Arguably the most important story of all for Doctor Who, the story which enabled a fairly popular little Saturday afternoon series transform into an enduring and iconic colossus of science fiction drama that would span generations, be loved (and I MEAN loved!) across the globe and enable us to celebrate this golden 50 year anniversary in 2013, was The Tenth Planet. Without the genius concept of regeneration, the Doctor’s old body would not have just worn out, he would have died and, back in 1966, that really would have been the final end….
Talking of regeneration, the Cybermen then went on to emulate the Doctor in the body changing department. Introduced as a cloth-based life form in the Tenth Planet, their enduring success as a classic adversary also relied on them being able to transform themselves time and again – into metal monsters and silver giants and eventually evolving into the steel brutes that the modern audience knows today. The featuring of a black astronaut was seen as highly futuristic when this story was first aired, but the serial itself was a little disjointed, particularly as a result of William Hartnell’s absence from much of the action (and entirely from Episode 3) as a result of his poor health.
The Cybermen appear not just as frighteningly powerful, but also as tragic creatures who have lost their humanity, willing to do anything to ensure their survival – pitted against General Cutler whose weakness is his obsession with ensuring the safety of his son, regardless of the consequences of his actions on the rest of humanity – thus creating a thought provoking parallel between the similar survival instincts of the human and cyber races.
At the ground breaking conclusion of The Tenth Planet, the Doctor didn’t just get himself a new body – he was lucky enough to get himself a body in the shape and style of Patrick Troughton whose utter brilliance sealed the future fortunes of what we are all now proud to call the longest running sci-fi drama series in the world. — Alan