Spearhead From Space

spearhead

No of Episodes: 4

Season: 7, ep 1 (1-4)

Writer: Robert Holmes

Director: Derrick Sherwin and Barry Letts (final stages)

Companions: Dr. Liz Shaw (Caroline John), Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney)

Summary: After the events of “The War Games”, the Doctor was forced to regenerate and was exiled on Earth, with the TARDIS non-functional.  Upon his arrival, mysterious meteorites descend to Earth. UNIT is called on the scene when people start disappearing.

Meanwhile, the Doctor has been placed in the hospital. He eventually escapes and with the help of Liz Shaw, thwarts the Nestene Consciousness, who arrived on Earth via the meteorites, and its hive-minded followers, the Autons.

Review: When I’d heard that Pertwee’s era was the earliest era to have all its stories restored, I thought it might be worth looking into.  This first story is a lot of fun and sets the stage for the Third Doctor’s campy, Bond-style adventures.

The story is pretty well told, although the Doctor’s amnesia and recovery do bring it down a few points.  I like the chemistry between Liz and the Doctor. Liz doesn’t quite believe that the Doctor is alien and John plays her skeptical nature well.  To me, Liz brings in a new sort of companion, one who doesn’t get in the way of the adventure and expertly assists the Doctor in his efforts. It’s a shame that there aren’t more stories with her.

The Autons are great monsters, even if they make you wonder when UNIT will stop wasting bullets on them. However, their later appearances, particularly in the Ninth Doctor’s premiere, are much stronger.

This is a great introduction to the Pertwee era.

Overall Rating: 7/10

Continuity: This is Liz Shaw’s first story. She remains the Doctor’s companion until the end of season 7, with “Inferno.” It is also the first story to establish the Doctor possessing two hearts.  The Autons also appear in “Terror of the Autons”, “Rose”, and the two-parter “The Pandorica Opens”/”The Big Bang”.  The Doctor says he is a doctor of “practically everything”, which is repeated in “Four to Doomsday” and “Utopia”.  The Delphon language is mentioned here and by the Tenth Doctor in “Planet of the Dead.”  The Brigadier says “Earth is drawing attention to itself”, which is repeated by the Doctor in “The Christmas Invasion”. The Third Doctor’s exile ends in “The Three Doctors”.

Trivia: This is the first colorized serial.  The Doctor is credited as “Doctor Who” for the first time, which would become constant until the end of Tom Baker’s era, when he would be called “The Doctor”.

An Unearthly Child

aec

No. of Episodes: 4 (“An Unearthly Child”, “The Cave of Skulls”, “The Forest of Fear”, “The Firemaker”)Note: For most of Hartnell’s era, each episode had its own individual title.

Season: 1, eps 1-4

Writer: Anthony Coburn

Director: Waris Hussein

Companions: Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), Ian Chesterton (William Russell), and Susan (Carole Ann Ford)

Summary: Barbara and Ian are history and science teachers at Coal Hills High School who are intrigued by a mysterious new student, Susan Foreman.  She seems to be excellent in history in science, even surpassing their own intellect), but naive at everything else.  They decide to follow her home to meet with her grandfather and discuss this.  They happen upon 76 Totter’s Lane, an abandoned junkyard, where they meet The Doctor, who is Susan’s grandfather, and are bewildered at the TARDIS as they step inside.  The Doctor, realizing they’ve seen too much, kidnaps them and takes them to the year 100,000 BC. There, they meet a tribe of cavemen and inadvertently help them recover the secret of fire.

Review: This is an ingenious way to start the show.  (And to think Hussein actually said it would never work) Susan is well-characterized, and I almost forgot how short-changed she was in later stories. Barbara and Ian are also established well. We see right away Barbara’s compassion and Ian’s rationalism.

The Doctor is enjoyable in his first appearance, despite how different he seems from later episodes.  I love the scene where he tries his best to dissuade Barbara and Ian from entering the TARDIS. His irascible attitude is well-portrayed by Hartnell, and after seeing An Adventure in Space and Time, I’ve come to respect Hartnell even more than I had when I’d dabbled in a few of his episodes.

The cavemen are really the only complaint they have. They tend to bog down the story and just aren’t as interesting as they should be. We should realize that cavemen only seem unintelligent because our society has evolved so much since their time.  They really were more resourceful than we may think. Of course, they had to be in order to survive.

This was an excellent introduction to the series. If you’re curious to see where the fun all began, I say give it a try. It’s a must for any true Whovian.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Continuity: In “Attack of the Cybermen”, the Sixth Doctor returns to Totter’s Lane. While there, he attempts to repair the Chameleon Circuit.  In “Remembrance of the Daleks”, the Seventh Doctor returns to 1963 to retrieve the Hand of Omega and keep it out of Davros’s hands. In “Journey’s End”, Donna, having absorbed TARDIS energy, proposes a way to permanently repair the Chameleon Circuit. In the 50th anniversary episode “Day of the Doctor”, Clara is teaching at Coal Hills High.

Trivia: There are two alternate titles for “An Unearthly Child”: “100,000 BC” and “The Tribe of Gum”.  Susan mentions decimalizing English currency, which actually did happen several years later. The serial was actually rebroadcast due to the fact that it aired on Nov 23, 1963, the day after John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald.  (This was insisted by Verity Lambert, as I learned in An Adventure in Space and Time

 

The War Machines

war

No. of Episodes: 4

Companions: Dodo Chaplet (Jackie Lane), Ben Jackson (Michael Craze), and Polly (Anneke Wills)

Writer: Ian Stuart Black (based on an idea by Kit Pedlar)

Director: Michael Ferguson

Producer: Innes Lloyd

Season: Season 3, Episode 10

Summary: The Doctor and Dodo return to 1960’s Earth.  Upon exiting the TARDIS, the Doctor gets a “prickly sensation”, alerting him that something evil is afoot. He spots the tallest tower and investigates. There, he is introduced to Professor Krimpton, who shows him his supercomputer WOTAN, which supposedly can’t make mistakes.  Dodo gets a strange headache and the inventor’s secretary, Polly, takes her to a bar to clear it.  There, they meet Ben Jackson, a sailor who’s new in town.  But we soon learn that WOTAN wants to take over the world, and has hypnotized people to assist it, including Polly and (gasp!) Dodo. What’s more, it needs to Doctor to accomplish its goal. Can the Doctor thwart this plan?

Review: One of the problems with classic Doctor Who is something that plagues old school sci-fi in general: the fact that it tends to date itself.  When this story aired, the idea of a supercomputer bent on world domination was actually novel.  To its credit, WOTAN makes for a great villain, especially since it knows what the TARDIS is.

The acting is pretty good.  Michael Craze does a good job of establishing Ben’s character as a surly man and I really wish more of his and Polly’s stories were available (alas, this is the only completely available story). Overall, for a story featuring Dodo (one of the Doctor’s all-time worst companions), it’s pretty good. Just forget that movies like War Games and Terminator exist.

Overall Rating: 7/10

Continuity: This is the final episode featuring Dodo, and the starting point for Ben Jackson and Polly. They remain with the Doctor into the early part of Troughton’s era, leaving in “The Faceless Ones”.

Trivia: WOTAN actually refers to the Doctor as “Doctor Who.” This is the only time the Doctor is called “Doctor Who.”  In the credits, WOTAN is actually listed as starring as itself. (Gerald Taylor, one of the Dalek operators from the 60’s actually provided its voice) This is the only time a fictional character is credited as itself, rather than the actor portrayal.