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Old 14th November 2007, 10:26 AM   #1 (permalink)
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What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

Hi folks.

I used to watch Dr Who avidly when I was growing up. I'm referring to the older episodes, not the newer stuff.

Eventhough the sets, monsters and so-called special effects were pretty basic there was something about the series that I always found to have that magical quality that kept me glued to my seat.

So my query is What Was It That Made Many Of Those Earlier Episodes So Riveting To Watch Despite The Obvious Budgetary Constaints? Was it plot, characters, actors involved?...

Just can't seem to put a finger on it...
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Old 14th November 2007, 10:45 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

Well, plot in some respects. When I was a kid watching them the plots were pretty way out. But there was also a fair bit of creepy tension, especially in the ultra old black and white ones, so it was kinda scary, for a kid. And at the age of eight, I didn't know those daleks were made out of silver painted cardboard and indicator lights off Morris Minors.
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Old 18th November 2007, 04:48 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

For me, most series that I enjoy have good character interaction and characters that have been brought to life by the actors. Anyone can stand and say lines, but to mean them and draw the audience in to caring about what happens to the characters, in my opinion is what it's all about.
Having said that, some of the supporting performances were a bit naff in a lot of episodes, but the principal characters always kept me in that state of suspended disbelief.
I think that plot had a bit to do with it, but the sheer inventiveness despite, or perhaps because of the lack of budget, always amazed me.
Sure, some of the costumes and special effects were laughable by todays standards, but at the time, as a child, they had me glued to the screen.

Watching 'The Daemons' recently, I couldn't help but smirk at the guy in the gargoyle costume running down the hill, obviously not quite sure where he was going or how he was going to stop.
Even with this I still enjoyed watching the story. Anything you can watch despite knowing its flaws will always hold a magic for you, for isn't that the way in life as well as art (excuse me, I seem to have gone all philosphical - abnormal service will be resumed soon!)
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Old 18th November 2007, 06:17 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

It's been quite a long while since I've seen most of Doctor Who (in fact, I've yet to see any of the newer series). However, a few years ago I did get to see a few of the Hartnell and Pertwee stories again (as well as periodically popping in one of the few Troughton or Tom Baker serials I have), so I can at least go on more recent reactions for some of them.

By and large, I'd agree with what's been said so far, especially Dr. Jackson's comments about being aware of the flaws yet still caught by the magic. I think I'd add the quality of quirkiness to the list, though -- especially that of the Doctor, yes, but the entire set-up really had something uniquely bizarre about it: time travelling (most often quite randomly, to all intents and purposes) in (apparently) an abandoned police call box! The very mundanity of the seeming method was a stroke of lunatic genius and dry wit, I'd say.

Beyond that... yes, some of the performances make one wince. But many of the actors really did throw themselves into the thing with a conscientious effort to cast that "glamour" that simply allows the viewer to be swept away for a brief while; not only workmanlike, but often very committed to making the characters real to the viewer. Besides, I think that, in some ways, the show tapped into that eternal child in many of us, in the same way that all good adventure tales do.

Incidentally, since this could be seen as a rather open question, I have a related one of my own. I've not seen any of the Peter Davison series (with the exception of "Mawdryn Undead") in years. I was one of the few Americans, I think, to actually have a fondness for him in the role -- he was a very nice contrast to Baker, more vulnerable, a bit enigmatic, and a thread of continuity which nonetheless allowed the focus frequently to be on the other characters (much like many of the early stories) -- but I wonder how I'd feel now. One of the things that drew me to these, too, was their starker, darker feel. They were very often almost unrelentingly grim, which was also a nice contrast with the swashbuckling aspect of the Baker years (though this trend began with his last season; say about "Full Circle" on). If "Mawdryn" is any indication, I'm more likely to be aware of the faults, yes, but still like them. However, I'm curious if there's anyone else here who originally liked these and has seen them since, and their reaction in later viewings.
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Old 19th November 2007, 12:01 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

Got to remember what we were faced with back in 1963:

Back then all sets (except Donkey for some reason) wobbled,
Drama was totally studio bound (300lb TV cameras do not like rain), black and white and live!
The nearest thing to kids drama was Andy Pandy and Whirlybirds, science fiction was spearheaded by Fireball XL5 and everything else on the BBC was educational- Animal Magic, Blue Peter, Sketchbook and Newsreel et al.

Doctor Who, then, was totally new: Real drama, where the good guy was only slightly less scary than the monsters, his companions were dreadfully ordinary and not always safe even with the good guy, the stories brand new and played out at a rate you could follow, the aliens captured the imagination even better than Dan Dare in the Eagle.

Re-watching some of the Hartnell stories, umpty-tiddly years later; Many look rather corny now, but that is because of the technology available, not a weakness in the story. Even now I think something like Web Planet would push CGI animators on a Hollywood budget to the limit. But in terms of story and/or inventiveness there were a raft of episodes that still set standards
Then it was rescued by some excellent acting, not just by Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee, but by the guests (there would be a lot of Sir's and Dame's in that cast list now, so no excuse). All three Doctors had the ability to 'REALLY' be who they were playing.
Tom Baker, also a great character actor, succeeded mostly by being Tom Baker as did Sylvester McCoy. I'm afraid the new Doctors appear to be a bit 'ordinary' in their company.
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Old 19th November 2007, 01:04 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

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Doctor Who, then, was totally new: Real drama, where the good guy was only slightly less scary than the monsters, his companions were dreadfully ordinary and not always safe even with the good guy....
I think that's one of the things that first got my attention. Even the first episode of Doctor Who I ever saw (from The Invasion of Time) was intriguing in part because (as it seemed) the Doctor betrayed his people to an invading force... hardly your typical "hero" in filmed (let alone televised) sf! So when I finally had a chance to see the Hartnell stories some years later (at least, all of the complete stories that Lionheart was sending out to American broadcasting at the time), and saw the first episode... I was very taken with this take. Hartnell's Doctor was untrustworthy (at least, in many ways), and could be every bit as dangerous and shifty as any of the threats they ran into... yet he was a complex character; the latter something each of the following actors kept up with the role... and even the Doctor as played by Pertwee and Baker wasn't always on the up-and-up, for that matter.

And yes, no few of the stories remain good stories still. They may seem a bit
na´ve at times by our standards, but they're frequently solidly-told stories, with a great deal of charm, wit, and intelligence to them, for all their technical flaws....
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Old 23rd November 2007, 10:36 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

I am from a later era in Doctor who history, like David Tennant Peter Davidson is my Doctor, (the one I grew up with) I felt that Davidson came in when the BBC were getting twitchy about Doctor Who, the commitment was waning and despite his best efforts the scripts were getting a bit light entertainment. Although I would say that seeing Snakedance again I did realise that there was life left in the show.

I remmber Davidson getting the role (barley) as I remmbered him more as the feckles Tristram Farnon from the James Herriot series. After Tom Baker I dont know if anyone got a fair crack of the whip IMO.

When Davidson left and Colin Baker tried to do something a bit different with the role (well maybe going back to the more scary Younger Doctor) and was punished for it.

Sylvester Mcoy came in to a series under serious pressure to prove itself under attack from all angles inside the BBC and outside this pressure shows in the whole performance of Mccoy and Colin Baker.
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Old 24th November 2007, 06:26 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

For me my favorite Doctor was Jon Pertwee and Patrick ? (second doctor) so they were early episodes. It was the daleks and the master and also the story lines I enjoyed. After Tom Baker left I lost interest in Dr Who. Even the most recent revial has not drawn me back to it. Maybe I just started to grow up and loose interest, I dont really know why.
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Old 25th November 2007, 09:53 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

It's been a long time since I watched those, bouncing up and down to the theme tune on my grandfather's sofa before Saturday teatime, but I would agree that at the time, there was nothing like it on TV. There was certainly nothing like the Daleks or the Cybermen on TV. Ray recently sent me a copy of the original episodes, and I agree that they were well written. Also given that everything was performed live, they are well acted too, but as Ray said, there would be quite a few distinguished actors among those casts if it were repeated today.
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Old 25th November 2007, 09:15 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

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,,,and Patrick ? (second doctor) ...
Patrick Troughton -- for whom I have a great fondness not only as the Doctor (one of my personal favorite Who stories is The Mind Robber; a story that should not have worked at all, and -- from what understand -- was plagued with darned nearly everything going wrong that could... and came out showing some of the best, quirkiest, most enjoyably imaginative aspects of the show), but as one of the best character actors of a very talented generation.....
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Old 8th January 2008, 12:29 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

I've watched from day 1 many moons ago,,,,

Aitch,
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Old 8th January 2008, 12:52 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

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....one of my personal favorite Who stories is The Mind Robber; a story that should not have worked at all, and -- from what understand -- was plagued with darned nearly everything going wrong that could..
Thanks for the feedback so far. Some quitre interesting ppints being made and I agree that genreally a lot of the earlier episodes were very well written and there really wasn't anything quite like it on TV in those days.

As far as The Mind Robber goes, some more information...

This serial was originally composed of four episodes, but the preceding serial, The Dominators, was reduced from six to five episodes. This resulted in a sparse first episode being written as they had to use the limited budget of the replaced episode. This stretching of the story also resulted in the first four episodes only running between 19 and 22 minutes in length, and Episode 5 being the shortest Doctor Who episode ever at slightly over 18 minutes.
During production, actor Frazer Hines contracted chicken pox and was hurriedly replaced by real-life Scot Hamish Wilson for episode 2. This also meant that a scene had to be quickly written to explain Jamie's sudden change in appearance.
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Old 8th January 2008, 04:39 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

Yup. And, because they had to go into production a week early, the sets weren't ready yet, so all they had to work with was the TARDIS set and a cyclorama, or stock footage (of Zoe's "City" for instance) for the first episode. Yet somehow, with all this, they pulled off a thoroughly imaginative, intriguing, (generally) fast-paced, and wonderfully fun (and wonky) story.....
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Old 9th January 2008, 08:44 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

I did get to work on some of the great episodes in my 32 years in the biz...

Season 05, story 040:'The Enemy Of The World', played 'CENTRAL EUROPEAN GUARD'
Season 05, story 043:'The Wheel In Space', played 'EXTRA'
Season 11, story 074:'Planet Of The Spiders', played 'GUARD'
Season 12, story 079:'Revenge Of The Cybermen', played 'VOGAN'
Season 13, story 085:'The Seeds Of Doom', played 'GUARD'
Season 14, story 088:'The Deadly Assassin', played 'GUARD'
Season 14, story 089:'The Face Of Evil', played 'ASSASSIN'
Season 15, story 093:'The Invisible Enemy', played 'CREWMAN'
Season 16, story 098:'The Ribos Operation', played 'LEVITHIAN'
Season 16, story 103:'The Armageddon Factor', played 'GUARD'
Season 17, story 109:'Shada', played 'KRARG COMMANDER'
Season 18, story 111:'Meglos', played 'TIGELLAN'
Season 19, story 117:'Castrovalva', played 'SECURITY GUARD'

Aitch,
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Old 1st February 2008, 05:59 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: What is so appealing about the early Dr Who episodes?

Having begun my enjoyment with the Tom Baker era, but now having seen stories from all the eras (including the 8th Doctor's audio), each and every era have their charm and attraction. Certainly there are the typical cliche's of every era of the series from the '60s to the '90s, and even this decade's version. I would be one of many to comment on the egregiousness of this decade's doctor who, it's obsessions over bodily humor, soap opera relationships and it semi-constant breaking of the fourth wall (especially in it's not to subtle attacks on Doctor Who fans - especially when seen in Love and Monsters and Time Crash.)

The value in the older series is that it deepens our appreciation in what the series was, what it is and what it can be, as you appreciate a great painting when you compare it to what the artist had done in the decades leading up to it.
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