Note: I deleted my original review of the tele-snaps of the missing episode so that I could review the actual episode. The episode will be available to purchase in January 2017, unless you pre-ordered it online.
Writers: David Whitaker and Dennis Spooner (uncredited)
Director: Christopher Barry
Producer: Innes Lloyd
Season: 4, episode 3
No. of Episodes: 6, restored with animation
Companions: Ben Jackson (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills)
Summary: The Doctor has regenerated for the first time. Ben and Polly are distraught and confused, and Ben tries to see if this really is still the person they’ve known. Ben tries to fit the First Doctor’s ring on his finger, but when it falls off, the Second Doctor says “I’d like to see a butterfly fit into a chrysalis case after it spreads its wings.” The new Doctor, once he is finally able to focus and compose himself, begins fiddling with the TARDIS console. It lands on the planet Vulcan (no, not the one from Star Trek. This was written before that was in Star Trek, but it didn’t air until after Star Trek had first aired. It’s one of those weird coincidences) Upon arrival, the Doctor discovers the body of the Examiner, who was sent by the government because of a new discovery. There is also a swamp composed of mercury outside. They enter the colony’s base and meet the governor and a scientist named Lesterson, who has discovered a capsule that was in the swamp. When they open the capsule, they find Daleks inside. The Doctor wants them destroyed, but Lesterson refuses. He’s genuinely interested in the Daleks. The Daleks claim they are servants, and are even disarmed.
While this is going on, there is a rebel faction who wants to take over the colony. The Daleks play along, but are secretly planning to revive themselves and kill everyone in the colony, even willing to turn both factions against each other if necessary.
Review: This was both a landmark episode and a risky one. It’s one of the most important episodes of the series, so I’m ecstatic that it’s been restored, even with animation. Hartnell had been the Doctor for three seasons, and if this story didn’t succeed, the series would’ve been in jeopardy.
First, let’s talk about the animation. Ever since the DVD release of “The Invasion”, the BBC has been releasing partially missing episodes with animation filling in the missing scenes. However, this is the first time they’ve restored an entire story with animation! Since it seems like there may be no more discovered episodes, I’d like to see more like this. The animation is quite good, considering how rushed it was. My favorite moment was when we see the Daleks mass-producing themselves. There was a true sense of dread as they were electrocuting themselves to life.
Troughton is excellent. I love how deceptive he is. He seems a warm figure to entertain the children in the audience, but at the same time, he is meticulously observing the situation and devising a plan. His playing a recorder reminds me of how Sherlock Holmes often played the violin while solving a mystery. I’d seen other episodes with Ben and Polly, but I didn’t much care for them. Here however, I gained a new appreciation for them. Ben’s skepticism about the Doctor mirrors that of the audience. He is constantly trying to gain information about the colony and its people, assessing who is trustworthy and who could betray the Doctor and his companions. Even Polly is helpful, as she also watches the people and interacts with them.
Lesterson was a great character. I liked that he didn’t seem evil and was curious about the Daleks. I liked how his feelings about the Daleks changed as he learned more about him. It would’ve been so easy to make him a typical mad scientist, uncaring about human life. Instead, he is a scientist who is curious about the new life he’s discovered and wants to learn more about it. When he makes the ultimate sacrifice, he gains the sympathy of the audience, which he wouldn’t have if he was a stereotype.
I applaud the BBC’s efforts so that a new generation of Whovians can enjoy this classic. I highly recommend this. The story is long, but unlike others of its length (or longer in the case of “The War Games”) it doesn’t drag.
Overall Review: 10/10
Continuity: This episode’s regeneration differs from subsequent ones:
- The Doctor says that regeneration is done by the TARDIS. However some stories had the Doctor regenerating outside of the TARDIS, like “Logopolis” and the TV movie.
- This is the only time the Doctor is wearing new clothes. In the other regeneration, the new Doctor is wearing the previous Doctor’s outfit and then there is a scene where he gets new clothes.
- The Daleks still use electricity as a power source, as they did during Hartnell’s era. This will change during the Pertwee era.