Doctor Who: Marco Polo (1964)
It is a good time to be a Doctor Who fan. The 50th Anniversary is little more than a month away. The final complete story was recently released on DVD -- or at least, it was the final complete story before the recent discovery of two entire stories in a film vault in Nigeria (now due for release on disc next year, or now on iTunes for those who prefer their video downloaded!) And there are promising indications, with the recent release of one partially-lost story, and the upcoming release of another, that the BBC may intend to animate all missing episodes!
Speaking of missing episodes, Marco Polo is entirely missing; not a known skerrick exists anywhere. (As such, and as the longest missing story, there's a chance the BBC won't be getting around to animating it any time soon!) However, while the video may be lost, the audio for all missing episodes has been pieced together and restored; these stories have been released in Audio format, with narration filling in the necessary gaps in the action. I admit, despite my love of the Big Finish audio plays, I had my doubts about these restored audio episodes, but since I do want to work my way through every Doctor Who story out there (in order) I've finally had to bite the bullet and tackle this one.
And I'm glad I did. It was great!
Doctor Who: The Edge of Destruction (1964)
Wedged between the epic story of The Daleks and the upcoming epic of Marco Polo (for which, sadly, no episodes survive), The Edge of Destruction is a cheap little time-filler in which nobody leaves the ship, and no additional characters beyond the regular crew are involved. With the stories either side of it going over budget, and with a delay in the production of Marco Polo, there was the need for exactly this sort of story, and it was written at short notice.
That said, however, it is actually quite an important tale in the series, and it introduces a number of concepts which helped to expand the mythology of the show. Quite simply, as they are leaving Skaro after their encounter with the Daleks, the TARDIS shudders to a grinding halt, throwing everybody aboard violently off their feet, and delivering them to the Edge of Destruction.
Doctor Who: The Daleks (1963/64)
As I was watching this seven-episode story, I found myself pondering how exactly to summarise the story without giving any spoilers; no easy task given that each episode ends on a cliff-hanger moment. However, I’ll give it a shot!
This is, of course, the world’s introduction to the Doctor’s oldest foe, the Daleks. Seeing them here for their debut, it is easy to view them with the weight of fifty years of history, of what they would come to mean to the Doctor, and to the galaxy — and to the viewers. And while they will have plenty of future opportunities to show the full extent of their utter hatred for all non-Dalek life, some of that hatred is on display here.
Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child (1963)
This is where it all began. This is the episode that first introduced us to that interplanetary traveller known only as The Doctor. At this point, such details as "time lord"—and certainly the all-important concept of regeneration—were still years away.
The Doctor is introduced as an irascible old man who values his privacy. Against his better judgement, his grand-daughter Susan has enrolled in a local school, where her unusual mix of superior intelligence and complete ignorance of common every-day details arouses the curiosity of a pair of her teachers. Driven partly out of concern for her well-being—but mostly by said curiosity—Ian and Barbara follow her back to the junkyard where she is apparently living. Before long they decide that the old man they meet there must be holding Susan prisoner inside, of all things, a battered old police public call box, and they force their way inside.