Sunday, December 29, 2013

Classic Doctor Who Season One

I mentioned a this past week that I was watching the classic Doctor Who episodes. Harvey asked me to let him know if I found any redeeming qualities in them. After watching Season One, I'll give my impressions and perhaps answer his question.

I mentioned that I was only able to watch some episodes, since not all are available.

Turns out there are more of those than I thought. Hulu carries many episodes from the first season, but some episodes are missing from their lineup. Some, Hulu just doesn't carry (not sure why, but there's probably a good reason). Some simply no longer exist, after the tapes were destroyed. But, it seems, the Doctor Who world (that is, the shows legions of fans, not Gallifrey) won't let a silly thing like episodes not existing stop them.

Here's the deal. While Hulu carries 23 episodes from Season One, a total of 42 were made. Of those remaining 19 episodes, 10 exist, and 9 are lost/destroyed. But, I've watched them all. Kind of.

Turns out that DailyMotion has a lot of episodes available, including those missing-from-Hulu ten from Season One, plus two others that were reanimated by the BBC; those look like some of the Japanese cartoons you'll see on Adult Swim. That left seven missing episodes. Some fans have obtained the audio (the videos were destroyed, but audio tracks still exist) and made movies using stills from the missing episodes.

All that means I've now watched all 42 episodes from Season One.

To answer Harvey's question, I'm not sure if there are redeeming qualities. But, I find the show oddly appealing. It's a little silly at times, cheaply made like most TV from that era, particularly British shows. Some shows are played for laughs, others try to be serious.

One of the criticisms I read of The Reign of Terror series was that it expected the viewer to know some actual history about the French Revolution. And any show that treats the audience as if they're at least half-way intelligent can't be all bad.

In the first season, I learned why the TARDIS always looks like a Police Call box (the thingy that makes it change appearances to blend in with its surrounding broke after it landed in 1963 London), saw the Doctor's first encounter with the Daleks (I still they they look silly, with the plumber's helper coming out the front), heard him give a full name for himself ("John Smith," but he wasn't serious), and learned that the Aztecs spoke with British accents.

Redeeming qualities? Other than expecting the audience to have a little bit of sense, there's not much. But that, in and of itself, is head and shoulders above just about everything you see on TV today.

I'll watch at least another season of cheesy episodes. But, unless you really want to hear about it, I'll keep the reviews to myself.

For now, excuse me. I have a TARDIS to catch.


  1. remember that the original intention of the show was to be an educational show about history. The format was supposed to be for The Doctor to take the kids back into history so that the audience could learn history. the format didn't evolve into pure sci fi until later.

  2. blarg:
    I had understood the same thing. However, only 17 of 38 episodes (after the introductory 4) dealt with history on earth: Marco Polo (7), The Aztecs (4), and The Reign of Terror (6). They did more non-historical content in the first season than historical. That surprised me, based on my original understanding of the show.

    Maybe they sold it that way, but they sure didn't adhere to it very strongly.

  3. I like how was actively trying to kill off his companions in the first dalek series

  4. @1: Thanks for that info. Makes the motivation of the show (at its outset) finally clear to me.

    (I always wondered, did they say "Let's start a show with a plot with no beginning and no end, not even dependent on its main character's actor!" -- would have qualified as genius.)

    Never was a fan. Seemed they (like Obama) chose to embrase plausible deniability: when a plot got too silly, they could fall back on, "Oh, we were only playing around this time; don't always take us seriously."

    And I can never take jumpsuits seriously on anyone but sky-divers.

  5. Oppo:

    They didn't wear jumpsuits in the first season. The original Doctor dressed in 19th century clothing, while his companions dressed as 1960s school teachers (Ian and Barbara) or as a 1963 school student (Susan). The first season (and the second, so far) isn't at all like I remember the Tom Baker or Peter Davison shows I saw on PBS in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Not saying it's better or worse, just different.

  6. Thank you for that. Knowing about why it's a police call box actually makes me feel a LOT better about the show.

    By all means please continue posting reviews and/or random factoids.

    My feeling about the show is that it was an intriguing concept, poorly executed. If you save me hours of my life by sharing the intriguing parts without me having to actually sit through hours of tedious scenery-panning and walking scenes, I would take it as a kindness.

  7. Yes, PLEASE post your reviews. I'm in the same proverbial boat as Harvey.

  8. as you get into the later seasons, you'll discover some written by Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman

  9. oh...and if you've never seen Red Dwarf or Hyperspace, check those out. :)

  10. @9 - I tried getting into Red Dwarf, but after a few episodes... it just seemed like they had intriguing concepts & characters, but the writers didn't have the talent to do interesting things with them, so I gave up

  11. The reason the Aztecs spoke with British accents is because the TARDIS translates alien languages in and outside of the TARDIS, watch the episode 'The Fires Of Pompeii'.

  12. Basil, please do post the reviews. You don't have to write one for every episode, but maybe summarize things every 5 episodes. Or perhaps just point out the parts that you find interesting.

  13. […] venture into the world of Doctor Who (explained here) continued into the second season. I was under the weather in the days after Christimas, and spent […]


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