Doctor Who 60th- Slices Of Time And Space: The First Doctor
IdleHands and friends dip into a selection of stories from a selection of Doctors in their own wee celebration of the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who
Hats off to everyone who has managed a more complete cosmic wander through the adventures of the Time-Lord, but we knew from the off that we'd not be able to manage that.
Instead, we've taken some slices of our favourite Doctors to enjoy. It's not always our favourite stories. Sometimes it's just stories that one or more of us had not seen. But these prime cuts are a testament to a show we love, a show marking a 60th Anniversary with an awfully bright future ahead.
For William Hartnell's First Doctor? We went with The Dalek Invasion Of Earth (1964), The Rescue (1965), Galaxy 4 (1965) and The War Machines (1966).
Dalek Invasion Of Earth aside, this list is perhaps unlikely to be reflected in many 'Best Of' compilations, but that was never the point.
What they do is showcase some other sides to Hartnell's portrayal, beyond the often overstated cantankerous curmudgeon (which to be fair he does so brilliantly, to such hilarious effect, especially in the earliest run of stories).
His heroism is to the fore in Dalek Invasion, and in The War Machines, which actually feels like a prototype for the initial Pertwee era, the Doctor working with military and scientific arms of Humanity (and the British state) to combat a dastardly menace. Both of these stories also feel like changes of pace compared to much of Hartnell's time at the Tardis console; a sweeping war-epic of grandiose scale and a 'present day London' action-packed adventure story which rollicks along at a fair old pace.
Although it's the second story of the second series, Dalek Invasion feels like a finale. One imagines it certainly would be the blockbuster ending, departing companion and all, if made in the modern era. Susan's departure is a seminal moment and one which also shows Hartnell's Doctor in a more unashamedly emotional, even tender light than perhaps ever before.
Whilst his making the decision for Susan does rob her of some agency, it's reflective of a man who knows his Grand-daughters' loyalty will cost her this opportunity for a life of her own if he doesn't let her go.
The goodbye speech has, of course, become one of the most iconic moments in the entire history of the programme. Quite right, too.
The moment he calls out to Susan from the Tardis console room in The Rescue, momentarily forgetting her departure, is played brilliantly, and is genuinely hard on the heart. That he is in turn so patient, so warm and so tender with Vicki is a lovely bit of follow through, as is his ever increasing openness with Ian and Barbara. The story of The Rescue serves as a refreshingly simple, small-scale follow up to Dalek Invasion, doing what it has to do in order to introduce Vicki to the cast whilst also offering us that slightly softer Doctor in the wake of Susan's absence.
It's his quiet cunning, knowledge and powers of observation which shine over the two episodes, and it's clever to have the audience the only ones keeping up with him as he quickly deduces what's going on. His immediate embracing of Vicki, too, is clearly designed to help the audience accept her just as readily.
Galaxy 4 kicks off the third series, and is available only in animated form. Whilst the bevvy of animated adaptations of missing serials serve as effective gap fillers, preserving some excellent stories otherwise lost, they do underline just how much of a difference the actors make. The facial expressions, the body language, the subtlety of the performances, are all lost in the process. Understandable, of course, but one cannot help appreciating these factors all the more for their absence.
As a story, it's interesting enough. A fairly straight-forward 'never trust appearances' parable gets a countdown clock to raise the stakes, and the Chumblies are an entertaining wrinkle, but the most interesting element is undoubtedly Maaga and her Drahvins. Granted, only her vocal performance is captured, but Stephanie Bidmead makes for an entertaining villain, a compelling and eminently watchable character who seems to relish in a script that allows her to be ruthless, merciless and cunning.
Maaga makes a fine opponent for Hartnell's Doctor, himself a schemer, a wily, observant and guarded character trying to pull the wool over the Drahvins. The Tardis team of The Doctor, Steven and Vicki is well balanced, especially considering this was only their second full story since the departure of Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton.
Anyone keen to dip into The First Doctor's stories might find themselves guided to The Daleks, or The Aztecs. They'll likely be pointed in the direction of The Chase and The Space Museum. All of these are fair suggestions. Indeed, the entire second series was released on Blu-Ray and the BBC has put every surviving Hartnell story on the Iplayer (apart from An Unearthly Child, bizarrely enough). Making slices of your own, then, is quite straightforward.
As mentioned, Dalek Invasion Of Earth will definitely come highly recommended. Even so, these other portions of Hartnell's Tardis tenancy are well worth a watch, especially to get a more rounded picture of the original wanderer in the Fourth Dimension.