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I’ve Just Watched Every Black and White Doctor Who - Moving Pictures

I’ve Just Watched Every Black and White Doctor Who - Moving Pictures

I’d never watched Doctor Who before November 2023, when I watched the colourised version of The Daleks. My experience with black-and-white media was never a very positive one, so I didn’t fancy going back to episodes from 1963, nor was I willing to jump into the middle of things and risk missing out on important information. But when BBC iPlayer put all of Doctor Who up, I decided to finally check some of it out and see what 60 years of fuss was about. 253 episodes later, I’ve just reached the colour episodes from 1970! Though I’ve not started watching them yet, I literally finished The War Games Part 10 earlier today.

I’m not going to bury the lede, there are a bunch of episodes of Classic Doctor Who which are lost media, which means that they are widely unavailable on DVD, VHS, or anywhere. Some have been animated by professionals and put on iPlayer, others stuck on DVDs were reconstructed from audio and still photos, and still more only exist as audio recorded while the episode played on television. Fans being fans, some of that audio has been animated in awful, terrible Flash animation, with just the worst quality sound — but I appreciate whoever chose to animate them and those who stuck them on YouTube. Since The Celestial Toymaker is being animated for release in 2024, I had to resort to the “audiobook” version on the Doctor Who: The Lost TV Episodes collection.

Patrick Troughton second doctor who

One of the partially lost serials

Spoiler warning, in case you wanted to watch these early episodes yourself, I’m going to give things away. Since all of my knowledge of Doctor Who was gained through cultural osmosis, I pretty much only knew the basics. The Doctor (no last name) travels through time and space in the TARDIS with a rotating cast of Companions, and because he’s an alien he sometimes just starts looking like someone else. Also, there were these robots called Daleks who wanted to exterminate and couldn’t use stairs.

The first four seasons of Doctor Who star the First Doctor who becomes the Second Doctor in Season 4, up through the end of Season 6. This change comes after First is shown to grow increasingly weak before suddenly changing in the TARDIS in a flash of light. I think. See, the episodes introducing the Second Doctor are lost media, so the changeover survives only in officially animated form, and some of those take liberties with camera angles and shot compositions.

After the change, the Companions are concerned, surprised, curious, and get absolutely zero answers from Second. As Season 6 ends, Second Doctor is being made into Third Doctor, but has no Companions with him to ask questions. So, over 250 episodes in and the audience still has no idea what happens when he changes! Second seemed to suggest that he retained First’s memories, or most of them, and others from his species can still recognise him, but we know little else. The term “regeneration” isn't even used!

black and white daleks

One of the most surprising things, actually, is that it took 251 episodes to name the Doctor’s species. We’re told a few times that he isn’t human and doesn’t come from Earth, but it’s not until years later that we get the name “Time Lord”. What planet or galaxy are they from? Still dunno.

Out of the two Doctors, I would say that Second is my favourite as he’s more proactive and quite respectful towards his Companions. I was going to say that he’s funnier, but on consideration their humour is just different.

Now, let’s look at the Companions, of which there were several. Since The Daleks was the second serial, I admit that the first Companions came off poorly when I watched that. It would be some time before I eventually watched the first serial, so I had no idea why two teachers were with the Doctor and his granddaughter. However, I did enjoy their contributions to the show throughout their tenure, and missed them when they were gone.companion second doctor who

While some of the women who joined the TARDIS crew were merely used to scream at whatever Monster Of The Week they faced, I think a special shout-out has to go to Katarina. She joined the Doctor for five episodes, and in the fifth, she sacrificed herself to get them out of the previous episode’s cliffhanger. That was four minutes into the episode, so technically she was only in four episodes. Imagine you’re that actor and you book Doctor Who, a series that has been going for three seasons and has proven quite popular, then you’re killed off almost immediately. To add insult to injury, you’re killed off in the very serial where a guest character appears in eight episodes!

My favourite Companion has to be Jamie McCrimmon, an 18th-century Scottish man. He has some fantastic lines and is fiercely loyal, leaping into danger with little prompting. Sure, there are plenty of brave and capable Companions, but Jamie always proved to be the bravest and most capable. Sure, at times he had zero chill, but I was genuinely upset when he was sent back to his own time.

I was surprised at how often the Daleks appeared, if I’m completely honest. Also, they turned out to be aliens in tanks, rather than simply robots. I figured that the props were difficult or expensive to run, but they kept popping up! They actually appeared at least once in five of the six seasons, with a still image of one popping up in the sixth season. As such, they definitely come across as First Doctor villains.

web planet doctor who first

My least favourite episode

Who are the Second Doctor’s main villains? The Cybermen, who look different in almost every single appearance. That’s because the costumes were awful, so they obviously decided to improve things as the budget allowed. But they appeared in far more Second episodes than the Daleks, so much so that I began suspecting non-Cybermen plots to actually be Cybermen plots in disguise! Not bad for a race that began as having come from Earth’s twin that span off into the galaxy for millennia. However, they don’t appear in as many episodes overall as the Daleks.

If you’re going to have an issue with how things look, because they were created five decades ago, then you should probably skip Classic Who on the whole. I imagine Modern Who has CGI, which might look better than silver rubber suits and cardboard. However, if you can give them a pass because you have a suspension of disbelief in this show about a time-travelling alien, then I highly recommend checking them out. While I probably won’t re-watch them, I definitely don’t regret spending all of these hours watching William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and their various co-stars. However, I do recommend watching at 1.5x speed, the Doctor Who serials just fly past, and it ratchets up the camp insanity.

It only took me 17 weeks from finishing Season 1 to completing Season 6, so I should have all of Classic Doctor Who done in about two and a half years. Maybe a little faster, since I won’t keep having to search YouTube and DVDs! Now to find out what kind of Doctor Jon Pertwee was…

Moving Pictures
Andrew Duncan

Andrew Duncan


Guaranteed to know more about Transformers and Deadpool than any other staff member.

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Wiki McInfo
Wiki McInfo - 12:09am, 24th May 2024

"I figured that the [Dalek] props were difficult or expensive to run, but they kept popping up!"

Bwahahahahahaha! Doctor Who didn't do "expensive" at any point in its original 26-year run. The Dalek props were run by men inside bicycling them around and manually turning the heads and pressing a button to make the lights flash with the dialogue. They were able to see through the grills in the Dalek prop's "neck."

Acelister - 07:36am, 24th May 2024 Author

Ahh, bicycles! I had wondered, given how they sped up going down ramps! I've been trying to avoid wikis for spoilers, but obviously it has left me with questions.

It's either a testament to how good the special effects (such as the Daleks) were, OR how absolutely gullible I am.

Wiki McInfo
Wiki McInfo - 04:50pm, 24th May 2024

I think it's absolutely charming that you looked at 1960s Daleks and thought that they must be some sort of expensive remote controlled robotic props. After all, that was the intention of the production team!