Tonight comes the first of the BBC specials celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who
BBC America plans to do a doctor a month starting with the 1st Doctor William Hartnell.
After the Special they will show an episode from the Hartnell era. I had expected them to go with the very first Dr. Who episode but instead they are picking my favorite of the Hartnell era The Aztecs.
It is not only one of the best written and best acted of the era, it is the most provocative, at least it’s provocative if you live in 2013.
Watch the episode tonight (10 PM EST) and lets see if you spot the allegory to take with you.
For Doctor Who fans the gap between the end of the season and the Christmas special is a time in the wilderness, made slightly worse because Rich’s Comic Blog is also on hiatus until 2012.
However there is joy in the Doctor Who Universe as two episodes that have been lost for over 45 years are as the BBC has announced lost no more:
The broadcaster announced to fans last night that the two episodes had been uncovered at the Missing Believed Wiped event at the BFI in London before it was released in a series of messages on Twitter.
Galaxy Four, part three, was first broadcast in 1965 while The Underwater Menace part two, was aired in 1967 and both had been thought to be lost.
The returned episodes originated from the ABC Channel in Australia.
If you are an American sci-fi fan, just imagine if 1/4 of the original Star Trek series just didn’t exist in video anymore, simply the sound tracks.
Of 253 instalments transmitted in the 1960s (when William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton played the Doctor) 108 were – until now – missing from the BBC archive. Indeed, all the original black-and-white videotapes were wiped long ago;
Since these episodes are all serials we neither completes a story, In fact the Galaxy four episode gives us the first glimpse of the episode that has been unseen since the British paid their bills in shillings and pence.
More details are available here but the bottom line: 2 down 106 to go.
When you see polls of the most popular doctors William Hartnell seem to be often forgotten, very few of his episodes survive as a whole and although we have seen glimpses of him in the current series he remains largely ignored as the generation that watched his episodes are in their late 50’s or above.
As I discovered the series with Tom Baker I had not seen him period, my first glimpse was an image in The Brain of Morbius, the Five Doctors featured a different actor in the role. It wasn’t until I saw the three doctors on WENH 11 that I actually saw him perform in a limited role.
Every other actor who has been on the show has had the burden of living up to an iconic role, but each one of them also had the advantage of an established franchise. An actor who is cast as a companion of the Doctor has a ready source of income for their entire life, the actors who play the doctor even more so. Doctor Who is a multi million dollar worldwide industry that supports and entertains millions upon millions of people.
None of that would be true without the performance of Hartnell. He had none of the history to carry him nor the existing fan base. Like any actor with a new series it was up to him as the primary star to carry the show. A show totally unique in the history of Television. He needed to carry off the role of an almost all knowing and commanding presence while still being appealing to young children. And all of this is done without the special effects and CGI of the modern days.
The combination of knowledge and courage combined with a fatherly figure made him iconic. It is very true that excellent writing and the creation of the Daleks made a huge difference, but if Hartnell failed this would be at best just another set of $1 DVD in a bin if the episodes were saved at all.
Get your hands on an episode or two if you can. Ignore the limited special effects and lack of CGI look at the performances, and let yourself appreciate the grand bequest given first to the British people and then the world