DOCTOR WHO Part 1: The Classic Series

doctor1Ah, here’s another one I’ve been wanting to do for a while.  Yes, DRPinney already writes about DOCTOR WHO on this site, but having recently gone through the franchise, I thought it was time to take a stab at this.

As others before me have pointed out, the Classic Series is very difficult to review or even get acquainted with.  With most any other show, you simply start on Episode 1 and continue from there.  But here there are 26 years’ worth, with the show being slightly different in each Doctor’s era, the early years feeling nothing like the later ones, plus a lot of missing episodes to complicate things.  Finally, a friend of mine suggested that a better way to get a feel for the show was the to watch just a few serials from each Doctor.  So that’s what I did, and these are the ones I watched:

William Hartnell – An Unearthly Child, The Daleks

Patrick Troughton – The War Games

Jon Pertwee – Inferno, Terror of the Autons

Tom Baker – Genesis of the Daleks, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, The Sun Makers

Peter Davison – Mawdryn Undead, The Caves of Androzani

Colin Baker – The Trial of a Time Lord (full season)

Sylvester McCoy – The Curse of Fenric, Survival

DOCTOR WHO’s longevity is often attributed to the simplicity of its premise: eccentric man and his companion travel through time and space in a TARDIS.  And that basic premise, fine-tuned to fit various different genres or tropes of the season, is the whole thing in a nutshell.  The strength of the series is the writing, because when your effects are poor and your locations limited, all you have is your writing.  Every Doctor is equipped with witty repartee and snark one-liners that endear us to his B-movie adventures filmed on sets that belong in an Ed Wood movie.  Yet I can’t fault the show for its campiness as that’s exactly what made many fall in love with it.

Doctor2My least favorite Doctor is definitely Hartnell.  His character is essentially the archetype of an old mad scientist, which is perhaps what the series would have originally been.

Doctor3Who’s my favorite?  I’m going to break with tradition and say Troughton, in whose model most of the subsequent Doctors were modeled.


I also don’t dislike Colin Baker as much as others do.  I actually find he was doing what Johnny Depp would do the in PIRATES movies years later: play the whole role with a certain self-awareness of it being shlock, and as a result, the material actually worked better because of it.

Doctor5Yet I get back to what I said earlier: the Classic Series is hard to review in the way we review TV shows today, mostly because it’s all over the place, and few of the serials really work as stand-alone stories.  Often times I would get invested in a serial, and when it finally ended find myself saying “That’s it?”

My ultimate review of the Classic Series is that I find it works best for those who grew up with it.  For the rest, it’s often more interesting for its historical context.  And on that note, just like the Doctor himself, we must now end on a cliffhanger…



2 thoughts on “DOCTOR WHO Part 1: The Classic Series

  1. Pingback: DOCTOR WHO Part 2: At the Movies | Let Us Nerd

  2. Forgot I didn’t comment. I agree with a great deal of what you said. The classic series can sometimes be impenetrable. I have yet to get any of my friends to even watch a single episode. You’ve got to find those certain entry points that open the whole thing up.

    For me, it was The City of Death. Like Blink, it is kind of the perfect Who story. Fast, funny, and just the right dash of timey-wimey. It of course helped that Douglas Adams wrote it (under a pseudonym).

    Totally agree with Colin Baker. I think he was a victim of circumstance. He was dealing with a producer who wanted more flash and less depth. And an entire studio that wanted the show off the air. He didn’t get a fair crack at the whip. A shame, because he had a few moments of sheer brilliance.

    Hartnell is my least favorite as well. Though I have immense respect for him. His portrayal ran the full gambit of Doctors. He was old and crabby on story, yet gentile and sentimental the next. I still think his “Someday I will come back” monologue is one of the best speeches in Who history.

    Patrick is inspired. He takes the ethereal idea of what The Doctor is and gave it form.

    It’s funny that you mentioned it working best for those who grew up with it. I was watching Survival the other day (literally two days ago) and I said to my girlfriend, “Watching this is like experiencing what my childhood would have been like if I grew up in England.” I’ve always felt a strange (yet powerful) sense of nostalgia with Classic Who, although I still haven’t seen much of it.

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