DOCTOR WHO

Premiering on November 23, 1963 (the day after JFK was assassinated), this long-running (1963-1989) icon of British tv sci-fi finally received a make-over and reboot in 2005. At the time of writing, it`s as popular as it ever was. The Doctor is a Time Lord who travels through time and space in a police telephone box that is in fact the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). It's dimensionally transcendental! "Regeneration" was cleverly written into the show so that several different actors could inhabit the role over the years. Each personality has been quite distinct, and arguments about the best and worst have kept fans amused for years (i`m quite the traditionalist in this regard. best: Tom Baker, worst: Sylvester "fucking spoon player" McCoy). Weekly episodes were clustered into multi-chapter mini-serials (with few exceptions), and below are chronological reviews of those, as if they were feature-length movies (which on video and DVD, they have become). Ron Grainer wrote, and Delia Debyshire first performed the unforgettable theme tune, a BBC Radiophonic Workship classic. Additionally, i would like to recommend the Target novelizations which kept me amused as a kid and often allowed my impressionable mind to visualize beyond the scope of what the thrifty BBC special-effects department came up with. Peter Cushing was The Doctor in two stand-alone theatrical outings, DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS and DALEKS` INVASION EARTH 2150 A.D.

As this is a work in progress, double-spaces between reviews indicate gaps. When the project is complete, this paragraph will disappear (it'll be a while, i`m in no rush).

1963

AN UNEARTHLY CHILD D: WARIS HUSSEIN W: ANTHONY COBURN P: VERITY LAMBERT
This was the first ever episode, in four 25 min. parts. The first Doctor was William Hartnell. This one begins with a couple of school teachers (Barbara, played by Jacqueline Hill, and William Russell's Ian) curious about their new student Susan (Carole Ann Ford) and her unseen grandfather (a cantankerous Hartnell). They all end up in Stone Age times. In b/w, the series only really hit it's stride when the Doctor met his arch enemies The Daleks in the next episode.


1964

 

MARCO POLO D: WARIS HUSSEIN W: JOHN LUCAROTTI P: VERITY LAMBERT
The TARDIS lands in the Himalayas in the 13th Century. Marco Polo (Mark Eden) is traveling the Silk Road with Mongols, through the Gobi Desert and onto Peking to meet Kublai Khan. Derren Nesbitt is Tegana, a saboteur who plans to assassinate the Khan. All 7 episodes of this serial are missing, which is a shame as it seems like more than just a grudging concession to the show's historical remit. A condensed 31 minute reconstruction using surviving audio and telesnaps (on official DVD sets) will suffice for the casually curious, hardcore fans will seek out unofficial episode-by-episode reconstructions out there.


THE AZTECS D: JOHN CROCKETT W: JOHN LUCAROTTI P: VERITY LAMBERT
The Doctor & Co. land in ancient Mexico this time (where everyone speaks English of course, it wouldn't be until Douglas Adams invented the Babelfish for HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE that this problem would be solved). Barbara poses as a High Priestess and ignores the Doctor's pleas that she shouldn't re-write history by abolishing human sacrifice. Not bad, but this four-parter is clearly part of the BBC remit to provide historical edutainment. Kids were probably looking forward to more sci-fi, which they got next. With Ian Cullen.

THE SENSORITES D: MERVYN PINFIELD/FRANK COX W: PETER R. NEWMAN P: VERITY LAMBERT
Turns out THE AZTECS was quite breezy serial-type fun compared to this laborious six-parter that just drags on. The Doctor & Co. find themselves aboard a spaceship crewed by a small team of 28th Century earthlings, under the mind control of the titular telepaths, who won't let them leave that area of space. The oval-headed, bearded, plate-footed creatures (pretty good FX creations) turn out to be mostly nice, and only concerned about the exploitation of their planet's valuable metals, but there are a few bad eggs.

 

1965

 

MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN (aka Dalek Cutaway) D: DEREK MARTINUS W: TERRY NATION P: VERITY LAMBERT
One-off episode is of interest to rabid Who fans (and no-one else) as the Doctor is nowhere in sight. Instead it's a story of some astronauts who crash-land on a planet where Daleks are plotting and deadly varga plants lurk. The episode (shot back-to-back with the previous episode GALAXY 4) was a set up for a long 12-parter (THE DALEKS' MASTER PLAN) that didn't follow until another episode aired first, confusing many viewers, no doubt. The MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN you see today has been reconstructed from the few scraps of remaining footage and uses static images, audio and captions to try and piece it all together. A version book-ended by a guy introducing it runs about 35 mins.

 

1974

 

ROBOT D: CHRISTOPHER BARRY W: TERRANCE DICKS P: BARRY LETTS
Tom Baker takes over from Jon Pertwee as The Doctor in his first outing as the Time Lord. Some elitist scientists control a big, indestructible robot (delightfully crap BBC FX). With Elisabeth Sladen as Susan and Nicolas Courtney as the Brigadier.

 

1975

 

GENESIS OF THE DALEKS D: DAVID MALONEY W: TERRY NATION P: PHILIP HINCHCLIFFE
The Time Lords ask the Doctor (Tom Baker) to return to Skaro to prevent Davros from creating everyone's favourite villainous sci-fi robots, The Daleks. Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter are his assistants Sarah and Harry. I guess WHO fanatics appreciate the backstory stuff, but the stitched together feature of all the episodes is a pretty boring two hours plus.

 

TERROR OF THE ZYGONS D: DOUGLAS CAMFIELD W: ROBERT BANKS STEWART P: BARRY LETTS
Silly time-wasting adventure for the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Susan (Elisabeth Sladen). Some fat man-in-a-monster-suit aliens with suction pad openings all over them disturb the Loch Ness monster in Scotland. So it swims down the Thames to attack London! Nicholas Courntey is the Brigadier.

 

PYRAMIDS OF MARS D: PADDY RUSSELL W: STEPHEN HARRISS P: PHILLIPPE HINCHCLIFFE
In this episode(s) with the 4th doctor (Tom Baker), some evil alien or other is trying to take over the Earth in 1911 via a time portal/sarcophagus, with the aid of (large chested) mummies (actually robots in binding). My favourite part is when a character is sandwiched to death by two mummies. Moments of cheap BBC tv FX overkill make parts surreal.

 

1976

 

THE BRAIN OF MORBIUS D: CHRISTOPHER BARRY W: ROBIN BLAND P: PHILIP HINCHCLIFFE
This is prime Tom Baker-era WHO nonsense. He and Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen, one of the most likeable WHO girls) are sent by the Time Lords to a bleak planet where mad genius Solon (Philip Madoc) is keeping the brain of the tyrannical renegade Time Lord Morbius alive in a jar, waiting for a human receptacle to house it in. A sisterhood of old crones who guard the elixir of life flame are also part of the loopy plot. This highly entertaining entry culminates in a "mind bending" contest between Baker an a cheap BBC man-in-a-monster-suit with a brain in a see-through plastic dome.

 

THE HAND OF FEAR D: LENNIE MAYNE W: :BOB BAKER/DAVE MARTIN P: PHILIP HINCHCLIFFE
After an explosion in a quarry buries her under some rubble, Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen in her last adventure with The Doctor) is possesses by a stone hand. She takes it to a power station where it feeds on energy and becomes Eldrad, a woman made from stone. She later changes sex and becomes a walking rock on it's home planet. Tom Baker is the Doctor in this silly adventure

THE DEADLY ASSASSIN D: DAVID MAHONEY W: ROBERT HOLMES P: PHILLIP HINCHCLIFFE
In this intriguing and involving outing for the Doctor (Tom Baker), the renegade Time Lord returns to his home planet of Gallifrey where he's accused of political assassination. The corruption behind all this smells suspiciously like The Master (Who's arch-nemesis) at work.

1977

 

THE ROBOTS OF DEATH D: MICHAEL E. BRIANT W: CHRIS BOUCHER P: :PHILIP HINCHCLIFFE
The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Leela (Louise Jameson) land on a mining spaceship where the crew are being killed off one-by-one by their robot servants. It's one of Baker's lesser adventures.

 

1980

 

MEGLOS D: TERENCE DUDLEY W: JOHN FLANAGAN /ANDREW McCULLOCH P: JOHN NATHAN-TURNER
The Doctor (Tom Baker), Romanna (Lalla Ward) and K-9 arrive on a planet and encounter a screwy, hard-to-follow plot that involves a talking cactus (!) that becomes the Doctor's doppelganger, some kind of time warp and killer plants. Cheap BBC surrealism at it's most desperate. With Bill Fraser, Jacqueline Hill and Frederick Teves.

 

1996

THE ENEMY WITHIN D: GEOFFREY SAX W: MATTHEW JACOBS P: :PETER V. WARE
Sylvester McCoy materialises in San Francisco 1999 and transforms into 8th Doctor Paul McGann (after being killed). McGann is a good choice to play the character, but this forced attempt at modernising the character (with action and FX) completely misses the point. Eris Roberts as The Master (!), what the fuck!?! With Dee Jay Jackson. This stand-alone feature was a Canadian-American-British co-production.