I have been going through the whole Doctor Who series. I am a bit of completionist and so this was an appealing idea for me. Although considering how many of th early episodes for the first two doctors were lost it is rather frustrating.
Like many Americans my first real introduction to Doctor Who was the fourth doctor Tom Baker via PBS. Although in my case I was aware of Doctor Who much earlier. My father was one of the hosts on a weekly show called Sinister Cinema for the local ABC channel in Portland. Each Saturday Night they would play two movies of the horror, SF, or fantasy genre. I ended up doing some research for the show finding trivia and other information regarding the two movies that they could refer to during the show. A rather ideal job for me since I loved these genres and spending time in the library doing research was a bonus. So when Doctor Who and the Daleks was scheduled to be on I had my first look at this series. Unfortunately the movie with Peter Cushing as Doctor Who was not very good at all. Yet I did learn about the series that was such a phenomenon in Britain, but virtually unknown in the United States.
So Tom Baker’s Doctor Who is what I grew to associate with the series and came to greatly enjoy it. So now in my viewing I have watched the first 11 seasons and am finally arrived at the shows for the 4th Doctor. For the most part I have been getting the DVDs from Netflix, although they have some episodes for streaming. It is also not hard to find the same episodes at places like dailymotion.com.
Still looking back at these old shows has been a lot of fun. There was a lot I came to like about the first Doctor William Hartnell. Especially after he had grown into the part. The first episodes were rather rough, but you could tell when he really started to have fun with the part. I also liked the mix of characters. Usually with Doctor Who you have just the Doctor and the “companion”, the young women that accompanies the adventures. Occasionaly another male character would enter into the mix. With the first Doctor you had the “companion” along with another women and man. I thought this worked quite well as you had a steady core of characters that would interact and provide dramatic tension. Considering that the first Doctor was much older than subsequent Doctors, this larger group worked well for the stories. This allowed travel to different planets while having a core group of people. While you expect Doctor Who to be quite campy, the fight scenes involving William Russell who played the young man in the group were quite awful and clumsy. Still the stories were mostly good and there was lots of creativity involving costumes.
The second Doctor, Patrick Troughton was quite fun. But since so many episodes involving him were lost I did not really see him in the full context of the series. The transition from the 1st to 2nd Doctor via regeneration is lost including the first use of the sonic screwdriver. Still you could see from the episodes that survived is that he had lots of fun with the part. So it was nice to see him again in the episodes for “The Three Doctors” where the first three Doctors all appear and Troughton is especially involved. The number of traveling companions is now reduced, but to make up for more continuity of characters we now have UNIT headed by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and other recurring characters as part of UNIT.
The episodes for the third Doctor Jon Pertwee have been preserved and so it was nice to see full seasons involving him and to finally have the regeneration scene along with the transition involved. A quite enjoyable Doctor who made being a bit of a dandy work. His final series of episodes under the title of “Planet of the Spiders” was an excellent send off for him. I just totally enjoyed it and even though the spiders were as fake as can be, there was still something frightening about how they did the effects. Really they were portrayed as Daleks with eight legs since they had similar arrogance and tone in how they spoke. I suspect there was a rather purposeful homage to James Bond since the Doctor’s vehicles and chase scenes were quite reminiscent. In fact in the episode after this with Tom Baker they refer to James Bond. Pertree seems to have also introduced a Doctor much more capable at fighting.
So last night I watched the episodes for “Robot” which introduces Tom Baker as the forth Doctor. So I was happy to find that I was still delighted with his performance as the Doctor and can remember why I had previously so enjoyed his portrayal. There was a lot I liked in each of the preceding Doctors, but there was a wacky enthusiasm to his performance that was just perfect.
Watching him this time around he instantly reminded me of Harpo Marx in his looks and facials gestures. He even did a pocket prop gag like Harpo. A quick Google searched confirmed that a lot of people see this likeness. He has a different form of clownishness than Patrick Troughton. I always liked the sort of self-awareness of the campy style of the show by the actors in the show.
So who is my favorite Doctor Who? Well I kind of like them all, but certainly Tom Baker brings back fond memories. I have also seen the rebooted Doctor Who series when they started back up with the 9th Doctor. Although during the first year of Matt Smith as Doctor Who my DVR rebelled against me and decided not to record any new episodes on BBC America. So I guess I will get back to these shows after I watched all the old episodes and there are still a lot of older episodes to go.
Because so many of the first original series was lost, I’ve not tried to watch them though both the original and reboot are available to stream on Netflix. In fact, I’m rewatching the reboot now. (Why isn’t rewatching a word?) After your review, perhaps I’ll give those early seasons a try.
Thanks for sharing the love! I’m a fair bit older than you – I have watched continuously since 1970 – and have probably seen all the extant episodes at least once.
I very vaguely remember a few episodes with the First and Second Doctors – watched in black and white on one of those tiny, ubiquitous 13-inch portable TV’s we all had in 1970 in the college dorms. Our local PBS station carried the episodes – I think on Sunday nights. They were so amazing (but I can never shake the memory of that tiny spinning TARDIS on a string – one of the really awful special effects.) When Jon Pertwee, he of the ruffled shirt, the yellow flivver and the Venusian Akido martial arts moves, I was in love! He was brilliant.
But of course, the “real” Doctor was Tom Baker. HIs quirky humor, hearty laugh and flashes of insight became as signature as his jelly babies. I have to say some of my favorite episodes involved his complicated interactions and love/hate affair with Gallifrey and other Time Lords… something sadly missing from most of the rebooted series, since it began post Time Wars.
And of course, the Brigadier. None better. He was a great straight man for Pertwee and Baker… yes, those were the days. Some of the later Doctors were alternately endearing and aggravating… but when the show went off the air, I was bereft. Shows like “Red Dwarf” were some consolation and filled the bill a little for British sci-fi, but the Doctor’s dream never died.
The reboot – well, it has had its moments – and some episodes are truly worth watching over and over… but although I am still a passionate Whovian, I found Tennant and Smith a bit too young and lacking in the sophisticated brilliance of their older, wittier counterparts. With Capaldi, there are moments when I see the old Doctor – but the writing in his series is sometimes lacking. I long for the old days – with writers like Terry Nation… who really “got” the Whovian universe.
Again, thanks for the opportunity to revisit impressions of the show.