Doctor Who - The Beginning Collection

Back in the day (late 70’s/early 80’s) I was a bit of a Doctor Who fan and watched whatever came on the local PBS station on a regular basis. I wasn’t a rabid fan, but enough of one that I picked up through the grapevine that most of the episodes from the first two doctors were lost to posterity. In those days before the internet, there wasn’t really a way to verify such rumors unless one went to conventions or wrote letters to the BBC or such, and I wasn’t really that much of a fan to track it down.

I stopped watching the show towards the end of the Davidson era when the PBS stations decided that their most popular shows should only be shown at odd hours during pledge drives, so it became almost impossible to know when the show could be seen, and if you were lucky enough to catch it, it was half whine-a-thon and half show, which got really old really quick. I’ve gotten back into the show with the new series that was recently shown on Sci Fi.

So a few weeks back I decided to see just what of the old series might be available in the DVD section. Imagine my surprise when I found this DVD set with the first three stories on it. It seems that not all the old episodes were lost after all, although quite a few are still missing.

So anyway I bought it, and have been watching no more than one episode a night so as not to spoil the “serial” quality of it. And to make it last as long as I can.

I’m finding it’s a lot better than I expected. The cheesy special effects are no worse than those of the Tom Baker era that I remembered, albeit in black-and-white. And watching that original intro is actually kind of exciting every time I see it.

I also find I’m really liking William Hartnell’s original portrayal of the Doctor. He’s quite different from later incarnations, but there’s a certain air of authority that comes with being the First Doctor. He may, in fact, end up becoming my “favorite doctor”. Perhaps at my age I find his cranky disposition appealing. :cool: His companions are a bit white-bread, but I guess that’s to be expected for the BBC in 1963.

Has anyone else watched this DVD collection? I suppose we could put any plot details of these first stories in spoiler boxes, but that seems a bit silly for something first shown over forty years ago. And any old timers out there that actually remember these original episodes are free to join the discussion, too. :wink:

I don’t have the DVD, but I do remember the episodes (If I’m reading correctly, they are “An Unearthly Child,” “The Daleks,” and “The Edge of Destruction.”). They were the first three episodes of the series. None of these had any lost episodes; the biggest gaps are in the Patrick Troughton years. It was a big deal when they managed to cobble together “Tomb of the Cybermen.”

The BBC didn’t think the episodes were worth saving, but they did keep “An Unearthly Child” (the first episode), “The Daleks” (A big ratings smash, so it probably has rerun value), and “The Edge of Destruction” was only two episodes.

The best thing about “An Unearthly Child” was the first episode introduction of the Doctor and Susan. The last three are pretty dull.

“The Daleks,” though, is a first-class adventure story, and the Daleks are great villains. What interesting is that it’s really Barbara and Ian who do most of the heroics; the Doctor is more technical support than fighter.

The final episode is a bit inconsequential.

What made Doctor Who work was the writing. The writers wrote tight, well-conceived plots, and that’s more important than special effects.

And they even had Douglas Adams for a short time!

Huh. I thought there’d be a few fans of the old series around …

So I guess no one’s interested that the BBC is animating the missing episodes to “The Invasion” in preparation of releasing the entire story? And that they have a thirty-second teaser posted?

Actually, the BBC didn’t think even those episodes were worth saving - the master reels for “The Daleks” were literally plucked from the scrapheap by a fan, and “Edge of Destruction” was, like a lot of the restored material, recovered from an overseas sale.

There were other elements apart from just the writing which made early Dr Who great - the direction was always tight and very intimate and the music was amazing. Aslo, watching it at the time, the cliff hangers were most times breathtaking - especially inthe first episode of “The Dleks” where Barbara is being monstered by that, that… thing!


The wiki article on the missing episodes tells the whole sordid tale. Fascinating reading really. Basically, up until 1978 they were very cavalier about what they threw away. The stories of how they recovered a lot of missing stuff is fascinating. However, it seems that at this late date that they have mined out the various sources and have recovered all they’ll recover, hence the idea to fill in the occasional missing episode as I noted above. If fans respond to the restoration of “The Invasion”, we can hope to see more such efforts.

Double wibble!