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  1. #1
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    Default 50 First Episodes

    As part of my own personal celebration of the 50th anniversary I'm challenging myself to watch/listen to 50 first episodes of stories from the history of Doctor Who. I'll be mixing TV stories and audio stories from all 50 years of the show and writing a little about each one.

    I'm not quite sure what I'm trying to prove, if anything, but I thought it might be a different way to celebrate the show. Maybe you can all get involved by giving me some suggestions as I go along?

    Anyway, here we go.

    Number 1:
    The Hand of Fear (1976)

    Starts with a cheap spacecraft, and some shouty squabbling duvets. Not terribly inspiring.
    The scenes on Earth are better because of the rapport between the Doctor and Sarah, which sparkles. Nice shot of the cliff face exploding.
    Sladen's possession makes her even more childlike than usual. Interesting decision- very different from say Tegan's Mara possession.
    Great, great cliffhanger. To this day I still don't know how they did that hand, but it's very convincing.
    Not bad episode overall.

    Right, any suggestions for which one next?

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  2. #2
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    Cracking idea, Si - if I didn't have such a backlog of DVDs to watch, I'd give it a go myself! I agree with you about the above cliffhanger, one of my all time faves and one we re-enacted in the school playground, specifically in the sand pit!

    For some suggestions - The Mind Robber (almost a different story in itself), Terminus (much better than the rest of the story!), Terror of the Autons (1st Master, Jo and Yates), Silver Nemesis (25th anniversary of the 25th anniversary!).

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    Nice idea, Si. Should be interesting. I think The Ark in Space has to be in there somewhere. A real rarity, being carried entirely by the regulars.

  4. #4
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    Castrovulva Part 1 is must!

    And yes I'm aware of the typo but I'm not correcting it

  5. #5
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    Part 1 is always the best. Are there any really bad first episodes? Even dross like Underpantsworld and The Space Museum get off to good starts.

  6. #6
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    The Web Planet has to be in there, one of the weirdest (and best) first episodes!!

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    Fang Rock - wonderfully creepy!

  8. #8
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    Number 2:
    Curse of Fenric (1989)


    Interesting one this. I hadn't seen the original edit for a long while, so I'd forgotten how it zips along. There's barely room to breathe, as we follow the Doctor and Ace from location to location, cut to other characters inbetween.

    It's quite clear that there's problems with the script- it's definitely overlong, and so what we're seeing in the televised version now feels like the edited highlights. The direction is fast and snappy, which helps to hide this quite effectively, but it still feels like we're being dragged along and that the Doctor and Ace just go to places to keep the plot moving on rather than any natural reasons. The movie edit is better.

    Nice music though. Very entertaining despite the flaws and nice performances from the entire cast.

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  9. #9
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    Number 3:
    The Dead Planet (1963)


    Terry Nation arrives and defines the way to do a part 1. You go out and explore a strange new planet, they're being watched by a mysterious stranger, then cut off from the TARDIS, split up from each other, and it ends with our first glimpse of a Dalek. Oh Terry, you're a wonder. He'll get lots and lots of mileage out of this!

    Nice attention to the characters throughout too, and it's worth noting the four of them are carrying this episode. No-one else aside from Michael Ferguson holding a dalek plunger appears throughout.

    Great stuff- a brilliant pt 1!

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  10. #10
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    Number 4:
    Seasons of Fear (2002)


    A bit of a favourite this one. I like the way the mystery of the story is set up by the villain coming to gloat at the Doctor that he's already beaten him. A good way to start. That, along with the narration sets this a part from the norm a little. There are clues in the episode about who the enemies might be, which are easy to pick up on when listening to it for a second time and of course meeting the same person in different time zones too. Nicely done, very intriguing.

    Nice to see the Doctor and Charley visiting different times in this episode- we go from 30s Singapore to rainy Roman England, both of which are nicely differentiated in the sound design.

    Great rapport between The Doctor and Charley too. One of my favourite TARDIS teams of all, especially in these early adventures of theirs.

    Oh and the music is quite, quite superb!

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  11. #11
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    Ah, Seasons of Fear! Lovely stuff. Is that the episode with the random appearance of a Dalek from later in the season?
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

  12. #12
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    Yes that's the one. It's one of the WTF moments you can throw in when you plan a season's worth of stories!

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  13. #13
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    Number 5:
    Castrovalva (1982)


    Pre-credits teaser klaxon!

    Nothing much happens, but it's just the right sort of nothing. A sport of breathing space allowing us to see the new Doctor start to find himself. Peter Davison is great from the off- so vulnerable and delicate in this episode, that you just want to go up and give him a hug and look after him. After Tom's decisive, big Doctor its all rather wonderful.

    The exploration of the TARDIS was hugely exciting to me when I first saw this. The idea that the ship was so huge, and that you could find all these exciting rooms within it really fired my imagination. I wanted to go exploring and see what I could find in them.

    Love the cliffhanger, which is basically the Master waving at Nyssa and Tegan. How very Ainley!

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  14. #14
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    What an excellent choice, Si!

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    I thought you'd approve Andrew It really is one of my favourites.

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  16. #16
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    Number 6:
    Terror of the Autons (1971)


    The Master is more powerful here than at any other time in the show. His powers of hypnotism are more potent than at any other time- just a stare from him is enough to control Rossini. In fact he's rather like the aloof Time Lords seen in The War Games. When does his power become diluted? Anyway, this episode is his first and he's a commanding, charismatic presence from the off, jumping stylishly out of his horsebox.

    Bur Pertwee is on good form too- some nice moments of comedy with the Brigadier as he can't tell Jo he doesn't need her, and with the Time Lord who turns up to give the Doctor a warning of the Master's presence (another first- someone arriving to give the Doctor a tip off before the story starts) who both rather neatly prick the Doctor's pomposity.

    Lots of locations in this one too- the circus, CSO museum, The UNIT lab, the research centre, the plastics factory. It keeps the episode moving along nicely.

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  17. #17
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    They have a museum devoted to CSO?! Oh, I see...

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    They have a museum devoted to CSO?!
    Not at the moment but don't worry, they'll put it in later.
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

  19. #19
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    Number 7:
    The Trial of a Time Lord (1986)


    Dominic Glynn's theme still sounds a little weedy. It's grown on me down the years, as I really hated it when Trial was first shown, but it could do with being a bit beefier really.

    The model work at the start is, of course, terribly impressive. Even 27 years later (!) it still looks fabulous. The spinning TARDIS is absolutely lovely (but then I would say that, wouldn't I?). An amazing start to the episode, especially combined with Dominic Glynn's doomy Trial theme. Glynn's incidentals are very good indeed in this episode.

    It's always difficult to talk about Trial, because it's so flawed. You can always see a better way they could have done it. That said, this isn't too bad an episode- there's an engaging mystery on Ravalox, with some lovely moments for Nicola Bryant, who gets to be all melancholy, and Colin shines in his little speech about nothing being eternal. In fact Colin really is the star here- he's big and loud and a real presence in all his scenes. He doesn't always get the credit he deserves, or indeed the material.

    It's a bit old cast for this one and we haven't even met all of them yet! I like Joan Simms as Katryca, again she's rather better than people give her credit for, and Glitz and Dibber are a nice double act, getting all the good lines. Michael Jayston is creepy as the Valeyard (what a voice!) and Lynda Bellingham gets a nice pen.

    Oh and it's the first "crash zoom into the Doctor's face" cliffhanger of my voyage so far!

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  20. #20
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    Good choice of Terror of the Autons there, Si! For my money, I reckon the Master starts getting diluted in The King's Demons.

    Last time I watched Trial, it did strike me how relatively menacing Glitz starts off as compared to his subsequent appearances - including at the end of the season!

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    Oh I agree. He's the comic relief at the end of Trial and in Dragonfire, but in hsi first appearance he's got a really sinister edge. You wouldn't mess with him because he'd turn on you like that. The character got a bit diluted for certain.

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  22. #22
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    Number 8:
    Aliens of London (2005)


    The first two parter of the new series, obviously! It's got a rather uneven tone- some of it is played dead serious and some of it is played for laughs which makes it feel less well thought through than other episodes from the season. The longer running time though means there's a bit more room for story and a slow build rather than lots of running around trying to get the story told. There's an engaging mystery and a very clever plan, especially with the wired up pig, by The Slitheen which makes this different to your run of the mill invasions. That's nicely thought out.

    What is most oustanding here are the performances. Christopher Eccleston is compelling to watch. I'd forgotten this about his Doctor. He's unpredictable and you don't quite know how he's going to react. At the time I wrote off his Doctor, particularly in this story as being Eccleston being uncomfortable in the role, but I think it's more a cleverly considered performance than that. Whatever it is, he's fantastic.

    As are Billie and Camille. Rose is really strong here, and I remembered why i liked the character so much at the beginning- she's at the centre of things, strong, capable and questioning. And Camille just brings Jackie to life so wonderfully, all the shock at Rose coming back, to the hurt to the anger (and a slap and a half!) are very well played indeed.

    Oh and the spaceship hitting Big Ben is still a spectacle- very well done.

    An episode 1 that is better than I thought at the time.

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  23. #23
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    Glad to hear you enjoyed it, Si. You probably already know it's one of my faves - first time out in 2005 watching it with Claudia we both loved it, and none of my several watchings since has changed that. ("It's twelve months, sorry!")

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    Number 9:
    The Faceless Ones (1967)


    Another textbook example of splitting up the team. The TARDIS lands at Gatwick on the runway and instantly they scatter and they each get a little strand of the episode. One thing is certain, the Doctor and Jamie really seem to belong together- maybe this is the first time they form such a strong team. It's almost upsetting to see them wandering off together, not realising that Polly has been snatched away right behind them.

    Almost immediately we're thrown into the plot- Captain Blade and Spencer are quite obviously up to no good, brandishing ray guns all the place and seeing both Ben and Polly stumble into their clutches. The possessed Polly turning up at the arrivals desk is a great moment- how can a friend turn like that? Nice addition to the mystery and a clue to what's going on.

    Nice to see Troughton up against bureaucracy too, and being totally befuddled by it. It's very in character for his Doctor.

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by SiHart View Post
    Number 7:
    The Trial of a Time Lord (1986)


    Dominic Glynn's theme still sounds a little weedy. It's grown on me down the years, as I really hated it when Trial was first shown, but it could do with being a bit beefier really.
    There's nothing wrong with a bit beefier...

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