The Story of Doctor Who

It seems like I’m always the last person to discover the Doctor in any venue. My friends in college raved about the Doctor and I thought they were crazy at first until one night I listened to a couple of friends tell me about the antics of John Pertwee and Tom Baker. Soon afterward I had an opportunity to house sit for a week and, being broke, I borrowed Doctor Who videos and watched almost the entire span of John Pertwee’s 5-year-run.

I got into watching the Tom Baker episodes on the local PBS station at night, so I was able to catch up on a fairly long stretch of the show’s history in the space of a few months. But I was never able to see any footage of William Hartnell (the first Doctor) or Patrick Naughton (the second Doctor).

I’ve seen still pictures of them. For a few years I owned some books about the show. But I’ve never been able to watch any actual footage. Most of their episodes, I understand, were erased by the BBC as part of a videotape recycling initiative. Only in the last ten years, I think, has there been any sort of effort to restore the old episodes in some sort of informal archive.

In 2003 the BBC celebrated 40 years of the Doctor with a special documentary. And now in 2009 someone is uploading that documentary, or portions of it, to YouTube. I found a couple of sections and watched them, including the one below. It includes footage of Hartnell and Naughton, so now I can say I have watched all of the first six actors to play the Doctor in their roles. Seven, actually, as there is a brief snippet of Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor failing to subdue someone.

I briefly thought about tracking down all the segments and embedding them here but, frankly, I still have a hard time with the whole intellectual property rights issue. I have had to enforce my own from time to time so I think I’ll abide by the “Fair Use” principle here.

You get some pretty interesting insights into the actors themselves. The lore isn’t nearly as meaningful and interesting to me as it probably would have been to someone who actually watched these shows when they were first aired.

I wonder what people will make of these documentaries a hundred years from now, when perhaps no one who remembers the original productions will be available to comment on them.


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