Thursday, September 24, 2009

The First Ten Doctors: An Introduction

And Pretty Doctors All in A Row

**Author's Note: I had planned to review the Doctor Who catalog on this site, but given the sheer number of stories I opted to spin-off those reviews to a separate site: Gallifrey Exile. As such, readers will find reviews may hop from one site to another. Reviews are collected at a link at the end of this essay. Also, this essay was updated on January 2021.

Now we come to the end of this brief sojourn into the First Ten Doctors. 

Who is the Best Who? Who is the best Actor to have played the role? What are the best Doctor Who stories? 

I don't like those questions. Each version, in my view, brought his own interpretation to the role, and each one has one perfect story. William Hartnell, who originated it, to be fair didn't have the burden of comparing his performance with anyone else. As we look back though, we can compare him and his stories to those of his successors. 

Patrick Troughton brought humor. 
Jon Pertwee brought action.
Tom Baker brought alien eccentricity.
Peter Davison brought a greater compassion and innocence.
Colin Baker brought outrageous egocentricity. 
Sylvester McCoy brought righteous anger.
Paul McGann brought a greater romanticism.
Christopher Eccleston brought a manic moodiness.
David Tennant brought a touch of wistfulness.

Since the original posting, we've had three more Doctors.

Matt Smith brought naïveté slipping to stupidity.
Peter Capaldi brought a menace to dark danger.
Jodie Whitaker brought nothing.
Now, each has his detractors and defenders, but all I think did the best their talents allowed them to, with varying degrees of success. Colin Baker and Peter Capaldi were good Doctors stuck with lousy scripts, yet they did their best. 

We can argue about individual stories, but that is another matter. Ultimately, Doctor Who the program will continue, or at least I thought so. Now with the dual damage Whitaker and showrunner Chris Chibnall has done, I think Doctor Who 2.0 is done. Even with a new Doctor on the horizon, the damage has already been done. Even if Whitaker had made the role her own versus coming across as a bad Tennant/Smith cosplayer, I find that Chibnall has given her such a succession of terrible stories that no actress could have rescued the Doctor.

It's all such a shame, all this to placate a group of people who didn't have an interest in the show and didn't bother sticking around once they'd accomplish their great triumph. I gave Her a chance, but even if the Doctor had maintained being a man I would have thought such awful stories.

In the future, I hope to write reviews on the stories themselves, but I can wait. I hope to have more time.  

Looking back twelve years later, I think I have the time. 

What I don't have is the interest.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Eleventh Doctor: An Introduction

The Eleventh Doctor:
Matt Smith (Born 1982)

**Author's Note: I had planned to review the Doctor Who catalog on this site, but given the sheer number of stories I opted to spin-off those reviews to a separate site: Gallifrey Exile. As such, readers will find reviews may hop from one site to another. Reviews are collected at a link at the end of this essay. Also, this essay was updated on January 2021.

Ah, to be young and naïve.

At the time I wrote this essay, I had great hopes for the newest Doctor. I wrote: 

"I am looking forward to Matt Smith's tenure as The Doctor even though I've never seen him act or heard his voice. Colin Baker had an excellent point about regeneration. You don't want Your Doctor to go, he said, but you're also excited because you wonder what The Next Doctor will be like (pun intended). 

The change from Hartnell to Troughton brought a different Doctor, as did the change to Pertwee, Tom Baker, Davison, Colin Baker, McCoy, McGann, Eccleston and Tennant. Each made it his own, and I hope Smith will do the same.

Tom Baker also made an interesting point. The Doctor, he said, is actor-proof. You could take an established character and make him your own. Each of the Doctors has done so, so why is Smith any different? It will depend on the scripts and the willingness of the public to accept one in the role.

For my part, I'm hoping for great things, and wishing Matt Smith well".

Now, looking back a good ten years since his debut story, I can see so many things that should have told me this was going to be the beginnings of a disaster. 

One thing I had not counted on was the emotional impact that having Tenth Doctor David Tennant regenerate to Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith would have on NuWho fans. I saw wails of tears from many fans at the transformation. This counters Colin Baker's view that fans usually are generally excited to see what the Next Doctor would do and be like.

Instead, I saw a fandom that could not tolerate change, that was dreading rather than looking forward to another actor in the role. Things only got worse when Smith would eventually regenerate to Capaldi. The regeneration was transformed from a somewhat routine but non-dramatic moment into this epic change requiring explosions and long, dramatic monologues. 

How could fans be so simple? I'd seen many regenerations, and only once did I actually cry. That was the regeneration from Third to Fourth, and it had nothing to do with my unwillingness to see Pertwee become Tom Baker. It had to do with Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen's actual acting. 

Another problem that I did not foresee was in how diminished the character would become. There's eccentric and then there's stupid. Smith's Doctor not only passed that line but smashed it beyond anything imaginable. In a future post, I was pretty positive about Smith but did warn that "he the risk of going too far in the comedic take", and I found that such fears would come to pass. The Eleventh Doctor became stupider and stupider. His fixations with fezes and bow ties, as well as his growing inability to function with a hint of sense, made him an object of ridicule. In short, a joke.

The Doctor could be eccentric, but Smith's version eventually came across as a near-total nitwit. 

Add to that how other characters eclipsed him. At times, The Doctor became a guest star on his own program, the dominant figures being the bossy Amy Pond and the Legendary Legend of Legendness Herself, River Song. First, we see with Amy just how stupid The Eleventh Doctor became. After centuries of dealing with humans, why did this Doctor think that Amy's husband Rory Williams was "Rory Pond", insisting that men took on their wives' names? Some men do, but fandom's insistence on calling the "The Ponds" when Rory was never a Pond was eye-rolling.

In Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, Rory's father made it a point to say "I AM NOT A POND!" to an either oblivious or downright imbecilic Doctor. Smith's Doctor went from frantic to dysfunctional. 

Worse, there was River Song. Granted, I had missed her debut story but soon River not only started appearing more and more prominent in other stories but went from a guest character to the almost de facto star. She was built up as this great figure with her catchphrases "Hello, Sweetie" and "Spoilers!", who not only knew how to pilot the TARDIS better but ridiculed the Doctor for "leaving the parking brake on". It was beyond cringe-inducing.

River Song eventually not only became the child of Amy and her husband "Mr. Pond" but managed to regenerate herself because she was conceived by the power of the Holy TARDIS. I don't know what the motivation was to diminish the lead character to celebrate a minor, obnoxious insignificant one, but it was a terrible mistake. This would not stop with Amy or her daughter, but with Clara Oswald, another obnoxious Companion know-it-all who somehow became this most important of figures.

She told the First Doctor which TARDIS to take, despite the TARDIS saying she select him in The Doctor's Wife, a title later reserved for River Song.  A total mess.

Finally, I saw a group of absolutely dreadful stories: the aforementioned DOAS, A Town Called Mercy, Closing Time, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

I left the Matt Smith Era so bitterly disillusioned, and grew disenchanted with Smith's portrayal. 

Oh, but little did I know...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Tenth Doctor: An Introduction

The Tenth Doctor:
David Tennant (Born 1971)

**Author's Note: I had planned to review the Doctor Who catalog on this site, but given the sheer number of stories I opted to spin-off those reviews to a separate site: Gallifrey Exile. As such, readers will find reviews may hop from one site to another. Reviews are collected at a link at the end of this essay. Also, this essay was updated on January 2021.

My mother never understood my love of Doctor Who. She thought it was a stupid show and made it a point to tell me as such. She would also add that being ugly was a prerequisite to play the Doctor...with one exception. After looking at David Tennant, she decided he was halfway decent-looking. 

This seems to be the consensus: that David Tennant is perhaps one of the most attractive men to play the role. In retrospect, a good fifteen years separated from his debut story, Tennant's physical appeal and crafting the Doctor as an object of romantic yearning, even physical desire, may have been a mistake. The romanticism and lust factors may have been both a blessing and a curse to the show. He was certainly swoon-worthy to many a fangirl and fanboy, but could Tennant's looks have been the catalyst for creating whole seasons where every Companion save Donna fell in love with him?

He was perhaps the most romantic of Doctors, one that loved sweeping in to rescue damsels in distress (case in point, The Girl in the Fireplace). Oftentimes, it was suggested that he fell in love to those women he encountered (the aforementioned Girl in the Fireplace, Doomsday, Forest of the Dead). This goes against the Third Doctor Jon Pertwee's view that there should be even a hint of romance between the Doctor and his Companions. 

I think that was a good policy, to make The Doctor a mentor not a lover, someone who in Pertwee's words was fond of his Companions but that fondness is different from desire. However, perhaps Tennant's good looks and easy manner made him too hard to resist. It now makes me wonder whether the emphasis on romance shifted Doctor Who from a good, family science-fiction show into a space soap opera: Lust in Space if you like. 

Perhaps this is why, in the future, the then 34-year-old Tennant was succeeded by the even younger Matt Smith, to continue making The Doctor not into an intellectual hero but an object of worship and erotic fixation. That may explain why when the much older Peter Capaldi came around, more than a few fans objected to not having that romantic, swooning figure but a crotchety old man.

Tennant's looks are not his fault, and he showed himself to be a fine actor and one of the best Doctors. However, with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps the focus shifted from "The Doctor" to "David Tennant", and in the same way Classic Who never fully recovered once Tom Baker left, NuWho has yet to hit the heights the Tennant Era had. 

At the time, I thought David Tennant was a welcome change from Christopher Eccleston. This isn't to say the latter was terrible, but he was a terribly unhappy Doctor. Tennant, on the other hand, is for the most part quite jolly. He has a touch of Troughton: a sense of wonder about the things going on around him. He gets Pertwee's ability to be authoritative, even a bit bossy when the need arises. Tennant also brings something of Davison's vulnerability to the role. This is informed by the fact that The Doctor's home world of Gallifrey is supposed to have been destroyed. While he is a happier Doctor than Eccleston, Tennant can also rage like the best of them.

As I revisit this essay a good twelve years later, I can now confess that I was like many a NuWho fan too enthralled with the show to be analytical. I let my emotions carry me, until Love & Monsters

Love & Monsters shook me from my fever dream of thinking every Doctor Who episode was brilliant. I was angry at how insulting it was to the fanbase. I was horrified at the oral sex joke, one that left me so stunned I had to watch that part just to be sure I had heard what I had heard. It was an ugly, ugly episode, one so horrifying and hideous I essentially quit watching Doctor Who right then and there. I skipped Fear Her out of protest (which I have since seen and thought it too was awful), stumbled through Army of Ghosts Parts I & II, then stopped watching altogether. 

That's how awful I thought it was. The association was simply too awful for me to have anything to do with it. I also thought the battle between the Daleks and the Cybermen was not all it could have been. All the pity. I did think his first season (Series Two) was overall quite good.

It wasn't until Matt Smith took over that I decided to give Doctor Who another try. When he handed over Smith. I hoped for great things.

I was, sadly, unprepared for that Legendary Legend of Legendness, River Song, but that's for next time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Ninth Doctor: An Introduction

The Ninth Doctor:

Christopher Eccleston (Born 1964)

**Author's Note: I had planned to review the Doctor Who catalog on this site, but given the sheer number of stories I opted to spin-off those reviews to a separate site: Gallifrey Exile. As such, readers will find reviews may hop from one site to another. Reviews are collected at a link at the end of this essay. Also, this essay was updated on January 2021.

I was very excited when Doctor Who was revived in 2005. So excited that I cajoled a friend of mine to let me watch it at his house since I didn't have cable or satellite. I believe my faith is justified.

Christopher Eccleston's Doctor is in a word: manic. He seems in a hurry to get things done. If the storyline is to be believed, Gallifrey no longer exists. His home world has been destroyed, with him the only survivor. This would make him more dour than his predecessors, and while Eccleston's performance shows him to be angrier, he also does allow some goofiness to come through. 

There is a tinge of regret to him, as if a shadow will always be with him, haunting him perpetually. He also oddly seems to be the most "regular guy" Doctor. There's no air of sophistication or culture that the Third or Fifth Doctor had. Instead, he seems like just a bloke who happens to be a Time Lord.

This might explain that chip on his shoulder he seems to carry, as if he's always worried someone will look down on him. He has a Northern accent, which distinguishes him from all other Doctors and reinforces that outsider status. Perhaps to the class-conscious British this might be an issue of concern.

The Ninth Doctor's anger also seems to find more comfort with violence than McCoy's. He has no problem being vengeful, downright evil, with the 'last' Dalek. He goes so far as to threaten to kill him. Yes, it was to save his Companion Rose Tyler, but it still is a marked departure for someone who used to rail against violence to solve things. Perhaps this was a manifestation of the actor himself, who left the series after one season. I don't know what his plans in relation to Doctor Who are, but he seems to be taking a page from Tom Baker: respect but a wary distance.

Now, with the new series there is a change. Rather than having two-to-four part stories, each story is an individual episode with one or two exceptions. Out of the stories in his tenure, the best to my mind is Dalek. It finally makes the Daleks the terrifying creatures they could be. I also thought The Unquiet Dead (where he meets Charles Dickens, brilliantly played by Simon Callow), and Father's Day were well-written and executed. I really don't think there was a bad episode in the bunch.

Now that I've had well over a decade to reflect on NuWho, I think Eccleston has been wildly underrated. He brought a mix of mirth and menace to the role, both goofy and frightening. I think in retrospect that his costume worked well: the leather jacket and overall black ensemble showed him to both working-class and dark.

The teaming of the Ninth with Billie Piper's Rose was a mix between romantic and friendship. If memory serves correct I don't think the romance was built up to the extent it would be in the future, and perhaps if Eccelston had stayed on it would have been tapered down.

I also think that my wild enthusiasm was perhaps an emotional rather than intellectual reaction, for as good as I think some of the stories are, I cannot recall any of them with great detail apart from The Unquiet Dead and The Empty Child Parts 1 & 2. The "farting aliens" perhaps should have been a sign that things were not as I imagined them, and while Captain Jack Harkness made for a good guest character, his eventual dominance in Who lore may have been a mistake.

On the whole, I think well of Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor, mercurial as both character and actor are. Time has softened my love of Series/Season One, but that is for another day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Eighth Doctor: An Introduction

The Eight Doctor:
Paul McGann (Born 1959)

**Author's Note: I had planned to review the Doctor Who catalog on this site, but given the sheer number of stories I opted to spin-off those reviews to a separate site: Gallifrey Exile. As such, readers will find reviews may hop from one site to another. Reviews are collected at a link at the end of this essay. Also, this essay was updated in January 2021.

With Paul McGann as The Doctor, it's impossible to give a fair analysis. He appeared as The Doctor only once on screen, and that is not available in the United States*. Instead, I will give my impressions of McGann based on my memories of the Doctor Who TV movie.

I was very excited about seeing Doctor Who again, and eagerly started to watch. As the show went on, I started losing interest. Eventually, I did the unthinkable: I switched it off. I like to think that was the beginning of my starting to grow up, leaving aside childish things. Still, it would be nice to have it available if only for completion's sake.

Now, what I do remember about McGann's Doctor is actually quite positive. He seemed more eager for adventure, and more eager to defeat his arch-nemesis The Master once and for all. He also appears frankly less angry than the Seventh Doctor, though not as jolly as the Second. He gave me the impression that he should take part in the affairs of others because it would be interesting.

What I didn't like was the suggestion of romance between the Doctor and his newest Companion, Dr. Grace Holloway (although I think the reports that he kissed her passionately are exaggerated. I don't doubt he did, but I think it was out of joy of remembering who he was than out of an erotic desire).

Less disturbing than this idea of a romance between a Doctor and his Companion is him saying he's half-human. BLASPHEMY, I SAY! There was never anything to suggest he was anything other than what he was for twenty-six years: an alien being, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. Why this was done is irrelevant, the fact that it was done at all was disastrous. I prescribe it to post-regeneration trauma, not to any sense that this is the actual truth.

In retrospect, and with the benefit of hindsight, things become clear. The "half-human" bit was to try and start the show afresh. However, the idea was a bad one from the get-go: it alienated and angered longtime fans without bringing in new ones. It also would become a point of contention in the fanbase. Was the "half-human" story element Canon? Was McGann's version even Canon?

There are three schools when it comes to the Eight Doctor.  The first is that he is Canon, part of the chain that stretches from William Hartnell.  The second is that he is not Canon and can be ignored.  The third is that he is the last of Canon, with everyone following him being non-Canon.

My view is this: he is Canon.  Sylvester McCoy, whom no one questions as Canon, appeared as the Doctor prior to McGann's regeneration.  Since McCoy regenerated to McGann, he is Canon.

As I think on Paul McGann, I think he would have made for a great Doctor. He seemed a mix of romantic and naïve, childlike and wise old soul. He was simply not given a good shot, and that will always be a terrible shame. While he's done audio stories, it is a shame that he never got a chance to complete a series on his own. I hope that the new series will allow him to make a reappearance in the role of the Eight Doctor. It would be a sign of respect. 

Ultimately, the Eight Doctor is the one I know the least, through no fault on either side.

Next, The Ninth Doctor: An Introduction

Visit Here for Eight Doctor Review

*Update: In 2011 the Doctor Who TV Movie, also known as The Enemy Within, was released on DVD in North America. In 2013 McGann reprised the role of the Eighth Doctor in the mini-episode The Night of The Doctor, his first (and as of 2021 his last) on-camera appearance as The Doctor since the TV movie.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Seventh Doctor: An Introduction

The Seventh Doctor:
Sylvester McCoy (Born 1943)

**Author's Note: I had planned to review the Doctor Who catalog on this site, but given the sheer number of stories I opted to spin-off those reviews to a separate site: Gallifrey Exile. As such, readers will find reviews may hop from one site to another. Reviews are collected at a link at the end of this essay. Also, this essay was updated on January 2021.

Sylvester McCoy once beat out perennial winner Tom Baker as the favorite Doctor. I can see why. Like the first Baker and Troughton, he has the eccentricity and whimsy of their versions. Like Hartnell and Pertwee, he can bring a darkness and mystery to the part. He also is the first Doctor to have a faint hint of an accent (Scottish), all which combined to make his tenure a good one. His was the last of the original series, and he made it an elegant swan song.

McCoy has been the Doctor who, to my mind, has been both the angriest and the biggest pacifist. He abhors violence and avoids it at almost all costs. However, he is bent on striking out against those who would do violence. He may appear foolish, but he wasn't. I always got the sense that while he still like humans he had grown tired of our inability to resolve things with dialogue. The "Shoot First, Ask Questions Later" mindset was one he constantly goes against, and he is genuinely angry at injustice of any kind.
When it came to his companions, he still had Mel whom I abhor, but then found Ace whom I love. Ace, a troubled girl with deep family issues, found in the Doctor (or Professor to her) if not a father figure at the least a good uncle. On occasion, he could put her through a lot, but it was always with her best interests in mind. Perhaps this was his way of seeing that there was still some stubborn hope in these Tellurians. That perhaps, was the best message McCoy's Doctor could give us.


Alas, it was here when the show was put on "hiatus", one that lasted twelve years give or take. Doctor Who was never officially cancelled, but for all intents and purposes it had run its twenty-six year run. McCoy, unlike Colin Baker, was never blamed for the show's end, another credit to how well he did in the role. 

It was unfortunate that the de facto cancellation came at that time since the show was finally finding its way back. The costume was at least rational, and the stories were improving. Remembrance of the Daleks brings the series almost full circle, returning to Coal Hill, the school where the show had begun. I especially love The Curse of Fenric, which to my mind is not just among the best the series made but the last great story of the original era. It's one of the few to elicit in me a reaction of fear and suspense. 

Of the ones available now as of this writing, Ghost Light was one I did not understand at all. Not one bit. I'd put that one as the worst.

Stories available: Remembrance of the Daleks, Battlefield, Ghost Light, The Curse of Fenric, and the ironically titled final story of the original series, Survival. Delta and the Bannermen was released in September.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Sixth Doctor: An Introduction

The Sixth Doctor:
Colin Baker (Born 1943)

**Author's Note: I had planned to review the Doctor Who catalog on this site, but given the sheer number of stories I opted to spin-off those reviews to a separate site: Gallifrey Exile. As such, readers will find reviews may hop from one site to another. Reviews are collected at a link at the end of this essay. Also, this essay was updated on January 2021.

Actor Brian Blessed, who guest starred on Doctor Who in a part specially written for him, commented in The Doctors: 30 Years of Time Travel & Beyond, about Colin Baker's interpretation of The Doctor. "With Colin", he said, "I got the sense that he hadn't made up his mind how he was going to play it". Baker would, Blessed observed, pursue one avenue of interpreting the role halfway and then pull back. This seems as apt a description of Baker's tenure as any I've heard.

Colin Baker was not the worst Doctor on Doctor Who. If you see his guest starring performance in the Fifth Doctor story Arc of Infinity, you see he could be quite menacing. Perhaps this is what persuaded Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner to cast him, though I've also heard JNT found Baker personally witty and funny. If he had a strong producer to guide him, he could have been quite a dangerous Doctor, bringing a touch of menace to the role. 

God Bless John Nathan-Turner, but he was not that kind of producer.

Let me state that JNT deserves credit for keeping the show alive as long as he did. However, he did infinite damage to the show by making some awful decisions. However, we can't avoid that fact that Baker should have been more forceful to JNT. He should have also taken greater charge of his interpretation of the character.

It wasn't Baker's fault alone. He was the unfortunate recipient of the WORST costume in the series' history (and that's saying a lot). The eccentric wardrobes of Tom Baker and Davison now degenerated into a laughable patchwork that made Colin Baker look like Ronald McDonald's illegitimate son. It might have been done with the best of intentions, but to a first-time viewer, it only has the effect of making him look ridiculous, a figure of ridicule than of interest. 

That awful decision doomed Baker before he even began. JNT might have thought he was being clever, enhancing the Sixth Doctor's arrogance, egocentrism and pompousness. Instead, he undercut the character by turning him into a joke. Here is a good example of how actor and producer were at loggerheads, with producer being so wildly wrong.

To emphasize the Sixth Doctor's menace, Baker suggested an all-black suit. Nathan-Turner rejected the idea, deciding to go for the most garish outfit possible. The frustrated costume designer, fed up with Nathan-Turner's constant rejections for her designs, created the multi-patch coat as a joke. To her horror, JNT loved it. Poor Baker, realizing what a hideous outfit he'd have to wear, managed to sneak in a cat pin as his sole contribution.

There is simply no way to underplay how awful the Sixth Doctor's costume is. It should serve as a textbook example of how one poor decision can create a mess that no amount of good writing or acting can save. 

You can't take the character seriously if he's wearing the silliest of costumes. Tragically, only Nathan-Turner didn't see until far too late what damage he'd caused by his obstinacy.  

It brings to mind what Milton Berle once said. Suppose someone comes out in a funny costume, Uncle Miltie stated. You get a laugh for a few moments, but then what? You've got to carry on with the scene, and now you have to work the funny costume into the act. When you are suppose to have a serious character, you can't accept the insanity of the outfit and take things seriously. 

Another unfortunate circumstance that Baker faced was falling ratings. The BBC held the bizarre idea that the reason viewership was dropping was Colin Baker himself. It wasn't the poor stories he had. It wasn't the almost insane idea to start Baker's tenure with the Doctor attempting to murder his Companion (albeit in a state of post-regeneration confusion). It wasn't the slashed budget that caused the already wonky sets and effects to look ghastly.

No, according to the wise folks at the BBC, it was solely the lead actor's fault. Colin Baker got the rawest of raw deals: lousy costume, bad scripts, oddball producer, small budget and while trying desperately to make things work getting the blame on top of all that.

When the BBC actually spent money on the show, the results are still extraordinary. Take for example the opening of the season-long The Trial of A Time Lord (aka Episode One of The Mysterious Planet). Even by today's standards, it's spectacular. In fact, I thought the first minute, with its camera movement over a spaceship and the TARDIS being taken into it, had been remade for the DVD release using 21st-Century computer generated effects.

I was stunned to discover that nothing had been altered in that sequence. It is proof positive that if the budget had been increased it would have rescued The Doctor far more than Doctor in Distress, an embarrassing We Are the World-type song that is still perhaps the lowest point in connection with the series. Doctor in Distress remains one of the oddest moments in attempts to save a show. The sight of an openly contemptuous Anthony Ainley (The Master) and a slightly bemused, slightly perplexed Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) "singing" is frankly quite sad. 

In retrospect, it's unfair that Baker got the blame and the boot for the low ratings and dreadful stories, which were completely out of his control.  He did the best he could under difficult circumstances, and got nothing but grief over it.

Finally, Baker was saddled with perhaps the two worst Companions in the series' history. Peri (full name Perpegilliam) Brown is a good idea on paper: the first American Companion. To her credit Nicola Bryant's American accent is good. However, Nathan-Turner's obsession with exotic names sinks her character, and she really isn't given a chance to do much except run around in skimpy outfits. True, she was there for "eye candy", but it is amusing that the openly gay Nathan-Turner had a fixation on showcasing Peri's physical attributes.

Peri Brown, whatever her faults, could at least be endured.

Not so Melanie (Mel) Bush. Even as a child I hated her. To this day I still loath her. Brainless vapid twit. She exemplified the worst caricature of a Companion. My only memories of her are of her SCREAMING. A LOT. SCREAMING ONLY AND ALWAYS.

I hated her. I hated her looks, I hated her voice, I just hated her. What do I mean, 'hated'? I STILL HATE HER. I imagine Bonnie Langford is a very nice person and a talented actress. The stories her character were in, however, gave no indication of either. Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but I still wince whenever I think of Mel Bush. Can't help it. Never liked her. Still don't.

All this created a perfect storm from which no actor could have survived. To his eternal credit, Baker still is active in Doctor Who-related events and activities, and appears proud to be part of the series (if not about how things ended, for which he has every right to be angry).

Even among the ruins of Baker's tenure, one can still find some treasure. The slimy sea villain Sil, first seen in Vengeance on Varos and returning in Episodes Nine-Twelve of The Trial of a Time Lord (aka Mindwarp) is a great villain. I would rank him not just among the best Doctor Who villains but also the last great villain the series created. 

We also had the first appearance of a renegade female Time Lord known as The Rani, more an equal to The Doctor than the now-somewhat cartoonish Master became. She proved herself a worthy opponent whose potential was and is still wildly under-tapped.

Curiously, though he was the only Doctor to be fired, he will be the first to have all his stories released on DVD. Out of the ones available now, I still think Vengance on Varos is the best. In its story about televised torture for the amusement of people, it's remarkably prophetic. As for the worse, I have to say The Ultimate Foe. This isn't a criticism of writers Pip & Jane Baker (though most Doctor Who fans seem to have a particular antipathy for them). It has more to do with Mel being there. She was in Terror of the Vervoids, but that story holds up pretty well in spite of her. I also didn't quite understand The Mark of the Rani, but I give it props for the creation of another Time Lord baddie.

Now, what about The Trial of A Time Lord? One massive story, or four? This debate will be going on among fans from now to the end of time. Arguments for the One Story thesis: the title is The Trial of A Time Lord, and they're marked Episode One, Episode Two,...Episode Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen.

Argument for Four Stories thesis: they involve four distinct settings with four sets of writers. Therefore, they are Four Stories. 

I'm with the Four Stories group. If you remove the setting of Gallifrey and the trial itself, I think the stories could be independent of each other. I liken it to The Key to Time. Nobody ever argues they are one story, even though all involve the same objective: finding the six segments of The Key to Time. Like Key to Time, Trial of A Time Lord was a season long. With that, and the fact that there was no one writer for one story, I count them as four. There it is.

Stories available: Attack of the Cybermen, Vengance on Varos, The Mark of The Rani, The Two Doctors, Timelash, Revelation of the Daleks, and The Trial of a Time Lord box set (containing The Mysterious Planet, Mindwarp, Terror of the Vervoids, and The Ultimate Foe).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Fifth Doctor: An Introduction

The Fifth Doctor:

Peter Davison (Born 1951)

**Author's Note: I had planned to review the Doctor Who catalog on this site, but given the sheer number of stories I opted to spin-off those reviews to a separate site: Gallifrey Exile. As such, readers will find reviews may hop from one site to another. Reviews are collected at a link at the end of this essay. Also, this essay was updated on January 2021.

In the Fifth Doctor story Black Orchid, the Doctor plays of all things, cricket. Somehow, it seems fitting that this most British of institutions enjoys this most British of sports. It certainly matched his latest ensemble. It is also perhaps a recognition that Peter Davison was the youngest actor to play the Doctor in its original run at age 29. 

Despite his youthful appearance, Davison worked to make his Doctor "an old soul", someone who had millennia of wisdom. Davison tried to remind viewers through his performance that he was really an amalgamation of four other people, drawing from various elements of past Doctors. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Davison, however, did manage to put his own stamp on the role. He was the Doctor who was most human of the lot.

Here is where I think that at times, he was hampered by a more meddlesome producer. John Nathan-Turner wanted Davison to play things perfectly straight as a counter to the increasingly jokey Tom Baker, but that ended up suppressing part of the Doctor's whimsy. It seemed strange to force such a young-looking man to be so stern, but it was in my view an effort of course-correction that went too far the other direction.

To me, this Doctor was a little more hesitant to act, almost as if he didn't want to be where he was at. He could do the job required, but his more introspective nature made things difficult. He had a sense that adventure was something to be endured. No, he wasn't terrible in the role. It was just that he knew what a high cost there was to his travels in time and space.

He also had an early run of embarrassing stories and poor Companions. Even as a child, I knew that there was something wildly wrong in Warriors of the Deep. While I thought well of the Sea Devils and Silurians, the Myrka was embarrassing. I couldn't take it seriously, nor the sets that I could see could break away with no effort. 

Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka) made a very astute point: that in the BBC, the least-watched programs had the largest budgets while the most-popular ones had the smallest. Reverse snobbery, she called it. She called it right. Time-Flight also could have been a great story if they had spent the money on it. The fact that they didn't brought the whole thing down.

Some early stories such as Four to Doomsday and the aforementioned Time-Flight were horrors, though Davison also has some of the best Doctor Who stories. Earthshock is in my opinion a brilliant piece, enhanced by a shocking end. Davison's era also ended with The Caves of Androzani, which is routinely voted as one of if not the best Doctor Who story of All Time.

It was a mixed bag, where sometimes Davison was let down by the scripts, the poor sets and effects or his eccentric producer.

Some of his early stories were hampered by JNT's odd fixation for interesting Companions, such as Turlough, a humanoid alien trying to kill the Doctor. Then there was Tegan Jovanka, a nod to the Australian fanbase who forever kept whining about wanting to get off the TARDIS. His final Companion, Peri, was a nod to the American fanbase, but she was hampered by far too much attention to her cleavage. 

I have a special fondness for Davison's Doctor. He was my Doctor, the first one I saw when I was a child. Curiously, David Tennant's Tenth Doctor also refers to him as his Doctor in the mini-episode Time Crash, showing Tennant to not be just an actor but also a fan. Davison was the first Doctor to appear in the revived series, Eight Doctor Paul McGann making a later appearance in the mini-episode prequel to The Day of The Doctor, called originally enough The Night of The Doctor.

In retrospect, I think this bit of mini-fan service was a mistake. I get that they were acknowledging the connection between the past and present, but now it rings hollow, excessive, not to my liking. Something about it just doesn't sit well with me.

That being said, I still can't disown The Fifth Doctor's tenure. As bad as some of the effects were despite the production staff's best efforts, I still have this time as a cherished childhood memory.

I want to say that the Twentieth Anniversary special The Five Doctors is the first Doctor Who story I saw, at the very least the first one I remember well enough. 

From the stories currently available, I think Time-Flight is if not the worse at least the weakest, sadly brought down by lousy effects and cheap sets. I wasn't too thrilled with Black Orchid, but the one I liked the least was The Visitation. Though I liked the ending, I didn't quite follow what was going on for most of it. I might have to watch it again. I'm always willing to give things a second chance.

Stories currently available as of this writing: Four to Doomsday, The Visitation, Black Orchid, Earthshock, Time-Flight, Arc of Infinity, The Five Doctors, Resurrection of the Daleks, and The Caves of Androzani. Castrovalva is available either individually or as part of the New Beginnings box set which has The Keeper of Traken and Logopolis from the Fourth Doctor, and Warriors of the Deep is available individually or as part of the Beneath the Surface box set with Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Sea Devils from the Third Doctor. The Black Guardian Trilogy (containing Mawdryn Undead, Terminus, and Enlightenment) is scheduled for November 2009.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Fourth Doctor: An Introduction

The Fourth Doctor:
Tom Baker (Born 1934)

**Author's Note: I had planned to review the Doctor Who catalog on this site, but given the sheer number of stories I opted to spin-off those reviews to a separate site: Gallifrey Exile. As such, readers will find reviews may hop from one site to another. Reviews are collected at a link at the end of this essay. Also, this essay was updated on January 2021.

Tom Baker holds the record for the actor who played the Doctor the longest: seven years in all. Due to that he has become to many the face of Doctor Who. It's his version: the wild, unkempt hair, the long coat and floppy hat, and a scarf that is illogically long, that pops into people's mind when they're asked about Doctor Who. It's this version that was parodied on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and which was the basis for at least three episodes of The Simpsons.

Baker certainly had the authority of Hartnell, the general goofiness of Troughton, and the action orientation of Pertwee. However, he brought a very special element to The Doctor: his own wild eccentricity. The Doctor wasn't a gruff old man, or a cosmic hobo, or a dashing man of action. The Doctor now was just a bit nutty.

Of course, this is part of his charm, as they say. Baker was successful in meshing all the work his predecessors had done and turn it into gold. His Doctor was highly intelligent, though a bit aloof from everyone, even at times those within his immediate circle. He was nobody's fool, but he rarely let them know it. 

Perhaps this is why he is often ranked the Best or the Favorite Doctor. He seems a perfect amalgamation of the character's previous incarnations, while bringing something unique to the role. In retrospect, he revived the show to greater heights.

He also had a great run of Companions. Starting with Sarah Jane Smith, he moved to such varied personalities as warrior princess Leela and the female Time Lord Romana. 

I'm not talking about there being romance between the Doctor and his Companions per se. Rather, he was more open with them than the Doctor had been with anyone outside his granddaughter from his first incarnation. Baker also made him far more mercurial than The Doctor had been. He wasn't by any means a misanthrope, but he at times didn't invite beings he encountered into cozy relationships with him. 

Tom Baker also knew, like all the others, how important the character was to children. As a result, he somehow communicated to kids that they could travel with him, join him in his wanderlust.

I do wonder, though, if he stayed on too long. Is this blasphemy? I don't know. Tom Baker is among the best Doctors, yet I wonder by having one actor in that role for such a long time, does that hinder those that follow? Hard to say.  There were issues with the latter part of his tenure, particularly in that the humor might have been a little overboard.  Was it becoming too jokey, too silly?

Out of his stories available as of the original writing, my favorite is Planet of Evil. The visuals show that with enough imagination even the most limited budgets can still produce incredible images. I also thought The Talons of Weng-Chiang and City of Death to be quite inventive and original. The former will always be controversial due to both the yellowface and the portrayal of the Asian characters,  but that subject is for another day.  

As for my least favorite, there are surprisingly quite a few: The Brain of Morbius (sunk by silly costumes), The Invasion of Time (sunk by silly sets), and The Leisure Hive (sunk by silly special effects). In fact, when I showed The Leisure Hive to my friend, he couldn't stop laughing at just how unconvincing the effects were. I haven't had the courage to watch it since.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Third Doctor: An Introduction

The Third Doctor:
Jon Pertwee (1919-1996)

**Author's Note: I had planned to review the Doctor Who catalog on this site, but given the sheer number of stories I opted to spin-off those reviews to a separate site: Gallifrey Exile. As such, readers will find reviews may hop from one site to another. Reviews are collected at a link at the end of this essay. Also, this essay was updated on January 2021.

For the 10th anniversary story The Three Doctors, the then-Doctor Jon Pertwee met his predecessors (Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell). Hartnell was very ill at the time and this would sadly be his final acting appearance. His performance therefore had to be pre-taped and then edited to make it look like he was conversing via a monitor with his other selves.

Hartnell might have been in real life close to death, but The First Doctor could still put his successors in their place and be as sharp and curt as ever. "Ah, so you're my replacements, eh", Hartnell says with a hint of contempt in his voice. With a quick word he dismisses them both. "A Dandy and a Clown", he concludes.

Guess which one Pertwee was (hint: A Dandy).

Though Pertwee's costume was much more dashing than his predecessors and I would argue, his successors, there was method to his madness. He explained that the cloak was to evoke the wings of a mother hen, to suggest that he was a protector of those around him. Pertwee, to his eternal credit, was extremely conscious of the fact that Doctor Who was a family program and primary one geared towards children. 

He took that responsibility quite seriously. As Pertwee stated in an interview for The Doctors: Thirty Years of Time Travel and Beyond, he wanted to let the kids know that regardless of what dangers The Doctor and his Companions faced, "it would be all right in the end. The Doctor would find a way out".

His Doctor was more action-oriented, more gun-ho than the first two, which is curious seeing that he spent most of his time in a forced exile on 20th-Century Earth (a cost-cutting move to make stories easier to produce). Pertwee was if I understand it hired with the hopes of expanding on Troughton's more comic take on the Doctor, but Pertwee would have none of it. He was set on making his Doctor more an adventurer, and this was I think the right decision.

Pertwee made the Doctor less a figure of fun and more an authority figure. This is curious given he was also anti-authoritarian in that he disliked authority figures whom he considered idiots. His Doctor was not afraid of calling a spade a spade, quick to note where those with power were not only wrong but dangerously wrong. He was quick to dismiss being TOLD what to do, especially by government officials. 

Of course, there was an exception up to a point: UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) commander Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. The Doctor, having basically nothing to do on our backward little planet, found himself UNIT's Scientific Adviser, and while he wasn't thrilled about it, he became a good member of the group. 

I think this adds to the idea of Doctor Who as a family show, echoing the original structure of the First Doctor. Now, rather than the Doctor as a grandfather and the Companions as a de facto family, you have the work family. The Doctor is the wise scientific mind, the Companions their eager sidekicks and UNIT as both the minds and muscle. This group worked well together, and it's a credit to Doctor Who that the cast worked so well together. 

Pertwee's Doctor is wonderful because he was able to interact so well with those around him. While he always remained the star, he had little problem on-screen having an ensemble with him. The Brigadier was an integral part of the show now, kind of a double act, more Watson and Holmes than Abbott and Costello. 

Curiously, it was this analogy that brought about one of the Doctor's greatest nemesis during Pertwee's reign: an evil Time Lord known as The Master. As played by Roger Delgado, he was delightfully wicked, feeling no shame, and almost taking pleasure in just how nefarious he could be. Delgado was first-rate playing against the moral but fearless Doctor, both being able to match wits in strong stories.

Expanding on the Who mythos, I know some fans might have a problem with the Who-mobile (aka Bessie), but I do not. We need to remember that the show was aimed for children, so we mustn't be too picky about his mode of transport. Also, let's be honest: with the TARDIS unable to dematerialize for a long time, how else would he get about?

Overall, I like how Jon Pertwee was a Time Lord of Action, who got to the point and had little interest in who he had to go over to get things done. In fact, if push came to shove I would call the Third Doctor my favorite.

Like his predecessors, he was quite fond of his Companions. When one of them, Jo Grant, decided to leave his company at the end of The Green Death, you got the sense that he was sad to see her go. Of course, this did allow for perhaps the most famous companion to come in: a scrappy journalist named Sarah Jane Smith.

Out of the stories available as of this writing, my favorite so far is Carnival of Monsters. It's an inventive double-story, one being the Doctor and Jo trying to escape a nickelodeon-type machine that captures living beings for the amusement of others, and the other involving showmen who try to interest other beings in said machine. I also thought Spearhead From Space (which introduced the living plastic monsters the Autons), was quite effective. As for the worst, I confess not understanding The Claws of Axos. Overall though, I think all the ones available work quite well, even if the lack of money sometimes shows.

Fortunately, his is the first Doctor to have no missing episodes or stories, though I understand some that were broadcast in color survived in black-and-white and then restored to color.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Second Doctor: An Introduction

The Second Doctor:
Patrick Troughton (1920-1987)

**Author's Note: I had planned to review the Doctor Who catalog on this site, but given the sheer number of stories I opted to spin-off those reviews to a separate site: Gallifrey Exile. As such, readers will find reviews may hop from one site to another. Reviews are collected at a link at the end of this essay. Also, this essay was updated on January 2021.

In the documentary The Doctors: 30 Years of Time Travel & Beyond, the phrases used to describe the Second Doctor Patrick Troughton were that he had a "wizard" and "impish" quality to him. These are very apt descriptions. Troughton, I would add, had a whimsical quality to his Doctor. He could be harsh like the First Doctor, but he was rarely so. Instead, he brought humor, a touch of comedy, to a character who had been a bit severe.

Of course, all other Doctors owe a great thanks to him. He had the unenviable task of having to take over a distinctive character. How could they pull it off? Would the public accept another actor in the role? That they soon did. He, I think, not only had the talent for it, but he had a gentle face, which inspired trust. He soon had people believing that the Doctor had things about him that made a change in appearance possible. That is the key to his success in the role: not that he was another Doctor altogether, but merely a different Doctor. He could still be the same being, but one with a new face and new personality.

Troughton was funnier than Hartnell, more apt to avoid violence than charge straight into it as the First Doctor did. He became The Cosmic Hobo, a Doctor who somehow got himself into situations just by merely being there. That isn't to say the Second Doctor was dumb. Far from it: he was still highly intelligent. However, he wasn't a full-fledged adventurer but someone who, once he found himself in a dangerous situation, knew what the stakes were and got on with it.

Above all else, it's the humor that Patrick Troughton brought that makes him a success. He brought that wonderful whimsy to just about everything around him. This isn't to say he made the Doctor into a joke. Rather, the Second Doctor had a little twinkle in his eye, not afraid of seeing the sunny side of life as it were. He had a charm all his own, and if he looked a little silly it was only because he thought the situation was more a slight inconvenience than anything else. Nothing shows that more than whenever he started to play his recorder. He could be trapped in cell, his life in imminent danger, and there he'd be, playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

That's what makes his case especially tragic. Out of twenty-one stories, only six survive complete.*

His debut story, The Power of the Daleks, has no know complete episodes, as do the stories The Highlanders, The Macra Terror and Fury from the Deep.

It might be easier to say which stories survive in full: The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Dominators, The Mind Robber, The Krotons, The Seeds of Death, and The War Games. It's a curious irony that the Doctor with the most missing/incomplete stories has the longest intact story still around (The War Games).

To have as many Second Doctor stories available, the BBC is taking to animation. The Invasion has two of its eight episodes missing, but it was released on DVD thanks to animating the missing episodes and matching them to the surviving audio track. The animation is quite good and remarkably effective. The appearance of the Cybermen in the animated version, according to an artist friend, was actually more effective and frightening than in the recap where the live-action version was seen.

However, perhaps in a rush to get as many missing/incomplete Second Doctor stories out, I think the animation has gone downhill a bit. I was aghast at how bad the animation was for the human figures in The Power of the Daleks. That is just my personal view, however, and to their credit at least these stories are becoming available, with always the hope for the discovery of the actual broadcast episodes still alive.

Out of all the stories available as of this original writing, I think the best is The Mind Robber. It's certainly something never before tried: mixing the fantasy world a captive writer has to create with the elements of science fiction. It also has at the end of Episode One simply the most beautiful sights I've ever seen in any Doctor Who story. I also think The Invasion is quite good and very effective.

A former Companion in the 30 Years of Time Travel and Beyond documentary reflected that the story was almost prophetic about how the attack on London could reflect what was to happen in the future: the nerve gas attack in Tokyo was the example. In fact, I don't think there's a bad story among the DVDs available: The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Mind Robber, The Invasion, and The Seeds of Death.

Out of the collection of surviving episodes under the title Lost In Time (either separate or a box set with the First Doctor): The Underwater Menace, The Moonbase, The Faceless Ones, The Evil of the Daleks, The Abominable Snowmen, The Enemy of the World, The Web of Fear, The Wheel in Space, and The Space Pirates, I think The Abominable Snowmen, The Underwater Menace, and The Enemy of the World would be great stories if found or recreated. 

There are also surviving clips from The Power of the Daleks, The Highlanders, The Macra Terror, and Fury from The Deep. I think out of those clips, the one with the best potential would be Fury from The Deep.

The War Games is scheduled for November 2009. The Second Doctor also appears in the Third Doctor's story The Three Doctors, the Fifth Doctor story The Five Doctors, and the Sixth Doctor's story The Two Doctors.

Next, The Third Doctor: An Introduction

Visit Here for Second Doctor story reviews.

*Update: In 2013 all missing episodes of The Enemy of the World were rediscovered in Nigeria, along with all but one episode of The Web of Fear.  With this, the former, which had been an incomplete story, is now complete.  In 2011, a second episode of The Underwater Menace was also rediscovered, bringing that story now to half-complete.  As of this update, The Power of the Daleks, The Highlanders, and Fury From the Deep remain the only Second Doctor stories to have no surviving episodes known to exist.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The First Doctor: An Introduction

The First Doctor:
William Hartnell (1908-1975)

**Author's Note: I had planned to review the Doctor Who catalog on this site, but given the sheer number of stories I opted to spin-off those reviews to a separate site: Gallifrey Exile. As such, readers will find reviews may hop from one site to another. Reviews are collected at a link at the end of this essay. Also, this essay was updated on January 2021.

I've decided to write some bits about one of my favorite science-fiction shows: Doctor Who. I've loved the sci-fi series ever since I watched it on PBS. The thing that grabbed me was the title music. It was so mysterious, so otherworldly. In fact, I think it's one of the best television theme music ever made. Now with its revival, I thought I'd look back at the ten official actors who've played the role of The Doctor, giving my own impressions as a fan as to the pluses and minuses of their performances and stories.

November 22, 1963 was a traumatic day for all those who can remember it. Unfortunately, it was under the horrible circumstances of President Kennedy's assassination that Doctor Who premiered the next day. The launch of a new show with the world still in shock lead to few people noticing. In an act of faith, the BBC took the step of re-launching the show with far better results. The first four episodes of the first story now known as An Unearthly Child really reflect the best and worst of the series. 

It had a great idea and atmosphere, along with actors who took their roles and situations seriously. However, the story itself involving cavemen and the creation of fire seem nowadays a bit silly, almost laughable. It wasn't until the fifth episode, the first part of a seven-part story now called The Daleks, that a legend was created. Through quite a few companions, visits to the past and future, and the first showdown with the Cybermen, the Doctor captured the imagination of the British, especially children.

William Hartnell, the First Doctor, began by playing him as an irascible, grumpy old character. He was pretty arrogant and dismissive of his first companions, but a bit more tender with his granddaughter Susan. In the very early days he was not altogether a pleasant personality. As is true of all relationships, age & time mellow, and the Doctor became more of a grandfather figure to all his companions. He shifted from crotchety to almost endearing. 

Off the set, however, Hartnell felt at times a bit limited by the role. One guest star on the story The Dalek Invasion of Earth commented on how upset Hartnell was when he had to turn down a role in Doctor Zhivago because of Who, and the schedule also prevented him from attending the funeral of his aunt, who had cared for him in his youth. It also didn't help that he was growing more ill as the series continued. For those of these reasons, he decided to leave the series. However, the show was still a hit, so how to continue? Well, as the character was an alien, a little ingenuity was called for, but that's for next time.

Unlike future Doctors, The First Doctor went to Earth's past often. He visited Marco Polo, the Aztecs, revolutionary France, the court of Nero, even pre-Hastings England. It's in this story (The Time Meddler) that I think Doctor Who achieved an important milestone: mixing historic fact with a sci-fi element by stopping a member of his own race (a being known as The Meddling Monk) from rewriting history. The Time Meddler blended history with science-fiction, setting a template almost all future historical stories would draw from.

Hartnell should be honored by creating a unique character. Thanks to him, the Doctor proved that intellect was a stronger weapon than sheer force. In all his dealings with villains both earthly and otherworldly he could resort to violence but it was always as a last resort. By and large, he thought his way out of situations. Hartnell's Doctor was a bit irascible and not embarrassed by showing off how much smarter he was than everyone else, a trait all his successors would follow.

His Doctor is more grandfatherly, and not just because of his appearance. Hartnell also by the end showed children that things will be all right because he could be trusted to find a solution. He gave kids and parents confidence that no matter how dangerous the situation, the Doctor would see them through to new adventures. His costume of an Edwardian-style garb with distinct hat, also added to his grandfatherly persona. The unique outfits would be followed by all following Doctors, with varying degrees of success.

I like William Hartnell's portrayal in the later stories. In the beginning, such as in An Unearthly Child, The Daleks, and Edge of Destruction, he can be short-tempered, suspicious, even slightly cruel and devious to his companions. However, by the time of the four-part The Aztecs, he had a subtle sense of humor (as when he accidentally gets himself engaged), and his belief that history must proceed as is rather than as how one would like it is set in stone. His softening made him a kinder, gentler Doctor, and I think Hartnell hasn't been given enough credit for making him less cantankerous and more a wise elder as he grew in the role.

He was wonderful in the part. I think his performance was quite good: his pauses and fumbles with lines made him appear a bit tottery, but he could also take action and charge of the situation. Crabby, sometimes curt, the First Doctor eventually had his heart in the right place, and he grew to be a character that we as the audience could embrace. That will be William Hartnell's finest legacy to the character of the Doctor.

Tragically, we do not have his entire output to enjoy. Due to a lack of foresight, twelve of Hartnell's stories are incomplete in terms of footage: Marco Polo, The Reign of Terror, The Crusade, Galaxy 4, the one-off special Mission to the Unknown, The Myth Makers, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve (also known as The Massacre), The Celestial Toymaker, The Savages, The Smugglers, and most tragic, his final story The Tenth Planet

Three of those (Marco Polo, Mission to the Unknown, and The Massacre) has no known surviving footage whatsoever. Galaxy 4, The Myth Makers, The Massacre, The Savages, and The Smugglers have clips but no known complete episodes, while the rest have full episodes but with gaps*.

While it is terrible that these stories are not available to us, what makes The Tenth Planet especially sad is that the only episode missing is the final one. This is the episode that saw the first regeneration of the Doctor from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton as well as being the debut story for one of the Doctor's greatest foes: the Cybermen. Curiously, all the episodes survive in audio form, thanks to the rabid fans who recorded the soundtrack straight from the television to cassettes. Therefore, there is always a chance to recreate them.

This has already happened with Marco Polo. A 30-minute condensed version of the seven-part story was a special feature in The Daleks/Edge of Destruction DVD release. There is also a DVD with episodes from lost stories called Lost in Time. It contains the known episodes of The Crusade, The Daleks' Master Plan, and The Celestial Toymaker. What makes it so terribly frustrating is that these stories were good, at least judging from the episodes and clips that survive. 

This was at a time when Doctor Who wasn't encumbered by its own history & mythology, where the imaginations of the writers could take the show in any direction the producers allowed them to go. It was also at a time when the budgets were, if never large, at least capable of making the show a strong sci-fi series. Then again, it may be possible that episodes may yet be rediscovered: the eternal hope of the fans. Those episodes may also be reconstructed or animated, as the case with the Second Doctor's story The Invasion.

Out of the stories that are available as of this writing, my favorite is The Aztecs followed by The Time Meddler. Not only does it introduce another of the Doctor's people (later to be known as Time Lords) but mixes the best of the historic with science fiction. In spite of the heavy criticism I enjoyed The Romans. Not only is it fun to see the Doctor deal with Emperor Nero, but it's OK to have a laugh once in a while. The worst, sad to say, is The Web Planet. This story looks as if it was made for children only. The monsters don't always have to be the most convincing, but boy do they look silly.

*Update: In 2011, Episode Three of Galaxy 4,  entitled Air Lock, was rediscovered.  That leaves Marco PoloMission to the Unknown, The Myth Makers, The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve and The Savages as the only First Doctor stories with no known surviving episodes as of 2021.