john October 13th, 2010
I started watching Dr. Who with the 9th Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, and have really come to like it. I’d seen parts of episodes before, years prior, while sitting down to dinner, and even the odd full episode, but with no frame of reference they didn’t impress me much (and, even with a frame of reference, I still can’t believe the TARDIS “falling through a crack in time” in that one Cybermen two-parter–utter baloney, that).
Some time towards the end of David Tennant’s tenure (near the end of Season 3, I think) I started watching the William Hartnell years, though slightly out of order. Netflix has the discs out of order, and the page I looked up which supposedly sorts it all out still has some of the discs out of order. So far I’ve seen the intro arc, the cavemen arc, the first Dalek story (when the Daleks and the Doctor first meet each other, and the Daleks aren’t constantly seething with rage), the one where they’re trapped on the TARDIS, the Keys of Marinus, and the Aztec arc. The Marco Polo arc should have been in there but wasn’t yet, leaving me a bit puzzled when Ian showed up at the start of the Keys of Marinus in an Asian outfit.
William Hartnell’s Doctor is, at first at least, apparently not very smart. The first person he outsmarts is a caveman, and (unless there’s a mystery in the Marco Polo stories) it’s not until The Keys of Marinus that he solves a proper mystery.
The Dalek arc shows The 1st Doctor susceptible to radiation poisoning though the 10th Doctor, in the episode where Martha and the hospital are taken to the moon, can absorb and discharge low level radiation at will.
The sonic screwdriver hasn’t yet made an appearance, unless it was the small pen flashlight that the Doctor gave Ian to use in the Aztec tunnel (Ian only used it as a flashlight; the Doctor didn’t mention any other capabilities, and only referred to it as “this”).
There has been no use of psychic paper yet. I suspect that’s something created for the 9th Doctor (and its use is inconsistent in the new series–the 10th Doctor used the paper, rather than the sonic screwdriver, to convince the double decker that he’d paid bus fare).
The studio sets are painfully obvious; people frequently are meant to be out of earshot of each other but plainly are not. Many of the backgrounds are obviously paintings, sometimes even with folds and drapes visible. Scenes of the TARDIS disappearing are plainly shot with models (and the Dalek city was obvious a model as well).
The pacing on these earliest episodes is abysmal–incredibly uneven, with a tendency towards the very slow.
Actors fumble their lines a lot, especially William Hartnell. I wonder if the BBC were so pressed for time and/or money that they couldn’t do takes until people got it right.
In the Aztec arc, some of the people pronounce Tlotoxl “tl-TOX-l” and others “l-TOX-l.”
The TARDIS has several rooms, not just the one.
The Doctor has, in just these few episodes, been puzzled over why the TARDIS does some of the things it does, and doesn’t seem to know how to work it very well. Yet, although he’s the only one working it, the ride is much smoother than it was (will be) with the 9th and 10th Doctors. (And the 11th Doctor indicates that rides in the TARDIS are always bumpy because it’s meant to be operated by an entire team of people.)
The Doctor has a last name, and a granddaughter!
The Doctor has, quite possibly, changed the course of history in the cavemen arc by showing someone how to make fire. Later in the Aztec arc he tells Barbara she can not stop the Aztecs from making human sacrifices, since nothing at all must be changed about history. Then later he makes a pulley to help open the tomb door, and he lets Cameca see him making the pulley although he knows the Aztecs didn’t have them and she recognizes it as something new and interesting.
So far in the early episodes there has been little in the way of ethical quandaries, though the writers came close with Autloc asking “Yetaxa” (Barbara) if she would save her friend and destroy the Aztecs. That’s only close to an ethical quandary because saving Ian wouldn’t actually destroy the Aztecs, since the series has given no indication that the Aztec gods actually exist and that they care what the Aztecs do. The ethical quandaries that the Doctor and his companions face are one of my favorite things about the latest episodes.
The Doctor starts off as really kind of a jerk, though he’s warmed up a bit by the Aztec arc (and does, at least a little, seem to regret leaving Cameca).
The Doctor doesn’t know his history and culture nearly as well as he does later–he does not, for instance, know that making cocoa and sharing it with Cameca is the same as proposing to her.
The Doctor and his companions know how to speak the Dalek language although the TARDIS has never encountered them before. The 9th Doctor tells rose that the TARDIS gets into the companions’ heads and that’s why they can speak languages they’ve never encountered–because the TARDIS has.