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Old January 17 2012, 06:29 AM   #1
Hober Mallow
Location: The planet Terminus, site of the Encyclopedia Foundation on the periphery of the galaxy
Doctor Who, first time through

So I've started watching Who from the very beginning, starting with Netlix's Doctor Who: the Beginning, featuring the first three William Hartnel story arcs. I decided to share my impressions with the more hardcore fans here. I won't post long reviews, I'll just give my general impressions of each story and get some of your views.

I'm not new to Who, but neither am I all that steeped into the show's mythology. I watched the show as a kid on a semi-regular basis for a time, have seen the McGann TV movie, and the first couple seasons of the new show.

My first Doctor was Peter Davidson. At the time I didn't realize that there were other actors who had played the Doctor, or that the series had been on the air for decades by that time. So Davidson was the Doctor as far as I was concered.

Then came the regeneration into Colin Baker. I misunderstood what was happening. When the Master's face appeared and ordered the Doctor to "Die!" I thought that the Master's mind had merged with the Doctor, and that Colin Baker was supposed to look like a cross between the Master and the Doctor. My idea was "confirmed" to me in the next episode, when it seemed to me the Doctor's evil "Master" side attacked his companion.

I stopped watching not long afterwards. When I tuned in again, the Doctor was a funny little man with a funny hat. I guess that's when I figured out the Doctor could regenerate his form.

A few years later, I started watching again, and my local PBS station was playing the Tom Baker episodes. It wasn't long before Tom Baker supplanted Peter Davidson in my mind as the Doctor. There's just something about Tom Baker; once you've seen his Doctor, you can't help but compare all the other Doctors to him -- even the earlier ones.

Anyhoo, I'll get to my "reviews" now, and I'll keep it up if it seems like anyone cares. My posts may, however, be sporadic.

"An Unearthly Child"

Starts out great. The central focus of the first episode isn't the mystery of the Doctor, but the mystery of Susan. I love the fairly cryptic, "I was born in another time," comment.

Then they went back in time, met some cavemen who speak pidgin English, and I fell asleep.

The Doctor in this arc could not be more different from later Doctors; not only does he not particularly care about humans (or humans specifically of the 20th Century, if we're to stick with only what we know about the Doc from this early period; obviously it's not known that he's an alien and may simply be a human from the future), he seems to consider them beneath him and Susan. The most shocking scene from a "looking-back" perspective is the scene in which the Doctor is prepared to murder an injured caveman in order that they might not be slowed down in their progress.

Most of the story is dull. I was glad when it was over because I knew what was coming up...

"The Daleks(!)"

Radiation is increasing. Here we go!

We visit Skaro for the first time. There's a city in the distance. The Doctor wants to investigate, so he sabotages the TARDIS so the others have no choice but to go with the Doc to the city.

We meet the Daleks. "Exterminate!" We meet the Thals.

What surprises me the most about Hartnell's Doc is just how inactive he is. Okay, he's an old man... but then we have Ian. Ian is hardly the type of companion who we're used to in later seasons, the one who has to follow the Doctor's lead because he has no idea what's going on and the Doctor isn't showing all his cards. No, this Ian is actually more like the future Doctors than Hartell's character. He's the take charge kind of guy with a seeming obligation to get involved.

How to reconcile the cantankerous old Doctor, who finds humans worthy of little more than an upturned nose and who'd rather fly off in the TARDIS and leave everyone else to their fates than be bothered to get involved, with the later versions of the character?

Here's my idea for a retconned explanation:

The Doctor's experiences with Susan and Ian changed him utterly. First, we have Susan's love of 20th Century earth, a love he would adopt partly because of her, and party because of Ian. In time, he comes to admire Ian's spirit of adventure, Ian's taking of moral positions and putting them into action, his getting involved, and that this, more than physical regeneration, gave the Doctor a renewed spirit. Eventually, even the Gallifreyans would take notice of the Doc's newfound obsession with earth, especially earth of the 20th Century, as they mention to Patrick Troughton's Doctor before they force his regeneration and institue his exile on earth.

Well, it's just an idea. And I've only just seen the first few Hartnell story arcs, so feel free to disagree.

Okay, it's going to be a week or so before I get the next story in the mail. I wish Netflix streamed more Who.
"Beep... beep!" --Captain Pike
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