In Review: Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet

Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet

BBC DVD, 93 minutes. 2 disc collection.

Extras: Audio Commentary with actors Anneke Wills (Polly), Christopher Matthews (Radar Technician), Earl Cameron (Williams), Alan White (Schultz), Donald Van Der Maaten (Cyberman Shav and Gern), Christopher Dunham (R/T Technician) and designer Peter Kindred, moderated by Toby Hadoke; Frozen Out Making Of (29 minutes); Episode 4 VHS Reconstruction (25 minutes); William Hartnell Interview from 1966 (3 minutes); Doctor Who Stories-Anneke Wills (13 minutes); The Golden Age: Historian Dominic Sandbrook examines the myth of a “Golden Age” of Doctor Who (16 minutes); Boys! Boys! Boys! with Peter Purves, Frazer Hines and Mark Strickson (19 minutes); Companion Piece: A psychologist, writers and some of the Doctor’s companions over the years examine what it means to be a Time Lord’s fellow traveler (24 minutes); Blue Peter Tenth anniversary retrospective on Doctor Who’s history (9 minutes); Photo Gallery (3 minutes); PDF materials: Radio Times Listings; Production Notes; Subtitle option.

NOTE: This special DVD release contains a brand-new animated version of episode 4, currently missing from the BBC Archives. It’s in black and white, as is this story, and it obviously used many photo references to fill in this lost footage.

Release date: December 2013, United States

Written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis

Directed by Derek Martinus

Originally aired October 8 – 29, 1966

The cover: In his last appearance as the Doctor, William Hartnell grumpily looks out of a circle onto a squadron of original Cybermen, who are the only obstacles between Earth and Mondas colliding. This is a fair representation of what’s on this DVD. I would have liked to have seen Polly and Ben on the cover as well. Overall grade: A-

The premise: From the back cover: “The TARDIS lands at the South Pole in 1986. The arrival coincides with the appearance of Earth’s forgotten twin planet Mondas along with visitors from that world–the emotionless Cybermen. It’s up to the Doctor and his friends to stop the creatures before they convert Earth’s population into similar cyber creations–but the encounter will have a devastating effect on the Doctor…” The first Cybermen story? The last Hartnell story? Oh, I am so in! Overall grade: A

The characters/actors: This was an odd episode for the Doctor because he disappears entirely for Episode 3. He’s unconscious, face down in a bunk, and I wondered what was going on. When I watched the Extras I learned that Hartnell had been hospitalized, but made it back to do the final episode. Knowing this, I felt a little more sympathetic in my feelings toward Hartnell, who really does nothing more than bark a lot this story. He does that more and more in his final season, and having a lot of his lines and scenes given to Michael Craze as companion Ben really buffed that character out. Ben, the sailor, has gotten really smart and really action oriented in this episode. He had one action scene in Episode 3 that made me gasp–It was such a surprise and such a violent action inflicted on him. In Episode 4 he’s become really knowledgeable. Ben was very impressive in this episode and I’m sure Craze was happy for this turn. Polly, played by Anneke Wills, doesn’t really do too much except excite the military men at the base and become a victim in the final episode. For reality, her rescue is realistic, but it comes off as really whiny and I’m sure her whining to the Doctor only wanted to make him regenerate all the quicker. Robert Beatty as General Cutler does a good American accent, with the character being the traditional no-nonsense soldier. I liked how everything became secondary to him once his son was part of the plot. Alan White as Schultz and Earl Cameron as Williams don’t get enough time as astronauts, but when they were on screen they were great. Reg Whitehead is the first Cyberman, Krail, though his voice is done by Roy Skelton. That voice killed much of the Cybermen’s terror for me. It was obviously done with the intent to rival the Daleks’ yells, but it was just annoying and I often couldn’t understand some words. If you’ve never heard this original voice you’re in for one heck of an experience. Overall grade: B

The story: As a major Doctor Who fan, I was thrilled to be able to watch the first Cyberman story and the first regeneration, but I don’t think I’ll watch it again. The story is really padded; this would have been better as a two-parter. Two characters are written off in the middle of the second episode, the Doctor is written out of the third episode (though not the writers’ fault), a character’s drastic twist too far, the way to defeat the Cybermen is very naïve, and the exit from the base too quick. This was a good historical Who story, but not an enjoyable one. Overall grade: C

The extras: This was the best selection of extras I’ve ever seen on a Who collection, and I own over 90% of them. The Audio Commentary is great. The Frozen Out Making Of contained some very candid comments by Wills that sadly confirmed some things I’d always heard other people elude to, but this was straightforward. I was floored by the VHS Reconstruction episode, which is what was on the VHS version of this story, with photos and the surviving snippets of film to complete it. This was amazing to look at. Though short, the Interview with William Hartnell is fascinating. He’s obviously not happy with the direction of the interview and with the job he currently has. What an fantastic insight this gives into the man who was the first Doctor. It might dampen your love him, but I’m so happy it was included. The 13 minutes of Doctor Who Stories featuring Anneke Wills, recorded in 2003, was just as informative as the Frozen Out extra. The Golden Age was a terrific thing to show modern Who fans, and I’m dying to get this feature to one of my friends, who can’t watch a Doctor story pre #9 (or that would be #10, wouldn’t it?). Boys! Boys! Boys! was a kick in the pants listening to three actor recount what it was like to be an actor before, during, and after Doctor Who. The Companion Piece was an odd inclusion as individuals, including a psychologist, take a close look at those who’ve travelled with the Doctor. I didn’t need this. The Blue Peter episode is a nice summary of the first ten years of the show, with those great 1970′s clothes on the B.P. cast. The rest of the extras are typical fare on one of these discs, but, overall, I learned a lot of information I didn’t know. Overall grade: A

The good: It’s cool to see the first Cybermen story, Michael Craze was outstanding, and a new Doctor appears in the final 15 seconds of the story.

The bad: The Cybermen look terrible, though they sound worse. This is a terrible costume design, with gloves forgotten! Several of the individuals involved in the making of this episode state how shabby the costumes were. Roy Skelton made them worse with his vocalizations. The Doctor disappears for Episode 3. The animation for the fourth episode is not good, that’s why I was grateful for the old VHS “restoration” being included.

The final line: For Who historians or completists only. The actual episode is not good, but the extras help it immeasurably. Overall grade: B-

 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 8th graders English for 19 years. He’s since moved to a high school where he’s taught 9th grade and currently teaches 10th graders English. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.

 

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