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How awesome is William Hartnell?

My adventures hunting through the VHS collection have taken a detour into the "Episodes of Doctor Who that haven't come out on DVD yet" cupboard. Mostly because I wanted to watch some episodes of Doctor Who that haven't come out yet on DVD. And I am very glad indeed that I agreed with myself, and didn't try to insist that I watch something else instead.

Planet Of Giants is a three part adventure from 1964. William Hartnell is still trying to get Ian and Barbara home, and is landing them in deadly danger every week instead, which is awesome of him. I am very grateful to William Hartnell and his complete inability to pilot the TARDIS. Or "TARDIS", as they're still calling it, with no "the", as it's still the Ship's name, rather than the name of a particular kind of ship. As they haven't invented Time Lords or other TARDISes yet. Sorry. Rambling. Anyway, the TARDIS doors open during materialisation, which Must! Never! Happen! says the Doctor, because of stuff. Everybody thinks everything is okay though, as they're still breathing, and there's no huge monsters about to annihilate them, which for them makes it a pretty good day. So they go outside for a look around. The Doctor and Barbara go one way, and find a giant earthworm, and Ian and Susan go the other way, and find a giant ant.

And it's wonderful, it really is. The models are fabulous, and the sets are awesome, and the dodgy projected backdrops are hilarious, but who gives a damn. Soon enough they realise that they've been shrunk by the open TARDIS doors, and are in the garden of a scientist who has invented a deadly insecticide. He's going to sell it, and every insect (and earthworm) in the whole of the world will die. Somehow, despite being only one inch high, the best TARDIS team ever have got to save the world, armed only with a table, a bunsen burner and a tap.

The opening titles, in full, black and white, wibbly SFX glory. Oh, and the music. The original theme music is so brilliantly atmospheric. William Hartnell, I am sorry. I had forgotten how many hundreds of times better than New Who your Who is.


Giantness. Also Ian and Susan, just to add to the sheer gloriousness of everything.

Ian encounters a murdered government inspector. I love how it's clearly a giant photograph that he's stood in front of, and I also love how little I care.

Being small is fraught with dangers, especially when you're Ian. He makes quite a habit of not realising that it's not a great plan to get inside things when you're small. This leads to unexpected rides in matchboxes and briefcases, and eventually to both he and Barbara being trapped inside a lab, on a bench, and with no way of getting down. Fortunately the Doctor and Susan climb up a drainpipe and, slightly less fortunately, Barbara nearly poisons herself to death by coming into contact with the deadly insecticide. She's awesome about it though. Partly because she's Barbara, and that's just how Barbara is, and partly because she wants to see how many times I'm going to use the word "awesome" during this review. I don't think that last one counts, by the way, as it was only there for explanatory purposes.

I love this adventure. I love the models, and I love the pacing, and I love the TARDIS crew, and I love that everybody speaks in RP, even if it's not PC to want RP on TV anymore. Sorry, everything went all abbreviated for a moment there. And I love that William Hartnell doesn't even pretend to know how the TARDIS works; and I love how Ian is clearly the best person in the world to be trapped in dangerous situations with; and I love how capable everybody is; and how much better than Rose Tyler everybody is; and just how very 1964 everything is. And how wonderfully, gorgeously devoid of Murray Gold's composing everything is. I don't actually dislike New Who. There are bits of it, like Captain Jack, and River Song, and lesbian Victorian amphibian adventurers with human girlfriends, that I actually like a very great deal. It's just that Old Who is better in so many ways that there really aren't enough words in the English language to properly explain it. It's black and white, and largely made out of cardboard, and the whizziest special effects are during the title sequence. And William Hartnell can never remember his lines. And it's perfect. This is how television should probably still be made.

Ian and Barbara trapped on top of a lab bench.

Ian and Barbara trapped on top of a lab bench with a giant fly.

The Doctor and Susan in a sink.

And Ian and Barbara in a sink as well, because clearly they're proud of the set.

The gang try to use a (giant photograph of a) telephone to call for help.

Then, when that seems to fail, they attempt to set fire to the lab using a bunsen burner...

... and some giant matches.

This little piece of arson pleases the Doctor greatly.

And then all is good and fine, and returned to its proper size of course, and also the insects and earthworms of the world are safe from further harm. Hurrah! I love this adventure. I wish they were still making new William Hartnell episodes now. Or, if William Hartnell and Jacqueline Hill will insist on still being dead, I wish they'd make New Who better. Not in black and white necessarily. Just better. And with Ian. It was all so much more fun when it wasn't about being as loud and as shiny as possible. I know that modern television has to be different. I just wish that it didn't have to lose all of its charm along the way.


( 4 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 14th, 2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
It's pencilled in for release this year. It should have been out already, but it looks as though it's one of the many releases that got put back when all the warehouses burned during the London riots. A hell of a lot of DVD stocks and DVD masters were destroyed then. So it may come out this year, or it may have to wait now until 2013.

Also pencilled in for release this year is "Reign Of Terror", which is my most favouritest Doctor Who ever. There are two episodes missing, but they've animated them, as the original soundtrack still exists. Susan actually doesn't get much to do in that one sadly, but Ian and Barbara are awesomeness itself. And the Doctor has a fabulous hat.

That's partly why they don't release things in order, incidentally. Some stuff needs so much more work on it. Another of my absolute favourites is the Pertwee story "Mind Of Evil". The colour copy of that got accidentally wiped in the seventies, and although it was released on VHS in b&w, they've been hoping to recolour it before releasing it on DVD.

And that was a way longer reply than you probably wanted. :)
Apr. 14th, 2012 10:15 pm (UTC)
I love Ian and Barbara more than I love Hartnell, to be honest. There needs to be more Ian/Barbara/Captain Jack fanfic in the world.
Apr. 15th, 2012 02:22 pm (UTC)
I would love to see what Ian and Barbara would make of Jack! I can see Ian taking it all in his stride, as he does with everything else, and Jack being rather bowled over by both of them.

And yes, when I say in the title that Hartnell is awesome, I guess I mean the era as a whole, more than just the man. The First Doctor is great, but he's made greater by his companions - Ian and Barbara especially.
( 4 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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