Wednesday, September 6, 2023

First Doctor Revisited: "The Tenth Planet"

I couldn’t finish off the era of the First Doctor without highlighting his exit. So join me and some of my random thoughts from when I watched “The Tenth Planet.”

It was an interesting dynamic, how this story was somewhat Doctor-lite (an interesting contrast to future regeneration episodes). We know why this was, of course, as it’s the same reason regeneration was thought up in the first place. With Hartnell’s health failing, it makes sense that he was absent from chunks of the story. Kind of like how the Doctor was silenced and turned invisible during his encounter with the Toymaker. Compare this to all the Doctor-lite and companion-lite stories of the first Russell T. Davies era. Again, an interesting dynamic to kind of downplay the Doctor’s role. Heck, he didn't really do anything to defeat the Cybermen. They kind of defeated themselves. 

Despite being their first appearance of many, the Cybermen made only minor appearances. I suspect it may have been because of budget constraints or complexity of special effects. They'd go on in future appearances to be one of the most fearsome villains, but in this story couldn’t even go near radiation without human assistance. We didn’t even get any human Cyber-conversions. They alluded to conversion, but none of our humans fell victim to the process. Whether due to budget, special effects, or the imagination of the writers, nothing slowed down the Cybermen. They’d just keep on upgrading and becoming scarier until as recently as “The Power of the Doctor.” And you can bet RTD will bring them back at some point again.

Even though the Cybermen were absent at times, there was still a villain present. Sometimes that villain was the human race. Isn’t that just like Doctor Who? You have this villainous and scary looking alien/robot, but along the way the human race does something stupid that threatens the lives of innocents. Even almost 60 years ago, the Doctor wouldn’t stand for that. Thankfully the human race survived itself back then in the 80s or we wouldn’t be here talking about it today.

And then of course we have the regeneration sequence. The first of many. But modern Who fans ought to also remember an episode that takes place in the moments before the Doctor enters the TARDIS at the end of this episode. Of course, I’m referencing “Twice Upon a Time” when the First Doctor teams up with the Twelfth Doctor. I wrote about this story when it first aired. Maybe it was because there was no enemy alien present in the story, just the two Doctors, but it gave a greater depth to the First Doctor as a character. He’d grown so much since Ian and Barbara forced their way in and now he was forced to change again.

So I guess that concludes the First Doctor era (at least in blog form–we got some First Doctor coming in the podcast). Until we see the First Doctor again, I’ll finish with a line from Thirteen’s regeneration: “Tag, you're it!”

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