Come along, Whovians, as we prepare for the Day of The Doctor as we present the first part of our Countdown to Day of The Doctor with our first series: History of The Doctor!
“What are you doing here?” That was the first line spoken by the First Doctor William Hartnell in the very first episode of the show. That episode entitled “An Unearthly Child” aired in the U.K. on November 23, 1963 (one day after the death of John F. Kennedy). When that first episode aired, no one could have imagined that 50 years later it would have reached the status that is has around the world. As the anniversary draws near, this is a great time to take a look back at the history of the show and what has lead us to this point. I know many people have gotten hooked on the show since the 2005 revival and may not have watched episodes of the Doctors prior to the Ninth Doctor. I decided that I wanted to watch all the episodes of the classic Doctors from the beginning. That is not an easy task. But it has been well worth it.
In this series of articles, we will look back at the past of Doctor Who and highlight the Doctors, some of their companions, some of his archenemies, and some cool stories & facts leading up to “The Day of the Doctor” and the introduction of the Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi. In this article, we will look at the first two Doctors, William Hartnell & Patrick Troughton.
The First Doctor’s trademark was his clothing, which seemed fit for the turn of the 20th century. He was portrayed by Hartnell as a grandfather type figure. His trademark was his clothing, which seemed fit for the turn of the 20th century. This was due in large part to the fact that the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan Foreman traveled with him. She was one of his first companions. Two others, Ian Chesterton & Barbara Wright, two of Susan’s schoolteachers, joined the Doctor by following Susan (the ‘unearthly child’ the first serial was named after) after school and getting in the TARDIS. And the time travelling adventures began.
The first season of Doctor Who saw the Doctor and his companions travel both into the past to see the Aztecs, Marco Polo & those involved in the French Revolution and into the future as well which included the first encounter with the dreaded villains, the Daleks. As the second season went on, the Doctor would say goodbye to Susan, Ian and Barbara as his companions and would be joined by new companions Vicki (my favorite companion of the First Doctor) and Steven (both from Earth’s future). This changing of companions would become a staple of the show as time would progress.
Into the third season, new companions joined the Doctor on his journeys. Meanwhile, William Hartnell’s health began to fade. The producers of the show made the decision to replace Hartnell at the start of the fourth season of the show. This was a radical decision at the time to cast a new actor to play the same role. So in the second serial of the fourth season “The Tenth Planet” in October 1966 (which was also the first serial that starred another perennial villain, the Cybermen), we have our first regeneration take place (though that phrase wasn’t used until later). We have the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton take over the TARDIS.
The Second Doctor had a different personality than the First Doctor. His trademark was his recorder. He would pull out the instrument and play it at random times. He also was the first Doctor to use the sonic screwdriver. In his first season, the Second Doctor would encounter the Daleks and the Cybermen, not to mention have new companions join him (Jamie & Victoria). That fourth season was the last season to have so much turnover with the primary cast until the 21st Season of the show.
The fifth season introduced a character that would play a key role in the future of the show. That character was Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. When the Second Doctor first meets Lethbridge-Stewart, he is a Colonel in the army and would later be promoted to Brigadier and placed in charge of UNIT (Unified Intelligence Taskforce, or United Nations Intelligence Taskforce). The Brigadier and UNIT would be integral parts of the show in the seasons that followed. Also in that fifth season, the Second Doctor would be introduced to more of his arch-enemies, including the Yeti & the Ice Warriors along with another new companion in Zoe (my favorite companion of the Second Doctor).
When the sixth season came around, Patrick Troughton had been the Doctor for about three years. He decided that he wanted to move on from the show. He thought that three years was enough and he also didn’t want to be typecast in that role. So in the 50th serial of the show and the last serial of the sixth season “The War Games” (broadcast from April to June 1969), the Second Doctor reveals that he is a Time Lord and that he ran away in the TARDIS from his people and this made him a fugitive. In a last ditch effort to stop an evil plot to take over the galaxy, the Second Doctor calls on the Time Lords back on Galifrey for help. The Time Lords do indeed help and set things right. They also put the Second Doctor on trial. The result being that Jamie and Zoe are sent back to their times and places with their memories of the Doctor erased and the Doctor forced to regenerate and exiled to Earth. This was the only time in the series where regeneration took place without the Doctor being seriously harmed. This last episode of the season was also the last one broadcast in black and white.
The serials that the featured the first two Doctors were some of the longest of the series. Episodes for each serial ranged from two episodes all the way to twelve episodes. Each season of the revived show are only 13 episodes, imagine having that many episodes now. The episodes did run only 25 minutes for each one, which pretty much was a staple for the majority of the series “classic” run.
Unfortunately, not all the serials from the first two Doctors are available to view today. There was a policy in the 1970s within the BBC to junk tapes of old shows. There was no thought to preserve them for future viewings. There have been some serials that have been recovered from tapes owned by private collectors or found in other countries that aired the show. As of right now, it is not possible to watch all the episodes featuring the first Two Doctors. But, there are plenty of episodes that are available to watch and enjoy.
At the end of the 1960s, Doctor Who had seen two Doctors, numerous companions and a variety of enemies for the Doctor to fight. But as the 1970s came into view, more changes would be on the horizon…
[Here’s at least one serial I recommend that you should watch for each Doctor. This is besides the first and last serial of each Doctor if they are available (unfortunately “The Power of the Daleks”, the Second Doctor’s first serial is not available at this time)]
Serial of the First Doctor: “The Daleks” Season 1 (1963-64)
Serial of the Second Doctor: “Tomb of the Cybermen” Season 5 (1967)