The TARDIS arrives at a military base on the South Pole in 1986. The base is routinely tracking a spacecraft in orbit when odd things begin to occur. A trio of oddly-dressed people suddenly appear outside, emerging from a police box, and observatories (and the orbiting capsule) spot the approach of a planet which is identical in mass and geography to Earth. A spaceship from that planet lands at the polar base, and cybernetically augmented humans – Cybermen – emerge to take control. Their world, Mondas, was thrown out of its orbit around the sun long ago, forcing its inhabitants to turn to cybernetics to preserve their species. Now, having succumbed entirely to the machinery that was only intended to extend their lives, the Cybermen face another kind of extinction. Mondas is a dying planet, and the Cybermen hope to colonize Earth for its resources…and its population. The Doctor seems to know about Mondas and its people already…but he also seems to have a premonition of something else, a momentous change that could render him helpless in the ensuing battle with the emotionless Cybermen.
Guest Cast: Robert Beatty (General Cutler), Dudley Jones (Dyson), David Dodinhead (Barclay), Alan White (Schultz), Earl Cameron (Williams), Shane Shelton (Tito), John Brandon (Sergeant), Steve Plytas (Wigner), Christopher Matthews (Radar technician), Reg Whitehead (Krail), Harry Brooks (Talon), Ellen Cullen (Technician), Glenn Beck (Announcer), Callen Angelo (Terry Cutler), Christopher Dunham (R/T technician), Nicholas Edwards (R/T technician), Harry Brooks (Krang), Reg Whitehead (Jarl), Gregg Palmer (Gern/Shav), Peter Hawkins (Cyberman voices), Roy Skelton (Cyberman voices), Bruce Wells (Cyberman), John Haines (Cyberman), John Knott (Cyberman), Sheila Knight (Secretary)
Broadcast from October 8 through 29, 1966
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Lost to the eyes of everyone except video pirates for over three decades, the final adventure of William Hartnell’s Doctor packs quite a punch and stands up well. Now, yes, this is the one where the Cybermen are basically guys in body stockings with floodlights on their heads, and their voices are almost laughable at times. But other than the production values – and remember that this was top-of-the-line stuff in ’66 – Tenth Planet is an exciting and tense slice of vintage Doctor Who.
One thing startled me here: the Doctor arrives out of nowhere just before things get hectic, with extensive foreknowledge of the situation. Remind you of any other eras in the show’s history? It really struck me as the sort of thing that Sylvester McCoy often did as the seventh incarnation of the Doctor toward the end of the show’s run. That element of the story intrigued me a great deal.
Another compelling reason to watch Tenth Planet – perhaps even moreso than the debut of the Cybermen – is the regeneration. At the end of part four, almost without warning (as opposed to later years, when virtually everyone watching knew when the outgoing Doctor would hand the torch to his successor onscreeen), the Doctor rushes back to the TARDIS, weakened by the recent struggle. He falls to the floor and changes with no warning or explanation, and truth be told, I’m sure the audience must have been more than a little confused about what was going on back in 1966.
The restoration of episode four on the VHS release, whose absence is the only thing that has kept Tenth Planet from being released on video before now, was accomplished with a great many still photos from the episode as well as a few snippets of surviving film. The regeneration scene – the first in the series’ history – was preserved particularly well. Some fans may be a little disappointed that this historic fourth episode is reduced almost to a radio show…but it’s a quantum leap beyond what has gone before. The first “incomplete” story released on video, 1968’s The Invasion (another Cybermen outing, coincidentally), had its two missing episodes filled in by Nicholas Courtney’s pleasant narration, similar to the approach taken with the 1979 epic Shada, which never finished filming. By contrast, the most recent incomplete release prior to Tenth Planet, The Ice Warriors, cleverly linked its missing segments with a small-scale reconstruction. For those who aren’t satisfied: it’s better than nothing. And when Doctor Who was only in production as an audio entity for the longest time anyway, it’s somehow fitting.