TV Series

Doctor Who Christmas Special: Everything you need to know about ‘The Tenth Planet’

By Cameron McEwan

We are less than a week away from the Doctor Who 2017 Christmas Special, Twice Upon A Time. Featuring Peter Capaldi in his last outing as the Twelfth Doctor, the story from Steven Moffat includes the return of the First Doctor, as played by David Bradley.

Read more about Twice Upon A Time here.

The yuletide yarn also goes back to 1966 to recreates scenes from The Tenth Planet, a four-part Doctor Who four-parter with the First Doctor, and companions Polly and Ben.

Many of you may not have seen this classic adventure, so here’s everything you need to know about the First Doctor’s final story…

The Tenth Planet

First aired: 8 - 29 October 1966
Written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis
Directed by Derek Martinus
Starring William Hartnell as the First Doctor, Anneke Wills as Polly, and Michael Craze as Ben.

++ IT’S SET IN THE FUTURE - 1986! ++
Back in 1966, when the story was originally broadcast, 1986 seemed like the far off future. In The Tenth Planet, International Space Command have sent the ship Zeus IV for routine atmospheric testing when they uncover a new planet making its way towards Earth (more of this later).

When 1986 actually came round, Colin Baker was playing the Sixth Doctor. Attack of the Cybermen, which aired in 1985, saw the Time Lord face his silver nemeses once more and took him and companion Peri to the adopted Cyber-homeworld, Telos.

At the time of writing, December 2017, our Solar System has eight planets but when The Tenth Planet aired (and, indeed, when it was set), we had nine. Older readers may remember a time when Pluto was a planet. Sadly, in 2006, that little guy was demoted to a mere “dwarf planet”.

Mondas, the home planet of the Cybermen, had entered our Solar System and was making its way towards Earth – and thus the titular tenth. Cited as our “twin planet”, Mondas was identical to Earth and had drifted aeons ago but was on its way back to cause havoc…

This year’s Doctor Who finale, World Enough And Time / The Doctor Falls, saw the return of the Cybermen. Not only that, it was a return for the original Cybermen from Mondas, as seen in their debut story, The Tenth Planet. These creations featured the more traditional cloth faces as opposed to the more familiar silver helmets.

Interestingly, in The Tenth Planet each Cyberman has an individual name, such as Talon, Krail, Krang and Shav, unlike the ranked names given in subsequent adventures like Cyberleader or Cybercontroller.

We learn that they were once exactly like us but there race was becoming weak with a shorter lifespan. Cybernetic scientists used spare parts to replace body parts and removed emotions. Speaking of which…

Twice Upon A Time revisits a few moments from The Tenth Planet including this classic moment from the First Doctor in which he questions the very existence and purpose of the Cybermen.

Even in his younger years, the Doctor was prone to beautiful speech-making.

The final part, number four, of the The Tenth Planet is not available in its original form. During the Seventies, the BBC destroyed much of their output, including dozens of Doctor Who episodes.

As the original audio soundtrack existed, Part Four was animated and released on DVD, completing the story. You can check out all the details for The Tenth Planet on DVD

If you’ve seen The Tenth Planet you’ll know that the third episode doesn’t feature the Doctor. Just days before the instalment was due to be filmed, William Hartnell informed the production team he was too ill to take part. The script was rewritten to accommodate this late change; we see the Doctor collapsing, passing out and then taken to a bunk to sit the rest of the episode out.

Of course, this connects neatly with the fact that in the next episode the Time Lord admits his old body is “wearing thin” – which leads to an iconic first for the show…

Except it wasn’t called “regeneration” here. That term wasn’t coined in Doctor Who to explain the change in the Doctor’s appearance until the Third Doctor’s final story, the 1974 epic Planet of the Spiders.

In The Tenth Planet, the Doctor senses the change coming. When asked about his bout of illness, he tells Polly:

“Comes from an outside influence. Unless this old body of mine is wearing a bit thin.”

By the end of the episode, we find the First Doctor in a heap on the TARDIS console room floor and we witness, for the first time, his face change – from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton.

And so was born one of Doctor Who’s most familiar tropes, regeneration.

Twice Upon A Time airs from Dec 25The Tenth Planet is available on DVD and download.

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