DVD review: Doctor Who - The Tenth Planet

DVD review: Doctor Who - The Tenth Planet
DVD review: Doctor Who - The Tenth Planet

Doctor Who - The Tenth Planet

(BBC/Roadshow Entertainment, PG)


The TARDIS lands at the South Pole in 1986. The arrival coincides with the appearance of Earth's forgotten twin planet Mondas along with visitors from that world - the emotionless Cybermen. It's up to the Doctor (William Hartnell) and his friends Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills) to stop the creatures before they convert Earth's population into similar cyber creations - but the encounter will have a devastating effect on the Doctor.

The Tenth Planet, by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, was originally broadcast in October, 1966. It starts with the TARDIS materialising on Earth without a sound, proof that Professor River Song was right when she accused the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) of landing with the parking brake on in The Time of Angels.

The Tenth Planet is notable for being the first story to feature the Cybermen, who were to become almost as big a nemesis to the Doctor as the Daleks. The Cybermen grew from fears, then, that medical science would go too far and result in patients who were more machine than man. They were like Darth Vader, 11 years before he first appeared on screen in Star Wars: A New Hope.

The first Cybermen were realised by actors in body stockings and balaclavas with handled headgear. Their speech, a sing song electrical lilt that erupts from their open mouths without their lips moving, was later dubbed by voice actor Ray Skelton. The effect, in the black and white of the day, was quite spooky.

In The Tenth Planet Hartnell is a pale shadow of himself as he appeared in The Reign of Terror broadcast in September 1964, a mere two years earlier. He collapsed during the filming of The Tenth Planet with bronchitis, spending episode three recuperating off set while his companions were given his lines.

Wills, in the accompanying documentary, remembers Hartnell as unpleasant when she worked with him, and frightening.

It would be the last story to feature Hartnell before he was replaced by Patrick Troughton. In the words of Hartnell's ninth successor, David Tennant, he didn't want to go. Although the concept of the Doctor being a Time Lord was a few years yet away from realisation, the change in lead actor was realised with the Doctor's body "wearing thin" and being rejuvenated by the TARDIS.

Three of the four episodes remain, the final one junked by the BBC, but has been reconstructed in animation which plays to the original audio soundtrack.

A disk full of extras, including a 1966 interview with a crotchety Hartnell when appearing in pantomime, makes fascinating viewing.

"I think they (children) see me as a mixture of the Wizard of Oz and Father Christmas," he says.