Picture this. You are out somewhere and you hear somebody talking about their favourite book. Now this just so happens to be your favourite book too, so you strike up a conversation. Gradually you come to realise that the person saying how much they love this book, hasn’t actually read it all. They started at Chapter Nine, completely ignoring the first eight. Yet they are still adamant that it is the best book ever. It’s ridiculous isn’t it? No one would actually ever do that. So then why do so many fans of Doctor Who completely blank the first eight Doctors?
In the few years I have been on Facebook, I noticed that when it comes to new fans, they can be divided into two categories. There are the ones who get into the show through the new series and love it so much that they delve into the Classic era with glee and enjoy discovering a multitude of amazing stories. Then there are the people who willfully ignore those first 26 years and quite happily slate everything pre – Eccleston as being rubbish. The latter are also quite often the ones who shout the loudest about what a “massive Whovian” they are.
So why do so many “fans”, have absolutely nothing to do with the Classic era? The excuses often bandied about are “There’s too much. I don’t have time to watch all those stories”, “A lot of it is black and white”, or “The sfx are rubbish”. Or, “The actors playing the Doctor are all old guys”.
Well, as a long time fan, I find it a real shame that there are people out there who by their own designs, are refusing to watch the first eight Doctors. Simply because I know how many fantastic stories there are to be enjoyed.
The first excuse about there being too many adventures to get through and not having time, is a total cop out. Nobody is saying that you have to go back and watch the whole 26 seasons in as quick a time as possible. The episodes were shorter at 22-25 mins each. You could quite easily watch one episode at a time. There is no rule saying you need to binge watch entire stories in one go. Back when they were originally broadcast, we only saw one episode a week so you could even do it that way. Everyone can find 25 minutes in their week to watch an episode, so the “no time” excuse is just that. An excuse.
The fact that the first two Doctors were during the years of black and white telly, seems to be a huge obstacle to a lot of would be viewers. It is as if the phrase “black and white” equates to meaning “rubbish”. This could not be furthur from the truth. Just because a tv show or film is not in colour, does not mean it can’t possibly be worth watching. B & W was the medium back then and look at the amount of iconic movies from cinematic history that were black and white. All it means is that there is no colour. It does not detract from the quality of the writing, acting, plot etc…Look at some of the most highly regarded DW stories such as The Daleks, The Aztecs, The Time Meddler, The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Web of Fear, The Seeds of Death….Just a few of the very best Doctor Who stories and they are all from the black and white era.
The sfx in the classic series seems to be a major bone of contention for a lot of people. Now this is one of those things that comes down to certain factors. First of all, the fact that television technology was still very much in it’s infancy in the 60’s & 70’s. Secondly, it is well known that the DW Production team were always working on a meagre budget in tiny, cramped studios. Yes, you can look back at the sfx and say they are dated but of course they are. Everything dates eventually. Look at television from the 1990’s. Even that looks dated now. It is a fact that technology is constantly evolving and back in those early days, there wasn’t a lot available to work with. This combined with the small budgets, meant that the team had to use their imaginations a bit, in the hope that the audience would be able to do the same. To me, a part of the charm of the classic era is the fact that they used whatever they had to hand to make the stories come to life. I love that they used models for alien cities and spaceships. I love that despite a small studio to film in, they used a painted backdrop and some scenery to create the illusion of being in some far off place, either in history or in the future. One of the finest examples I can think of is The Brain Of Morbius. Made entirely in the studio, they manage to convey the uttet bleakness and desolation of the planet Karn, just from scenery and set dressing. Another great example is the famous bubble wrap in The Ark In Space. Often considered to be one of the best stories in the Classic series, the use of bubble wrap painted green to portray the gradual process of a man turning into an alien insectoid, is brilliant and sums up my point perfectly.
There are stories that used the C.S.O. (Colour Seperation Overlay) process. Mostly in the 70’s, this was a new thing available to the production team and they were eager to use it. Some scenes in The Ambassadors Of Death were even created just so they could show off this feature. Of course, when seen now, it looks very basic (which it was) and a lot of it doesn’t stand up well but then if you look at certain elements of C.G.I. in the new series, you can say the exact same thing. I go back to my point about imagination. You need to excercise your mind a bit, rather than having it all spoonfed to you.
The “older actors” is an excuse that really deserves nothing but contempt. If the reason people watch the show is because of hunky, young actors, then nothing I have said is going to change your mind. I don’t even wish to give this excuse any more of my time so I shall move on.
The pace of Doctor Who is very different nowadays. One thing a lot of people complained about in the McGann movie was that it is “too Americanized”. However, if you look at the movie up against the new series, there are a lot of similarities.In some respects, the movie was a template for new Who. The pace of the story moves along very quickly. Nowadays the stories are usually contained within a 45 minute structure so things need to move quickly. Set up the scene, show the threat, have the Doctor arrive, the fight against said threat and the resolution. It has to be faster as there is less time for each adventure, whereas with the original series, the stories ranged between two and twelve episodes. The general pace of television has changed over the years, to match society. We live in a “right now” world where everything is demanded a lot quicker. A slower pace though, does not mean a slower story. It just gives more breathing space and that is not a bad thing.
So, when it comes to those old stories, don’t be put off. Open yourself up to experiencing the first eight Doctors. As I said, there is no rule telling you that you have to watch them all in as short a time as possible. Each one of those Doctors has something different to offer. They each brought something unique to the role and there are stand out adventures from each era. You don’t even have to start right from the beginning. You can dive in anywhere. That is the beauty of Doctor Who. There are so many fantastic stories to see. The ones I mentioned above are all fine examples. Some others are, The Reign of Terror, The War Machines, The Enemy of the World, The Invasion, Inferno, The Daemons, Terror of the Zygons, Talons of Weng Chiang, The Five Doctors, Caves of Androzani, Vengeance On Varos, Revelation of the Daleks, Remembrance of the Daleks and The Curse of Fenric. There you go. Two fantastic stories from each Doctor to start things off. Go forth, watch and enjoy!