Sunday, June 16, 2013

The First Doctor Era: A Summary

The First Doctor (William Hartnell)
At the close of each Doctor's respective era, I'll be taking a look at their time in the TARDIS, focusing specifically on their performance as the Doctor and on all the things I loved or hated about their time. I'll be ending each of these summaries with my picks for the five best stories, as well as the three worst. This is obviously going to be completely subjective and more informal than my critical analyses, so feel free to leave some comments raging at my stupidity or praising my acumen!

When you look at polls asking people to name their favourite Doctors, you're not going to see William Hartnell top the list. In fact, he'll more likely be near the very bottom, often accompanied by Colin Baker, which is notable in that Baker is the only subsequent Doctor that I've ever heard mention he based part of his interpretation on Hartnell's Doctor.

Why is this? Why is the Hartnell era frequently the least loved by fans and almost unseen by casual viewers?

First, the era in which the series was produced is far, far removed from our modern one. These stories are now half a century old, and television and indeed storytelling in general has changed significantly. The pacing in the best of Hartnell's stories is leisurely by our standards, and in the worst ones it can be downright glacial. That in and of itself can put off even dedicated fans.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"The Tenth Planet"

Aired Oct 8– 29, 1966

4 Episodes

Story 29

Written by Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis

Directed by Derek Martinus


The TARDIS materializes in December 1986 at the entrance to a South Pole Space Tracking Station commanded by General Cutler. The scientists there are experiencing problems in controlling the return of a manned space capsule, and the Doctor uncovers that the problem is caused by the gravitational pull of another planet which has entered the solar system and is now heading for Earth. His theory is proven when the base is invaded by a force of alien Cybermen.

The Cybermen's world, Mondas, is draining energy from the Earth, and the situation will soon become critical. Although Ben and Cutler manage to destroy the first wave of attackers, the base is then overrun by a second. However, the scientists suddenly realize that the invaders are susceptible to radioactivity, and this suggests a means of fighting back. Using hand-held uranium rods, Ben and a group of the scientists are able to hold off and kill a number of Cybermen. In the end, Mondas disintegrates after absorbing too much energy, and all the remaining Cybermen collapse and die, having been totally dependent on their planet’s energy.

Throughout, the Doctor has become steadily weaker, and after the defeat of the Cybermen he hurries back to the TARDIS. Polly and Ben follow, and find him collapsed on the floor of the control room. As they watch, his face is transformed into that of a much younger, dark-haired man.


For obvious reasons, The Tenth Planet is one of the most important stories in the history of Doctor Who. Not only does it introduce antagonists that are one of the series’ most memorable, it also introduces the concept of regeneration; that amazing idea that the Doctor can renew his physical form when his current body is fatally damaged or worn out. Of course, that concept is a stroke of absolute genius, one that has allowed the series to continue for 50 years, and one that has allowed Doctor Who to constantly revitalize itself.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"The Smugglers"

Aired Sept 10 – Oct 1, 1966

4 Episodes

Story 28

Written by Brian Hayles

Directed by Julia Smith


The Doctor is shocked to discover Ben and Polly aboard the TARDIS. He explains that the ship can travel through time and space and that his lack of control means it's unlikely he'll be able to return them to their era for some time, but they both refuse to believe him. The TARDIS arrives on the coast of 17th century Cornwall where pirates led by Captain Samuel Pike are searching for a hidden treasure while a smuggling ring is operating masterminded by the local Squire.

Pike and his men abduct the Doctor after he learns the meaning to a cryptic rhyme that will lead the pirates to the treasure. The Doctor is forced to decipher the clues for Pike, and the treasure is found. However, the militia soon arrives to stop Pike and his pirates  while Ben and Polly try to help the Doctor.

During the ensuing battle, Pike and his men are either caught or killed, while the Doctor and his friends make their way back to the TARDIS and continue
 their travels through time and space.


I've mentioned before about how there's a popular theory among fans that there wasn't a bad historical story, but for me at least, The Smugglers comes closest so far to disproving that theory.

The main thing that I feel lets this story down is that it's simply a straight-forward adventure story. The other historical stories took advantage of the Doctor Who concept, using the setting to illustrate the temptations and dangers of time travel (The Aztecs, The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve) or to subvert our conceptions of historical events through humour (The Romans, The Myth Makers, The Gunfighters) or to actually educate viewers about a specific event, person or period (Marco Polo, The Reign of Terror, The Crusade).  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Interlude - "Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D."

Released August 5, 1966

Written by Milton Subotsky

Additional Material by David Whitaker

From the Story by Terry Nation

Directed by Gordon Flemyng


London Constable Tom Campbell is on patrol one evening when he attempts to stop the burglary of a London jewelry store. He is given a knock on the head by the getaway driver, which allows the thieves to flee. Tom runs to what he thinks to be an ordinary police box to call for assistance, but instead enters TARDIS. Inside the ship he finds Dr. Who, his granddaughter Susan and his niece Louise.

TARDIS is just about to depart, and it whisks the travelers to London of 2150. The city appears to have been largely demolished in some great catastrophe. Some rubble falls on TARDIS, stranding the travelers and causing Susan to hurt her ankle. While Louise looks after the girl, Tom and Dr. Who explore the nearby area. When they return to TARDIS, they find the girls gone, and they are captured by mind-controlled human troops whose masters are revealed to by the Daleks.

Louise and Susan have been taken in by a resistance group, led by three men; Wyler, David and wheelchair-bound scientist Dortmun. The Daleks have apparently invaded Earth and destroyed whole continents, turning some humans into Robomen to act as soldiers, while others have been taken to Bedfordshire to work in a huge mining operation. What the Daleks' purpose is with the mine is unknown.