Doctor Who – The Eighth Doctor

Played by: Paul McGann

When: 1996

Significant contributions to the Whoniverse:   Doctor Who had been off the air for seven years when the first attempt at a reboot was attempted.   A such, the most significant contribution of McGann to the Whoniverse is the fact that Doctor Who has survived at all.   Talk that the 1996 telemovie was to be a reboot for the series never became reality, but the fact it happened at all proved there was still interest alive and well in the franchise.

Being a reboot, it was a big event and some significant additions to Whovian lore.   A new function of the Eye of Harmony was revealed.   The Eye has appeared previously, originally in the Fourth Doctor’s era.   It is an artificial black hole which provides the power for Gallifrey and for time travel technology.   In the telemovie, a resurrected Master attempts to use the eye to steal the Doctor’s remaining regenerations for himself.

Another element introduced in this film, though subsequently ignored in future incarnations of the Doctor, is the implication that the Doctor is half human.   While making a significant plot point in this story, it seems now to be flatly denied.   I have read that explanations have been flying around the interwebs and in print media of the further adventures of the Doctor, including that this particular incarnation alone is half human.   In the end though, I find it amazing the lengths people can go to explain away a plot discrepancy    In the end, it is just an introduced idea into the franchise which was later decided to be dropped.

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Doctor Who – The Seventh Doctor

Played by: Sylvester McCoy

When: 1987 – 1996

Significant contributions to the Whoniverse:   Unfortunately, the most significant thing that stands out for Sylvester McCoy’s tenure as the Doctor is that he was the last Doctor in the classic run of Doctor Who.   This is quite unfair, as McCoy was fantastic in the role, and personally I would love to have seen him play the role a bit longer into the period that the Doctor was absent from our screens.

McCoy’s Doctor met with all the classic villains… The Master (still played by Anthony Ainley), the Cybermen, and the Daleks.   He also reunited with the Brigadier, on the final occasion he appeared in a regular episode of the series.   In addition to this, there is a very amusing story-line that reveals the Doctor was indeed Merlin from Arthurian legend.   In hindsight, this is extremely amusing given the same actor has taken on the role of another prominent wizard, Radagast the Brown from The Hobbit.

Of course, with the series ending in 1989, it meant the show was not running for the 30th anniversary in 1993.   A special of sorts did occur though, featuring McCoy, Pertwee, both Bakers and Davison.   It was a charity special for Children in Need, called Dimensions in Time, intersecting the Doctor with another popular BBC series EastEnders.   Many former companions also appeared, and The Rani also made a return. McCoy was to return one more time after this, to regenerate into Paul McGann in the 1996 telemovie.   As a result, though the record of most episodes still goes to Tom Baker, McCoy technically is the one man to play the Doctor for the longest period of time. Black_Sylv_26 Continue reading

Doctor Who – The Sixth Doctor

Played by: Colin Baker

When: 1984 – 1986

Significant contributions to the Whoniverse:   The second Baker to take on the role of the Doctor bears little similarity to previous incarnations other than his surname.   He was more brash and certainly more egotistical, and had the worst fashion sense of any to date.   I can understand his portrayal being divisive at the time, yet by modern standards an attempt to shake things up a bit and being less predictable certainly had some merit.

A recurring character was introduced in a Sixth Doctor story in the form of a Time Lady, known as The Rani.   To my recollection, this is the first non-companion Time Lady we have met in the series outside of the realms of Gallifrey.   She forms the role of recurring villain who is out for herself, as ill at ease working with the Master just as she is ill at ease working with the Doctor.   Her story will prove to intersect quite significantly with the Doctor’s at a later date.

As already alluded to, i think one of the most memorable elements of the sixth Doctor is his outfit, which was as brash and loud as the man was himself.   This was not a Doctor accustomed to stealth.   Fitting with this nature is the storyline that I feel dominate’s this Doctor’s tenure; Trial of a Time Lord.   The Doctor’s actions past and present come under direct scrutiny by the Time Lords, with the Doctor’s exuberance proving potentially disastrous.   It is interesting to note that prior to this story, there had been a number of season-long storylines.   However, these stories had been loosely connected serials with an end of season pay-off.   Trial of a Time Lord was a full season story bearing only one title, though subsequently story titles have been added.   It was a bold move which also led to another first… the Doctor meeting a future incarnation.

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Doctor Who – The Fifth Doctor

Played by: Peter Davison

When: 1982 – 1984

Significant contributions to the Whoniverse: It was during Davison’s time as The Doctor that the Doctor Who franchise hit its twentieth year.   As such, it was in that specific year that he led the biggest gathering of Doctors to date.   Unfortunately it was not genuinely a complete gathering, as Hartnell had passed away, and Baker did not wish to be a part of the adventure.   Regardless, it was a great special that also featured both the Daleks and The Master.

Speaking of The Master, this brings me to the next most significant contributions in the Fifth Doctor era.   Anthony Ainley became The Master at the end of Baker’s reign, but he truly became a recurring character again with Davison.   Despite many times being defeated and supposedly finished, he just kept coming back, setting up the character again for his memorable appearances in the modern series of Who.

Perhaps most significant though, and something the Fifth Doctor is best known for, is the fact that he did not use a sonic screwdriver.   In an early Davison episode, the screwdriver was destroyed by an enemy to prevent the Doctor’s escape.   No effort was made to replace it, a conscious decision made by the writers to prevent giving the Doctor an easy option out of his various scrapes.   This was so unique for The Doctor at the time, that in some respects, it eclipsed the fact the he was wearing a celery stick in his lapel.

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The detrimental effect of expectations on the enjoyment of a film – A discourse and Skyfall re-review

I am taking a bit of a break from the usual review format today and going to hit reflection mode.   I have always understood that the statement in the title of this post is very true, yet I still find myself a victim of expectations.   True, it happens a lot less regularly than it once did, and I can often find something in most films such that I spend an enjoyable 90-180 minutes.   Yet anyone who read my Skyfall review would be aware, my biggest complaint is that the film did not feel like a James Bond film.

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Doctor Who – The Fourth Doctor

Played by: Tom Baker

When: 1974-1981

Significant contributions to the Whoniverse: To date, Tom Baker is the longest-serving Doctor, at the very least on-screen (Paul McGann is the longest-serving in terms of years, but in all that time only made a single television movie in the role).   For many Australians growing up in the 80’s he is also THE Doctor Who, as it was his tenure that the ABC always seemed to play.   Indeed, back then, I had no idea that he was 4th in a long line of Doctors!!   As far as story is concerned, 7 years inhabiting the Doctor’s skin also permitted for the first time some season long story arcs to be included in the show, something Davies and Moffat have continued with the 2005 era series.

With such a long run, a lot of Doctor Who lore was established with Tom Baker.   The history of Gallifrey was explored, as we learnt that Rassilon was responsible for establishing Time Lord society and culture.   The idea that each Time Lord only has 12 regenerations was also established in this time, with The Master doing what he can to circumvent his fate.   Indeed, he resorts to body snatching.   More Time Lord interaction is also permitted by the fact that for the first time, the Doctor’s companion for many seasons is a Time Lady whom is not related to him (the first Time Lady being his grand-daughter, Susan).   Indeed, we see Romana experience her first regeneration, from Mary Tam to Lalla Ward (see companions section below).

The Doctor’s morality is also more firmly established.   In addition to the dislike of guns held by his predecessors, the Fourth Doctor had a very strong moral core.   When presented the opportunity to destroy all Dalek’s he refused, finding genocide, even of the Daleks, to be heinous.   In this same serial, Genesis of the Daleks, we are also for the first time ever introduced to Davros, creator of the Daleks, and a thorn in the Doctor’s side for many years to come.

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Doctor Who – The 48th anniversary

Technically as I write this, it is the 24th of November here in Australia, but it is still the 23rd of November in the UK, so I am still in time to celebrate the first ever airing of Doctor Who 48 years ago.   To commemorate this occasion, I have decided to repost my thoughts on the First Doctor, as originally published here.   For those that are interested, I have also posted summaries for the Second and Third Doctors, and shall continue with the Fourth Doctor in a few short weeks!!

The First Doctor

Played by: William Hartnell

When: 1963-1966

Significant contributions to the Whoniverse: William Hartnell was the first man to bring the good Doctor to our screens.   As early as his second serial, he faced off against what became the most popular Doctor Who villain ever, the Daleks.   In addition, in his final season, the Cybermen were also introduced.    Through the First Doctor, we learn of his vessel the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), which can take him anywhere and any time that he wishes.   This is technology of his kind, the Time Lords.   In the first episode, it is situated in 1960s London, disguised as a police box due to its chameleon circuit.   Unfortunately, after this point, the chameleon circuit is broken, meaning the TARDIS retains this shape in all of its adventures.

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Doctor Who – The Third Doctor

Played by: Jon Pertwee

When: 1970-1974

Significant contributions to the Whoniverse: Firstly, and most clearly, the advent of the Third Doctor was also the advent for colour in Doctor Who.   Hence, this post as well will be more colourful than my First Doctor and Second Doctor summaries.   In addition, this Doctor remains on Earth for the majority of his tenure, as a result of the ruling of the Time Lords.   This does not stop him continually trying to fix his TARDIS though, while helping  UNIT on a fairly regular basis.   The Third Doctor does get a regular nemesis, in the form of The Master, another Time Lord that will remain a thorn in his side right up until modern times.   Roger Delgado played the character during the Pertwee era.   New recurring aliens were also introduced, including the Silurians, the Sontarans, and the Autons.   For the first time, a Doctor also had a phrase that for perpetuity is recognised as being unique to this regeneration; “Reverse the polarity”.   Pertwee was still playing the Doctor on the shows tenth anniversary.   Hence, he had the honour of being the lead Doctor in the series on the first occasion when his predecessors all appeared on-screen with him.   Sadly, this was to be William Hartnell’s last ever appearance on the show.   Finally, the term regeneration is uttered for the first time, and it only took us the third regeneration to get there!!

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Doctor Who – The Second Doctor

Played by: Patrick Troughton

When: 1966-1969

Significant contributions to the Whoniverse: Clearly the most significant element introduced with the Second Doctor is the fact that the Doctor can change his appearance after death.   Though only referred to as renewal here, this was the first occasion in which a different man morphed where the previous Doctor had been, and though having a completely new personality, he bore all the memories of his previous incarnation(s).   Being a younger man, this is also the first time where another staple of the series became apparent.   Running.   Lots of running.   Also, we are introduced in this period to Colonel Lethbridge Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), whom by the end of the Second Doctor’s run is promoted to Brigadier and put in charge of the United Nations Intelligence Task force, or UNIT.   UNIT becomes very prominent for later incarnations of the Doctor.   Last but not least, the Second Doctor was the first doctor to wield a sonic screwdriver!

Reflections by Film Nerd.

There is no question that, beyond the other ambiguities that occur with taking over a role from a much older actor, Troughton’s portrayal of the Doctor was completely distinct from what Hartnell’s had been.   While still taking the role of an eccentric character, Troughton’s portrayal had a new energy, and was in may way’s more clownish without being disrespectful to the character.   He did some absolutely brilliant work.   It was his decision to give his Doctor a recognisable prop, that being his recorder.   Not every plot took advantage of this particular eccentricity, but Troughton successfully worked it in when possible.

Troughton did some brilliant work on the series.   Being younger, the series had much more energy, with the title character able to be involved in more of the action sequences…. even if he did more often run away from danger than get into the thick of battle with it.   The great pity is that a large portion of Troughton’s episodes are missing, once again these episodes being victim to the BBC’s junking policy I referred to in my review of the First Doctor.   Great effort has been made to reconstruct these episodes with surviving still images and audio tracks, but as a fan I would love to see these episodes fully restored.   Troughton’s Doctor was a great comic presence, and also a character of great likeability.   He left the series on his own terms, only leaving the series for fear of getting type-cast.   This move was indeed so significant for the time, that leaving a series for this reason has unofficially become known as the “Troughton Rule”.

The Companions

Ben and Polly (Michael Craze and Anneke Wills)

Ben and Polly originally travelled with the First Doctor, and I give a more detailed character synopsis for each of them there.   They continue their travels with the Second Doctor for a number of adventures, until they find themselves back in London on the day that they had originally left.   Perhaps Ben can make it to his ship on timer after all, given it was due to set sail right before he left….

 

 

Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines)

Jamie was certainly one of the most stalwart companions of the early series.   He joined the TARDIS when left behind by his 18th century Scottish clan as he defended their retreat.   Polly coaxed him to join them on the TARDIS.   There he remained right up until the end of the Second Doctor’s adventures.   Like male companions before him, he was hot-headed, being of a fighting disposition, and though his heritage made the more advanced technologies he came across a bit of a mystery too him, he was not so far out of date as to not be of use.   He proved a fierce and loyal friend, only leaving the TARDIS at the will of the Time Lords, his memory of his travels being wiped in the process.   As a viewer, I was sorry to see his time as a companion come to an end.

Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling)

This was in a way the reintroduction of the timid “female in distress” style of companion in the tradition of Susan and Vicki.   Victoria was kidnapped in a ploy of the Daleks to coerce her father’s time experiments.   Her father dies in the course of this serial, and given Victoria has no-one, she begins her travels with the Doctor.   Though being of the “screamer” ilk, she was still a very gentle, warm, and likeable character.   However, it did seem at times that the writing did not give her enough moments to shine.   Her character exited being tired of her travels, much to Jamie’s vocal dismay, leading the Doctor to lament on how the departure of a valued companion affects him also.

Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury)

Whereas Victoria was timid, emotional, and from a less advanced civilisation, Zoe was her polar opposite.   She is from the 21st century, and has a very intelligent, analytical mind, that often has her referred to sometimes as more of a computer than a human being.   She proves on more than one occasion though that such comparisons to artificial intelligence are unfair, and she is very capable of great compassion and heart.   She clearly enjoys her adventures with the Doctor and, just like Jamie, leaving the TARDIS is not her choice.   They are both ejected back to their own times by the TIme Lords, their memories wiped, given that they do not take kindly to the Doctor’s tendency to interfere everywhere that he goes.

 

 

 

The Second Regeneration [SPOILERS]

As it turns out, when the Doctor started his journey in the TARDIS, the Doctor had been a very bad boy indeed.   He disagreed with the Time Lord’s edicts of observation, not intervention.   He felt that they had such a great capacity to help others that was not being utilised.   The TARDIS which he travels in was actually stolen, and he has been fleeing his fellow Time Lords ever since.   In the course of the Second Doctor’s adventures however, he realises the only solution to the current problem was to call to the Time Lords.   This brings him back under their radar.   He is put on trial for his actions, and the verdict is that he change his appearance (they at first give him a choice, but he finds something wrong with every face, so they choose for him), and they strand him on the planet he seems to favour, Earth.   He still has a TARDIS, but it is locked so that it cannot move in time and space.   This is now referred to as a forced regeneration, though once again, the specific term regeneration was not used.   Interestingly, we do not see Patrick Troughton become Jon Pertwee.   Troughton fades from frame at the end of his last episode, Pertwee stumbles out of the TARDIS (for the first time in colour) at the beginning of the next.

Concluding remarks

The great shame of the Troughton years is simply how much of it is no longer available in little more than reconstructions.    Otherwise, he brought so much to the series.   He made the Doctor more of a man of action, something that remained consistent from that point on.   He completely changed the personality of the Doctor, something that also became a staple for future incarnations.   It was something that gave the actors room to breathe and put their own interpretation on the character when they were awarded with the coveted role.   Most of all, Troughton brought an element of fun into the character.   He was still cantankerous… that much was faithful to Hartnell, but he saw more of the humour in the events of his extraordinary life.

Doctor Who – The First Doctor

Played by: William Hartnell

When: 1963-1966

Significant contributions to the Whoniverse: William Hartnell was the first man to bring the good Doctor to our screens.   As early as his second serial, he faced off against what became the most popular Doctor Who villain ever, the Daleks.   In addition, in his final season, the Cybermen were also introduced.    Through the First Doctor, we learn of his vessel the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), which can take him anywhere and any time that he wishes.   This is technology of his kind, the Time Lords.   In the first episode, it is situated in 1960s London, disguised as a police box due to its chameleon circuit.   Unfortunately, after this point, the chameleon circuit is broken, meaning the TARDIS retains this shape in all of its adventures.

Reflections by Film Nerd.

For a long time now, I have been intending to review Doctor Who.   The problem with this goal is exactly how to go about this.   It is currently in its thirty-second season of television, with individual seasons being separated into mult-episode serials, and eleven different people having played the title role.   I am currently in season 14 of the classic series, so going back and reviewing every individual serial or episode to me would prove too mammoth a task.   As such, I have decided to instead give a detailed review of each Doctor and what they brought to the series in their episodes.

What is a better place to start than the beginning??   William Hartnell was the first man to introduce us to this funny man that would never given any name except “The Doctor”.   His initial portrayal was that of a prickly old man, very self-concerned and uninterested in any companion in his travels aside from his grand-daughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford).   As time progresses though, he is more accepting of having company on his travels, regretting when anyone leaves the TARDIS to resume their former lives.   He comes across as somewhat absent-minded, always insisting he knows exactly what he is doing despite being prone to a number of mistakes.   He proves himself to be a humourous and caring character, and his laugh was certainly infectious.

The production values of these early episodes are often very poor, with alien costumes far from convincing, and sets looking like they could fall over with a breath of wind.   Marathoning the episodes however, the quality does improve almost imperceptibly with time.   The stories are often quite strong, however, though quaint in presentation.   The writer Terry Nation created the Daleks, a villain so thrilling he came back multiple times to bring this race back.   The biggest disappointment of Hartnell’s run, however, is the sheer number of episodes that simply do not exist.   For a long period, the BBC junked former archival material, including many Doctor Who episodes.   Fans have gone to great length to try to reconstruct these episodes from surviving audio clips and still images, meaning I have technically not missed an episode, but clearly this is not the same as watching original airing quality episodes.

The Companions

Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

Susan is grand-daughter of the Doctor, and fiercely loyal to him.   She is young, of school age, and prone to making rash and often unwise decisions that often lead her into trouble.   I will admit it, initially I found her quite annoying, her main function appearing to be to scream throughout the scenes she was in.   Eventually the character does grow on one, and when she chooses to leave the TARDIS for a man she has fallen in love with, it is the end to the first “chapter” as it were of the franchise.   After all, she was the first ever companion to leave!!

Ian Chesterton (William Russell)

Chesterton is Susan’s science teacher whom, along with Barbara Wright (below), is intrigued by this young girl who seems to know so much but gets seemingly so many things wrong (she is of course right all along).   He will not stand for the Doctor’s antics early on, but a fondness develops between them over many adventures.   Chesterton takes on the somewhat alpha male action lead, which perhaps may have seemed a less convincing characteristic for Hartnell himself to portray.   Though a valued ally, Chesterton and Wright miss home, and eventually hijack a Dalek time machine to get home, with the Doctor’s (eventual) blessing.

Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill)

Barbara and Ian were an almost inseparable pair, though romance itself was never specifically stated in the series.   She was a necessary role in the series at this stage, forming a bridge and a mediator between all the other TARDIS crew members.   Most significantly, she took on a mothering role for Susan.   Her background as a history teacher gave her an added level of fascination at times when the TARDIS took them to moments in Earth’s history, notably when in ancient Rome, and also when meeting the Aztecs.

 

Vicki (Maureen O’Brien)

Vicki was introduced shortly after Susan’s departure, somewhat to fill the void left by her it would seem.   She was not an identical character however, seeming more adapted to travel in time and space.   As such, for me at least, she was a much more generally likeable presence.   The Doctor, Ian and Susan freed her from a captive like situation when she is terrorised by a beast on a planet where her 25th century Earth space shuttle has crashed.   Like Susan however, she eventually leaves for the sake of love, this time with a warrior from ancient Troy.

Steven Taylor (Peter Purves)

Steven made his first Whoniverse appearance during the last episode to feature Ian and Barbara.   Hence, it was clear he was to take on the more action role for the TARDIS crew from that point.   He was a man who was nigh on insane after being terrorised by a race called the mechanoids, whom he was kept the prisoner of after crash landing on their planet.   He stows away on the TARDIS, and remains for many following adventures.   Though originally short-sighted, he becomes a very strong character during his time with the Doctor, as well as being immensely likeable and watchable.   His character comes so far, that it is in staying behind to lead a combined civilisation of previously warring groups that he finally leaves the TARDIS.   It is a huge responsibility, but as a viewer I was left with no doubt he was up to the task.

Katarina (Adrienne Hill)

Katarina sadly did not last long enough with the Doctor to really make a true impression.   She joined the TARDIS crew in Troy, where she was a hand-maiden, in the same moments that Vicki took her leave.   She left the series with the very next serial.   Her contribution was small, her ancient origins making this realm of time-travel almost incomprehensible.   This was the first instance however where the circumstances surrounding the departure of a companion were quite tragic, making her small role none-the-less memorable.

 

Sara Kingdom (Jean Marsh)

Sara Kingdom only appeared in one Doctor Who serial, but it can certainly be called a memorable one.   The story was that of “The Dalek’s Master Plan”, and Kingdom was on the track of The Doctor and Steven in her role as law enforcement officer who had been wrongfully informed that they were criminals.   Unfortunately, her end was not so pleasant, just as Katarina’s had not been earlier in the same serial.   She was a ruthless, independent woman who was also capable of compassion.   She was not in the TARDIS for a long period, but her mark on it will always be lasting.

 

Dorothea “Dodo” Chaplet (Jackie Lane)

Dodo by name, dodo by nature.   When her character was introduced stumbling accidentally into the TARDIS, I must admit I took an almost instant dislike to her.   She was a young, hip, swinging 60s type that was clearly designed to target a younger, hipper market.   I believe that after a few serials, her lack of success as a character was indeed her demise.   Her departure was almost as abrupt as her entrance, with no big fond farewells, just a vague indication she wasn’t going to be joining the Doctor again.

 

 

 

 

Polly (Anneke Wills)

Polly entered the role of female companion in the same serial that Dodo left.   Her character was also young and hip, but not so much in the face about it.   She was a much warmer character, though she could often rub fellow companion Ben (below) up the wrong way.   She adapts well to life on board the TARDIS, and is the first person to accept that the new man who appeared where the Doctor she knew vanished was indeed still the Doctor.   Hence, she continues her travels….

 

Ben Jackson (Michael Craze)

Ben entered the TARDIS with Polly, and as a Navy man, he was perhaps less accepting of all the absurd things going on around him at first.   This often led to him conflicting with both The Doctor and Polly.   Despite this, he was a really good character, the type of guy you would rely on in a pinch.   Just as with Ian and Barbara, there is a relationship brewing between the companions here, and working as a unit is when to like them best.   Ben was not ready to believe that two faces could belong to the same man, but eventually he does, continuing his TARDIS adventures with the Second Doctor.

 

 

 

The First Regeneration [SPOILERS]

Do not read ahead if you wish to watch the episodes and discover the regenerations for yourself.   Following a conflict with the Cybermen, the Doctor collapses exhausted in the TARDIS.   The episode in which this occurs is one of the lost ones, but some surviving footage doers exist of a fade out/fade in under bright lights showing Hartnell in a way “morphing” into Patrick Troughton.   It is a simple but effective method, even if it does lack the flair of modern regenerations.   Interestingly, the term regeneration was not yet used, the producers of the show perhaps at this stage unaware of how often they would change the lead actor.   Rather, we are informed by Patrick Troughton that he has been “renewed.”

 

Concluding remarks

Doctor Who when it first started way back in 1963 had shaky production values, some over-exaggerated acting, and some under-scripted characters.   What it did have from early on though was a great concept which was used to tell some original, thrilling stories.   Not every story was a winner, but that can also be said of any television series made from any period.   Taking also into consideration that in the three and a bit seasons covered here, they were making over 40 episodes a year, the fact there were more hits than misses is also really quite incredible.   Clearly, the show had a strong foundation, which is evidenced enough by the simple fact it is still being made close to 50 years later.