As we move into the latest era of Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi as the 12th incarnation (or 13th, if we want to include War Doctor John Hurt), there may have been a few DVD releases that new Who fans missed out on in all of the excitement. One of them is “The Tenth Planet”, the last serial in the William Hartnell (yep, the 1st Doctor!) era.
“The Tenth Planet” is not only the last episodes of Hartnell, in which we see his regeneration into Patrick Troughton, but it is also the introduction of the classic Who villains, the Cybermen. Originally aired October 8-29 in 1966, the episodes that remain have been restored and look quite excellent, especially the credits sequence for each that were specifically created for this serial. Missing, however, is episode 4, which has been recreated via animation. Normally I do not like the animated recreations of missing Who episodes but there is something about this episode that it doesn’t appear as jarringly different. It could be the storyline, or simply that the original Cybermen were quite eerie, that keeps it from being unattractive to the eye. The regeneration scene is definitely true to life.
As with most Doctor Who releases, the BBC has jammed a million extras onto the two-disc set. You can literally spend weeks going through them (I did!). First you have great audio commentary with quite a few actors — which is terribly nice to hear because knowing how much these people loved the work they were doing makes the show that much more enjoyable. Better than that is the Making Of feature “Frozen Out”. The extra focuses mostly on Hartnell’s departure from the show. Along with this, we learn how the Cybermen costumes were created and fitted together. Most amazing is the explanation for how the original regeneration was created. Truly awesome and almost saddening it couldn’t have been used in the animated recreation — as the footage is still available. The regeneration can be seen in the VHS Reconstruction which is also included as an extra.
The second disc in the set includes an interview with William Hartnell from 1966 and a 13-minute feature on the story of Anneke Wills, who played companion Polly. There is a short feature with historian Dominic Sandbrook in which he examines if there was, in fact, a “Golden Age” of Doctor Who. But the “Companion Piece” extra is probably more revealing than most people would think. It covers what it might be like to be a companion of the Time Lord. Why I enjoyed it so much is the inclusion of classic Who companions, with a small focus on Nyssa who, as stated in the feature, had some interesting lines that simply were to help explain plot points. This tiny detail seems simple enough, but gives far more depth to the original companions compared to new Who.
Fifty years now we have had this fantastic program to enjoy, and with DVD releases like this (up next: “Terror of the Zygons” from the Tom Baker era!), there is no doubt that Doctor Who will be around for many more.