A Thankyou: This article would not have been possible without the aid of the Doctor Who Reconstruction Video Team, who supplied telesnap tapes of the wiped episodes. The people responsible, were, namely: Derek Handley, David Hughes, Colin Kenworthy, Ken Robinson and Steve Woolfall. Also helping to provide source video and audio material was Robert Bradley. Massive thanks to all!
Despite claims of increased viewing figures in the 70s, looking at chart position (and bearing in mind not as many people had television back then), we can actually see that Doctor Whos popularity was at its peak during the Hartnell era. Okay, I know widespread appeal doesnt necessarily equate with quality, but even so...
The ninth week in its transmission had seen the series gain six million viewers, increasing its audience by 58%. From this lofty rise it went onto greater heights, with all but one of its episodes between The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Web Planet in the top 20, often in the top 10. Imagine that now, Doctor Who one of the ten most-watched programmes of the day! Average ratings for the first season were 8.08 million (position number 38 average), while the second had seen Dalekmania thrust it to a 10.46 million average (number 17 average). However, while the figures for the first two seasons were phenomenal and almost impossible to appreciate nowadays, as far as the public was concerned the series was a flash in the pan. Mission to the Unknown, featuring the Daleks that gave the series its lease of life, hit no.37, and the Massacre saw the series hit the lower 90s. A fickle public seemed to be bored, and the programme commercially, if not creatively, appeared to be on its last legs. The Ark and The Smugglers failed to chart in the top 100 for an episode each, the first time since the pilot. The audience in terms of viewing figures was now an average 7.65 (position 50), and would fall to a 5.61 (76) average for Hartnells share of Season Four.
Finally, for those of you who like to follow the theory that the historicals were less popular than the science fiction episodes: the average historical over the whole era got 7.83 million, the SF/fantasy episodes 8.85.
The episodes missing from the archives are, to date: Marco Polo, episodes 1-7; The Reign of Terror 4 & 5; The Crusades 2 & 4; Galaxy 4 episodes 1-4; Mission to the Unknown; The Myth Makers episodes 1-4; The Daleks Masterplan episodes 1, 3-9, 11, 12; The Massacre episodes 1-4; The Celestial Toymaker episodes 1-3; The Savages episodes 1-4; The Smugglers episodes 1-4 and The Tenth Planet episode 4.
After the badly mounted, sloppy rejected pilot (mentioned here so I can note Susans claim in said pilot that "I was born in the 49th Century.") An Unearthly Child was remade and reshaped into one of the very best twenty-four minutes of the programmes history.
While theres still a rough feel about it in some ways, the first episode successfully uses fades, p-o-v and flashback sequences to great effect. Seen through the eyes of Ian and Barbara, their possible romance is alluded to almost instantly, with Barbaras inquiring "that is, if youre not doing anything" after suggesting they launch a Susan stakeout. Shes strongly played by Jacqueline Hill and is a proactive female companion right at the start of the series, rebuking the myth that all companions were screamers. (She does scream, but always intelligently). In fact, Barbaras so strong Im sometimes a little scared of her to be honest. Its like, shes really nice, but you wouldnt want to cross her on her PMT week, would you? Then theres Ian. Isnt Ian Chesterton THE most likeable companion ever? Hes even more likeable in the revised first episode, whereas the pilot had him threatening to do over the Doctor. Here hes more of a perplexed bystander, while the Doctor gets to be much more smug and sadistic. In the pilot he worries about "footprints in time", but all hes bothered about in the episode proper is being mentioned in the newspapers. "Your arrogance is nearly as great as your ignorance" he chides Ian at one point, at another comparing him to a savage Native American. Its a brilliant performance and one Hartnell never bettered.
Susan is, some say, a little melodramatic and stagy, but I really like it. Her "no, Grandfather, no!" bit is one of my favourite moments. Note also the implication that Hartnell has Susan locked up in a cupboard, rather a serious suggestion for a family show. But then this era of the programme had a surprisingly open attitude to sex, as we shall see again later. Maybe the only negative thing about the episode is the "decimal system" scene where screen realism is dumped over by a bunch of stage school kids doing the "hearty laughter" bit to full 60s BBC effect. If thats the only criticism I can level at it then this is a great piece of television and a perfect opening episode that does everything required of it. The mystery, the drama, the establishing situation... its all so good. Which is why some fans get disappointed that it descends into three episodes of Surrey-accented bit part players pretending to be cavemen in an old studio set. One of them is even called "Jeremy" in real life, for goodness sake!
In fairness, there are some interesting revelations, not least episode two, establishing the "Doctor Who?" agenda and the fixed police box exterior. The third part has the darker Doctor attempt to kill a man in cold blood. Yet theres also a sense of responsibility, however misplaced, as he apologises to the schoolteachers and later demands Ians life be spared. The final episode sees the first dematerialisation as seen from the outside of the Tardis. Yes, theres the regulars running on the spot, but the same instalment also features two violent strangulations, proving that Who was always a little more than its "childrens educational" roots.
Terry Nation was one of the series hackier writers and most of his success is due to accident rather than design. His two non-Dalek scripts (The Keys of Marinus and The Android Invasion) were tedious, and most of his seven Dalek sequels (not counting the one-part lead-in to Masterplan, Mission to the Unknown) were uninspired retreads. Even The Daleks, which is saved by factors other than the script performance, competent direction, scary music and Raymond Cusicks Dalek designs is pulpy and a step down in sophistication. As a result, without an adult, intelligent context it feels as slow as people believe all Hartnells to be.
The story also seems to invoke the first real sense of the cliffhanger, with the result that it feels like a 30s Saturday Morning Serial. Of course, it promoted the series to the premier league overnight by seeing a two-and-a-half million audience increase after the first appearance of the Daleks. (The tale that they increased after the first "sink plunger" cliffhanger is a complete myth they actually dropped half a million after the first week, with the audience seemingly indifferent to what was on the end of that arm). Whats most commendable about the Daleks is that theyre actually characters this time, as opposed to one-dimensional tanks. They paralyse as well as kill, and only once say exterminate ("extermination") as part of a conversation, rather than as a banal catchphrase. Their indicator lights are a bit weird (and, despite what I said elsewhere on the site, theyre out of synch with the dialogue even more than in Genesis); and they look a bit bare without their midriff slats. But with their chunky appearance, retracting arms and dilating irises theyve rarely looked better.
John S Hall suggested in issue 122 of DWB that Barbara and Ganatus had an off-screen sexual encounter. This does seem to have some genuine viability and adds interest to the otherwise terminally bland Thal population. On the subject of observations, the first episode introduces a food dispenser three years before Star Trek. But then thats no surprise as it introduced the Cybermen 22 years before the Borg. Some may also like to fanwank over the fact that (as with Davross new strain of Dalek in Remembrance) the Dalek mutant on show here has developed claws rather than being just a blob. The Doctor remarks that he was once a pioneer "amongst my own people", and begins his habit of getting Ians surname wrong... Chesterfield, Chessermen... The morals of the story are embarrassingly overstated, and trite. Ian's solution to the problem earn peace by killing your enemy is also ethically dubious, and makes him less likeable than usual. "Fear breeds hatred... and war" preaches one of the Thals, while Hartnell is forced to utter: "Always search for truth. My truth is in the stars." Only his scornful "No doubt you will have other wars to fight" to the Thals at the end is more like the character. What really kills off the story is its length. In particular, the episodes directed by Richard Martin (The sixth, fittingly titled The Ordeal, drags on for what seems like a century) do bore slightly. Again this is television in its infancy, with even a Christopher Barry episode, the second, showcasing a continuous fifteen-second boom mike shot, most of it over Ians face.
Its all very dated, and very "60s", an account of a nuclear war between the Thals and the Dals. Its still an okay story, though is now more of an historical document than a piece of drama in its own right.
David Whitaker, script editor of the first ten stories (and writer of some classic tales in his own right, including The Crusade and The Power of the Daleks) made his shaky debut with The Edge of Destruction. Written in a hurry to cover over discarded stories, its often cyclical but psychologically compelling. The crew have fragmented memories and behave erratically, Susan at one point using scissors as a weapon. In contrast to the previous story its a return to relatively intelligent television. Yet theres a crucial flaw with the story, which is why I suspect its not that popular it doesnt make any sense. Why would a fault in the workings of the Tardis affect the mentality of the crew? Or have I just missed something? Not only that, but the Doctors explanation to Susan of the fast return switch is patronising in the extreme.
Fans might like to whinge that Ian only finds one heartbeat on the Doctor, but then hed hardly check for a second, would he? The Doctor does deny the Tardis is sentient, though. Barbaras "Dont you realise, you stupid old man..." scene is a landmark for the character, while Richard Martins direction of the first episode is surprisingly good, and leagues ahead of his other work for the series. Sadly, though, the deadline-breaching nature of the script means Bill really makes a meal of nearly every line, with the fluffs entry for this one just the tip of the iceberg.
Given that all the episodes were destroyed, and theres not even telesnaps existing, then it might seem to difficult to appraise Marco Polo. However, even on just the audio alone the quality of the story shines through. The story mentions drugs ("hashish") and is oddly without a real protagonist. Yes, Marco does hold the Tardis crew practically to ransom, but he admits to pricks of conscience and is not threatening per se. Its the standard of the acting and writing that carries it forward. By its very nature its a rambling, laid-back narrative. There are irregular threats from bandits, but no clearly specified dangers. Perhaps its this veering away from traditional black and white storytelling, and into grey areas that satisfies so much. Because why the story is so brilliant cannot be adequately explained. Its a deceptively simple journey tale (which, going by the narration, takes place over at least 25 days), and is, by definition, the most "educational" of the historicals. Its also the best, rivalled only by Lucarottis own The Massacre.
All the characters do well, with Susan in a prominent role. Her dialogue is unusually contemporary, with her uttering "fab" and "dig it" for no real reason. Hartnell meanwhile, in a rare foreshadow of his lighter season two persona, laughs hysterically for over thirty seconds at the end of the first episode.
Maybe if the video recordings were ever found then the sandstorm would look rubbish, or Derren Nesbitt might look offensive made up as a Mongol. And being created entirely in a studio might look awful. But such things are speculation, maybe never to be resolved. And so it is that I proclaim Marco Polo to be the finest story of the era.
Sandwiched between the two best stories of the season is the worst, an amateurish mess known as The Keys of Marinus. Terry Nations second script, it pits the travellers on a planet where nothing grows and there are no birds in the sky. Err... didnt we do that already three stories ago? The city even has the same glass painted Dr. Caligari-style doorways and a race of pacifists. Theres an argument to be had that it revels in abstract surrealism with ludicrously fake, obviously cardboard sets. Its not an argument that Id subscribe to though. Its just cheap, pure and simple.
Even the episode titles are tat, with the fourth - The Snows of Terror - rivalling An Unearthly Childs The Forest of Fear for cheesiest of the season. (For the record, I like The Reign of Terrors individual titles the best, with A Bargain of Necessity a particular highlight). Its a story so classy we get living brains with eyes on stalks. No, really. With its animated suits of armour, hood-yanking revelations and multiple secret sliding doors its a possible precursor to Scooby Doo. All it needed was for that old fart in the last episode to go "and Idve gotten away with it too, if only..."
The worst episode is the simpering Barbara boreathon that is The Screaming Jungle, while Hartnell again shows a worrying preachy tendency at the climax, giving another "moral of the story". Truly Terry Nation stinks. And remember: polystyrene snow and stock footage of wolves do not an arctic wasteland make.
However, despite many, many moans, Marinus must be praised for its experimental five-stories-in-one structure. Okay, most of these stories wouldnt even hold the interest for ten minutes, let alone an episode, but at least it tries. Also, while the dialogue is patronising and 100% "tots educational", the fourth episode is totally devoted to the attempted rape of Barbara. Rather daring stuff for a family teatime show, as are the stabbings. And it does introduce (wrist-mounted, always-use-em-when-standing-in-front-of-a-black-screen) transporters, two years before Star Trek. It doesnt quite plumb the depths of, say, The Krotons or The Twin Dilemma, but its more than the worst story of season one... its the worst Hartnell story full stop. Tedious, absolutely tedious.
Further proof that Ian and Barbara were the focal point of the adventures, the Doctor just a catalyst; can be gleaned from The Aztecs. Ive always thought the Doctors refusal to interfere with history is a little odd in that even the futuristic stories which he regularly interferes in are historical from his perspective. And Im not that keen that the climax to the story sees Ian commit murder and not get a chance at remorse or revulsion. But lets not quibble this is a tremendous story.
To be honest, though, even though its splendidly written and charmingly made on the small budget Ive never thought The Aztecs stood up to its reputation. It has, like all the best Hartnell stories, integrity, and is one of the most intriguing of the past stories format. However, it lacks that certain something in areas of drama and so is, for me, a **** story compared to Lucarottis two other, ***** works.
Hartnell always seems to have a greater grasp of the historicals, which are obviously rooted in some sort of reality. (In fact, all four regulars expressed a preference for the genre) As a result, while he occasionally stumbles and interrupts Ian, generally its a crisper, more focussed delivery. Bear in mind he gets about twice his usual dialogue here, too. Its also the best Doctor/Barbara story yet of all? with Jacqueline Hill on fine form. Their confrontation at the start of episode two is particularly outstanding.
This is one of just two stories where the Doctor has a romance, of sorts. Williams relationship with Cameca is touching, funny, subtle and compelling. The scene where he inadvertently proposes, and his reaction when the truth dawns, is absolutely hilarious. Conversely, in 1996 Paul McGann snogged Grace full on the lips several times. Which is better?
Susan, as always since the first episode (with the possible exception of, ironically, Lucarotti's other season one story, Marco Polo), is very much the spare part. Given her promised telepathic abilities in the following story only, Carole Ann Ford disliked the way her character was underwritten and wanted out. Judging from her bare minimum role in The Aztecs its not hard to see why she left later the same year. William Russell - whose rapport with Hartnell is by now reaching legendary proportions - again shows his superior mime abilities (see his "invisible barrier" in The Keys of Marinus) by lifting a piece of old polystyrene in episode three and pretending its a heavy stone. John Crocketts direction sometimes feels a little rigid and "boxed in" (theres also lots of shaky camerawork), but is obviously designed so as not to draw attention to the sparse sets. Oh, and Ian and Ixta fight like girls. Richard Rodney Bennetts music is also vaguely intrusive and repetitive, though nothing that bad. Yes, you can often see the stretch marks on the painted backdrops, and the brushwork on the sets, but this is intelligent, well-crafted television.
As an added feature for the title screen of this site, I started a feature on "Hidden Gems". Those stories that are forgotten about, rarely discussed, and are actually quite decent, even outstanding in some cases. Chronologically the first of these are The Sensorites and The Reign of Terror, both of which are enjoyable one more so than the other and are hardly ever mentioned anywhere. Click on the links for more information on these two tales.
Hartnell is not only the forgotten Doctor by fans of the series, but also a trashed Doctor. In 1998 DWMs large-scale poll saw only five of his stories reach the top fifty. Conversely, over half of his output was in the bottom fifty. Calculating this on a season average, the poll would have us believe that season two was the worst season of all time, second only to Sylvester McCoys misjudged debut.
Its true that the slight humour introduced in The Reign of Terror became more overt when that storys author, Dennis Spooner, became script editor from The Rescue to The Chase. Its also true that, as a sequel season to a programme that was still a new property, its a very sequelly season. Things happen for spectacle and one-upmanship rather than the dry, realistic credibility of the first. Daleks invade Earth! Daleks build their own time machine! The crew are shrunk to an inch in height! They land on the planet of the giant insects! The Doctor meets a rival with his own Tardis! Laugh with Nero in a gag-packed historical! Probably the only three stories to be straight stories in their own right similarly fall flat The Rescue is too brief, and is a transparent introduction for a Susan replacement; while the gimmicky Space Museum tries something different, but fails in most eyes. The only real success in this regard is The Crusade, which is a straight recreation of season ones po-faced historicals, done to perfection. Yet none of this really matters, at least as far as Im concerned. Season two for me is energetic, fun and possesses bags of charm.
The opening story from the season, Planet of Giants, is another Hidden Gem. Ive always had a great deal of enjoyment from the story, and although the central premise the crew are shrunk after the Tardis doors open in mid-flight is hokey, (especially as the Tardis shrinks too) it works, and is tremendous fun.
Susan is more intelligent than before, despite her odd tendency to say Tardis without the "the". Perhaps to compensate, Barbara seems to be made more stupid. Its also the debut of Dudley Simpson as incidental musician. Despite the fact that he could frequently be rubbish, and is so here, he was commissioned a further 60 times, and composed just under three quarters of all the Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker stories. The third episode also sees the debut of director Douglas Camfield. Despite being popular, Camfield surprisingly only worked on eight other stories.
Its a great little tale and I would like to say the special effects are also outstanding, but my copys so bad they could be of any quality.
Worlds End is my favourite individual episode title of the season (The Chases The Death of Doctor Who obviously the worst), and its also a great opening episode of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. The regulars get their first location shoot, contributing to an eerie, well-directed and atmospheric instalment. Sadly, things go downhill from this exemplary start, until by episode three were into stagy kids TV territory, pure pulp.
Some of the worst bits include the acting, notably Michael Goldie (the living exposition) and Ann Davies as Jenny, the king and queen of plankdom. The Robomen, while a chilling mixture of zombies/Cybermen precursors, look and sound stupid. The Daleks themselves, while looking sleek and moving well, are already self-parodies, weighed down by another Terry Nation script. Exterminate gets said four times in the last episode, hardly excessive, but an indication of how it would become a bland catchphrase in later years. Without Dennis Spooners send-up motifs, or David Whitakers well-written psychology, the 60s Daleks flounder into Flash Gordon dirge. Most damningly of all, their voices dont stand up to their original appearance, one of them sounding too human, while another is clearly castrated. Then theres the one in the last episode who looks directly at the Doctor but doesnt see him. The awful modelwork and filmed inserts, combined with the z-movie plot. The Dalek looking dispiritedly at stairs and touching the shop dummy, along with Barbaras taking off of their voice all things that debase them when done without irony, as here. The Daleks that break like girls when hit by a speeding truck. And maybe its the tape quality, or my copy, but the whole thing seems too brightly lit, even bleached at times. A touch of noir would have improved things no end, with the much-vaunted "Daleks in front of Parliament" scene much better done when they borrowed the idea for The Invasion. Lets not even mention the Slyther, utterly pathetic. Oh, and Susan sprains her ankle during the first four minutes. Pure Nation.
However, the serial must be indulged and applauded for attempting cinematic scale on a television budget, regardless of how variable its success may be. Situational logic is irrelevant it doesnt matter why the Dalek is in the Thames, cos it makes a great (albeit thoroughly predictable) cliffhanger anyway. A touch of the classic comes back for Susans departure, which is at least signposted in advance unlike some later companion "married off" exits. Just sixteen years old and the Doctor leaves her behind to get a damn good shagging. It is quite touching though. Okay, so Hartnell is no Troughton (who is?) but look at the indignation on his face when he first sees the Daleks. He also makes his first real joke (a pun on "Boyle") a pointer to his lighter, frankly demented season two persona. Quite different from the "grouchy old man" stereotype.
Yes, despite all its myriad of faults, The Dalek Invasion of Earth is, in entertainment terms at least, an improvement over the original Dalek story. Introducing many different elements, and being an episode shorter, maintains the interest no matter how ludicrous the action being played out on screen. Its often clumsy, the script lacking, and the acting shaky, but somehow, despite itself, it works.
Some last points: note how touchy-feely Ian and the Doctor are in their scenes together. Whats going on? Barbaras bouffant is HUGE this story, and, as Brian DiPaolo pointed out in his excellent 76 Totters Lane website, then who is "The Waking Ally" of the fifth episode??
No other story has been so blatantly contrived with the sole purpose of introducing a companion as The Rescue. But although the story is slight, the tale of a psycho who dresses up as a monster is reasonably rewarding in itself.
Yet one of the things I dont like about The Rescue is the sloppiness of the production. From the backless Tardis, rubbish matte effects and iffy models, it all comes over a bit The Dominators. However, it does at least introduce Vicki. Maureen OBrien might not have the alien air or weird accent of Carole Ann Ford, but shes a better actress, far more fun, and less whiny. Her rapport with Hartnell is better, too.
The Doctor is asleep when the story opens, and awakes with "I feel a bit sticky. I must go and have a wash." The implications dont bear thinking about, do they? Other innuendo-related fun can be gleaned from Ians pronunciation of Koquillion (Cockylickin) and the planets name sounding vaguely like dildo.
Hartnell is on stellar form incidentally. While there are some stammers, theyre now perfectly integrated into his overall performance, and he makes the most of the funny lines. Hes sprightly in this one, too, battering down doors and getting in fights. Tristram Carys music for the temple confrontation is identical to his work on The Daleks, and is just as ominous. With Ian and Barbara on the way out, this perhaps marks a turn towards making the Doctor more of a central figure in the series.
Less than thirty Doctor Who stories attempted to be comedies, and, with odd exceptions most notably City of Death - its a genre that was never really popular with the series fans. Yet, as evidenced in City, the Doctor on holiday stories are always brilliant. The Romans sees the crew relaxing in Italy, 64 AD for "three or four weeks". What really is the icing on the cake is the regulars having adventures completely unbeknown to the others. The way it juggles the various narrative strands including the Doctor almost seeing Barbara in episodes two and three is superlative.
To be honest, though theyre brilliant companions, William Russell and Jacqueline Hill werent as good at comedy as Peter Purves later was. However, this is more than compensated for by Hartnell, whos on hilarious form. Just some of his silly asides had me in stitches, like the following exchange:
IAN: "You never told us you were going away."
DOCTOR: "Oh? Well, I dont know that I was under any obligation to report my movements to you, Chesterfield."
DOCTOR: "Oh, Barbaras calling you."
In keeping with his Rescue persona, Hartnell again fights in a story. This is probably a reason why it isnt more popular, as the tale combines drawer room farce with the historical format. The sets, while essentially fine, are also artificial, but then this is the point. However, if you watch The Romans as a serious piece of television then its impossible to enjoy in context. Those looking for serious appraisal might be drawn to the fight Ian has in the third and fourth episodes, which is better choreographed (and faster) than that in The Aztecs. Theres also a wipe to cut between scenes, which is quite impressive for 1965. Of course, the scenes where Nero chases Barbara for sex are now a little unsettling in an age where rape, however disguised, isnt seen as a laughing matter.
Lastly, although The Time Meddler is famed for showing you can change history, the concept was introduced here by the Doctor saving Nero from being poisoned. Later, he laughs like a right loony as he realises it was he who caused the burning down of Rome.
The Web Planet is Doctor Who at its most experimental. A world where the sole lifeforms are highly evolved insects, and where there are no human gueststars.
Put simply, its nothing like Doctor Who at all and ultimately youre left with the impression youve switched over to the wrong channel by mistake. Its like watching a Chekoslavakian school play performed on crack.
I did use to hate this story like pretty much everyone else since its video release. But watching it again I can appreciate that, while a failure in modern terms, it is commendable in itself. Yes, its not all that good, but its praiseworthy for daring to try.
There are many, many flaws the planet is two-dimensional, and, while the Zarbi ants are okay with a kind eye (loveable, even), the larvae are atrocious. Lets not even mention the wires on the flying Menoptera, or the Optera, who are beyond a joke. Its never really revealed how such creatures, or the Animus, can construct those "mind control" devices either, considering none of them have fingers. A special filter was used to create a more "alien" feel. This is alien as in looking like someones wiped Vaseline over the camera lens. Richard Martin, whose occasional decent work seems to be a lucky fluke, allows so many sloppy shots to go through its unbelievable. The fact that I watch this story for its mistakes cannot be a good thing. But I love all the boom mike shadows and wobbly cameras, and I adore the Zarbi bumping into the camera. For some reason laughter can be heard at the start of episode four when Ian is buried in the rockfall.
Lastly, I love Hartnell to death but he really gets on my tits in this story. He seems to spend 80% of the time giggling dementedly, while his recall has descended into incompetence. The notion that he got worse towards the end is pure myth. Hes on fine form in seasons three and four, and is at his worst in the second. The Web Planet is his worst story full stop, and its not a pretty sight. Dont bother checking the fluffs entry as there arent that many (though there is my all-time favourite) its more the general hesitancy with every single line. Even William Russell seems pissed off with him at times. And is his "hairdryer" line an ad-lib? I liked that bit, but not much else.
On the positive side, then the matte shot of the pyramid in the first episode is impressive, and Jacqueline Hill again excels. Her ability to take things seriously when all three of her co-stars are opting for send-up and disinterest salvages some minute scrap of dignity. Best of all though is the genuinely creepy Animus. Full marks to Catherine Fleming for bringing it so memorably to life. And if nothing else then you might get a few childish sniggers when Hartnell keeps talking about his ring. A worthwhile story then, in expanding the scope of the series. But a worthless one forty years on, where its ambitions and execution are just plain laughable.
From the ridiculous to the sublime, with David Whitaker rivalling Lucarotti with The Crusade. Season two is the most complete of the 60s seasons, so its unfortunate that the only two missing episodes come from this, the undoubted highlight (save for The Time Meddler) of 65.
The first episode, famously rediscovered in 1998, is surprisingly action-packed by Hartnell standards. To be honest though, its not that great an episode and probably disappointed many. In fact, I had the story pegged down as a classic when Id only seen episode three with its breathtaking Jean Marsh/Julian Glover confrontation scene. Looking at the complete work, with the soundtrack of episodes two and four, reveals its very, very good but not outstanding. Perhaps the largest flaw is that Whitaker seems to have slight problems with the basic narrative convention of the historical format. That is, when the regulars cant take any real proactive role in events, then where is the drama? Its a situation he manages to resolve, though perhaps not as fluidly as Lucarotti.
Also of concern are white actors in blackface, though the story avoids with the possible exception of Tutte Lemkow a racist depiction of the Muslim forces. Hartnell excels because, while occasionally stammering, its just one of three stories (the others being The Massacre and The Tenth Planet) where he doesnt blow a line. In yet another sex reference, incest was referred to in the script, though cut out before filming. The Doctor lovingly hugging Vicki in the third episode consolidates his transition from dark alien to cuddly eccentric uncle.
Of course, watched in context then The Crusades high quality makes it stand out like a sore thumb in season two. And on the negative side then its admirable yet slightly pretentious pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue can sound a little silly when delivered by anyone other than Marsh or Glover. Yes, a fine story, but there are better.
Three Doctor Who stories, of sorts, have dealt with the subject of predetermined destiny. One of the effects of time travel that the series rarely dealt with was if you travelled into your own future and saw your death then could you prevent it? This was sidestepped in Revelation of the Daleks, whose "fake statue" musings were merely a distraction, there as a cliffhanger. One of the better audio stories, The Fires of Vulcan, saw the Doctor land in a time and space where he knew the Tardis would become buried for centuries. The resolution cheated somewhat, but still kept the logic and spirit of the piece. So, two awkward, but acceptable, uses of the concept.
This is where The Space Museum falls flat. Even haters of the story (which is practically everyone) admit the first episode is actually pretty good. A kind of Doctor Who meets The Twilight Zone as the crew "jump a time track" and see their own future... as frozen exhibits in a museum. Sadly it feels as if writer Glyn Jones has set himself a first-class conundrum and yet cant find a way out of it. So it turns out their future wasnt fixed and just didnt happen after all. Rarely has a cop-out disappointed so much. The Doctors explanation of how it all happened, with Barbaras nod to the viewers of "Yes I have... I think most people have" is just too much to bear. Though Ians sarcastic thanking of the Doctor for explaining it to them salvages some credibility.
However, even this wouldnt be so intolerable if the rest of the story didnt descend into almost Pertwee-like levels of running around. Dennis Spooners script editing must be called to task for allowing the calm, occasional fighter of Ian to turn into a hot-headed karate-chopping psycho with a gun. Its the most out of character a regular ever became in the Hartnell era. Maybe he was just dying for a shag.
Populating this tale are two races of warring aliens. Its stunning how what was a relatively sophisticated programme could produce such a childish, third-rate depiction of alien life. The Xerons are alien because they all have "eyebrows" an inch higher on their heads, and side partings. The Moroks, meanwhile (note how their name is only a letter away from Morons) have shoulder pads and pompadour wigs like Gary Glitter. This is obviously not a good thing. The Xerons talking about "ray guns" only adds to the misery, while Richard Shaw as Lobos says his lines like hes reading them from the script. Intriguingly, all four alien names are an anagram of "staid rot boloks"*
The "planet" background of the first episode which has a flat line running up it, and allows cast shadows to fall over it is risible, as are some of the ridiculous sound effects. However, some of the special effects are quite good for the time. Oh, and I never did bother to count, but this might also set the record for the highest number of times Hartnell says "Hmm". While undeniably the weakest story of season two, I did still get quite a lot of enjoyment out of watching this one, I have to say. Its rubbish, but its entertaining rubbish.
* Okay, so theres an "A" and an "O" left over, but still...
The Chase is, for my money, the best of the Hartnell Dalek stories. Yes, really. Theres something so deliciously cheesy about the Daleks of the time that only in a send-up can they work. Genesis and Revelation succeeded by placing them on the sidelines, while Power and Evil gave them a greater psychological impact. But the Hartnell ones present them as pure B-movie terrors, straight out of Spider Zombies from Mars. They were probably very effective at the time, but have dated more than anything else in the era now.
Virtually plotless, the Daleks build their own time machine and chase the Doctor through time and space. This involves a series of five set pieces, most of which like the Daleks on the Mary Celeste are such bloody good fun its untrue. The American stereotypes completely blow any sense of realism out of the water (as does the later "snapshots" scene), but they still crack me up, especially Peter Purvess "Morton Dill".
As for the Daleks themselves, its clear the production team overdid them they appeared in over 25% of the Hartnell episodes, not including The Space Museum cameos but you can see how they were effectively forced into such a situation. The first cliffhanger is yet another Dalek appearance, which is no surprise, as we knew they were coming. Its significant, though, because, instead of invoking menace, it coughs and gasps as its covered in sand. "Well, see to it!" says one Dalek to his procrastinating underling. Another gets called "Fred" and "Auntie", while a third says "Errr..." a lot. In the fourth episode Ian notes, tongue rammed firmly into cheek, "Daleks dont like stairs", while Morton Dill laughs hysterically at the sight of one. This story trashes them more conclusively than Destiny ever did. On the positive side they do get their now-familiar midriff "slats", and look more complete for it. Yet theyre even more banal and catchphrase-led than before, with "exterminate" being said no less than fourteen times. Ian even does the voice in the last episode. The Mechonoids (Theyre usually referred to as "Mechanoids", but check out the onscreen credits) and their city are rubbish, by the way, as is their "cartoon explosion" battle with the Daleks. Vicki calls Ian a "nit" in the second episode, which seems a bit disrespectful, and her club makes a noise before she hits the captain with it in the third. Shes quite a useless sap in this story, actually, and I can see why some would criticise her for this performance. Generally, though, I cant see why she gets so much scorn. Hartnell, incidentally, is on good form. Its like one great big leaving party for Hill and Russell, with everyone having a good time. He hesitates slightly at times, and does blow three lines (including an admittedly classic fluff), but generally his diction is better than it had been in the recent past. This is especially impressive considering some of the big words he has to say. Meanwhile, the normally laid-back Ian gets all butch and testosterone-fuelled when he first meets Steven in the last episode. This isnt really a great leaving story Barbara-wise though.
Production values... what production values? The backless Tardis, the planet sets (people knock the quarries, but werent they so much better?) the Aridians with headpieces that arent stuck down properly. Then theres the boom mike shadows, the Stevie Wonder editing and Richard Martins direction, which has all the artistry of a chimps back passage. I used to own a copy of The Chase that was so poor in quality it actually made the Doctors robot "double" resemble him. I was certainly disappointed when I got the BBC release. Dudley Simpsons score is way over the top, and if Earth could build funfair robots that could defeat the Daleks in 1996, then how did the Daleks take over the planet 68 years later?
Yes, The Chase is neither big nor clever... but I rather happen to like it.
The Time Meddler puts on hold the production decline the series The Crusade excepted had undertaken in the previous five months. It also marked a general upturn in the quality of the show from then on, something that would continue for the next three years. The fact that this story is so forgotten it could qualify as a Hidden Gem says volumes about the lack of fan interest in the era.
Its just such first-class Who. Detractors of the story will know it for its slow Viking battles; lovers will know it for the Monk. I didnt know Peter Butterworth was a comic actor when I first saw the story, something that perhaps improved my enjoyment. Without seeing him with the Carry On baggage only made it better. Yet Butterworth is a great actor and does brilliantly in a role thats lightly humorous, but still tapped in to good drama. Strangely, his Monk garb is here used as period disguise, though he incongruously kept it for his return in The Daleks Masterplan. The Monk might only be changing history just for a laugh, but he carries infinitely more depth than the Master does. Note incidentally how the Monk calls his Tardis either a "time-ship" or "time machine". In An Unearthly Child its established that Susan made up the nickname "Tardis", a notion that was later abandoned in the series.
Douglas Camfield brings a fresh vitality to the direction (the console room scenes are notably shot from different angles) and theres nice use of fades. Things do drag a little in the Hartnell-on-holiday second episode, but in the main its an endearing, magical tale.
Several innovations happen in the story: history can be changed, and it mixes both established genres to create a new hybrid: the pseudo historical. Its amazing the wonders that can be produced on such a small budget, and what is a groundbreaking story turns out to be a deceptively low-key affair. The whole thing is superbly shot (though the noirish shades could just be the aged film stock) and is full of great moments: the Gregorian chants on a record player; the revelation of the Monks Tardis, and, one of my all-time favourite moments, the Monk being trapped by the Doctor. Seeing him shouting helplessly into the void is a powerful image. "Doctor! Doc toooooooor!"
Yes, there might be Vikings called "Sven" and "Ulf", but these are just minor background details, there to support the power games going on between the Doctor and his new enemy. In case you havent guessed, I really like this story a lot. In fact, other than Marco Polo and The Massacre, I think its the best of the period.
My overview of season three is new to this page as it was originally due to feature in Circus Issue 10. However, I never had time to complete the necessary redrafts, so I'm finally producing it here. That's not to say it's half-finished, just that modern fanzines have a less rigid, story-by-story format and - hey, I'm new to paper fanzines - I needed to change it to fit. So, here we go:
I try not to take much notice of widespread fan opinion, but when DWM ran survey results back in issue #265 it was perhaps sadly inevitable that Hartnell was treated with disdain. Season twos lowly showing was a genuine surprise, yet season three was also predictably trashed. Six of the stories clogged up the lower fifty, with The Gunfighters making its inevitable bottom ten appearance. Yes, season three is the season with unpopular companions, and, legend would have us believe, Hartnell giving a lousy performance throughout. Matters arent helped by only three of the stories existing in their entirety in the BBC archives, and that the one story that did well for itself in the poll The Daleks Masterplan at No.44 is a twelve-week dose of functional banality. Yet the cruelly underrated Hartnell stories act as a template for everything else that followed. Only the dubbed-on sounds of peoples thoughts in three of the Troughton stories or the dream sequence in The Time Monster were new. Anything else in the entire series flashbacks, comedy, postmodernism, musicals, interlinked stories, pseudohistoricals, political commentary and more all originated during the four years Bill held the title role. And season three is the perfect exponent of this, pushing the boat out in terms of humour, with work that paved the way for even the Graham Williams era. (Cue predictable reference to Hartnell breaking the fourth wall in the Christmas Day episode of Masterplan. Even season twos The Chase features William Russell, tongue rammed firmly into cheek, noting that Daleks dont like stairs fourteen years before Destiny). Lets make no mistake, many of the other Doctors could be funny, and I'm not saying Bill was the best actor in the part far from it but he was the one who could best time a joke. Those who believe the myth that his performance had degenerated into incompetence may be surprised like I was, when listening to the audios, of how sharp his timing could be.
In fairness to haters of Whos longest-ever season, it does open with a pile of cobblers in the creaky shape of Galaxy 4. A morality tale that makes Star Trek look subtle, it gives us the notion that 60s dolly birds can be bad, plastic aliens with cute robots can be good. Well thank God for that. What material still exists of the story (around six minutes of episode one) shows it up to be a fairly starch, lifeless affair, the sort of thing that people assume bad Hartnell to be. I have to be honest and say that most of the innovation of this season was a result of accidents. The notion of a story that was told through the eyes of a companion, for example, wasnt really a desire to develop Peter Purvess character, but just to make it easier on Hartnell so he didnt have to undergo too many costume changes for his dual role in The Massacre. Similarly, Mission to the Unknown wasnt really a format-breaking precursor to Masterplan by having no appearance of the Tardis crew, but an extra episode allotted to the season that they had to fill up without interfering with the regular casts holiday entitlement. Despite featuring a rubbish fake jungle and another unsophisticated Terry Nation script, Mission does include some effective moments of horror. With what appears to be above average direction and bodily mutilation, its one of the most graphically violent Hartnell episodes.
The season also saw a turbulent time behind the scenes. Half of the stories (well, four and three quarters) were script-edited by Donald Tosh, the other five (okay, five and a quarter) were then overseen by Gerry Davis. But more importantly, this was the first time a producer had stood down. Verity Lambert moved on to other things, with John Wiles her replacement. So unenamoured of the current style of the series and Hartnells increasing dominance over events, he moved on almost instantly after just three stories, leaving Innes Lloyd to bridge the gap. No other season has been the product of so many different forces. The first work to go out under Wiless name was The Myth Makers. The story sees Achilles mistake Hartnell for Zeus, appearing before him In the guise of an old beggar. Despite some of the jokey episode titles Small Prophet, Quick Return the most notable this probably isnt the all-out farce that rumour would have led you to believe. Instead, its just a straight historical with humour that arises naturally out of the situation. That said, Steven yielding to Paris and offering himself as a prisoner is met with Oh, I say, this sort of thing is just not done, which is strangely Pythonesque. And I guess the line about saying whoa to the horse is a bit daft too. But its hardly a joke a minute. Sadly, its Vickis last story, a companion much loved by me, anyway. Actually, shes inexplicably unpopular, despite being engagingly played by Maureen OBrien (I love the way she wets herself every time Hartnell fluffs a line) and having a great rapport with Bill. However, in a season that has the worst leaving scenes of companions (Culminating in Dodos off-screen exit during The War Machines), she gets paired off with Troilus after sharing a few scenes together. The Hartnell years had a surprisingly healthy attitude towards sex, and this one mentions affairs and orgies during events. So this at least makes Vickis departure easier to swallow. You might doubt she would go off with a guy she hardly knew, but youre in no doubt that as soon as Hartnell flew off in the Tardis she was getting a right good seeing-to.
The Daleks Masterplan had a recent high profile audio release, though episode one also has an amusing, Captain Pugwash-style reconstruction by fan Harold Achatz. Of the two surviving episodes, then the fifth sees Hartnell gurning like a loony, while the tenth has Peter Butterworth camping it up as the Monk, albeit without his previous depth. Both of them are fun, and perfectly highlight the flaws in the story. With its weak script and dialogue, The Daleks Masterplan is heavily reliant on FX and visuals to carry it. (And the fifths special effects are surprisingly sophisticated for the time). Take away the images and the whole things pretty flat, even if presented on a shiny CD with a 40 page booklet. The story gives us two companions so that they can be killed off. As they werent really companions in the broadest sense, then you dont really care, so it lacks the drama that would be invoked if, say, it was Steven or Vicki that were wiped. For the record, we get to see the end of Katarina (a simpering sap, introduced at the end of The Myth Makers) and Sara Kingdom (Basically, a mad bitch with a bloody big gun). Nation seems to be running out of names for planets Desperus for em, in fact and even resorts to naming a world after Myra from Prisoner: Cell Block H. Mind you, as his previous efforts included such gems as Aridius, Marinus and Mechanus then inspiration in this area was clearly not his forte. The twelve-episode length is a curious one. In some ways you think youre watching an epic. In other ways you know youre watching padding. Witness episodes three and four, with the Doctor and Steven stuck on a spacecraft for the duration, or the totally superfluous appearance of the Monk. As has often been noted, Hartnell gives a spirited performance throughout, only blowing four lines over the entire serial. Its not his best showing, though, as, with all the others, hes given little of merit to play with. The story is helped by the production team finally realising what a waste of space Richard Martin was and giving the reigns of a Dalek story over to Douglas Camfield. Hes not quite as superlative with the Daleks as Derrick Martinus, but does make intelligent use of the creatures. Also a help is Dennis Spooner taking over the scripting from episode six, notably upping the ante in terms of dialogue and characterisation. His Christmas episode isnt exactly highbrow comedy, but Hartnells jaffa in-joke and audience address are extremely clever. Best of all though is his unintentional gag in episode eight, between Chen and the Daleks: The core is worthless. No, no, it cant be it came from Uranus! Its all entertaining enough, but, aside from Mavic Chens multiracial make-up, theres little in the way of subtext or metaphor. Its a Boys Own adventure of time travel, eight foot invisible aliens and a lot of destruction. In many senses this is Hartnells best Dalek story certainly his most ambitious but a classic? Sadly, no.
Another plus of season three is that excluding the Dalek episodes all the stories are just four episodes long. Yes, there are some worthwhile six parters, but for the average Who story then four episodes is more than adequate. Okay, a word on official titles. Basically, a few years back some fans dug up BBC documentation and extensively researched the collective titles of each Hartnell story (A problem eradicated by The Savages, which saw the series switch to the now-traditional episode one, episode two, etc., instead of individual episode names within a story), but basically who cares what the official titles are? The fans concerned wasted their time, because lets be honest theyre rubbish. Dalek Cutaway (Mission To The Unknown) doesnt exactly trip off the tongue, neither does 100,000 BC (An Unearthly Child). So I reject the clanky and unromantic The Massacre of St. Bartholomews Eve in favour of The Massacre, a name we called it for years without complaint. As for the story itself, its so overlooked its almost painful. The fact that only a few still photos, not even telesnaps exist from it dont exactly help its case. Yet from those still photographs we can gather just how good the sets, costume and production were. With the audio soundtrack, we can hear the most important thing of all an absolutely first-rate script. Its often said that Hartnell not fluffing a line as the Abbott proves his stumbling was an act, but having said that the whole story sees him on good form. In fact the only time its possible to say this he doesnt mess up a single word in whichever role hes playing. Each episode (and this is a mark of brilliance Im sure youll agree) takes the form of a day, not even offering a cliffhanger reprise. With Steven seemingly abandoned, it also genuinely has the feel of interlopers visiting a past time, rather than some actors in a studio. Its a mature, uncompromising work remember, Doctor Who began as a kids show then got more adult. Yeah, right. The other way round more like. The subject matter of a Catholic vs. Protestant feud is unusual, while the Doctors final decision to leave Anne behind, possibly to get murdered in order to preserve history is outstanding. Steven leaves in disgust, precipitating a wonderfully rueful monologue from Hartnell: Now theyve all gone all gone. None of them could could understand me. Not even my little Susan. Or Vicki. And as for Barbara and Chatterton Chesterton they were all too impatient to get back to their own time. And now Steven perhaps I should go home. Back to my own planet but I cant I cant The resolution of Dodo (an ancestor of Annes) joining the Tardis may seem contrived, but fits the narrative notion of destiny (The Doctor on history: Were all too small to realise its final pattern) very well. Absolutely first-class Who.
The Ark is the first story to really showcase Jackie Lane as Dodo. And, lets be honest, shes about as appealing as a dose of piles in a rear of the year competition. In an age where even the working classes spoke in middle class accents, shes a failed attempt at a more modern companion that didnt even get a proper leaving scene. City of Death and Mawdryn Undead, to name just two, feature dual timelines. While not quite the same, this innovation is presaged here by a story that takes place over a 700 year gap in two, two-episode chunks. Its also got some gorgeous direction by Michael Imison, a sumptuous jungle set, complete with real elephant, and a clear subtext about racism and slavery. Sounds great, doesnt it? Unfortunately, its ham-fisted pap, largely due to a shallow indictment: the Monoids. Steven describes them as terrifying, but theyre so lame its untrue. Their single eye is so obviously operated by the tongue (you can see a chin line where their noses should be, and, in the final episode, a nose sticking out from under the hair) and the Beatles haircut is ludicrous. Not only that, but their civil war is made inept by their legs being joined together. The archetypal men in rubber suits, you can even clearly see the zips on their backs, while, thanks to Roy Skelton, they sound like Zippy. Some of the Monoid exposition in the inferior last two episodes is crushingly bad, and a race of invisible aliens is always a sign of desperation. Hartnell comes over all Pertwee, delivering a sermon about understanding, while the minimal incidental music doesnt help the somewhat stagy, leaden pace. There are plusses: the miniaturisation effect is just one example of how black and white could be effective in colour it probably would have looked awful. Hartnell is on fine form, very amusingly scolding Dodo at every opportunity. Michael Sheard, who seems to have a regular contract with Who (appearing in six of the buggers) here makes his series debut. And the twist ending of episode two must have been even better at the time when viewers might have believed it was the last episode. But while the execution is ropy, the ideas are fresh, thereby adding to my argument that season three was Doctor Who on far from its last legs. The Ark is genuinely admirable because its so well meaning and ambitious. While naive and unsophisticated, its flawed yet commendable.
The Celestial Toymaker is a story thats had heaps of plaudits thrown at it over the years (DWAS even famously naming their newsleaflet after it), so its rather a surprise to find its actually a load of ropy old arse. As Doctor Whos first foray into surrealism then its commendable, but man invented fire once, too you dont get people worshipping a pair of twigs and a rock. Set in a poor mans Adventure Game, the much-touted macabre elements are really just daft characters, like the Billy Bunter rip-off, behaving incongrously. Its a nice idea, but its rather like having Big Ted from Playschool wearing a false moustache and a cigar holder. Sure, its an innocuous, innocent character in an unusual setting, but that hardly makes it a trip to the launderette, does it? Some of the support characters are also quite annoying, including Clara the Clown; an Alpha Centauri soundalike that even Bonnie Langford would say is irritating. As this section is supposed to be a reappraisal of season three Ill have to lump this one with The Ark as another story that must be praised for innovation, if not execution. But rarely have Doctor Whos production limitations shown so transparently on screen. An attempt to write out Bill in the middle of contract negotiations, its a four episode water treader to fill time until he was signed back on for five more stories. Yeah, it is innovative, but its also pretty pointless and repetitive. The resolution to all these feeble shenanigans is so contrived that not even a dozen polarity reverses could match it. I dont actually dislike this story; its vastly overrated yet still okay. But Doctor Who didnt build its reputation on stories that are only okay.
Most of the problem with appreciation of the Hartnell era is that fandom very rarely undergoes a wholesale revision of opinion. Okay, occasionally a video release may tip the balance (Didnt The Web Planet use to be popular before they brought it back out in all its dated glory?), but generally the common census of opinion is carved in stone, never to be challenged. Even the Pertwee backlash remained a (sizeable) minority. So it is that an all comedy Western with musical elements was the most bizarre and outlandish Who story attempted up to that point. Since then much, much sillier stories have gone out under the series banner, but no ones ever really bothered to go back and hold this one up to revised acclaim. What really grates is that if this sort of thing was written by Darin Morgan for The X-Files, then its fans would have the good sense to applaud it. British viewers might like to feel superior to American audiences (and quite right, with the formula dross they have to contend with), but it says a lot about the fans of the series that they cant like a story unless its some bloke in a monster costume. Worse still, most of the people that slate The Gunfighters havent even seen it. Of course, it does blow the format wide open within Doctor Who. Not only in being narrated by song, but also in the way that the cod American accents spoof the western genre. So the Tardis crew havent landed in a genuine historical setting, but a fabricated pastiche. The best thing is not to think about it in context and just enjoy it as a comic story in its own right. Its engagingly played and charmingly directed, while acting as a showcase for Williams considerable comic ability. The whole plot travels along on a series of humorous misunderstandings, using verbal wit rather than silliness. Look at this dialogue exchange, where Bill is mistaken for Doc Holliday: Doc? What? Yes, yes, what is it? Holliday? Holiday? Yes, I suppose so. Yes, you could call it that. The whole series of perilous situations that the Doctor unwittingly puts himself in are fabulous, and theres also this introduction: Your humble servant Doctor Calligari. Doctor Who? Yes, quite right. This deserves special mention for being the only time the Doctor Who? gag is funny. If nothing else then you have to admire the ambition of a television series that constructs a western town in a studio, complete with horses. And of course, theres one of the series best-ever innuendoes, with Johnny Ringos plan to take a man from behind. I never figured you for a backshooter, Ringo comes the reply! Its all brilliant fun, well overdue a video release, and I much prefer this existing to a Celestial Toymaker or a Masterplan.
I can understand why people are a little lukewarm towards Steven Taylor as a companion. Hes sarcastic, conceited, overbearing and his slightly disagreeable personality means he finds it hard to build a genuine relationship with anybody. In many ways, Ian Chesterton is the companion wed all like to be Steven Taylor is the companion we all really know we are. The Savages sees his final appearance in the series, and while it may not be a great last story for him, his slightly more level-headed persona is one that had been developed over the previous four stories. Its the least groundbreaking of the season, being very much a traditional tale. Other than, as mentioned earlier, discarding the individual episode titles, it does very little thats new with the format, which kind of makes you wonder why its not just forgotten instead of in the bottom thirty. Having said all that, seeing Frederick Jaeger in black face, and, bearing in mind the working title The White Savages does cast a dubious light on proceedings. However, you could argue that its reversal of types the black leader as the perpetuator of enslavement is perfectly tapped in to Whos aesthetic twists on social commentary. Think of the Arian Thals in The Dead Planet, for example. The Doctor even equates the Elders with the Daleks during the second episode. This raises another question, and one of the reasons Hartnell is so disliked: his (alleged) bigoted attitude. Its rumoured that Bill refused to work with Jews, black people or homosexuals. I cannot defend such an attitude, but it must be noted that the role of the Doctor is always liberal and campaigning for the rights of the oppressed. So, yes, William Hartnell might not have been a nice man but it shouldnt effect appreciation of his work, because none of it found its way on screen. On this subject, Hartnells righteous indignation in the second episode (Exploitation indeed! This sir, is protracted murder!) is excellent, and The Savages is definitely a story that rewards second chances, intelligently mixing stock SF situations to compelling effect. Things are only marred slightly by the final episode, which unsubtly puts its morality on show with tons of worthy dialogue that comes over as preaching. The resolution, which amounts to smashing up a laboratory, is also a little lacking. The first of three scripts that Ian Stuart Black penned for the series, the themes of this one were perhaps better presented in his The Macra Terror, though this is still a very fine story. Two last observations: Hartnell emerges from the Tardis carrying a reacting vibrator. No wonder Dodo complains when he walks off. And the tale features a character called Avon, a dozen years before a certain other cheap SF series
Almost without exception, the Hartnell stories had alternated between futuristic, SF-orientated stories and historicals. The War Machines is touted as the first (what about Planet of Giants?) to be set in a contemporary period. It really reminds me of an old 50s British film, with its London location settings, dark shades and intelligent direction by Michael Ferguson. Hartnell, who was never really the lead, more of a team player (particularly with Ian and Barbara, and to a lesser extent Steven), here takes centre stage and hes brilliant. Dodo, like a boil that needs bursting, is here packed off to a country house in order to make way for Ben and Polly. While theyre not that popular, they click much more than Dodo ever did. I really like them personally. Ben is always decent and likeable, and as for Polly I probably would to be honest with you. (What IS she wearing though?) Wotans computer connections predate the Internet, while the story itself often has the feel of a Troughton or Pertwee. (You could even argue that the first rumblings of UNIT began here). There are clear signs that this is Doctor Who carving out its own future. Criticisms from me are few: the drumroll that introduces the title is weird, while the War Machine(s) themselves are quite obviously tat. In part three the Machine attacking Ben changes from 9 to 3 and back again, while in the next episode he accidentally knocks a bit off and makes it obvious by picking it up and putting it back on again. The shot in the final episode of a War Machine travelling through the city streets is very obviously a filmed backdrop, and how does the Machine reach the top of the Post Office Tower? And isnt the ending a bit of a pat (or should that be Jon) resolution? Machine destroys Wotan by accident end of story. Thats yer lot, youve paid yer money, now go home. And did I miss something or does Wotan want to conquer the world just because he does, so there? Even the Master had more motivation. Of course, theres an implied question mark when Wotan says the famous line: Doctor Who? Is required. After all, he has to be called Doctor something, and a computer would list this logically, almost as an equation. Well, you can pretend, cant you? I dunno though, I just love this one and the credit for Wotan is really cute. Even the Tardis take-off is cool, where the air seems to warp around it as it fades.
And so, a conclusion. Ive always struggled with conclusions, particularly in cases like this where the end result turns out to be quite different to how I imagined. I had this pegged down as a season three is better than you might expect reappraisal when I started. Now Ive rewatched all the stories I realise it goes even further this is Hartnells best season without question. His first is excellent, of course, but the SF stories have dated and it can be a little dry in places. Season two is fun, but too derivative and silly to stand up to serious scrutiny. Season three has the maturity of one with the experimentation of the other. And in a year when even the below-par stories ( Galaxy 4, The Ark, The Celestial Toymaker) break major new ground then this is highly worthy of praise. Not only that, but personally its a step forward, too. Forget the myths passed down through years of Haining books and old DWMs that his performance suffered the amount of line fluffs in this, his longest season, are actually less than either of the two preceding years. (Yes, I was sad enough to count). If you imagine the equally superb Smugglers and Tenth Planet as continuations of the season three ideology then its a definite advancement in Hartnells work. As for future appreciation of this season? Well, the fun reconstructions still have a limited audience, but I bet a few previously held beliefs will be shaken now they've released The Gunfighters onto video. Imaginative, varied, experimental and entertaining Doctor Who exactly as it should be.
(Incidentally, should you care, my favourite individual episode titles were Golden Death/Coronas of the Sun from The Daleks Masterplan. My least favourites, the silly-sounding Priest of Death and Bell of Doom came from the otherwise excellent The Massacre).
The final "Hidden Gem" of the Hartnell era (though so few of them are discussed most of them could qualify) is The Smugglers, a vastly enjoyable pirate fare. The Tenth Planet is the final, atypical, Hartnell story. Atypical in that, while its been retrospectively snubbed as "just an average base under siege story"; this was the first to attempt it. Around a dozen Patrick Troughton stories were made from this single blueprint alone. Yes, its true that without the debut of the Cybermen or the regeneration then it wouldnt be so special, but then City of Death wouldnt be so special if you took away the Paris filming and all the witty lines.
As a classic story then its a little uneasy, with minimal use of (stock) music, along with the inevitable sense of anticlimax at Hartnell not getting the send-off he really deserved. Fittingly, though, Its one of the few stories where he doesnt fluff a single line. Though his tendency to do this has been greatly exaggerated anyway, as a look at Fluffs below should prove. Okay, so Hartnell got sick and missed the third episode, and was in the sidelines of the fourth. Hed been sick before. Those who believe he was on his last legs might get a shock from his forceful performance in the first half of the story. You do have to wonder who got his lines, though... at least Bens handy habit of talking to himself means he can carry a scene alone.
Some of the other acting is a little ropy, largely because, as in Tomb, its a collection of Brit thesps adopting scarcely convincing US accents. Further evidence of the periods healthy attitude towards sex is evidenced by shots of girlie calendars in the first few minutes. One slight problem Ive always had with the story is the seemingly naive depiction of a travelling planet. Kit Pedler was a real scientist, so we must give him the benefit of the doubt, and its a step up from putting a rocket in its core (The Dalek Invasion of Earth), but it still seems a little far-fetched. Not only that, but the 60s stories, particularly Hartnells, always date when theyre futuristic. Its recreation of 1986 seems unsophisticated now, with the ship periscope in the first episode a particularly charming novelty.
However, these niggles are few, and its easy to see, with the Daleks mere shadows of their former selves (until the following story, obviously) how the Cybermen were presented as a viable rival. They occasionally look and sound a little daft, but for some reason theyre scarier than usual. Its a combination of the still-human hands with disembodied voices and impassive, towering body language. So much more unnerving than the emotional 80s versions. Theyre also, conversely, more human than usual. Rather than one-dimensional conquerors, they want humans to live with them... albeit as Cybermen. Ben even nearly cries when hes forced to kill one, with a "You didnt give me no alternative." (Which, does, of course, mean he must have given him an alternative, but you cant expect a Cockney to understand double negatives, can you?) The computerised lettering of the credits is a wonderful innovation, and then theres this, one of the best dialogue exchanges in the whole series: "But dont you care?" "Care? No, why should I care?" "Because theyre people and theyre going to die!" "I do not understand you, there are people dying all over your world yet you do not care about them." For a story largely in one main set, then director Derek Martinus keeps the pace going. Thats another reason why it doesnt feel like one of Bills in hindsight: its fairly fast moving, the situation established from the outset.
The Tenth Planet was the way forward for the series, with its sensibilities streamlined into a less flexible - but very entertaining all the same formula. The influence this story had was immediately felt, when two of the following season four stories - The Power of the Daleks and The Moonbase - followed its basic format. However, while this wasnt the end of season four, it was where William Hartnell got off, regenerating into Patrick Troughton...
In an earlier version of this article I said I wouldn't list all the fluffs William Hartnell made during his time as the Doctor as it was cruel. But what the Hell, eh? Here's the lot, which I've taken down myself, so if I've missed any then let me know. [NB. This list does not yet include Galaxy 4. But I'm working on it...]
The Pilot: "Far beyond the reach of you of your most advanced sciences."
The Pilot: "If they leave the ship now they mate might come become to believe that g all this is possible at some time or other."
An Unearthly Child, Episode Three: "Havent you realised that these two people can fal the any of of these people can follow us, the whole tribe could descend on us at any moment?"
The Daleks, Episode One: "The animal is sit- solidified, certainly, but its not, er... crumbling stone."
The Daleks, Episode Three: "Its possible they may have been anti-radiation gloves... drugs." His first real major gaffe, and one so special it almost made the classics top five.
The Daleks, Episode Six: "Now weve short... weve shorted it, you see."
The Edge of Destruction, Episode One: "Youre the cause of this disaster and youre both not, youll knocked both Susan and I... I unconscious."
The Edge of Destruction, Episode Two: "Were on the brink of discuss... of destruction."
The Edge of Destruction, Episode Two: "Dont underestimate... uh ... underestimate my powers, young lady."
Marco Polo, Episode Five: "Yes, get out of here, anywhere where its place... where its safe." And is his line "Im far from unwell" the following episode a mistake as well? In context it should be "Im far from well", surely?
The Keys of Marinus, Episode One: "Yes, I dont think... I dont see why not."
The Keys of Marinus, Episode One: "If you think Im going to travel across that acid sea in one of these primitive mer... submersibles."
The Keys of Marinus, Episode Two: "Altos has shown me how to just-adjust mine."
The Keys of Marinus, Episode Five: "I admit that I ... resorted to a subterfuge when Sabetha ... uh... uh... accused Aydan of taking the key."
The Keys of Marinus, Episode Six: "And you will accompany my me, my dear."
The Aztecs, Episode One: "This dear lady has promised me to arrange a meeting between me ... er... between er, I ... myself and the son of the man with the temple."
The Sensorites, Episode One: "These are the non-winding time."
The Sensorites, Episode One: "Theres not an ounce of curio-curiosity in me, my dear boy."
The Sensorites, Episode One: "I rather fancy thats, er... settled that little bit of solution."
The Sensorites, Episode Three: "Yes, rich in minb, min, minerals, yes, quite, go on..."
The Sensorites, Episode Four: "Im going to find the, er first, er Elder, scientist, rather."
The Sensorites, Episode Five: "Otherwise I might have been in much stek in a worse state than I was."
The Reign of Terror, Episode Three: "Am I correct to uh, to assume that youre not interested?"
The Reign of Terror, Episode Five: "I must insist that you reece- release that young child immediately."
The Reign of Terror, Episode Six: "I see you havent heard the nerrr the news, yet, my young man."
The Reign of Terror, Episode Six: "Very well if you must toyrr... tell your story, then get on with it."
Planet of Giants, Episode Three: "She see, she got it on her hands."
The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Episode One: "I have a feeling. Call it infe intuition, if you like."
The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Episode One: "Dyou know whats... dont you want to know whats happened, hmmm?"
The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Episode Three: "You seem to place more reliance on that young word young mans word, dont you?"
The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Episode Six: "If they succeed it will mean that they un upset the entire constellation, weve got to pres, er, prevent it."
The Rescue, Episode Two: "Therell be no time to get to open that, no, come on, lets go the obvious way."
The Romans, Episode Two: "My dear, it was an accepter accepted thing in this age to hire an assassin. Prefembly preferably, someone dumb."
The Romans, Episode Two: "That, your Excellency, would be an impossissib impossibility."
The Web Planet, Episode Two: "Many light Eart... many light years from Earth."
The Web Planet, Episode Five: "Now we know the Tardis is the oppoding opposing force."
The Space Museum, Episode One: "Oh, I think that might be just some fluoreps... fluore... fluorescent substance in the, er, walls."
The Space Museum, Episode Two: "Its a pity my dear boy, you didnt discover it was missing in the cases, when we standing there stan, er, staring at each other."
The Chase, Episode Four: "I think wed better check where Vicki and Barbara is." Not so much a fluff, more bad grammar.
The Chase, Episode Four: "I am convinced that that house was neither tame time, nor space."
The Time Meddler, Episode One: "But Im not a mountain goat and I prefer walking to any day. And I hate climbing."
The Myth Makers, Episode One: "If I were an enemy what could one man dooln, do alone and unarmed against the glory that is Greece, hmmm?"
The Daleks' Masterplan, Episode Two: "Er... er... I, er... I found this, and I don't know whether it's revelant or not, but hold on to it."
The Daleks' Masterplan, Episode Three: "Fifty years to be supie - to be precise."
The Daleks' Masterplan, Episode Seven: "I don't think the Daleks will attack the suvs - service system."
The Daleks' Masterplan, Episode Ten: "I had to hand the real Tiranium core over to magic - Mavic Chen."
The Ark, Episode One: "Yes, weve already estabbser... established this place as illogical."
The Ark, Episode Two: "Oh, dont lets... dont let that cross our minds for Heavens sake."
The Celestial Toymaker, Episode One: "We're now in the world of the s-s-Celestial Toymaker."
The Celestial Toymaker, Episode Four: "When the Toymaker wanted to move the pieces, he had toowho... to command them in a certain tone of voice."
The Gunfighters, Episode One: "Tomorrow morning were going to leave to- Tombstone."
The Savages, Episode Two: "Ive had a very enter... interesting discussion with these gentlemen."
The Savages, Episode Two: "Did he come out of that ler... laboratory?"
The Savages, Episode Two: "Now I want you to go to the emergency cannet cabinet."
The War Machines, Episode One: "You know, theres something alien about that tower. I can scent it." (In fairness, Dodos next line is about the smell of London, so maybe 'scenting' things is a 60s phrase weve forgotten?)
The War Machines, Episode Two: "I think er... I dont think you will arouse so much suspicion as the police might."
The War Machines, Episode Four: "Dear boy, if we worry about per-one person, we shall never solve anything, shall we?"
The Smugglers, Episode Three: "Good Heavens, what an impersay... imp ... well! You are inspired!"
The Fluff Classics:
Most of Hartnells fluffs can be amusing, or distracting, depending on mood. But some of them are so good they become an art form. Heres my top five favourite fluffs:
5. The Keys of Marinus, Episode One: "And if youd had your shoes on, my boy, you could have lent her hers." A classic misunderstanding of the script by the man himself.
4. The Romans, Episode Two: Hartnell is by now well into his role as the Doctor, and wants to prove he can not only mess up his own lines, but those of fellow cast members, too. Michael Peake as Tavius enters his first scene with Hartnell by proclaiming: "There was trouble, but I settled it." There follows a three-second pause, which might not sound that long, but by the look on Peakes face, obviously seemed an eternity as he waits for Hartnell to give him his cue. It doesnt happen, so he carries on anyway, giving us "Hes in the oboditarium". Except that now Bills remembered his "What happened?" line and decides to say it over the top of him.
3. The Chase, Episode Six: A pivotal moment this, when Bill erupts with full fury: "Youll end up as a couple of burnt cinders flying around in Spain in space!"
2. The Time Meddler, Episode Four: The Doctors remark about "personal and private correspondence" is a high entry, not just because Bill makes a meal of it, but because Maureen OBrien can be seen clearly pissing herself when he says it.
And the winner is...
1. The Web Planet, Episode One: Any old actor can forget a line it takes a real pro to forget an entire scene! Just over seven and a half minutes into the first episode, Hartnell who has been struggling throughout goes into total mental meltdown. Possibly suffering from a flashback, he flounders and stutters and tries vainly to keep the momentum going, as the scene drags on interminably. Russell tries to help, but its all to no avail. Bill tries laughing like a loon to cover it, but frankly hes fooling no one. Pure fluff masterclass.
The William Hartnell era of Doctor Who may not have been as solidly entertaining as the streamlined horror of Troughton or the varied work of Tom Baker, but it holds an integrity than none of the other eras possess. Yes, some of them may be slow, and the planets are obvious painted backdrops, but this was a groundbreaking, innovative series that all the rest only followed. Most of them didn't expand on the way paved here, either, preferring instead to take a more rigid direction. Hartnell had it all - comedy, musicals, historicals, science fiction, ecological concerns... they all began here. The period easily eclipses Jon Pertwee's and the last four Doctors, and in fact I nearly added an extra star to its total: