Character Profile – The First Doctor

The First Doctor has died, and a new one has come along. But before we enter the era of the Second Doctor, let’s take a look back in fondness at his predecessor.

First_Doctor_colour
 1963 – 1966

When we first see the Doctor, he’s a strange, rather paranoid individual. He’s with his granddaughter, and often seems to be looking over his shoulder. At what, we do not know, though we get some hints later.

He’s a grumpy, prickly, hard-to-like character, who is, at best, borderline tolerant of his companions, and at worst openly hostile.

His attitude softens as he goes on, and by the time the team meet up with the Aztecs, he’s calmed considerably, turning into more of a grandfatherly type.

Things change even more when he runs into another Time Lord; the Monk. The Doctor could have left at just about any point, but he takes a very active role in stopping the Monk from tampering with history.

I haven’t ever been a huge fan of the First Doctor. He was ok, but not great. He was much better once he became the grandfatherly type than he had been as the pickly jerk, but I still never really warmed to the character all that much.

William Hartnell was, sadly, not a well man through most of his time on the series, and it really shows with the various constant absences and vacations, not to mention the problems he often had with remembering some of the more difficult, and occasionally even the easy, lines.

Hartnell didn’t last long past his time off the series. He returned briefly for one appearance in 1973, and then died in 1975. He was only 69.

With the departure of the First Doctor, the series had lost everyone who was in at the beginning. The decks have been cleared, the die has been cast, and we can now move on to the Troughton years.

My Thoughts on Story 029 – “The Tenth Planet”

Our time with the First Doctor is all but done. He’ll be back in “The Three Doctors”, and the character, if not the actor William Hartnell, will return in “The Five Doctors”. But this story was his final regular appearance.

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Also, this was a thing. Yep.

It must be said that “The Tenth Planet” isn’t a bad story. The Cybermen are decent villains, though not as much so as they became later, and the base commander is an interesting adversary. The acting is good, with some decent American accents for a change, and the overall story is reasonably good.

But the best one can say about all of it is “reasonably good”. None of it is great. It’s far from clear exactly why the Doctor regenerated, and though it’s not the fault of anyone, the absence of the Doctor through the entire third episode really holds back the story.

Then there’s the Mondas situation. What an extremely stupid execution of a not-horrible idea. The concept of a twin planet to Earth that had existed on the other side of the sun was plausible for most of human history. But the concept that it would look just like Earth, just upside-down is stupid beyond all belief.

Still…not a horrible story, and not even the worst of the regeneration stories, as we’ll see later on. That’s right. I have you in my sights, “Time and the Rani”!

Cast
Others
Production
Writer Kit Pedler
Gerry Davis (episodes 3, 4)
Director Derek Martinus
Script editor Gerry Davis
Producer Innes Lloyd
Incidental music composer Stock music
Production code DD
Series Season 4
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Episode(s) missing 1 episode (4)
Date started 8 October 1966
Date ended 29 October 1966

Next story: Dr. Who and the Daleks!

Episode 134 – “The Tenth Planet” – Part 04

And so we reach the end. 134 episode, nine companions, twenty-nine stories, and now we’re at the end. The very last of the First Doctor stories.

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No joke here. We salute you, Mister Hartnell. Without you, none of this would have been possible.

Sadly, though this is the last First Doctor episode, the episode itself no longer exists. Instead we have another animated reconstruction. Still, something is better than nothing, and this is certainly better than reconstructions made with still photos.

We start by resolving the cliffhanger from last time. In this case, it’s resolved by the rocket that the base had planned to launch fizzling on the launch pad and not leaving the ground.

The Doctor wanders in, exhausted, and saying, “This body of mine is wearing a bit thin.” The idea, from what I understand, is that influence from Mondas is somehow killing him, but that never made much sense to me.

Meantime, the base commander has gone full Queeg, pulling a gun on one of his men and everything. Before he can kill the Doctor and the others, the Cybermen show up and kill him. The Doctor then tries to enter into negotiation with them, which doesn’t meet with much success, though it seems to at first.

The Doctor gets in touch with Geneva, only to find out that the Cybermen has basically already invaded and shown up all around the world, including in in Geneva. The Doctor quickly figures out that the Cybermen plan to destroy the world, which…ok. I guess.

Ben and a bunch of solders are working on the missile, when Ben deduces that the Cybermen are weak to radiation. Soon there’s a stalemate.

I’m a little unclear as to why the Cybermen want to retain Mondas. Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to take over the Earth and evacuate to it? Earth has all the resources they need. Surely they don’t have an emotional attachment to Mondas? Mind you, I’m still very unclear as to what exactly is wrong with the planet.

The Cybermen begin pumping poison gas into the missile chamber. I’m a bit confused as to how that happens. Wouldn’t a chamber like this have an airtight door? Anyhow, the Cybermen are basically defeated now, and we get to watch Mondas break apart, for some reason. This causes the Cybermen to collapse and basically melt. Again, for some reason.

Alas, as we learn, recent events have left the Doctor quite drained, and barely able to function. He staggers to his feet, and with the help of Ben and Polly, he gets back into the TARDIS. Once there, the most extraordinary thing happens, as the Doctor experiences an eerie transformation…

And with that, the First Doctor’s era ends, and the Second Doctor’s begins…

Next time: Doctor Who and the Daleks!

Episode 133 – “The Tenth Planet” – Part 03

And here we are. This is the final, the very last, existing First Doctor episode. It’s such a shame that more stories aren’t intact, and an even greater shame that some don’t exist at all.

Anyhow, it’s been a long voyage, but we’re just about done, so let’s get to it!

the tenth planet 3
Polly want a Cyberman?

Pretty much immediately, the Doctor passes out, and will be unconscious for the rest of our episode. You know, I’m kind of amazed that Hartnell was walking around alive at all by this point. To paraphrase Pratchett, he wasn’t so much at Death’s door as he was inside the hallway, admiring the carpet and commenting on the drapes. I suppose it kind of works that the Doctor is down, given what goes down in the next episode, but it still detracts a bit.

Meantime, the commander of the South Pole base has decided that it’s time to trot out a doomsday weapon, which seems a bit of an overreaction, but there you are. I do also have to mention that not only was there a black guy on the spacecraft that blew up in the last episode, but there’s also one in the headquarters of the UN (or whatever it is). It’s nice to have a bit of color in the series.

I’m…very puzzled about this z-bomb. Apparently if they use it to attack Mondas, it could dump tons of radiation onto the Earth (?), and cause the planet to go supernova (?!). To call this confusing is a bit of an understatement. I’m also a little confused as to why there’s such a weapon at a base at the South Pole.

Polly and Ben are understandably concerned and try to stop all this. Ben gets put into custody and Polly gets assigned to make coffee. Ben, naturally, escapes fairly quickly and embarks on a plan to sabotage the scheme to bomb Mondas.

Up the surface, the Cybermen are massing in an attack that must’ve used up a huge percentage of the season’s costume budget. The humans at the base have sensibly decided to defend it using captured Cyberman weapons. This repels the attack rather quickly.

Ben gets caught tampering and is rather aggressively flung some distance! He’s ok, though, and the plan to attack Mondas continues unabated.

One can somewhat empathize with the base commander. He’s not some evil, bloodthirsty bad guy; he just wants to save his son’s life. Sadly, the plan he has in mind to do so will result in lots of badness. So that sucks.

And the last live-action episode of the First Doctor’s run ends with a missile launch!

Next time: Part four!

Episode 132 – “The Tenth Planet” – Part 02

So the Cybermen have arrived! That great, terrible menace that…ok, let’s be honest. They just look goofy in their first appearance. So much so that it’s amazing they had a second.

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#itgetsbetter

As I sit to watch this, I realize that it’s really the last surviving Hartnell episode. Oh, he’s glimpsed briefly in the regeneration clip, and he comes back in “The Three Doctors”, but really…this is it, since he’s not in the next episode.

There’s a newcaster who says something about there not being a consensus on the fact that the landmasses on Mondas look the same as the Earth. Because…astronomers are idiots? It’s just a stupid line.

The Cybermen arrive, wearing cunning cloaks. They get revealed and the Cyberman music that comes into play in “Tomb of the Cyberman’ shows up. I’ve always liked that bit of music.

Much as I hate the extra-dimensional Cybermen that turned up in the 10th Doctor’s era, I gotta admit that the Mondas origin is just stupid. Another planet, orbiting on the same path, but more technologically advanced, and looking exactly the same as the Earth, but upside-down. How fucking dumb is that shit? I’m glad it gets barely mentioned later on.

It’s also kind of odd that this massive news event in late 1986 also never gets mentioned later on. But that’s just that stupid thing this show has of, “Oh, humans forget things all the time!”

I do like the Cyberman voices in this story. They’re sometimes a little hard to understand, but nowhere near as bad as what happened later on, and it is nice to have a somewhat alien inflection.

Meantime, up in space, Bernie Casey and his copilot are having a bad time of it. Or at least they are until their ship explodes, so that’s fun. We then have a “hilarious in hindsight” bit where Ben is criticizing a screwdriver for being useless.

He sets up a trap to blind a Cyberman using a movie projector. He does this and then takes the Cyberman’s weapon. Not bad.

Then back to the Cybermen, intoning, “You will become like us.” So basically we have the Borg well before the Borg. We also learn that the Cybermen don’t care about anyone other than themselves. Oh, they’re objectivists. Now I get it.

Next time: Part three!

Episode 131 – “The Tenth Planet” – Part 01

And so here we are, all these months later. When I started this blog, I knew that the biggest problem I’d face would be the Hartnell years. The First Doctor was occasionally hard to be around, and the large number of missing episodes, combined with a very different style of storytelling, would, I knew, make it somewhat difficult at times.

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Then there’re the wacky costumes, the cheap sets, the wrinkled backdrops…

But now here we are, at the end. The final Hartnell story. So…let’s get started!

We start off with a multi-ethnic spaceship crew launching off and mission control tracking them. Seems like they’re doing some sort of weather thing. Interestingly, one of the astronauts looks quite a bit like Bernie Casey, but isn’t. An actor from Bermuda, apparently. Neat! We then cut to a lot of stock footage, and finally arrive at an underground base, where there’s snow and ice, and a periscope.

Yes, we’re in Antarctica, and it turns out, we’re also in 1986. Not that it looks like any version of 1986 I remember, but there you are. Armed men come out from the underground base and take our heroes below.

One of the actors is doing an American accent, and he’s doing a pretty decent one; good enough to make me wonder if he’s an actual American. There’s also an Italian who sounds like the second coming of Captain Bertoelli. The base commander is also an American, and another one with a good accent (played by a Canadian, which explains that), who takes some time to mock the Doctor’s hair.

Everyone starts running around in a panic as we find out that a new planet has just sort of appeared in the solar system. That would indeed be a good reason to run around in a bit of a panic.

Up on the spacecraft, our astronauts are attempting some complex maneuvers, and wind up spinning out of control. We get some stock footage that was obviously taken from one of the early space missions showing the rockets firing. Neat!

“Space fatigue”. I think I prefer “space…madness…!” when it comes to my fictional maladies.

We peer at the strange planet through a telescope, and tit turns out to be the Earth, completely upside down. This is one of the more eye-rolling aspects of this story, and it really makes no sense. This is a second planet that used to orbit the sun on the same path as Earth. And it therefore looks the same, only upside down. Because…ugh. God, what a fucking stupid concept.

The Doctor somehow knows all about this odd planet, and voices his knowledge. This, of course, makes him a suspect in everything that’s going on.

We then see a spaceship landing on the ice and follow a couple people from the base as they go out to investigate the Doctor’s TARDIS. And then…the Cybermen! They show up, karate chop the soldiers to death, and look generally menacing, while also having human hands, which is kind of creepy.

Next time: Part two!

My Thoughts on Story 028 – “The Smugglers”

I didn’t go into this story hating it, or even mildly disliking it. I knew it had a reputation of crapness, but I gave it a chance.

Smugglers_title
Watch this story, or we’ll shoot this girl.

As with some other stories, it’s hard to say where this one went wrong. The basic concept (the Doctor dealing with smugglers and pirates on the Cornish coast in the 17th century), is a good one. But something here failed, and I think it’s less the story than it is the reconstruction.

Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate the efforts by Loose Canon to make this story work. But the fact remains that they were working from poor audio source material and still photos. These two things don’t combine well, especially in a situation where there’s lots of action, as with the sword fights and the like. Having a sword fight that’s nothing but stills is less exciting than you’d imagine, and I’m guessing you’re not imagining it as being terribly exciting at all.

At some point I should get the Target novelization and read over that. Maybe it’ll be better than the version I saw here. But in the meantime, this must go down as one of my least favorite Who stories ever.

Cast
Others
Production
Writer Brian Hayles
Director Julia Smith
Script editor Gerry Davis
Producer Innes Lloyd
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer None
Production code CC
Series Season 4
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Episode(s) missing All 4 episodes
Date started 10 September 1966
Date ended 1 October 1966

Next story: “The Tenth Planet”