Friday, March 25, 2016

Whovian Chatter: The Hartnell Years Season Two

Ghost here, thanks for joining.

I'm going to be examining Doctor Who... every single episode.  I'm going to take you on a journey through the 50+ years worth of this show, showcasing the good and the bad along the way.  For each episode I'm going to give you a very brief rundown of the plot, how good/bad the story is, and anything interesting about the episode.  Basically I'll just talk about whatever comes to mind for each of them.  These will be a more in-depth overview of the series as a whole so you can see which stories or episodes (if any) you want to check out for yourself.  Today I'm going to be talking about

The First Doctor
William Hartnell
Season Two

Season two ran from October 31 1964 to July 24 1965.  It had 39 episodes spread over 9 stories.  During this season all three of the original companions left the show indicating that this show may last longer than originally anticipated.  William Hartnell took their departures hard because he had grown to rely on them so much.  During this time Hartnell, who wasn't in the best of health before hand, was starting to get somewhat worse.  As such, he started fumbling his lines a little more often; that didn't stop him though.  As the true professional he was, the show must go on!  It was also during this season that the pseudo-historical was born; a story set in the past with other alien or sci-fi elements added in the mix.  It was a good change from the pure historicals but it also spelled their eventual demise.

As with Season One, Season Two came out of the fire-based storage system very well.  Only one story this season was missing any episodes and since Doctor Who fans have an insane devotion to the show they found a way to allow us to experience this story.   On the Lost in Time DVDs which has the remnants of our lost episodes, they have both the existing episodes of  The Crusade and audio of the two missing episodes.  While there aren't image stills or animation, it can still get the job done if you use your imagination so I will still be covering it today.

Story 9
Planet of the Giants

The first story of season two is Planet of the Giants and it's three episodes long which is very unusual for Doctor Who.  The TARDIS has shrunken down and somehow shrunken the Doctor and his companions as well.  They are actually on Earth in the 60's but are shrunken down to about an inch in size.  Meanwhile a man is trying to develop a pesticide that is going to wipe out life on the entire planet because of the forumula.  It's up for our miniature heroes to climb their way past the cat and into the laboratory to help save the human race from chemical extinction.

This story is a unique and fairly interesting one, or at least unique for the time.  Remember this was prior to things like Honey I Shrunk the Kids and somewhere around the time that other ideas like this were just taking off (Ant man had only appeared in a comic a couple years prior.)  This story is more interesting for the fact that this was supposed to be the first adventure that Ian, Barbara, and Susan went on with the Doctor instead of the cave people we got last season.  Due to budget and production difficulties they couldn't pull it off then and decided to do it this season.  Also notable is the three episode run time.  It was supposed to be four episodes but they later cut it down to three because they felt the two final episodes were too slow.  Considering the pacing of the rest of the series I'm curious as to why they felt the need to quicken the pace of this one and not any other.

Story 10
The Dalek Invasion of Earth

The second story is The Dalek Invasion of Earth and it's six episodes long.  The TARDIS makes it back to London but in the year 2150.  The place is absolutely quiet and deserted.  Turns out that the Daleks have invaded and have basically already won.  The Doctor and his companions join a group of rebels fighting against the Daleks in hopes of stopping their plan.  What is their plan?  To hollow out the center of the earth and convert it into a mobile war ship for some reason.  This is the episode where Susan leaves the TARDIS.  She falls in love with one of the humans who helped defeat the Daleks so the Doctor locked her out of the TARDIS and left her stranded there as he figured that would make her happy.

This story is a fairly good one.  It's also the first classic Doctor Who story I got the privilege to watch.  It's an interesting ride despite the fact that the Dalek's plan is fairly stupid and it has the first truly terrible creature effects seen in the show with the slyther.  This story also has probably the most famous First Doctor quote which was later used for the Fifth Doctor Anniversary special. "One day I shall come back.  Yes, I shall come back.  Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties.  Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine."  If leading a revolution against the Daleks invading earth sounds fun to you then check it out.

Story 11
The Rescue

The third story is The Rescue and it's two episodes long.  The TARDIS crew meet up with Susan's replacement, a young girl from he future named Vicki.  Vicki is a fairly bright and optimistic young woman who is stuck on the wreckage of a spaceship. She has been taking care of the only other surviving person from the ship.  However, she's being constantly bothered by an alien known as Koquillion.  The Doctor figures out there's more to Koquillion than meets the eye as the planet appears to now be deserted aside from the two of them, though the Doctor had previously been to this planet and knew the people.  The Doctor eventually uncovers the truth about the injured man on the ship.  Vicki joins the TARDIS crew as they head off on another adventure.

I enjoyed this two parter far more than I thought I would.  The design for Koquillion was silly but a good kind of silly.  The revelation of what had actually happened wasn't entirely shocking but it was still a nice twist.  Honestly though aside from Vicki joining as a companion there isn't that much outstanding about these episodes, but you may enjoy them for the charm they have.

Story 12
The Romans

The fourth story is The Romans and it's four episodes long.  The Doctor has decided to take a vacation and the TARDIS crew end up lounging around in Nero's Rome.  The Doctor and Vicki head towards Rome and end up being mistaken for a famous harp player and his assistant who were hired to assassinate the crazy Nero.  Meanwhile, Ian and Barbara are captured and sold into slavery.  Ian becomes a gladiator while Barbara ends up being a house maid for Nero.  While this is happening the Doctor keeps trying to find ingenious ways to dupe the Emperor into allowing him to stay around and figure out exactly what's going on.  Though neither of the two groups see each other, they all manage to escape as Nero finally loses his temper begins the burning of Rome.

Of course with all the slavery, assassination attempts, and Nero burning Rome you would expect this to be a darker story.  Nope, this is a comedy!  Nero spends a good portion of an episode running around the palace chasing Barbara to massively comedic effect.  It's a bizarre and interesting twist on such a dark moment in history that you really should check it out for yourself. 

Story 13
The Web Planet

The fifth story is The Web Planet and it's six episodes long.  The TARDIS is pulled down on the planet Vortis on which live giant sentient insects known as the Menoptera (moth-like creatures), the Zarbi (ants), and the Optera (flightless descendants of the moth creatures.)  It turns out that a supremely powerful being known as the Animus had landed on Vortis and used his psychic powers to control the Zarbi into taking over the planet.  The Menoptera plan an invasion to stop them but the Animus finds out their plans and intends to slaughter them.  It's up to the Doctor and the TARDIS crew to stop this all powerful being.

The Web Planet is good but it's incredibly silly looking.  We spend six episodes worth of people wearing insect costumes when the only human looking characters are the Doctor and his companions.  The budget just wasn't there for any of the costumes to look that great so you end up with some fairly laughable looking scenes.  However, if you are able to use your imagination and look past the necessary evils you can find a pretty good story deep within.  This is also the first time that the Doctor has fought a truly powerful cosmic being and won.  This is one of the hardest to find DVDs if you live in Region 1 so if you want to check this one out prepare to spend a ton of money or be lucky enough to find it online before the BBC removes it.

Story 14
The Crusade

The sixth story is The Crusade and it's four episodes long.  True to the title of the story this adventure takes place during the Third Crusade of Richard the Lionheart.  After the TARDIS lands, Barbara is seized by the followers of Saladin and taken prisoner.  It is up to the Doctor and Ian to convince Richard the Lionheart to allow them to go rescue her.  Politics ensue and eventually the Doctor is sentenced to death only to be rescued by Ian as the four of them make a break for the TARDIS.

This story is the only one from this season which has missing episodes..  We are able to at least listen to all of the story as episodes 1 and 3 have been found and episodes 2 and 4 were presented in audio format only to complete the adventure.  Honestly this story is completely forgettable; it's so forgettable that I honestly had to look this episode up on wikipedia to even say as much as I have even though I have watched it a couple times.  Feel free to skip this one.  The only interesting thing about this is that Julian Glover plays Richard.  He would later on go to star in one of the best Tom Baker episodes, City of Death, and be the villain in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. 

Story 15
The Space Museum

The seventh story is the Space Museum.  The TARDIS lands on a museum in space but something isn't quite adding up.  Their footprints aren't showing in the sand, people can't see or hear them, and strangely enough they find the TARDIS and themselves on display.  Slowly time catches up to them and they disappear from the museum.  The Crew try to escape the museum and the internal struggle between the curators and the young people running around, all the while worrying if every action they take will change the future they saw or make it happen.

The Space Museum is one that a lot of people feel can mostly be ignored; I disagree.  While it's not particularly amazing or anything, the dilemma of trying to avoid the steps to getting themselves captured is a brilliant idea.  Also this has some of the funnier scenes to be shown in Classic Doctor Who.  While hiding from the guards, the Doctor climbs inside a disused Dalek case and taunts the guards.  Later when he's caught and interrogated, the Doctor uses the telepathic scanner to his advantage by thinking of ludicrous answers to the questions asked.  It's a neat little story with some humor you don't want to miss.

Story 16
The Chase

The eighth story is The Chase and it's six episodes long.  After leaving the Space Museum we find out that a piece of equipment they had taken as reward for helping was actually planted by the Daleks in order to track them down through space and time.  The TARDIS crew spend most of an episode watching different parts of history on a sort of television and land on a desert planet where the Daleks have found them.  They escape the Daleks and land on the Empire State Building.  The Doctor realizes that the Daleks are tracking them down through the time vortex and they are slowly gaining on them.  The TARDIS demarterializes and lands on the Mary Celeste (google it.)  The Doctor takes off again trying to shake the Daleks and land in what they assume is a Land of Horror.  While there, Vicki gets left behind and stows away on the Dalek ship as they follow the TARDIS to a distant planet.  While on the planet they meet up and find an astronaut named Steven who has been terrorized by robots called Mechanoids.  The Daleks and the Mechanoids begin fighting as the TARDIS crew escapes, losing sight of Steven.  Ian and Barbara decide to utilize the Dalek's time machine and attempt to go home, reaching earth only a couple years after they had originally left it.

The Chase is a story that not a lot of people talk about and I have no idea why.  I absolutely adore this story partly because of the multiple locations seen throughout.  One notable thing about this story is that it involves the Daleks without having "dalek" in the title whatsoever... most dalek stores flat told you they were involved.  While the mechanoids were nothing grand, the portion of the show where they landed in the Land of Horror was absolutely brilliant.  It turns out to just be a haunted house amusement on Earth but the atmosphere of that episode made the whole thing creepy and wonderful!  Knowing how difficult it was for Hartnell to say goodbye to his fellow actors made the scene where Ian and Barbara left even more heart wrenching.  Definitely an underrated story!

Story 17
The Time Meddler

The last story of the season is The Time Meddler and it's four episodes long.  Unknown to the Doctor and Vicki, Steven somehow found his way aboard the TARDIS off screen and is now part of the crew. While the male companions for the First Doctor were there to do all of the physical adventuring due to Hartnell's age and illness, none were more suited for this job than Steven.  Steven was definitely a space action star and had all of the personality traits that go right along with that. The TARDIS lands in 1066 England where they find there has been a strange monk lurking about.  The Doctor goes to investigate and is captured by the monk.  The monk, as it turns out, is actually a time lord who is going around history and correcting things that he thought were wrong.  His plan is to destroy the viking fleet invading England so that the Saxons will end up winning the Battle of Hastings.  Eventually with help from the locals, Steven, and Vicki the Doctor is able to stop him and shrink the inside of his TARDIS trapping him in the 11th Century.

The Time Meddler is one of my favorite Hartnell adventures.  It was the very first psudo-historical as it involved science fiction elements outside of the Doctor, companions and TARDIS.  This is very important as this not only allowed for a greater diversity among the episodes going forward but it also caused the pure historicals to slowly die out.  It was good to see the First Doctor going up against someone who was almost his equal in many aspects.  Definitely give this one a watch!


That concludes season two.  It was more of a mixed bag of randomness than the previous season just due to the different tones they had and the challenging of expectations.  It brought about the game changing pseudo-historical and proved that having the daleks in multiple stories throughout a season wasn't going to hurt the show.  All in all it was a good season.  Even the absolutely forgettable ones I was glad to have watched.  Please join me again as we continue to examine all of Doctor Who.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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