Monday, 2 November 2009

The Five Faces of Doctor Who

In Doctor Who terms, November 2nd is of great significance for me as my mind is often cast back to Monday November 2nd 1981.

I had waited all summer for that date because at the end of a rerun of episode 4 of The Doctor Who story The Keeper of Traken, along with the usual Doctor who exhibition in Longleat and Madam Tussauds in London plug, there was some other news for Doctor Who fans. The BBC continuity announcer dutifully informed the audience that prior to the new series of Doctor Who in the New Year, BBC2 would be rerunning some classic Doctor Who stories during November, one story featuring each of the (then) current Doctors, in part of the retrospective series "The Five Faces of Doctor Who".

"Wow!" I thought. Being 13 at the time I had never seen any stories prior to the Jon Pertwee era (He was the Doctor between 1970 and 1974, and was becoming a bit sketchy to my memory back then), so I was eagerly awaiting the broadcast of these never repeated Doctor Who episodes! Bare in mind, this was many years before many Doctor Who episodes became available on video and a good decade before UK Gold arrived so classic repeats (run over four consecutive nights Monday-Thursday for five weeks) were quite a luxury!

Five Doctor's, Five Stories

A trailer was previewed after an episode of Blakes 7 a few weeks before giving the viewers a chance to see what stories would be aired (this trailer has since surfaced on several Doctor Who DVD releases as an extra). The stories would be An Unearthly Child (William Hartnell's first story from 1963), The Krotons (then, the only surviving Patrick Troughton 4 parter from 1968) , The Carnival of Monsters, Jon Pertwee, 1973), The Three Doctors (Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell, then the only occasion 3 of the Doctor's incarnations had appeared in a story together, 1972) and finally Logopolis (Tom Baker's most recent and final story - included because as of that time it was the only one to feature a glimpse of the new Doctor - Peter Davison, 1981, hence the title of the retrospective series The Five Faces of Doctor Who).

It's probably silly to remember this series, but at the time it was a bit of a landmark for many Doctor Who fans like myself. The most recent series (Tom Baker's last) had ended in March 1981 and there was a very long gap before Peter Davison's debut in January 1982. It was also the first time older stories gained a repeat on prime time BBC, a very rare thing indeed!

So clutching my current edition of Doctor Who Monthly (issue 58 - pictured above - shamelessly plugging the retrospective season) and as the title sequence for "An Unearthly Child" began, I got so mesmerised I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. I finally got to see what William Hartnell was like as the Doctor (having only ever seen photos in Doctor Who monthly and imagining his portrayal in the numerous Target books of his stories). It was like I was discovering Doctor Who all over again!

The End of Doctor Who's Classic Era

Finally, unbeknown to me these repeats came at a time when my classic era of Doctor Who was ending, Tom Baker had left the series, and although there was some good stories still ahead with the newer and younger Doctors of the 1980s, I wouldn't enjoy new episodes on such a scale until the series returned in 2005 (well, unless I bought classic episodes on video of course!).

However, my love for classic Doctor Who began with The Five Faces of Doctor Who series on this particular evening in 1981, and turned my affection of a firm favourite into something even more special!

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