On the planet Gallifrey, oblivious to the coming inauguration of the new President of the High Council, an author known only as the Doctor spends most of his days in an illegal Possibility Generator, researching and reliving events from the history of a primitive world called Earth, upon which his books are based. As his robotic drudge Badger tends to his needs, the Doctor stays in seclusion and fends off the recurring visits of his dreaded great-grand-uncle, Ordinal-General Quences, who has long harbored an ambition of maneuvering the Doctor into the presidency to gain prestige and influence for their family. Another member of the Doctor’s family, claiming to be his great granddaughter Susan, appears, and the Doctor learns that Susan is the new President-elect, and Quences hopes to follow her into a life of prestige. Having dreamt for years of stealing a TARDIS and fleeing Gallifrey with Susan under his wing, the Doctor finally rebels against Quences by overloading the Possibility Generator and flooding the Capitol with its alternate realities. Now, at last, perhaps the Doctor can escape his staid life – or perhaps he won’t. And perhaps Susan will come with him – or perhaps she won’t.
Cast: Geoffrey Bayldon (The Doctor), Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Derren Nesbitt (Ordinal-General Quences), Toby Longworth (Badger), Matthew Brenher (Hannibal), Ian Brooker (Surus), Nicholas Briggs (Gold Usher)
Timeline: before An Unearthly Child?
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: A brilliant tale of beginnings, endings, and what-ifs, I can’t think of a better story to lead off the Doctor Who Unbound miniseries. Is this the story of what would’ve happened if the Doctor had stayed on Gallifrey, or the story of how he and Susan did leave – or is this how things really turned out, and the entire TV series was just a dream? It’s all of the above and neither, thanks to the convention-defying structure that Auld Mortality begins to take on halfway through. With its visitation to Marc Platt’s well-imagined expansion on the TV series’ vision of Time Lord society, numerous fleeting references (though not hopelessly continuity-bound ones) to the novel “Lungbarrow”, and well-spoken pachyderms (you heard me), Auld Mortality is bursting at the seams with a sense of magic, wonder, places undiscovered, and momentous events unfolding.
At the heart of this is the brilliantly-inspired casting of Geoffrey Bayldon as the Doctor. At times he sounds so much like the late William Hartnell that it’s easy to picture Hartnell saying and doing these things – and yet it’s a better match, vocally, than Richard Hurndall was as the replacement first Doctor in The Five Doctors. Bayldon makes the part his own, without trying to sound like Hartnell, and is utterly lovable in the role. It really fits him. Making it all that much more authentic is Carole Ann Ford, the original TARDIS traveler, as Susan. Ford’s voice has aged noticeably, but then this is an adult Susan…or is it? It could go either way.
It’s a lovely story, and a very inspiring one too, really getting down to the heart of what Doctor Who is all about – live in the moment, don’t let anyone else tell you that your dreams are unreachable, and don’t consign yourself to the boring life that everyone else assures you is what you’re destined for. Even if you’re locked into what everyone else expects of you, you can still escape. Auld Mortality returned me to the childlike wonder of experiencing Doctor Who for the first time, and for that I can very enthusiastically recommend it.