Season 4 – Episode 2 – (1966)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell (departs)
Companions: Polly, Ben
What a great episode. Finally, the countdown is over and Hartnell reaches his final story playing The Doctor. Producer, Innes Lloyd, had previously thought of writing out Hartnell by having him vanish and reappear as a different man and this likely would have lead to a very different show today.
This story is one of the best examples of a base under siege as the TARDIS lands in Antarctica. The Doctor, Ben and Polly leave the ship and are spotted by a group of men manning a base. They are interrogated and ultimately put into a side room as the base is monitoring the space flight of the Zeus IV. The craft seems to be undergoing a massive energy drain and has been pulled off course. The Doctor notes that it is 1986 and space flight in this year (as we remember or have heard) was very routine and common.
The source of the energy drain is a planet that has entered orbit around the sun between the orbits of Venus and Mars. In a very Doctor-ish move, our eponymous hero hands the commander a sheet of paper as he has already figured out the problem. It transpires that the new planet looks identical to Earth and upon discovery of the planet, The Doctor’s theory turns out to be correct. This is Earth’s twin planet, ejected from the solar system millions of years ago… Mondas.
Can I just say that Hartnell is on form this story – He really is as we’ll see shortly. The base is invaded by interlopers that have come from the new planet and immediately begin to kill. They show no mercy for lives and declare themselves…
My friends we have finally reached the point where the writers have come up with a concept that is robust as the Daleks… Our invaders are from a planet where the scientists allowed the survival of the human-like race by altering them surgically. This is amazing social commentary. Imagine the world of the 60’s where transplants were becoming notable. The first successful transplant was just over ten years ago and the procedures were becoming increasingly common-place. Fascinating philosophy here in that we have to ask just how far things will go and what happens when we can replace ourselves with synthetic parts… are we still human? Of course, one of the advances in the Doctor Who universe is the removal of emotions in order to survive as a race at all costs. As blasé as they may become, the concept of the villain is wonderfully sinister… Say hello to the Cybermen!
Simply marvelous and as original concepts go they are brilliant. The original design disappears rather quickly from memory but the original realisation includes the use of surgical gauze around the face and that singsong voice that follows no natural rhythm of speaking. It’s so sinister that frankly it should be loved.
We’ll carry on with the plot: the story has the invading Cybermen take control by threatening the lives of those on the space-craft. They forbid the contact of the base to a higher power but then casually reveal that the crew of the craft are dead. The craft is drawn to Mondas and explodes.
Polly and The Doctor berate the Cybermen in, again what can only be described as, a lovely scene:
As you see, Ben manages to disable the Cybermen at the end of the scene this represents that turning point. Sadly, there’s about to be an issue within the plot… Look we have to talk about these things…
Yes the stakes are about to be upped but these stories are made up of weekly broadcast episodes and we have hit episode 3. Hartnell‘s health is bad and he just cannot be there to film episode 3 of 4 (he’s ill). It’s rewritten to shift dialogue around and furthermore Episode 4 is a lost episode… all but a few clips… so… folks – you have just seen your last regular Hartnell scene unless you’re like me and will watch those missing episode screen captures…
The Doctor is being drained from the power of Mondas. They take him to lie down and Anneke Wills as Polly claims that he seems “warn out”. Ben really steps up for the rest of the story but I should note that Ben is a complete cockney in his speaking. Something that was so overlooked in the recent 2017 Christmas special! Michael Craze to all of you, plays a fantastic character in Ben.
So the plot plays out…We can forget all the small bits (except I impore all to watch this story). Clever ruses ensue and essentially Ben wins the day just by being suspicious of the Cybermen… They can’t handle the radiation of their own weapon…
It’s a complicated movement but… Ben’s ideas win and they gain the upper-hand, turning the tables on the Cybermen. The invasion is stopped thanks to The Doctor’s intuition and Ben’s tactics in the base. The Cybermen are isolated from their power source and they dissolve. Now there’s a probem – Ben frees The Doctor from a Cyberman prison. He regains consciousness and questions Ben on the words “it’s all over now”. Determinedly he remarks, “it’s far from being all over” and explaining that “I must get back to the TARDIS”. His final words to his companions are “keep warm” and he leaves, letting his companions say goodbye.
Next we see Ben and Polly are locked out of the TARDIS… The Doctor operates switches but all of a sudden the switches are operating themselves… Ben and Polly enter as he collapses on the ground… Now watch…
Look at that effect!
And so The Doctor changed in 1966. The white hair became a thick mop of black, the wrinkles subsided and our comfortable grandfather has gone.
I shed a tear because Hartnell departs but… We have a new actor to play The Doctor and boy is he good!
I have to say at this point that this episode is everything it could be. It sets out on a premise and delivers magnificently. If you are looking for the perfect 1st Doctor episode, this may not be the one as this is far too sombre an occasion. It lacks the real Mercurial nature of The Doctor.. In terms of story and relevance, however, this story is wonderful.
As a fan, I feel I can’t abandon The Doctor at this point. Before resuming with the 2nd Doctor’s stories, I will my final thoughts on the 1st Doctor.
- Cyberman: You must come and live with us.
Polly: But we cannot live with you, you’re different! You have no feelings!
Cyberman: Feelings? I do not understand that word.
The Doctor: Emotions! Love! Pride! Hate! Fear! Have you no emotions, sir, hmm?
The newly renewed Doctor will face the only foe that has continued to plague him. The crew arrive on a planet called Vulcan (Star Trek did actually beat this serial to the name but only by a couple of months). It’s up to the new Doctor to explain to the men on a space station just what old pepper-pot looking robots might be…