Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Enter the Cybermen, Exit The First Doctor

The Tenth Planet

First Doctor  - 29th (and Final) Serial

4 Episodes, Companions: Ben, Polly

Based on this news article from 2005, you'd think this Serial was about to come true!  Sadly, the discovery of hundreds of Kuiper Belt Objects led to the Tenth Planet in the preceeding article, and Pluto, our own "Ninth Planet" being relegated to status as "Dwarf planets" or "Kuiper Belt Objects".  But in 1966, the concept of a 10th planet was revolutionary - Pluto, after all, was only discovered only 36 years prior. 

Summary: The TARDIS crew land next in Antarctica.  The international crew of the research substation there are tracking an space craft that had fallen off course - and has now encountered a new planet approaching Earth's Orbit!  The new planet's approach coincides with a great force draining all of the power and energy from the Earth, and a heartless new form of life bent on taking everything the Earth has!

The Doctor: Immediately on edge from being challenged by the military leadership of the station, the Doctor nevertheless lends his aid - he knows about Mondas and the Cybermen.  We know that he usually knows Earth's past but this is the first time I can recall us seeing Earth's future (from the late-1960's vantage, at any rate) and him being aware of the upcoming Historical events.  In 2150, when the Dalek's invaded, he was caught completely off-guard.  But this, he knows.  It's a step back into the characterization the Doctor had for the first season - the enigmatic traveler that knew everything around him, and simply needed to put the clues together to find a way out of it.

Companions: For much of the first part, Ben & Polly take a backseat to the Doctor and the Base.  The General is such an imposing figure, and the story of the entanglements take center stage - unusual for Doctor Who at this time.  We're seeing less Companion-play and more Event.  We also see some very strong secondary characters - the General and the other scientists are horrified by what's happening. The general in particular willing to go to any lengths to protect his son, an odd mirror of how the Cybermen will go to any lengths to win.  

Continuity: Before anything, we see a brand new credits sequence - one that has been upgraded by the Cybermen, it seems.  Then the TARDIS crew in antarctic gear- clearly they're making excellent use of the TARDIS wardrobe.  Of course, next we see a startlingly accurate prediction of Space Exploration in 1986 - Back Crewmen on the spaceship, and an international force guiding it!  This is 3 years before Star Trek would do the same thing, although, to be fair, Britain was not as segregated as the US was (although Hartnell's disdain for his non-white co-stars was well documented), so it was less culturally impactful.  Nevertheless, in 1966 the entire workforce, from astronauts to janitors at NASA were caucasian males, but in Doctor Who, we see that this is not always to be the case.

Obviously, the biggie here is the introduction of the Cybermen, warriors from Earth's twin planet, Mondas!  Starting with the second Episode, Cybermen attack South Pole Rocket Base.  Made from improved robot parts, devoid of emotion, designed to be stronger and live longer than their original human bodies, they Cyberman are efficient, uncaring, and brutal.  They no longer care who they hurt, as long as Mondas and the Cybermen continue.  "Weeeee will not beeeee affected [by your deaths]".  Chilling.

And of course, the first Regeneration happens. The Doctor, presumably weakened by the events of the Savages in conjunction with the energy-drain of Mondas, collapses.  Cause of death appears to be old age combined with great strain.  He, of course, doesn't die, but rather begins to glow, and no sooner than the strange phoenomenon began, it stopped, and he changed.  A new face, voice, body, and attitude.  The Doctor is dead, long live the Doctor!

Rating: Youuuuu will Enjooooooy this Serial.  The Cybermen aaaaaaare here for the loooooong run.  Of course, let's not ignore the cultural impact of the advances in medical prosthetics today.  Olympic athletes run with limbs crafted from metal and designed by computers, and we explore every day the integration of our lives with our machines - smart Phones are ubiquitous, and Google glass is a thing.  The questions the Mondasian Cybermen raise with regard to morality and the ethics of 'whatever it takes to survive' uses of technology remain relevant today.  Perhaps we should staaaaaart asking ourseeeeeeelves agaaaaaaaain.