The Faces of the Doctor

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    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    This is a thread to discuss the Doctor, the many actors who have played him and the production team behind them. Who was your Doctor? Which are the interpretations you like, and are there ones you don’t? How has the show we love changed over the years?

    Remember – anyone can have an opinion, but the value to others is a justified opinion.

    Juniperfish @juniperfish


    He’s also one of the few examples of a positive portrayal of a scientist and the virtues of reason and scientific curiosity. And, of course, he’s a great champion of the brains over brawn solution.

    I think the Doctor was depicted as a scientist and his solutions connected to the virtues of the deductive scientific narrative in much of the “Old Who” that I remember (perhaps particularly when Pertwee was grounded on Earth tinkering in his own Unit lab as their “Scientific Advisor”) but I don’t consider that narrative to be so prominent in Nu Who – which is very interesting as I think the contemporary world is less enamoured of the primacy of “scientific reason” than it was when Who began (for various reasons).

    In Smith’s incarnation, the Doctor is oftentimes presentated as technically and deductively genius  (as in all previous incarnations) – his solution to the communication problem re sending the location of Prisoner Zero to the Atraxi in the Eleventh Hour for instance. However, I feel this is emphasised much less than before the RTD reboot.

    The Doctor is being thoroughly explored under RTD and Moffat as mistaken and flawed in many instances, whereby the powers of “science” cannot save him. For instance, Eleven almost frys the Starwhale’s brain in The Beast Below because he has failed to read the situation correctly on an emotional level, whereas Amy gets it right emotionally and provides the “right” answer as a result.

    This shift began with the Ninth Doctor, where we see, for instance, Ecclestone making the mistake of allowing Rose to go back and see her dead father in time because his emotional involvement overrides his reason.

    The Eleventh Doctor also has a “magical” quality to him, which adheres to his membership of a (now dead) “advanced civilisation”. For instance, he cures Cleaves of the blood clot on her brain in the Almost People two-parter with some kind of Time Lord medical tech and he heals River’s broken wrist with that glittering and magical “regeneration energy” in the Angels Take Manhattan.

    Moreover, as I’ve mentioned in previous threads on The Guardian, in Nu Who I see the arrival of “spirituality” of sorts in Dr. Who. The Doctor’s Wife for example refers to the “soul” of the TARDIS.

    Justice. Science. Reason. Three great principles to guide you as you grow up in my opinion.

    I think the Dr. Who of our youth certainly upheld the Doctor as someone who was prepared to question what was going on in any given situation – an extremely valuable “always think for yourself” principle which should be at the heart of all true education (but, as education is also usually about enculturating us to obey “authority”, that is often not the case).

    However as Enlightenment perspectives on “Justice, Science and Reason” have increasingly been called into question, in particular from the 1970s onward with the advent of post-modern thought (as well as continuing to be foundationally important to our understanding of the world of course) I am very interested to observe the shift in Dr. Who from Old Who to Nu Who in this respect. Nu Who values emotional understanding and the “soul” and even “magic” in a way that Old Who did not…

    Discuss 🙂

    Anonymous @


    Excellent points and I think you’re right there. Certainly most obviously in the Hartnell through Pertwee eras the ‘scientist’ was much more often treated as a positive figure, with the Doctor himself often primarily defining himself as one. I think probably the most clear example is in The Daemons, with him offering an opposing viewpoint to Miss Hawthorne. But apart from that, we’d quite often see relatively benign portrayals of other scientists in the show too.

    As you say, there’s far less of that in nu-Who. The Doctor does have much more a ‘wizardly’ ‘magic’ bent to him now — regeneration ‘magic’ touch, sonic screwdriver = magic wand. I wonder how much of this is the current influence of things like Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter as opposed to what might have been the influences during the 60s/70s (– what were the precise influences of those years, I wonder? HG Wells, Jules Verne, Conan Doyle?)

    In nu-Who there’s been far fewer positive portrayals of scientists and more negative ones — Prof Lazarus and Prof Yana springing immediately to mind. And then there’s the bizarre transition in Cold Blood of Malokeh from malevolent force to Pertwee era-esque positive scientific man. Could that be that the first instinct of an RTD-era writer like Chibnall to make a scientific figure a sinister force but then doing an about turn when he realises that he needs him to be otherwise for the second half of his story? And then there’s lines like the ‘I don’t trust that Richard Dawkins’…

    Your point about the rise of post-modernity is an interesting one too. Has there, I wonder, been a general cultural shift away from science towards ‘mysticism’ (for want of a better word)? If there has been, I find that slightly depressing given that we live in an age of technological marvels (like the ones that allow us to have these conversations) and the rise of pop science as a literary form. Surely we should be more inclined towards scientism, not less, than we were in the 60s and 70s?

    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    @jimthefish – nice follow-up.

    It’s probably important to distinguish between the RTD-showrunner and Moffat-showrunner perspectives. RTD is a passionate atheist and although religion/ spirituality entered Nu Who under RTD, it was personified by the mad Dalek Emperor who styled himself a God. Moffat’s scripts-as-showrunner have been more inclined to mention the “soul” and it’s perhaps interesting to compare Rose’s possession by the Time Vortex/ TARDIS as “Bad Wolf”, when she became a kind of all-seeing super-being but the “soul” was not a prominent feature of the transference, with Idris in The Doctor’s Wife where the “soul” of the TARDIS was explicitly referenced and personified.

    Many movements and periods of scepticism towards the Enlightenment concept of “science and reason as truth” have arisen since the 18thC – Romanticism can be understood as a “backlash” against Enlightenment (as well as the child of it) for instance.

    I suppose you could argue that our present era has a number of different threads of scepticism towards science-as-truth. There is the scepticism which has been encouraged by the concerted and deliberate PR of the oil industry towards climate science, for example. There is also the (in my view more well founded) scepticism towards mechanistic perceptions of the body in the Western medical tradition which have maintained a mind/ body split and which have led to popular interest in “alternative medicine” as part of the search for a great wholism. Scientfic narrative is itself continuously evolving, with developments in understanding such as neuroplasticity (that the environment can affect the brain’s pathway developments) likewise undoing previous “truth foundations”.

    The “science vs spirituality” debate is an artificial one in any case, I think, given that many scientists (such as Darwin) have been and are also religious/ spiritual.

    I don’t see “mysticism” as a “bad thing”, where it concerns a sense of awe regarding the obviously mysterious wonderment of the universe.

    The fact that contemporary Who is more overtly infused with a “magical” element isn’t a regrettable de-railing of the advancement of rationality, at least for me, but part, perhaps of a broader cultural “re-enchantment”.

    Anonymous @


    Ooh, this is getting interesting. Right, having slept on it, I’ve got a couple of further thoughts.

    First of all, on reflection, I think I might argue that the science-bias in Old-Who was largely a case of lip service. Although much was made of the Doctor As Scientist thing, I’d argue that the show treaded much closer to the tropes of fantasy given a veneer of science fiction rather than being what you’d call hard SF in itself. I vaguely recall Clive James reviewing The Planet of Evil, comparing Doctor Who to Flash Gordon where in FG the exposition clearly sounded like mumbo jumbo but in Who that it was still mumbo jumbo that sounded like science. I think that’s largely true. There was very little of more ‘hard science’ in the show back than than there is now.

    I used to have this argument all the time with people on CiF who were calling for the head of Steven Moffatt and a return to the classic days of hard SF Doctor Who that never actually existed except in their imaginations (except perhaps the brief attempt in the Christopher Bidmead days). At its core, the show is about a ‘madman in a box’ with a magic wand.

    But I think you’re right about the modern iteration in that the veneer of science is more or less forgotten about now. RTD’s stuff is interesting because, despite being an atheist, his conception of the Doctor is I’d argue much more messianic than the Moffatt’s. Again, I wonder if it’s just a case of changing fashion. We’re living through the Buffy/Harry Potter/Peter Jackson Tolkien/Game of Thrones age, so straight magical influences are more acceptable than they perhaps were in the 1970s, or perhaps the Doctor As Scientist concept was just a hangover from the show’s original educational remit that has now been largely forgotten.

    On a more personal level, I’m a bit more ambivalent about this ‘new’ mysticism. I’m very much an empiricist myself and like Slartibartfast ‘rather a fan of science’. I’d agree that even the most cursory examination of the universe and the world around us can offer the sense of awe and wonder that is often considered the preserve of the more mystical or ‘spiritual’ among us. I also worry sometimes that this turning away from science and return to mysticism in the real world allows charlatans to exploit people at their most vulnerable. (Not mentioning any names but someone who sounds like Derek Pakora springs to mind.)

    Good point about the Romantics and it being a reaction against the Enlightenment. But I’d argue that it’s not quite as cut and dried as that. Don’t forget that Shelley was essentially an amateur scientist (or natural philosopher as they called them back in them days) and very keen on experiments in Galvanism. He was pretty much the model for Victor Frankenstein in his wife’s celebrated novel. (Although, he did also try to perform seances and lurk around graveyards trying to raise the dead, so you might call him rather confused on some levels.) But certainly Blake and Coleridge were what you’d call mystically inclined (although in Coleridge’s case you could just say it was more narcotically inclined than anything else.)

    Apologies for this epic, btw…

    Juniperfish @juniperfish


    Ah yes, Pertwee gives a “science, not sorcery” speech in the Daemons, doesn’t he.

    This really nice tribute fan video to Pertwee and his Unit years with Liz Shaw

    I think captures the certain “man of science” characterisation which was always in the background then – the Brig refers to the Doc as “a scientist”  and there’s a lot of chemistry and other equipment in the lab which you can see in the background on a regular basis.

    But you’re right, Who was never an educational “hard science” show. Moreoever, the dandy (in flamboyant Bessie) and the Bond-flavoured action hero sides of Pertwee’s Doctor, as well as his characterisation as a  scientist, are also in evidence in this vid.

    Yes, it’s true that RTD was responsible for the creation of the Doctor as a “lonely God”, although not in a mystical sense but in a sole-survivor of an advanced technological civilisation sense, with exaggerated megalomania towards the end of Tennant’s reign. This theme has continued, as an undercurrent, under Moffat, perhaps most evidently in The God Complex (where the title puns on the Doctor’s own “God complex”).

    I would be fascinated to delve into Time Lord society in present Who, should the Time Lords return (which I’m still firmly convinced they will). Gallifreyan society, what we saw of it in the past, was ornate and ceremonial, but there was no hint of a religious system (at least not in the TV show – I know the priestess-oracle Pythia was involved in the Loom novels in Time Lord pre-history). What might Time Lord religion look like? Or, how tempted might the Time Lords have been to set themselves up as Gods to be worshipped by “less advanced” cultures without time-travel tech?

    It is clear that when watching a Matt Smith episode alongside Pertwee or Baker old YouTube clips, the fairytale sprinkled cosmic-dust (“magical”) qualities of the present flavour of the show are very apparent. No doubt the influence of Harry Potter is in the mix there somewhere!

    Re the relationship between Romanticism and the Enlightenment – yes, it was complicated.  In fact I’d say that, postmodernism nothwithstanding, that tension continues to define British culture today. The Olympics and Paralympics opening and closing ceremonies were a fascinating mix of references to the Enlightenment (Newton featured) and yet to magic (The Tempest was also chosen as a prominent theme, with Ian Mckellan as Prospero the sorcerer).

    @rob Oh yes, Planet of the Spiders was one of my favourites too (in retrospect as I was too young to see it first time around). Metebelis Three and its blue crystals…


    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    @juniperfish & @jimthefish

    I am very interested to observe the shift in Dr. Who from Old Who to Nu Who in this respect. Nu Who values emotional understanding and the “soul” and even “magic” in a way that Old Who did not…

    It’s an interesting argument, but to put a different spin on things, I don’t think you can directly categorise old Who to that extent. Some of the writers of old Who reflected the burgeoning interest in Eastern religions and philosophy that occurred in the sixties, and channelled it into the show. Others had a more whimsical approach, which could lead to a particularly strange mix.

    The first story (of the top of my head) where the Doctor mentioned “Soul” was Hartnells “The Savages”. A protagonist consumes some of his life force (which is said to be very powerful) and starts to become more like the Doctor. The Doctor explains to Steven that aspect of his “consciousness” and “soul” were transmitted with his life force. It’s interesting that in old-who, conciousness and soul were often presented as interchangeable terms.

    The personification of the Tardis was one thing, but don’t forget the much bigger deal in the old series of having representations of universal Order and Chaos as the White and Black Guardians.

    Other realms visited included the abstract realm the Celestial Toymaker, The dream-like “Land of Fiction” in The Mind-Robber wasn’t explained as a group hallucination caused by mind pollen – it was a realm outside our reality. In addition, there were also the astral planes where the Great Intelligence was said to lurk, and “the dark places of the inside”, where the Mara was imprisoned.

    Davisons Mara stories (Kinda and Snakedance) are stuffed with references to Buddhist philosophy and a fair amount of the “nu-spiritual” approach of windchimes and crystals. Meditation techniques (usually of Tibetan origin) proliferate from Troughton onwards. In Snakedance the Mara is said to be created by collected amplified belief and fear, and in The curse of Fenric strong belief is shown to be an actual force that could be used to repel the haemovores. So The God Complex’s play on this really wasn’t unprecedented.

    Like a lot of Who (of whichever flavour) you can cherry pick storylines and plot elements to pretty much demonstrate any argument because it has such a rich history. I’m not really sure if nu-Who is more “magical” than old really, but I don’t think the old series ever felt the need to run away from a more metaphysical approach to the universe.

    I also take @Robs point that this is a bit of an odd conversation for this memory thread. By all means continue here for now, but I think if we want to expand it, I’ll see if I can pull the posts into a more relevant thread, if no-one objects?

    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    @phaseshift and @rob and @jimthefish

    Sorry if the discussion is not right for the “memory” thread. It’s about a memory (faulty or otherwise!) of the depiction of the Doctor in Old Who vs his depiction today – so it kind of fits!?  Feel free to move elsewhere if you can come up with a suitable “elsewhere”.

    @phaseshift I don’t know Davidson’s Mara stories – I was so distressed by the departure of Tom Baker that I confess I only watched Davidson sporadically, hence my need for the 50th Anniversary complete-as-can-be Who fantasy full box-set!

    I take your point about the smattering of Eastern philosophies in some Old Who stories. Parallel universes and “other realities” are staples of sci-fi however and need not indicate a “spiritual” universe.

    Like a lot of Who (of whichever flavour) you can cherry pick storylines and plot elements to pretty much demonstrate any argument because it has such a rich history. I’m not really sure if nu-Who is more “magical” than old really, but I don’t think the old series ever felt the need to run away from a more metaphysical approach to the universe.

    Welllll – it’s Moffat’s Who in particular in which I’ve noticed  a resurgence of “the soul” (I didn’t know Hartnell’s Doctor had mentioned “the soul” – thanks). It interests me in cultural context because, whilst organised religion in the UK has been losing adherents, there has been a surge of interest in “the spiritual” (as documented by contemporary scholars of spirituality and religion) including, but not limited to, new paganisms, a belief in some kind of connection with the dead, etc.  And the “soul” was referred to very explicitly by Eleven in the Almost People two parter, as “evidence” of intelligent sentience, whereas “Science” (although not individual scientists) has not tended to apply that test.

    I will keep my ears open for further Eleventh Doctor “soul pronouncements”!


    Anonymous @

    @phaseshift — you’re right, of course about the Mara Buddhism thing — also Planet of the Spiders too. Very interesting conversation and a huge topic, so you’re probably right that it’s in the wrong place at the moment….

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    It is clear that when watching a Matt Smith episode alongside Pertwee or Baker old YouTube clips, the fairytale sprinkled cosmic-dust (“magical”) qualities of the present flavour of the show are very apparent. No doubt the influence of Harry Potter is in the mix there somewhere!

    Just out of interest, when I did my last great who-a-thon, I actually thought about this, because we’d had a lot of comments basically attacking Moffat on his general approach.

    For me, I don’t think there is a massive shift in direction, but I think the “fairytale” elements are certainly accentuated by how the show is now filmed. You think of the scenes in young Amelia’s garden, or how the block of flats is shot in “Night Terrors” and they have a visual beauty that I think owes something to Potter, but also people like Tim Burton and even further back, Terry Gilliams early films like “Time Bandits”. Personally I love the look of Moffats Who – watching some of the RTD run, I found myself missing some of the visual flourish that has been stamped over the last few series. It can be small things – the TARDIS materialising being shown in reflection in a puddle. The transition shot of Mels throwing a model Tardis and the shot transitioning into the real thing. Small things in the scheme of things but they really do add texture.

    I’d also say that with Matt Smith they found someone who could sell the most whimsical lines in the most dazzling way, and the writers are now taking advantage of that. A pretty magical moment from “Night Terrors”:

    The Doctor: It means I’ve come a long way to get here, Alex. A very long way. George sent a message—a distress call, if you like. Whatever’s inside that cupboard is so terrible—so powerful—that it amplified the fears of an ordinary little boy across all the barriers of time and space.
    Alex: Eh?
    The Doctor: Through crimson stars and silent stars and tumbling nebulas like oceans set on fire. Through empires of glass and civilizations of pure thought. And a whole terrible wonderful universe of impossibilities. You see these eyes, they’re old eyes. And one thing I can tell you, Alex: monsters are real.
    Alex: You’re not from Social Services are you?

    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    @phaseshift – Yes, we are talking about a magical “quality” rather than actual casting spells magic, of course… because some “wand” the sonic makes – it doesn’t even work on wood!

    This “fairytale magic”, I absolutely agree, is inscribed visually in the Smith era (I also love it). The lighting crew alone should get awards – little Amelia’s ramshakle garden in the Eleventh Hour for instance; frosted blue and lonely and enticing.

    The spiral staircase up to the TARDIS in The Snowmen was a perfect example of steampunk-ish whimsy, shot gloriously for “magical” effect. I also really liked, incidentally, the way in which the Doctor’s grief was actualised as a retreat up a perilous staircase; a clinging to the Earth in mourning, hiding at the top of a turret, in a flurry of snow as cold as the cold in his sorrowing hearts… magic 🙂

    The question of “the soul” in Who is rather different. However, it is interesting that the Doctor perhaps most at ease with an “ensouled” vision of the universe, is also the one most bedecked in fairytale magic. I like to think that Eleven, after the devastation of the Time War and the slow trauma recovery of Nine and Ten, has come to believe, just a little bit, in miracles again. He mentions Rory’s auton-resurrection as a “miracle” in The Pandorica Opens.

    ScaryB @scaryb

    Doctor Who has always been of its time to a certain extent.  And because of the regeneration inspiration it can, and does, reinvent itself every so often. Instead of running out of steam after a year or 2 as most long-running series inevitably do as the creative forces behind it start to dry up (or want to go off an do other things), Who just brings in a new combination. Because it is simultaneously brand new and very old, it’s of its time and slightly off-centre as well. It’s completely original idea and no other programme could get away with it (then or now). Others have tried replacing a central character with a different actor – it never works (new series of Yes Minister anyone?!)

    eg in the 60s the top (cool)  TV programmes/films included the likes of the Avengers, Twilight Zone, Dangerman, Man From Uncle, James Bond, the Prisoner; political background of Kennedy, atomic bomb; still largely hierarchical, patriarchal society about to be radically challenged.

    60s Doctors – Hartnell – grandfather type, Troughton – more like your favourite mad uncle (less authoritarian, more unpredictable)  Gradually shook off the original concept of an “educational” programme (originally every alternate series was a history one) and evolved into more of an adventure series

    70s – more concern about the environment, North Sea Oil, continuing interest in Eastern mysticism; punk; TV inc The Brothers, Onedin Line, Blakes 7 – longer more detailed background series

    Doctors becoming younger, more anarchic, from Pertwee to Baker – More stories/ideas being used up, so deeper backstory develops. Doctor being more explicitly depicted as rebel/outsider.  Not to mention the impact of Douglas Adams sheer wackiness.

    80s – Bit of a disaster in many ways, especially fashion (stick of celery anyone?!) Long dark decade of Thatcherism, jobs cuts etc (Sorry someone else more contemporary with it is going to have to fill in this bit of the theory – am shaky on 80s Doctors!)

    By the time NuWho comes around we’ve had long running paranoia series like XFiles which mixed myth, science and the downright weird, Nikita, Buffy (and Whedon spinoffs), mega sagas like Lost etc. Theology is hinted at, mixed with magic and with a veneer of science – there’s a wibbly wobbly timey wimey explanation for everything. Big Bads hidden behind layers of conspiracy.  Relationships, backstories and serieslong arcs have become the norm.  Plus technology has caught up with a lot of Doctor Who’s original ambition.

    Throughout all this the Doctor himself has retained an air of authority when necessary, a genuine off-the-wallness (the easiest thing in the world to get wrong if the actor isn’t up to it) and a sheer magical, infectious enthusiasm for everything! (except daleks). Lots of his background has been hinted at, in often contradictory ways, but the central core of the character’s motivation etc re why he stole the TARDIS in the first place, is a mystery.

    And should mostly stay that way. IMHO 🙂  By not defining him too closely he remains an enigma that we can project on to, read into what we each want to see in our favourite alien superhero.

    <collapses in a heap on the sofa, exhausted>

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    Looking back on the First Doctor for me is a lesson in envy. I have an older brother who could have watched all of the first, second and third Doctors run, but – didn’t bother. That was the point (at nine or ten) that I determined my brother was an actual idiot.

    With the advent of video and the audio reconstructions I caught up to the extent I have seen/heard everything that is available. So a couple of random observations.

    Hartnell could be fearsome onscreen, and apparently terrified some people behind the scenes. He was his own Doctor it seems, with all the faults we have come to know and love.

    Something that isn’t said often enough is that the First Doctor could be immensely playful. Some of the scenes I have seen in “The Romans” left me weeping with laughter. He really did have a gift for comedy, and when a good script was given to him, he really did deliver.

    @scaryb posted a link to the Eoin Colfer interview. He suggested that the First seemed jaded with the Universe in some way. I really didn’t get that as I thought The First Doctor just had that spirit of adventure, but was slightly disgruntled to be landed with a couple of apes in his exploits. But what apes! Ian and Barbara, I think, defined what a companion should be to a large extent. Some of the dialogue between them, with Hartnell patting “Ian” on the back for recognising something patently obvious are a joy to watch. I can remember watching the end of “The Chase”, with a collage of images of Ian and Barbara returned to Earth, and Hartnell garumphing and turning away from Vicky as a tear rolls down his cheek. With Ian and Barbara, no wonder the Doctor selected us as his favourite species.

    I have always felt that Hartnell worked as a Doctor in the ongoing story. Some of his qualities are very “TimeLord” as we came to see them. I always thought that, for all his rebellion, he was still tied to that isolated culture and some of its attitudes. Prolonged experience to those pesky humans freed him in a way in his subsequent regenerations, seeing the Universe through those young and brief lives.

    I was astonished to learn that Hartnell initially felt his work on Who was fairly worthless. A cultural thing of the times. In the sixties, theatre and film had the credo. I understand that by the time he came back for the Three Doctors he had embraced it, and loved the attention it brought to him.

    I wish he could see the legacy of the show. What it has become. To know that his image is still shown to children as the First.

    What an achievement.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    I like to think that Eleven, after the devastation of the Time War and the slow trauma recovery of Nine and Ten, has come to believe, just a little bit, in miracles again.

    I think a lot of these series has been about that. Although it’s not a fan-favourite, I loved the protestation by the Doctor that he couldn’t “feel” the way that Madge did in “The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe”, which finished with a tear as he was welcomed by the Ponds. As I mentioned in my post about 1, I think sparing tears can add value to Who, and under Moffat the emotional content has been drawn back a bit, to good effect.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    I’d agree with all of your post about how Who has reflected its time and concerns, but have to add that the environmental stuff in the late sixties and seventies was extraordinary in retrospect.

    The Doctors arguments about mankind’s addiction to Petroleum just seemed so far ahead of its time, when you consider that North Sea Oil was considered the panacea to all our economic woes during the period.

    ScaryB @scaryb

    @phaseshift Absolutely re the environment thing.  I maybe didn’t bring out enough (in my previous mega-post) that although DW is of its time(s), and got laughed at in the early days for its wobbly sets and budget costumes, it also in many ways set the standards for imaginative ideas, delivered with panache. The scripts and the acting average an amazingly high standard over the years.

    On the subject of forward-looking programmes, there was an amazing series in the early 70s called Doomwatch. I couldn’t remember its name till now, and just looked it up. I hadn’t realised how many former Doctor Who creatives were involved in the production team- explains a lot. This was very much an adult series, dealing with big doomsday ideas, in a context of little steps so you could see exactly how it could just happen.

    Don’t know if there’s anything of it still exists, would be well worth checking out. Anyone else remember it?

    Who has always been trailblazing, from the earliest days. A woman producer. In 1963 FFS!

    Even the theme tune was like nothing else at the time (and not much since)

    The fact that they showed exactly how to cope when your main actor wants to leave, and in a way which makes it unrepeatable for any other show (unless they want to be called out for copying DW), sums it up for me. 🙂

    ScaryB @scaryb

    Hartnell – absolutely amazing.  Was known as a character actor up till then, usually small time crooks. he soared as the Doctor. Agree it would have been lovely if he could have had any sense of the legacy he left. In 1960s TV was a punky young whippersnapper, and a kids prog was waaaay down the pecking order. Or should have been!  As a 7 y.o.  he just blew me away.

    He could be very impatient, though mellowed as he got to know and trust Ian and Barbara, mischievous, amusing and excited (esp about new things). He could take charge when needed – there was a sense of authority and dignity about him at times, when facing up to daleks etc. He could be very empathic (eg leaving Susan when he knew it was what she really wanted) and sometimes very selfish. He had a great twinkly-eyed chuckle.  He was NEVER jaded!! (I was there, I will not be argued with on this! 🙂  )

    He often deliberately stirred it – eg he would usually call Ian by a wrong variation of Chesterton. As a child viewer I also knew he was doing it on purpose, pretending to be forgetful. He could be arrogant in the sense of thinking he knew best cos he’s an aged timetraveller who’s seen more than most. But could also (occasionally) fess up – eg pretending there was a problem with the fluid link so that he would get to explore the city on Skaro, instead of taking off again when they discovered the atmosphere was toxic.

    As people have said before, Who has always involved the interaction with companions – and those characters did develop (except maybe poor Susan who was stuck with the I-scream role mostly) as they travelled together.

    And the hair! No-one else on TV had hair like that (not even the women!)  Hair was on the brink of being a very big deal in this decade, LOL

    <looks around for any other aged Whovians – I can’t be the only crumblie in this blog who remembers WH>



    ScaryB @scaryb

    And thanks to @phaseshift, @juniperfish, @jimthefish for the science/magic/god discussion above – interesting stuff

    Anonymous @

    Much interesting chat here. I’ll follow up with my own thoughts on the first Doctor in a mo but first more specifically:

    The original show definitely did move with the times, was sometimes prescient, but at its most successful points definitely reflected the times. (There’s a very good review by Clive James, in fact I think it’s the I’ve already referenced in which he says that all successful SF is not so much about the future but about the era in which it is made’s attitude to the future. The Flash Gordon serials of the 30s are essentially about contemporary fears about gangsters and organised crime and perhaps the rise of Fascism, for instance.)

    Over and above that, when Who was at its most successful it did have Doctors who reflected the ‘spirit of the age’, as it were. You could argue that the show only got into trouble when the Doctor of the times didn’t reflect that zeitgeist. Davison partly did but I don’t think he stuck around long enough and his character was too swamped by the other companions to really make an impact on the public’s imagination. But certainly C Baker and early McCoy were just too adrift and no one really knew what they stood for, or who they were really.

    And @phaseshift and @juniperfish, interesting replies with regards to the mysticism in Who debate. I’m afraid I’m not sure I entirely agree and I’d argue that that ‘magical’ Doctor was a trope that became more evident from Tom Baker on and that the first three Doctors could more readily be described as ‘scientists’ rather than ‘magicians’. But it it’s alright with you guys, I’ll try and incorporate my argument into my reactions to each subsequent Doctor in this thread…

    Craig @craig

    Did someone just mention Flash Gordon? Is Gordon alive? Good. I like to play with things a while before annihilation. 😀

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    Although I was quite young at the time, I remember Doomwatch very well. I bought a couple of episodes on DVD (they didn’t sell well unfortunately, and the line was discontinued). I still marvel that they killed Robert Powell’s character, who was one of the most popular members of the cast.

    When Channel 5 started, the first week saw a feature length attempt to bring it back, and it was a shame it wasn’t picked up as it had some nice touches (the plot was about an attempt to create an artificial black hole as an energy source).

    If you are into that kind of thing, I really enjoyed a Canadian series called ReGenesis (link to wiki entry). It focused on a group of scientists investigating disease outbreaks, and the environmental impacts of genetic research. It ran to four series, and I noticed Morrisons were stocking the first series of 13 episodes for a meagre £5.99 Earth Pounds (alas you’d have to order abroad for the others, or take up this thing the kids refer to as “downloading”).

    I’ve credited the Doctor with igniting an interest in science, and I studied chemistry at University. I later did an MSc in Environmental Science, and work as a consultant in the sector. Maybe both the Doctor, and Doomwatch had something to do with those choices?

    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    I wasn’t around for the First Doctor, so I’ve only seen him in YouTube clips really <true confession>.

    I found this enthusiastic “Geek Crash Course”

    What amazed me is just how many young women companions he had – all in lovely black-and-white and that far away ’60s style. Where are they all now I wonder?

    Anonymous @

    @juniperfish — that’s a little too ebullient and enthusiastic for my taste, but a useful taster nonetheless…

    And of course one of the real joys of rewatching Hartnell’s stuff is of course the endless fluffing of lines, as seen in this compilation…

    My personal favourite, which I don’t think is on that clip is ‘we could all be blown to atoms floating around in Spain, er, space….’

    Craig @craig

    @juniperfish @jimthefish and @phaseshift

    I also missed all of early Who, and despite loving it have never really gone back except when it was repeated. I just wish I had the time and the years (oh, to be a Time Lord).

    I find this guy quite entertaining though, and he is obviously a huge fan:

    There are links to brief introductions to the other Doctors in the related links down the side. I really enjoyed them.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    @juniperfish, @jimthefish and @craig

    Thanks for those links! I think I was lucky in a way. I went to Bradford University, and Bradford had the National Museum of Film, Photography and Television. One of only two facilities in the UK that had IMAX and the ability to show 70mm film at the time.

    In my first term they had a retrospective on Who, with some cleaned up recovered episodes. The following two terms they had seasons on ITC (Prisoner, The Avengers, etc) and Bond. They also had Terry Gilliam presenting his early films and doing a Q&A session. I was in hogs heaven, to be frank.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    What amazed me is just how many young women companions he had – all in lovely black-and-white and that far away ’60s style. Where are they all now I wonder?

    You know – that made me look them up on Wiki, and although I understood that we have lost a couple of companions, I didn’t realise that February 18th 2013 will be 20 years since Jacqueline Hill (Barbara) died of breast cancer.

    She did return to appear opposite Tom Baker in Meglos as a mad high priestess, and it reminded me that William Russel, who played Ian, was originally scheduled to appear in Davisons “Mawdryn Undead” to reprise his character. Due to illness, he couldn’t appear, so we had The Brig as a public school teacher instead.

    Michael Craze who played Ben died from a heart attack, and looking at his Wiki entry, I noticed he had named his only son “Ben”. I take it he had some fond memories of his time on the show.

    Anonymous @

    Some thoughts on the first Doctor:

    It’s a shame these days that the first Doc is largely forgotten about. I think there’s plenty of lip service to how William Hartnell created the foundations for the legacy etc but I’d say his era is the one that is seldom plundered for inspiration/call backs compared to other docs. There are, I suppose, some good reasons for this — aside from the ‘cult of youth’ approach we have today which means the Doctor just can’t be as remote and, well, old as the first was, there’s also no Time Lord mythology, no mythology of any kind even. It is literally just a madman in a box.

    But whenever I look back at old episodes now, especially An Unearthly Child, there are a number of things that strike me.:

    The Doctor’s pipe. It always bloody bugs me. He’s never seen smoking it once since. I’d like to have seen at least one scene of him having a thoughtful puff to justify its inclusion in the first story.
    Just what a git the Doctor was. Considering the outcry about the Doctor leaving Solomon to die in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, it’s always good to direct people to this story where the Doctor seems to be quite happy to smash in an unconscious caveman’s skull with a rock until Ian stops him.

    In the first season alone, we see him consider murder, kidnap his companions and also put their lives in danger just so the selfish old git can get to explore. We also see him accuse them of sabotage and also see Susan got quite freakily scary with a pair of scissors. It is, I think, useful to remember the dark edges that the show had at its inception, although they largely got ironed out by the time Hartnell bowed out of the role.

    This is not a criticism, by the way. I actually quite like the initial dynamic and I’m quite glad to see that there are at least elements of that anti-heroism creeping back into the Doctor with Matt Smith.

    However, I’d argue that despite some chat about souls, as PhaseShift pointed out earlier, this Doctor is rather colder, more distant and dare I say it, more analytical than those who followed. In short, I might be tempted to argue that he represents detached scientific curiosity (yes, I’m banging my old Doc as scientist drum again). The original line-up seems to represent the Doctor as Reason – pure curiosity, pure inquiry, and irritated by the petty distractions of other people. Ian also represents Science, as a science teacher but tempered with morality. In these early years the Doctor and Ian are often paired up and I think that he’s there as the moral brakes on him, as it were, holding him back from excess and actually teaching him humanity. Ian is helped in this by Barbara, who as a history teacher, represents historical knowledge but also Compassion and Emotion, a slightly different concept than Ian’s morality and ethics perhaps. Finally, Susan also represents Inquiry but also naivete. It’s interesting that even at the start of the series she has significant knowledge but just doesn’t know how to put it to use — a skill that for all his abilities the Doctor is completely unable to teach her. It takes Ian and Barbara to do that.

    I think once the original companions moved on, the TARDIS dynamic changed and the show started to move quickly much more in the direction that we recognise today. But the original line-up of companions don’t merit a special place in Who lore just because they were first, but also because they were instrumental into humanising the Doctor, actually implanting his affection of humanity within him. I think that even now if you could press him to say who were his favourite travelling companions it wouldn’t be River, or Amy, or Sarah-Jane, it would be Ian Barbara and Susan.


    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    @jimthefish – yes, I’d agree. I think the show had the most brilliant opening; we started with the audience seeing the most important event in the Doctor’s life, the one that changed everything for him. Ian and Barbara following Susan home, and his decision to kidnap them. This is what changed ‘the Doctor’ into ‘Doctor Who’.

    And if you think of ‘the Doctor’ as possibly someone capable of becoming a Timelord like ‘the Master’, you can see how important that meeting may have been.

    One of the things I’d love is for the 50th to refer back to that in some way, but maybe it’s always going to be a mystery. Why was the Doctor was so scared of discovery that he was willing to take these two apes with him? Rather than risk them talking about him.

    Anonymous @


    Why was the Doctor was so scared of discovery that he was willing to take these two apes with him?

    Well if the Tim Quinn/Dicky Howett version is to be believed then it was Susan’s Grandmother after her housekeeping that he was running away from….

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    It is an obvious point, but no one imagined when they put on this children’s show in 1963 that it would survive, much less become the phenomenon that it did. Hartnell’s Doctor was never designed with the back-story we all are now so familiar with. If memory serves correct, it was only in “The Time Meddler” that another Time Lord and another TARDIS was introduced, and the back-story began, slowly, to take shape.

    But at the beginning, there was just The Doctor, this slightly alarming old man–to the 11 year-old that I was, and most of the original audience were. And this brings me to my second point: while the show is now a family show, designed to be watched by parents and children together, at the beginning it was a children’s show. While 40 year-olds who originally watched Tom Baker now watch it with their children, and 60 year-olds who originally watched William Hartnell now try and catch some quality time with the grandchildren watching Matt Smith, back in 1963 it was watched by children, and just children.

    This is important, because, originally, it was as much an educational programme as anything else–introducing 10 year-olds to history and science through both the adventures themselves (The Aztecs for history, Planet of Giants and others for science) and via Ian and Barbara, the science teacher and the history teacher. And because it was watched by children, rather than children with their parents, it encouraged children to be creative and independent–to build their own Daleks out of cardboard and to take an interest in seeking out a book on the Aztecs or the Romans. I know that this was precisely my experience, and I was not alone.

    As the show went on, and the Doctors changed, the original character of the Doctor changed. This we know. But I think it is important to note that there was a close relationship to the changing Doctors and the generation that began watching in 1963 and slowly grew up with the show. I am talking about that cohort that was about 10 or 11 in 1963. The wide-eyed 11 year-old (like me) that watched Ian, Barbara, Susan and the Doctor go on adventures to the past and to the future, slowly grew up, and by the age of 13 was ready for Troughton’s more comical Doctor and more monsters. By the mid teens we were ready for Pertwees’ dashing adventurer, working with UNIT to save the Earth. By university, we could identify with Tom Baker’s swagger and scarf. In many ways, the early years of Who (and the differences in the Doctors) changed to reflect the ageing of the generation of 10 and 11 year-olds that turned on the television on November 23, 1963.

    But then we (that generation that started watching in 1963) had grown out of Who. The pity was that I do not think the show knew how to attract a new generation in quite the same way.

    I will also confess that I was not captivated by RTD’s re-invention, or by the 9th and 10th. (I know, this is heresy to say this on this board!) But when Matt Smith appeared, I recognised–instantly–the same Doctor I saw in William Hartnell all those years ago. Tom Baker was fun, but I never felt he was the same Doctor as William Hartnell, even with a new face and new personality. But I do with Matt Smith.

    This, I believe, is the genius of Moffat. He has created a Doctor (and Matt Smith has realised that Doctor) that speaks to the audience of today, but is–for the first time–indelibly linked to the origin of the show. Moffat’s “Doctor Who” is overtly magical in tone. Verity Lambert’s “Doctor Who” was educational, secular, and adventurous. But the impact of it was magical on a wide-eyed 11 year-old. Her genius was to make an educational children’s show magical.

    I realise I have drifted somewhat from my original point, but I hope there is something in there of interest for my fellow enthusiasts.

    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    @blenkinsopthebrave and @scaryb (on the Dr. Who Memories thread) – lovely posts about being there right at the start for the First Doctor.

    I do hope the BBC is having the sense to research and record some such memories for the 50th Anniversary (“Growing up with the Doctor through the decades”).

    I wish Matt Smith could read your post @Blenkinsop. I’m sure he’d be very moved – and I doubt it’s an accident that you see a flavour of the First in the Eleventh, given the threads of the storyline which seem to be shaping up (wherein the Doctor must contact all his past selves/ “re-set” himself and so go back to the start).  Someone else mentioned that we have seen images of the First Doctor here and there during Eleven’s reign (I think briefly during the encounter with the sad Krafayis in Vincent and the Doctor) – so, no, not an accident…

    janetteB @janetteb

    I been lurking on this discussion partly because I am enjoying immensely and feel that I have nothing worthy to add and partly because there are so many good comments that I would like to respond to that it makes my head ache and so I keep putting it off which of course means that there are even more fabulous comments to comment upon and it has become even more difficult, so now, that it has become impossible I will venture in.

    I have seen some of the Hartnell stories. Those that did not end up on the BBC bonfire were repeated on ABC Tv a few years ago, Aussie Auntie obviously not sharing BBC Auntie’s loathing of repeats, however as I was usually in the kitchen with “he who now has a name” getting dinner while they were on I only got to watch snatches. (We recorded them all for that later which has yet to happen) We had several stories on Video which were watched and rewatched however. I loved the history stories and regret that Dr Who has lost that focus. I think it is a shame that they dropped the educational aim. It should not be the driving motif but is not harmful to have a Science/history lesson lurking in the subtext.

    I many ways the earlier years of Who were more confident about the future of humanity than our current age and that is reflected in the stories. In 1963 people were still wary due to the war and development of atomic energy but by the end of the decade, Pertwee era, the moon landings were bathing science and scientists in a euphoric aura. Science, in the late sixties and seventies, was seen as the stepping stone to the future, now we are beginning to realise that our manipulation of nature comes at a price and so the role of companion as the human tempering the man of science has come again to the fore. Interesting that the relationship of the first Dr and his companions is echoed in the more recent stories. In many ways Amy and Rory were reminiscent of Barbara and Ian. Maybe in some ways we have come full circle.

    We are wary of science now because we know the harm that can be done when that knowledge is used by unethical persons but at the same time we also know that our survival depends upon scientific knowledge well applied. To most people the scientist is a magician. How many computers users know how a computer actually works. (Luddite me certainly doesn’t.) As knowledge becomes increasingly specialised the pratictioners of any one field become magicians to those of others. So the Dr is a scientist, a magician, a saviour but also potentially harmful because he is lacking in fundamental human insight. Matt Smith brings all this to the role and yes, I think in many ways he does resemble William Hartnell’s Dr.



    Anonymous @

    Some great comments here. Perhaps there is something of Hartnell in the current Doctor — he certainly seems to be veering closer to him dress-wise in the upcoming episodes…

    On a slight aside, have just been watching some of the first episodes of Fringe (in preparation for the finale) and is it possible that there’s something reminiscent between Walter and his relationship with Peter/Olivia/Astrid and the first Doctor and his first companions?

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Yes, I noticed that the Victorian costume was closing in on Hartnell’s Edwardian costume. A ‘back to the beginning’ reboot is looking more and more likely…

    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    @janetteb Good post

    I many ways the earlier years of Who were more confident about the future of humanity than our current age and that is reflected in the stories. In 1963 people were still wary due to the war and development of atomic energy but by the end of the decade, Pertwee era, the moon landings were bathing science and scientists in a euphoric aura.

    Yes absolutely – we are living in times less optimistic than the ’60s without a doubt. I do wonder what The Doctor might look like in another fifty years, should he survive. I’d love to jump in the TARDIS and take a look! Europe will, I suspect, have further declined as a “great power” in the world. Will US popular culture still dominate world markets? If not, there will be fewer trips to Manhattan for the Doc.

    By then, he will have been a woman, sometimes. Perhaps he will have married two people at once, as we move towards an acceptance of polyamory.

    A future show-runner will, after a couple of decades, revive the character of River Song in a new body. They will meet, not knowing at first who the other is, in an emotional scene which uses archive documentary footage recreate the Earth as-it-was, before the polar ice-caps melted. The TARDIS will still be blue. The Doctor will speak Mandarin…

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    The comment by @blenkinsopthebrave that he felt that Who had changed as that initial ’63 audience grew was interesting, but something it’s hard for those of us who joined later to evaluate.

    On “The Unearthly Child”, I remembered that the BBC Archive had released a lot of documents to do with how the show was conceived and received over the years which can be accessed here.

    The audience survey report for Unearthly child (a precursor to todays AI index) had these in the comments section:

    3. ‘Tonight’s new serial seemed to be a cross between Wells’ Time Machine and a space-age Old Curiosity Shop, with a touch of Mack Sennett comedy. It was in the grand style of the old pre-talkie films to see a dear old Police Box being hurtled through space and landing on Mars or somewhere. I almost expected to see a batch of Keystone Cops emerge on to the Martian landscape. Anyway, it was all good, clean fun and I look forward to meeting the nice Doctor’s planetary friends next Saturday, whether it be in the ninth or ninety-ninth century A.D.’ wrote a retired Naval Officer speaking, it would seem, for a good many viewers in the sample who regarded this as an enjoyable piece of escapism, not to be taken too seriously, of course, but none the less entertaining and, at times, quite thrilling – ‘taken as fantasy it was most enjoyable. I presume it is meant for the kiddies but nevertheless I found it entertaining at Saturday teatime and look forward to seeing the Cave of Skulls in the next episode’.

    Some viewers disliked the play, either because they had a blind spot for science fiction of any kind or because they considered this a rather poor example, being altogether too far-fetched and ludicrous, particularly at the end – ‘a police box with flashing beacon travelling through interstellar space – what claptrap!’ Too childish for adults, it was at the same time occasionally felt to be unsuitable for children of a more timid disposition and, for one reason or another, proved something of a disappointment to a sizeable number of those reporting. Generally speaking, however, viewers in the sample thought this a good start to a series which gave promise of being very entertaining – the children, they were sure, would love it (indeed, there is every evidence that children viewing with adults in the sample found it very much to their taste) but it was, at the same time, written imaginatively enough to appeal to adult minds and would, no doubt, prove to be quite intriguing as it progressed.

    4. The acting throughout was considered satisfactory, several viewers adding that it was pleasant to see William Hartnell again in the somewhat unusual role (for him) of Dr. Who, while the radiophonic effects were apparently highly successful in creating the appropriate ‘out of this world’ atmosphere, the journey through space being particularly well done.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    It’s Patrick Troughton Month – huzzah the second Doctor!

    I’ll post my thoughts on him at the weekend, but I thought it would be interesting to see what the archive reaction from those Audience review surveys thought:

    3. Viewers in the sample who were enthusiastic about this episode in the new six part adventure featuring the Daleks, were confined to a minority, less than a quarter of the sample finding it appealing to an appreciable degree. There was, however, a warm welcome from these viewers for the ‘ever popular’ Daleks whose doings ensured plenty of entertainment and excitement. ‘This is supposed to be for the “kids”, but I must confess that I found the programme quite gripping’, a Senior Clerk wrote. ‘As an ardent sci-fiction fan I think the Daleks are the most sinister “aliens” I’ve come across’.

    4. More often viewers in the sample reported a very moderate degree of enjoyment, and a number were scarcely interested at all. Quite a few said they did not care for the new-style ‘doctor’; he ‘didn’t seem right somehow’, and they now liked the series less than before. ‘Once a brilliant but eccentric scientist, he now comes over as a half-witted clown’, a Teacher maintained, another viewer writing: ‘The family have really “gone off” Dr. Who since the change. They do not understand the new one at all, and his character is peculiar in an unappealing way’. Then some of the sample said they were tired of the Daleks who were no longer a novelty (‘they have made their impact, served their usefulness, now they just seem hackneyed and more unreal than usual’). The series in general was not as good as it used to be, in quite a few opinions – ‘At one time we used to hate to miss it; now we are quite indifferent’. However, some of those who got little entertainment out of the episode themselves were willing to admit that the children liked it, although criticisms were also made by several to the effect that it was rather complicated for them, and a bit frightening as well.

    5. Whilst there was nothing calling for special praise about the acting, according to a substantial number of the sample, and some viewers evidently thought it pretty poor, the majority were satisfied. Most of the comment centred round Patrick Troughton as Dr. Who. Much of this took a critical form, some viewers saying that, although an excellent actor whom they much admired as a rule, he seemed miscast, not to say ‘wasted’, hero [sic], although according to a Teacher he ‘seemed to be struggling manfully with the idiotic new character that Dr. Who has taken on since his change’. Others criticised him for overdoing the part, ‘playing for laughs’, making the Doctor into ‘something of a Pantomime character’ – ‘I’m not sure that I really like his portrayal. I feel the part is over-exaggerated – whimsical even – I keep expecting him to take a great watch out of his pocket and mutter about being late like Alice’s White Rabbit’. Frankly, some said, they preferred William Hartnell in the part. However, there was also comment to the effect that Patrick Troughton had not yet settled down as Dr. Who, there was still time for him to become fully accepted, and there was praise in some quarters for his portrayal as excellent; he had made ‘a refreshing change’, and ‘brought a new dimension to the character’. A Student who found this episode ‘immensely exciting and interesting’ thought ‘Patrick Troughton, a brilliant actor, had improved the programme greatly’. Others in the cast were rarely mentioned individually. Not much was said about the production which was judged satisfactory by the majority of the sample. There were occasional criticisms of Dr. Who’s get-up as ‘ludicrous’. There was also praise from several for the settings as interesting and ‘very much of the space-age’

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    Reading some of that criticism above – I cannot help but think of our beloved Guardian blogs. “Matt Smith is Shit – bring back Tennant!” This new Doctor is just a clown!

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    In addition, I am convinced that if the BBC have a careful look at their letters from 1963 they will find one saying “With the second episode of Doctor Who (“the Cave of Skulls”) may I venture that Verity Lambert has ruined the show and should be sacked?” :-))

    ScaryB @scaryb


    Re audience feedback to BBC – thanks for posting. Reading some of the comments (featured in the archive listings for old epis on BBC Who site) I’m amazed it ever got past 1 series!  But they’re fascinating for 2 reasons:

    1. How much they say about TV audiences in those days and their expectations (given this was when announcers spoke RP and dress was formal -and that was just on radio!) God, what a snooty lot they were!

    2. As you say – the phrasing changes but the sentiments remain the same (outraged of XVZ, falling standards, dumbing down, sloppy writing/acting/sets, don’t understand it… with an occasional grudging “the kids seemed to enjoy it”).

    Also makes you wonder how much attention BBC pay to audience feedback, LOL. Presumably there’s a certain % of negative feedback that’s expected – a kind of background level from people who will just never be happy unless they have something to have a right good moan about – especially at the beginning of a series.  And you have to be glad that the BBC is not quite as ratings driven as commercial channels, especially back then.

    ScaryB @scaryb

    @phaseshift The Cave of Skulls got quite a lot of negative feedback I believe, particularly for the rock incident.  As a 6 year old I remember being impressed with its gritty realism (I know, I know, but I was 6 and used to programmes like Watch with Mother and Sportsday!). It was scary, but that was good. (And I didn’t grow up to think exterminating the opposition is the way forward!)

    ScaryB @scaryb

    OK, Troughton

    I remember being not too sure of the character in his first episode. Still grieving for loss of Hartnell, who was just IT for me. But I did love the show so I went with it. And very much came round to no 2, as you start to realise where the depths are. And Troughton was great actor, without being showy. His daft capering hid a sharp brain (was always underestimated by his enemies until it was too late 🙂 ) and his anti-establishment, “cosmic hobo” younger persona was perfect for late 60s ( not to mention a Beatle-ish haircut). He was less grumpy/unknowable/bossy than Hartnell’s grandfatherish Doctor, more like an eccentric, fun uncle.  He seemed more fun and his (apparently) panicky reactions when confronted eg with a dalek, mirrored our own.

    The more I think about it, the regeneration idea is such a stroke of genius. And they really went for it. Not just lets get a new actor in, but let’s give the new actor a chance to completely reinterpret the role!  That was such an outrageously brave move, but it’s the key thing that’s kept the show fresh and allowed it to continure so long. And as I’ve said before, it’s unique. Any other show trying anything similar will be accused of “doing a Doctor Who”.

    ScaryB @scaryb


    Belated thanks for the Hartnell “fluffs” link.  Am I  right in thinking the shows were recorded “live” back then? ie no retakes?

    It’s all down to the actor’s reaction when he/she fluffs. Hartnell just steams on and the fluffs become part of the character ie for the audience it’s not Hartnell who’s mispronouncing/malapropping etc, it’s the Doctor.  And that becomes just how he speaks. He’s the Doctor. He’s an alien. So his command of English is sometimes a bit odd, so what? The audience can only deal with what they see in front of them, especially pre video/recording/iplayer days.

    Love your fave – ‘we could all be blown to atoms floating around in Spain, er, space….’ (it is on there, near the end). I also loved “I can scent it” (rather than sense – now that just adds to the character’s eccentricity – maybe he does smell things differently from us!)

    Anonymous @

    @phaseshift — thanks for the audience reaction. I always find them fascinating. And, yes, it’s very much a case of the more things change the more things stay the same. (Of course, in those days old HTPBDET was just known as the enigmatic ‘H’.) And I actually quite like the snootiness of them — although I imagine on those days it was the more snooty ends of the middle classes that the BBC used for its audience research. But I still like the articulacy of their reactions compared to some of the ill-thought out and just basically insulting reactions the show gets these days on forums and Twitter and the like. Mind you, I suppose Who fans have evolved over the years as much as the show has. Someone should do a docu on that. Look at the slightly odd father and son fan duo on the Lively Arts episode on the show in the 70s (available as an extra on the Talons of Weng-Chiang DVD).

    @scaryb — good aren’t they? I realised that the floating in spain one was on there after I posted it. It’s a cracker. Right up there with ‘I can’t improve at this point … er… I can’t prove it at this point’) While not shot actually live, the show was on an incredibly tight schedule back on those days — don’t forget it was on for much for much more of the year back on those days, I believe. So I think rehearsal time was very limited and the production window for shooting was quite tight, so they would quite often have to just go with the best take that they had, I imagine. And, of course, the tragic side to all this was that this was actually the result of the onset of Hartnell’s failing health. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t want to do take after take and embarrass an actor of some considerable standing too much. (I wonder if they’ll go into this in much detail in the Gatiss special?)

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    I had to research this (well, I didn’t have to – I managed to con my way into researching 1960’s TV science fiction) for my degree.

    It wasn’t just the time, it was the point that – in the very early days of recording TV – the editing cost a fortune. It was far cheaper to make Hartnell’s fluffs part of the Doctor’s character. And the actors were all stage trained anyway; someone fluffs a line – you just carry on if it’s at all possible.

    Alas, I never saw Patrick Troughton ‘live’. Given my age I should have done, but this was the point in my life when – courtesy HM Govt – I was adding to my life experience by being a child in both fascist and communist dictatorships. By the time I was back in the UK for school Patrick Troughton had become Jon Pertwee.

    Years later I saw Tomb of the Cybermen; I’m rather sorry I missed him.

    Anonymous @

    @bluesqueakpip — of course, yeah, editing would have been quite prohibitive in those days. Thanks for the info…

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    They are fascinating in their way. I allways try to read them in a Mr. Chumley Warner type voice, and they become charming somehow.

    The reason I’ve posted the text is that I’m not sure if our overseas posters can access that part of the BBC site. I found this interesting – a “pitch” on how the second Doctor should appear. Reading it, it actually sounds a little more like the sixth Doctor to me.

    If anybody is interested and cannot access the page, let me know – I’ll do a copy and paste.

    Anonymous @


    Yes, that is a really fascinating little document. Hadn’t seen that before. Certainly doesn’t bear much relation to the second Doctor as Troughton played him. Some elements of the sixth in there definitely. Though you could say there’s a bit of Eccleston in there too. The comments about the ‘running away from the galactic war’ are interesting as it’s something that never came up in the original series but is a big part of nu-Who…

    They definitely seeemed to be aiming for a Sherlockian Doctor there though…

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    I thought Pat was a fantastic Doctor. Not growing up with him, my first experience (outside the books) was a reshowing of “The Krotons” in the 80s as part of the anniversary celebrations. It’s not the best story, but I loved the humour of his incarnation (his competative streak with Zoe in the Gonds test is hilarious).

    I know comparisons between Troughton and Smith used to infuriate HTPBDET but, he’s not around, and this is my post.

    There is something akin. Both are very physical performers. Troughton loves to do things with his hands. Flicking though his 500 year diary, playing with his recorder, etc. There is an intensity about his performance which I think Smith has also adopted (or is part of him). In the moments of casual humour, it’s often the more low key scenes where he becomes serious that stay in the memory. While Smith had his “the old man who stole a magic box” scene, Troughton had this equally memorable scene with Victoria, as he talks about family.

    Anonymous @

    @phaseshift — yes, have always loved that clip. Troughton is a favourite Doc of mine also (and my introduction to him is largely identical to yours) but I’ll post a detailed post on my thoughts about Doc 2 presently.

    As a final word of Doc 1, however, have been watching some clips recently and have to say I love Hartnell’s console acting. It has a lovely thoughtful bemusement that I don’t think any of the other Docs used — a kind of ‘hmm, I wonder what that one does’ or ‘is that the right one? I think it is. But I’m not sure…’ quality to it… He seems to deliberate over each switch before pressing it…

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    I think that clip says it all about Troughton. Impish humour – trying to build up his companions. On reflection he was so lucky to have Jamie as a companion, and have had that chemistry.

    When you look at The Doctor and companion vibe over the years, and try to associate each with a pivotal character, I think the second and Jamie seem the odd couple in the mix. I’ve rewatched the episodes availble and it is an astonishing how well they gel.

    I recommend “The Invasion” DVD release. With a couple of episodes recreated by Cosgrove Hall, it really is a must see. The Cybermen in London, in Black and White. I watched it with Ms Phaseshift who doesn’t allways get old Who, and she was charmed. The scene with the Doctor and Jamie in a canoe (with Pat working only when Jamie is looking at him) is very funny.

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