Happy Birthday, DOCTOR WHO! 10 Classic Series Moments1 of 12By Alan Kistler, Newsarama Contributor
On November 23, 1963, the BBC aired a new science fiction program that was aimed at children and meant to provide some basic history and science education. Doctor Who starred William Hartnell as the Doctor, a grandfather who traveled through space and time in a beaten-up, not fully-functional time ship known as the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space). Though his people, the Time Lords, believed in observing the universe from afar and simply cataloguing it, the Doctor found this lifestyle boring and had stolen his ship from a repair shop, hot-wiring it so he could meet the people of the universe first hand and explore the mysteries had been told were not exploring. Apart from his high intelligence and time senses, he has no true alien powers beyond regeneration, the ability to cheat death and mortal wounds up causing his body to rebuild itself from scratch, resulting in a new appearance.
Of course, along the way, the Doctor has made several enemies. The Cybermen, cold-hearted cyborgs from the planet Mondas. The Daleks, creatures from the planet Skaro that were once humanoid but were mutated into beings that believed anything not of their race needed to be enslaved or destroyed. Sontarans, Vampires, Autons, Nestenes, Ice Warriors, the Celestial Toymaker, and various other foes have emerged. He's also fought evil Time Lords, such as the Master, the Rani, the Monk, Morbius. He even fought recreations of Rassilon, the first Time Lord who became a tyrant before he died.
In all these adventures, the Doctor has entertained children and adults alike and continues to do so in the new series which picks up many years after the classic series finished. The new series began in 2005 with the Doctor now in his ninth incarnation, having just survived the events of the Last Great Time War, a conflict that ended when he had been forced to use something called the Moment to wipe out both his own race and the Daleks or else allow the universe to die. But what of those events that happened before the new series began? Here, for your enjoyment, are 10 major events of the classic series of Doctor Who that truly changed the character and have affected even the new series, years later.
MEETING BARBARA AND IAN2 of 12The Doctor's early life is a mystery. He has, on occasion, made reference to family. He had a brother. He and his father once watched a multi-colored meteor storm. He knew a monk who taught him to appreciate the beauty of every day things in life and who taught him how to expand his senses and mental powers. He had a friend, a boy who would grow up to become the Master, but beyond that he was a very lonely child, once referring to himself as being the only child left out in the cold. And there was a terrible day during his childhood that stayed with him, an experience he would later call the blackest day of my life.
When the Doctor and his granddaughter left Gallifrey, it meant that he was now a renegade, giving up all rights to his heritage and birthright (including, apparently, his name). He was bitter about this and, like most Time Lords, still looked at himself as superior to the rest of the universe. And then that changed when he wound up being accompanied by two human traveling companions, Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton. These two school teachers displayed such humanity, such compassion and altruism and heroism in the face of danger, that the Doctor began to soften.
By the end of their second adventure together, the Doctor truly began to become the hero we now known and love and since then he has made it a point to pick up friends to share in his adventures, often times human beings. Not only because they ease his loneliness, but because their presence reminds him to be a better person rather than a Time Lord who simply does the math and only looks at the big picture.
THE DALEKS' MASTER PLAN3 of 12In his first meeting with them, the Doctor considered the Daleks dangerous but limited to their own planet. In their second adventure, the Doctor changed his opinion when he realized the Daleks would one day conquer Earth (for a time), as well as many other planets. During his third encounter with the Daleks, the Doctor was horrified to learn that the monsters had developed their own form of limited time travel. And then came The Daleks' Master Plan, an epic 12-part story, the episodes of which have mostly been lost to us (but we still have the scripts and audio tracks, so they've turned it into a radio play). This arc showed how dangerous the Daleks were to the universe as a whole, as their new creation the Time Destructor was capable of undoing the fabric of reality itself.
The story arc went to many dark places, introducing the Space Security Service and involving several vicious conflicts. During these events, the Doctor witnessed the death of not just one but TWO companions, helpless to do anything except watch as they were ripped away from him, one of whom actually turned to bone and then dust before the eyes of the audience. Though he won against the Daleks in the end, the Doctor reflected that some victories did not feel like they should be celebrated. Doctor Who was still mostly considered a children's science fiction program in 1966, but this story arc made audiences truly take notice of how serious it could become.
THE FIRST REGENERATION4 of 12During the First Doctor's tenure, all we truly knew about the Doctor was that he was a research scientist who had been exiled (or had run away) from his planet and that he was a grandfather who'd been alive for a long time, possibly centuries. And then, after defeating the Cybermen in The Tenth Planet, something happened. Weakened, he remarked that his body had grown too thin. As he got back to the TARDIS, he said that things were far from over and then collapsed. As his ship went into flight, his body glowed and the silver-haired Doctor was suddenly replaced by a younger, shorter man whose clothes no longer fit him.
The next adventure The Power of the Daleks explained this phenomena. This new guy was the Doctor, but with a new body. The Time Lord hero compared his change to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, explaining that while it may have seemed radical, he was actually the same person. He'd undergone a process of renewal and was ready to explore the universe again, literally with new eyes.
During the Third Doctor's tenure, the process was given the official name of regeneration and it was explained that Time Lords could consciously do this to cheat death (as long as they didn't die instantly and there wasn't more damage than the process could handle). The memories and nurture part remained stable, but the brain cells and hormones were shifted a bit, causing the nature part to alter. This story element has allowed Doctor Who to stay fresh and re-invent itself time and time again, but it was all dependent on the introduction of the Second Doctor and how good actor Patrick Troughton was at convincing us that we could accept the same character with a new face every few years.
DEFEATED THE GREAT OLD ONES5 of 12In The Web Planet, the First Doctor and his companions Vicki, Barbara and Ian encountered a world that was under the influence of a great evil called the Animus. With his strange webs and tentacles, the Animus was a creature that fed off the minds of others and wished to free itself so it could explore the universe. Later, the Second Doctor encountered a similar and more dangerous creature called the Great Intelligence in The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. This energy being, apparently exiled in another dimension, attempted to invade our universe by inhabiting the minds of others and animating the dead. Like the Animus, it could create strange webbing to ensnare its prey.
The novels and audio plays later explained that the Animus and the Great Intelligence were part of a race of beings known as the Great Old Ones, creatures that survived the destruction of the universe that existed before ours came into being. As if it's not cool enough that the Doctor has faced beings of Lovecraftian proportions, we should not that it was while fighting the Great Intelligence for a second time that the Doctor met Col. Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. This man, soon promoted to Brigadier and later knighted, became one of the Time Lord's best friends and, due to his experiences fighting the Great Intelligence, helped create UNIT (the UN Intelligence Task Force), which has defended the Earth several times when the Doctor has not been around and which has aided the Doctor in many adventures. Martha Jones would later work for UNIT.
EXILED TO EARTH!6 of 12For the first six seasons of Doctor Who, the hero was a fugitive from his people, making sure he never stayed in one place for too long lest he be found and caught. But finally, while facing more space/time chaos than he alone could handle, the Doctor was forced to send a thought-cube and call on his people for aid. They did so and then put the hero on trial, threatening to execute him for his crimes and constant interference in the affairs of other races. The Doctor was able to argue his way out of the mess, convincing the Time Lords that he did more good than harm and that someone like him was necessary when evil races like the Daleks were developing time travel. The Time Lords agreed, but there was a price.
After being forced to perform several missions for the Celestial Intervention Agency (the Time Lords' black ops division), the Doctor was exiled to Earth for a few years, forced to regenerate into his third incarnation, his TARDIS now missing key components, and his memories blocked so that he wouldn't know how to repair it. Stuck in one time and place, the Doctor sought out his friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and became UNIT's scientific advisor Dr. John Smith. For three whole seasons, audiences watched a Doctor who was stuck on Earth, unable to time travel (except for a few special missions the Time Lords sent him on and one case where he followed the evil Master to ancient Atlantis). In his new circumstances, the Third Doctor became more of a man of action, relying on Venusian martial arts skills and complex gadgets to win several battles. It wasn't until his 10th anniversary that he won back his freedom, after saving his home planet from certain death with some surprising help. Which leads us to...
SAVED GALLIFREY BY HIMSELF (SORT OF)7 of 12Gallifrey, home planet of the Time Lords, faced imminent destruction. Cut off from the rest of the universe, this great society had to rely on the Doctor for help. But realizing his efforts might not be enough and knowing they could not join him, they sent him the only aid that was possible: himself... and himself.
Still in his third incarnation, the Doctor was very shocked and put out when he saw the Second Doctor materialize on his TARDIS, followed by the First Doctor communicating via the scanner screen. This broke the first law of time set by the Time Lords, that no one was supposed to visit themselves. But with all reality at risk, what else could be done? Now if only the different Doctor could agree on who was in charge!
With this groundbreaking team-up that celebrated its 10th anniversary, Doctor Who once again showed why it was a unique television show. The Doctor would team-up with previous incarnations again on the show's 20th anniversary, in an out-of-continuity TV special on the 30th anniversary, and in an audio play celebrating the 40th anniversary. There have been other, less high-stakes team-ups in the classic series, novels and audio plays, and a Children in Need special mini-episode featured the 10th Doctor accidentally meeting his 5th incarnation.
With the 50th anniversary coming soon, might we expect the return of some familiar faces?
GENESIS OF THE DALEKS8 of 12The Doctor didn't much like the Time Lords, but to be considered a tolerated renegade rather than a fugitive, he was still occasionally forced to do missions for them. One day, an operative of the Celestial Intervention Agency showed up and told him that there existed a possible future where the Daleks would destroy the Time Lords and dominate the universe. The Doctor's mission was simple: alter the creation of the Daleks so that their progress would be slowed down or kill the creatures before they fully emerged.
The Doctor was forcibly sent to ancient Skaro without a TARDIS, told he would not be allowed to leave until the mission was done. In this adventure, he and his companions Harry and Sarah Jane met Davros, the Kaled scientist who created the Dalek race from the ashes of his people, as well as the war machines they traveled in. They saw the political conflicts of Skaro and the Doctor pleaded with Davros that if he had to create the Daleks, he needed to let them have full emotion and not eliminate any sense of pity or sympathy in the process. Davros only mocked him, saying that his creations would make him a god and would bring about peace by dominating all other life forms. They were the master race.
In the end, the Doctor could not bring himself to destroy a species for sins that had not been committed. He chose instead to simply slow down their progress, telling Sarah Jane that he believed some good still came out of all their evil, that alliances and peace treaties were formed between other races because of the shared fear of the monsters. Of course, centuries later, the Doctor was haunted by this decision. And for the Daleks, this action of altering their early history was the event that made them begin targeting the Time Lords as a whole and begin planning for a full scale Time War...
DISCOVERING THE SECRETS OF GALLIFREY9 of 12During the classic series, only one adventure featured the Doctor without a companion at his side, a story thta took place entirely on the planet Gallifrey: The Deadly Assassin. After a mental summons convinces him to part ways with Sarah Jane Smith and return home, the Doctor discovers a plot to assassinate the Lord President of the High Council of Time Lords. During this adventure, we learned of the different Time Lord clans and political offices, how they watched the universe from their lair the Panopticon, and how they stored the memories of their dead in a giant computer known as the Matrix of Gallifrey, a system you could mentally enter as if you were transporting yourself to another world.
This adventure also featured the Doctor learning the secrets of Gallifrey's past, of exactly how Rassilon, the first Time Lord, had mastered the energies needed for time travel and how he had created the Eye of Harmony, a stabilized black hole that lay hidden in the planet. It also involved one of the Doctor's greatest battles with the Master, who was on his final life, unable to regenerate again, and was determined to find a way to cheat death. Even if it meant destroying all of his people and stealing all their regenerations to do it!
This story also resulted in the Doctor basically becoming the President of the Time Lords, something later adventures explored (and an office that he later literally ran away from).
THE KEY TO TIME10 of 12There are forces in the universe whose power dwarfs that of the Time Lords. Cosmic beings known as the Guardians represent abstract forces in reality. When the White Guardian of Order approached the Doctor, he explained that there existed a Key to Time, an artifact capable of manipulating reality and even pausing the entire universe. The Key had been divided into segments, but the Black Guardian of Chaos now sought them out. The White Guardian needed the Doctor to recover the Key first.
This began a season-long story arc (pretty much unheard of at the time), wherein the Doctor was on a cosmic scavenger hunt, aided by a young Time Lord named Romana (her full name was Romanadvoratrelundar, but the Doctor insisted that he was not going to call her this). Together with the robotic dog K-9, they went back and forth through the universe, fighting giant monsters, stopping cosmic civil wars, and even discovering a terrible pirate planet (in an adventure written by Douglas Adams). Of course, the Doctor eventually recovered all the pieces which means that, for a few moments, he technically controlled the universe.
The Key to Time spawned two sequel stories. The first was the Black Guardian trilogy, starring the 5th Doctor. The second was the Key2Time audio play trilogy from Big Finish, starring the 5th Doctor again and exploring the full nature of the Guardians.
THE RISE OF TIME'S CHAMPION11 of 12During his seventh life, the Doctor began to think that he needed to change his methods. He had always traveled at random, the mere pursuit of knowledge and adventure being his primary goals. Evil had been something he'd fought but only when he'd encountered it. Now, he decided it was necessary to actively hunt evil and to set up its defeat beforehand. The universe was a chess board and he would manipulate and trick whomever he had to in order to win the game, even if it meant lying to his own companions and possibly hurting them emotionally.
The Seventh Doctor first truly displayed this new attitude in Remembrance of the Daleks. Visiting the old junkyard on Totter's Lane that the First Doctor had called home, he found a new threat by the Dalek race and had already prepared for it. With his companion Ace McShane, a teenage girl who enjoyed using home made explosives, he set the British military and the Daleks against each other, giving himself the opportunity to uncover an ancient Time Lord device that then fell into the hands of his enemies. But when the Daleks attempted to use the ancient weapon, they only succeeded in destroying their home planet of Skaro. The Doctor had rigged the device and simply told the Daleks that he had warned them against using it and any result was their own fault, not his.
The Doctor who had once refused to destroy the Dalek race had now tricked them into blowing up their own home and seriously crippling their own resources. When Ace asked the Doctor if they had done the right thing, the hero wasn't sure if it was right but believed it had been necessary. This new moral ambiguity marked the seventh incarnation as the Dark One, a man who was not just a time traveler but Time's Champion, and his adventures followed this theme. Though the Eighth Doctor returned the Time Lord to a fun-loving adventurer, the Seventh's nature has never been forgotten. The destruction of Skaro no doubt helped bring about the Last Great Time War between the Daleks and Gallifrey. And every now and then, you can see this darker aspect of the Doctor's peek out in the new series...
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