Continuing coverage of the classic BBC science fiction/adventure television series Doctor Who and its 50th anniversary, this post will focus on the Doctor Who: The Beginning 3 disc DVD set. (Find it on our catalog by clicking here.)
The first three serial storylines of the series from November 1963 to February 1964 are in this set, and are modern day viewers in for a surprise.
Shot on black and white video tape, the episodes star William Hartnell as the First Doctor, who's depicted as elderly (Hartnell was in his late fifties at the time but looked older), childlike, cranky and more than a little manipulative. He's also not always in command of the situation and often has to rely on his companions, who include Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), Ian Chesterson (William Russell) and the Doctor's own granddaughter (!) Susan (Carole Ann Ford), to come up with a solution. Quite a difference from later versions ("regenerations") of the character!
The three storylines included in this set include "An Unearthly Child" (November 23-December 14, 1963) in which school teachers Barbara and Ian get taken for a ride to prehistoric Earth on the Doctor's TARDIS while investigating their student Susan's background. It's established from the get go that the TARDIS can travel through time and space, and that the Doctor and Susan (name checked in a recent 2013 episode of BBC America's current Doctor Who series) are from another world.
After bringing together a stone age tribe from Earth's past in "An Unearthly Child", the Doctor and friends encounter future recurring foes "The Daleks" for the first time in a extended 7-part serial that aired between December 21, 1963- February 1, 1964. The Daleks here are revealed to be at war with another race, the Thal, on the planet Skaro, a backstory that would be slightly revised over the show's run.
"The Daleks" is the best of the three serials in this collection, despite some padding, and is genuinely suspenseful, with the four protagonists in real danger throughout the story. The Daleks themselves are ruthless and nasty, and are seemingly destroyed at the climax.
The third serial "The Edge of Destruction" is a two part storyline from February 8 and 15, 1964, and focuses on the TARDIS crew as they start acting distrustful and hostile towards one another for apparently no reason. Shot on a smaller budget, with no other guest stars or locations (the whole thing takes place entirely on the TARDIS), "Edge" is a little too claustrophobic to create an atmosphere of terror, but is still worth a view.
Lots of neat extras round out the set (which we have listed in the catalog as Doctor Who: The William Hartnell Years 1963-1966), including the unaired original pilot episode and a audio version of the lost fourth serial "Marco Polo". For fans of the Doctor, this set is essential!
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