Doctor Who Reviews — The Tenth Planet

This is the last William Hart­nell story I’ll be review­ing for a while. One thing I confirmed while watch­ing so many of these older stories is that Hartnell’s Doctor is funda­men­tally differ­ent to all who come after him. While his incar­na­tion is essen­tial to setting up the mythos, in an odd way he’s not the Doctor.

The Tenth Planet is a good exam­ple of what I’m talk­ing about. On the one hand it’s essen­tially a base under siege story which is some­thing that Doctor Who still uses on occa­sion and used to rely on heav­ily due to budget constraints. On the other hand, the Doctor really isn’t the fulcrum of events. He is more a partic­i­pant than a manip­u­la­tor or agita­tor. A situ­a­tion made worse certainly due to Hartnell’s illness during episode 3.

The Tenth Planet is best known for two things. The first regen­er­a­tion (though it was not referred to as that for many years) and the first appear­ance of the Cyber­men. The ratio­nale for the planet Mondas’ appear­ance is hokey 60s scifi but if you put that aside there is defi­nitely some­thing chill­ing about the Cyber­men. About their brutal prac­ti­cal­ity and the alien look of them.

Admit­tedly the look is prim­i­tive. Hampered once again by that tiny budget. But the strong design elements shine through and you can see why they were brought back again and again. You can also see how much they lost over the years despite the improve­ments in their appear­ance.

The story is set in the “far future” of 1986 which is one of those Doctor Who time­line issues it’s best to just walk away from. But we don’t get to see much of the Earth mainly just the one snow bound base. The Cyber­men however are there in force. ANd it’s inter­est­ing to me that they were always rela­tively easy to destroy (lots of them are killed here).Their threat seems to be more sheer numbers and ruth­less­ness.

vlcsnap-2013-06-17-22h16m41s236The emotion­less of the Cyber­men is nicely contrasted by the oh so human self­ish­ness of General Cutler who devolves steadily from impa­tient to fool­ishly destruc­tive in his need to try and save his son. It’s a nice touch that isn’t over­played or hammered on.

Ben and Polly as rela­tively new compan­ions spend a fair amount of time cover­ing famil­iar terri­tory. I did find their voices and atti­tudes quite refresh­ing even so. Ben at least got some decent action, attempt­ing to fight Cyber­men and sabo­tag­ing a bomb. Polly on the other hand… well she made coffee!

William Hart­nell played the Doctor much as he always did. Alter­nately crotch­ety and scold­ing then giggling almost mani­cally. He does get a few moments of real moral author­ity here, but his absence in episode three sabo­tages that substan­tially.

And then there is the regen­er­a­tion. It’s played very differ­ently to all the others. There’s no heroic sacri­fice here. Instead it’s really just tacked on to the end. We don’t get any expla­na­tions for what’s happen­ing and it must have been a huge shock to view­ers at the time. But again, while it’s the first and thus impor­tant it doesn’t really feel like Doctor Who to me.

So all in all this story repre­sents the William Hart­nell era well both in its good and bad sides. I should note that the film for episode four is miss­ing and has been replaced by an animated version. While initially a little jarring moving from episode 3 to episode 4 I found I got used to it very quickly and the anima­tion while simple was extremely effec­tive. Much more so than the previ­ous method of photos to accom­pany the audio.

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of eoghann.com. You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?