Thursday, 2 February 2012

DW50 Countdown: The First Doctor (Part One)

Welcome one and all to a new monthly feature. Whoah, whoah come on, people, let's not get too excite- oh you're not.
As you should be aware, next year is Doctor Who's half-centenary - which means it's fifty years old! A remarkable achievement which only applies to a very few select number of programmes. So as it is now 11 months away from said year, I'm going to devote a blog post each month to each Doctor chronologically. To accompany this, I will then review one of that Doctor's episodes that is not seen as a great example of Doctor Who and try to show how it is still great telly. Hmm, let's get on with it, you say? Well, yes. I agree quite...

'Have you ever wondered what it's like to be travellers in the fourth dimension?'
                                                                          The Doctor (William Hartnell)

When we first see him, through the eyes of school teachers Ian and Barbara, the Doctor appears a long way from a lot of things we associate with his character now. He looks shifty, loitering in a junkyard and hanging around an old Police Box. He's short-tempered, barking at the schoolteachers when they show themselves. Crotchety is a word oft-used when describing the First Doctor but he most certainly is here. He's dangerous and untrustworthy. An alien. He locks Ian and Barbara in the TARDIS because they may tell his secret. What might seem impossible to modern viewers, the Doctor, at first, is not a hero.

On their first trip to prehistoric Earth, he and his friends don't foil an evil villain but just try to save themselves from some socially-unstable cavemen. In the next adventure, the Daleks make their first appearance but the Doctor's part in their defeat is as rallyer, intent on getting the peaceful Thals to attack their miltant enemies.
Over his adventures, however, the Doctor warms greatly. He, Barbara and Ian become friends and he shows a more caring side with Susan, his granddaughter. When she eventually leaves, he's close to tears.

Talking of companions, the First Doctor must hold the record for the most. In his three year tenure, people are in an out of the TARDIS like flies (not that you see a lot of flies in the Tardis but they must be there). Highlights other than those aforementioned include Blue Peter's Peter Purves as spaceman Steven Taylor, hard-nosed superspy Sara Kingdom (who, in a bold move for the series, dies at the hands, well plungers, of the Daleks) and swinging sixties couple Ben and Polly. Alongside the familiar staple of an attractive female companion, Doctor One would always be accompanied by a young male friend as well, as he was most certainly not an action man and the show needed someone to occasionally get physical with the enemy.

Overall, the First Doctor's era is hodge-podge of so many different big ideas that sometimes it seems unsettled and unsure. But that's because it is. The show was still finding its feet. And so was its lead character. But what Hartnell possesses in abundance are the Doctor's trademark qualities; his genius mind, his love of human company and, perhaps the reason he is so loveable, his eccentricity. William Hartnell is undoubtedly the father of all Doctor Whos. And so should he always be remembered.

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