Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Doctor Who - The Regeneration Boxset: The Tenth Planet Review

'The Tenth Planet' - Originally Broadcast 8 October - 29 October 1966

There are times throughout the near-50 years of Doctor Who where memories imprint on our life, or change the future of the show. 'The Tenth Planet' is certainly one of these times, providing us with an introduction to the fearsome Cyberman, the Doctor's second biggest enemy, just behind the Daleks. Within the space of four episodes the Cybermen give us a spine-chilling opening story, displaying the agenda of no emotions and no care for humanity, something which is continued into every Cyberman story. Not only did it introduce the Cybermen, but brought in the concept of regeneration, something that the show would not have lasted near-50 years without.

The episode begins when the TARDIS lands at the South Pole, where the 'Snowcap' space tracking station is monitoring the launch of the manned Zeus IV probe. The Doctor, Ben and Polly are thrown into the equation and it begins to get hectic. In proper Doctor Who style things turn to the worse, when an alien planet, Mondas, arrives in the vicinity of Earth's view and the Cybermen arrive on Earth with the intention to take human beings and turn them into Cybermen. With limited supplies and no prior information on the Cybermen, the crew must find a way to defeat the Cybermen before they take over the Earth, and bring the population to Mondas.

Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis created an ancient Doctor Who monster in this story. The Cybermen, once exactly like humans but with weaknesses removed and replaced with robotic equipment and emotions eliminated. The very first time the Cybermen are seen is beautiful, a snowy scene with only the TARDIS in sight, as from over a white hill bold, bulky humanoids appear, marching like an army. With such a bold design choice it is no surprise that the Cybermen were highly successful. The one part of the design of the Mondas Cybermen that send chills down my spine is the fact that when they speak, they only open their mouths, they do not show the movement of speech, and only the sound is heard, in a high-pitched robotic tone, but with essences of humanity remaining.

In this serial we are left with an unusual scenario, at least...unusual for 1966. By now we are very comfortable with the concept of regeneration, but back in 1966 this was a brand new concept, invented to keep the show going once the main actor was unable to continue the role. The end credits give the title role of 'Doctor Who" (yes, you can argue he's 'the Doctor', which he is, but he's billed as 'Doctor Who') to Patrick Troughton, who is seen in the final scene of the episode, regenerating from his predecessor William Hartnell. In this particular DVD we are presented with something very different than we've ever seen before, the famous first regeneration in animation form.

With very little (except the final scene) of The Tenth Planet episode 4 surviving the BBC wiping in the 1970's, it left the BBC in a sticky situation. They could either never release the serial, or animate the missing episode; the BBC obviously chose the latter and what a great choice that was. The animation on episode 4 of The Tenth Planet is superb, differing slightly to past animations done for lost episodes, but capturing the faces and emotions of the scenes originally seen on screen, even the emotionless Cybermen. The movement made by each character flows very smoothly and produces a great representation on what would have been seen on screens in 1966.

Overall, I'd give this serial 9/10, proving the backbone for future regeneration episodes, future Cybermen episodes and bidding a fond-farewell to the first Doctor, William Hartnell, the man who had to build up the character from the ground and set the level for future actors. In the words of the first Doctor "It's far from over", especially if you have many more battles with the Cybermen to deal with. I'd certainly say that any Who fan should have this episode on their 'to-watch' list, especially now that all 4 episodes exist in video form.

The Regenerations Boxset is avaliable to order from the BBC Shop now, and is due for release 24th June 2013.

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