The Tenth Planet (1966)

This story is quite a famous story for those Doctor Who fans. It would have to be to be ranked 55th in the Mighty 200. This is a surprising fact considering that he only appears in three of the four episodes and one of those no longer exists on video. The first thing is that it marks the final regular appearance of William Hartnell. He would later make a brief appearance in The Three Doctors (1973). It also marks the first appearance of the Cybermen.

The story is set in a base in the Antarctic. The Doctor, Ben and Polly arrive just as a new planet suddenly appears which is set twenty years in the future and also is linked to the 1985 adventure Attack of the Cybermen. As soon as the main cast moves into the control centre they meet General Cutler who is instantly one of those people who won’t listen to anyone else because he is a control freak. The Doctor makes a remark that as Mondas is absorbing the Earth’s energy it will absorb too much and destroy itself but Cutler doesn’t want to wait. The story does try and give a justification for General Cutler’s pursuit of destroying Mondas with the Z Bomb. His son has been sent up to try and rescue the two astronauts that we saw at the beginning of Episode one but are killed due to something to do with Mondas. I really like the isolated base idea because you know that the action will just take place in this one base and it creates a claustrophobic atmosphere. Tomb of the Cybermen, The Moonbase, Horror of Fang Rock and the Wheel in Space are stories that have just the one location and the plot can be a flimsy as you like there is a fair chance I will like it purely because of the isolation setting.

Now as I mentioned, the Cybermen make their debut and for those newer fans it might seem odd the way they are talking. Essentially the actor just opens his mouth why Roy ‘voice of Zippy from Rainbow’ Skelton does an up and down electronic voice. It’s not as effective as the Daleks but to be honest that’s redundant because the look of them is just brilliant. They look more human than they ever do in future Doctor Who stories and despite their probably being only a few Cybermen they still have a formidable presence about them. They are only defeated by something that neither they nor anyone else can do anything about. The cliffhanger to Episode one is one of those great Doctor Who cliffhangers. The simple sight of a Cyberman just looking at the camera with essentially a cloth over the actors face is just creepy. The few moments set in the snow are brilliantly created and well directed. It would have been nice to have a few more scenes there because they were atmospheric.

This story is also a sad one because it is obviously William Hartnell’s last story. He was getting ill at this point and his decision to quit was obviously a good one. He is absent from Episode 3 and he does look quite frail at this point. Every time I saw him on screen I just felt sad because when I think of his earlier stories like Inside the Spaceship and Dalek Invasion of Earth, he was so full of life and even though he did bumble the odd line it was what made his stories have a bit of enjoyment about them. As a final story it’s not perhaps the one it should have been and that’s the main problem with it. It’s fair to say that had the producers known how important the final story would be then it probably would have been more dramatic. But I still think that The Tenth Planet is a cracking adventure with a very dramatic and atmospheric setting and very good characters.


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