Mysterious planets appearing in the sky. The Earth being destroyed by the expanding Sun. Daleks being rendered motionless and being kicked by an exuberant companion. I’m not talking about the Russell T. Davies era, I’m talking about the Hartnell era. It took a little longer than I anticipated, but I made it! I thought that now would be a good time to look back on the 134 episodes and reminisce, then I will discuss what I will be doing for the Troughton era because I feel the need to change the format a bit.
Willian Hartnell was a great Doctor. I think he worked hard to craft a wonderful character who had a distinct arc throughout his first few years. The Doctor believably moved from paranoid exile to the explorer/meddler in time and space that we know today. And this was due in no small part to his interactions with Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. They were the first companions to stumble upon The Doctor and find themselves wrapped up in another life. Forced into a life on the run together, spurred on primarily because The Doctor could not control The TARDIS, Ian, Barbara and The Doctor had to find a way to work together and get along. Not only did they find a way, they grew to care for one another as a type of family. It was a dynamic that I don’t think we have ever seen again. I believe it is safe to say that Ian and Barbara softened The Doctor and helped him to find the spirit of adventure that has stuck with him to this day. No wonder humans are his favorite species.
While not every story of the Hartnell era was great, every one of them did have something interesting, even if you have to dig a little. I have mentioned before that the sheer unpredictability of this era is what I enjoy the most. From episode to episode you truly don’t know what you are going to get. The show hasn’t yet become formulaic. This was even a time before every Doctor Who story had monsters (although I think an argument could be made for Tltoxl). The Hartnell era was fresh, it was different, and it is truly a far cry from the show in its current incarnation.
Favorite Story. There are so many great stories in this era. It is hard to choose between The Massacre and Marco Polo. I’ll probably go with The Massacre due to its brevity and the fact that I actually learned something from it.
Least Favorite Story. The Celestial Toymaker without a doubt. It is hindered from not being complete, I know, but I doubt that even the visuals would help the story be more interesting and engaging. The Toymaker as a character is intriguing and there were concepts that were hinted at but never really explored. As it is the story itself just feels like it didn’t come together and I found it all rather dull.
Favorite Companion. Even though I am tempted to go with Ian, I think I’ll settle on Steven. He was quite versatile and fun. As for companion groupings, Steven and Vicki were a good team and they had a nice chemistry. It seems odd that they were only in three whole stories together. I would have swore they were together longer.
Favorite Spin-off Hartnell Story. I don’t even have to think about this. Farewell Great Macedon is, to me, the best Hartnell story without Hartnell in it. It faithfully reproduces the feel of the first season, Carol Ann Ford and William Russell do an excellent job with the script, and the story is quite compelling once you get in to it and can keep the characters straight. It is worth the effort.
I mentioned changes. With the last few Hartnell episodes (well, since The Savages really) I have felt a struggle to find anything particularly compelling to write. In part this is due to spending more time taking notes than watching and enjoying the episode. But other times I feel as if Doctor Who has been written about and reviewed for decades and I am just one voice among many and there is no chance of coming up with anything that hasn’t already been said or noticed. Not that I feel the need to be particularly innovative, but the quality of some of the posts recently has bothered me. I need to enjoy the episodes if I can write about them properly. Thus, I will not be reviewing individual episodes anymore. Beginning with Power of the Daleks I will either do one or two posts per story, depending on the length of the story or the amount of material I am coming up with. I still plan to watch one episode a day, I just won’t be posting a Doctor Who review every day. I want to try this format for a bit and see what happens. I don’t yet know if it will free me up to work on other projects, but if so, that would be great. However, it is important for me to get through every episode, so I’m not abandoning the project yet.