When Doctor Who was only on TV via UK Gold, I watched the series constantly and barring certain stories such as the Dalek serials, saw from Tom Baker's first to Sylvester McCoy's last several times. This was the time when I became a true fan of the series.
Then after many, many months, Jon Pertwee's era was added to the run. I was delighted. Another part of Who's long history was opened up to me. But I always knew there was an era of this wonderful show that was denied to me and that was the black and white era of Doctor Who.
Those years of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton were, to me, never to be seen. Due to the sadly many missing episodes/stories, and the haphazard continuity showing the surviving stories would cause, the Hartnell and Troughton stories were rarely, if ever, to my knowledge, shown on UK Gold or mainstream BBC.
I had enjoyed the glimpses of this era in the later stories such as 'Mawdryn Undead' and Patrick Troughton in the Multi Doctor Adventures he appeared in always enthralled me, but I really wanted to see him and William in their own times as it were.
As the audio releases of 'lost stories' came out I snapped them up. Then I finally saw a Hartnell story. 'The Time Meddler'. What a wonderful two hours of TV it was. I adored it. and wanted more!
When my mum went on a trip to London, I begged her to buy me a black and white Doctor Who video and she did. She brought back 'An Unearthly Child'.
I watched it that night and that first episode just transfixed me, as I know it did to viewers in 1963. I had fallen in love with this era.
The DVD releases have steadily come out over the last few years and I have always been keener to get one if it is an unseen (to me) black and white story.
Across the special features of the DVDs I already had there were often clips of the Hartnell/Troughton era, and to sit and watch a full, never seen before story (to me) is always a pleasure and a joy. Even in 2013 I'm still discovering these black and white Doctor Who adventures.
To see again a black and white story broadcast all those years ago. There is always something so magical about them. It saddens me to see modern day Doctor Who fans ignore these classics despite clips and images used in the current series. William Hartnell was in the first Matt Smith series four times! So I say embrace them. These stories are the groundwork for the modern episodes we see today. I understand to some used to the fast paced, over in 45 minutes series, that these black and white stories are slower and can take up to three hours to tell.
But don't ignore them. Some of the best stories and most remembered cliffhangers of Who history are there. It is no less shocking to see the Doctor or a companion in danger, or the reveal of a monster in simple black and white. The Dalek rising from the Thames or the Cybermen breaking out from their tombs would not be half as scary in colour.
So the next time you get the chance to watch a Doctor Who, give a classic black and white story another chance. The magic of the police box with the most beautiful, timeless and iconic inside is no less wonderful in monochrome.
Join the journey from a junkyard in London 1963 to our hero forced by his own people into changing. You never know. You might find yourself a gem or two. I did.
Neil Baird, 2012
For more stories on how Doctor Who can change lives, check out these links:
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