Doctor Who in the Swinging '60s
The Swinging SIXTIES and The Doctor
The Swinging Sixties.
The '60s was the age of the pill. This opened up all sorts of possibilities when it came to love making or at least seemed to at the time.
Space Angel was an animated television show that was acceptable to viewers at a time when the young thirsted for anything to do with space travel.
Mini-skirts and long hair were in. Both were to make their way onto British television in such shows as The Saint, The Baron, The Avengers and The Champions. Eventually they made their way onto Doctor Who as well as some of the more main stream British cop shows of the day.
Also there was The Invisible Man. This show, like the Bond movies explored the Cold war that was happening at the time.
Pop art that has its origins in the comic book was played with on later episodes of The Avengers.
Pop art backgrounds were also popular on the American television show Batman.
American comic books were popular everywhere and there was a following for English comic papers.
There was a skinny bird named Twiggy and a band called The Beatles. London swung like it never had before or since.
Of the movies made in this period To Sir with Love starring Sidney Poitier is best remembered. Take a school in a slum area of London and add a black teacher new to the profession. The pill is discussed in the film as well as the difficulties of growing up in that time and place. It helped the singer Lulu become a star.
There was the Vietnam War and the question of whether or not Australians should be involved in it. Was conscription really necessary or proper?
The USA produced some pretty far out surf movies such as How to stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) starring Annette Funicello.
In the '60s Australians were given bit parts in Doctor Who. This trend continued well into the 1980s.
Australians gave the Daleks a rather compelling monotone voice.
The largest of the Ice Warriors the 2nd Doctor occasionally went up against was played by a New Zealand actor.
Australia was also featured in some of the Doctor Who stories including the 2nd Doctor's adventure, The Enemy of the World.
Where would the '60s be without The Doctor?
For much of my life The Doctor has been a part of the television experience. Back in the 1960s, he was even part of the experience of going to the movies.
Yes, there were two Doctor Who movies and, at last, you could see the Doctor and the TARDIS in color. Unfortunately, it was a new doctor who only ever appeared in these movies and he was played by Peter Cushing. They also got a new, younger Susan plus other brand new recruits for time travel.
As good as these films were I much preferred what was happening on television even if it was only in black and white.
On cold winter nights, sitting around the heater with sweet smelling cocoa in a mug in hand, the Doctor was in.
If I had the flu at least I couldn't infect a whole other species with it like poor Dodo (Jackie Lane) did in The Ark adventure. It occurred in the future but I was sitting there watching it happen in 1966 and then later on video.
If I had problems at school at least I wasn't in lock-up in Roman times awaiting my turn at facing hungry lions as did Ian Chesterton (William Russell), another of the Doctor's past companions.
If there was lamb's fry for supper I could always pretend it was the kind of gray slime that people ate in some future age because there was nothing else to eat. Either that or an old boot or shoe that might taste okay with bacon on the side with peas, mashed potatoes and apple sauce. With the Daleks, for example, in control of the earth you couldn't afford to knock back anything that might be considered food.
Would childhood be the same without The Doctor?
By the by, past, present and future tenses are a bit of a bother when you time travel so do keep this in mind.
From 1963 to the present the Doctor, with his faithful (well, most of the time faithful) machine, the TARDIS, have been with us, taking humans of every stripe on the most amazing journeys.It hasn't just been the television series.
The Doctor has appeared in comic papers, comic books, magazines, annuals and paperbacks. When there weren't fresh television episodes coming out he was still there, existing in brand new stories in one format or another.
It seems that not even the BBC could cancel him out completely and, when he did return to television in new episodes, he did so to thrill new viewers as well as old.
And it all began, for the original viewers at any rate, in a junk yard. Two high school teachers, concerned and highly curious about a rather strange student, follow her and, in doing so, stumble upon one of the wonders of the universe.
At first played by William Hartnell, the Doctor began his television existence as a rather cranky old alien gentleman with a far too inquisitive mind that inevitably got himself, and those with him, both in and out of trouble. His greatest treasure was his granddaughter, Susan, played by Carole Ford. The high school teachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, were played by William Russell and Jacqueline Hill.
In the junk yard the teachers discover a police call box (actually the TARDIS). Did Susan go into it? What is inside and why does it hum and vibrate when you get close to it as if it were alive? The Doctor teases the teachers into investigating and traps them inside.
Susan is there to reason with the Doctor but he is reluctant to let the nosy humans go. In trying to get out, school teacher Ian accidentally activates the TARDIS in a way he never thought the TARDIS could be activated. Instead of the doors opening, they are all propelled into time and space, destination unknown. They land in the stone age.
In An Unearthy Child, when we first meet up with the Doctor, the teachers discover that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than the outside. By the time we get to the fourth doctor, it is a LOT bigger and includes many rooms and a swimming pool. Back in those days the TARDIS was definitely metallic rather than organic but always seemed to have a mind of its own.
Since the flight from what was modern day earth to the stone age wasn't properly mapped out by the Doctor, it was not possible for the Doctor to get his TARDIS directly back to where it had taken off from. In fact, the Doctor and Susan were lost in time and space with their two stowaways. The Doctor tried to get the stowaways back to their own time but, for quite a while, without success. There were adventures in all sorts of time periods on earth and also on other planets.
The Doctor let Susan leave him to pursue a life of helping a brave man to rebuild the earth after the Dalek Invasion had ended. The teachers managed to get back to their own time plus two years in a stolen Dalek time machine.
Just when the show became more family orientated and less a kid's show as it was meant to be I cannot say. As a child I found Doctor Who from the start to be grim and scary but wouldn't miss a single episode for anything. It didn't seem to me to be, at the time, simply kids fare and there in lay half the enjoyment.
Kids shows with live performers that are obviously just for kids tend to repel everyone including kids. The original Skippy being an exception. The re-make of Skippy being the general watered down pap usually served up to children and detested by them.
In Doctor Who mortal decisions had to be made and sometimes the main cast were wrong in their assumptions. Sometimes there were two views to a situation and both were equally valid or at least appeared to be at some moment in the show. Innocents, both alien and human, could perish.
The Doctor would triumph in the end but the cost of victory could be high.
Over time William Hartnell's role as the Doctor softened. He could still be grouchy and at given moments selfish but he could now also be caring and playful. There are some signs of the new approach in the very first Dalek episodes.
In terms of being heartless technological warriors, the Daleks had no equal except, maybe, in the Cybermen. Trapped inside their machines because they can't survive without them, the Daleks were, are and possible will always be without pity or remorse. Who is the '60s didn't wait for and then thrill to the mechanical monosyllabic delivery of "Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate!" from these creatures?
Over night the Daleks became the greatest fictional villains on British television. Even from the start there was something Nazi like about their thought processes and behavior.
Even from the start they believed in a master race of creatures and they were it. Minor Daleks obeyed more important Daleks without question for to question orders without very good reason could lead to swift destruction.
The view that the Daleks were and are Nazi like was expanded upon during the Tom Baker years. During Tom Baker's reign as the Doctor, we meet Davros - the creator of the Daleks. And what a completely nasty, back stabbing, mutant piece of work he was, is and will be.
After dropping off the teachers back in the 20th Century, the Doctor hoofed around creation with Vicki (Maureen O'Brien), a girl from the 25th Century. He met up with her while the teachers were still will them and it was Vicki who convinced the Doctor to let the teachers take their chances with the Dalek time machine. Dodo was another later companion of the first Doctor.
Unfortunately, William Hartnell could not play the Doctor forever except in re-runs, in the comic papers, and in the novels. Though Hartnell had enjoyed his time on the show, his health would not allow him to continue indefinitely.
The BBC decided to replace Hartnell rather than end the show. The question was how to go about it. Simply having some actor turn up in the role didn't seem to be the right thing to do. A science fiction answer would be best. Then the answer came. The old Doctor, having suffered radiation poisoning, would regenerate into the new Doctor.
It was a brilliant idea that meant the Doctor could go on from actor to actor, viewing generation to viewing generation. It meant that every generation could have its very own doctor.
At first I didn't care much for Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. In part I still felt some loyalty to my doctor, William Hartnell.
What also got the second Doctor off side with this viewer was the fact that this new fellow was keen on playing the recorder. Usually in cheap plastic form, the recorder was one wind instrument that menaced the primary and high schools of the 1960s at least in Australia. Played by children just learning their notes, it often sounded awful. After hearing a recorder recital Friday morning in assembly, the last thing I wanted to listen to of a Sunday evening was the second Doctor playing the damned thing.
Personal prejudice? You can be the judge. Yes, I know. There have be composers of great fame who have done well with the recorder but surely not cheap plastic recorders.
A couple of decades later, thanks to video and then DVD, I was reacquainted with the second Doctor and found him to be not such a bad chap after all. He was more whimsical and playful than the first Doctor and, if you ignore the recorder, he was and is the ideal fellow to be the second in what has turned out to be a long line of Doctors. His time as Doctor was full of innovation. There was the beginnings of the military organization known as UNIT and the Cybermen were made more real and formidable in his time. The adventures I have enjoyed the most are Tomb of the Cybermen and War Games.
Why was Doctor Who so popular and why has he lasted so long? Perhaps it has something to do with getting people young and old to think for themselves and to realize the can be more than one side to an argument. Certainly many of the Doctors female assistants were, are and always will be easy on the male eye. The sets were not great because of cost restraints in the the early years and it remained a black and white show up to the third doctor. Even so, much was made up for by the imagination of directors, script writers, cast and crew.
Even when the BBC decided that the Doctor had had his day the fans disagreed. Between the end of the first lot of Doctor Who and the modern television era of the good Doctor the bridge between the two was, is and always has been provided by other forms such as comic books and novels with brand new material. All good stuff.
The villains also kept the show going. There have been time lords that have gone to the dark side such as THE MASTER, creatures that have given up all emotion, such as the Cybermen, and slimy, green aliens with nothing but conquest in mind. It has, over all, been a good ride.
Why was my Doctor so great? Well, he stood for truth and he understood that not everyone in authority was always right or, for that matter, a good guy. He was a scientist and I loved science at the time. I also loved science fiction and the idea that I could be taken literally anywhere in the TARDIS. What's more, the Doctor with his two hearts had compassion when needed but was always the rebel.
More by this Author
50 years of Doctor Who, The Master, The Mistress, Ice warriors, Cybermen, Daleks, Break Time, TARDIS, Robots, companions, Australians, , K-9, flying car, Romana, Leela, Tom Baker, London, Adric.
Hell on Wheels, My Favorite Martian, Sugarfoot, Rawhide, Clint Eastwood, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Ghost Rider, Gunsmoke, John Wayne, Maverick, Roger Moore, Zorro, Deadwood, The Lone Ranger, Mexico.
Standing tall and one person making a difference has long been part of the American identity. In propaganda terms it has been useful. Can one person really make a difference? John Wayne and Vietnam.