Spearhead from Space
Episode / January 28, 2016

Aired 3 -24 January 1970 ‘Spearhead from Space’ is unquestionably one of the most important episodes in Doctor Who’s long history, tasked with introducing a new lead and cast and proving that a radically new format confined to modern-day Earth could work. Serving as a second pilot episode of sorts, this serial somehow manages to achieve everything that it sets out to do while remaining incredibly accessible to old and new fans alike. With Doctor Who never really receiving the budget to make alien worlds come to life all that successfully, producer Derrick Sherwin and script editor Terrence Dicks made the decision to have the Time Lords exile the Doctor to Earth after the conclusion to Patrick Troughton’s final The War Games, and the filming employed here certainly pays dividends in showing the comparatively modest but varying splendours of Earth. Of course, the Earth-based setting allows for an exploration of the intrinsic horrors of commonplace items, and ‘Spearhead from Space’ introduces the Autons and employs plastics and mannequins to achieve this to spectacular effect, the image of walking shop dummies being burned into the public consciousness and causing complaints of excessive violence and corruption. The idea of the very layout…

Planet of the Spiders
Episode , Reviews / January 28, 2016

Aired on: 4 May – 8 June 1974 ‘Planet of the Spiders’ brings to a close the Jon Pertwee era, offering a satisfying but far from flawless final adventure for the man who had seen Doctor Who through a major transition in 1970 and dominated screens for five seasons of adventures since. Although his final season has featured fewer UNIT-based stories, ‘Planet of the Spiders’ brings the organization back into the fray to provide a look back at so much of what has made Pertwee’s tenure so successful as well as to provide a heartfelt farewell. In a time before story arcs became commonplace, ‘Planet of the Spiders’ offers plenty of callbacks to previous episodes. Aside from the Brigadier and Benton being back as part of UNIT, Mike Yates returns to satisfactorily atone for earlier traitorous actions in ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs,’ Jo Grant gets mentioned as she returns the Doctor’s wedding present, and another immense chase scene featuring almost every vehicle imaginable occurs. Perhaps the programme has earned the right to indulge in its lead’s penchant for physicality and love of vehicles, but far too much time is spent with gratuitous action sequences that utlimately do not affect the…

The War Games
Episode / January 26, 2016

Aired 19 April – 21 June 1969 As the 1960s came to a close, Doctor Who found itself facing another crisis. Ratings had dropped significantly and Patrick Troughton had decided that his third year in the titular role would be his last. With the concept of a total change in appearance and attitude of the Doctor already established in ‘The Tenth Planet’- not fully fleshed out as the regeneration concept known today- a change in lead actor was certainly a viable solution to part of the issue. To save ratings, however, something more drastic was going to have to change, and the idea of exiling the Doctor to essentially modern-day Earth was established by the end of the Second Doctor’s era. Though ‘The War Games’ is absolutely the end of an era as it is the final episode to be shot in black and white and the final story for Troughton’s Doctor, Frazer Hines’s Jamie, and Wendy Padbury’s Zoe Heriot, it also has to justify the coming changes, and an introduction to the Doctor’s own race, the Time Lords, who put him on trial for his constant meddling in history forms that justification. However, jumping ahead to the introduction and…

The Power of the Daleks
Episode / January 25, 2016

Aired 5 November – 10 December 1966 Following the unprecedented recasting of the Doctor following William Hartnell’s harrowing departure from the role in ‘The Tenth Planet,’ ‘The Power of the Daleks’ is tasked with introducing and selling Patrick Troughton as the same character audiences have come to know and love. With the concept of regeneration still such a tremendous gamble, the story wisely brings back the Daleks to help ease the transition and to give a sense of familiarity amongst the turmoil. Wisely or not, the new Doctor is particularly unwilling to reveal any crucial information to help sell the concept of regeneration, and even his companions have trouble accepting the transformation despite witnessing it. Their doubt is further enhanced as the Doctor soon does very non-Doctor things such as dancing a jig, playing an instrument, and failing to check safety precautions. Yet after feeling his face and witnessing his old self appear in a reflection, Patrick Troughton quickly assumes command of the role and programme, the writing still trying to determine the personality of this new incarnation while seemingly more confident in giving a younger actor more heroic work to do. It’s clear from the start that the Second…

The Tenth Planet
Episode / January 25, 2016

Aired 8 – 29 October 1966 With the benefit of hindsight, it’s almost impossible to argue that there is a single more important episode in all of Doctor Who’s long history than ‘The Tenth Planet.’ Aside from introducing the Cybermen, the only alien foe to remotely approach the iconic Daleks in terms of popularity and design, it also gives a glimpse into what would become a staple for the foreseeable future of the franchise, the base under siege format. Most importantly of all, though, it introduces the concept of regeneration (or renewal as it was called at the time) as William Hartnell leaves his iconic role behind. As countless interviews and stories since there have revealed, William Hartnell was becoming increasingly ill and affected by arteriosclerosis, having more and more trouble both meeting the physical demands of the show and remembering his lines. A proud man, these faltering abilities also made him more irascible, and with the declining ratings of the programme a factor as well, the decision was made to bring in a new lead. Story editor Gerry Davis reasoned that, since the Doctor is not human, there is no reason that he might not have the ability to…

An Unearthly Child
Episode / January 25, 2016

Aired 23 November – 14 December 1963 Needing to set the stage, introduce the characters and allow their personalities to begin to show, and start shedding light on where the programme will go in the future, the first episode of any series is- by necessity- burdened with a degree of prologue, information, and initial intrigue. Reviewing ‘An Unearthly Child’ (which this four-story arc will be called despite the total difference of the last three episodes from the first) can be done in one of two ways, either taken in context as just the serial itself or taken as the foundation for what would become the longest-running science fiction series in history. The former approach will be taken, and ‘An Unearthly Child’ sets up the adventures of the Doctor and his companions wonderfully. The first of the four stories is set in 1963 London, the present day at the time of original broadcast. Very quickly we are introduced to Susan Foreman in class at Coal Hill School, and the mystery surrounding her quickly sets the events of the serial and series in motion. Two of her chummy teachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, label her as something of an outsider with…