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I have placed this particular review in the 'TV series' rather than the DVD section for two reasons. Firstly this story is part of a three story DVD pack and each story would receive a very similar review (with the exception of the brief plot) so I have concentrated on my favourite of the three and secondly so it is not confused with the awful film remake of the story.
This was the second story ever shown of Doctor Who. Whilst it is in black and white and the special effects are either very poor or non-existent this meant that the actual acting had to be better. For me the first Doctor played by William Hartnal was perhaps one of the better acted ones. Whilst this incarnation of the Doctor was seen as rather cantankerous, elderly, set in his ways and a bit of a fuss pot he still manages to be a gentleman. Here the Doctor is seen as rather serious and a million miles away from the rather round the twist incarnation of Tom Baker or the somewhat over the top David Tennant. (I have nothing against David Tennant's Doctor - he is my second favourite after Tom Baker). The fact that in this incarnation the Doctor is seen purely as a man of science and a deep thinker does provide a lot of the background to the overall character.
This story was originally shown between 21/12/1963 to 1/2/1964. Each of the 7 parts lasted about 30 min. The opening titles of the William Hartnal stories are a bit odd as out of the original run they were the only ones where the face of the doctor was not shown. This was done as they thought this would be 'too frightening for children'.
This particular story was re-made many years later as a film. As with most remakes it really did not work very well.
After having to leave pre-historic earth in rather a hurry (in the first story 'an unearthly child') the Doctor, Susan (his grand daughter), Barbara and Ian find themselves on a planet, and it isn't earth. Something just isn't right. The planet seams dead, vegetation like stone. So why is the city near by still standing?
They need to get to the city to find what the Doctor requires to fix the TARDIS, after all they will be quite safe as it will be deserted, won't it?
As they arrive at the city the truth about what happened here begins to reveal its self. Then the Doctor comes face to face with what will become a major problem to himself, and all his future selves as well.....
What I thought of it.
Whilst I did enjoy this particular story it won't be for everyone especially the younger fans of the series who have only seen the most recent series with the newest three Doctors. This is mainly as there are no explosions ever 5 minutes and it being in black and white probably won't help in getting the younger viewers either. The writing, however, I feel was much better than a lot of the recent run, it had to be, as there was little in the way of wiz bang special effects to detract from the poor scripts which became the norm in the late 80s to early 90s (Colin Baker era). We are also talking about the days before the infamous 'sonic screwdriver' as well.
The main part of this series is the fact it introduces what became the Doctors most well known enemy - the Daleks. Although it has to be said that Davros does not appear in this. Also we see their home planet of Skaro for the first time. The Daleks in this series are nothing like the most recent ones. The have even more restrictions on their movement and appear to be far too vulnerable to be as bigger threat as they became in later years. However, the fact that what we usually see is just an outer casing with the living Dalek inside is introduced here.
Whilst the sets are fairly basic and the automatic doors look like something Blue Peter knocked up from a cereal box and a few layers of tissue paper not to mention walls that wobble for me this added to the overall charm of the older series of the programme.
The acting in general from the main 4 characters is good I do feel that Carol Ann Ford (Susan) over acted various parts of the character and at times it was as if she was doing a first year production in a stage school. The part of Susan was brought in to start the companion idea of the Doctor. However, the reason they made the part the Doctors grand daughter was to stop people thinking of the Doctor as a 'dirty old man' for having a much younger female travelling companion.
The extras who were mainly playing the parts of the 'Thals' who were the other race on Skaro (other than the Daleks) in general do do a good job but again a small number who have speaking parts look like they are trying too hard not to look like extras and just over do the traits of the character.
The Doctor (William Hartnal)
William's Doctor was a pure man of science who always wanted to study everything. Whilst he does appear to be rather stand offish at first and not the most welcoming person he appears that he will stop at nothing to protect his grand daughter. Whilst the character is played as being a bit grumpy and very old fashioned the first Doctor is far better than some of the later ones. William does do a good job in the part and has a grasp on playing the Doctor as a bit forgetful older gentleman rather well. The fact that apparently William used to forget his lines possibly added to this.
Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian (William Russell):
They don't appear to be overly fond of the Doctor at this stage but it's probably not surprising as the Doctor had whisked them away from 1960s London without so much as a by-your-leave after they sort of forced their way into the TARDIS. The Doctor did this to protect his grand daughter who had been attending the school they both taught at. Ian proves himself to be the brave one of the foursome but will act first and think later, much to the Doctor's dismay at times. Barbara acts more of the voice of reason and appears to take on the roll of mother figure to Susan. The parts are respectively well acted and the do a good job as the first permanent companions to the Doctor.
Susan Ford (Carol Ann Ford):
Susan is the Doctors grand daughter, although very little is said about he actual parents. She is highly intelligent, well she is a time lord, but tends to, at times. Let her heart rule here head. Carol does act the part well most of the time but at times it appears that she struggles a bit playing a part younger than her real age.
Alydon (John Lee)
Alydon is introduced as one of the Thals who were the second race living on Skaro. After the war with the Daleks they became farmers. Alydon wants to help the four strangers who have arrived on Skaro and is willing to risk his life and the lives of his fellow Thals to do so. John does a good job in the part and overall it is possibly the best acted of the Thals who have a speaking role.
OK so the series is black and white and the special effects which have revived the recent run are not there but I find the acting in the older series in general to be far better. I did enjoy watching this old story form Doctor who and it is a rare story as it is complete. The BBC deleted many old series in a purge of old tapes in the 1970s and many series, or parts of series, were lost. It is worth watching just for the nostalgia but mainly for the back story of the Daleks.
As I obtained this via a DVD home rental by post I can't comment on the price, but the home rental may be the best way to view it first and the buy if you want to.
This series is available as a set of there DVDs along with the first ever story 'an unearthly child' and 'the edge of destruction'