Viewing posts tagged hartnell

Like You're Going To Be Killed By Eggs, Or Beef, Or Global Warming (Planet of Giants)

The real problem with the giant phone props is how
easily you can see the human operators.
It's October 31, 1964. Sandie Shaw has the number one single with "(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me," and will hold it for two more weeks before yielding to Roy Orbison.

Since Doctor Who was last on the air, Martin Luther King has won the Nobel Peace Prize, and thirteen years of Conservative rule in Great Britain has come to an end, with Harold Wilson becoming Prime Minister, a position he will hold until 1970. Wilson's term will be dominated by two trends - significant economic problems (that will eventually result in his being voted out of office) and the rise of British counterculture - a tendency started by the Beatles, who Wilson would ensure received an MBE strategically close to his 1966 re-election.

The wound caused by the Kennedy Assassination is festering. The world is not a stable place. The collapse of the British empire continues, with Rhodesia becoming Zambia. It is easy, in 1964, to be afraid. The year is closer to World War II than it is to Nintendo. It is in no way clear that the defeat ...

Time Can Be Rewritten: Campaign (Jim Mortimore, Self-Published, 2000)

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, Jim Mortimore's self-published novel Campaign.

The thing about the past of Doctor Who is that the show very quickly - two televised episodes from here, actually - started actively engaging with questions of its own mythology and past. And so 1964 is never left entirely behind. Even today, stories are actively produced on CD, under official BBC licenses, set in the William Hartnell era. And even beyond that, Doctor Who has, clearly, a long and distinguished history of fandom, which has produced stories, often of dubious value, in the Doctor Who format.

I am not going to do every Doctor Who audio and novel that has ever been written. But I am going to do some of them - ones of particular note or significance. I plan on doing a total of four novels in the Hartnell era, of which this is the first.

Jim Mortimore, when he wrote Campaign, was as accomplished a Doctor Who writer as one could find during the fifteen year interregnum of Doctor ...

Oh, No, No. That's Not Me At All: The Reign of Terror

Susan further frustrates Barbara's plans for escape
with an ill-timed nap.
It's August 8, 1964. The Beatles are about to yield the #1 single to Manfred Mann's "Do Wah Diddy Diddy." It is not that Do Wah Diddy Diddy is a bad song - it's not. But it is tough not to feel as though, musically, it's a step backwards.

This regression is mirrored, unfortunately, on television, as Doctor Who airs The Reign of Terror. I generally try to be sympathetic to episodes of Doctor Who. But there are some episodes that make that hard, and let's face it, this is one of them. Plain and simple, this story is wretched.

(Technical details of interest to purists: The fourth and fifth episodes of this story are among the lost episodes of Doctor Who. I used fan reconstructions for Marco Polo, but this time opted for the VHS release, which covers the two missing episodes via narration provided by Carole Ann Ford.)

I have already noted the awkwardness of the cliffhanger at the end of The Sensorites, in which the Doctor, for no discernible reason, decides to throw Ian and Barbara off the ship at the ...

You're Not Dealing With Human Beings Here: The Sensorites

The Doctor expresses grave concern over the appearance of
a bizarre alien life form with plaid pants.
It is June 20th, 1964. The music charts are about to do some very odd things - Cilla Black still holds the number one, but between now and August 1st, Roy Orbison, The Animals, The Rolling Stones, and the Beatles will all reach number one, with the Rolling Stones getting their first #1 hit.

This generative tumult - a seven week period in which five artists, four of them solidly major, reach number one - is reflected this time in Doctor Who, which airs The Sensorites. While it is unclear that The Sensorities is the best Doctor Who story to date (although it is a contender) it is without doubt the most complex and interesting.

I do not wish to bang the post-colonial gong too many times in a row, but it is worth commenting that this story is cited by Lindy Orthia as one of six stories that are explicitly anti-colonial, especially given that it comes immediately after one of the three stories she cites as being pro-colonial. To some extent, this speaks to a fundamental issue of Doctor Who - its lack of long-term coherence ...

Does it Need Saying: The Aztecs

An homage to the serial's original title, Doctor Who and
the Fatal Drop Off a Soundstage With Shoddy Rear
It is May 23rd, 1964. The number one single is Juliet by the unremarkable "The Four Pennies," who will peak at #1 for a week before yielding to Cilla Black, another star from the increasingly vital Liverpool.

The crucial thing to understand about Liverpool's dominance of the musical scene - a dominance that will not see serious challenge in import until Manchester's centrality some years later - is that Liverpool was a declining industrial city. The rise of the Merseybeat scene is specifically a rise of an economically depressed youth population.

I highlight this because Doctor Who is unmistakably a product of privilege. An academic and some schoolteachers traveling freely is not something that stems from the working class. In fact, its relationship to the working class is positively problematic. Susan, in the first episode, demonstrates that she is capable of living life without even understanding what money is or how it works. The Doctor, by definition, has no use for money. This tension will not be adequately addressed until December 25, 2009. Today, 45 years earlier and change ...

Another Self-Aggrandizing Artifact: The Keys of Marinus

Susan is understandably upset at being
grabbed by a man in a skintight rubber suit.
It is April 11, 1964. The Beatles have the number one single with "Can't Buy Me Love." In the next six weeks, we will discover why the Beatles are unable to buy love - namely that, as Peter & Gordon observe, this is "A World Without Love," making the Searchers' admonition "Don't Throw Your Love Away" sound practice.

While Marco Polo was airing we seem to have drifted away from the news. It is perhaps worth going back and noting that, since late February, Jimmy Hoffa has been convicted, Muhammed Ali has become heavyweight champion of the world, Kitty Genovese was murdered, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor married, Jeopardy debuted, and Britain continued to lose control of Yemen as its empire continued to collapse. In the next six weeks, the Rolling Stones will release their first album and the first BASIC program will be compiled and run.

This last fact is perhaps the most interesting, occurring as it does at the midpoint of "The Keys of Marinus," a serial with what can, in hindsight, be identified as video game plotting. The Keys of Marinus ...

The Assembled Hordes of Genghis Khan Couldn't Get Through Those Doors, and Believe Me, They've Tried (Marco Polo)

It is February 22, 1964, and the number one single is The Bachelors with "Diane." Over the next six weeks, Cilla Black and Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas will both also make it to number one before The Beatles regain the spot on April 2nd. This feels something like a restoration of order, which, to be fair, is also true of the end of Marco Polo, the fourth Doctor Who serial which airs its final installment on April 4th. 

Somewhere between April of 1964 and the present day - specifically between March 9, 1967, and late 1974, however, due to space-saving measures at the BBC, who inadequately anticipated the eventual demand for home video versions of television shows (in part spurred on by Equity, the actors union, which feared that home video and repeats would eventually render the making of new television obsolete), the master recordings of numerous Doctor Who episodes, including all seven episodes of Marco Polo, were junked. As a result, no recording of Marco Polo is currently known to exist.

Doctor Who is, as I have said, eternally unfinished. Another way of putting it - as Paul Magrs in fact has - is that it is incomplete. In ...

A Far Wider Academy of which Human Nature is Merely a Part: The Edge of Destruction

It is February 8th, 1964. In the UK, the number one single is "Needles and Pins" by the Searchers, a Liverpool band. The songwriter, however, is American Sonny Bono, future Republican Congressman who will go on to author a massive copyright extension act that is itself a compromise over his own loathsome view that copyright should be perpetual. He will then ski into a tree and die. Speaking of  America, however, the number one single over there is fellow Liverpool band the Beatles, who have just touched down yesterday at JFK to a throb of fans, offering both a strange juxtaposition with Byron de la Beckwith getting away (for at least the next 30 years) with the murder of Medgar Evers and something of a significant colonization attempt, although for our purposes, the more intriguing product would not make its way to the US until 1972.

In the alarmingly more intelligent context of Doctor Who, the series third adventure, a two part serial hastily cobbled together in order to get the series to fill out its 13-episode initial order without requiring the use of any additional sets or characters. As a result, both episodes feature only the core cast - something ...

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