The two Doctor Who technicolor movies have been restored to 4k “in a brand new restoration”, and are getting UK cinema screenings as well as a Blu-ray. The double-bill Blu-ray for Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks’ Invasion of Earth 2150 A.D. (1966) is out now.

Both of the widescreen cinema movies feature movie-star Peter Cushing as The Doctor (he never played the character on TV). They are not at all ‘canon’, in that they played very fast and loose with rather pointlessly ‘re-imagining’ key things in the series, much to the chagrin of the millions of fans of the weekly TV episodes. Still, the movies are likely to be enjoyable vintage British sci-fi for those otherwise unaware of Doctor Who.

The new releases are well timed for me, but even so I think I’ll skip them. Since — having now finished up a ‘lockdowns’ Baker and Davison “best of” re-watch of Doctor Who — I’m now embarking on a “best of” watch from the very first episodes. Namely those with Hartnell through to Troughton as The Doctor, and then into the Pertwee years up to his regeneration into Tom Baker. Which will brings things full-circle. Thus I have plenty of the real-thing to be going on with, without adding the rather jarring mid-1960s movies on top. There should be enough here to last me well into the next lockdown (which is increasingly likely, now that Boris has gone).

For what it’s worth, here’s my current selected watch-list for the vintage TV Doctor, in order. I’ll update the episodes with comments, when seen…


Hartnell:

* An Unearthly Child. WATCH. Excellent, surprisingly good for 1963. I was expecting something very creaky and blurry, and I was wrong.

* The Daleks. WATCH. The first Daleks. A little padded out for length (six episodes), but very watchable.

* The Edge of Destruction. SKIP. A bizarre attempt at a weird Pinter-esque stage drama in two parts. Everyone acts out of character and it doesn’t work.

* The Dalek Invasion of Earth. WATCH. A slow start for a six-parter, but it gets better and better. Excellent.

* The Rescue. SKIP. A weak two part story, slotted in at the last minute to quickly introduce a newly-cast companion (who sticks around for a few serials). Just read up on the plot.

* The Space Museum. WATCH? An interesting environment and amusing enemies, but definitely not vital. Introduces the idea of the ‘time conundrum’, and also a device which is used in the next story.

* The Chase. WATCH. A long six-parter. Good in parts, and it definitely gets better as go into the second half. Two long-time companions depart at the end, so it has to be seen.

* The Time Meddler. MUST WATCH. Excellent. Usually the medieval stories don’t quite work. This one is superb, and mixes past and future. Aka ‘The Meddling Monk’. New male companion.

(In a skipped serial the girl companion found in ‘The Rescue’ departs with a local hunk in the ancient city of Troy, and then over the next few serials the Doctor begins to rapidly go though numerous girl companions)

* The Daleks’ Master Plan. OPTIONAL. An epic 12-parter resembling 1930s early Space Opera, running five hours though substantially reconstructed around the original audio. Starts well, and continues from the missing/lost one-off episode ‘Mission to the Unknown’. Sags heavily into scattergun plotting in the middle of the five hours, and then descends into farce for a Christmas Special set in the era of the silent movies. Improves toward the end. Could be skipped, but has many good parts. You may want to find a skip/watch list just for this epic.

* The Massacre. PARTIAL. Only audio still exists. Read the plot, and then watch the end part (16:50 onward) of the reconstructed fourth episode for a rare introspective speech by Hartnell and also the arrival of a new companion.

* The Ark. WATCH. Very good, and thankfully still complete and intact. First full outing for the new girl companion Dodo, a British orphan from 1966 picked up at the end of serial (‘Massacre’).

* The War Machines. WATCH. Not great, partly because of the ridiculous machines. Held together by good acting and a UK setting. More new companions, this time long-term.


Troughton:

* Tenth Planet. WATCH. Only partly survives, reconstructed. A great idea, poorly executed and trapped in a predictable and a gratingly ‘shouty’ military scenario.

* The Power of the Daleks. WATCH. A six-parter that only partly survives, reconstructed. Good fun throughout, though has a rather cursory ending.

* The Moonbase. MUST WATCH. Excellent, though it only partly survives and is reconstructed. A strong setting and enemy.

* The Evil of the Daleks. WATCH. Animated, reconstructed. To understand what’s going on at the start, you need to read the plot summary for the previous ‘The Faceless Ones’ serial. This also explains why assistants Ben and Polly are no longer around. ‘Evil’ is a seven-parter that starts well, sags-and-pads in the middle, and then has excellent 2 x concluding series-finale episodes.

* The Tomb of the Cybermen. WATCH. New series starts. A little creaky in places, but a good setting and very watchable. New assistant, Victoria.

* The Abominable Snowmen. WATCH. Sadly most of this is reconstructed from stills, but it’s still excellent. Would be a classic, if only it was intact.

* The Web of Fear. MUST WATCH. A classic six-parter, and almost all intact. First UNIT, first Lethbridge-Stewart. Continues from ‘The Abominable Snowmen’.

(Victoria Screamer departs in the lost ‘Fury from the Deep’, then in the mostly-lost ‘The Wheel in Space’ the new and quieter assistant Zoe is picked up on a space station).

* The Dominators. WATCH. New series starts. Excellent, and complete. Not a classic but still very enjoyable, if you overlook the very silly Quark robots (bizarrely the BBC thought they could merchandise them as toys??). First use of the Sonic Screwdriver.

* The Mind Robber. SKIP. One of those Prisoner-era “take a set of nonsensical psychological tests, in another dimension, none of which matter” serials. A mid-series filler, padded out to five episodes.

* The Invasion. OPTIONAL. Eight episodes, set on Earth with UNIT. Two missing episodes are animated. Lots of action, but it’s all rather predictable and over-long.

* The Seeds of Death. WATCH. Creaky and sags a bit, here and there, since what should be a four-parter is being padded to six parts.

* The War Games. OPTIONAL. A massive ten-parter, in which there’s a whole lot of repetition of the tired old ‘doctor captured as spy’ sub-plot. Has its moments, but is often tedious.


Pertwee:

* Spearhead from Space. MUST WATCH. Excellent. This is what ‘The Invasion’ should have been, short (four episodes) and sweet. Pertwee’s first full outing, fun and with a fine calm new assistant.

* The Silurians. OPTIONAL. The Doctor’s car, Bessie, is introduced to the series. Slow, spread over seven episodes, and marred by bad alien costumes. But quite watchable, and with an interesting Derbyshire Peak setting.

* Inferno. OPTIONAL. A bit of a hodge-podge, and an unwelcome return to the “shouty” tone of the Troughton years. Seven episodes that drags and sags in the middle, as lazy scriptwriters slump into the stock and very tedious “doctor mistaken for a spy, condemned to death” sub-plot. Some fans think ‘Inferno’ (1970) is a Pertwee high-point, but I didn’t.

* Terror of the Autons. WATCH. A very watchable four-parter, brisk and entertaining but not vital to see.

* The Daemons. WATCH. A bit strained here and there, and the five episodes means not enough room for development of interesting secondary characters (the white witch, the technician). But it just about hangs together.

* The Sea Devils. WATCH. Fun, and even gripping in places. As with ‘The Silurians’, the alien costumes are rather bad. The series obviously ‘has it in’ for complacent mandarins from Whitehall, but the lads of the British Navy get prime-time recruitment footage.

* The Three Doctors. WATCH. Excellent.

Frontier in Space.

The Green Death.

The Time Warrior.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

* Planet of the Spiders. OPTIONAL. Not great, but it leads you into the regeneration and the new Doctor, Tom Baker.


Many of the early episodes were destroyed or lost by the BBC, and thus some stories from the Hartnell / Troughton years will have a partial reconstruction via animation / audio / script.