The Tenth Planet is the second serial of Season 4, and wow does it do a lot. The first Cyberman story, the first regeneration story, and the first time some famous lines are uttered. Even in Hartnell's final story, he's still building the mythos with as much power and enigmatic charm as he has since his first serial.
The TARDIS touches down at space base in the south pole in 1986. A new planet arrives to drain earth of its power, and brings the Cybermen with it. Say what you will, but I think the original design is horrifying because there are still human parts in there. Their hands are human, and you can see the eyes behind the mask. While I'm sure these simply budget limits, it's still creepy and effective, even 50 years later.
Anyway, by episode 2 you can tell the Doctor is nearing the end of his first life. He sleeps through most of episode 3, which have seemed strange to viewers in 1966, but in retrospect makes total sense.
The end of episode 4 is poignant, and the quiet, unsettling atmosphere as Hartnell delivers his final lines aboard the Cybership is fitting for both One and Hartnell himself. The look on Hartnell's face during his last scene on board the TARDIS says more than any rousing speech ever could. God. He really didn't want to go.
Famous lines include:
Extermination (The Tenth Planet) Edit
It is December, 1986. The Housemartins are at number one with Caravan of Love. Madonna, Jackie Wilson, Erasure, and Europe round out the top five, the latter with The Final Countdown of Arrested Development fame. In news, the Rutan Voyager conducts its maiden voyage around the world, circumnavigating it in 9 days without stopping to refuel.
In less pleasant news, an earthquake in Bulgaria kills 2, a fire in Puerto Rico kills 97, some white kids in New York kill 3, and NBC kills "Searching for Tomorrow", the longest running non-news program in America, an ill omen for Doctor Who. The only omen that could possibly be worse is the disastrous, calamitous, and frankly ruinous final episode of the Trial of a Time Lord, the Ultimate Foe, an episode so bad it killed Robert Holmes, Colin Baker's career, and ultimately, Doctor Who. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to anyone that this month saw the Tenth Planet emerge from the shadows to kill the Doctor himself.
Because make no mistake, to a viewer watching this at home on a cold October night in 1966 doesn't know what Regeneration is, is unlikely to have ever heard of Patrick Troughton as anyone other than Robin Hood, and thinks only that these new monsters are a bit creepy and that maybe Hartnell's starting to show his age a bit. They don't know that the rug's about to be yanked out from underneath them, that they stand on the edge of a psychochronographic precipice from which there is no return, not least of all because nobody's invented that term yet. To them, this just starts off as any other serialized adventure might.
It's a terribly common mistake in modern fandom to read this story as the first regeneration and as the first Cybermen encounter, for two important reasons: Firstly and most importantly, it's a television episode and thus you view it, not read it, and secondly, it's actually a very psychochronographic emboitment of a narrative collapse in which the qlippothic energies of alchemical silver (which bypasses a werewolf's damage reduction but incures a -2 penalty to damage rolls) react with the Doctor's own mercurial tendencies and result in his uncontrolled, unhinged transmutation into the Master of the Land of Fiction. Also, the Cybermen never really act like this again, so it's not a proper Cybermen story in that regard either.
Now, this may seem a somewhat unusual
reading viewing of the episode to take, but I assure you it's perfectly logical when you take into account Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis's close personal and professional ties with Grant (Kenneth Grant, not Ulysses S. Grant), noted magician and apprentice of Aliester Crowley, as well as the very critical role William Blake plays in all this. I try to keep this wiki accessible to a lay audience as much as I can, but unless you have at least a working knowledge of both William Blake and kabbalah, you're just not truly prepared for a discussion on the Tenth Planet.
I've gone a long time without talking about the plot, which sometimes happens when there's more important things to talk about, like alchemy or narrative collapse. The Doctor and his precious children of time land in Antarctica in 1986, just in time to witness what we're told is the historical inevitability of Earth getting a bad case of the Mondas. Someone should get their ass kicked for saying something like that, and that someone is a team of multi-national and multi-ethnic
stereotypes researchers. There's a Z-bomb, apparently, that will destroy the other planet, which strangely looks exactly like Earth only upside down. You can tell because Malaysia looks totally the same, as does every single fucking part of it.
Mondas begins draining energy from Earth while the Cybermen try to convince the humans to, as they will later say, "beee liiiikuzzzzzz". Now, the Cybermen, creatures of existential body horror, are what the cool kids call qlippothic beings. Grant (Kenneth Grant, not Alan Grant) describes qlippoth as indistinguishable from true psychedelic enlightenment, that the inevitable result of attaining spiritual truth is that you will begin replacing parts of your body with metal and set about converting the populace to cyberform. And to be fair to Grant's
viewing reading (Kenneth Grant, not Grant Morrison), most of this is fairly well spelled out in the kabbalah, as anyone who's read Madonna's new book can agree. See? Listing the top 5 singles actually mattered this time!
Notably, what happens when the Doctor is introduced to the Cybermen's qlippothic energies? His acting quality takes an immediate dive and he begins stealing prior Doctors' catch phrases. Wait, that's a different episode. No, here, when exposed to the Cybermen's qlippothic energies, the Doctor dies, and essentially never comes back. The next time we see Hartnell in the program, he's
a senile old man in a chair reading off cue cards an embodiment of the Hermit arcana, and the next time we see the funny old man who preceded the second Doctor, he's played by a different actor. No, by any reasonable, measurable rubric, this is the episode in which the Doctor as he had existed up to that point ceased to be, and was replaced by something far stranger.
Mondas is destroyed by narrative convenience, and the Cybermen melt into nothing when this happens. The Doctor tells his companion to keep warm, collapses in the TARDIS, and is transmuted into another man. The clip is shared on Blue Peter to keep the kids not watching at home in the loop about what's going on with Doctor Who. Due to this act, the clip is all that survives of the fourth episode when the purge comes. The ramifications of this story will be felt for decades in British culture, creating the concept of regeneration and inspiring the Borg. Eventually, the monsters of this episode will return for a Big Finish audio adventure titled Spare Parts, and then depart, never to be seen again. The name will be taken up by generic stompy robot bad guys soon after the second Doctor's tenure begins.
The historical ramifications of this episode build up like vulcanized soot around it, obscuring the truth underneath forever more: that when December 1986 rolled around for real, the sentient metafiction that is Doctor Who decided to finally, actually kill itself in honor of its lost Doctor. Godspeed, you mad show.