Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Season 2 Overview

William Hartnell in The Web Planet
If the first season of Doctor Who was a hit, then the second was a bona fide cultural phenomenon. Starting with the second serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the series became appointment television for a whole generation of families, and spawned a marketing frenzy over the series' most popular fixtures, the Daleks. The viewing figures for the season skyrocketed beginning with that serial, hitting a high of over 13 million viewers for an episode of The Web Planet.

If the first season found the production team experimenting to discover what kind of show Doctor Who was at its core, this season found the team aggressively pushing the boundaries of what the show could be at its extremes. From the epic spectacular of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, to the wacky high jinks of The Romans, to The Web Planet and its bold and innovative depiction of a truly alien world, the second season was an unqualified success in topping the highs of season one.
The Doctor is now solidified as the central figure of the series, and its definite hero. While he is still eccentric and definitely crotchety, his darker anti-heroic leanings are almost totally gone. They are replaced, however, with a greater sense of fun and a larger commitment by the character to a moral centre. These attributes would remain a defining aspect of the Doctor throughout the series.

Donald Tosh
But the second season was also one of huge change. While Hartnell remained, the rest of the cast moved on. Carole Ann Ford, tired of playing the teen who screamed and sprained her ankle, left the series at the end of the second serial. Shortly before the end of the season, both Jacqueline Hill and William Russell left as well. The departure of the original companions did have an effect on the First Doctor's era. Hartnell had undeniable chemistry with them, and according to behind the scenes rumours, he never quite felt comfortable with anyone else.  Maureen O'Brien and Peter Purves both seem game, and are appealing both in manner and performance. O'Brien in particular has a lovely rapport with Hartnell. It shall be seen in the following season how well Purves meshes both with the Doctor and the irascible actor who played him.

The season ended with the production team in flux as well. Dennis Spooner had acted as Story Editor and overseen some of the most bold stories in the series' run while also writing Doctor Who's first stab at comedy-adventure, The Romans. He would be replaced by Donald Tosh, who took over with The Time Meddler and continued into the third season.

Outgoing Producer Verity Lambert
The practice of holding one story from the preceding season over to the following season meant that Verity Lambert would only produce five more episodes of the series in the third season before handing over the reins to John Wiles. Lambert's deft hand at controlling the miniscule budgets, massaging egos and enabling her team to produce its best work cannot be overstated. Without a doubt, it was her passion and ingenuity that allowed the series to succeed.  Shepherding what was the most ambitious series the BBC had attempted to that point would have been a monumental challenge for a seasoned producer, let alone a novice, but Lambert succeeded wildly, and did so in the face of what must have been substantial resistance given the times, her gender, and her youth. She remains the definitve Doctor Who producer of the 1960s.
As the series headed into the third season, it would face more than a few difficulties; friction behind the scenes, combined with an leading man becoming more ill as time went on, as well as audiences no longer regarding the series as the new, fresh thing. It would be impossible for any series to maintain the high viewing figures of this season, and the question would be whether or not Doctor Who could survive at all.

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