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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Fifty Years in Time and Space 3: The Tenth Planet DVD review

The Tenth Planet was the last story to feature William Hartnell and the first to use the concept of regeneration in order to replace the lead actor. Unfortunately episode four is one of the missing episodes, although the BBC do have the actual regeneration scene intact in their archives. The way the BBC have gotten around this for this DVD issue is to present remastered versions of the first three episodes, and to recreate the fourth episode, using the audio from the actual episode, by animating the action. They've done this for several other stories with missing episodes and this time the animation is superb and the Cybermen actually come across much better in the animated episode than they do in the actual surviving episodes.

Unfortunately this is not the send off that William Hartnell deserved - he is barely present in the story. He spends most of the first two episodes sitting around and doing nothing other than uttering the odd line and he is not even present in the third episode - apparently Hartnell and producer, Innes Lloyd had clashed several times and the producer decided to replace the lead actor, effectively sacking Hartnell. The actor phoned in sick and refused to come to work, likely thinking this would sabotage the show, but the production carried on without him.

'I didn't leave the show willingly,' Hartnell wrote in answer to a letter from fan, Ian K McLachlan.

Of course conventional wisdom is that Hartnell was forced to finish due to ill health and yet he went back into theatre work immediately afterwards.

OK the plot - set in the then far off world of 1986 the Cybermen attack the International Space Command in Geneva. The dastardly Cybermen have a plan to drain the power from Earth in order to save their own planet, Mondas, but of course they fail and their own planet boils away into space. A problem with the story is the Doctor's regeneration is hardly explained and happens too quickly at the climax but then of course the limitations in the way the story was show is likely down to the fact that Hartnell wouldn't play ball and by all accounts the shoot was a chore for all concerned.

Animated regeneration
Now whilst The Tenth Planet may not be Who at its very best, it is an essential DVD release. For one thing the animated episode is brilliant and worth purchase alone but the most interesting part is the wealth of extra features including several documentaries, as well as a frank commentary. There are also clips from Blue Peter and PDF files of historic Radio Times listings. Mind you all of the BBC's classic series DVD's are pretty much essential.

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