Category Archives: season 3

The third season of Doctor Who, airing between 1965 and 1966, and starring William Hartnell as the Doctor. Not to be confused with “season 3” of the revived series in 2007.

The War Machines

Wikipedia says this was the end of ‘season 3’… whatever a season was back then. It’s an appropriate enough ending, as the Doctor and Dodo return to late 60s London to discover a new advanced computer is trying to take over the world by brainwashing people and sending out robotic tanks across the country.

In the WOTAN control room at the top of the BT tower, the Doctor puts the computer's intelligence to the test.

In the WOTAN control room at the top of the BT tower, the Doctor puts the computer’s intelligence to the test.

‘Present day’ Earth stories may become an easy way out, but they’ve been fairly infrequent in this series so far, and I rather like them. Not only do we get a look at 1960s culture and references, but the production can be comparatively lavish, with outdoor filming, a large human cast and no need for pokey little wooden sets. Even the British army gets involved!

WOTAN brainwashes people and has them build war machines.

WOTAN brainwashes people and has them build war machines.

This four-part story also features the “brand spanking new” post office tower (BT tower), the top of which is the home of the computer-gone-evil WOTAN. Both the computer and the war machines are very dated now, with their whirring motorised parts, paper print-outs and typewriter noises, but since it’s set in the 60s, they can rather get away with it. It’s still kind of creepy even now.

A war machine runs amok in the streets of London.

A war machine runs amok in the streets of London.

Dodo all but disappears after episode 2. She briefly enjoys the nightclub life with the two new people they meet, Ben and Polly, before being taken over by the WOTAN computer, but after the disaster, she relays a message of thanks and tells the Doctor she’s staying behind. She’s safe and apparently happy to stay, so fair enough.

Having saved the country (and the world?) from the machines, the Doctor leaves, but not before his new companions (cockney sailor boy Ben, and posh blonde Polly) enter the Tardis unaware of what it truly is. Two young Londoners, Ben is a sailor in the Navy, temporarily on leave, and Polly worked with the WOTAN computer. Ben has a bit of a crush on Polly, calling her ‘Dutchess’, and has a cockerny accent. They both seem nice enough.

Ben and Polly meet shortly before joining the Doctor.

Ben and Polly meet shortly before joining the Doctor.

As Dodo departs, I will summarise and comment on her role.
She could have been a constant annoyance, with her way of talking and her disregard for common sense, but she became bearable by the end. Her accent seemed to become more posh over time, and she stopped doing such stupid things. At first, she didn’t mind being whisked away through time and space, as she explained she didn’t have any family to miss her. She went along with it all quite willingly, really – although it did take her a while to realise she had travelled through time and space. She actually thought the Ark ship they first land within was a zoo! Though she improved, on the whole I wasn’t keen on her. By sheer chance, Dodo ends up more or less where she left, in 1960s London.

The Savages

Another four-part reconstruction. ‘The Savages’ is the first Doctor Who serial to not have individually named episodes (instead calling them Part 1, Part 2, etc.).

It’s a shame the footage was lost as it’s one of the better stories. Again, a classic sci-fi trope, an advanced civilization that has come about by exploiting supposedly “lower” life forms. The savages outside in the wastelands, and the more “evolved” scholars and leaders in their vast and impressive city. They drain their life force to feed their intellect, but it turns out that the savages are no less evolved and have merely been exploited all these years, much to the ignorance of the general population.

The savages. Grrr, so savage!

The savages. Grrr, so savage!

The Doctor gets a bit of heavy discussion with the the city’s ruler, who raises the interesting point that all advances in society must be built on exploitation one way or another. I would have liked to have seen his idea expanded on, but ultimately the story comes to end through the Doctor’s apparently strong moral compass being passed into the leader through an energy transference, and changing his mind about the whole thing.

The Doctor and the leader Jano talk about their perfect society for a while.

The Doctor and the leader Jano talk about their perfect society for a while.

The equipment gets trashed and Steven stays behind to unite the two people as one. Given Steven’s origins (settling a new world), I suppose this is a fitting end to his story, leaving the Doctor and Dodo to travel onwards. I had grown to like Steven’s character, so I hope there is a worthy replacement soon!

As an aside, Dodo’s accent has become posher and posher. I’m chalking that up to the effect of the Tardis – it makes every living thing in the Universe a posh British person.

The Doctor gets some of his life force extracted. He's fine, though.

The Doctor gets some of his life force extracted. He’s fine, though.

As Steven departs, I will summarise and comment on his role.
A plucky young spaceman, Steven took over the role occupied by Ian. I must say, I grew to like the character. He handled most of the roles pretty well. He’s just not as entertaining, sarcastic or curious as Ian was. He doesn’t have the same rapport with the Doctor. He’s fun to watch, though. I was sorry to see him leave.
He ends up on an alien planet, helping its wealthy city-dwellers and underclass population function together as equals. Considering Steven was originally en-route to colonise some other planet, he was up the job and it seems like a suitable enough end. He had no ties or place to be, so he didn’t mind staying behind.

The Gunfighters

This is basically Doctor Who Does A Western. They only stop off so that the Doctor can get a tooth extracted at the dentist, but a case of mistaken identity sees them all in trouble before long.

While on holiday, the Doc visits another doc, the dentist, Doc Holliday.

While on holiday, the Doc visits another doc, the dentist, Doc Holliday.

For the most part, Steven and Dodo enjoy their time in the wild west, occasionally pretending to be American, which is sadly how most of the period characters sound too. Some very dodgy accents going on here.

Steven is forced to sing. The horror!

Steven is forced to sing. The horror!

It wasn’t terrible, but by the end of the fourth episode I was getting pretty bored with it, even with the shootout at the OK Corral. There’s a sort of musical vibe throughout, with an ongoing song about their antics, but it’s overused and really starts getting annoying.

The Celestial Toymaker

I struggled through this, it’s pretty excruciating. The theme and style reminded me of old Star Trek episodes where they face god-like beings with childish minds (‘The Squire of Gothos’, ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’, etc.). I never cared for those either, and this has the curse of being more than twice as long.

"You WILL entertain me!"

“You WILL entertain me!”

For a large part of the story, the Doctor is kept separated from the others, not allowed to talk to them, or talk at all! The Toymaker even goes so far as to make the Doctor invisible/incorporeal, aside from one of his hands, so all he can do is continue to solve a brick-stacking puzzle set for him. Perhaps William Hartnell couldn’t make it into work that day.

While the Doctor gets distracted, Steven and Dodo have to play potentially deadly games against toys brought to life as real characters, and encounter fake Tardises on their quest to reach the real one. Each episode ends with a riddle for the next puzzle, so the kids watching at home can play along or something.

The Doctor, Steven and Dodo have a discussion, most likely about Steven’s awful jumper.

Learning is fun. This was not.

The Ark

I really enjoyed this one. Excellent premise with it being 10 million years in the future and the last humans are leaving Earth for a new planet. The Doc and co arrive and accidentally infect them with the common cold, which is deadly to them! It’s perfect sci-fi, really, with a great twist in the story half-way through, and not one episode felt wasted or dragged out.

The Doctor tries to cure the disease that they brought with them.

The Doctor tries to cure the disease that they brought with them.

The Monoid aliens are creepy (a single eye inside their ‘mouth’ under a mop of hair), and is it my imagination or did the BBC throw a shedload of money at this one, because the two main sets are pretty huge and extravagant too. The control room set is brilliant and full of little details and built-in TV screens and things.

The large control room of the Ark.

The large control room of the Ark.

The only bad thing I can say about it is that the new companion ‘Dodo’ has a terribly annoying voice, but I think that’s the point of her, since even the Doctor says he wants to teach her proper English.

Dodo and a ‘Monoid’. I don’t know which is creepier.

That aside, I think this is my favourite Classic Who serial so far, and without even a mention of Daleks!

The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve

A four part story (all reconstructed) set in 16th century France just prior to the events of the massacre of thousands of protestants. It was frightfully dull, in all honesty, and the whole story just felt like it was leading up to the riots at the end.

The Doctor and Steven visit the pub.

The Doctor and Steven visit the pub.

Really, for three and a half episodes, it was just loads of British people pretending to be French, walking into rooms and talking and plotting with each other.* And most of them had the same beard, so it was hard to follow who was who.

“Oh, I… erm… I think I’d better leave.”
“Yes, I think you better had.”

But, speaking of “who was who”, it did have an intriguing sub-plot where the Doctor disappears and we’re led to believe he’s impersonating the Abbot of Amboise, who then gets killed. It actually turns out this was a bluff and he was simply someone else who looked like the Doctor for no apparent reason.

The Queen mum.

The Queen mum.

Really, the best part of this serial was right at the end of the last episode, having escaped France and returned to (1960s) present day, Steven temporarily leaves the Tardis and the Doctor reminisces about his prior companions and – for a moment or two – contemplates going home to his planet. But then a woman looking for a police box stumbles into the Tardis by mistake, Steven comes back, and all three vanish off on their next adventure.

*Basically this.

The Daleks’ Master Plan

Only four of the episodes exist in completed form, but due to the good audio quality and the large amount of visual material available, the reconstructions are the best I’ve seen so far. They even made some CGI Dalek sequences.

As for the plot, it is a long-winded one, entirely hinging on the Doctor stealing a core component of the Daleks’ new time-destructor weapon, thus halting their invasion of the universe and causing them to chase him through time and space for a bit.

The Doctor steals the Daleks' crucial and irreplacable McGuffin.

The Doctor steals the Daleks’ crucial and irreplaceable McGuffin.

There is a low-point in the middle, a dreadful Christmas special shoved into the story, which is the worst episode of Who I’ve ever seen, taking its cues from those awful parts of The Chase but somehow even worse, and ending with the Doctor turning to the camera and wishing us all at home a merry christmas. I guess it was supposed to be charming and whimsical, but in the context of an epic disaster serial, it really didn’t work.

"And a merry Christmas to you at home as well!" 'The Feast of Steven sets the trend for awful Christmas specials.

“And a merry Christmas to you at home as well!” ‘The Feast of Steven’ sets the trend for awful Christmas specials.

The time-meddling monk from a few episodes prior makes an unexpected return near the end, perhaps to pad out the story some more, but this is handled rather well, and I suspect he will return again in later stories for his revenge (I hope so, anyway).

Also, the galactic council, previously seen in the one-off Doctorless episode Mission to the Unknown, returns, headed up by the ruler of the solar system (turned power-hungry traitor) Mavic Chen, who provides backchat for the Daleks and is generally enjoyable to watch in all his scenes. Obviously, he’s betrayed by the Daleks in the end.

Mavic Chen and the Daleks. An alliance that cannot last.

Mavic Chen and the Daleks. An alliance that cannot last.

Again, the scale of the plot is laughably unbelievable. The rulers of the other galaxies are planning to invade the solar system (sol). That’s like the leaders of Asia deciding to invade the inside of my shoe.

Still, despite its length (and awful sagging in the middle), this was an enjoyable serial, with the Daleks at their most ruthless and evil. Plenty of deaths, too. I was hoping Space Police Officer Sara Kingdom would survive for more adventures, but she died rather spectacularly to the ravages of accelerated time. Interestingly, the Doctor did not, suggesting for the first time ever that he may age considerably more slowly than everyone else.

Space Police Officer Sarah Kingdom doesn't live for long. Shame.

Space Police Officer Sarah Kingdom doesn’t live for long. Shame.

As Katerina departs, I will summarise and comment on her (brief!) role.
A temporary companion, she believes the Doctor is the god Zeus. She helps him out of duty, but also fascination at the Doctor’s miraculous ‘temple’. She’s not in it for more than one story, and she doesn’t have much of a character to speak of. It could have been interesting to have an ancient human as a regular, but it never went anywhere this time. She ends up dead, unfortunately. Although her sacrifice was not in vain – she intentionally jettisons herself and her assailant from an airlock of a spaceship, to stop him from taking over. The Doctor had the Daleks’ secret weapon component in his possession, and needed to get away quickly. She basically saved them all, in her service to her ‘god’. Since she thought she was in the afterlife anyway, I suppose it didn’t matter too much to her!