Timestamp: First Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: First Doctor Summary

Timestamp First Doctor

 

Starting with the last two serials for William Hartnell, they were pretty strong. It was obvious that he was starting to falter in the role, but the stories and supporting cast were strong enough to keep the show rolling.

As for the First Doctor, I enjoyed his stories a lot more than I thought I would. Many places in fandom categorize Hartnell’s Doctor as a curmudgeonly grandfather who wants to do things his way, and his way alone. His character has a lot more depth than that simple stereotype, and while he is a grumpy man, he also has a stunning capacity to love and care for those who he respects. Behind that gruff nomadic scientist is a sympathetic character with a childlike curiosity about the entirety of time and space.

I also had some trepidation about watching the older episodes, especially since so many are reconstructions, but the skills in acting and production shone through beyond the grainy images and telesnaps. I had watched The Aztecs long before starting the Timestamps project, and was thoroughly disappointed. To be honest, I needed the background of the preceding serials, and this time I had it.

The First Doctor’s adventures are truly worth the investment to watch them. And that’s why it’s so hard to say goodbye. Even after two serials of hardship in the fourth series due to the actor’s declining health, his farewell was quite up front and sincere. In those final two words, “stay warm,” Hartnell emoted his heartbreak and his gratitude for such a wonderful experience.

I’m glad I took the time to truly appreciate it.

 

The Smugglers – 3
The Tenth Planet – 4

Series Four (First Doctor) Average Rating: 3.5

 

Series 1 – 3.5
Series 2 – 3.7
Series 3 – 3.1
Series 4 – 3.5

First Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 3.41

 

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Timestamp #29: The Tenth Planet

Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet
(4 episodes, s04e05-e08, 1966)

Timestamp 029 The Tenth Planet

This serial had a slow lead up to an otherwise enjoyable story. It’s the introduction of the Cybermen! Wow, they have come a long way in costume and character design. The Cybermen were a bit hard to understand, and were certainly more individual than the later versions.

It was good to get the backstory on such a popular villain, and the story keeps rolling with excellent tension surrounding the stranded astronauts and assault in isolation. Cutler was the trope of the blood-thirsty military officer, which felt a little bonk-bonk on the head with the message. That in mind, I get Cutler having no problem killing the Cybermen, but what didn’t follow was Ben enabling Cutler to kill them. Ben was terribly upset about killing in self-defense mere moments earlier, but then hands Cutler the gun without hesitation.

The Doctor spontaneously collapses and remains out of commission for an episode of the serial. This leaves the companions to carry the story, both in and out of the serial. Hartnell was obviously having a hard time with this one, and luckily the companion actors and characters are both strong enough to keep the gears turning.

Remember the rules, though: It’s a regeneration episode, so it get an automatic +1 on the score. They’re always hard episodes to do.

Watching the First Doctor say goodbye was heart-breaking. The companions think he’s either worn out or going daft, but it felt a lot more like he was completely lucid in his final moments. Just in case this regeneration thing doesn’t work, “stay warm.”


Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – First Doctor Summary

 

 

 

 

Timestamp #28: The Smugglers

Doctor Who: The Smugglers
(4 episodes, s04e01-e04, 1966)

Timestamp 028 The Smugglers

It’s another new opening credits sequence on a nice cat-and-mouse game mixed with pirates and a mystery.

The Doctor seems surprised to see Ben and Polly, which puts a slight spin on my theory from The War Machines. That said, I don’t think he’s entirely upset about their arrival, as he gets over the anger quickly.

Polly is very bubbly and perky, and I like that Ben respectfully pokes at her by continuing to call her “Duchess” and “Ducks”. Their dynamic gets even more mixing as Polly gets mistaken for a boy during this story. It throws her further off her game while providing her a degree of power that she wouldn’t have as a woman in the era.

The reference to the Doctor as “Sawbones” (a slang term for a surgeon) is amusing, as is the play off of superstitions to break out of captivity. I can’t help but feel sorry for Tom and Jamaica for being so easily manipulated.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet

 

 

 

 

Timestamp: Third Series Summary

Doctor Who: Third Series Summary

Timestamp Logo First

 

I really enjoyed the third series, though it was not as strong as the first two. The Daleks got a wonderful serial that went on a bit long, and it finished strong with three good stories that I felt started to bring the show into a good stride. There are some less exciting adventures, like The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve and The Celestial Toymaker, which brought the score down a bit, but overall I’m still enjoying the First Doctor a lot more than I thought I would.

It will be sad to seem him go with only two serials to go. Before I start into Series Four, however, I plan to visit the Peter Cushing big screen interpretation one last time with the remake of Series Two’s The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

 

Galaxy 4 – 3
Mission to the Unknown  – 4
The Myth Makers – 3
The Daleks’ Master Plan – 4
The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve – 2
The Ark – 4
The Celestial Toymaker – 1
The Gunfighters – 3
The Savages – 4
The War Machines – 3

Series Three Average Rating: 3.1/5

 

UP NEXT – Special #2: Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.

Timestamp #27: The War Machines

Doctor Who: The War Machines
(4 episodes, s03e42-e45, 1966)

Timestamp 027 The War Machines

Between this and The Gunfighters, there have been some new style choices for the opening titles. It feels like the producers are trying to find a fresh voice for the show. What really felt fresh with this serial was the return to the 20th century. The “out of order” sign was a clever touch, but the TARDIS is looking rather shoddy.

The story is a standard tech-run-amuck tale, with a globally-networked central intelligence computer named WOTAN that knows a lot about everything. I don’t recall that they explained how WOTAN knew so much about things beyond the 1960s or the planet Earth, and that was a little disappointing because it didn’t make a lot of sense.

It also didn’t know everything, as it referred to the titular Time Lord as “Doctor Who” instead of as “The Doctor.”

WOTAN goes full Skynet, building machines to destroy the human race. This was a dark serial, with a ruthless intelligence that kills in a binary fashion. WOTAN is very “you’re either with me, or you’re my enemy,” and is very fast with getting the parts ordered, shipped, and assembled for the war machines.

Another nit to pick is how a machine prevents mechanical and chemical reactions from occurring in a firearm. There was no explanation, which makes this a convenient cheat and hurts the writing. This is exemplified by the order, “Tell the men to hold their fire,” followed by a threat to continue firing if the machine doesn’t stand down. Sir Charles seemed a bit daft as a result of this shoddy writing as there is no gunfire: The guns and grenades aren’t working, remember? Click, click, click does not equal bang, bang, bang.

That said, I did like the resolution to the story in turning one of the war machines against WOTAN. It was good that intellect and cunning won over brute force.

I like Ben and Polly, which are obviously another swing at adding a fresh face to the show. They work well together, and are much stronger in carrying the story than many of the previous companions. It was also a clever ruse by the Doctor to determine if Polly and Ben want to travel with him: Drop the key and wait for them to bring it to him. I can see how it may not have been a ruse by the Doctor, but he’s not usually so lax about his TARDIS keys.

Finally, I have to address Dodo. She was far more conservative in this adventure, and I did like having WOTAN turn her against the Doctor in an effort to assimilate him. But, her departure was quite disappointing. I really enjoyed her presence in the TARDIS, and she has been one of my favorite companions so far. She deserved far better than to be written off in a line of dialogue. That really soured an otherwise enjoyable episode, as there wasn’t even a chance to say goodbye for the Doctor or the viewer.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

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Timestamp #26: The Savages

Doctor Who: The Savages
(4 episodes, s03e38-e41, 1966)

Timestamp 026 The Savages

This serial kicks off with the Doctor pulling out his scientific tools again, and it’s good to see the him getting back to the exploits that we started Hartnell’s run with. What’s even more impressive is this story about class warfare and morality in the pursuit of utopia.

At first, I thought that the “savages” were supposed to be the cave-dwellers, but in truth the true savages are the technologically advanced upper class who power their entire lives with the life force of the lower class. It’s an allegory on progress, which depends on a certain amount of exploitation but requires a social conscience to prevent over-exploitation and unethical behavior. The story reminds me of countless Star Trek episodes, including the Next Generation pilot “Encounter at Farpoint“.

The cave dwellers and the light gun/mirror trick remind me Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It also plays into the continued deus ex machina of the Doctor and his travels.

Concerning both of those points, it was an great science fiction concept to place the Doctor in the vitality extractor. Would it extract only this incarnation’s life-force, or all twelve of his lives? It was also interesting that a life-energy transference would also bleed over some personality. The Doctor also never gets his energy back. Has this weakened him enough to prompt his regeneration in the near future?

Finally, Steven wasn’t my favorite companion, but this is a perfect ending for his voyage with the Doctor. His strong personality and morals will serve him well in negotiating a new civilization for both groups of savages.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The War Machines

 

 

 

 

Timestamp #25: The Gunfighters

Doctor Who: The Gunfighters
(4 episodes, s03e34-e37, 1966)

Timestamp 025 The Gunfighters

“Oh my dear Dodo, my dear Dodo. You know, you’re fast becoming a prey to every cliché-ridden convention in the American West.”

With the closing line, this serial openly nods to the satire that it just completed. It opens just like a 1950s Western, and plays off quite a few of the Western genre tropes, including using guns with unlimited ammunition (until the plot requires an empty revolver). Our heroes, two of which pull a complete Marty McFly with the costumes, are totally inept with guns. The Doctor, who fits right in with his normal costume, keeps getting handed guns in spite of his intense dislike of them.

“Doctor who?” Quite right. I loved the opening episode’s title, “A Holiday for the Doctor”, for its play on words around the mistaken identity that drove the plot.

On the downside, the serial’s special ballad was vastly overplayed. Even though it was supposed to compliment the narrative, it was annoying after the first half of the first episode.

Regardless, the parody was fun, and I feel that the intense dislike that this serial garners in fandom is a bit much. Episodes like this are nice breaks, but I don’t want them all the time.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Savages