I know this is an obvious choice to begin with, in my look at a story from each Doctor but as far as classic and creative on a budget sci-fi goes, you really can’t ask for anything more than this.
As well as being the story that catapulted Doctor Who into the public consciousness, it is much more, being a fascinating story that sets out themes and ideas which are still core components of the show today.
The plot (as explained via the book blurb, just because I like books): The mysterious Doctor and his granddaughter Susan are joined by unwilling adventurers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright in an epic struggle for survival on an alien planet.
In a vast metal city they discover the survivors of a terrible nuclear war – the Daleks. Held captive in the deepest levels of the city, can the Doctor and his new companions stop the Daleks’ plan to totally exterminate their mortal enemies, the peace-loving Thals? More importantly, even if they can escape from the Daleks, will Ian and Barbara ever see their home planet Earth again?
The instant that the theme music starts up it’s clearly an instant hummer, coupled with the psychedelic looking awesome opening title sequence, it coalesces to feel very discombobulating and, well…alien! Which is handy as this being only the second story and the first away from Earth. This seven parter conveys a delightfully tense atmosphere to the audience, with its distinct lack of incidental music and much mystery to this new world. A fairly pacy story for the most part and very claustrophobic, the feeling of the unknown is made all the more dramatic with the black and white nature of the show.
Being 60’s TV there is a lot more emphasis on the story, as opposed to action but in this case the slow build up,character exploration and scene setting, there is emphasis on actual science ideas as well as the science fiction, which just adds to the believability of the situation the characters find themselves in.
Modern Doctor Who viewers will be greeted with a more abrupt, some would say grumpy and analytical Doctor, who likes to be the alpha male, he’s manipulative and headstrong, he comes across as more of a cunning character who makes you unsure of what his motives actually are. This is contrasted with a certain childish curiosity, selfishness and one-upmanship though, which inevitably brings confrontation with companions making everything more taut.
The Daleks themselves are fantastic at conveying there utter inhuman ways, with their totally alien and so different from anything on earth, coldly logical with dead voices and a desire to exterminate anything different from themselves. The apocalyptic nature of the planet Skaro tapped in to the cold war mentality and the Daleks themselves were based on Nazis making for some compelling feelings of terror in all age groups one should think.
Admittedly I have not seen many Hartnell adventures to date and my favourite is The Time Meddler but still this is a classic. Wonderfully cheesy, overly dramatic, uniquely different and utterly malevolent aliens. Although it does lose something in pace towards the end, this story really is a fun bit of sci-fi, which still feels fresh, despite the naivety with which you can’t help but see in it, there are many classic bits to it, you really can see why it propelled this show into the limelight. It’s vintage awesomeness, with less humour than in later eras, there seems to be more of a feeling of danger and although this is family viewing it does feel more gritty than any modern day idea of the phrase suggests.