Is There a Doctor In the House? Lots!

The past week reminded me of when I’d be watching nothing but time travel material for Now and Then We Time Travel. I started subscribing to BritBox, a streaming service for British shows. The main reason was the access to Doctor Who, which is surprisingly spotty on Netflix. I’d Netflixed the first two Tom Baker serials a while back, but I started on Britbox by going back further …

THE POWER OF THE DALEKS was the first Second Doctor serial; Patrick Troughton here is so dotty and so unlike William Hartnell’s cantankerous senior that companions Ben and Polly and even the Doctor himself aren’t sure he’s really who he says he is. To make matters worse the TARDIS has dropped them on a colony planet riven by rival factions, one of which is convinced these mechanical creatures they found in a spaceship will make wonderful robot servants … Although the video was lost the soundtrack wasn’t, so the Beeb animated it as they did with Hartnell’s The Reign of Terror. Not a classic story, but a landmark for proving the show could survive the loss of its star. The emphasis that the Doctor survived through the power of the TARDIS shows they still hadn’t established regeneration as normal — even when Troughton left at the end of War Games, it was the Time Lords forcing him to change (it wouldn’t be until the Fourth Doctor that regeneration became a normal Time Lord thing). “The law of the Daleks is in effect.”

Enough of THE WHEEL IN SPACE survives that rather than use animation, the BBC used stills from the show to accompany the voice track (two episodes remain intact). The Second Doctor and Jamie land on a drifting rocket from which they wind up on the eponymous space station. Here they meet Zoey, a brilliant, petite young woman who begins to realize her life has trained her to prepare for emergencies but only carefully predicted ones. Which does not include an attack on the Wheel by the Cybermen … Zoe’s one of my favorite companions (cute, small, brainy brunette — it’s like I have a type!) and the serial is overall good, but loses steam at the finish (the purpose of all the Cyber-scheming to seize the Wheel is quite underwhelming). And it’s depressing to think of the Time Lords just wiping Zoe’s memory at the end of War Games and dropping her back on the Wheel; I do hope she found some other way to break out of the box her society put her in. “Logic, my dear Zoe, only allows one to be wrong with authority.”

Last year’s Christmas special TWICE UPON A TIME (on Amazon Prime, not BritBox) has Capaldi contemplating not regenerating when he winds up meeting the First Doctor (David Bradley) who’s contemplating doing the same thing, which would, of course unmake the entire series. Can they survive and work together long enough to stop the seemingly sinister schemes of …. Testimony? A fun concept, though a bit heavy-handed on First Doctor Sexism; the ending gives us the new female Doctor, though not for very long. “By any analysis evil should always win. Good is not a practical survival strategy.”

THE FIVE (ISH) DOCTORS REBOOT was a spoof special tied to the 50th anniversary of the show in which Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy (Doctors Five Through Seven) desperately try to convince current showrunner Stephen Moffat that they’re a vital part of the history and need to make an appearance — oh, did you know McCoy was in The Hobbit, a major blockbuster theatrical release? Fluffy but very funny. “Instead of a sonic screwdriver I could have sonic beams come out my eyes!”

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3 responses to “Is There a Doctor In the House? Lots!

  1. Zosimus the Heathen

    I remember reading the Target novelizations of a number of Second Doctor stories when I was a schoolboy, and blithely assuming that one day I’d get the chance to actually watch those stories. I mean, surely that wasn’t an unreasonable expectation? I mean, copies of all the Third and Fourth Doctor stories still existed, and I’d seen plenty of photos of scenes from the First and Second Doctor ones. It was only later that I’d learn that some of the oldest stories had actually been lost (I think “Galaxy 4” was the first such lost story I heard about), but at the time, I consoled myself with the thought that the only stories the BBC had probably deleted were really obscure ones that no-one cared about. I mean, they wouldn’t have touched the *really* classic stories (such as the ones featuring the Daleks or Cybermen), would they? What’s that? No. No. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO![*]

    I’m still pretty bummed about the fact the BBC got rid of so many episodes of Classic Who (particularly those involving the Second Doctor – not sure why his stories suffered the most), particularly since I wasn’t quite old enough to have seen any of them when they actually screened (were you?). The workarounds the BBC seem to have come up with to enable them to be re-released sound interesting, though; do they actually work, in your opinion (personally, I’m not sure that simply showing stills in lieu of actual footage, as is the case with some episodes of “The Wheel in Space”, would really work, but maybe it does)?

    I have a bit of a soft spot for Zoe as well, though unfortunately most of my exposure to her probably came from the aforementioned novelizations rather than the show itself. From what I can gather, she was quite a strong and capable female companion, which is something Doctor Who actually doesn’t appear to have ever had a shortage of. Others I can think of include Liz Shaw (though, depressingly, I hear that the producers of the show got rid of her because they deemed her “too” independent), Sarah Jane Smith, Leela (though I hear the way she was eventually written out was rather sexist and pathetic), Romana, Nyssa and Ace.

    *What probably didn’t help was that I only learned just how many episodes had been lost, around the time the new Doctor Who episodes featuring the Ninth Doctor started screening. While I generally liked the Ecclestone Doctor’s stories, there were a few (that should probably remain nameless) that had me thinking afterwards, “Great! So many classic episodes have been lost, yet thanks to the invention of home-recording technology, and the simple fact the BBC has learnt from its past mistakes, millions of copies of *this* stinker are probably going to exist from now till when the sun turns supernova!”

  2. I’m old enough. My first memory of who was watching the first episode of Dalek Invasion of Earth when it aired — I wasn’t actually sure until I Netflixed it and yes, saw the moment Susan twisted her ankle.
    Zoe is indeed awesome. She’s smart enough to out-think a security computer in Invasion, and it turns out she can handle herself physically, beating up an adversary in The Mind Robber. To the list of capable female companions I’d add Barbara, one of the originals (There’s a great bit in Dalek Invasion of Earth where she bluffs the Daleks about the human counter-insurgency plans).
    And yes, the loss of all those episodes is depressing. Some where they only have a fragment just makes me miss them more (The Celestial Toymaker looks awesome, despite the sinister Oriental stereotyping). Animation works a little better than the still photos I think — I don’t know if the Beeb just had more photos of Wheel in Space than the others or they thought it would fit better with the two complete episodes.
    At least the export of Doctor Who throughout the empire gives hope we’ll get another lost serial turning up sooner or later—Troughton’s Enemy of the World was the last I’m aware of.

  3. Pingback: Goals for July, accomplished (and not) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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