Episode 29: The Tenth Planet

Tenth Planet

Episode 29: The Tenth Planet
First Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben
Written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis
Directed by Julia Smith
Wikipedia Entry

Description
At the edge of the world, the Doctor discovers there’s another planet in our solar system and it contains a threat that could wipe out humanity.

Evaluation
Well, it took about two years after my initial plan but here we are: the last William Hartnell/First Doctor episode. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’ve loved watching these First Doctor episodes and I’m sad to see them finished but I’m also looking forward to the Patrick Troughton episodes. The Steven episodes prepared me for this moment as I’ve been eager for something new for quite some time. I’m just sad that I won’t have a larger amount of time with Polly and Ben with the First Doctor. I really enjoyed their interactions.

Besides being the final William Hartnell episode, this was the first introduction to the Cybermen. Their backstory is that they were originally humans on a twin planet called Mondas. In order to survive, these humans began to add cybernetics to their bodies, slowly destroying their humanity by eliminating their emotions and empathy. In Modern Who, their backstory comes from a parallel universe instead.

These original Cybermen have a complex costume, with wires and tubes attached to the front of their bodies. I found them to be gruesome and frightening as it is obvious that these are creatures willing to do whatever it takes to survive. Should one compare the costumes from the original design to the upgrade in Modern Who?  I don’t believe so as they are both a product of their time. Both are creatures to be feared as they are both powerful with their single-mindedness to control the world and eliminate weakness.

Having been a fan of the Cybermen since I’ve watched them on Modern Who, I was excited to see their first appearance. The Tenth Planet did not disappoint and I was on edge after the first installment. The suspense that was created with the first appearance of the Cyberman lingered throughout and was handled quite well by the actors and the special effects team. The final installment is missing and was recreated through animation with the remaining audio soundtrack. Kudus to the animation team that created and maintained great suspense throughout the presentation. The entire episode was well-done even with the lack of William Hartnell as he was ill in the second and third installments. Michael Craze, who played Ben, took many of the lines intended for the Doctor, with the scientific lines given to the character called Barclay, who was the Chief Scientist in the episode.

I will miss the First Doctor but it’s time to move on. I am grateful for what Hartnell created and it is because of his legacy in those first seasons that we have Doctor Who still today.

Historical Mentions
This was the last episode of the First Doctor and the first time that a regeneration was shown.

 

 

Advertisements

Episode 28: The Smugglers

The Smugglers

Episode 28: The Smugglers
First Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben
Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Julia Smith
Wikipedia Entry

Description
A visit to 17th century Cornwell lands the Doctor and his companions in a smuggling ring and pirates.

Evaluation
The Doctor is surprised to find two new companions in his TARDIS as he travels away from 1966 and away from his previous companion, Dodo Chaplet. Naturally, the Doctor is cantankerous but he handles the transition well. The wonderful chemistry that the Doctor had established in The War Machines continued with The Smugglers and it is fun to see them all get along splendidly.

The plot, which involves pirates, smugglers, and one honest lawman, was fun. It’s a shame that this episode is lost. Granted, it could be that the adaptation translation was well-written and the episode was poor. Either way, I wish I could see the footage.

As this was Polly and Ben’s first outing as official companions, I’d like to report that they handled themselves quite well. Polly has a clever mind and Ben balances that cleverness with a bit of a cheeky attitude and braun. Because this is Early Classic Who, Polly does play the damsel-in-distress part, but, luckily, not as often as one would assume. She holds her own quite well in some of the fights. Ben has the hero part down well. He’s quick to fight for honorable causes or for just simple survival. I had mentioned in the last episode, The War Machines, that this new duo reminded me of a younger Ian and Barbara. I would still agree with that statement as they are fitting into those role quite nicely.

Overall, a great adaption and a wonderful first story for the new companions.

 

Episode 27: The War Machines

The War Machines

Episode 27: The War Machines
First Doctor
Companions: Dodo, Polly, Ben
Written by Ian Stuart Black and Kit Pedler
Directed by Michael Ferguson
Wikipedia Entry

Description
On a visit to Earth, the Doctor discovers a super-computer who is creating War Machines intent on taking over the world.

Evaluation
I love this episode. I love it and wish we had more like it. At least more like it during Stephen’s run. The story is great. The character interactions are wonderful and the writing/direction is tight and beautiful. Love it. Love it. Love it. Love it!

This episode highlights the problems I have had with the Stephen era. I didn’t like the character and, honestly, I thought he was too negative for the series. Yes, he had some bright spots here and there but I never connected with him. With the new companions, Polly and Ben, I fell in love instantly. There was great chemistry with these two new characters and they worked well with the Doctor and Dodo. This new pair reminded me of a younger Ian and Barbara, which is what this series needed. Again, I felt that Stephen was far too serious and Dodo was never given the chance to be as light-hearted as she was in this episode. Even when the Doctor was interacting with Polly and Ben for the first time, it just felt right. I couldn’t help but have my heart swell with giddiness with the chemistry.

When the story moves to the party scenes, with Polly and Dodo mingling and meeting Ben, it’s a great representation of that time: carefree with the world of possibilities at their feet. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of other worlds and the seriousness of important subjects. As I mentioned in The Gunfighters, there needed to be a balance, more light-hearted with the serious drama. This was the first episode in a long time that it felt that this balance had been achieved. This felt like a much-needed reboot and we’re all better off because for it.

The villain of the story, a super-computer, was brilliant. The War Machine devices were similar version of the Daleks, which was distracting. We’re never given an explanation of the alienness of the WOTAN computer. Was this secretly a Dalek invasion? Even with the distraction of the Dalek-like War Machine, I can see this type of story being played out in Modern Who. Speaking of Modern Who, the military presence in the third installment reminded me of UNIT. I know that the official version of UNIT wouldn’t happen until the Second Doctor’s run, specifically the episode The Invasion, but I can’t help but wonder if this is a precursor to UNIT. I’ll say more once I get to The Invasion, but this might be where the foundation for UNIT was created. An alien threat in which regular weapons are ineffective? A mysterious man who knows how to defeat the alien threat? Let’s set-up a taskforce to fight the baddies!

The Doctor is called Doctor Who a few times throughout the second installment. It’s a little strange but luckily it doesn’t last beyond this small scene.

Dodo’s departure was crap. The character deserved better than a footnote. The actress, Jackie Lane, had her contract end during the production and it was not renewed. It feels weak, though I don’t believe that Dodo was never given a real opportunity to shine. Quite a pity since she had such potential at the beginning of her run, even more so at the beginning of this episode.

Overall, despite some bumps and bruises, The War Machines is a solid affair and worth the effort.

Historical Mentions
This marked the last appearance of Dodo and the first appearances of Ben and Polly.

According to the episode’s Wiki page, this marks the last appearance of the St. John Ambulance emblem on the TARDIS. It will be not be seen again until the Eleventh Doctor’s run.

 

Episode 26: The Savages

The Savages

Episode 26: The Savages
First Doctor
Companions: Steven, Dodo
Written by Ian Stuart Black
Directed by Christopher Barry
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
This was the first time in which each installment had no title cards

Description
The Doctor visits an advanced society that is protecting a large secret.

Evaluation
This was an entertaining story. The overall plot involves a civilized society and a lower-class culture of “savages.” This is a power-play storyline that is similar to the various moral stories that were presented in the original Star Trek. What is a savage? Who determines the welfare of the greater society? Is a civilized world a better world when you consider the consequences? Are the savages really savages or are the “civilized” society the true villains?

The novelization handled the story well and I was curious as to how the citizens handled their changes in the coming years.

Steven’s casual dismissal of Dodo was irritating. “She always gets feelings likes that,” said Steven. “She imagines things.” I haven’t seen an example of Dodo being flighty or exhibiting hysteria. That Steven doesn’t want to listen to reason when everything looks “too perfect.” I was a little sad at Steven’s depature but I’m not going to miss his character. He was far too pushy and impatient for my liking. I think I’ll miss the potential that Steven could have been.

This is one of those novelizations in which I really want the original footage to be found. Great pacing, interesting dialogue, fun overall.

Historical Mentions
This was the last appearance of Steven Taylor.

 

Episode 25: The Gunfighters

The Gunfighters

 

Episode 25: The Gunfighters
First Doctor
Companions: Steven, Dodo
Written by Donald Cotton
Directed by Rex Tucker
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
A Holiday for the Doctor
Don’t Shoot the Pianist
Johnny Ringo
The O.K. Corral

Description
A case of mistaken identity places the Doctor in danger at the O.K. Corral.

Evaluation
In my last review, I complained about the balance of the episodes; too many series parts and not enough fun parts. Well, with the Gunfighters that balance went out the window into silly but still mixed with fun. The Doctor, Dodo and Stephen find themselves in the heart of the Wild, Wild West when they arrive at the O.K. Corral. The Doctor finds himself mistaken for Doc Holiday and that’s when the adventure begins. There’s a lot of build up towards the famous gunfight of the O.K. Corral.

The thing that drives me nuts about these episodes would be the use of music. There is a song that plays between scenes and it doesn’t really play out as well as it should have. It was catchy the first time but then it starts to distract from the story, which is actually entertaining. It’s as if the writers wanted to create a musical episode without having to put in the work. And it’s the first time in which I’m not annoyed with Steven as a character, though it was borderline for a majority of the serials.

The story could have been ridiculous and I have read a variety of reviews in which the episode is poorly received. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. There’s an earnest quality about the storyline and the comedy involved is charming. I believe that this episode is one of those in which you either love it, tolerate it, or loathe it. It’s not a strong episode but I found it fun and do recommend it for the casual Classic Who viewer.