Three old doctors

Having gotten caught up on the current season of Doctor Who on Amazon, I’ve lately been watching some old episodes… much older. I started watching the old program back in the days of the fourth Doctor (Tom Baker). Before this week I don’t think I’d ever seen a complete serial, and maybe not even a complete episode, from the time of either of the first two Doctors (William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton). I sort of thought I’d seen at least part of the first serial, “An Unearthly Child”, but when I watched it a few days ago I found it rang no bells at all, so I guess I hadn’t. I watched that and “The Aztecs”, and from Troughton’s tenure “Tomb of the Cybermen” and just the last episode of his last serial, “The War Games”.

That was about enough of that. It’s remarkable how really, really bad the show was in its earliest years. It was originally intended as a children’s show but that’s no excuse. The writing, the acting, the direction, the costumes, the camera work and editing, all awful. And let’s not even get started on the special effects. I do like a lot of the music, though. Lots of analog electronics and bass/contrabass clarinets, good stuff! It wasn’t used well but it was good. So how did the show survive — was everything else on the BBC just as bad? I don’t know.

By the time of the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, I think things were generally much improved. Being in color helped, too. I think I’ve probably seen one or a couple of Pertwee serials, maybe. (And one of the high points of my first trip to England in 1989 was seeing Pertwee starring in a live Doctor Who stage play in Oxford. With Daleks!) I decided it’s now time I went through all of them, so I’ve started doing that.

Once I’m done I’d like to revisit the whole fourth Doctor run.

I stopped watching Doctor Who (until the new program that started in 2005) sometime before the end of the fifth Doctor’s (Peter Davison’s) time. I didn’t like him as well as Baker and I had other things to occupy my time — this was back before I even had a VCR, let alone streaming video on demand, so I had to watch it when it was on or not at all. Maybe eventually I’ll catch up on him and the later Doctors too. What the heck, that’s only about 20 years of broadcasts to get through.

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24 thoughts on “Three old doctors

  1. Now watching “The Time Warrior”, which managed to introduce Sarah Jane Smith, the Sontarans, and “Gallifrey” as the name of the Timelords’ planet. Quite the landmark episode, in other words. Written, naturally, by a Holmes.

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  2. Dec 29, done with “Planet of the Daleks” and Season 11 (which, incidentally, was probably the worst of the Pertwee seasons). That’s it for Pertwee.

    Jan 1, done with Season 12 except for “Genesis of the Daleks” to be caught up with later.

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  3. Season 15 down. Leela farewell. From this point I’m mostly dependent on Netflix DVDs which may slow things down a little, or maybe not. (I restarted our DVD plan for this.) Though the first two serials of Season 16 are available for streaming…

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  4. Finished season 24 the other day. I’ve been keeping my Netflix queue very short, to avoid having them send me episodes far out of sequence, but as of today I have season 25 in my hands or in the mail, season 26 in the queue or available for streaming, and the 1996 TV movie in the queue. After that… might as well start new series, season 1. Streaming, so I can stop my DVD subscription again.

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  5. And that’s it for Season 26, for the Seventh Doctor, and for Classic Doctor Who (from the Third Doctor on). Took a while. This is because it was hardly compelling viewing. Some of the last season serials were among the most incoherent mishmashes I’ve ever seen. It’s like each serial was cobbled together out of five or six completely unrelated ideas, none of which the writers had a clue how to turn into a compelling or even comprehensible story.

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