As a huge Classic Who fan, I'll own right up to the charge of a 'great idea, indifferently executed' - I think in many ways that's always been part of its appeal to the hard-core crowd. I also wasn't entirely blown away by The Talons of Weng-Chiang
, despite being a massive Tom Baker fan - I don't mind the silly pastiche, which has always been the life-blood of Doctor Who, but to me the story was let down by making very poor use of Leela as a character. There are better Fourth Doctor stories, like The Masque of Mandragora
, The Deadly Assassin
and City of Death
The Hartnell era I must defend, though. As you know I've been watching a lot of it lately, and many of its stories are incredibly well put-together. The theatrical direction, scripting and acting which you mention were simply standard televisual practice for this period, but the ideas behind Doctor Who's stories took it into territory which had never been attempted on television before - and it shows a growing self-awareness about this which I like very much too. My view of The Space Museum
is strikingly different from yours, and I think that is largely because I am seeing it in the context of the gradual development of ideas over successive stories. Seen from that perspective, it's incredibly clever and inventive and does a great deal to develop the show and its premises.
To answer your question about the fluffs, it didn't actually go out live, but each episode was rehearsed and recorded in a single week, with the final filming usually being carried out in only a few hours. So in practice the conditions were very much like a theatrical performance, and yes - fluffs were just ridden through, as there was no time to re-record. But Hartnell is a better performer than one story might give you evidence for - The Massacre
, for example, gives him opportunities to play a completely different role, and also deliver a really cracking long speech at the end of the story, and he does both brilliantly (or at least they sound
brilliant - the original footage is unfortunately lost).
Anyway, I don't deny that production values are higher in New Who, but personally I am finding far more
in the Classic Who archives than I ever expected to. Try An Unearthly Child
, The Aztecs
, The Dalek Invasion of Earth
or The Time Meddler
before you write the Hartnell era off entirely.