It's 1986. Two astronauts in the Zeus IV space capsule relay photos back to their base, code-named Snowcap, buried under the Antarctic snow. Everything is going smoothly until one of the soldiers at Earth base looks through his periscope to the snowstormed continent surface and sees - a pretty woman!
It's Polly! She, Ben and the Doctor just landed in the TARDIS, and decided to explore. In short order, soldiers appear from a hatch and take our trio down into the buried base. They're at the South Pole Base of International Space Command, and the suspicious C.O., General Cutler, doesn't buy their story of landing in "a sort of spaceship".
However, the General has more to worry about. The Doctor informs him that a 10th planet has appeared. Not only is its gravitational pull affecting Zeus IV, but it is draining the power from the capsule, endangering the astronauts.
Before you can say "cyber-bully", three robot-like aliens infiltrate and take over the base. Their leader, Krail, explains that the new planet is Mondas, their home. "Eons ago, our planets were twins. We drifted away from you on a journey to the edge of space. Now we have returned.... We are called Cybermen.... We were exactly like you once, but our cybernetic scientists realized that our race was getting weak."
The news only gets worse, as Krail continues: "The energy of Mondas is nearly exhausted and now returns to its twin and will gather energy from Earth... until it is all gone.... Everything on Earth will stop." But never fear, the cybermen will save some of the humans - to take back to Mondas for conversion into cybermen.
If ever the Doctor was needed to save Earth, this is it. Unfortunately, at the beginning of Episode 3, the Doctor collapses. It's time for humans to step up and save themselves.
"The Tenth Planet" is a four-part serial that first aired in October 1966. It is not the best of Classic Dr. Who, but it is famous (among Whovians) for showing the very first regeneration of a Time Lord. It's supposed to take place in the then far-future of 1986!
The video for Episode 4 has been long lost, though the BBC does have a full audio track. "The Tenth Planet" was issued on VHS in 2001. For the VHS, episode 4 was reconstructed using "telesnaps", a combination of still photos, the few existing clips and the surviving audio soundtrack.
The November, 2013, 2-disc DVD release of "The Tenth Planet" is the 1st time this series has been on DVD. Both video and sound are fully restored and English subtitles are available throughout. The four episodes (including animation) aggregate to 93 minutes of highly anticipated Whovian viewing. This series is worth buying just to see how the Cybermen first looked - basically white stockings over their heads with tinny voices.
For this DVD release, Episode 4 will be animated, and synched with the original audio track, by Planet 55 Studios, the same company that animated "Reign of Terror".
[Added after my DVD was received and viewed] I think the animated episode turned out great. The Cybermen, in particular, look fantasic. The animation has a modern graphic novel-style feel to it that I like. The regeneration at the very end is also totally animated; they did not try to fuse in the short video of the regeneration that survives.
The sound may have been restored for all four episodes, but I thought it was still pretty fuzzy for most except the animated episode.
Trivia: This is the only Cyberman episode where individual cybermen have names. Also, in the next Doctor Who serial, "The Power of the Daleks", which is Troughton's first series as the Doctor, he describes himself as "renewed". The term regeneration isn't used until "Planet of the Spiders" (1974), which was Jon Pertwee's last Doctor Who serial.
The Commentary Track is extra #5 on Disc 1. I thought it was very good. Toby Hadoke moderates. Commentators include Christopher Matthews (plays radar technician), Anneke Wells (plays Polly), Gregg Palmer aka Donald Van Der Maaten (plays two Cybermen, Shav and Gern), Earl Cameron (94 years-old! plays the astronaut Williams), Alan White (plays the astronaut Shultz) and Christopher Dunham (plays R/T technician). There are also excerpts from Hadoke's interview with Peter Kindred (designer).
Cameron says: "It was slightly surprising that they should have a black astronaut at that time. The world has changed a lot since then. We're going back about fifty years ago, of course."
During the scenes with the astronauts moving slo-mo, Anneke talks about working on a show with astronauts 3 years before the first real moon landing: "One of the things that I loved when we worked on this, was that we were so proud because we had Kit Pedler. He knew exactly how the suits should be, how the movements should be. He was our resident whiz kid, beause he was probably the only person at the BBC at the time, who actually had the knowledge of what was going on within the space circles, which was completely fresh. Now, you know, we expect to see these things, but in those days, we'd never seen anything like it. We were terribly proud of it."
It was humorous (though maybe not to him), when Gregg Palmer states that he is NOT the American actor, Gregg Palmer, who had a small part in a Star Trek episode. Wikipedia had it wrong for a long time, but now with this release, perhaps that will remain corrected.
The Cybermen suits were very warm. Palmer: "That's why one of the Cybermen fainted." In watching my DVD the first time, I missed it. Second time through (with the commentary), I finally saw it. When the 2nd wave of Cybermen land, in episode 3, they approach the base in a line trudging through the snow. Towards the left side, one faints just before the scene cuts.
Disc 1 Bonus Extras:
1. "Frozen Out: The Making of the Tenth Planet" (29 minutes) Commentators include Anneke Wills, Earl Cameron, Reg Whitehead (plays Cybermen Krail and Jarl), Peter Kindred and Shirley Coward (vision mixer). This has a very interesting look at the gamble the producers took trying to continue the show with an actor replacing William Hartnell, who was much loved by audiences.
Shirley worked on the regeneration sequence and talks about the process. Anneke says, "We thought it was blooming magic!"
2. Episode 4 VHS Reconstruction (24 minutes) From the 2000 VHS release. The clips used were 8 mm film recordings made by fans and a 16mm film clip of the regeneration itself, which survived because it was used in a 1973 episode of the "Blue Peter" TV show (see disc 2, extra 12). These were included the 2004 DVD "Lost in Time: Collection of Rare Episodes: The William Hartnell Years". The regeneration clip was also released as a special feature on the DVD releases of "The Three Doctors" and "Castrovalva". All clips are very short, but you do get to see William Hartnell collapse to the floor and be flooded by a bright light as his face changes to that of Patrick Troughton.
3. Photo Gallery (3.5 minutes)
4. PDF Materials: Radio Times Listing
5. Audio Options. A Commentary track is available for episodes 1-3, but not the animated episode 4.
6. Information Text by Stephen James Walker. This is available on only episodes 1-3. Tidbits I didn't notice on my own. "In his final story, William Hartnell's Doctor dons clothes like those worn in his first episode: cloak, scarf and Astrakhan hat."
7. Coming Soon Trailer for the 2014 DVD release of "The Moonbase". Whoo Hoo!!
Disc 2 Bonus Extras:
7. "Points West: William Hartnell Interview" (3 minutes) A few months after "The Tenth Planet" aired in 1966, William Hartnell was interviewed by BBC Bristol for an episode of "Points West". He was touring in a children's Christmas pantomime titled "Puss in Boots" and is filmed in his dressing room. Cementing his image as a grumpy old man, for me, he speaks disparagingly of pantomime actors, making it clear that he is not one of them!
8. "Doctor Who Stories: Anneke Wills" (13 minutes) This interview was originally aired in 2003 as part of "Story of Doctor Who". She is frank about saying that Hartnell was difficult to work with and Troughton was lovely to work with.
9. "The Golden Age" (16 minutes) Dominic Sandbrook examines whether or not Doctor Who had a Golden Age, or are we just remembering with rose-colored glasses.
10. "Boys! Boys! Boys!" (19.5 minutes) This is a casual interview with Peter Purves (plays Steven Taylor), Frazer Hines (plays Jamie McCrimmon) and Mark Strickson (plays Vislor Turlough). They were companions to the 1st, 2nd and 5th Doctors.
11. "Companion Piece" (24 minutes) Commentators include William Russell (plays Ian Chesterson), Elisabeth Sladen (plays Sarah Jane), Louise Jameson (plays Leela), Nicola Bryant (plays Peri), Arthur Darvill (plays Rory), Nev Fountain (writer), Joseph Lidster (writer) and Dr. Tomas Charmorro-Premuzic (psychologist). The topic of this feature is what it takes and what it costs to be a Doctor Who companion.
It starts off with a photo montage of companions over the years, and in the middle is a funny video clip of Sarah Jane in "The Hand of Fear" (1976) talking to herself and getting as irate as she ever has: "I must be mad. I'm sick of being cold and wet and hypnotized left, right and center. I'm sick of being shot at, savaged by bug-eyed monsters. Never knowing if I'm coming or going or BEING. And boy am I SICK of that sonic screwdriver!"
Fountain muses: "If they [companions] did react normally, if Dr. Who was real, they'd be screaming and wetting themselves and creeping and hiding, as far in the ship as they possibly could - by story two!"
12. "Blue Peter: Doctor Who's Tenth Anniversary" (9 minutes) This 1973 segment of the children's show had clips from six Doctor Who series, including William Hartnell's regeneration in "The Tenth Planet".