My next three posts were framed by the following question: “Which three currently missing stories would I most want to see returned to the BBC Archives?” As it turns out, every one of the stories I would most like to see can be found in Patrick Troughton’s first season as the Doctor, Season Four, beginning with his debut story The Power of the Daleks.
It is very timely to consider this serial, not because of rumours that it has been found, but coming only three weeks after Peter Capaldi made his debut as the 12th Doctor in Deep Breath. Fans of the show can all remember the disorientation that comes when the Doctor regenerates – the incredulity at Matt Smith calmly eating fish fingers and custard springs to mind, or of Tom Baker famously donning that scarf and proclaiming “What’s the use in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes?”
The point is, we fans are now prepared for it. We know that for the first few episodes of the new Doctor, it is going to be the rudest of culture shocks, because this man before us is not the Doctor we have known and loved (or in the case of David Tennant (for me at least) tolerated …)
One can only imagine what viewers in 1966 must have thought when William Hartnell transformed his whole appearance at the end of The Tenth Planet. At this point regeneration didn’t even have a name, much less the whole background detail that has subsequently emerged. It would have been the rudest of rude shocks to find the irascible grandfather figure of Hartnell replaced with the much more clown-like Troughton. Indeed, my best friend’s dad still has not forgiven the BBC for not replacing Hartnell with an actor to play the role like Hartnell!
This serial therefore justifies the hype surrounding it on two fronts. No serial from Troughton’s first season has survived entirely intact – the nearest we have is the reconstructed Moonbase. By the time we get to Season 5 and The Tomb of the Cybermen, Troughton is at the height of his powers, his performances magisterial. Even to recover one episode of this serial would be a wonderful insight into the most transformative of times for the show, when Troughton was assessing how to play his incarnation of the character.
Secondly – to read the plot, it looks like it would be fantastic! The Doctor arrives with his companions Ben and Polly on the planet Vulcan, discovering a nascent Earth colony on the planet. There is subterfuge underfoot in the colony, which is only complicated by the discovery of a Dalek spaceship containing three dormant Daleks. For those who watched Victory of the Daleks and enjoyed the sight of a Dalek asking “Would you care for some tea?” you would appreciate the revived Daleks initially presenting themselves as servants. Naturally of course, the rascally pepperpots are double-crossing, and build an army of Daleks pledged to exterminate the human colony. When you add to a thoroughly good plot for any Doctor the fact that Ben and Polly still cannot be sure that the man calling himself the Doctor is in fact the Doctor, you have on paper the makings of an astonishingly good story.
As the first ever post-regeneration story in the show’s history, this is a story every fan of the show would want to see returned to the BBC. I have no hesitation in saying that I would pay the (probably extortionate) price for the DVD release if this serial has been found and restored.