Amph The Longest Running Sci-Fi series: "Classic" Doctor Who [1963-1996]

Discussion in 'Community' started by Koohii, Feb 6, 2012.

  1. soitscometothis Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 11, 2003
    star 5
    Koohii, I don't want to stop you from posting your reviews on the Hartnell episodes, but I would like a more relaxed, freeform discussion about Classic Who. At the moment I feel this thread comes across as a speeding train no-one wants to get in the way of.

    I'd be interested to know what the first episode of Doctor Who you saw was, and was it the same one that made you a fan? What was it that captured your imagination?

    I'd been aware of the show since watching the later Pertwee episodes when I was a child, and sporadically watched the Baker episodes, but I wasn't really interested until I caught the last two episodes of Earthshock one summer. Lots of action, laser-beams, death, drama, and a younger, more serious Doctor. That made me a rabid fan overnight, which was kind of bizarre as I'd seen the show many times before without getting hooked. After that I started reading the Target novelisations to get some idea of the history of the Doctor - no repeats of Doctor Who stories over one or two years old was the rule at the Beeb at the time, so there was no chance of watching older episodes; those Target novels were the only access to the show's past that was available.

    Did you have a constant stream of DW on PBS, or did you also have to resort to the books for older episodes?
    solojones likes this.
  2. Koohii Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    A bit of both. Had 2 pbs stations. One only showed 3 seasons over and over and over--late Tom Baker, including the Key to Time--never want to see Armageddon Factor again--well maybe not for another 10 years. Another, less reliable station (it was 80 miles away, and if the winds were too strong, reception went to hell) worked hard to get more and more episodes, and was able to get everything that was available as soon as possible.
    First episode I saw was Warriors of The Deep, in 1984, when the Silurians and Sea Devils were attacking the Sea Base. It was the first time I'd seen a serialized TV show that wasn't a soap opera, and multiple aliens working with each other (OK technically the Silurians and Sea Devils are both native Earth species), and the show had the massive continuity. It was also nice to have something other than "We come in peace, shoot to kill."
    The same PBS station (the unreliable one) also brought every other british show they could get, including Blake's7, Red Dwarf, Sapphire&Steel, All Creatures Great and Small, Campion, Lord Peter Wimsey, Miss Marple, Dave Allen At Large (a more sophisticated and less baudy version of Benny Hill), Wish Me Luck, To Serve them all My Days, and so many, many more. I actually sent them money during the beg-a-thons. Whenever an old episode was rediscovered, they would get it as soon as possible and put it on the air. When the last of the first year of Pertwee was recovered, they got it. When they could get the old Hartnell & Troughton episodes, they got them and aired them. Each time a new story was recovered, they got it. Sadly, with the DVD releases, and the decades of no new Who or Red Dwarf, the PBS station lost their main revenue. They also retooled their schedule and filled it with programs I don't have any interest in.
    TimeCon was a treasure trove. Not only did they get the actors from the show (back when that was extremely difficult), but the dealer's room... Ah... And new episodes...

    That said, while waiting for the old episodes, Target novels were the key. Even for the episodes that were available, it was fun to read the books. The DVD release of Colony in Space has a great extra about those novels and Terrance Dicks' liberties. In The Three Doctors, he describes a massive collunm of Fire that it the flame of singularity, while the actual effect is a weak smoke machine lit by a red light. I had all the novelizations for the original series--until I needed too move to a smaller place--they went up on eBay.
  3. solojones Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2000
    star 9
    So I came to Classic Who in the way that most people in my generation have, which is through NuWho. After I'd watched most of NuWho I started watching a couple Classic things as well. The first story I watched was The Mind Robber with Troughton. It's funny because I feel like people talked up how cheesy Classic Who was so much before I saw any of it that I was actually surprised that, though certainly low budget, it was much better quality than expected. I can't watch original Trek, for instance, but the acting style with Troughton and company was a lot more fun and engaging. Troughton certainly has a lot of fun with the role and story. I think as a writer I particular enjoy the meta-ness of the whole 'fictional characters brought to life' notion. I was reminded a bit of this story when I watched the episods of TNG featuring Moriarty coming to life, which Evan showed me a couple weeks ago.


    I admit I still haven't seen much of Classic, though. I've tried to get a sense of the different Doctors, but still haven't seen stories with all of them. City of Death is definitely my favorite story I've seen so far, but as a huge Douglas Adams fan I might be a bit biased on that. But come on, Tom Baker and Julian Glover together? Recipe for success.

    Actually, come to think of it, the reason I got interested in DW in the first place was because of Douglas Adams. Before NuWho existed, I was just a big HHG fan who'd heard that DNA had written for Doctor Who and was interested in seeing that. This was around 2001 when I was a freshman in high school. Of course at the time there was no Netflix and really not much way in general to see Classic episodes. I heard about NuWho and liked Eccleston already so I considered watching it... but somehow didn't get around to watching either for years. But yes, I have to admit that in my mind the show sort of occupies the same universe as HHG because I picture them really similarly and they've always been sort of joined in my mind.

    I have yet to see episodes with Hartnell (I know, I'm the worst), Pertwee, Colin Baker, or McCoy. Any suggestions on a story for each I should check out? I think once I have a better taste of all of them I'll be able to go after stories that involve my favorites.
    Last edited by solojones, Sep 13, 2012
  4. Koohii Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    I always thought Troughton was one of the best. He actually looked like he was afraid of the monsters.

    Best of Hartnell: The Daleks, Keys of Marinus, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Romans, The Gunfighters
    Troughton: Seeds of Death, The Invasion, The WarGames (sorry, there just isn't that much)
    Pertwee: (so much to choose from) Spearhead from Space, Silurians, Sea Devils, Carnival of Monsters, The Three Doctors (just because it was the first time they had multiple doctors in one episode), Planet of the Daleks, Death to the Daleks, Colony in Space, The Mutants... (yeah, I could go on)
    Tom Baker: Robot, City of Death (just a great episode), Robots of Death, Ark in Space/Sontaran Experiment/Genesis of the Daleks/Revenge of the Cybermen (they all connect), Keeper of Traken, Key to Time, Logopolis... So many to choose from, but then he was there for 7 years...
    Davidson: Kinda & SnakeDance, Four to Doomsday, Warriors of the Deep, The Five Doctors,
    Colin Baker: Vengeance on Varos, the cyberman story, and the Dalek story. The rest were pretty meh.
    McCoy: Paradise Towers, Delta and the Bannermen, Remembrance of the Daleks. It was an era of inexperienced writers and bad editing
  5. soitscometothis Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 11, 2003
    star 5
    Wow, what a brutal intro to Classic Who.:( I love the Davison era, but that serial has little to recommend it. I'm glad you persevered with Who.

    Blakes 7 (new version being shopped around at the moment, I'm very sceptical) and Sapphire & Steel were my favourites out of that lot when I was a kid. I've just watched my sister's Lord Peter Wimsey DVDs - did you watch the Ian Carmichael series, or the Edward Petherbridge episodes?

    The Target novels were great when I was younger - you got a Who story with all the big-budget special effects your mind could dream up, no bad acting or wobbly sets, and no jarring incidental music. I therefore found watching some of my favourite stories a bit of a shock when the actual versions came out on video.

    I think one of the most important ingredients in classic Who is the imagination of the watcher: you get caught up in the narrative, in the characters, and you reimagine some of the effects and the props more the way they would be if the show had money. I think the version of the Tardis' console room that existed in my imagination was far grander than anything we actually got on screen, and that's great - anything that simply helps kick-off a child's imagination is worth its weight in gold. And that's why so many old fans have such great memories of the show from when they were kids - it was a show practically designed to be remembered rather than rewatched; in fact, as I said, the BBC didn't show reruns - they shot it out into the ether and if you missed it... well, there would always be a new story on the horizon.
  6. Koohii Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    I wonder if the lack of reruns also contributed to the BBC attitude of snobbery that resulted in the loss of all the classic TV shows from the 50s to 70s (it wasn't Just Doctor Who episodes that were lost, it was everything!).

    I shudder to think what a reboot of Blake's7 would be like. What they did to Survivors (also by Terry Nation) was unforgivable. Granted, B7 had some pretty poor stories as the show went on (and the BBC pool of hack writers took over from TN). The only good thing I can say about a reboot is that maybe the original series will get a DVD release in the US. Both, though I preferred the 80s version.

    Warriors of the Deep gets a lot of undeserved flack. I love that the BBC used that as an example of the worst episodes, when there were so many mitigating factors (a full month chopped off the development time because the Government ordered the BBC to start the next series of Who early to boost morale because of the Fauklands' War). It isn't a perfect story, but I still like it.
  7. soitscometothis Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 11, 2003
    star 5
    I think the black and white stuff holds up quite well as it disguises some of the cheaper sets, and lends a bit of atmosphere to boot. Troughton had not only a good voice but a face that could be quite frightening in close-up - very strong features that helped him sell drama. When they put a tight shot on that face you forget that he's actually a little guy, his face gives off such power.
    Yes it is outstanding. It's one of they few classic stories where the pacing is good enough to watch in one sitting. No wonder RTD used it as a template for NuWho (which, as you pointed out, does feel quite Hitchhiker's like in places).

    Hartnell:
    The Aztecs is good. It's purely historical and is only four episodes; alternatively The Keys of Marinus is another I remember enjoying - it is an episodic quest, with each episode being self-contained (I think - it's been awhile), though all being part of the quest to collect the keys. Some people hate it though, so YMMV.

    Pertwee:
    The Carnival of Monsters would be my pick. It is lightweight, fun, and not too long.

    Colin Baker:
    Revelation of the Daleks is the best from CB, imo. It has a good script which marginalises Baker in favour of better actors. There is also some really painfully bad acting from some quarters, but no classic Who is perfect.

    McCoy:
    Ghostlight. I have no idea what the story is about, but it is McCoy's best, imo.
  8. Koohii Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    Revelation also had the very creepy Dalek conversion make-up/costume.

    McCoy's episodes suffered from bad editing. The well-established pattern was a 4-part story. BBC cut the season down to 14 episodes, which ended up 2 4-parters and 2 3-parters. The 3-parters had too much cut. In the case of Ghostlight, the important information that explains everything ended up on the wrong end of the cut. As a result, the story makes very little sense.
  9. solojones Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2000
    star 9
    Okay, so I watched An Unearthly Child and The Daleks, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked them. I completely agree that the black and white helps a lot, which makes them in some ways even more believable than the 70s episodes. At least you don't get distracted as much by poor sets because you can't tell as well that they're made of cardboard :p I agree that it lets you kind of imagine what the worlds look like more.

    Now I'm really, really interested to see what they do to bring the Daleks back and to see how they evolve over time. Obviously they have a lot. I'm not sure if I should try to watch all the Dalek serials along the way or what. I definitely want to watch Genesis of the Daleks, but I don't know how much it's necessary to see before that.

    I find that I really like the First Doctor. People remark that he's snide and condescending, but I fail to see the problem :p It's interesting to see a show that's a lot more evenly split between the Doctor and the companions, though. I think Ian does as much if not more than the Doctor in any given episode. And I like Ian, so that's okay, but sometimes I do wish for a little more of Hartnell because I like him.
    Ulicus likes this.
  10. Juliet316 Streak for Colors Tiemaster

    Member Since:
    Apr 27, 2005
    star 9
    @solojones Genesis of the Daleks is pretty much "Would the Time War have happened, if the Doctor had done things in that episode differently." so yeah, I think it's probably necessary to see that one.
  11. soitscometothis Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 11, 2003
    star 5
    The First Doctor softens somewhat the further you go into his tenure. Ian is very much the hero character, though this kind of action-man role became much less central after Ian and Barbara's departure - no companions were ever quite as important or as equal to the Doctor as Ian and Barbara, at least until the 2005 reboot. I think this early season is much closer in character dynamics to the American shows of Irwin Allen, such as Lost in Space or Land of the Giants; it is only after the original companions exit the the Doctor really takes center stage unchallenged. When Steven Moffat has River say in Silence in the Library/Forrest of the Dead that the Doctor isn't quite the Doctor yet, I always think of Hartnell's Doctor, because to me the 1st Doctor really isn't quite the Doctor as I expect him to be : he's less central to the action, he has much less history, he rarely displays the more eccentric alien side of his personality... he just hasn't quite developed as a character yet.

    One thing I really like about the older episodes is how seriously the actors seem to be taking the work - obviously more comedic or deliberately silly episodes do happen later, but at first Doctor Who was a pretty serious show, and I think the actors performances reflected that.
  12. SithLordDarthRichie CR Emeritus: London

    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    Thefirst Who episode I remember seeing was Spearhead from Space, Pertwee's first episode and the first to feature the Autons. I've watched a fair amount of Pertwee's stuff and after that mainly Tom Baker. I care little for anything much after that given that the show quality started going down hill. Most of Colin Baker's stuff was distinctly meh.

    My first experience of the first two Doctors was in The Three Doctors, unfortunately Hartnell was pretty frail at that point and was hardly in the episode. But Troughton was great.
    It's unfortunate that the first two Doctors are the ones with the lost episodes/parts during their runs.
  13. solojones Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2000
    star 9
    Yeah, soits, I was going to say that I think NuWho has a lot more companion equity in spots but that it was surprising to me to see that in Classic Who like this. I also watched The Aztecs and I agree that both Ian and Barbara are really the main instigators of the action there. I think the turn towards younger Doctors later on allowed that to change some, it would seem.

    Oh and I totally wish NuWho would do some pure historical episodes. The Aztecs and really also An Unearthly Child don't actually involve any sci-fi once the time travel has happened. I really like that notion.

    Juliet, I will definitely check out Genesis of the Daleks, perhaps later today. Though in honesty, I kind of want to keep watching more of the First Doctor as well. I think soits is totally right about him being not quite the Doctor yet, but I find the character and his companions fascinating nonetheless. Even if Susan is pretty useless for a Time Lord :p

    That's it exactly. I was (happily) surprised to see them not hamming it up at all, but being serious and seriously good. I'm so used to seeing sci-fi from this era that's either super stiff or really hammy. I feel like I can instantly see why people took to DW so much. It's much more Twilight Zone than Ed Wood ;)

    I feel like I'd compare the differences in this and some later, slightly sillier eps to the differences in Gold and Silver Age comic books. And I'm a Golden Age girl myself.
  14. Mar17swgirl Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 26, 2000
    star 7

    You Are Not Alone. :p
  15. soitscometothis Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 11, 2003
    star 5
    Spearhead was a big change of pace for Doctor Who: Pertwee's was the first obviously alpha-male Doctor, able to walk into a room and dominate it by sheer physical presence and personality; the stories were noticeably geared towards an older audience, being more serious and (at least initially) based on scientific ideas rather than fantasy; it was shot in colour (and indeed Spearhead itself was shot totally on film, meaning that it is the best looking in terms of picture quality of all Classic Who stories) ; and of course the Tardis barely makes an appearance, being out of commission for much of Pertwee's run, with the action being set firmly on Earth in one time-period.

    I don't love Spearhead as much as some Who fans do; I find it often slow going, and peopled with too many characters I have little interest in.On the other hand, there is little that I can complain about, save perhaps the Doctor's fierce mugging to the camera while struggling with rubber tentacles.
    The Three Doctors has some pretty horrible incidental music - if only the DVDs gave us the option to switch it off, that would be a big improvement.

    I think one of the things about the historical episodes is that the Doctor and co are usually swept up in historical events and are just trying to survive until they can get back to the Tardis; once the show moved past the idea that the Doctor couldn't really direct the Tardis, that he and its crew were at the mercy of fate, then the Doctor became a much more proactive figure who deliberately sought out danger in order to fight injustice. We haven't seen the 'innocent in peril' style Doctor Who for a while. Would it be too jarring for today's NuWho audience? Has the Doctor become too much of a demigod to be threatened by ordinary people? I don't know if it would work, but I don't think Moffat should be too scared to find out. No harm in testing the waters, is there?
  16. solojones Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2000
    star 9
    No, I agree that they should definitely try it. I don't think the Doctor is too much of a demigod for it to work now. Actually if he loses his sonic screwdriver (which he didn't have in those early episodes either), it would probably hamper his abilities to escape a fair amount. I think you could pretty easily put together something convincing in a historical setting where he and his companion(s) were swept up and couldn't escape. Or might not want to right away. He'd probably find it all very interesting, even if their lives were threatened :p
  17. Mar17swgirl Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 26, 2000
    star 7
    That's a pretty good idea. Cut the Doctor off the TARDIS and the sonic screwdriver, and let him and his companion(s) face some proper historical, non-alien threat.
  18. solojones Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2000
    star 9
    They should hire me right away :p
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  19. Mar17swgirl Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 26, 2000
    star 7
    Totally. :p And we could be your brainstorming team! :D
    Last edited by Mar17swgirl, Sep 18, 2012
  20. Juliet316 Streak for Colors Tiemaster

    Member Since:
    Apr 27, 2005
    star 9
    Or have Murry Gold rescore some of those scenes.
  21. Juliet316 Streak for Colors Tiemaster

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    Apr 27, 2005
    star 9
  22. soitscometothis Jedi Grand Master

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    Jul 11, 2003
    star 5
  23. solojones Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2000
    star 9
    So I watched The Edge of Destruction/The Brink of Disaster, and found it really interesting. It's basically just two bottle episodes focused on the tension between the Doctor and Ian and Barbara. I really like that they bothered to spend a lot of time on the characters. This is so different from other shows of this era that I've seen. The solution (the fast return lever was stuck) isn't all that exciting, but the chance to face the tensions between the Doctor and his companions was great.

    Now I'm listening to Marco Polo and watching the still of it, since it's one of the lost stories. Historical figures ftw.

    You know, I set out to just watch a couple stories from each Doctor I hadn't seen yet. And I still want to do that. But it turns out I really like the First Doctor and I adore Ian and Barbara, so yeah... I got sucked in.
  24. Mar17swgirl Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 26, 2000
    star 7
    Ian and Barbara are AWESOME. :D And, being a Sixties nut, I absolutely ADORE Barbara's hair. [face_love]
  25. solojones Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2000
    star 9
    I get that Susan is supposed to be someone the kids can identify with, someone way out of her depth who gets overwhelmed and scared a lot... but she's the most useless Time Lord ever :p It's worse because Ian and Barbara are so awesome. I can't really blame Susan because she's a kid, but still.