Doctor Who – The Tenth Planet

With just a few days remaining to the fiftieth anniversary special, there’s just time for me to catch up on the classic DVD releases.

This is a significant story in the history of the show: not only does it see the first appearance of the Cybermen, but it also features the first regeneration – not that it was called that at the time, though.

First shown in October 1966, it stars William Hartnell as the Doctor, Anneke Wills as Polly and Michael Craze as Ben. The Tardis arrives near the South Pole of Earth in 1986, where, as you might expect, trouble is about to start.

The quite unlikely event is the appearance of Earth’s Twin planet of Mondas (delightfully created as an upside-down globe, which is confusing enough for people not to recognise the continents). By some unknown process, Mondas starts draining “energy” from Earth, which will be a Very Bad Thing. Worse than that, the inhabitants of Mondas pay a visit. The Cybermen have replaced assorted body parts with machine alternatives, and consider themselves to be far superior to humans. This doesn’t work out too well for them, as Monds absorbs so much energy that it explodes, at which point the Cybermen all die, being in some way dependent on their planet.

The Doctor and his friends pay very little part in the events. Ben does a wee bit of sabotage, Polly does a wee bit of screaming, and the Doctor does a wee bit of sleeping, as he’s been feeling rather weak.

And returning to the Tardis, he begins to change…

And the series was never the same after that. This is the point at which Doctor Who as we really know it begins. While we don’t yet know about the Time Lords, we have now established that the Doctor can change his appearance.

Overall, the story works quite well – the pace isn’t quite as glacial as some of the 1960s serials, and the Cybermen make a good first appearance. Worth watching for the fun of it, as well as its historical significance to Doctor Who. Though be aware that the crucial final episode is still missing from the vaults[1] and is presented here in animated form[2].

Special features, in addition to the usual expected things, include:

 

  • Frozen Out: The usual cast and crew reminiscence thingy
  • Episode 4 VHS Reconstruction: When the serial was released on videotape, episode 4 was reconstructed using stills, clips and the soundtrack. This is offered here for interest..
  • William Hartnell Interview: A local TV interview with the actor, recorded not long after he’d left the series. Quite a rare thing, and interesting
  • Doctor Who Stories – Anneke Wills: Yet another item taken from the recordings for the 2003 Story of Doctor Who, in which Anneke looks back at her time as Polly
  • Boys! Boys! Boys! A sort of companion piece[3] to the Girls! Girls! Girls! features from other releases. In this one Peter Purves (Steven) and Frazer Hines (Jamie) get together for a chat, with Mark Strickson (Turlough) joining in on a video link. Fun.
  • Companion Piece: A psychologist, some writers and some actors talk about the role of the companion in Doctor Who. Mildly interesting…
  • Blue Peter: Just before the show’s tenth anniversary, the infinitely long-running BBC children’s show did a feature on the history of  Doctor Who, which included that first regeneration scene. Apparently they keep all of Blue Peter[4], which is the only reason we still have that scene.

[1] Unless there’s more that they’re keeping under wraps, which I have a vague suspicion may be the case
[2] Though as it was used in Blue Peter, the actual regeneration scene does still exist
[3] Did you see why I did there?
[4] Les mutters into his not-actual beard about priorities