Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Best of Doctor Who: The First Doctor

I've managed to keep my inner Nerd at bay on this blog for long enough, so here I go with a run down of my favourite Doctor Who episodes, choosing my favourite episode for each the venerable Time Lords eleven incarnations.

We start then with old grumpy himself, William Hartnell's First Doctor, although I should add he wasn't quite as cantankerous as many people think. He lightened up after the first few shows, but those are the ones people remember. First impressions really are important it seems.

Before we come to the winner of the title of Best First Doctor story, honourable mention must be made of those that didn't quite make it.

The Tenth Planet must be a contender, with the first appearance of the Cybermen and the first regeneration scene. Alas the BBC in their wisdom wiped the tape of the last episode, which rather spoils it.

Flawed but canonically important is The War Machines, with its very sixties titular robots, and the first monsters-versus-soldiers battles. No UNIT yet, but the idea was there.

Then there's The Time Meddlar, staring the bloke from the Carry On films, which introduced the first of numerous renegade Time Lords and also started the trend for casting comedy actors as villains.

A very, very strong candidate is the Dalek Invasion of Earth, with its sinister scenes of a deserted London, which were a dry run for Terry Nation's seminal Survivors, and the metallic compost bins lording it over a conquered humanity aided by their black shirted Robomen.

But even this is trumped by the triumph of the first ever story, 100,000BC. Most of it's a load of rubbish about cave men, but the scene when Ian and Barbara leave behind the drab junkyard of 1963 and enter the TARDIS is fantastic, it's like watching the fifties turn into the sixties before your very eyes. But 100,000BC is not the winner, only the appetiser.

The best of William Hartnell's episodes is without doubt the one that turned the show from being an educational romp through history into a sci-fi phenomena. After three episodes of Ian teaching cave men to make fire we find ourselves in a futuristic city amidst a radioactive forest. Suddenly Barbara is menaced by a sink plunger on a stick - and then credits roll.

This is, of course, The Daleks.

The pepperpots have been done to death since, used and abused for good and ill, but these Dalek's are different. Yes they are cold, yes they are ruthless, they say 'Exterminate' (but not until episode four), but they are not the Nazi stand-ins they later became. Trapped in their Expressionist city amidst the fossilised remains of the world they have destroyed, they are to be pitied as well as feared and are perhaps more familiar than we would like to think.

Outside the city are the Thals, pacifist fashion victims who believe in live and let live until convinced of the virtues of violence by the TARDIS crew, who need to get into the Dalek city to refuel the TARDIS. Ian, at least, gets a twinge of conscience over this 'war for oil' (or mercury), but what is the Doctor's real motivation?

We are never quite sure, which is one of the reason's Hartnell's Doctor is so great.

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