And so my trawl through the First Doctor missing story audio recordings comes to an end with William Hartnell's final appearance, in "The Tenth Planet" by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis. Episodes one to three of this four-parter still survive on film, of course, but I have not had the pleasure of seeing them in their original form. Thankfully, the audio presentation is crystal clear and accompanied by discrete but lucid narration by Anneke Wills. Unlike some stories, I never had any trouble divining what was going on over the course of the four episodes.
Even from episode one of "The Tenth Planet", one can tell that the story is an "event". A large cast put on surprisingly convincing accents in about the closest that 1960s Who came to emulating American sci-fi, complete with the polar command post with its gruff American commanding officer, Dudley Jones' General Cutler, who allows his concern for his son, trapped in orbit, to cloud his judgement even with the fate of two planets at stake. Slightly remixed end credits music helps to distinguish the story from those around it, and of course we have the first appearance of a recurring foe - the Cybermen.
Unfortunately, the early Cybermen are a little crappy. It's not so much their cloth-clad appearance, of which I am aware from the story's publicity photos, so much as their voices, which are remarkably camp and lacking in menace. Still, one can see the genesis of a good idea, and the Cybermen are better used in "The Tenth Planet", in many ways, than they were in many of their subsequent appearances.
Four episodes is unusually short for a non-historical Hartnell story, and as such the action moves along at a decent pace without any moments of boredom. As is often the case with the First Doctor, the companions carry the show, with Ben and Polly (both of whom I am rapidly coming to like) expressing well their disgust at Cutler's willingness to destroy a whole planet and put all life on Earth at risk in the process. The Doctor, played by an ailing Hartnell, is relegated to a background role (barely appearing in episode three), and it's the story's biggest disappointment that his regeneration isn't brought about by any heroic last stand. Instead, in a manner largely unrelated to the events of the story, the First Doctor simply grows old and dies.
None the less, The Tenth Planet is an engaging story that sets things up well for the Second Doctor's debut in "The Power of the Daleks".