With this year's Christmas Day episode - Twice Upon A Time - serving, in part, as a kind of sequel to The Tenth Planet, I felt it was appropriate that I took a gander at this First Doctor outing, notable for his regeneration into the Second Doctor (the first that ever happened on the show) and the introduction of the Cybermen.
Unfortunately, beyond those two elements there isn't much to recommend this rather thin base-under-siege story, which certainly hasn't aged well.
The Doctor's regeneration, while it would eventually be regarded as a game-changing moment in the show's history (this single scene essentially ensured the enduring life of Doctor Who), it's actually rather abrupt and certainly not the more eye-catching regenerations we would get in later years.
A particular point to note is the First Doctor's regeneration comes about purely through old age - unlike future incarnations he isn't killed doing something heroic, his body simply gives up because he has worn it "a bit thin".
While - continuity-wise - it's rewarding now to be able to spot the sequence where the events of Twice Upon A Time are slotted in, The Doctor doesn't appear at all in the third episode of this four-part story (due to William Hartnell's ill health) and his role seems limited in the fourth episode (a 'missing' episode, finally brought to life through animation for the DVD).
The Cybermen are the most striking element of The Tenth Planet, being much more human in both their look and mannerisms (some even still have names) compared to their later iterations.
Their lyrical - almost musical, at times - vocalisations, coupled with their barely-moving mouths makes them very creepy, although their enormous chest apparatus rather undermines this and gives them a quite cumbersome appearance.
Their (pointless?) efforts to disguise themselves with the parkas of slain soldiers is simply bizarre.
This coincides with the appearance in our solar system of Mondas, Earth's errant twin planet and home of the Cybermen.
Mondas is dying and to survive it needs to drain energy from Earth, which also disrupts the orbiting spacecraft being monitored from Snowcap Base.
The Cybermen send an advanced scouting party to the South Pole, encountering both the crew of the TARDIS and the forces manning Snowcap Base, who are led by the brusque and rather unbelievably over-the-top General Cutler (Robert Beatty).
The combination of the fiery-tempered Cutler - who prioritises the safety of his own son above the fate of the rest of the world - and the irascible First Doctor - who knows his time is running out - makes for some angry, verbal clashes, spurring Ben into dynamic, physical, action and Polly to offer to make some coffee (yes, it's all very '60s!).
With his son trapped in a ship orbiting the Earth, Cutler's first resort is to attempt to launch an apocalyptic nuclear Z-Bomb at Mondas and our heroes have to stop him before he ends up destroying both planets.
While the sudden - and previously unnoticed - arrival of Mondas echoes the famous Nibiru hoax, the science is, sadly, very dated in The Tenth Planet, which just adds to the unintentionally comedic moments.
Hopefully, this Christmas, Twice Upon A Time will finally give the First Doctor the regeneration sequence he deserves.
|Lily Travers as Polly with David Bradley as the regenerating First Doctor in Twice Upon A Time|