Doctor Who: Our 10 Favourite First Doctor Stories - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Our 10 Favourite First Doctor Stories

"Doctor Who," a show steeped in history and beloved by generations, began on this day, November 23rd, 60 years ago when we first met the First Doctor, portrayed by William Hartnell. The original, you might say, and one who stands as a cornerstone. His era laid down the template for a legacy that continues to capture imaginations around the world. Hartnell's portrayal ranged from a cantankerous and mysterious traveler to a grandfatherly figure with a twinkle in his eye, battling Daleks and navigating time streams with a distinctive Edwardian elegance. Here, we journey through the ten standout stories that defined his tenure...

10. The Aztecs (1964) In this historical adventure, the Doctor and his companions find themselves in fifteenth-century Mexico, in the midst of the Aztec civilization. The charm of "The Aztecs" lies in its depth and drama, with Barbara being mistaken for a reincarnation of an Aztec high priestess. It's a thought-provoking story that delves into the morality of history and whether it is right or wrong to interfere with the past. Hartnell delivers a performance filled with gravitas, reminding viewers that "you cannot rewrite history! Not one line!" This respect for the sanctity of time would become a recurring theme in the series, making "The Aztecs" a pivotal part of the Doctor Who canon.

9. The War Machines (1966) "The War Machines" is significant for introducing a more modern and technological threat, the titular War Machines, and for setting a story in contemporary London, a departure from the historical or far-flung adventures. It reflects the growing concerns of an increasingly computerized world, with Hartnell’s Doctor showing just how versatile he could be. The Doctor here is proactive and engaged, battling against WOTAN and its mechanical minions. This story's foresight and contemporary edge give it a lasting appeal, while Hartnell’s performance cements his role as humanity’s protector, regardless of the era.

8. The Time Meddler (1965) This serial is a standout as it introduces another member of the Doctor's own species, the Meddling Monk, hinting at the broader cosmos of Time Lords before they were even named. "The Time Meddler" blends historical drama with science fiction elements seamlessly, presenting a unique story that's engaging and humorous. Hartnell's interaction with the Monk offers delightful chemistry, showcasing a lighter side of the First Doctor. This serial earns its place for its innovative narrative and for expanding the mythology of the Doctor in an era where his origins remained largely a mystery.

7. The Romans (1965) With "The Romans," viewers are treated to a blend of humor and danger as the TARDIS crew find themselves in Ancient Rome. This story is a historical romp that gives Hartnell a chance to flex his comedic muscles, especially with the Doctor unwittingly becoming a lute player in Nero's court. Its comedic approach to history and Hartnell's delightful performance make it a memorable entry. The mix of farce and tragedy in this tale provides a different tone to most Hartnell stories, highlighting the versatility of "Doctor Who" even in its early days.

6. The Keys of Marinus (1964) "The Keys of Marinus" is a quest narrative that takes the Doctor and his companions across a variety of environments on the planet Marinus. This serial has a unique structure, with each episode acting almost as a standalone story linked by the overarching quest. The episodic nature offers a diverse set of challenges and introduces the Voord, a species that, while not as iconic as the Daleks, adds to the eerie and otherworldly feel of the adventure. Hartnell’s Doctor is at his enigmatic best, guiding his companions through each peril with a mix of sternness and wit.

5. The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964) This is one of the most iconic stories from Hartnell’s tenure, with the Daleks invading and subjugating Earth in the 22nd century. Its memorable imagery, like the Daleks emerging from London’s River Thames, cements its place in sci-fi history. Hartnell brings a sense of urgency and resilience to the Doctor, standing against the Daleks' tyranny. The story is also notable for the departure of his granddaughter Susan, giving Hartnell a poignant moment to showcase a more vulnerable side of the Doctor.

4. An Unearthly Child (1963) The story that started it all, "An Unearthly Child," introduces viewers to the mysterious Doctor and his time machine, the TARDIS. While the caveman plot of the subsequent episodes may not hold up as well as the rest of the serial, the first episode is television gold. It establishes the enigmatic and slightly menacing character of the Doctor, with Hartnell portraying him as a reluctant hero pulled into adventures. Its position in the Whovian lore is undeniable, and Hartnell's performance is crucial to the show's initial hook.

3. Marco Polo (1964) "Marco Polo" stands as a crowning achievement of the historical genre within "Doctor Who," notwithstanding the tragedy of its absence from the visual archive. The story is a masterpiece of character and world-building, presenting the vast and mysterious world of the 13th century through the eyes of Marco Polo. It’s an intricate narrative of adventure and diplomacy that showcases the Doctor and his companions as pivotal players in historical events. The story earns its high rank for its ambition and the way it emphasizes the show’s potential as a vehicle for education, as well as for the sheer romanticism of the lost episodes, which have taken on a mythic status among fans..

2. The Dalek’s Master Plan (1965-1966) Spanning an epic twelve parts, "The Dalek's Master Plan" is one of the most ambitious stories of the Hartnell era. It's a sweeping space opera involving time travel, intrigue, and the return of the Daleks in a bid for universal domination. This serial showcases the First Doctor at his most heroic and cunning, outwitting enemies and suffering great personal loss. The scale and ambition of the story, combined with Hartnell’s commanding presence, make it one of the most unforgettable adventures of his tenure.

1. The Daleks (1963-1964) At the pinnacle of Hartnell’s stories stands "The Daleks," the serial that arguably ensured the show's longevity. Introducing the Doctor’s most iconic adversaries, this story is atmospheric, tense, and groundbreaking. Hartnell's Doctor evolves from a passive observer to a man of action and principle. The serial’s exploration of morality, war, and survival are themes that "Doctor Who" would revisit time and again. The chilling corridors of Skaro and the eerie electronic voice of the Daleks are etched into the annals of television history, with Hartnell’s performance central to its haunting impact.

Conclusion: William Hartnell's era as the Doctor laid the foundations for a saga that still endures 60 years later. His stories range from the educational to the outlandish, from the intimate to the epic. Each story mentioned here has its unique place in "Doctor Who" history, contributing to the tapestry of a show that has become a cultural touchstone. "The Daleks" stands out as a masterpiece of science fiction television and a defining moment for the series, securing the legacy of the First Doctor and the show as a whole. Hartnell's tenure is a treasure trove of storytelling that remains vibrant and engaging, a testament to the show's timeless appeal and the power of its storytelling.

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