Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Hartnell Era

Thats all the First Doctor stories watched, scored and reviewed. Before I advance to the Second Doctor, here are the rankings for the era:

Complete Hartnell era rankings:
1. Marco Polo 10
2. The Myth Makers 10
3. The Time Meddler 10
4. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve 10
5. The Aztecs 10
6. An Unearthly Child 9
7. The Daleks' Master Plan 9
8. The Reign of Terror 9
9. The Crusade 9
10. The War Machines 9
11. The Ark 8
12. The Chase 8
13. The Romans 8
14. The Daleks 8
15. The Smugglers 7
16. The Savages 7
17. The Gunfighters 7
18. The Rescue 7
19. The Keys of Marinus 6
20. The Tenth Planet 6
21. Galaxy 4 6
22. The Space Museum 6
23. Planet of Giants 6
24. The Sensorites 5
25. The Celestial Toymaker 5
26. The Dalek Invasion of Earth 5
27. Mission to the Unknown 5
28. The Edge of Destruction 4
29. The Web Planet 2

Season averages:
Season 1/1963-64 7.625
Season 2/1964-65 6.78
Season 3/1965-66 7.6
Season 4 Hartnell portion/1966 6.5

As the oldest era, it's the most radically different from what came later because the series was still establishing itself, what stories could and couldn't be done, what role companions should play and what they should be like, and most of all who the Doctor is, and often the answers it finds differ from what we're used to from later eras.

I expect other eras might score above it, but the Hartnell era will remain my personal favourite (probably!). It's just dragged down by the experiments that didn't work - namely The Web Planet and The Celestial Toymaker. However even if the story doesn't live up to the concept, I like that feeling at the start of the story that absolutely anything can happen when the travellers step outside the TARDIS, I could be in store for monsters, no monsters, pure drama, comedy, horror, puzzle solving, a space opera, or romance. It's a variety that no other era of the show offers. True, there's variety in scores too, but you get crap formulaic stories, without the imagination. I hate seeing Doctor Who stick to a rigid formula. To think after this era there will only be one more pure historical, simply because they don't have any monsters in them!

Companions are mixed in this era. Ian and Barbara are well written and well acted, but the rest go wanting in one or both departments. More interesting is the change in companion 'types' - the man of action is the only one present in all stories, beginning with Ian and continuing with Steven and Ben. Barbara is unique and is not replaced, as two companions become the norm. The granddaughter figure starts with Susan then is represented by Vicki and Dodo, but while Polly is clearly a new type of companion - the first in the long line of the "something for the dads" late teens/early twentysomething girl, the Doctor still treats her like he treated his earlier female companions. The earliest dynamic makes the most sense considering the characterisation of the Doctor in this period, and I think this is the main reason for the lack of chemistry with the final crew.

As for Hartnell's Doctor himself - I have nothing but praise for William Hartnell's performances. The main three things I expect put new viewers off are the age of his episodes, the age of the actor himself and his frequent passive role in his episodes. I often read people's estimation of Hartnell going up though when they watch his stories in order and understand his character a bit more, seeing him develop as the stories progress, because more than most Doctors he does have a character, he's not just a character type (I don't like dismissing the other Doctors, they're very well played and acted, but this is one of the areas Hartnell's Doctor has the edge I think). Through his stories, we see his character soften from the crotchety old man he starts out as, who is willing to indulge in violence for little reason, and who doesn't think about how his actions affect other people. This is probably where Hartnell's performance is at its best, but he acquits himself well as the character changes. I can see Hartnell isn't a sci-fi actor, because he occasionally struggles with technical dialogue, sometimes getting it wrong completely, but away from the technobabble, when asked to deliver comedy or a dramatic speech, he's owns the stage.

What makes him the best Doctor? The way he can be funny and dramatic at the same time. His absendmindedness, which leaves us wondering if he means it or not. How we can meet his granddaughter and see many different sides to him but he is still the most mysterious Doctor. The way he revels in getting involved in history, throwing himself into the roles he assumes. I hate seeing him near the bottom of fan polls. Without him, I'm confident that the show would not still be here.

Favourite companion: Ian and Barbara (can't choose between them).
Favourite alien: Cybermen (as of The Tenth Planet - the first and best version of them).
Favourite actor: William Hartnell of course - showed more dimensions to the Doctor than he is often credited for.
Favourite actress: Jacqueline Hill. Especially in The Aztecs.
Favourite cliffhanger: "The Plague" (Monoid statue).
Favourite soundtrack: The Time Meddler.
Favourite writer: John Lucarotti.
Favourite villain:

And the special (and favourite) Hartnell category…

Favourite fluffed line: "floating cinders in Spain"

Modes of transport
My special project is to take note of the modes of transport the Doctor uses, of all kinds. Here are the results for the Hartnell era:

As the driver
On foot (all stories)
TARDIS materialisation (all stories)
On horseback (Marco Polo)
Travel dial (The Keys of Marinus)
Climbing (Planet of Giants, The Rescue, The Chase, The Tenth Planet)

As a passenger
Caravan (Marco Polo)
Space ship (The Sensorites, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Ark)
Being carried (The Reign of Terror, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Smugglers)
Wooden horse (The Myth Makers)
Molecular dissemination (The Daleks' Master Plan)
Electric cart (The Ark)
Taxi (The War Machines)
Elevator (The War Machines)

Favoured mode of travel: Walking

Onto the Troughton era... oh my giddy aunt!

No comments:

Post a Comment