Viewing posts tagged hartnell

Decadent, Degenerate, and Rotten to the Core (The Space Museum)

The first appearance of the hideous mutant creatures
inside the Daleks.
It's April 24, 1965. The Beatles have number one again, with Ticket to Ride. Those of you who are obsessive Doctor Who fans will glean the particular significance of tat. The more normal folks will want to remember this fact on Wednesday. (The really really obsessive fans now know exactly what book I'm talking about on Monday. If you are one of those fans, congratulations.) In the fourth week of the Space Museum it will be unseated by Roger Miller's "King of the Road" in what is very possibly the single most jarring transition on the charts until "Do The Bartman" unseats The KLF in 1991. I will not say much about Roger Miller, because, well, he's Roger Miller. I will, however, point out his future #1 hit in his native US, "England Swings."

It is easy, at this point, to think that the world is coming unstuck. Protests in Yereven, Armenia begin to bring the horror of the Armenian Genocide to light. Protests in Berkeley, California involve torching draft cards. The ball that started rolling with the Kennedy assassination has gathered something like critical ...

Pop Between Realities, Home In Time for Tea (Dixon of Dock Green and Z-Cars)

Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea is a recurring feature in which things that are not Doctor Who are looked at in terms of their relation to Doctor Who. This time, we look at two pre-Doctor Who police serials, Dixon of Dock Green and Z-Cars.


The thing you have to understand is that in the mid-60s, Doctor Who was one of three extremely important shows on the BBC to feature police prominently. The other two being Dixon of Dock Green, which aired on the same days as Doctor Who, and Z-Cars, which aired on Tuesdays. (A quick side-note for unfortunate Americans. There is nothing more embarrassing in life than making an erudite, informed point about mid-century British television only to be corrected on the fact that the show is pronounced Zed-Cars, not Zee-Cars. Trust me.) Admittedly, Doctor Who is the only one of these three shows to be a science fiction show. The other two were good old fashioned cop shows.

Still, the fact of the matter is that if you talk about early Doctor Who for long enough with people, one or both of these shows will come up. Usually as follows - Dixon of Dock Green is ...

Substitute for a Sound Character (The Crusade)

Richard the Lionheart really wishes the Doctor wouldn't
bother him while he's in the loo.
It's March 27, 1965. The Rolling Stones still hold number one, although that weird tendency for totally rubbish pop trash to take over whenever the show goes into historical mode promptly rears its head with Unit 4+2 and Cliff Richards ready to pounce. If The Web Planet felt like it was going out into a world of bracing and sudden change, The Crusade feels like it's going out into a world that's a bit dull.

The most interesting thing to happen during the four weeks it's airing, in fact, is Mary Poppins winning a bunch of Oscars. Mary Poppins is interesting for presenting a ridiculously nostalgic look at British culture that, effectively, was a love letter to Victorian children's literature that was so effusive that its major effect was to make everybody think that Victorian children's literature was actually anything like that.

I mention this because The Crusade is Doctor Who's pseudo-Shakespearean story - quite distinctly, with bits of the script written in iambic pentameter. There's something odd on the face of it here - the ...

A Place Where Nothing Is Impossible (The Web Planet)

Astonishingly, some people look at this photo and
think that they're looking at something that
has something to do with realism.
It's February 13, 1965. The Kinks, The Righteous Brothers, The Seekers, and The Rolling Stones are going to be our #1 singles for the next six weeks. The album charts are mostly The Rolling Stones, with The Beatles taking the top spot for fun one week.

What you have to realize about these times is that, looking at what was popular, it is very clear that the world was changing. That things that had previously bubbled under the mainstream have, at this point, broken through in a big way. The Rolling Stones and The Beatles are visible part of what it is increasingly clear is a 90% obscured iceberg. In America, the Civil Rights movement is at its boiling point. White supremacists are beating demonstrators to death. Malcolm X is assassinated. 1965 is not the present day by any stretch of the imagination. But it is also impossible to argue that 1965 is in any way more normal or understandable than the present day. The world of 1965 is staggeringly complex and weird.

I bring this up ...

Like You Do When You're Young (The Romans)

Ian realizes that the only thing more alarming than
plaid pants is where they might have gone.
It's January 16, 1965. It's Georgie Fame, The Moody Blues, and The Righteous Brothers on the charts for the next four weeks, while at the tail end of the four weeks the Rolling Stones take over the album sales with their imaginatively titled The Rolling Stones No. 2.

The most significant thing to happen in these four weeks, however, occurred on January 24th, when Sir Winston Churchill, twice former Prime Minister, dies. His state funeral on January 30th coincides with the third episode of The Romans, the Doctor Who story du jour for the month.

Production wise, The Romans sees the return of Dennis Spooner, which, if you recall my views of his previous story, should give you a sense of where this is going. In addition to writing the story, Spooner has also just assumed the position of script editor for the series. Script editor, for the original run of Doctor Who, was the closest position to the current role of head writer/executive producer. The biggest difference is that rules prohibited script editors from commissioning themselves to write scripts ...

A Rather Special Model (The Rescue)

Boo.
It's 1965. January 2, 1965, to be precise. Life is good. The Beatles are at number one on both the album and singles charts with Beatles For Sale and Day Tripper. Doctor Who, having plowed through Christmas with its epic of Daleks in London, settles in for a two-parter that, while lacking somewhat in raw glamour, is at least of significant historical merit in that it is the first time since the show appeared that a new regular cast member is debuted.

Watching it, it is clear from the start that it is a different sort of story - fully 10% of the story has already passed when the TARDIS crew makes its first appearance. Instead, it starts by focusing on Vicki - the new girl. The result is arguably the first modern Doctor Who story.

See, eventually Doctor Who changes to be predominantly 45 minute single-episode stories instead of the original mode of 25 minute stories of varying episode counts, and the mode for most of the series of four-episode stories with occasional 2, 3, or 6 parters, depending on what the style was. Of these, the two-parter is in some ways the most interesting - there are only 7 ...

They Always Survive, While I Lose Everything: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

The Daleks, like most creatures in the universe,
simply cannot abide plaid pants.
It is November 23rd, 1963. The Supremes "Baby Love" is at the top of the charts. Next up, the Rolling Stones take the charts for a week before that strangely perfect match for Doctor Who wanders through and The Beatles' "I Feel Fine" rounds out the year.

During these six weeks, Wonderful Radio London, one of the offshore radio stations memorialized in Richard Curtis's more or less execrable film The Boat That Rocked/Pirate Radio, debuted - a station that would have a huge role to play in the rising New Britain over the next few years.

And on television, Doctor Who premieres with its eleventh story. Hang on tight. Everything is going to change. Again.

See, there's something about Doctor Who we haven't talked much about yet. And that's the Daleks. Who debuted about a year ago now, and are frighteningly popular. In June, way back when The Aztecs was airing, The Dalek Book was published. Concurrently with this story airing the Go-Gos (No, not those Go-Gos - the other ones) release the novelty single "I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With a Dalek ...

Time Can Be Rewritten 2: The Time Travellers (Simon Guerrier, BBC Books, 2005)

I like traffic lights...
Time Can Be Rewritten is a recurring feature in which stories written in later years that were intended to be retconned into previous eras are analyzed in the context of their presumptive eras. Today we look at Simon Guerrier's 2005 novel from BBC Books, The Time Travellers.


It is November of 2005. The number one singles for the month are Westlife's "You Raise Me Up" and Madonna's "Hung Up." If 2000 was the absolute low point of Doctor Who, this is more or less the high point. On television, Christopher Eccleston regenerated into David Tennant five months ago, and in this month's mini-episode for Children in Need, the world saw him for the first time.

This book, then, is a holdover - the second to last book to emerge from BBC Books, which had been carrying the Doctor Who torch since 1997. The problem is that in April of 2005, Russell T. Davies's Doctor Who established the Last Great Time War as a major plot thread. For a variety of reasons that we'll deal with when we get to this era, this was a phenomenally massive diss to the BBC Books ...

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