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One Story from Every Doctor (Part 1)

Guest contributor Andrew Marsden picks out his must see stories for every Doctor (Part 1 -- Doctors 1-5).

Doctor Who has always been a ‘family’ show. I used to watch it when I was a small boy (I caught the last two seasons of the ‘classic’ series) and now I watch it with my 8 year old niece (who is a fan of the Matt Smith stories).

Drawing upon my knowledge of the ‘classic’ and ‘new’ series, I have decided to give my niece an introduction to each of the incarnations of the Doctor up to the Eleventh. I have selected one story from each Doctor which I feel represents that particular Doctor the best. What follows serves as a list of stories which provide good introductions to the classic Doctors. It is subjective and by no means definitive; it should however, provide ample discussion for those interested in the older Doctors. This first part covers the first five Doctors.

The First Doctor (William Hartnell)

THE AZTECS

When Doctor Who was created its aim was to entertain and educate -- part of the reason why time travel was a central part of the series was the ability to go into both the past and the future. The First Doctor’s era contained ‘historical’ adventures which were set in periods of Earth’s past without any sci-fi trappings (aside from the TARDIS, obviously). Due to the BBC’s policy of wiping and re-using recordings many of these historical adventures are either incomplete or missing entirely. The Aztecs is one of the few examples which exists in its entirety. In it the original TARDIS crew of the Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and schoolteachers Ian and Barbara arrive in an Aztec temple in the 15th century. Barbara is believed to be the reincarnation of an Aztec god, Yetaxa, and hopes to use her newfound status to change history by steering the Aztec culture away from its reliance on human sacrifice. It’s a good story for the First Doctor -- he gets a nice moment when he admonishes Barbara for wanting to re-write history, accidentally gets engaged to an Aztec lady and is generally less selfish and crotchety than his first appearances in the first three adventures. It’s also a great example of why ’straight’ historical adventures should really be brought back in the new series.

RUNNER UP: The Time Meddler was very nearly my choice -- the first example of the more familiar ’pseudo-historical’ adventure (whereby sci-fi elements enter an historical setting) and also the first story to introduce another member of the Doctor’s race (complete with TARDIS). It’s also very funny and enjoyable. A strong case could also be made for The Daleks (as it was the story which really launched the show) but the rarity of the historical adventures pushed The Aztecs to the top of my list of best First Doctor adventures.

The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton)

THE MIND ROBBER

It was quite a task trying to decide which Second Doctor story to go with purely because there are so few complete stories from this era in the BBC archives (including the Second Doctor’s debut, The Power of the Daleks.) I eventually settled on quite possibly the most bizarre Doctor Who story ever. This adventure showcases the Second Doctor at his disarmingly clownish but intelligent best (or at least as best as possible bearing in mind so few of his stories exist in complete form). A very enjoyable, if somewhat surreal, tale set in a land of fiction and featuring a character called the Master (but not that one), this is a great example of how imaginative Doctor Who can be.

RUNNER UP: The Invasion -- a dry-run for the Third Doctor’s first two seasons, this story of a Cyberman invasion of London introduced UNIT to the series. Possibly the best story of the classic run to feature the Cybermen which is odd considering they hardly appear in it! Another possibility was the Second Doctor’s swan song The War Games, which introduced the Time Lords as a race and explained why the Doctor was travelling in time and space, although the length of this story (10 episodes) could be off-putting!

The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee)

INFERNO

The last story from the Third Doctor’s first (and arguably best) season, this is a gritty tale which marked the series first venture to a parallel universe. It showcases the Third Doctor in all his intelligent, occasionally witty and occasionally arrogant glory and shows how much more action orientated he was than his predecessors. The Doctor is seconded to advise on a drilling project to tap into a limitless energy source beneath the Earth’s crust -- however the Doctor becomes concerned of the safety of the project; especially when people who come into contact with a green ooze turn into werewolf like creatures. His warnings ignored, the Doctor attempts to experiment on the TARDIS console to break his exile to Earth (imposed by the Time Lords at the end of the Second Doctor’s final story) and enters a parallel world where the drilling project is more advanced. After witnessing the destruction of the parallel world, the Doctor faces a race against time to stop the same fate befalling our world. A very ‘adult’ (in terms of the ideas in it) story.

RUNNER UP: Spearhead From Space -- the Third Doctor’s debut story and the one which introduced the Autons. Just about any story from the Third Doctor’s first season is a cracker -- later seasons, while being less grim, lacked the impact of these two stories. Of the Third Doctor’s later adventures, The Time Warrior is an enjoyable pseudo-historical adventure and contained many firsts: the first appearnce of the ever popular Sarah Jane Smith, the first appearance of a Sontaran and the first mention of the Doctor’s home planet as ‘Gallifrey’.

The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)

PYRAMIDS OF MARS

A story which, as one of the first Doctor Who stories I saw (following on from Silver Nemesis and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy on their original broadcast), is quite dear to me. It showcases one of the most intense performances from Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor (quite possibly the ‘definitive’ Doctor), a terrifying villain in the form of the softly spoken Sutekh and a great Robert Holmes script (albeit one written under a pseudonym) -- one of the many highlights from the classic series’ brilliant 13th season. Robot mummies, a scary reanimated corpse, some very tense scenes where the Doctor is mentally tortured  and a scary Egyptian God alien…what’s not to like?

RUNNER UP: Given that Tom Baker played the role for seven years there are plenty of good stories to choose from. The Talons of Weng-Chiang shows off the interesting relationship between the Doctor and Leela (a ‘savage’ alien whom the Doctor is attempting to educate) and a clever take on the Sherlock Holmes style story. The Seeds of Death, the final story from the 13th series, is a great adventure (although it is more like a story from the 1960’s spy/adventure series The Avengers) with some scary moments. The Deadly Assassin reveals much about the Time Lords and Gallifrey and shows how the Doctor functions alone (the only time in the classic series in which the Doctor was companionless).

The Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)

THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI

There is a general feeling that the classic series of Doctor Who started to run out of steam following the departure of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. To be truthful, Tom Baker was an incredible tough act to follow. Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor tried his best, and his interpretation of the part was by no means dreadful, but as a character his Doctor (especially when compared to his immediate predecessor) seemed to be a bit ’bland’. The exception was in his final story, The Caves of Androzani. Davison, by his own admission, loved the way the Doctor had been written in this story (by Doctor Who legend Robert Holmes) and later said that had he been given scripts of the same quality as The Caves of Androzani that he may have carried on playing the part.

An incredibly dark tale with gun running, double crossing and, in Sharez Jek, a fantastic villain (though he later redeems himself) -- The Caves of Androzani ups the ante for regeneration stories by giving the Doctor an incredibly punishing time. In the opening episode the Doctor and his companion Peri, touch a substance called Spetrox which, when refined extends life but in its unrefined state is toxic. From that moment on, the Doctor and Peri begin to show signs of the fatal condition Spectrox toxaemia and the Doctor has to make the ultimate sacrifice to save his companion. A great story with brilliant acting and direction, the only thing which lets this adventure down is the rather pathetic looking ’Magma beast’ (which is clearly an actor in a terrible costume -- the monster could easily have been written out of the story with no major loss). Often voted the best Doctor Who story ever and with good reason!

RUNNER UP: Kinda, from Davison’s first season as the Doctor is a very clever (if occasionally baffling) tale about dreams, evil and truth. It contains many wonderful lines, a solid performance from Peter Davison, and features a cracking example (one of many) of a companion who never was but should have been!

To be continued…

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