50 Years of Doctor Who: William Hartnell

Doctor Who‘s first episode aired on November 23, 1963. So while for most people, the big 50th anniversary this November will be one day earlier marking the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I’ll be celebrating the debut of my all-time favorite television show.

With eleven different actors playing the Doctor in a major form on the television show, I’ve decided to take the first eleven months of 2013 to revisit each era of the show in the form of a re-watch. I’ve identified three stories for most months (with the exception of August, which I’ll talk about in greater detail when we get there) to make a concerted effort to view, plus several “bonus rounds” to add in if I have the time and willpower. For each month, I tried to try and select in a way that provided a variety of supporting cast characters, approaches, and the like. We’ll see how well this goes…

January kicks off the great re-watch with William Hartnell, who played the role of the Doctor from 1963-1966. His era was different than any to follow, with a mixture of “historical” (set in Earth’s past with no science-fiction elements aside from the time machine that brought them there) and science-fiction stories (either in Earth’s future, or on other planets). By the time the show ended, it had discovered a new format (modern-day with science-fiction elements), gone through several casts and production teams, and finally inexplicably survived the recasting of the title role. Both Hartnell and his successor Patrick Troughton also have large swathes of episodes missing from the BBC Archives due to a mass purging of older television shows over the years, before the age of home video.

More importantly, the Hartnell era is pretty great. With little to look back on, the show reinvented itself on a regular basis and took chances bigger than any other era has since. In my story selections, I tried to find a mixture of historical and science-fiction, as well as hitting as many of the companions (those who travel with the Doctor in the TARDIS) as I could. I ended up watching 10 stories (or 40 episodes) in all, and while I could blather on about each one of them for some time, just a quick comment on the viewing choices.

Dr Who An Unearthly Child
#001: An Unearthly Child

The very first story, its initial episode is fantastic; it introduces the Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and inquisitive teachers Ian and Barbara who get sucked up into the adventure against their will. Unfortunately, episodes 2-4 are set in the caveman era and are a bit problematic. The story itself isn’t that bad in theory (with a bit of an allegory over the arms race using a quest for fire) but the direction/acting involving the cavemen is just teeth-gratingly bad. There’s a reason why many people watch episode 1 and then skip ahead to something else, rather than episodes 2-4 of this opening story.

Dr Who Aztecs
#006: The Aztecs

“The Aztecs” is easily one of the best Hartnell stories, there’s no doubt. The plot is a fun one; landing in 15th century Mexico, schoolteacher Barbara is mistaken for the reincarnation of the high priest Yetaxa and treated as a god, and she decides to try and save the Aztecs by attempting to stop their practice of human sacrifice. It’s a marvelous story, with Barbara struggling to try and fight the tide of history even as the Doctor tries to explain that her attempts are futile. “You can’t rewrite history! Not one line!” is a statement of the Doctor’s that quoted often, and it sums up the story well. “The Aztecs” is the rare script that 50 years later could be reused with no problem whatsoever.

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Not The Target Audience

Ever had the feeling that you are not the target audience for something but you like it anyway? That’s me and the song “Gun” by Serebro. Based on the visuals of this girl band, I’m pretty sure they’re going for the 20-something straight guy audience, and all I’ve got is the “guy” portion of that covered. Fortunately, I don’t care. I heard this playing in a store in Bridgehampton, NY, and thanks to the Shazam app, I was able to tag it for a later purchase.

Warning: it’s infectious.

Movies and Books: 2012

Yet again, I got a little obsessive and tracked the number of books and movies I’ve consumed in the past year. Why? Well, if nothing else it’s an easy way to remember what I’ve seen when asked, “What was the best book/movie you’ve seen/read this year?” Also, it amuses me. This year showed a slight increase in all categories… And now, on to 2013!

Movies:

  1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  2. The Artist
  3. Albert Nobbs
  4. The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2012: Animated
  5. The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2012: Live Action
  6. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
  7. Bully
  8. Mirror, Mirror
  9. The Avengers
  10. Headhunters
  11. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  12. The Hunger Games
  13. Moonrise Kingdom
  14. Prometheus
  15. Safety Not Guaranteed
  16. Beauty is Embarrassing
  17. To Rome With Love
  18. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923 film)
  19. Brave
  20. Magic Mike
  21. The Amazing Spider-Man
  22. The Queen of Versailles
  23. The Dark Knight Rises
  24. The Imposter
  25. Cosmopolis
  26. Sleepwalk With Me
  27. The Master
  28. Argo
  29. Cloud Atlas
  30. Wreck-It Ralph
  31. Holy Motors
  32. Skyfall
  33. Hitchcock
  34. Travels With My Aunt
  35. Les Misérables

Books:

  1. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
  2. The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
  3. Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro
  4. Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin
  5. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
  6. Lyra’s Oxford by Philip Pullman
  7. Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman
  8. Glasshouse by Charles Stross
  9. Embassytown by China Miéville
  10. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
  11. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  12. Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-time Eater by Frank Bruni
  13. After the Apocalypse: Stories by Maureen F. McHugh
  14. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
  15. Welcome to Bordertown edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner
  16. Bumbling into Body Hair: A Transsexual’s Memoir by Everett Maroon
  17. Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
  18. Moominpappa’s Memoirs by Tove Jansson
  19. American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America by Michelle Obama
  20. God’s War by Kameron Hurley
  21. Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson
  22. Howards End by E.M. Forster
  23. The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia by Paul Theroux
  24. Who Is The Doctor: The Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who: The New Series by Graeme Burk and Robert Smith?
  25. The Ninnies by Paul Magrs
  26. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  27. Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction edited by Brit Mandelo
  28. All About Emily by Connie Willis
  29. Hav by Jan Morris
  30. A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files

Fiction Magazines, Chapbooks, and Zines:

  1. James Patrick Kelly’s Strangeways #1
  2. Fantasy Magazine July 2011
  3. Fantasy Magazine August 2011
  4. Fantasy Magazine September 2011
  5. Fantasy Magazine October 2011
  6. Fantasy Magazine November 2011
  7. Fantasy Magazine December 2011
  8. Chelsea Station Issue 1
  9. Lightspeed Magazine July 2011
  10. Lightspeed Magazine August 2011
  11. Lightspeed Magazine September 2011
  12. Lightspeed Magazine October 2011
  13. Lucky Peach Issue 2
  14. Lightspeed Magazine November 2011
  15. Lightspeed Magazine December 2011
  16. Fireside Magazine Spring 2012
  17. Lightspeed Magazine January 2012
  18. Lightspeed Magazine February 2012

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