Inside the Spaceship
The Keys of Marinus
The Reign of Terror
A Review by Alex Keaton 8/2/01
Season one started Doctor Who off as a partly educational series with the settings ranging from historical Earth to futuristic science fiction settings, with the four characters all adjusted to maintain their roles in the interests of the audience. Clearly the show hadn't established itself independantly yet and was confined to a fairly routine based schedule each story, but it was the constant originality that shined to stretch it to a more independant series and become the greatest show of all time in the future.
Basically Season one set the ground work on the series, but what I really liked about this season was the fact that it allowed for the series to be changed in the future without arising continuity problems later, and the deletion of the Doctor stating he is from the 43rd Century (from the original pilot) is a relief as then Gallifrey would never have come about and the title, Doctor Who, would have been a little irrelevant. All the other facts we learn are all relevant, and highly original too, with the TARDIS, it's chameleon circuit, and dimensionally transcendental properties all unseen in any tv show before.
The characters together with their settings are fairly routine based with Susan clearly meant to be a relative link to the children of the audience with plenty of explanations coming from Ian and Barbara who conveniently have teaching professions in science (Ian) and history (Barbara), thus to allow for some simpler explanations from them, as well as the more physical activities from Ian, while the larger more complicated scientific concepts created by the writers are left to the central character, the Doctor.
The stories themselves are all acceptable, the first story had a unique mysterious quality about it, as all did, but they quickly develop a trend in each where all the characters unwillingly land somewhere and by some inconvenience are drawn into the middle of a situation, usually by a characters disappearance or by a TARDIS failure (or so the doctor lied in The Daleks). All the character's usual unwillingness to stay and get back to the TARDIS makes me wonder why any of them even bothered to get out of the TARDIS in the first place but I suppose it does provide some purpose to each adventure, however this will later be modified in future seasons.
Ratings wise this season looked promising, with rating highs of 10 million after the entrance of the Daleks, and the coveted highest ratings of the season going to Inside the Spaceship with an average of 10.15 million viewers.
As a culmination to this review I have listed a group of awards as a collective overview of this season with the most deserving recipient to each category listed, I will be most likely to do this as a rounder to all seasonal reviews. Note that the following are not just my opinion but a range of different opinions I've collected from reviews on the Guide and from other sites.
Character Arcs and Getting Back Into the TARDIS by Peter Niemeyer 19/3/01
A proper review of the "first season" ought to extend from An Unearthly Child through The Dalek Invasion of Earth. These episodes were shot together in a single series of filming blocks, and they are the only ones to feature the original cast. So forgive me for not following with the exact air schedule used by the BBC, because I'm going to include them.
Season One has a significant number of accomplishments. It established a format that was to be used for most of the program's history, that of the Doctor and his companions arriving in any place in time or space and getting mixed up in the local events in a serialized adventure. (In my mind, the only seasons to significantly deviate from this format were the Third Doctor's three exile to Earth seasons, the 4th Doctor's Key to Time season, and possibly the 7th Doctor's latter two "we've got work to do" seasons.)
Season One had some nice story arcs relating to the main characters. The most interesting is that of the Doctor himself, moving from cantankerous curmudgeon who prefers the company of only his granddaughter to the Time Lord who would ultimately foster some 28 companions (not including the UNIT folks) under his wing. In his first appearance, he wants nothing to do with Ian and Barbara. He belittles them, and in The Daleks he manipulates them. But the events in The Edge of Destruction teach him that they are not as bad as he's made them out to be. In Marco Polo he is amicable towards them, and by The Reign of Terror he wants to get them off the ship as quickly as possible as if to avoid admitting how they've grown on him. Finally, in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, he comes to accept that it is not Ian and Barbara but Susan who must be left behind for her own good. I don't know how intentional this arc was, but it was very nicely done.
Barbara also goes through a nice story arc. Initially, she has difficulty truly accepting life in the TARDIS. But the stories in the later part of the season demonstrate that she is learning and growing. In The Keys of Marinus, she tells Ian that he can't apply Earth standards to the people of Morphoton. Her inability to change history in The Aztecs teaches her to not try to meddle in French affairs during The Reign of Terror. And in The Reign of Terror, she has a level head about her imprisonment in the Conceirgerie Prison that is light years from her hysteronics in the Cave of Skulls.
Like Barbara, Ian also comes to accept life in the TARDIS. But unlike Barbara, he doesn't make as many references to previous adventures, and therefore does not appear to change as much. But an interest contrast can be drawn from his interaction with the Doctor in The Daleks, where they are almost at each other's throats, to the first two episodes of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, where they are allies who trust one another.
It is Susan who grows the least, and it is perhaps no surprise that she is the first one to be written out of the series. Interestingly enough, most of the references she makes are to adventures that presumably happened before Ian and Barbara joined them (a planet in the fourth universe where the TARDIS was almost lost, the metal seas of Venus, a zeppelin air raid). It's ironic that she was the closest in age to the viewers and yet the most inaccessible. I don't think the character was inherently flawed, and either the writers lacked imagination or Carol Ann Ford lacked the sophistication to make Susan something more interesting.
The first three seasons are the only three to have a balance of historical and science fiction adventures. The first season strikes a nice balance between them, with both genres having good and bad examples. The historicals eventually fell by the wayside, but I don't think it was this season that really contributed to that. Except for the Daleks, the aliens are forgetable, and none of them (Voord, Sensorites, Robomen) ever made a return appearance. In fact, the more entertaining threats come from the more human characters: Tegana, Tlotoxl, and Forrester.
I'll end this review with an interesting thing to note: the majority of this season focused on getting back inside the TARDIS. With the exception of The Edge of Destruction, most of the action revolved around physically getting back to the TARDIS (10,000 BC, The Aztecs, The Reign of Terror, Planet of Giants) or achieving some goal that would make getting back to the TARDIS possible (The Daleks, Marco Polo, The Keys of Marinus, The Sensorites, The Dalek Invasion of Earth). This idea fades away in Season Two, which was a sign that the series was growing beyond its original boundries and needed to find new themes to explore.
Best Single Episode: An Unearthly Child (10,000
BC, part 1)
Best Serial: The Aztecs, which was both well done and had something to say
One Serial You'd Have To Pay Me To Watch Again: The Sensorites
A Review by Alan Thomas 6/4/01
The first season of Doctor Who is, looking at it now, very different. The stories flow and all connect with each other, starting with the Doctor meeting Ian and Barbara, and ending with a visit to France during the revolution.
100, 000 BC is an incredibly strong story, starting with the most fantastic single episode ever. There could not be a better way to start a series. Hartnell is wonderful at playing a dark and mysterious wanderer. After the story moves to prehistoric Earth, many have said that it is less exciting. On the contrary. It is wonderful. There's a fantastic story and a sweeping pace, with a great ending/cliffhanger.
The Daleks picks up where the previous story left off, and is probably more effective. I love the mystery of the first episode. When the Daleks finally appear, they are bizarre and frightening. We watch in amazement as the TARDIS crew try and escape, with each one of them going through some sort of emotional trauma. The conclusion to this story is also very well executed.
Inside The Spaceship is one of my very favourite Doctor Who stories EVER. I love it. Maybe it's the suspense and the characterisation or the confusion that both we and the crew feel. Like another reviewer, I first saw this story on a late night showing on UK Gold. I have to say that I think it is incredibly spooky and I admit that I was scared wittless. Very effective. Unfortunately, the conclusion was trimmed a bit on UK Gold, but, having read the script, I think that it is another excellent ending.
Now onto Marco Polo. I have to stress that (because the story is missing) I have never seen it, but I have read the script and that was enough to me. Judging by the dialogue, this is brilliant. I have even seen it described as the best story ever. Everything within the script is first rate. The conclusion is a closed one, and the next story picks up on completely new grounds.
The Keys Of Marinus is an enjoyable story that ultimately satisfies, but the episodes are not consistent in quality. The first two episodes are very good, and it is surprising how enjoyable and how well the episodes sustain themselves if they don't even have the Doctor in them. I must admit that I was a little disappointed by the conclusion.
The Aztecs is something of a classic, and rightly so. I love this great and detailed description of Aztec life, combined with humour, terror and suspense. It's also great to see Barbara have a large role. The ending leads onto the next story.
The Sensorites is the most disappointing story in the season. A shame really, as it has some very interesting themes for the 1960s. Unfortunately, it just bores the viewer.
The Reign Of Terror is a story that I've never seen, so I can't say that it is brilliant or rubbish. Nevertheless, a strong season, and a strong start for Dr Who.
A Review by James Neiro 21/7/09
Doctor Who first aired back in 1963 with an incredibly and surprisingly strong first season. It was a season where each story was completley different in plot and tone and we can truly see how the writers and producers wanted to try something new with each episode.
Its pilot episode, An Unearthly Child, introduced the characters well and in a very unique way through flashbacks, and moody and dimly lit sets. An excellent time traveling tale taking us back to when caveman first discovered fire.
Although it was Doctor Who's second episode, The Daleks, that made it a household name and we can only imagine if the second story had become the first; what an even more amazing impact the show would have made on BBC. The Daleks is, without doubt, one of the most amazing and shocking pieces of television in small-screen history. It introduced us to the Daleks - a name recognized worldwide - and was the first episode of the series to take place on an alien planet. It was epic, the sets were grand and atmopsheric and the entire story seemed way ahead of its time. And, even though viewers didn't realize it yet, they had just been introduced the Doctor's all-time greatest foe.
The season continued with The Edge of Destruction, a personal favorite of mine, that was entirley filmed within the TARDIS. It was spooky, claustrophobic and entirley different from any other Doctor Who story prior or following its airing.
The debut season continued on with its first historical story, Marco Polo. A trend that would follow on throughout the duration of the series.
The following episode, The Keys Of Marinus, yet again introduced us to a new style of story telling. Multiple plots spread over multiple alien worlds and the first episode to have the Doctor absent from part of the story.
The season continued with The Azetcs, The Sensorites and finally The Reign of Terror. The pilot season was fantastic and most of all fresh and had fans awaiting the second season and what new twists and turns it would produce - and boy were they in for a shock!