Few of my televisual opinions have been as set in stone as this one: Colin Baker was rubbish on Doctor Who. I remember being horrified by him when I was 13 and have remained so ever since – a supercilious, unpleasant, shock-headed bumbler in laughable clothes prancing through feeble fan-baiting storylines.

I was not exactly surprised, then, to discover that ‘proper’ Dr Who fans on the interweb all seem to love Colin and indeed that Doctor Who Monthly, a mag I had adored as a child, had voted him the best ever Doctor. Mass contrarianism in the face of the ‘sheep-like’ public is hardly a rare phenomenon online, after all.

The only problem is – they might have a point.

Okay, he’s not the best ever Doctor Who. But when Isabel and I watched Vengeance On Varos the other day we had to concede that it – and he – wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was pretty much terrific.

80s Doctor Who is much like 80s superhero comics in that there were obvious attempts made to make things ‘darker’ and ‘more adult’ – “grim’n’gritty” was the comics term for it and like all fads the backlash against it was merciless. With Doctor Who the frontlash was pretty harsh too – viewing figures declined sharply when Colin B took over and never recovered. Varos is by some distance the grimmest and grittiest story of the era – black comedy sci-fi set on a mining planet whose population are kept entertained by live torture and executions beamed from the ‘Punishment Dome’.

Generally it’s effective stuff – the budget for once doesn’t overreach itself, the villain (a sadistic business-slug) is very well realised and pretty much all the performances are good. It’s violent – too violent for the tastes of some fans – but hardly excessive: the bleak tone, clever script and moments of genuine creepiness are what mark it out as ‘adult’, not the gore.

And Colin Baker is recognisably Doctor Who – a little peevish and a little vain, yes, but those are constants of the character. He gets his bearings, gets involved, has moments of heroism, takes charge and sorts things out with a little help from a typical deus ex machina. Watching it now it’s hard to see exactly why he is so hated – hard even to remember why I hated him so much.

The story has aged well, too – in fact it?s improved with age. In 1986 it was a slightly clunky if well-meaning satire on democracy, big business and mob rule. In 2003 it’s a prescient and sharp piece about Reality TV. The show aimed for one target and hit another, and this means it works much better than a more full-on blunderbuss approach would. You can get the video on eBay for a quid or two: underrated and definitely recommended.