|A Glimpse Of The Hartnell Era
||[Jul. 17th, 2012|11:33 am]
I'm sorry, but William Hartnell's Doctor annoys me. He can be fierce, commanding, sinister, but then he'll go off on his silly old man riff- humming and hawing and cackling and repeating himself and calling people "my boy" and "my dear"- and I just can't stand it. |
I started watching The Time Meddler because the premise looked good. The Meddling Monk is a rogue Time Lord, holed up in the 11th century, who broadcasts plainsong through the horn of an ancient gramophone to make the scruffy local Saxons think he's got his brothers with him- which is cool. Also he's played by Peter Butterworth- an engaging, minor funnyman who did a lot of kids' TV and appeared in most of the Carry On films- and that's cool too. (I looked Butterworth up on Wikipedia. He was a wartime naval officer- and a persistent escaper from German prisoner of war camps. He auditioned for the movie The Wooden Horse- about a famous escape he took part in- and they wouldn't have him because he was too tubby and genial to play a war hero. That generation really was a bit special.)
I was right about Butterworth: He's a good actor; he underplays. Maureen O'Brien as Vicki, the female companion, is fine too. But then there's Peter Purves (later a Blue Peter presenter) as the male companion- a modern young man with a quiff and too much testosterone- and he's ghastly. I watched a couple of episodes and nothing much happened and the scruffy Saxons were tiresome and Hartnell and Purves were given lots of space to be annoying in. Then the Vikings turned up- at long last (what kept them?)- but I'd had enough and really couldn't be bothered to watch any more.
It's a pity you didn't like it but I can see why.
My favourite Hartnell story is The Rescue. It's Vicki's introduction story, it's only two episodes long, and while it has some silly stuff it also has good character exploration and a barely concealed allegory about in-family abuse. And it lets Hartnell be fierce and grandfatherly.
Barbara, Ian and Vicki are a great companion lineup. I think after Barbara and Ian leave the companions get really soggy and namby pamby for a long time, terrible 'let's remember we're writing for children' stuff.
I also enjoy The Romans, which has a weird combination of Carry On storyline and serious storyline about slavery, and let's Hartnell do his best comic acting. And I get kicks out of The Chase but many loathe it. The Chase is the third Dalek story and already it is full of self-parody. (I know you're avoiding Dalek stories.)
Maybe the difference between Hartnell and Troughton is one of the sharpest in the development of the show. You can still see so much of the live-to-air TV-play world in the Hartnell years.
I may try some more Hartnell. It's just that some of his mannerisms affect me like nails scraping down a blackboard.
When he's flubbing his lines and getting palpably frustrated about it, I find it difficult to watch. (Although it's nice when the other actors do a good job smoothing it over.)
He can be fierce, commanding, sinister, but then he'll go off on his silly old man riff- humming and hawing and cackling and repeating himself and calling people "my boy" and "my dear"- and I just can't stand it.
I saw William Hartnell last year in a British noir called Escape (1948) starring Rex Harrison as an escaped convict. Hartnell is the policeman on the case; he's not the kind of movie nemesis who'll suddenly let his man off for sentimental reasons, but neither is he (though he presents himself as, a kind of professional misdirection) the public servant who's paid not to think. I'd never seen him outside of the First Doctor. At age forty, he had a clean-lined face with whimsical corners, so that you cannot tell whether his Inspector Harris will turn out to be a good cop or a fool, and the kind of soft dark lashes that were insultingly considered wasted on men. He has a mild, affable way of conversing, but shows no more personal reaction than the occasional peak of his eyebrows until the telephone conversation where one of Matt Denant (Harrison)'s friends betrays him for the reward money; Harris hangs up on him nicely and turns to go, remarking meditatively to no one in particular that he wishes sometimes he'd gone into another field, "like poetry." And then, suddenly, savagely, "Or dentistry." He got my attention.
He didn't get my attention as Doctor Who, though, because I can't remember anything about the episodes I saw him in. I just remember I was surprised to see him young.
He auditioned for the movie The Wooden Horse- about a famous escape he took part in- and they wouldn't have him because he was too tubby and genial to play a war hero.
I remember that! And it's otherwise a very good, low-key war film, I think the earliest of the POW escape cycle, with a rare leading role for Leo Genn. No points.
He was in a lot of cheap British movies and one or two classics. In Brighton Rock he plays Richard Attenborough's side-kick- an ageing spiv in a loud check jacket. In Odd Man Out he's a brutal publican. He makes an impression in both roles.
He was a good actor. I've liked him in everything I've seen him in- except Dr Who.
In Brighton Rock he plays Richard Attenborough's side-kick- an ageing spiv in a loud check jacket. In Odd Man Out he's a brutal publican. He makes an impression in both roles.
I have yet to see Brighton Rock; I don't remember him at all from Odd Man Out! He must be something of a chameleon. I'll look for the one and happily rewatch the other.
I've liked him in everything I've seen him in- except Dr Who.
I'm sorry it's the role with which he's most popularly identified . . .
He's young and vigorous in Odd Man Out.
He looks like he should have played Scrooge at one point or another in his life.
I don't think he ever did.
Dr Who was something of an aberration in his career. He spent most of his working life playing criminals and drill sergeants.
Hartnell was best when he was in crusty, lapel-clutching mode. As a dodderer? Meh.
I saw The Time Meddler quite a while back. I think I enjoyed it. The Monk's rather more likeable than the First Doctor, as I recall.
The Monk is a real charmer.
By the way, thanks for the post on Castrovalva - I hunted that down at the weekend and was thoroughly entertained.