With the new season of Doctor Who only a few months away (or weeks, if you trust some of the internet rumors) it is time to get ramped up. With the good Doctor making his first appearance on the cover of Entertainment Weekly the interest in the show, both old and new, has risen. To get ready for the upcoming season it seems fitting to count down some of the best stories from each Doctor’s tenure. Now, these are not the most important (An Unearthly Child would be included but it really isn’t a good story aside from being the first), instead these are the most interesting and fun.
The Daleks (1963-1964)
The second story for our dear Doctor. Along with his granddaughter, Susan, and unwilling prisoners, Ian and Barbara, the TARDIS lands on the planet Skaro. They enter a nearby city only to be taken prisoner by the Daleks, deranged creatures mutated so badly that they are encased in large pepper pot machines. After overcoming radiation poisoning and a daring escape, the crew join forces with the Thals, enemies of the Daleks in the “Thousand Year War” that has left both species mutates. A daring attack leads to the death of the Daleks and the TARDIS flies away.
A mix between the NAZIs and alien weaponry, it is no surprise that the Daleks quickly became the epitome of evil on Doctor Who. While the production is, at times, laughable, the story is compelling: it even formed the basis for the first Doctor Who movie in 1965. Skip An Unearthly Child and go straight into The Daleks to truly experience where the brilliance of Doctor Who started for form.
The Aztecs (1964)
The TARDIS lands inside of an Aztec temple. In her excitement, being a specialist on Aztec history, Barbara examines some jewelry while wandering way from the TARDIS. A priest sees Barbara wearing a bracelet, a symbol for the Goddess Yetaxa. Unable to return to the TARDIS as the room has been sealed, Barbara must play the role of Goddess, even if it means enduring human sacrifice in her name.
This story has so much going for it that I cannot stress enough how good it is. Barbara finally comes into her own as a companion, and not just a whinny teacher trying to baby Susan. Ian once again shows his willingness to fight, to the death if necessary, for the safety of his friends. The Doctor becomes ENGAGED, outdating the overly emotional Doctor-Rose relationship. And finally, the show deals with the serious issue of their role in altering history, with the Doctor encouraging their support of human sacrifice even if it means the direct involvement of Ian and Barbara. Emotional, well written and free of the poor production values that plagued so many of the early stories.
The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964)
Terry Nation and the Daleks are back! No longer are they the static electricity dependent refugees of a devastating war. The TARDIS lands in London in 2164 only to find the city desolate with dead bodies floating down the Thames. The Daleks have not only invaded but have successfully subjugated the English into slavery. After joining the resistance the TARDIS crew successfully defeat the Dalek invaders. The story ends with the departure of Susan, as she starts of a life with the resistance-fighter David.
One of the truly iconic images in Doctor Who history, the Dalek rising out of the water. It is with this story that the true evil and potential of the Daleks is revealed. Everything they terrifying and wrong came from this story. Even “Exterminate!” debuted as their word of choice. Ultimately, the story sets a precedent far greater than the true emergence of Dalek evil: Susan’s departure is not on her terms, as the Doctor locks her out of the TARDIS as it is time for her to have a life of her own away from him. The series started with the Doctor forcing Barbara and Ian to join him but with this story he finally accepts that he cannot keep his companions with him forever.
The Space Museum (1965)
Possibly my favorite of the First Doctor adventures, The Space Museum sees the TARDIS crew trapped between time tracks while witnessing the terrible future awaiting them. Arriving on an unknown planet, the crew explores what seems to be a museum. However, they are unable to interact with the space around them. Eventually they discover themselves as artifacts within the museum. After getting back on the right time track the crew joins with the enslaved locals against the Morlocks, the proprietors of the museum that seeks to imprison them.
This episode follows the now-standard formula of the crew joining with a local people in rebelling against their abusive masters. Such simplicity allows the new parts to shine, particularly the conflict of possibly not being able to prevent the future from unfolding as the crew saw. Everything they do to prevent becoming a new display leads to the possibility that these very actions are what lead to that future. One of the more thought-compelling stories from William Hartnell’s tenure. Furthermore, is brilliantly referenced in the Ninth Doctor story, Dalek, which can only lead to good things.
The Ark (1966)
Roughly ten million years in the future the TARDIS lands on a ship carrying the final remnants of humanity away from the Earth as the Sun begins to expand. On a journey that will last 700 years, the crew meets both the humans and their works, the Monoids. The Doctor’s new companion, Dodo, has a cold that quickly infects the humans who have little natural immunity. After helping cure the infected, the TARDIS departs, only to rematerialize on the ship 700 years later with the humans now enslaved to the Monoids! With help from the Doctor and his companions the humans once again take control of the Ark in time for them to begin establishing a new home.
This story explores a few fascinating ideas, particularly the impact of a simple disease on an unprepared people. It also presents story elements that have been revisited numerous times over the near-50 years of Doctor Who: the use of an Ark to ensure the survival of humanity and the future of Humans in the universe (this was particularly in the Ninth Doctor’s “Bad Wolf” arc).
A Final Note
The First Doctor was a cranky, stubborn and at tired man. He was the perfect first incarnation of the character as William Hartnell imbued the Doctor with a variety of traits which have allowed all subsequent actors the opportunity to build a well-rounded man…each a different facet of the same person. Sadly, many of his episodes are lost, including part of his final story, The Tenth Planet. Not only was this the first story to have a regeneration but it also introduced the Cybermen. Luckily, part of his regeneration still exists.