In recent years Doctor Who has made a big comeback. I’ve never really been a fan, nor have I ever had much interest in it or watched it. I saw a few Sylvester McCoy episodes when I was a kid but beyond that Doctor Who was just something of which I was vaguely aware.
Then the big reboot happened in 2005 and various students of mine annoyingly swooned whenever David Tennant was seen or mentioned. Still, I did not get on board.
Then randomly, I made a decision to explore Doctor Who. Being an obsessive sort, I couldn’t just dive in with whatever Matt Smith is doing now. Oh no. I have to start from the beginning and try to gain some semblance of an overview of the whole thing. When I get into something, I don’t do half measures. There has to be a plan of attack to assimilate the thing at a hardcore level. This is my nature and I make no apologies for it.
However, since there is an absolute shitload of Doctor Who and since, apparently, I do have a life outside of doing these sorts of things. There had to be some limits. So I trawled the internet to find some viable entry points. My aims are as follows:
- I want to get a good grip on what each of the doctors was like and spend a decent amount of time with each of them
- I want to see some key storylines in Doctor Who history, especially those that introduce famous villains or establish core concepts
- I want to see Doctor Who at its best, as rated by hardcore Who fans
With these three aims in mind, I managed to find a list of suggestions suitable for my purposes:
I cross checked these recommendations with this:
Sometimes the internet and its many nerds are awesome.
So I drew up a list of 20 or so storylines that met my criteria with 3-4 storylines for each of the seven doctors up to the end of the classic series in 1989. Tom Baker gets five because his run was longer and he has a reputation for being the best doctor. Should this all go to plan, I will then watch the 1996 TV movie starring Paul McGann and possibly move on to the three modern doctors.
In order to give me some impetus I have decided to “live blog” these exploration. I will provide ramshackle running commentaries for each episode and then give some Jerry-Springer-style “final thoughts” once I get to the end of each storyline. These commentaries will be both intensely spoilerific and (probably) wildly inaccurate in the details of Doctor Who lore. They are mainly for the enjoyment of those people who have no intention at all at watching a 50-year old British sci-fi show, and for the amusement of existing fans of show. Let’s just see how it goes shall we?
So let us begin then with the first doctor all the way back to 1963:
“The Daleks”, 1963
Part 1: The Dead Planet
The Doctor (William Hartnell) is an old chap, he seems a little distant and absent minded. He has three companions, one of whom calls him “grandfather”, another of whom is called “Ian”. The Doctor is quite professorial here. Ian seems to distrust him quite a lot.
“Susan” is the one who calls The Doctor “grandfather”. She is very excitable and sprightly. Ian and the other woman are older and more skeptical of the Doctor.
They are on a mysterious planet on which everything is dead. They come across a petrified lizard that the doctor deduces is made of metal and has always been.
They come across a city that looks very still, no sign of movement.
The Doctor wants to go down there, the older woman objects strongly. The Doctor raises his voice “now see here, that city is a magnificent subject for study! I do not intend to leave here until I’ve thoroughly investigated it”. A true academic.
Susan, Ian and the other woman suggest that it’s too late to go down there now. The Doctor is obviously disgruntled at this but reluctantly accepts they should go back to the ship and check it out later.
Ian sarcastically says “you can do what you like as long as you don’t endanger the rest of us”. The Doctor says he’s going to go down there alone. Ian objects reasoning that The Doctor is the only one who can work the ship.
Ian’s being a right irritant here and the Doctor aloofly sighs. He REALLY wants to check out that city and Ian REALLY doesn’t want to let him.
Some awful screaming from Susan now. The Doctor is not really concerned. “She claims that someone touched her but I assured her that this was quite impossible”, he declares conclusively. He asks the older woman to have a word. “Sometimes I find the gulf between Susan’s age and mind quite difficult to breach”. Indeed.
The Doctor comes across as a kind of befuddled Victorian gent. But with a cold edge.
Susan is really upset that no one believes her that someone touched her. Her hysterical overacting is pretty bad. The Doctor will not accept anything that isn’t a scientific fact and it’s getting Susan down.
Meanwhile, Ian is asking The Doctor where the hell they are and he just loses it. “WILL YOU STOP ASKING ME YOUR INFERNAL QUESTIONS!” I quite like this tension between Ian and The Doctor. Ian retaliates “For heaven’s sake try to see things from our point of view. You’ve uprooted us from our lives”.
The Doctor is having none of it. He suggests they have something to eat.
Susan apologises to him for being “silly”.
I am quite enjoying The Doctor’s Spock-like adherence to reason so far.
The Doctor has a machine that can make any food they want. It looks like one of those big computers Adam West had in the Bat-cave. Ian and co want bacon and eggs. They get these little parcels that taste exactly of bacon and eggs. It is clear that Roald Dahl ripped this machine off when he wrote Wonka.
Ian thinks it’s wonderful. The Doctor tries to show Susan some compassion, but she’s not hungry.
There is a knocking outside. So there WAS someone there!
The companions panic. The older woman screams “we must get out of here.”
The Doctor turns again, “I MUST SEE THAT CITY!” and then mutters to himself “uninvited passengers”.
The level of animosity between The Doctor and the two older companions is quite interesting.
“I shall do what I want to do!”, he declares. Ian is unhappy that he’d endanger the rest of them. Susan also begs him to let them go.
He seems to relent pressing some knobs on this strange contraption in front of him. It has a piston made out of glass. (of course, they are in the TARDIS here)
Something seems to have gone wrong though, and they don’t move. They are out of mercury!! Ian is shocked that he doesn’t have a back-up supply. The Doctor once again is indifferent to his protestations reasoning that it had never run out before so a backup wasn’t “necessary”.
They need to get some from outside now. It dawns on everyone that they need to go to the city to get some mercury.
The Doctor looks a bit shifty and Ian obviously suspects that this is a ploy from him.
“What else can we do hmmmm”, The Doctor is pleased with himself and breaks the 4th wall here “At first light then?” He says smugly.
Never seen anyone so pleased to be going to a city.
They head off to the city. It’s not a bad set at all, shades of Metropolis. The Doctor is tired.
They stop by a door and the older woman leans on a door and it opens. Ian suggests they split up Scooby Doo-style. The woman heads through the door. Ian heads through another. The Doctor and Susan down a third.
There are a lot of sci-fi-like chiming noises here. The older woman — finally NAMED by Ian as “Barbara” — is exploring strange passages. The others go back to where they entered after finding nothing. Barbara seems to be stuck and is freaking out a bit. A door closes on her and she’s hyperventilating.
I notice that the doors seem to have Pacman shapes on them. Ian goes to look for her.
OH MY GOD!!! We see a lone antenna probing near Barbara and she screams.
Surprisingly good first episode.
NEXT EPISODE: The Survivors