>Poll ten classic Doctor Who fans about their favorite writer and odds are you’re going to get the same response time after time–Robert Holmes.
We may disagree on which Doctor we like best, which story is the best and which era of the show is the best, but the one thing most classic series fans agree on is that when it came to Doctor Who, no one did it better than Robert Holmes. Nor was there another writer who offered quality scripts over a longer period of time for the show’s run than Holmes did.
Holmes either penned or had a hand in crafting a lot of the stories in my top ten list. His list of writing credits for the series is impressive and his tenure as script editor is seen by many as one of the golden ages of Doctor Who. His first two stories are largely forgettable, but his third story (“Spearhead from Space”) is a classic and from that point forward Holmes rarely misses a step. (When Doctor Who made its comeback in 2005, RTD cribbed a lot of the best parts of “Spearhead” for “Rose” though Davies’ story isn’t even in the same league as Holmes.)
Holmes contributed a script a season for four of the five Pertwee seasons and then took over as script editor when Tom Baker came on the scene. Holmes either wrote or heavily rewrote every script the show produced for the next three years. Even the biggest clunker of that era (“The Android Invasion”) still has at least something to recommend about it.
Holmes didn’t end his association when he left his script editing duties. He offered a few other scripts, some good, a couple of great and then one that was sadly a rough draft for what many consider his finest achievement several years later. I deny you to watch “Power of Kroll” and not see elements of “Caves of Androzani” lurking in there.
Holmes was respected enough that he was the first choice of the production team to write the 20th anniversary story. It didn’t happen because Holmes didn’t feel he could fit in all the pieces John-Nathan Turner wanted. And while I enjoy “The Five Doctors” I still can’t help but wonder what might have been with the 20th anniversary story from Holmes.
But it all set up his crowning achievement, “Caves of Androzani.” Holmes would write a couple of more scripts before his untimely death and while they weren’t great they still had a lot to recommend about them. (I still say episode one of “The Two Doctors” is the best single episode of Colin Baker’s era).
With modern Who, only Steven Moffat has come close to being in the league that Holmes was–not just for good stories but consistency over time. But Moffat will still have to work long and hard to be as well love as Holmes is.