Category Archives: season 1

The original and first season of Doctor Who, airing between 1963 and 1964, and starring William Hartnell as the Doctor. Not to be confused with “season 1” of the revived series in 2005.

The Reign of Terror

Right, this was… okay. Meh.

Barbara and Susan are captured. Again.

Barbara and Susan are captured. Again.

The best part was the Doctor walking through the fields of France to some jolly music, then stopping to help some impoverished workers by pretending to find gold and whacking their slave-driving boss over the head, then walking off again. And then later dressing up as some high-ranking out-of-town official by visiting a fancy dress shop!

Flawless disguise. Gets you into any prison.

Flawless disguise. Gets you into any prison.

I also love how all French people are really posh British people. Correction: I love how all people are really posh British people. Second correction: I love how EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE is really posh British people!

A couple of the episodes were reconstructed because they were missing. Admittedly, that’s better than having an entirely missing serial. Nevertheless, I was not really interested in this story.

The Sensorites

Oh, hell yeah, proper scary alien looking through the window at the end part one!

PEEK-A-BOO!!!

PEEK-A-BOO!!!

Man, that scene would have scared me witless as a kid. I mean, I vaguely recall being scared by Daleks, and they’re just giant pepper pots!

I quite enjoyed these; I prefer the sci-fi stories over the historical ones. Here, what started as monster type aliens, become humanised very quickly once they go down to their planet. Then there’s a few episodes where the treacherous alien tries to gain control and kill the humans in various ways, then this final episode where it all wraps up in the last five minutes!

I really can’t get my head around the pacing of these old serials. Is it because they didn’t know from one episode to the next how many each story they would need to have? Is that why you have episodes where nothing happens at all, and then episodes where the whole plot has to be crammed into the last five minutes? Like in this one, we discover the human survivors, what they were were doing, the Doctor stops their plot, and reveals the identity of the bad alien, and gets his Tardis key back, and then right at the end even gets into a ten-second argument with Ian where he promises to throw him of the ship-THEENDCUTTOCREDITS! Perhaps they were all written this way far in advance, but the pacing is baffling.

This is also the first time that the Doctor and Susan have spoken about where they come from, another planet (as yet unnamed), and that part of the reason they’re still travelling because they can’t easily direct the Tardis back home.

Telepathic communication through the power of... stethoscopes?

Telepathic communication through the power of… stethoscopes?

The Sensorite costumes were terribly bland, but their face masks were effective, cleverly hiding the exposed jaws of the actors by having them covered by big bushy beards. I did find it ridiculous that any Sensorite could pass for a high ranking official just by stealing his sash! But that’s the joys of sci-fi, looking at alien concepts and playing with them. This society has no notion of lying or deception, so it only took one bad egg to throw them into disarray. It could have been explored more, I felt. Again, very rushed ending.

"I am the leader... because of my sash."

“I am the leader… because of my sash.”

Onto the French Revolution next, apparently…

The Aztecs

This was an enjoyable enough four-parter in which the characters all get to stretch their legs and have a bit of fun. Barbara becoming a goddess, Ian becoming a soldier, the Doctor getting engaged (lolwut?!).

All hail Queen Barbara!

All hail Queen Barbara!

Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and taking the whole situation rather lightly, but then of course people start getting sacrificed and it all gets a bit scary. And it is yet another “we can’t get to the Tardis until we do x, y and z” story, which is predictable, but they wrap up quickly enough, so whatever.

The Doctor accidentally gets engaged to this woman.

The Doctor accidentally gets engaged to this woman.

As for the extra cast, the bad dudes were bad, good dudes were good, and they were all surprisingly watchable with a minimum of cringe. The action, as ever, was a bit laughable.

The sets were pretty good in this one. They had this massive landscape painting behind them which looked excellent, and all the costumes were ridiculously extravagant.

Do not trust this man.

Do not trust this man.

So far, then, we’ve had historical > alien > historical > alien > historial. I’m guessing the next one will be alien again?

The Keys of Marinus

Moving on, the next serial starts with the ‘Sea of Death’, and this is much better. Once again, the Tardis is held captive until the Doctor and co can go on some quest to find some sci-fi magic keys.

A model of the Tardis is used when it first materialises on the island.

A model of the Tardis is used when it first materialises on the island.

Each story is set somewhere new, but still a part of the overall ‘quest’. I enjoyed part 2, with the illusions and the brains in jars (Star Trek borrowed this, didn’t it?). Then a couple of episodes don’t have the Doctor in it at all, which is weird, but then he comes back for a pretty neat murder mystery double.

"Doctor, help me find my keys, I've lost them!"

“Doctor, help me find my keys, I’ve lost them!”

You could probably call Chesterton the main character at this point. I find him quite likable and the best acted of the group. I have to say, I’m not won over by Hartnell; I don’t find his acting all that believable. And then there’s Susan, who just spends her time screaming at things and talkingreallyfast. I guess this is partly the style of drama of the era, but some of it is better than others. The guest actors have been pretty good I suppose, even if some of their costumes are ridiculous!

Psychic alien slug thing in a jar.

Psychic alien slug thing in a jar.

I find it strange that neither Ian or Barbara spend much time talking about going home any more. There’s been a mention of fixing the time circuits or something but it’s generally brushed away as they go on another adventure. Won’t people back home be wondering where they disappeared to? Friends, family? Their school? No mention at all. No-one’s even asked what the Doctor’s name is yet, or where he’s from, or anything! They just go along with it!

Marco Polo

The first of the missing serials, which exist solely as a reconstructions. The ones I watched were made by the Loose Cannon team. It’s a shame the footage was lost, as my general impression from the photos is that it was one of the more extravagant serials in terms of sets and costumes, etc. Colour photos exist (and others have been digitally coloured) to produce this particular reconstruction, although strictly speaking, I should have watched it in black and white for authenticity. I was surprised by how photos there were, basically taken from the actual scenes (I believe these were called ‘telesnaps’). You do get a bit sick of seeing them reused again and again but it’s enough to show what’s happening, and captions at the bottom fill in the gaps. It’s done well, all things considered!

The Doctor meets Marco Polo, who won't give back his Tardis.

The Doctor meets Marco Polo, who won’t give back his Tardis.

Onto the story itself. Again, the plot is pretty slow-going. I reckon some clever editor type could easily squash these multi-part eps into one single 45 minute episode without losing the crux of the story. Release them as a compilation, Classic Doctor Who’s Best Bits or something. It’s way too long and torturous as it stands. I can’t imagine what it was like waiting a week for each new part of the story!

They think it's some sort of 'caravan', and Marco Polo wants to present it as a gift.

They think it’s some sort of ‘caravan’, and Marco Polo wants to present it as a gift.

Hartnell plays a different sort of character from what I’m used to. He’s just a grumpy old man, and often isn’t even the main character in the story, or even a particularly nice person. The ‘companions’ do a lot of the heroics. I’m not used to this, but it makes an interesting change. I also like how he stumbles his lines so often. Nowadays they’d just do another take, but not here – they just go with it.

This sneaky man is untrustworthy, it turns out.

This sneaky man is untrustworthy, it turns out.

I wasn’t a big fan of the story. There’s no sci-fi element to it that I like. I’m used to modern Who where they arrive somewhere in history and conveniently stop an alien invasion or something, so it takes some getting used to just watching what is basically a historical drama that happens to feature some people from the future. It drags on, simply because the Doctor isn’t allowed his Tardis back. I suspect this will become something of a theme.

The Edge of Destruction

A ‘bottle’ story made up of two episodes, set entirely in the Tardis, with some sort of technical fault at work, and everyone (over-)acting weirdly. Concludes with a rather unremarkable solution (the button was pushed in!).

I suppose at this point, this could be seen as a much-needed chance to develop the characters, but when those characters are behaving so weirdly, it amounts to an uncomfortable couple of episodes that still feel like filler.

Disaster strikes the Tardis!

Disaster strikes the Tardis!

I wouldn’t say it was entirely without merit. There’s a uniquely eerie mood throughout the whole thing. It also gives us our first glimpse at some of the other rooms inside the Tardis – it would appear to be quite well-equipped! It also shows us just how fragile the equipment is if it can go so easily wrong, but hints at some self-awareness or self-preservation within the machinery too.

Susan is unwell and goes a bit crazy.

Susan is unwell and goes a bit crazy.

I don’t really have much to say about it aside from that. The Tardis is fixed and lands somewhere cold… so, onward to the next adventure!

The Daleks

The second serial continues where the previous one left off. The Tardis has arrived on a planet with dangerous levels of radiation, unknown to our travellers inside! This seven-part story introduces the Doctor’s most famous and recognisable foe, the Daleks!

"No, keep that plumber away from me!"

“No, keep that plumber away from me!”

After the uninteresting prehistoric adventures, this futuristic seven-part serial was much more entertaining. It seems like they had a larger budget to spend on this, on the Dalek costumes and the city model and the petrified forest set. The Daleks really haven’t changed much at all, the voices, design, everything. It’s interesting to see how it all started. To see their home world, to learn how they became mutated by radiation and built their armour casings, it’s all very good sci-fi.

Ian is lucky here; the Daleks' laser only paralyses his legs.

Ian is lucky here; the Daleks’ laser only paralyses his legs.

I don’t know if they were always intended to be recurring villains, but they are seemingly defeated in the final episode, with help from the planet’s other inhabitants, the humanoid Thals. Although they are powerful, the Daleks in this story are limited by their magnetic bottoms. Erm, I mean, they can’t move anywhere that doesn’t have a metal floor, hence they are confined to their metal city and cannot enter the forest… something that they apparently overcome in their later appearances!

The Thals and their amazing costumes. I gather the climate is warm on Skaro.

The Thals and their amazing costumes. I gather the climate is warm on Skaro.

Again, despite the more interesting premise, this story drags on a lot. It’s seven parts long! They spend one episode just walking through some caves under a mountain! Then their big final battle is a skirmish in a small room. I guess they had to stretch their budget as far as they could in those days.