As Doctor Who’s 25th anniversary approached, script editor Andrew Cartmel began a project to make the Doctor’s character darker, more mysterious and more of a controlling force in adventures. The season opener, written by a new young writer, Ben Aaronovitch, was the first in this mould, seeing the Doctor return to where it all started – Shoreditch, 1963 – to observe the Remembrance of the Daleks.
The start of a second season for the Seventh Doctor
Ace, embarking on her first, full televised adventure as a solo companion.
The Doctor returns to where his adventures began, but something nasty is lurking in 76 Totter's Lane. As Ace struggles with 1960s morality, a duplicitous Doctor must hand over an extraordinary weapon to an old enemy, without Earth being caught in the crossfire.
The Doctor, in retrospective mood, contemplates consequences with cafe-worker John (played by Joseph Marcell, who later found fame as Geoffrey the Butler in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air):
Ace: We did good, didn't we?
Doctor: Perhaps. Time will tell. It always does.
Remembrance of the Daleks manages the tricky task of being both an explosion-filled action romp, and an interesting, character-driven story. The Doctor is darker than he's ever been, in control of events, looking down on them from on high. The supporting cast is excellently rendered, leading to some truly beautiful character scenes like the one highlighted above. But it's also more full of action scenes than any Doctor Who before. The introduction of the Special Weapons Dalek, the space craft landing in the playground, the first enhanced extermination effect and the now-legendary cliffhanger to episode one are all worthy of note. Most importantly, Remembrance returns the Doctor's arch enemies to the highest level in the pantheon of baddies. After years of playing foot-soldiers to Davros, the Daleks get their own narrative - a civil war over racial purity. Cleverly counterpointed against Ace's disgust at 1960s racial politics, this is something special and the shape of things to come.