Hartnell in Review and Where Do We Go From Here

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.

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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.

When I say run . . . .

5 thoughts on “Hartnell in Review and Where Do We Go From Here

  1. I think it makes sense to review the serials as an whole. I don’t get fans who write really lengthy reviews. I think it is good to be concise and to summarise.

    I think the Hartnell era was fantastic. I don’t think any of the other periods compare to it. The only periods where you get a comparable quality would be Season 18 and Seasons 25 and 26.

    1. Having enjoyed the Hartnell era so much, I’m quite curious about how I will view other eras of the show. Will I adapt to them, taking them for what they are, or will they suffer because the intent of the Hartnell era has redefined the show for me? I love the diversity of the Hartnell era, and it wasn’t until recently I truly realized how diverse it was compared to other eras. The Fourth Doctor has his gothic horror seasons, the Second Doctor his base under siege, the Tenth his pouty-lipped “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry” episodes . . . each era seems to have a distinct formula (with certain exceptions, for sure). I truly agree with the mantra that Who can visit any place in time and space, but back in the early days it REALLY did this. I can’t help but wonder if releasing the DVDs out of order has helped maintained the illusion that the show always did this.

      That said, I like some of the more formula-driven seasons. Sure, base under siege gets old, but I love The Doctor and Jamie. I like the first UNIT season (well, what I’ve seen so far, but I think that’s because I prefer Liz Shaw over Jo).

      It will be a long time before I get to Seasons 18, 25, and 26.

  2. Completely understand what you mean when you feel like a drop in a bucket of water. But I’ve found the trick isn’t finding something new to write about, it’s HOW you do your writing. Some people write lengthy reviews, some people like to READ lengthy reviews. Others prefer to write shorter reviews which appeal to those who like to read brief reviews. Others write using wit, charm or intelligence. Despite all that, you make a great point. It’s hard to keep writing about what you love, if what you are writing starts feeling like ‘work’. Nothing wrong with taking a step back, altering how you write or taking a break. The most important part is to make sure you are still enjoying what you are writing. Those of us who read your posts will appreciate that, because as you say, the quality will likely improve. Mind you, I have not noticed a decline in quality or quantity., so keep up the great work.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I think I will continue playing with the format as I go along, just to keep me engaged. It doesn’t feel like work quite yet, but it sometimes takes away from other writing projects now. Granted, writing here has helped to start those other projects, which is what I hoped this blog would accomplish.

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