The Tenth Planet *****

William Hartnell's final adventure, set at the South Pole, sees the debut of the Cybermen

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Doctor Who story guide
Patrick Mulkern
Patrick Mulkern
The Tenth Planet *****

Season 4 – Story 29

"Our brains are just like yours, except that certain weak-nesses have been re-moved… You call them 'e-motions' " - Krail (Cyberman)

Storyline
The Doctor, Ben and Polly land in 1986 at Snowcap, the South Pole base of International Space Command. The hectoring General Cutler and his staff are tracking atmospheric testing probe Zeus 4, when it is drawn off course by the arrival of a new planet. The Doctor realises this is Earth's twin, Mondas, which has returned after drifting away to the edge of space many eons ago. Its inhabitants - the Cybermen - send an attack force to Snowcap to seize control. Somehow Mondas is absorbing too much energy from Earth, which the aliens intend to destroy using the Snowcap's own Z-bomb, before the tenth planet is itself annihilated. Humans will be transported and cybernetically enhanced. But the Cybermen are too late: they perish as Mondas melts.

A weakened Doctor hurries back to the Tardis. To Ben and Polly's amazement, he collapses, then his face flares silver with energy and changes

First transmissions
Episode 1 - Saturday 8 October 1966
Episode 2 - Saturday 15 October 1966
Episode 3 - Saturday 22 October 1966
Episode 4 - Saturday 29 October 1966

Production
Filming: August/September 1966 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: September/October 1966 at Riverside 1

Cast
Doctor Who - William Hartnell
Polly - Anneke Wills
Ben Jackson - Michael Craze
General Cutler - Robert Beatty
Williams - Earl Cameron
Dyson - Dudley Jones
Barclay - David Dodimead
Schultz - Alan White
Tito - Shane Shelton
American sergeant - John Brandon
Wigner - Steve Plytas
Radar technician - Christopher Matthews
Terry Cutler - Callen Angelo
Geneva technician - Ellen Cullen
R/T technician - Christopher Dunham
TV announcer - Glenn Beck
Doctor Who - Patrick Troughton
Cybermen:
Krail, Jarl - Reg Whitehead
Talon, Krang - Harry Brooks
Shav, Gern - Gregg Palmer
Voices - Roy Skelton, Peter Hawkins

Crew
Writers - Kit Pedler (1-4), Gerry Davis (3,4)
Incidental music - various library tracks
Special sounds - Brian Hodgson
Designer - Peter Kindred
Story editor - Gerry Davis
Producer - Innes Lloyd
Director - Derek Martinus

RT Review by Patrick Mulkern
" 'Ere," says Ben. "I wonder if they've gone to the Moon yet . . ." With The Tenth Planet we get a palpable sense of the programme reaching towards the future. There's the date and setting, of course. Back in 1966 the year 1986 must have seemed a long way off; and the high-tech, internationally staffed South Pole HQ was sophisticated territory for the series. The attack on Snowcap also establishes the base-under-siege template that would be immensely successful during the next few seasons.

Scientist Kit Pedler's first full collaboration with story editor Gerry Davis anticipates advances in technology: routine space rockets and - more worryingly - WMDs and spare-part surgery. In taking cybernetics to the extreme, they give Doctor Who at last a monster to rival the Daleks in enduring appeal - the Cybermen.

For anyone used to seeing the "metallic" versions of 21st-century Who, these fabric-covered prototypes with bleating, singsong voices will seem a poor relation. With their heat-lamps and chest displays, they look like usherettes from some kinky, futuristic moviehouse. Costumier Sandra Reid admitted her first designs were barely held together with sellotape - visible on head-tubing in some shots. (In the RT preview below, you may even spot one Cyberman who's lost his headgear altogether!)

That these early Cybermen pose a credible threat, despite such encumbrances, is a miracle. Their first appearance out of a blizzard borders on iconic, especially the pan from a fleshy forearm up to a mummified head. There's also thrilling drama when they burst into the tracking room, silencing General Cutler and terrifying Polly. Call me old-fashioned, but I love a good companion scream.

Cutler is the first snarling bully we've seen in the series. To begin with he's amusing. When the Doctor bristles: "I don't like your tone, sir," Cutler counters with: "And I don't like your face. Nor your hair." Later his all-too-human bellicosity contrasts with the cold logical violence of Krail, and it becomes integral to the plot when he flattens all opposition in a bid to save his astronaut son. So Cutler's death four minutes into the final episode comes as a surprise. But the writers have a far bigger shock in store - and, for the future of the series, it's the most forward-thinking development of all.

The Doctor has been rather wonderful throughout. Recognising Mondas early on, he warns Ben and Polly: "I know what this planet is and what it means to Earth. Pretty soon we shall be having visitors." In part two he stands up to Cutler and the Cybermen. He disappears in part three (Hartnell had bronchitis and was written out at short notice) but he's back on his feet in the final episode, wondering whether "this old body of mine is wearing a bit thin".

Throughout 1966, we've seen the Doctor ravaged by the Dalek time destructor, made spectral by the Toymaker, drained of his life-force by the Elders and now, it's implied, he's been affected by the pull of Mondas. So his frailty does compute.

Convincingly senescent on screen, Hartnell was actually aged only 55 to 58 during his tenure as the Doctor, but he had chronic health problems and was exhausted by the production schedule. He was also infuriated by frequent changes in personnel and disliked the darker tone of the writing. So it was with regret that he relinquished the role he loved so much. Producer Innes Lloyd, in concert with his BBC bosses (including Doctor Who's creator Sydney Newman), decided to recast the lead - a radical move that would ultimately guarantee the programme's longevity. Perhaps for ever.

The first Doctor's grand finale has regrettably been lost in time, so his collapse and transformation inside the Tardis - accompanied by a nerve-jangling Radiophonic cacophony - exist now only in fragmented clips. For viewers in 1966 it was a blinding moment of magic. Unexpected. Unexplained.

But for me now, the superbly prophetic moment is delivered a few minutes earlier (this snippet also survives). Having rescued the Doctor from the Cybermen's spaceship, Ben says: "It's all over now." The Doctor looks weak and distracted. "But it isn't all over," he whispers. Then staggering hurriedly towards camera for an extreme close-up, he cries out (to us): "It's far from being all over!"

How right you were, Mr Hartnell. We salute you.

- - -

Radio Times archive material

Introductory feature

RT billings
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4

No fanfare for the new Doctor, but RT printed a small trailer for treats to come...

- - -

Annekedotes
“We were rehearsing The Tenth Planet at St Helen’s Church Hall [North Kensington] and could whip round from there to the BBC bar for lunch. The drinking that went on! The lovely David Dodimead [who played Barclay] got us on a drinking man’s diet, so we were all drinking sherry and eating steak at lunchtime.”

“I remember the meeting in rehearsals between Patrick [Troughton] and Bill [Hartnell], and Patrick being suitably humble really and Bill being rather chuffed that someone like Patrick was taking over. If it was going to be someone like Tommy Steele, which was spoken about during the summer… there was no way Bill was going to give up to Tommy Steele.”

“I thought the first Cybermen with the stocking face and the open hole for a mouth were very scary. When they later became metallic, they were somehow less frightening. I remember lovely little details like Sandra Reid, the costume designer, being so excited about getting it together that she forgot the Cybermen’s gloves and she was mortified. So they had to spray their hands silver. But I thought that was brilliant because it showed they were still connected to being human. And the poor darlings were fainting all over the place in the studio because it was so hot.”

The transformation: “We did that mixing thing with them both lying on the floor at Riverside Studios and we finished terribly late at night. So there was no great big party for Bill. He went off. And Patrick went off. Rather an inauspicious way to finish.” (Talking to RT, March 2012)

[Episodes 1-3 and animated version of Episode 4 available on BBC DVD]

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