in his debut season, or Patrick Troughton. Those little touches he gives in Delta and the Bannermen for example as he is bluffing his way past Gavrok and his Bannermen, or stealthily wandering Paradise Towers and making points of contact with those within. We see some of the Seventh Doctor arriving here, just four stories, and as such while one of the poorest seasons in the series' entire history is does still have a great historical value - it's one I would still be intrigued by.
If I had a Blu-Ray player...
Since this was the first season "as close to live as we could get" here in the states, I've got a soft spot for it.
Any clue why US Amazon has it up for pre order and not teh John Pertwee second season that should be out sooner?