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Reviews for The Tenth Planet

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Change, My Dear

By:Doug, Pocono Summit, PA, USA
Date:Tuesday 4 September 2007
Rating:   7

The Tenth Planet is another of those early stories that are difficult to do a critical review of. Watching it a second time, I found a lot more of value here than on the first viewing, though it should be mentioned that my first viewing of it was without any of the fourth episode except for a brief clip of the regeneration scene at the end. The Tenth Planet is now available with video of the first three episodes, and a specially reconstructed fourth episode that features the audio, still photos, and a few video clips - more than just the brief regeneration clip.

Arriving at the South Pole in 1986 near a space tracking station, the Doctor, Ben and Polly are spotted as soon as they step out of the TARDIS, and hauled into the base. A new planet has entered the solar system, and is disrupting two space flights that are under way and being coordinated by the tracking station. The planet is called Mondas, and is home to the Cybermen, who are cybernetic creatures that no longer have emotions. They soon begin arriving at various locations on Earth, including the South Pole base, and forcefully dominate these key installations. Mondas begins to absorb energy from Earth, and to prevent Mondas from being burned out, the Cybermen plan to take captives from Earth and then destroy the planet, the captives to become as they are.

The Tenth Planet is really kind of fascinating, in quite an odd way. In this first story to feature the Cybermen, the Cybermen are very primitive, and quite unlike any others that we see throughout the series' history from then on. Rather than having a solid metal head, these Cybermen have blank facial features on a sort of ski mask-like covering, making them much more organic than any of their successors. They also have human hands, rather than metal or silver-gloved ones. These are creatures more than robots, and bizarre ones at that. Their voices are superb here - much better than the voices the subsequent models were given during the Troughton years. Though the voices have a more organic sound to them, they also sound more emotionless than the more robotic voices that would come in many of the future stories, being delivered in a very strange, sing-song manner with oddly timed syllabic accents that are all wrong to normal English speakers. But there's a glaring problem with the way the Cybermen are voiced: when they speak, the actor in the costume simply opens his mouth, and this is very poorly synched throughout the story.

Of course, in addition to these strange and unique Cybermen, we get the Doctor's first regeneration at the end of the story. As I understand it, William Hartnell had become too ill to continue in the show, and he was absent from episode 3 due to poor health. When he returns in episode 4, he doesn't seem his usual self, though he does seem to have a final burst of energy, which becomes the same for the Doctor. The Doctor manages to be a significant presence in the situation once more, only to fizzle out quickly. The characters basically wrap everything up by stalling the Cybermen long enough for Mondas to be consumed by the energy transfer that has been taking place. When this happens, all of the Cybermen inexplicably collapse and shrivel up, and the problem is solved. A quick and dirty resolution to a storyline that had become problematic for the writers, probably due to Hartnell's deteriorating health.

Then we get the great final performance from Hartnell, "It's far from being all over!" as he staggers back out to the TARDIS, which starts to freak out as he sets it to dematerialize and then collapses on the floor, and the famous transition to Patrick Troughton takes place.

There are several little quibbles with this story, but it's quite an interesting spectacle. And the structure of this story would become the quintessential Doctor Who format: you have a small group in a small base or some other kind of place where all of the action happens, and a monster/threat comes onto the scene, and the story is about how to deal with it and save the day. The Tenth Planet is considered to be the first of the so-called "monster stories" that were so common during the Troughton period. They really weren't done before this, with the possible exception of The Celestial Toymaker, which had more or less the same structure, but without the actual "monster" per se.

Sadly to say, with the downward-sloping progression the show had taken over the course of the previous four stories, I really think the most interesting thing the First Doctor could've done at this point was to regenerate. The dramatic changes ushered in by The Tenth Planet were "not a moment too soon," to quote a future Doctor... This story itself, and some of the execution, just isn't good enough to merit a high rating, so again, I'm calling this a qualified 7 out of 10.

A "Legendary" End To The Hartnell Era?

By:Matthew Kresal, United States
Date:Tuesday 19 May 2009
Rating:   6

Watching The Tenth Planet some four plus decades after its original broadcast makes for some interesting viewing for any Doctor Who fan. This is for two reasons: the first because of its legendary status it has in Doctor Who fandom, because it contains two of the elements of the show's longevity: the Cybermen and the Doctor's ability to regenerate. The other is reason is to view it from the production values of the time and its realization of those two items of interests to fans. In fact, it's those values that make this an interesting story to view. So how does The Tenth Planet actually rank so to speak?

Well this was of course William Hartnell's final Doctor Who story and judging from this story's three surviving episodes (and episode four's reconstruction on the VHS release) his time had come. Whether it was by design in the script or the fact that Hartnell was ailing, the first Doctor does very little in his final story. In fact the first Doctor's final story consists almost entirely of him being either a captive or (as in the case of episode three) being unconscious. It's a shame really, considering that Hartnell shows that even in his final story he is still capable of bringing authority to his Doctor with the emotions speech to the Cybermen in episode two. As I said, it is a shame that the first Doctor can only react to the events around him and not be more proactive like in earlier stories.

The upside to the underwhelming Hartnell is that the companions get to shine. In particular, Michael Craze gets to show some chops as Ben. This is no more evident then in fighting a Cyberman in episodes two or episode three where he in fact becomes the focus of the episode. Anneke Willis plays up her role as 60's secretary Polly for the most part though even she gets some good scenes like the scene with her and others in the tracking room talking to the Cybermen in episode two. While Hartnell might not have shinned very brightly in this story, his companions sure did.

The supporting cast though is a mixed bunch. There is the pompous and over-the-top performance of Robert Beatty as General Cutler, who lacks any realism is and more like a walking talking cliche. On the upside there, is David Dodimead's wonderful Doctor Barclay who is as underplaying and believable in his role as Beatty is over the top. That in fact makes Dodimead the best of the supporting cast. While the supporting cast is mainly a group of nameless technicians, there is another group of supporting cast that stands out: the Cybermen.

These Cybermen may look rather silly physically with their cloth faces and car lights attached to their heads but there is potential in them that would later be realized and it is in fact these Cybermen's voices that really stand out some four plus decades later. These Cybermen may also lack the physicality of later stories like The Invasion or Earthshock, but one should keep in mind that these Cybermen are a product of their time. That said, while the Cybermen would have better stories later in the 60's (especially The Tomb Of The Cybermen and The Invasion) they make a striking debut here.

In fact, it is the Cybermen and the regeneration that raise up this whole story. Without both of them I suspect this would be just another average 1960's "Doctor/companions/supporting cast all under attack" story. Looking at the writing of this story in terms of both plotting and dialogue, there is really little stand out material except the dialogue introducing the Cybermen's background and lack of emotions in episode two. While it is not a bad story by any means, it lacks many elements of the "classic stories".

So how does The Tenth Planet hold up? Well, it has an underwhelming final show by the first Doctor, a good showing by his companions, a mixed supporting cast, the first appearance of the Cybermen, the first regeneration and an average script. It is true that while The Tenth Planet does have some stand-out elements, it is not a classic story. In fact, is rather average in many ways and a little undeserving of its legendary status in my opinion. In short: average but not great.

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