There are some stories that consist of good episode, but aren’t great as stories. There are some stories that are weak in episodic form, but good as a whole. This story has the good fortune to be a good story that’s made of several great episodes.
This story really succeeds on every level. It’s well-written, and does an excellent job of introducing a new character (Steven). It also gives us an entertaining villain who is more of a well-meaning, naughty schoolboy than an actual evil bad guy. It also gives the Doctor a chance to really change from an occasional anti-hero to an always-hero.
That last part is important. This is, to me, the story where the Doctor really gets his status solidified as a hero. He could have left; nothing kept him in 1066. He could have walked away and let the Monk do his thing, knowing that he probably would have failed in the trying. But instead he stayed. He got involved. He did what he needed to do to save the history of the Earth.
Yes, he’d been heroic before. But this is the culmination of a slow arc that had been building since episode one. Remember back in the day when he kidnapped two people, and was about to kill a defenseless man? The version of the Doctor on display in this story is finally, at long last, well away from that.
This story also shows us that the Doctor’s TARDIS isn’t unique. It implies that it may even be a less fancy TARDIS than the one the Monk has. This is a crucial development. Those of us here, with all our long experience with the series, have always taken it for granted that the Doctor was one Time Lord out of many. But this was the first time we really got to see that fact.
There is no better First Doctor story than this one. There are individual episodes that are pretty great, but if you’re looking for the best First Doctor story, than this is it.
And now, I brace myself for so many, many reconstructions…
Next episode: “Four Hundred Dawns”
Next story: “Galaxy 4”