Thursday, February 14, 2013

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary: The Sixties

The 60’s.  A decade of psychedelic, strawberry fields, incense and peppermint and putting flowers in your hair.   It was also the decade that spawned a sci-fi phenomenon that still continues to this day.   I am of course talking about Doctor Who.    Yes many of you new to the program may not have been exposed to the early years of Doctor Who.  For shame if you haven’t.  Even though the stories are in black and white and some of the qualities of the effects are, well, let’s just say dated to put it nicely does not deter from the overall quality of the story that was written and  acted out by the actors involved.

60’s Doctor Who was an important era in the shows history.  For one it gave us the first appearances of the Dalek and Cybermen.  It also introduced us to another of the Doctors people, not called Timelords at the time, who happens to be a mischievous Monk and who would be the torchbearer to The Master and The Rani.  But the one most important thing that 60’s Doctor Who gave us which is the main thing credited for the shows longevity is of course regeneration. 

Yes regeneration.  If it wasn’t for the producers to come up with this idea then the show would have ended with William Hartnell.  So instead of ending the show with him the producers, well more or less booted William Hartnell from the role because of his salary, his poor health and well didn’t get along with the new producers, changed actors by having the Doctor change appearances to keep the show going.  Brilliant idea and one that has been an occasion of great sorrow and excitement throughout the years when the current actor has decided to leave and was replaced by the new guy.

The two main actors’ that portrayed The Doctor and more or less paved the way for the likes of Tom Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and David Tennant were of course William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton.   William Hartnell who played The 1st Doctor was the man who got the ball rolling.  His Doctor came across as crotchety but was also sharp as a tack.  His Doctor was also very caring and loving even though he didn’t show it often but it was there.  The First Doctor was also the champion of the little guy.  If there was someone or something being oppressed the First Doctor was right there to help them out.  Whether it was helping earthlings against the Daleks in The Invasion of Earth or helping out Londoners against WOTAN in The War Machines you could expect The First Doctor to be there leading the charge.  

The First Doctor was a really good Doctor. Although he doesn’t come off as loveable in the beginning but he does grow on you as his era progressed.    The First Doctor had a hidden charm and was often seen as the grandfatherly figure most noticeable with Vicki. 

The First Doctor’s era of the 60’s was mainly for experimentation and trying out different formats to see what would work and what wouldn’t.  Luckily for us the one big thing that did work was the creation of The Daleks and the great rise to popularity.   Doctor Who’s success and longevity can be traced to these pepper pots.  Without the Daleks who knows how long this show would have lasted.  Surely not out of the sixties and we sure would not have had as many great stories like The Celestial Toymaker, The War Machines and The Dalek Masterplan.  But really the credit goes to William Hartnell for it was his portrayal that made the show last and endure through the early days.  Which is really lucky for all of us fans of the show and especially for this next fellow.

The second man to play The Doctor during the 60’s was Patrick Troughton.   The 2nd Doctor is generally referred to as the cosmic hobo.  I refer to him as a classic Doctor whose mannerisms have been imitated by future Doctor’s right up to the current one Matt Smith.  His comedic style was quite a change from the dominating presence of his predecessor.  His style was a more kind and bumbling character but when the situation called for it the Second Doctor could be dead serious and commanded respect from his adversaries.   The Second Doctor also liked to make gadgets and brought some mystery to The Doctor like in Tomb of the Cybermen and also in The War Games.

The Second Doctor’s era was so much different than the first Doctor’s.  His era was more of what the show was like during the majority of the classic era.  The Doctor would land somewhere and there would be trouble.  Whether it be the Cybermen, Ice Warriors, Yeti or Quarks the Second Doctor came to the rescue and saved everyone from the monsters.  His stories were more based on the science fiction and concentrated with space more so than the First Doctor’s.  Gone also was the trips to the past as they weren’t quite as frequent in his era.

I would be remised if I didn’t touch on one of the best things to come out of the sixties besides the Daleks and Cybermen.   I’m talking about UNIT and Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart.  Yes the sixties gave us that great army force that shot first and asked questions later.  UNIT would play a bigger role in the seventies but it was in the Web of Fear and The Invasion where they got the ball rolling.   Thankfully the UNIT stories or mainly The Invasion which was a testing ground worked out or there would not have been a seventies never mind a 50th Anniversary.

Unfortunately a lot of the stories from the 60’s have been destroyed or lost and we only have a handful of complete stories from this era.  This is a shame really because there are some great stories that will never be seen like The Web of Fear and Evil of the Daleks, The Celestial Toymaker and Marco Polo.  But the ones that we do have are a treasure trove of Doctor Who’s early history and should be watched over and over.  So if you are a new fan of Doctor Who who caught on with the show during David Tennant’s or Matt Smith’s era then you need to do yourself a favor and watch some of the show’s finest stories from the 60’s and see what has inspired the show you are watching now and why it has lasted for 50 years.  Trust me they are worth a viewing as they have a charm and special quality to them.  Remember without them there is no show today. 

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