‘THE TENTH PLANET’
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The First Cybermen and The End of the First Doctor
This is a famous story of ‘Doctor Who’ that is memorable for two things!
‘The Tenth Planet’ is the first story to feature the Cybermen in it and it’s the last story with William Hartnell as the Doctor. I first came across ‘The Tenth Planet’ when I listened to the audio soundtrack CD with linking narration provided by Anneke Wills. I don’t need that CD any more now it is on DVD!
I also saw the regeneration scene from William Hartnell into Patrick Troughton on the ‘Lost in Time’ DVD. Sadly ‘Episode 4’ is missing from the archives. But the story is now complete with an animated ‘Episode 4’ on DVD. The DVD is a 2-disc set, with the story on Disc 1 and its special features on Disc 2.
‘The Tenth Planet’ is a four-part story and was shown in 1966. ‘Doctor Who’ was changing whilst the show was a huge success. William Hartnell had decided to leave after three years in the show. But the production team wanted it to continue and came up with casting a new actor to play the Doctor.
William Hartnell had been playing the Doctor since the show started in 1963 and enjoyed it immensely. He considered being the Doctor as one of his finest career moments and was a hit with children of all ages. But as he progressed, he witnessed changes in the show and found it hard work.
Hartnell didn’t get on well with the producers that were constantly changing and taking over. He was also difficult with his fellow actors and he was quite demanding when things didn’t go his way. He didn’t like the way the show was changing with lesser historical stories and more spacey adventures.
Also, Hartnell suffered ill health as he was declining with having to learn all of his lines and he had to take a number of days off work. With these increasing health problems, William Hartnell eventually and reluctantly decided to leave ‘Doctor Who’. He didn’t want to go and he was upset about leaving.
So, how would William Hartnell leave the show he loved doing so much? What would his final story in ‘Doctor Who’ be like? It was decided that William Hartnell should leave two stories into the fourth series of ‘Doctor Who’ when the change-over from one actor into the next was about to take place.
William Hartnell’s final story was by Dr. Kit Pedler (and script editor Gerry Davis), who was a scientific advisor to the series. This would be Kit Pedler’s most significant contribution to the series. His story would feature the first appearance of one of the most classic and popular monsters in ‘Doctor Who’.
In the story, the Doctor and his companions Ben and Polly arrive in the TARDIS on the south pole of Earth in 1986. There they come across a Snowcap base where scientists are monitoring a rocket in space around Earth’s orbit. Trouble starts, as another planet appears and it seems to looks like Earth.
This new planet is called Mondas. Visitors come from that planet to invade the Snowcap base. These are called the Cybermen and they mean business. They’ve come to invade and take Earth’s people away as well as drain power from Earth to revive Mondas – causing a collision between both planets.
I found this ‘Doctor Who’ story a little hard-going. It tended to be slow for me, as there were lots of things going on with science and rocket launches that completely baffled me at times. Also with the third episode lacking William Hartnell’s Doctor in it, it made it less exciting and disappointing for me.
Regarding the Cybermen, I was absolutely shocked and horrified. These are the first Cybermen and they’re very primitive. I’m spoiled from seeing the new series Cybermen in ‘Rise of the Cybermen’/’The Age of Steel’. I was expecting the Cybermen in this story to be robotic and made of steel from today.
In their first appearance, the Cybermen costumes are flimsy and pretty awful. They have hair dryers on their heads and they had cloth-like faces. They also had exposed human hands painted silver and they looked rather silly when they walked with their clunky chest units with detachable circular guns.
These Cybermen also have names such as Shav and Gern, which is unusual since the Cybermen don’t have names. I liked it when they opened their mouths to speak and closed them when they finished, resembling the new series Cybermen with their mouths glowing blue ‘on’ and ‘off’ when they speak.
But I found the Cybermen voices utterly shocking. They were done by Roy Skelton. The Cybermen voices are computerised and sound very strange. I call them the ‘confused’ Cybermen, as it was very terrible when they sounded like they were singing when speaking and I couldn’t take them seriously.
So not my most favourite Cybermen, I’m afraid. And yet, even after this one, the Cybermen became popular and were brought back to fight the Doctor again. I’m glad they got rid of that ‘Tenth Planet’ look for later stories, looking splendid and robotic which is what and how they should appear really.
The original Mondas Cybermen never appeared in ‘Doctor Who’ again on TV. But they did appear again in a famous Big Finish audio drama of ‘Doctor Who’ with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa called ‘Spare Parts’. This focused on the Cybermen’s creation and they were well-voiced by Nicholas Briggs.
William Hartnell manages to deliver a strong performance as the Doctor in this, despite his ill health. I liked it when he seems to know about the Cybermen and when he’s challenging them on their lack of emotions. He returns in ‘Episode 4’ and he stands up to the Cybermen (even in ‘animated’ form).
Michael Craze as Ben and Anneke Wills as Polly are the Doctor’s companions. I haven’t seen much of Ben and Polly, since most of their TV stories are non-existent from the BBC archives. It’s nice to get some complete stories with animated episodes to fill in these gaps and to see more of Ben and Polly.
I liked Polly’s reaction to the Cybermen, as she’s shocked by their lack of emotions. She constantly defies the Cybermen, emphasising the point that they have no feelings. Ben gets to be the action hero too, taking over from the Doctor in ‘Episode 3’ and speaks his mind to the scientists and Cutler.
The guest cast includes Robert Beatty as the aggressive General Cutler. There’s also David Dodimead as the sympathetic scientist Barclay; Dudley Jones as Dyson, Alan White as Schultz, Earl Cameron as Williams and Steve Plytas as Wigner (who I’ve seen in the ‘Fawlty Towers’ episode ‘Gourmet Night’).
At the story’s end, we come to the regeneration scene. After defeating the Cybermen, the Doctor has become frail – ‘his body wearing a bit thin’. It was very sad to see him like this, even in animated form. “It’s far from being all over”, the Doctor says when he, Ben and Polly head back to the TARDIS.
To me, having the Doctor dying because he was getting old is a poor way to end William Hartnell’s era of the show and it makes his Doctor rather undignified I’m afraid. Especially as this is William Hartnell’s final story, he doesn’t go out on a triumphant exit like the recent Doctors have done lately.
When they return to the TARDIS, the Doctor is at the console before he collapses onto the floor. As the TARDIS takes off, the Doctor’s face becomes emblazed in a white light getting stronger and stronger. Eventually the light dies down and the Doctor has turned into a completely different man.
William Hartnell has turned into Patrick Troughton. Even in animated form, as well as in surviving footage of that scene from ‘Episode 4’, it’s truly spectacular. I’m very pleased that ‘Blue Peter’ had managed to keep this regeneration scene to survive for many fans to watch it after all of these years.
Of course, ‘regeneration’ is something we take for granted. Back then, it was unheard of. It started a trend of regenerations for actors to play the Doctor and it’s one of the reasons why it’s lasted over fifty years. Without this story, there would be no regeneration and no way to keep the show going.
Regarding the animation of ‘Episode 4’, I was thoroughly impressed with it. I liked how they did the Doctor, Ben, Polly and the other characters as well as re-animating the Mondasian Cybermen. It was very impressive up to its regeneration sequence and was the exciting moment to watch in the story.
The DVD special features are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s an commentary with Anneke Wills, Christopher Matthews (Radar Technician), Earl Cameron (Williams), Alan White (Schultz), Donald Van Der Maaten (Cyberman), Christopher Dunham (R/T Technician) and designer Peter Kindred, moderated by Toby Hadoke.
There’s a making-of documentary called ‘Frozen Out’ with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews; a VHS reconstruction of ‘Episode 4’ and a ‘Radio Times Listing’ PDF of the story. There’s also an info-text commentary option to enjoy; a photo gallery of the story and a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Moonbase’ with Patrick Troughton, Anneke Wills, Michael Craze and Frazer Hines.
On Disc 2, there’s a rare William Hartnell interview to enjoy. This interview was recorded in the 1960s shortly after William Hartnell had left ‘Doctor Who’. There’s also a ‘Doctor Who Stories’ interview with Anneke Wills and ‘The Golden Age’ documentary with historian Dominic Sandbrook.
There’s also the ‘Boys! Boys! Boys!’ interview Peter Purves (Steven), Frazer Hines (Jamie) and Mark Strickson (Turlough). There’s the ‘Companion Piece’ documentary, focusing on the companions of ‘Doctor Who’, including a reference to my favourite companion Nyssa. There’s also a ‘Blue Peter’ item, featuring the regeneration of William Hartnell into Patrick Troughton from ‘The Tenth Planet’.
‘The Tenth Planet’ is a well-known ‘Doctor Who’ story that features the end of William Hartnell’s era as the Doctor. It’s a decent send-off for the actor who played the First Doctor It’s not his greatest exit, but it’s very worthy and memorable to feature the Cybermen and the first regeneration scene.
William Hartnell, you will never be forgotten as the Doctor!
‘The Tenth Planet’ rating – 5/10
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