Season 17

Series -9
Tom was positively suicidal at this point.
Tom was positively suicidal at this point.
About Time
Began 1 September 1979
Ended 12 January 1980
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Season 16 Abandoned Season 18 / Season 18

Season 17 was the sixth of seven Fourth Doctor seasons and the first of two Sexy Romana seasons. Also K9 was there, sort of.

It's the epitome of the comfy, light-hearted Graham Williams era, with Douglas Adams taking over as script editor.

It's also the last season to use the traditional Delia Derbyshire version of the theme song.

Finally, it's the season when the 80s started, which makes it, like, totally rad to the max.

Left unfinished, technically.

Serials of Season 17

Episode Title Written By Description
Destiny of the Daleks Terry Nation Romana tries on a bunch of different bodies, K9 gets robot laryngitis, and the TARDIS gets a randomizer, explaining all the changes from season 16. And then there's a pointless war between the Daleks and Movellans. I mean the plot is that the war is pointless, but the story is also pretty pointless.
City of Death David Fisher, Graham Williams, Douglas Adams You already know this one. It's GOAT, it's comfy, it's City of Death-level good.
The Creature from the Pit David Fisher Erato. The story is forgettable, but the funny bits are funny, and some of the serious bits are unintentionally funny too.
Nightmare of Eden Bob Baker There's way too many ideas going on here to summarize in a little box, but the plot is pretty simple: Drugs are bad, m'kay?
The Horns of Nimon Anthony Read Fortunately, the monsters are so ridiculous looking that you don't notice how ridiculous the story is. No, I take that back.
Shada Douglas Adams Somehow predicting that a strike was going to prevent production of this story, Adams wrote it for the Eighth Doctor and an older Lady President Romana. It's not exactly brilliant, but it is comfy. Or at least it seems like would be if it existed, based on the various alternate ways it was sort of completed later.


Problems included:

  • The BBC cut the budget by almost 60%.
  • Douglas Adams had some radio show that suddenly got popular, meaning he didn't really have time to do his job.
  • Graham Williams had to fire the director for Nightmare of Eden, and the BBC wouldn't give him a new one, so he had to do it himself, and by the end he was so burnt out that he walked into the BBC offices, naked and painted blue, and yelled "WILLIAMS OUT!" He agreed to finish up the season, but he had no fucks left to give, and they had to scramble to find someone who could be persuaded to stay more easily for the next season.
  • By this point, John Leeson hated K9 as much as Tom Baker did, and he refused to come back unless they agreed to kill off the character. Which they wouldn't (until JNT came along), so they had to hire David Brierly, who sounds like he was trying to do an impression of Orac instead of K9 but had been punched in the nose. Hence the robot laryngitis explanation.
  • Lots of location shooting, and the K9 prop just wouldn't work outside the studio, so they had to keep contriving reasons to keep him out of the stories.
  • For some reason that everyone disagrees on, Mary Tamm wasn't invited back for her regeneration scene. This is why they decided to have fun with it and show Romana trying on a bunch of different bodies, causing autism fits among fandom to this day. (I actually like that scene—and not just because it delays getting into the plot of the godawful story to come.)
  • There were problems with most of the scripts. David Fisher, who was assigned to write two of them, was going through a divorce and could barely finish one, something was going on between Bob Baker and Dave Martin, and Terry Nation was sadly still alive and writing.
  • Last but not least, there's the infamous strike that prevented completion of Shada.


Possibly the most inconsistent season in the history of the show. Williams and Adams thrived on disaster, but there was too much disaster even for them. So, we got the one everyone recommends as your first Classic Who episode (City of Death), the ultimate so-bad-it's-good story (The Horns of Nimon) and everything in between.

Even in the worst episodes, Lalla Ward is a qt, and Tom Baker gets to deliver some prime Douglas Adams and/or improv-Tom, and their chemistry is great, so… no, that's still not a good enough reason to watch Destiny, but maybe it'll get you through Nimon.

So, people like ratings, right?

  • Destiny of the Daleks: Terry Nation retreading all of his greatest hits without remembering what made them hits, and the few bits of wit Douglas Adams manages to inject don't fit with the rest of the story. The acting, except by Tom and Lalla, is even worse than the script. On the other hand, it triggers both Ian Levine and John Peel, and that's got to be worth something, right? 2/10.
  • City of Death: It's City of Death. 10/10.
  • The Creature from the Pit: The funny bits are actually very funny. Some of the serious bits are also unintentionally funny, and then there's all the penises, and all the other weird sexuality, and no wonder David Fisher's wife divorced him… But it's rarely boring, and it's a lot of fun. 7/10.
  • Nightmare of Eden: This is the only Williams-era story that really works as a serious (if simple) story, despite being more Douglas Adams than any of Adams' own stories, and it's fun to boot. 8.5/10.
  • The Horns of Nimon: The exact opposite of the previous script, this one thinks it's a serious story, but cannot possibly be enjoyed that way. But you can have a lot of fun watching it ironically. 4.5/10.
  • Shada: To truly get the full enjoyment out of it, you have to watch the video with Tom Baker's linking bits, and the webcast animated recon, and also read the Gareth novelisation, and… honestly, it's good, but not good enough for all of that effort. 7/10.

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