on 20 September 2013
Technically, this release should be called "Collection 1" as opposed to "Collection 6" as it this first anthology boxset that does not feature any of the 'lost' episodes.
So, is DOCTOR WHO - THE TV EPISODES (ORIGINAL AUDIO SOUNDTRACKS) COLLECTION 6 (read: 1) worthy of being released?
As it draws together previously released narrated soundtracks you would have thought "No" but such is the importance of its slipcased content, especially in this 50th anniversary year, that it is essential for fans of only the NEW SERIES to be exposed to the genius of the drama series when TV production depended on a cracking good plot, stimulating scripts delivered with a tenacity and honesty that is frequently overshadowed by an retinal assault that leaves you 'goggle-eyed' and an aural - both music and sound treatment - bombardment leaves you disorientated.
Here, in these six stories from the William Hartnell - the definitive era of DOCTOR WHO - represents a spectrum of storytelling that takes the TARDIS to a seemingly dead spacecraft, to the glowing embers within the Roman Empire, to a Time distorted alien museum, to a distant outpost inhabited by the last humans, to the dust-laden plains of earth's 'wild west', and to the top of London's Post Office (BT) Tower.
DOCTOR WHO - THE SENSORITES
Peter R Newman's singular story is an intelligent science fiction parable, and, once again (see THE DALEKS - 1963), reinforces the disparate nature of the TARDIS crew whilst investigating previously unchallenged characteristics.
A seemingly abandoned spacecraft replete with Earth pioneers, aliens that can communicate through thought and a Time Lord whose morality is perpetually questioned by a defiant Granddaughter.
The Doctor: Dictated to by petty thieves and my own Granddaughter.
So fascinating are the concepts -the Sense Sphere inhabitants - created by Newman that it acted as a "blueprint" for Russell T Davies' re-imagineering of DOCTOR WHO for the inspiration of Ood (and FOR creative elements of the NEW SERIES - The end of episode one is re-created for the extermination of Lynda in THE PARTING OF THE WAYS ; Susan's description of her homeworld's "burnt orange sky" repeated in GRIDLOCK; and even a singular phrase ("jigging") used by the First Doctor re-worked by the Ninth Doctor in THE END OF THE WORLD).
Key to THE SENSORITES' success is Norman Kay's discordant score that skilfully sirens throughout augmenting the periodically taciturn soundtrack.
Since 1964, THE SENSORITES has not yielded to another other DOCTOR WHO story and remains rooted to the ethos established by the programme's "creators" & first Producer. Intelligent, layered and adventurous - all of which is demonstrated in this soundtrack release.
DOCTOR WHO - THE ROMANS
Written by Dennis Spooner, DOCTOR WHO - THE ROMANS (16 January 1965) has a reputation that is wildly unjustified.
"Comic period romp"? No.
Rather like the Doctor's re-working of THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES fable in the story's episode three - as he successfully yet silently performs a new piece of Lyre music for the more discerning ear - THE ROMANS has an acquired taste for those intelligent and creative enough to value Spooner's the poetic modernity.
In re-discovering THE ROMANS from the BBC AUDIO archives the story has a symbiotic scripting tone to the Russell T Davies' re-imagineering of DOCTOR WHO. An intelligent plot, (seemingly) historically accurate (albeit with literature licence), a conversational dialogue approach, wit and threat that would compare favourably to THE SHAKESPEARE CODE or THE FIRES OF POMPEII (in fact, in this story, the Tenth Doctor refers obliquely to the stories climatic events in Rome).
In support of THE ROMANS even the venerated newspaper, THE TIMES noted that: " Verity Lambert's production is once again flawless ".
Give it another chance or your first, it will reward your time. Think of it as DOCTOR WHO - THE ROMANS written by Steven Moffat, and you'll love it.
DOCTOR WHO - THE SPACE MUSEUM
A science fiction drama that delivers, with this first episode, an intriguing debate on "What can be" or "If" events within a universe that follows a linear format - or as a "ball of string" format.
The first episode is a creatively polished as DOCTOR WHO could be for its time, delivering a " Son et Lumière " event that rewards the viewer with an unwitting twist. In today's terms, the twist will be casually disregarded as passé due to the endless episode of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION that have used the same technique. Here, in Glyn Jones' THE SPACE MUSEUM time is presented as a constant, pre-defined & choreographed and, for 1964, this is conceptualised is cinematic in quality.
By the time of broadcast, the cast are regally assured in their respective roles, in particular Hartnell as the quintessential time-defying Grandfather (what would Hartnell make of BBC WALES' choice of the youngest actor to play the character is anyone's guess!) with a heart of malleable gold and a mind of sharp morality. The supporting cast of O'Brien, Hill and Russell are equally honed in their characters, providing adept delivery of "What/why/when Doctor? that is a pre-requisite of a travelling companion.
The linking narration - scripted by John Molyneux - is suitably repressed, Maureen O'Brien cajoling the action at a perambulation rate instead of it being an acting vehicle for her. Restrained but documentative when required.
For NEW SERIES fans (with an expectation of a story laden with CGI and raucous music ), THE SPACE MUSEUM will be an oddity set adrift in a monochromatic time but the conceptual groundwork established in episode 1 is adequate enough to retain attention until the end.
DOCTOR WHO - THE ARK
Just when you thought that travelling aimlessly through space:time in an impossible concrete & wooden box was a harmless exercise in exploration you encounter the situation that a dribbling, mucous saturated nasal obstruction could possibly endanger the last of the human race as they launch a space piercing life-boat as the dying Sun gorges on planet Earth.
DOCTOR WHO - THE ARK is a deliriously absorbing tale of that "...what if..." premise, with Hartnell commanding every scene that he's in even though at times he's attempting to stop his sand-like scripted lines trickling through his fingers. However, catching the errant sand-script is his co-star, Peter Purves (Steven Taylor), steadying his leading man mentor whilst DOCTOR WHO newcomer, Jackie Lane (Dodo) is as eager with as a new puppy playing with a new toy with gregarious relish.
In essence DOCTOR WHO - THE ARK is a two episode two-parter conjoined with a disturbing complexity that must have beguiled viewers in March 1966 as does today, and with an episode two cliff-hanger that is as shocking at that of the seeming Tenth Doctor regeneration at the end of DOCTOR WHO - THE STOLEN EARTH (2008).
DOCTOR WHO - THE GUNFIGHTERS
Like Peter Purves, upon retrospective, DOCTOR WHO - THE GUNFIGHTERS is highly effective, embodying the diversity that the drama series could bring to the fore. It can be a serious comment on morality (and, in this instance, mortality), it can be a thriller, and it can be a comedy.
Certainly, THE GUNFIGHTERS is a hybrid as opposed to some commentators' assertion that it is a `mongrel' (or "...the Morbius of the series..." i.e. a cobbled together grotesque, blind and out-of-control. See DOCTOR WHO - THE BRAIN OF MORBIUS) but, ironically, it would translate into the NEW SERIES format than other stories from the CLASSIC SERIES.
DOCTOR WHO - THE WAR MACHINES
With TARDIS returning to contemporary Earth, the Doctor and Dodo discover that London's recently completed GPO Communications Tower (now known as the BT Tower) had become a power-base for a sentient computer called WOTAN, and it was planning to subjugate all human life following a devastating assault by armoured `war machines'.
In a plot more akin to ITV's THE AVENGERS, DOCTOR WHO AND THE WAR MACHINES creates an operational template for future development of the drama series, and in particular the introduction of the paramilitary organisation, UNIT, two years later (and following a consolidating trial in DOCTOR WHO - THE WEB OF FEAR).
Confidently narrated by Anneke Wills, the four-parter rattles along at an astounding pace, punctuated with a very modern story-telling device (News Reporting from `actual' BBC Newsreaders) that Russell T Davies adopted to equal effect for the NEW SERIES' stories such as ALIENS IN LONDON and THE SOUNDS OF DRUM. I wonder if 1960's viewers were confused or concerned at the reassuring sight of BBC 'face of news', Kenneth Kendall appearing on screen telling them to "...stay in your homes..."
Overall, these six stories may not capture the First Doctor at his very best but it demonstrates that William Hartnell's characterisation is not as reproachable or as demonstrative as first imagined. Without Hartnell's commitment and vision in its earliest of days, DOCTOR WHO, as we know it today, may not be celebrating its 50th anniversary.