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In a recent diary, Embarking on a Journey into the World of Doctor Who, I discussed my decision to watch the entire 50-year series from the very beginning up to the present, and would now like to check in with some observations after having completed the first of the thus-far eleven Doctors.  Here is my spoiler-free analysis below, for those who have not yet watched the First Doctor, and also for those who may want to revisit that part of the show's legacy.

I.  The Doctor

First Doctor - William Hartnell

The First Doctor was played by William Hartnell, and is a character that draws on a number of classical science fiction archetypes: The often crotchety but intellectually giddy old-man professor who adopts a paternal attitude toward the younger people around him - intrepid but not foolhardy, curious but cautious, and highly moral while still being realistic enough about people not to demand the impossible of others.  However, also true to form, he is somewhat given to intellectual distraction, vanity, and irritability when faced with the energy and unpredictability of the young.

He contributes to a long tradition in British fiction of similar characters with roots in the Victorian era - an idealized version of the gentleman-explorer who seeks only knowledge and experience rather than plunder and fame.  In fact, the First Doctor is very much a product of Victorian mannerisms on a superficial level, although his ethics are far more advanced and humble than those of the Imperial British aristocrats whom he resembles.  Still, he often responds to youthful foolishness with pompous lectures and a stilted conversational style of the form, "What was that, My Dear?  Oh, good heavens, I do say that was quite a rash decision!  Quite a rash decision indeed!"  However, Hartnell pulls it off well enough, so the result is enjoyable though not spectacular.

Moreover, despite the stiltedness, we still see the Doctor show genuine emotional vulnerability at times that is occasionally moving, and these displays are infrequent and restrained enough that they remain credible and potent rather than contrived or maudlin.  Also, the range of emotions is interesting in itself, since despite his usually somewhat abstract demeanor, on rare occasions he is truly outraged at some grievous affront to fundamental morality, and on others deflated in resignation at some disaster he was completely powerless to prevent despite all his talents.  In a few instances, he is even lonely, and it's easy to feel for him after following him through his adventures.

As this is the so-far only Doctor I have observed thoroughly, I can't yet make any comparisons with the others, but Hartnell certainly did a worthy job in establishing the character and the "Whoniverse" surrounding him.  Even if he turned out to be the "least great" of the Doctors, which seems unlikely, that could only mean that the others were superb and not that Hartnell was inadequate in any way.  My one criticism of the performance - and it isn't even really that, since it actually tended to add to the enjoyment of the show - is that the First Doctor was at times outshone by his companions.

II.  General Observations

Large swaths of the First Doctor's episodes are missing from the BBC archives and presumed lost forever due to a short-sighted studio purge in the '70s, although some that were thought lost have subsequently been recovered from materials loaned to other institutions.  However, even the missing ones can still be appreciated since their audio tracks and still photos from the shooting are available and have been assembled into reconstructions of the episodes.  While it might sound at first like a paltry way to enjoy a TV show, these reconstructions are mostly adequate and often very effective, including subtitled captions to explain visual events that aren't conveyed by the audio or the stills.

Although Doctor Who was supposedly begun as a children's show, the quality and intelligence of the storytelling is often so pronounced that there's almost no evidence of that fact - not to mention the rather alarming body counts that quickly begin to rack up, as well as politically advanced themes that couldn't possibly have been understood by or appealed to children.  However, there are occasionally serials or episodes within serials that are cringe-inducingly juvenile, and also moments where the writers are phoning it in and have the characters behave like imbeciles for no reason.

The journeys of the First Doctor are roughly divided into two categories: Science fiction, which takes place in the future and/or on other planets, and Earth history, which typically takes the form of an educational adventure designed to highlight historically significant events or civilizations.  When done well, the former can be stunningly good and engaging, and when botched, the results are a catastrophic B-movie farce replete with such silliness (for instance) as people walking around in insect costumes and villains hamming it up like the most ludicrous comic book characters.  

The history plays, when done well, can be educational even for the educated adult - despite the fact (which must be forgiven due to the era in which it was filmed) that most non-white roles are played by white actors in makeup - and provide insight not only into the past, but into the characters as they engage with utterly foreign cultures.  When done in a slipshod way, however, the historical serials are little more than trivial costume capers that rely on movie portrayals of the past rather than what they were actually like, and these can be somewhat annoying.

In both cases, something that strikes one immediately - and requires a strong decision to suspend disbelief - is that effectively every conscious being throughout the universe and throughout time not only speaks English, but reads it too, and the show doesn't even bother with some throwaway techno-magic to explain it like a "universal translator."  It's just taken as a given that Kublai Khan, Saladin, Maximilien Robespierre, Catherine de Medici, and post-nuclear mutant aliens a million years from now speak and read English.  I've always found such lazy oversights in TV and movie sci-fi to be missed opportunities, since so much could be learned from the struggle to communicate.

One persistent irritant in the show as it has unfolded so far is the occasional reliance on incredibly stupid villains whose behavior is exaggerated beyond all taste and credulity.  Part of what makes it so irritating is the fact that the show repeatedly proves itself capable of better, sometimes having villains be very cunning and perceptive - at times seeing through the protagonist's plans the moment they're hatched, which is incredibly unusual in a TV show - but then the writers go and slap some makeup or a silly foam alien suit on some finger-tenting, "I shall conquer ze vorld!"-style stock evill and expect there to be a story there.  The people in charge of the show under the First Doctor must simply not have been comfortable letting it achieve its full potential.  Still, the good stuff is definitely worth wading through the tripe.

III.  Companions

The original crew of the TARDIS consisted of the Doctor, his teenaged granddaughter Susan, and two of her teachers from school, Ian and Barbara.  The four of them together gelled very well, creating a kind of nuclear family of explorers occupying three different age brackets with the Doctor as paterfamilias.  It was this dynamic that really got the show going and made some otherwise dubious episodes workable, and at least one of them would be worth watching at any given time even if the other three were phoning it in.

1.  Susan (Carole Ann Ford)


We're introduced to the Doctor's precocious granddaughter in the first ever episode of Doctor Who, in a remarkably effective performance that made her seem mysterious but cute and endearing.  However, in the rest of the series, Susan was often neglected if not mistreated by the writers, making her behave like a whiny, helpless toddler who ignores the obvious, never learns from experience, and responds to the slightest upsetting surprise with inconsolable hysterics.  The squandering of Susan's original premise - a preternaturally gifted girl who takes after her grandfather - in favor of an annoying, hysterical weakling for the men to constantly rescue from her own stupidity was the Original Sin of the First Doctor's writers.  But there are still moments where we're allowed appreciative glimpses of the character that should have been.

2.  Ian (William Russel)

Ian Chesterton

Ian is the intelligent Everyman character - moral but pragmatic, brave but hardly a stock hero, personable but kind of nerdy, and utterly human in his humble ambitions and beliefs.  His practical competence and skepticism sometimes puts him at odds with the more ethereal Doctor, but he cares about those around him, knows how much he needs them, and is willing to sacrifice for them - not out of some quixotic ideal, but simply because he's a person who wants to protect others.  He is an upbeat fellow, and yet capable of a quiet, focused gravity that at times is stronger than the Doctor's.  His main failing is in acting paternalistically to his age-contemporary, intellectual equal, and faculty colleague Barbara, although this can be ascribed to cultural mores of the time rather than a personal character flaw.

3.  Barbara (Jacqueline Hill)

Barbara Wright

Barbara is the shining star of the first half of the First Doctor's run, and frequently steals the show despite lazy writing sometimes forcing her into the same kind of helpless-hysteric role as Susan.  She is the perfect feminine counterpoint to Ian's Everyman - a strong, intelligent, and selfless person who looks after the other members of the TARDIS crew, and on several occasions directly challenges the Doctor's authority by launching her own plans to save her friends against his wishes.  Invariably the Doctor turns out to have had the greater insight, but her ideas are often brilliant nonetheless, and her decision to undertake them courageous.  Moreover, the character isn't just written that way - Jacqueline Hill brings solidity, intensity, perceptiveness, and warmth to a character whose strength could just as easily have come off as shrewishness.  

One of her independent initiatives in the first season serial The Aztecs gives rise to the single most insightful serial of the First Doctor, completely makes the story, and in a way establishes the entire moral and philosophical foundation of the series.  The character is so compelling that it's actually kind of offensive when the writing in some serials forces Barbara into the role of the helpless scream queen.  You think, "That's not how Barbara would react - that's just some stock princess waiting to be rescued."  If I had been alive to see this series as a kid, it's easy to imagine having a crush on Barbara.

After the original three companions have all left, the turnover in new companions starts to accelerate, with seven new characters alternately entering and then leaving the crew of TARDIS in the final one-and-a-half seasons of the First Doctor - two of whom we never really get to know before they die violently (once again, really not a kids' show), and one of which is only present in a single serial.  Only three of the remainder are with the Doctor long enough to develop characters worth discussing:

4.  Vicki (Maureen O'Brien)


Vicki shows a remarkable vitality, energy, and humor - a presence that is both substantial and yet light, perceptive and yet easygoing.  The performance is almost an innocent kind of sardonic, like a young Diane Keaton role in a Woody Allen movie.  If the stars had aligned to allow it, Vicki could have carried the entire rest of the First Doctor's run, but it was only for a limited time.  Given the lazy randomness and improbability of the reason for Vicki's departure from the TARDIS crew, I can only imagine it was a casting issue rather than a deliberate sidelining of the character.  Such is television.

5.  Steven (Peter Purves)

Steven (Doctor Who)

Unlike Ian's intellectual version of the ideal Common Man, Steven is more realistically ordinary - not quite a dumb jock, but more of a cavalier blue-collar type who makes up for relative cluelessness by being personable and clever in a pinch.  He doesn't make much of an impression, but still seems present and credible.

6.  Dodo (Jackie Lane)


At first Dodo's springy cheeriness seems endearing, but pretty quickly you realize there's no there there - it's exactly the same vibe as a live-action character on Sesame Street: Affectedly chipper and superficially cute, just like the character's name.  It was hard to care when Dodo suddenly disappears from the show without plausible explanation, in an abrupt book-end to the equally nonsensical circumstances under which she first joined the Doctor.  Dodo belonged on some puppet show targeted at 3-year-olds, not Doctor Who.

IV.  Serials

As a completist, I want to recommend seeing the entirety of the First Doctor in order to fully appreciate it.  But for those who prefer to be more selective, here is a spoiler-free quality-breakdown of all the First Doctor's serials:

1.  Essential

An Unearthly Child is the introduction to the series, and as such cannot be skipped.  Also, it's very good in its own right - especially the first episode.  The remainder of the serial takes place in a prehistoric cave culture, and delves into some pretty involved and surprisingly believable Stone Age politics that contains insights about fundamental human nature.  It's also pretty dark and morbid, and immediately makes clear that "kids show" really is not an adequate description for the series even at its inception.

The Daleks introduces us to a villainous civilization that will be an ongoing staple of the Whoniverse throughout its development.  It's a remarkably well-constructed and self-contained story covering a number of different environments, with the protagonists and their allies solving a wide variety of problems both practical and moral along the way.  There is some silliness to it - e.g., the monstrous villains look like slowly-roving trash cans and speak like Hitler after inhaling helium - but the performance of the story is so sincere that you really can't hold the lack of technical credibility against it.  The message of the story is shockingly racist and shallow, but once again, sincerity makes up for it.

The Aztecs, as mentioned before, provides some of the key foundational philosophy of Doctor Who, and allows Barbara to shine brightly.  The tone of the serial is elegiac as it addresses such clearly non-child-friendly topics as human sacrifice in the humble terms of tragic history without judging the people who lived it.  Of course, the "Aztecs" are white Englishmen in brown makeup and jaguar costumes, but the performances aren't insulting or stereotype-driven, as far as I can tell.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth extends the mythology of the Daleks to a future occupation of Earth occurring in the distant past of their introductory serial.  The logic of that chronology is never adequately explained, and because they look exactly the same as in that introduction, plainly contradicts the origin story it establishes for them.  However, it is an enjoyable serial with good acting and worthwhile moments that represents a pillar of the early Whoniverse.

The Space Museum is essential mainly for its first episode, where a number of avant-garde ideas are initially explored (although they're largely neglected by the rest of the serial), as well as for a particularly sudden and unbidden act of levity that is highly memorable.  Also, Vicki shines especially brightly in this serial, and it's enjoyable overall even if nothing is especially accomplished.

The Chase is a grab-bag of widely varying episodes and environments that, as a whole, add up to a whole lot of fun.  It's not really an idea story, but it is very engaging and adventurous.  One interesting tidbit about it: Vicki makes a shockingly specific prediction about the long-term historical popularity of The Beatles, and this in an episode aired just a year and a half after their first performance on the Ed Sullivan show.  Just imagine how ballsy that is: Try to picture sifting through real TV performances by new bands last year and then saying on a science fiction TV show that one of them is going to still be important generations later...and being right.  Moreover, footage from a real Beatles performance is used in one of the episodes that is the only surviving footage of that performance because the TV show that originally aired it lost the tape, so it's not just historically significant as a Doctor Who story - it's historically significant to real history.

The War Machines takes place in the present of 1966, but is amazingly compelling and intense through most of the story.  The plot resembles that of the classic science fiction film Colossus: The Forbin Project that was put out the same year (I have no clue if there was any relationship between the two), and actually replicates some of the same thrilling tone and sense of urgency.  Part of it is achieved through the style of the serial, with action-oriented camerawork that hadn't been seen before on Doctor Who as well as genuinely menacing electronic sounds that are actually hypnotic rather than annoying.  It is truly a classic episode.

2.  Worthwhile

Marco Polo is the first of the reconstructed episodes, and the rebuild works well enough, particularly since the audio is very clear and the stills have been colorized.  It's not especially entertaining, but one does appreciate the level of effort that went into it.

The Sensorites combines elements of spookiness and psychological terror with a character study of a civilization with an unusual approach to government.  Kind of peters out near the end, but is worth seeing.

The Reign of Terror is another historical piece, although only parts of it have had to be reconstructed so there is plenty of real television.  Its take on the French Revolution is engaging and somewhat educational, with a distinctly balanced eye, as well as providing an interesting perspective on Robespierre.

The Rescue is a two-episode mystery that actually becomes obvious not long into the first episode, but the way it's handled and the quality of the characters - particularly since this is our introduction to Vicki - keeps it engaging nonetheless.  It kind of squanders an opportunity to educate about superficial judgments, but it's a forgivable failing.

The Massacre of St. Batholomew's Eve delves into a notorious 16th-century ethnic cleansing event when the Protestants of France were virtually exterminated by mobs of Catholics at the behest of the French Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici.  It's an event Americans typically don't learn much about because it hasn't had much of a direct impact on our history, and has never been adapted into a Hollywood movie (although a very good French movie exists, La Reine Margot, based on the Dumas novel).  The Doctor Who treatment of the event is pretty good, with some characteristically honest moral reflection.

The Tenth Planet takes place on Earth of the then-future 1986, and isn't all that bad a prediction as far as it goes: Although the details are all wrong, the over- and under-estimates balance each other out well.  The villains at first seem goofy, but are soon found to be legitimately creepy and interesting.  The premise is utter nonsense, but you don't notice much.

3.  Acceptable / Noble Effort

The Web Planet is a case study in how sweeping literary ambition can become a train-wreck when attempting to interpret it through the medium of B-grade visual logistics.  You see what they're trying to do and appreciate them for it, but can't help grimacing at what actually happens - people in insect costumes and foam-rubber-and-tissue progenitors of the baddies from Metroid.  I figure if you watch Doctor Who to any thorough degree, you owe it to them to watch this - this episode suffered on the Cross of early television for your sake.

The Crusade is kind of a trifling interpretation of Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Holy Land - not that the dismal reality was any more profound.  Doesn't really add anything, but doesn't take anything away either.

Galaxy 4 is a reconstruction, but has a some notable elements, unconventional villains, some interesting sound effects, and one of the more engagingly exotic-looking aliens - one who wasn't just a guy in a costume.  It's also got a moral, although one of the more obvious ones rather than anything requiring philosophical reflection.

The Myth Makers is kind of a departure in that it doesn't depict actual history, but rather Homeric myth - specifically, the Iliad.  Still, it's enjoyable enough.

The Ark is at first a little formulaic on the "trouble in paradise" model, but then it radically switches gears and the TARDIS crew are faced with the one of the most ludicrously hilarious villains ever.  It's very, very funny, albeit unintentionally so.

The Gunfighters is the only First Doctor serial that takes place in the United States (apart from a very brief scene in another serial where they only stop in the US for a few minutes), and is set in the events surrounding the gunfight at the OK Corral.  It has zero historical value - because seriously, how important is any Old West gunfight to anyone other than the people who fought in it?  The time and place were chaotic - other than that, there's not much to learn from it.  But it is fun, and has an original song that's actually pretty entertaining (although critics reputedly despised the everloving hell out of it).  And while the American accents affected by the British actors are cringeworthy, I actually found the awfulness kind of fun.

The Savages is competent and nontrivial, and has a moral about exploitation.

4.  Tripe

The Edge of Destruction is a pointless, tedious bottle episode that literally makes no sense.

The Keys of Marinus is a whole lot of nothing, happening over many different kinds of scenery.  However, the second-to-last episode might be worth watching for its believably Eichmann-like heartless totalitarian bureaucracy.

Planet of Giants is Honey, I Shrunk the Kids with some stupid murder mystery plot that makes no sense and Barbara written as an idiot.

The Romans is a complete trivialization of Nero's Rome, with the "serious" parts being little more than Cecil B. DeMille tropes and the "light-hearted" moments basically Mel Brooks slapstick.  It's neither fun nor educational, neither philosophical nor thrilling.

The Time Meddler is boring, senseless, and inexplicably contradicts key tenets of the Whoniverse that had been established in earlier serials while introducing a pointless, superfluous, and unengaging new character.  Nothing to see here.

Mission to the Unknown is a random "cutaway" prequel single-episode to a subsequent serial that doesn't involve a single regular character of Doctor Who.  Besides that, the episode is missing and has to be seen as a reconstruction - and a shitty reconstruction at that, which begins abruptly in medias res with inexplicable behavior by unknown characters who mean nothing, have no personalities, and are never heard from again.

The Daleks' Master Plan would be acceptable if not for the main human villain - a white actor in "Asian" makeup to look Chinese who is cartoonishly arrogant, exaggeratedly devious in ways that could not possibly fool anyone, and utterly stupid, yet is supposedly the highest-ranking human official in the solar system.  Every scene with him in it is just awful, and the rest is painfully ridiculous.  The Daleks and a council of other conspirators from other species has come together to plot the conquest of the universe with a super-weapon created from a mineral found only on...Uranus.  Seriously.  (sigh)

The Celestial Toymaker is some artsy-fartsy community theater interpretation of a fantasy skit or something.  Utterly boring, pointless, implausible, unpleasant, stupid, silly, unimaginative, and unproductive.

The Smugglers...apparently there were pirates and unscrupulous tax officials in the 17th century.  Who knew?


If you haven't yet seen it and wish to get started on seeing the First Doctor, the first half of the first episode is available on Youtube here, and was compelling enough when I saw it to get me started on the series:

Anyway, if you're interested in the complete surviving material of the First Doctor - not including the pointless and hollow Peter Cushing movie adaptations of The Daleks1 and The Invasion of the Daleks2 - they're available for torrent download if you don't have any ethical quandaries about that sort of acquisition (and you shouldn't, since they're half a century old, and anyone claiming copyright that long is probably just a corporation suckling on the works of the dead for all eternity).  Here's a link to the description page:

The first seven Doctors are also available for download in their entirety here:

If you are interested in more official sources, good look finding and affording them all.


How would you rate the First Doctor, including companions, from 1-10 (10 being best)?

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| 36 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  I Came To The Doctor Late In The Game (9+ / 0-)

    well just with Matt Smith, but like you I want to go back and watch more and more. I saw a few shows in the 70s and thought they were "chessy," but I know wonder if as a young kid I didn't get what was going on.

    And for folks that are not science fiction fans, well there is so much more going on. Heck I'd argue there are intense, intense love stories. I mean Amy Pond and Rory. I don't usually get that emotional, but the show where he waited for her, for a thousands years, wow.

    And the Doctor and River Song. I mean I can't even put to words how romantic and sad they live their lives in like reverse. Where for the Doctor the first time he encounters her is the last for River. I can't even wrap my mind around it.

    Now to totally geek out, and I've been saying I'd do this for awhile and been lazy, but I am turning my front door into a Tardis. Like this:


    I know most people around me will be confused. But I kind of hope one of the many kids that walks by my house going to school will come knock on my door and ask if the Doctor is in. I might say sure, come in, it is bigger on the inside :).

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 05:42:21 AM PDT

  •  Netflix (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, Aunt Pat

    Many of the episodes are available through Netflix as well.

    •  Barely any of the First Doctor. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rigcath, koosah, Aunt Pat

      The only First Doctor serial on Netflix is The Aztecs.  It's one of the essentials, but it's only one serial out of 29, amounting to 4 episodes out of 133 total First Doctor episodes.

      Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

      by Troubadour on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 06:32:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  BBCA recently showed the Aztecs as part of their (7+ / 0-)

        50th Anniversary retrospective.  They are covering a different Doctor each month and they're up to number three, Jon Pertwee.  They might be available, too.  Quite informative.  I can't wait for the next one, Tom Baker!!!  My first Doctor.  

        One's first Doctor is the one all others must live up to, you know.  Tom Baker set a high bar!

        Metaphors be with you.

        by koosah on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 06:54:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've seen Tom Baker once before (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koosah, Aunt Pat, political mutt, Matt Z

          in a random episode I'd run across on Youtube several years ago.  It was hilarious and brilliant.  I can't wait to get to his episodes.  Only other Who I'd seen before starting on this binge-watching program was the first episode of Eccleston - didn't like him much, but I'm willing to give him a full hearing once I get to him.

          Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

          by Troubadour on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 06:59:45 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Watched Tom Baker when I was growing up (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Troubadour, Khun David, Matt Z

            To me he was always "the" Doctor...I couldn't believe when the first new series came out.  I enjoyed them so much and felt Christopher Eccleston was a worthy successor to the Fourth Doctor.

            •  Eccleston is my favorite of the new Doctors, (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Troubadour, political mutt

              but apparently he doesn't think so much of his experience in filming his episodes. He was invited to the 50th anniversary special but declined. While i like Tennant and Smith, I hope the next Doctor is not quite so twee.

              "It doesn't matter what I do....People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live."--Newty

              by Vico on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 09:27:27 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting that you rate the Dalek Master Plan (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, Aunt Pat, Matt Z

    so low.

    That season long episode has been consistently rated among the best of the First Doctor stories.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 06:29:02 AM PDT

    •  It doesn't lack for scope (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat

      but the execution seemed so slovenly I just couldn't see it through Chen's ludicrous hamming.  Maybe I missed something about it because it has so many reconstructions, but I didn't buy the politics, or the science, or the psychology, or Sara.  

      Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

      by Troubadour on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 06:40:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  When you get to Peter Davison, you'll notice how (7+ / 0-)

    the then youngest Doctor often times resembles the first and oldest Doctor.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 06:30:58 AM PDT

  •  The Celestial Toymaker (5+ / 0-)

    I can only say that, as a then 11 year old fan, I found the conclusion of this series very tense and exciting. As I still remember my reaction, 47 years later, it obviously made an impression.

    Incidentally there is an in series rationalisation of the everybody speaks English issue, but that come much later than the 1st Doctor's era so I leave it to be discovered by the diligent viewer.

    There is no man alive who is sufficiently good to rule the life of the man next door to him. Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris, M.P.

    by Gary J on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 07:05:36 AM PDT

  •  Good Work! (7+ / 0-)

    It is fascinating seeing the show through your eyes, and your sensitively-written synopsis.

    I am particularly grateful that you are able to evaluate the First Doctor with adequate regard for the storytelling traditions and available technology of the time.  The wonder of these episodes is lost on many new fans, who cannot get beyond snickering at the primitive special effects.

    I became a fan during the 80's, and William Hartnell was always an intriguing mystery to me.  I never got to see his work until the DVD's were produced in the last decade.  the most insightful advice I have heard about viewing this period is that you have to realize that television was new, and that directors, writers, and actors all brought with them the traditions of the stage to the work of television.  Much of what you are seeing in the First Doctor Who is basically a live performance.  There were very few re-takes and very little post-production.

    I am glad that you were able to experience the resonstructions of lost episodes.  You were very generous in your appraisal of the importnace of these.  Using Pirate Bay is probably the best way to access these works.  However, I would caution you about the last comment regarding copyright.  While the episodes themselves are 50 years old, the DVD restorations are very new.  The story of the Doctor Who restoration team is pretty heroic - die-hard fans developing brand-new technologies to recover the look of the original videotape from 2nd or 3rd generation film sources!  Also, the BBC is a publicly-funded corporation, and as a fan, it is been fascinating to follow the decisions they make on DVD releases based on sales.  the most important?  How many "lost episodes" will be animated for DVD release?  Every DVD of the First and Second Doctors which is purchased is a vote for the importance of this material!

    •  That's another interesting thing (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Khun David, avsp, nomandates

      about the Hartnell Who that I'd forgotten to mention - how they're constantly flubbing lines, but the performances were kept because they just couldn't afford to do enough retakes to make it perfect.  It's actually kind of refreshing once you get used to it, because real people don't speak fluidly at all times.

      In fact, I forget exactly which episode, but there's one scene where a big alien - who's a human in a silly-suit - is slowly menace-walking behind their human prisoner, and they come to a step and trip a little bit on it because the alien's feet are so big compared to the human feet inside them.  That was chuckle-worthy.

      That is interesting about the reconstruction teams.  Some of the fragments of movement - particularly ones involving Daleks - are clearly computer-generated.  Reasonable points about supporting their work, although if there's no practical way you can afford to pay $10-15 per DVD for 50 years of programming (thousands of dollars in total, I'd assume), devoted fans would probably rather that people see the show by whatever means they can.  

      And my understanding is that a lot of people use torrents merely as a way to test the water, and then pay for collector's box sets of the stuff they really like.  Since so many more people get to see things than would if they had to pay to watch them at all, there seems to be a net increase in revenues because of it where collector-friendly series like Doctor Who are involved.  Even with downloading, most of this stuff is incredibly obscure, so I can only imagine it does more good than harm by spreading knowledge of the early legacy.

      But I'm happy to reward everyone involved with my native currency: Thought, analysis, and geek evangelism.

      Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

      by Troubadour on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 08:22:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  They were live! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, avsp

      The earliest series were live with some of the outside scenes inserted on film. The BBC did not have facilities to distribute their programmes to other countries on tape - and did not have tape machines available at the start. They in effect filmed a TV monitor which is partly why the early episodes are still available. The early tapes were huge (about the size of a 70mm movie theater reel today), hence the idea to save space by dumping them from the archives.

      "Who stood against President Obama in 2012?" - The trivia question nobody can answer.

      by Lib Dem FoP on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 09:23:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Appreciate your comment, MightyThor... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It's always fun to read what true fans have to say regarding material like this. And this point is well taken:

      Every DVD of the First and Second Doctors which is purchased is a vote for the importance of this material!
      Hope you'll continue to offer your insights.
      Welcome from the DK Partners & Mentors Team. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Knowledge Base or from the New Diarists Resources Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.

      "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

      by nomandates on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 06:32:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Please, let's not forget Peter Cushing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As the MOVIE Dr. Who from the early 1960s.
    Dr Who vs. the Daleks (1964)

    But he was a human, not a time lord
    I think the Daleks were salt shakers

    •  I didn't see much value to the movies. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Khun David

      Yes, they were in color and had decent production values, but they weren't nearly as serious or character-driven as the TV serials - they were filmed with the same kind of story attitude as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Which wouldn't be bad in itself except Doctor Who is definitely not in that kind of wheelhouse.  And because they had decent FX, both the writing and acting were kind of an afterthought.  

      So I suppose they're worth seeing if you're curious to know what the first two Dalek serials would look like with good special effects, but there's not much other reason to watch them.  Also, they don't strictly adhere to the series, and cram the same material into a shorter time with zero background and random, careless silliness that bear no resemblance to the TV show's perceptive wit.

      Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

      by Troubadour on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 08:45:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bernard Cribbins (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        was the actor who played the principle sidekick in the second Cushing film. He has also had a prominent part in some of the revived series.

        The movies were a product of their time, when the TV series had a huge fan base but colour TV was still some time away.  Another British (puppet) sci-fi series started in 1965 called "Thunderbirds" was made in color. It was made by commercial TV by Gerry Anderson who made the decision to used colour film so it could be sold abroad. The series were subsequently re-edited and released as theatrical movies. The idea was remade as a live action film in 2003. (The series got a second life with VHS as they were available on tape very soon after the format became popular in the UK. Anderson previously marketed cut down 8mm versions.)

        The 50th Who is following this model of making versions not available widely domestically by the theatrical release of the 3D version.

        "Who stood against President Obama in 2012?" - The trivia question nobody can answer.

        by Lib Dem FoP on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 10:52:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  My ranking of the Doctors (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, Matt Z, Vico

    Tom Baker
    Christopher Eccleston
    Peter Davidson
    Matt Smith
    Jon Pertwee
    David Tennant
    William Hartnell (only because I haven't seen enough of his episodes)
    Patrick Troughton
    Paul McGann

    Colin Baker (almost the worst)
    Sylvester McCoy (the absolute worst - I think that Peter Jackson did McCoy a disservice (or perhaps McCoy did Jackson a disservice) by making Radagast so similar in personality and temperment to McCoy's Doctor)

    Peter Cushing was never the Doctor.

    "We’re not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people." - Rep. Paul Ryan

    by Khun David on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 08:54:58 AM PDT

  •  Snippets (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, Vico, avsp

    Carol Ann Ford is to appear in the 50th anniversary (3D) edition.

    Peter Purves went from Doctor Who to be a long time presenter on the live children's magazine show Blue Peter which is still running today. You might notice how over the years the presenters have changed from friendly uncles and aunties to fun older siblings. During the summer hiatus from the then weekly schedule the team would travel to different countries. In advance of one trip to Sri Lanka they had this piece which turned into one of the classic moments of BBC television.

    On the technical side, the BBC often used two programmes, Dr Who and Top of the Pops to try out new technology. There is one little known mini-episode in which they tried out a form of pseudo 3D which relied on one eye being convered by a dark glass (sort of one side of a pair of sunglasses). With items moving in front of the main actors (so they for example would pan round barrels while the actors walked along), the brain is forced to assume depth because of the reduced information coming from the darkened eye.

    Another both used prominently (and it shows in several episodes of Dr Who) is what they called "Chromakey" or "Colour Separation Overlay"; what we know know as "green screen". Their research labs invented the system, adapting it from a technique used in film cinema. The early versions mostly used "blue screen" and can be obvious for the edge effects round the section of the image cut into the main frame. You still see this sometimes today if an inserted image's edge is broken up by a stray hair or other texture.

    What you have already met of course is the original theme tune which was one of the first outputs of their Radiophonic Workshop. It's difficult today with the familiarity of its use in so much music using electronic effects to realize quite how startling that first howling crescendo after the initial "drumbeats" was.

    "Who stood against President Obama in 2012?" - The trivia question nobody can answer.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 09:14:11 AM PDT

    •  The theme song is mesmerizing even now. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Khun David, avsp

      I first heard it only four years ago, and it blew my mind.  It's urgent and yet recedes into infinite depth.

      Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

      by Troubadour on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 09:26:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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