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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Doctor Who: Season One

The little brain fart that constituted last weeks rambling pseudo-essay about Doctor Who was inspired; as I think I mentioned but can't be bothered to check; by my watching a lot of William Hartnell episodes of late.

I've now finished watching the entire first season; some for the first time, some I'd seen before; and so I thought I'd do a little rundown of my thoughts. I'll admit that the timing isn't great, because I don't usually like to talk about the same show two weeks running; apart from that time I didn't shut up about The Tomorrow People for a year and a half of course; but what the hell, right?

So, here we go; my thoughts on the serials from season one of Doctor Who...

You'd best like my show, dear boy! Yes, you'd just better had, hmmm.
An Unearthly Child

Extremely slow going, which can be trying until you get used to it, and I'm not convinced that there is enough story here to warrant even half the running time, to be honest; something which will be a recurring theme.

Saved by some committed performances from the guest cast and the fact that Carole Ann Ford hadn't yet achieved maximum annoying-ness levels.

The Daleks

How slow??? (Told you that would come up again)

As the show's first proper villains the Daleks acquit themselves well, even if their reliance on static electricity; I'm guessing included as part of the educational remit, though I could be wrong; is a mite silly.

Again, the pace is glacial, which might not have been so bad had so much of the 'action' not taken place in a bunch of very similar looking (I wonder why that was) corridors. At least we get to see the beginnings of Ian and Barbara coming into their own as characters; the show is much more engaging and entertaining when it's focusing on them, rather than the crotchety and downright unpleasant Doctor or the shrill harpy that is Susan.

The Edge of Destruction

Doesn't work. Looks cheap and is far too reliant on Carole Ann Ford who, lest you haven't picked up on my subtle comment in the previous serials, CAN'T ACT.

Marco Polo

Another one that's far too long, but nevertheless I enjoyed it. Polo himself is an engaging character; a 'villain' in that he holds the Doctor and co. captive, but one with very understandable and believable motivations.

Also, the real villain of the piece, Tegana, is cool as fuck.

I aint sweating you clowns. Bring it on, suckas.
The Keys Of Marinus

Another long one, but it gets around that by having lots of different settings and guest casts for the regulars to flit between, so it doesn't get dull. Well...

The Doctor himself disappears for a sizable chunk of the running time, which actually makes it a little more exciting; Ian and Barbara being far more interesting protagonists; and the ending is a decent bit of switcheroo, if a little rushed.

Shame the show gives every indication of having skipped an episode between parts 4 and 5. Major script fail there, with events jumping forwards without explanation in an extremely off putting manner. Oh well, we're none of us perfect.

The Aztecs

I fucking loved The Aztecs. Susan is sidelined, Barbara is fierce in her beliefs and just a proper full blooded heroine, and Ian gets to be the suave action man he so obviously should have always been; on the strength of this serial alone I wanted him to have gone on to be a major movie star.

What's more, the depiction of the Aztec society is fascinating, the 'villains' actually aren't, really, and The Doctor makes sense for once, before being given a rather sweet love story that should be rammed down the throats of anyone who bemoans the Madame Pompadour incident as out of character. (I know he's kind of using her, but there's obviously genuine affection there as well)

The serial reaches it's only logical conclusion, with no easy answers to be had for anyone, and the travelers head off having learned a valuable lesson. This is proper drama, and the cast play the shit out of it; just brilliant stuff.

And the lead 'villain' is creepy as fuck.

The Sensorites

A serial in which some incredibly badly acted humans encounter an alien race based entirely on bureaucracy and placid acceptance of a class system that makes them indistinguishable to each other by any means other than their insignia. And the size of their beer bellies, although they're all too polite to say that bit.

It's a nice idea, to do a story about a benign alien race with just a couple of bad eggs. Shame this one is so dull. Especially when it didn't need to be; all the elements were there for a gripping little political thriller.

Also, it relied heavily on Carole Ann Ford, so it has that acting against it.

Reign Of Terror

It's the French Revolution; people are getting guillotined left and right, spies for various factions (and the English) stalk the streets, and our intrepid heroes are in prison.

It's great.

The bumbling jailer is just the right side of parody, the politics are clever enough to keep you thinking without being too confusing for the kids, and the Doctor hits a man over the head with a shovel.

The ONLY downside is that the guy playing Robespierre is awful; they even manage to get Susan out of the way for a while with a phantom illness that seems to come and go on a whim and has no real resolution, which makes me think it was just there to get Susan out of the way. Well done Dennis Spooner.

SO, those were just some off the top of my head reactions to the serials making up season one. Throwing them onto the page without any planning or too much editing, I see several patterns emerge that I wasn't really aware of when I was watching.

I hate Susan of course, that much is obvious, but the big one I hadn't realised is that I genuinely love the historical stories, whilst a lot of the sci-fi left me cold. I really wouldn't have thought that when I sat down to watch the show.

That's all from me for now, but I'll be back next week with something that has nothing to do with Doctor Who. Promise.

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