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DVD Shopping Bag: Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet
The Timey Wimey of Doctor Who
By Robert T. Trate
November 26, 2013
The Timey Wimey of old Doctor Who
Mania, last week, made its best efforts to bring as much Doctor Who to you as possible. We covered “The 50th Anniversary Special” and all that it entailed. The great thing about Doctor Who is that it is constantly evolving. New episodes are assured with a whole new Doctor to proceed this year’s “Christmas Special”. The other great thing about Doctor Who is that old episodes continue to be found and released. You’ve seen every episode already? Fear not, the BBC just found 9 more classic episodes.
When I made my first foray into the world of Doctor Who I was able to get whole seasons via Netflix. I could watch as many as I wanted and found myself catching up quite quickly to new episodes that were airing. I was able to watch David Tennant’s last 2 seasons as they aired. I was even given the privilege of interviewing Tennant at his first Comic Con (read here). With the long drought between seasons and my curiosity being peeked by classic returning foes such as the Zygons (see review) and Ice Warriors (see review), I have gone back and started to watch classic episodes of Doctor Who. This practice has not only helped me breach the gap between Doctors, but given me a better understanding of Doctor Who’s rogues gallery. When I first saw “Dalek” (Series 1, Episode 6) with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, I immediately turned to Netflix for some background on the Daleks. Sadly, this was not the right move. I ended up watching Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) starring Peter Cushing as Dr. Who (notice the spelling difference). It was a fun romp, but not in the same continuity as Doctor Who. This practice has since continued and recent releases, in continuity, have helped me to better understand the alien nemeses of the Doctor.
There was one episode that had eluded me for the longest time. Thankfully, it was recently released and supplied with an animated final episode to better see this classic tale. The BBC, last week, released the “Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet”. This series of episodes featured two seminal moments in Doctor Who history. The first being the introduction of the Cybermen. The second, and more important of the two, was the first regeneration of the Doctor to his next personality. The original Doctor was played William Hartnell. Hartnell had played the Doctor for four seasons and his health was starting to give way. The BBC had this huge hit on their hands and wanted to keep the show going. Thus it was conceived that Doctor was able to regenerate and have numerous lives. Patrick Troughton stepped in during the final moments of “The Tenth Planet” and a new Doctor was born.
“The Tenth Planet” is a strange episode as Doctor Who goes. Then again, aren’t they all? It is particularly strange because the Doctor is out of commission for the majority of the all that happens. This could have been because of Hartnell’s health. The Doctor and his companions arrive in 1986 and attempt to help a few astronauts get back to Earth. Their location is the South Pole and a tracking station that is monitoring the space flight. Everything goes incredibly wrong when a tenth planet arrives near Earth. This planet, called Mondas, is actually Earth’s identical twin, but a polar opposite. It spun away from the Earth millions of years ago, only to return to suck the Earth drive of its energy. The inhabitants of Mondas are the Cybermen.
If you have seen the more recent incarnations of the Cybermen, they put many other robot/ cybernetic organisms to shame. Fritz Lang’s The Maschinenmensch aka Maria, from Metropolis, was clearly the inspiration here, only they look like like polar troopers carrying TV sets around. The Cybermen are not scary and, in fact, look much like the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation, only dressed in white. The Doctor’s companions are clearly left to save the day as the Doctor is left sleeping. This was a great time to shine for both Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben (Michael Craze). The episode runs its course, but it is only after all hope is lost that the Doctor awakens for one last chance to save the day.
I’ll admit that it took a lot to get through this episode. There is something to be said about being raised on the quick cuts and faster paced TV Shows. I heard it once said that modern Doctor Who episodes pack too much music into an episode. I never really noticed this until I started watching older ones and there is barely any music at all. Perhaps that is to sell more soundtracks since practically every modern Doctor Who episode has one. I think, personally, it is more to keep the show moving, to keep both the thrill and story alive. Yet, this episode of Doctor Who, “The Tenth Planet”, had something no other episode I watched before had, animation!
As I mentioned before, not every episode of Doctor Who is available. Only recently were 9 episodes found. Well, those recent additions complete many episodes thus adding even more to the mythos Doctor Who. Yet some are still incomplete. What the BBC does have is audio recordings of the episodes. They have gone and hired an animation studio to recreate the lost visual footage, thus giving us the whole story. What happened here in “The Tenth Planet” was amazing. The pace picked up. The Cybermen became scary and William Hartnell found a vibrant energy. I have included a picture of the what the animation looks like (below). Think of a black and white version of Archer or The Venture Brothers and you’ll get the idea.
“The Tenth Planet” was a necessary episode of Doctor Who. It not only showcased the first regeneration, but introduced a villain that will remain with the Doctor for always. What I suggest is that the BBC release more of these animated episodes. They are chilling and creepy and the perfect mood for early Doctor Who.
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