The new Doctor Who series has been a smash hit not only in the U.K., but in many other countries including the U.S. and has a lot of new fans who have never seen the original series. Old school Who is admittedly an acquired taste due to its comparatively smaller (some would say non-existent) budget which often resulted in cheesy sets and even cheesier effects, but if you can look past those flaws at the stories themselves there was a lot to like. If you’re curious about the original series then you may be interested in the guide the folks at the sci-fi blog IO9 have put together on discovering classic Doctor Who:
The fourth season of the BBC’s time-travel saga Doctor Who has rocketed to a demented conclusion. And now there’s no more Who until Christmas, or even longer outside the U.K. But fear not — before Doctor Who was a new-millennium phenomenon, it ruled the British airwaves for a quarter of the last century. And some of your grand-dad’s Doctor Who episodes are actually still worth checking out. Here’s our complete handy guide to old-school Doctor Who for new-Who fans. With some spoilers.
Step one: Discover Ace, the Proto-Rose.
The last couple of years Doctor Who was on the air in the late 1980s, the writers started experimenting with the often-boring relationship between the Doctor and his cute travel companion. They introduced Ace, a rebellious teenager with a love of explosives. At first, the Ace-Doctor relationship was just a little spicier than the traditional Doctor/ambiguous-friend pairing, but over time it became a lot more. The Doctor started putting Ace through a series of tests and forcing her to confront her fears. She, in turn, started questioning the Doctor’s goals and methods more than any companion before her. The Doctor-Ace relationship provided an inspiration for some of the more fully realized companions of today, like Rose.
I have to concur that starting with Sylvester McCoy’s seventh Doctor is probably best as the show was making great strides in both storytelling and special effects during this period, though the effects were still nothing compared to the current series. Ace was definitely one of the first companions to really challenge the Doctor and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that she was a big influence on the folks who created Rose in the new series. Sylvester’s portrayal of the Doctor is second only to Tom Baker’s in my mind. The Seventh Doctor was also the first hints we got that the renegade Timelord might be of much more importance to Timelord history than originally let on.
If you follow the suggestions in the guide you may find yourself addicted to the original series before too long. Even some of the older stories have a lot to offer with many of them standing the test of time. Even for those that don’t, however, it’s fascinating to look back and see how the show started way back in 1963 and how much it’s changed over the years. Coincidentally, one of the free offerings on AT&T’s U-verse on demand video service this month is Tomb of the Cybermen with the second Doctor played by Patrick Troughton. Courtney wasn’t terribly impressed with it until I pointed out that the show was as old as I am. It aired from September 2 to September 23, 1967 and I was born on August 25th of that year. Considering what they were working with and the time period it’s actually pretty good and quite a few details about the Cybermen established in that episode would be repeated in following Cybermen stories over the course of the series.