Tuesday

Doctor Who Notes 1

Long before the announcement that new Doctor Who episodes would be produced by the BBC, I decided it would be fun to write some scripts for myself. To research this project, I went through my collection of Doctor Who videos and made notes on the characters and situations that made up the show’s history. I was particularly interested in what was revealed about the Doctor and his background, and also what he had to say about himself. I found the results of this close viewing enlightening, and so I present my notes here for the benefit of all Doctor Who fans.


From “An Unearthly Child”

At the Coal Hill School, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, both teachers, confer with each other about a mysterious student, Susan Foreman, who is brilliant in certain subjects but ignorant of many routine matters. She has also apparently given the school a false address, as 76 Totters Lane proves to be nothing but a scrapyard. Intrigued by the mystery, the two teachers follow her home, but Susan disappears amidst the junk.

Barbara: Ian, look at this!
Ian: Why, it’s a police box! What on earth’s it doing here? These things are usually on the street -- Feel it! Feel it! Do you feel it?
Barbara: It’s a faint vibration!
Ian: It’s alive! It’s not connected to anything -- unless it’s through the floor.

Suddenly, an elderly man enters the yard and finds them snooping about, but when they question him he proves to be very evasive. They believe he has Susan locked inside the police box, and just as they are about to fetch a policeman, Susan opens the door and Barbara stumbles inside, followed by Ian. They are astonished to discover the box contains an enormous futuristic control room. Ian especially is confounded by the dimensional paradox.

The Doctor: I believe these people are known to you.
Susan: They’re two of my school teachers. What are you doing here?
Barbara: Where are we?
The Doctor: They must have followed you! That ridiculous school! I knew something like this would happen if we stayed in one place too long!
Susan: Why should they follow me?
Barbara: Is this really where you live, Susan?
Susan: Yes.
The Doctor: And what’s wrong with it?
Ian: But it was just a telephone box!
The Doctor: Perhaps.
Barbara: And this is your grandfather?
Susan: Yes.
Barbara: Well, why didn’t you tell us that?
The Doctor: I don’t discuss my private life with strangers.

The Doctor is very annoyed that these people have forced their way in and are now demanding explanations, and he takes a certain wicked glee in their attempts to understand the inexplicable. He tells Susan he has found a replacement for the faulty filament, and he appears to affect the repair during the discussion. The Doctor is concerned that their cover is blown, referring to the room as a ship, which Susan then calls the TARDIS.

Susan: Well, I made up the name TARDIS from the initials -- Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. I thought you’d both understand when you saw the different dimensions inside from those outside.
Ian: Let me get this straight -- a thing that looks like a police box standing in a junkyard, it can move anywhere in time and space?
Susan: Yes.
The Doctor: Quite so.
Ian: But that’s ridiculous!
Susan: Why won’t they believe us?
Barbara: Well, how can we?
The Doctor: Now, now, don’t get exasperated, Susan. Remember the Red Indian. When he saw the first steam train, his savage mind thought it an illusion, too.
Ian: You’re treating us like children!
The Doctor: Am I? The children of my civilisation would be insulted!
Ian: Your civilisation?
The Doctor: Yes, my civilisation! I tolerate this century, but I don’t enjoy it! Have you ever thought what it’s like to be wanderers in the fourth dimension? Have you? To be exiles? Susan and I are cut off from our own planet, without friends or protection. But one day, we shall get back. Yes, one day. One day.

Susan begs her grandfather to let Ian and Barbara go, but he argues that they would surely report them to the authorities -- therefore, if he lets them go, they must also leave. But Susan refuses to leave the 20th century, saying the last five months were the happiest of her life. She says she would rather leave the TARDIS. The Doctor agrees and moves to the console, but instead of opening the door, he activates the dematerialization circuit and the ship is once again on its way.

The girl called Susan may or may not be the Doctor’s biological granddaughter but he apparently took her with him when he stole the Hand of Omega from the Time Lords and escaped Gallifrey in a hijacked time capsule, an obsolete Type 40 which was in for repairs. They then led a fugitive existence for some time, until arriving on Earth in 1963, where the Doctor was finally able to hide the stolen technology. They remained for five months, during which time Susan fell in love with the place. Their sojourn interrupted by her inquisitive teachers, they resumed their travels. Eventually coming to 22nd century London, Susan fell in love with David Campbell, a human resistance fighter, and the Doctor decided to leave her behind rather than force her to choose between them.

Ian Chesterton was a science teacher and Barbara Wright taught history at the Coal Hill School in London, England until they discovered the TARDIS and were whisked away against their will. Realizing the Doctor could not control the time machine well enough to bring them home, they soon settled into a new life as time travelers, their friendship deepening as they faced many perils and strange situations together. Their means of returning home was ultimately provided by the Daleks, when the Doctor enabled them to use the Dalek’s abandoned time capsule for a one-way trip back to London, arriving two years after they left.


From “100,000 B.C.”

The TARDIS hurtles some hundred millennia or so back through time, though once it has materialized, the readout indicates zero. The Doctor grumbles that it’s not functioning properly. Ian and Barbara still refuse to believe the pair’s stories of time travel.

The Doctor: What concrete evidence would satisfy you, hmm?
Ian: Just open the doors, Doctor Foreman!
The Doctor: Eh? Doctor who? What’s he talking about?

To prove his point, the Doctor leads Susan, Ian, and Barbara out into the barren landscape that has replaced Totters Lane. However, the Doctor is vexed that the TARDIS still looks like a police box -- another malfunction. Susan also is curious.

Susan: It hasn’t changed! I wonder why it hasn’t happened this time!
Barbara: The ship, you mean?
Susan: Yes, it’s been an ionic column and a sedan chair --
Barbara: Disguising itself wherever it goes!
Susan: Yes, that’s right. But it hasn’t happened this time. I wonder why not.

The travelers are captured by some cavemen and manage to escape but as they flee through the forest, the Doctor and Ian bicker over who is in charge and Barbara starts cracking up. However, when the leader of the cavemen is mauled by an animal, Barbara insists they help him, despite the Doctor’s arguments against it. Susan finally shames the Doctor into helping as well. The four travelers are finally forced into giving fire to the cavemen, but are able to use the fire as a diversion while they make it back to the safety of the TARDIS and dematerialize.

Ian: Have you taken us back to our own time?
The Doctor: You know I can’t do that. Please be reasonable.
Ian: What?
Barbara: Please, you must take us back! You must!
The Doctor: You see, this isn’t operating properly. Or rather, the code is still secret. Feed it with the right data, precise information to a second at the beginning of a journey, and then we can fix a destination. But I had no data at my disposal!
Barbara: Are you saying that you don’t know how to work this thing?
The Doctor: Oh, of course I can’t -- I’m not a miracle worker!
Susan: Come on, Grandfather, we just left the other place too quickly, that’s all.
Ian: Just a minute. Did you try and take us back to our own time?
The Doctor: Well, I got you away from that other time, didn’t I?
Ian: That isn’t what I asked you!
The Doctor: It’s the only way I can answer you, young man!


From “The Daleks”

The TARDIS takes Ian and Barbara to their first alien planet, Skaro, landing in a petrified jungle overlooking a vast abandoned city. Tensions increase as the unwilling companions adjust to traveling together, and when the others become frightened and demand to leave at once, the Doctor purposely sabotages the mercury fluid link to make exploring the city a necessity. Once there, however, they are taken prisoner by the Daleks, who at first mistake them for their natural enemies, the Thals. The Daleks and the Thals have not set eyes on each other since the neutron bomb war 500 years before that devastated the planet, but the Daleks are still intent on extermination. Capturing a Dalek in their cell, the Doctor and Ian open its casing and find a horrible creature within. The travelers are able to use the casing as a decoy to make their escape. They are ready to depart when they realize that the mercury fluid link was left behind in the Dalek city, causing the Doctor to regret his little trick. They convince the Thals to help them against the Daleks, and together they destroy the Daleks’ power source, rendering them helpless. The Thals then set out to study the Dalek technology to help rebuild their world.

Alydon: But you must stay and help us! We could learn from --
The Doctor: Oh, no, no, no, I’m afraid I’m much too old to be a pioneer. Although I was, once, among my own people.
Alydon: Well, then, stay and advise us, please!
The Doctor: No, no, thank you. We’re much too far away from home, my granddaughter and I. Thank you all the same, it’s a nice gesture on your part. You know, this soil is not quite so barren as you think. I’ve been making tests, and even you might live to see and hear the birds amongst the trees. You wanted advice, you said. I never give it. Never. But I might just say this to you -- always search for truth. My truth is in the stars, and yours is here.


From “The Edge of Destruction”

An explosion in the main console rocks the TARDIS and plunges the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara into darkness. The Doctor is unable to locate the problem, and begins to suspect Ian and Barbara of sabotage as the ship behaves in increasingly strange ways. Tempers flare as the ship experiences a total systems failure, and the Doctor believes they are doomed. Barbara, however, realizes that the TARDIS itself has been trying to warn them of imminent danger, and they discover a jammed switch that has sent the ship hurtling back through time to the beginning of the universe. The fault corrected, the Doctor regrets his mistrust of the two schoolteachers, and relations among them begin to improve.


From “Marco Polo”

The TARDIS rematerializes, but its life-support system crashes, stranding the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara in a snowy wasteland. They soon discover they are, in fact, back on Earth -- in 13th century Mongolia. They are forced to join the caravan of Marco Polo, as he confiscates the TARDIS to use as a gift for the Kublai Khan. The Doctor strikes up a friendship with the Khan, and they play backgammon for the ownership of the TARDIS. Unfortunately, the Doctor loses, but when they foil the Mongol emissary’s attempted assassination of the Khan, the travelers are returned their police box in gratitude. Having affected the necessary repairs, the Doctor and his companions are once more on their way.


From “The Keys of Marinus”

The TARDIS arrives on the planet Marinus, on a glass beach on the shore of an ocean of acid. Making their way to a nearby pyramid, the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara meet a man named Arbitan, who places a force field around the TARDIS to coerce them into retrieving four microcircuit keys that have been hidden around the planet. While the travelers are on their quest. Arbitan is murdered by his enemies, the Voords. But when they return with the keys, the travelers trick the Voords into destroying their mind-control machine.


From “The Aztecs”

The TARDIS next journeys to 15th century Mexico, materializing within an Aztec tomb. Barbara is mistaken for the reincarnation of dead high priest Yetaxa, and they are then cut off from the ship by a heavy stone door. While the Doctor tries to discover another way into the tomb, Ian and Barbara try to come to terms with the practice of human sacrifice. Barbara intends to use her newfound clout to put an end to the tradition in hopes of preventing the future destruction of Aztec culture by the Spanish.

The Doctor: Barbara, one last appeal -- what you are trying to do is utterly impossible! I know, believe me, I know!
Barbara: Not Barbara. Yetaxa.

Barbara succeeds only in causing political unrest and making an enemy for them of the High Priest of Sacrifice, and the Doctor is furious. While Susan is confined to a seminary for religious instruction and Ian is trained for combat, the Doctor charms a woman in the Aztec equivalent of a retirement community.

Cameca: You’re a healer?
The Doctor: No, no, they call me the Doctor. I am a scientist, an engineer. I’m a builder of things.

Having studied the history of the Aztecs in college, Barbara is able to convince the High Priest of Knowledge of her divinity, even prophesying their eventual destruction. Meanwhile, the Doctor’s mishandling of a cocoa-drinking custom results in an unexpected marriage proposal to Cameca. He and Ian discover a secret tunnel back into the tomb, and during a solar eclipse, they make their escape.


From “The Sensorites”

The TARDIS materializes aboard a spaceship during Earth’s 28th century, and lands the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara in the middle of a conflict between the human space fleet and a race of telepathic beings called Sensorites, who fear being exploited for their raw materials. The Doctor discovers that three humans left behind from a previous expedition have become deranged and are poisoning the Sensorites’ water supply.


First-Elder: When I listen to you, you who are so young among your own kind, I realise that we Sensorites have a lot to learn from the people of Earth.
Susan: Well, Grandfather and I don’t come from Earth. Oh, it’s ages since we’ve seen our planet. It’s quite like Earth, but at night the sky is a burnt orange, and the leaves on the trees are bright silver.
First-Elder: My mind tells me that you wish to see your home again, and yet there is a part of you which calls for adventure -- a wanderlust.

Susan: Yes. Well, we’ll all go home someday; that’s if you’ll let us.
First-Elder: I think I will. I hope all of you will be able to.


From “The Reign of Terror”

The Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara next find themselves in Paris, France in 1794, during the height of the French Revolution. Taken to prison to face the guillotine, Susan, Ian, and Barbara discover the warden is really an English spy, and he enlists them to gather information for him. Meanwhile, the Doctor poses as a dignitary and meets Robespierre. After Napoleon Bonaparte enters the picture, the tyrannical Robespierre is overthrown and the time travelers escape aboard the TARDIS.


Susan: We might not get back to the ship if Grandfather hears we’re in the Reign of Terror.
Ian: Why not?
Susan: It’s his favourite period in the history of Earth!


Next Season



Saturday

Doctor Strange and the Vision

In Part Three of my Doctor Strange Chronology, I mentioned my belief that the “superhero” costume given to the Master of the Mystic Arts in Doctor Strange # 177 (February 1969) may have been inspired by the look of the Golden Age Vision, and even allowed Roy Thomas, on some level, to pretend he was working on a series featuring this beloved character instead of the Silver Age sorcerer.

After all, it was Roy Thomas who introduced the modern-day Vision to the Marvel Universe in Avengers # 57 (October 1968) – only a few months before the debut of the revised Doctor Strange. The heroic android was a reinvention of the Vision character created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for Marvel Mystery Comics in 1940. This mysterious lawman from another dimension was one of Roy’s favorites from that era, leading him not only to introduce the new character, but to use the original as one of Rick Jones’ psychic projections at the climax of the Kree-Skrull War in Avengers # 97.

I was first struck by the similarities between the two while reading Essential Doctor Strange v.2, and I think it was the lack of color that really allowed me to notice the resemblance. And of course, the original art that Roy Thomas used to write the script would not have been colored yet, thus minimizing the distinctions between the characters. Take a close look. Though their costumes are quite similar, they have almost exactly the same head. The clearest similarity is in the distinctive shape of the eyes, and I was immediately reminded of a quote from Jack Kirby that I had recently read:


“The Silver Surfer is simple – the same with Spider-Man’s eyes, which actually date back to the Vision. I don’t know if you ever saw the Vision I created for the old Atlas mags which was, I think, at the same time Captain America was out. I set the pattern for the eyes, which are kind of mystic.”
--Jack Kirby
1969

Indeed, the Vision, the Silver Surfer, and the new Doctor Strange all had the exact same eye shape, as well as having big “bald” heads and typically grim features. Kirby’s comment that these eyes are “mystic” is especially interesting.

A side-by-side comparison shows the many points of commonality between the two characters in question. Both wear flowing red-and-yellow capes with pointy collars, have a dark cool-colored bodysuit with pointy gauntlets and a band around the waist. Doctor Strange’s costume is certainly more elaborate, with lots of little fiddly-bits, of course, but even with color, I find the comparison striking.


Perhaps the most telling evidence is the ease with which a page from one of Doctor Strange’s comics can be converted into a new adventure for Aarkus, a.k.a. the Vision. Here, in this page by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer from Doctor Strange # 181, some minor touch-ups and a different coloring job give new life to a Golden Age hero, as Nightmare’s Dream Dimension doubles for the Vision’s Smoke World.




Naturally, it may not have been some grand scheme of Roy Thomas’ to change one character into the other. He may not even have been aware of what he was doing. The re-design of Doctor Strange would certainly have involved Roy as writer/assistant editor, and also editor Stan Lee, artist Gene Colan, and possibly John Romita, who often acted as staff artist/art director/costume designer in those days. Even publisher Martin Goodman may have had some say in the matter. But I see Roy as a driving force on this book. And as to whether there was some subconscious influence deriving from his deep love of Golden Age superheroes, who can say?

The visuals speak for themselves. You be the judge.


The above Jack Kirby quote appears in The Comics Journal Library, vol. 1: Jack Kirby (p.4), published by Fantagraphics Books.