I lost my daughters somewhere around the Marie Celeste. I put on The Chase quite rebelliously, not expecting them to pay much attention to it. Raeli, at nearly 8 years old, has been quite scathingly clear about what she thinks about black and white media.
But towards the end of the first episode it had caught their attention, with sandstorms and random tentacles and silvery aliens and Daleks bursting up out of the desert floor.
Barbara and Ian have always been good, but I enjoy them so much in these later stories where they have become such accomplished TARDIS travellers, taking their life with the Doctor for granted. Vicki is plucky as well – I love that her first response to the planet Aridius is to race across the sands to see what is over the ledge, and that Ian tromps gamely along with her.
By Episode 2 my girls were both actively watching the story with us, showing concern for Ian and his beautifully striped blazer as he was hurt in a rockfall, worrying about Barbara and Vicki, and rather delighted to discover that Daleks of the 1960’s are entertaining conversationalists. I was particularly pleased how well 3-year-old Jem was enjoying the story.
And then, by the time the actual chase through time began, they began to drift. They were distracted during most of the Empire State Building antics, and Peter Purves’ audition scene in particular (obviously the production team figured anyone who could commit so deeply to a silly role like Morton Dill was worth having around).
By the time the Daleks were clearing out the crew of the Marie Celeste, my girls were both lying on the couch in agonies, chanting “I’m bored I’m bored I’m bored.”
Me, I love The Chase. It’s one of my absolute favourites. The regularly shifting scenes mean that there’s little to no padding, and the whole concept – the Daleks have a time machine and are pursuing the Doctor and his crew from place to place, closing the time gap by a few minutes with every trip – is golden. Sure, you have to have a sense of humour to enjoy it, but it’s one that I clicked with when I was a kid and never lost along the way.
We tried again a few days later, with “Journey into Terror” (AKA the Haunted House episode). I served up dessert, and didn’t tell them I was putting it on. (Thanks to a sudden wave of nostalgia on her part, Jem was literally strapped into her stroller, a captive audience) The girls watched with some degree of fascination this time. Raeli suggested she might be scared by all the ‘nightmare’ iconography of the episode, but little Jem scoffed at her and they ended up quite enjoying it.
And just as it looks like the episode is going to sink into complete comedy… Vicki is left behind, one of my favourite OMG moments of the show. The Doctor has no control over the TARDIS in this era, and this is the only time that a character is accidentally left behind. What on earth is a girl to do?
“They left Vicki,” Jem said plaintively from her stroller.
“She must be very brave,” Raeli decided when it was revealed that Vicki had actually stowed away on the Dalek ship.
And then when the episode closed on the cliffhanger that the Daleks had created a robot version of the Doctor, both girls clamoured for another one. Which I REFUSED to let them, because it was bedtime. Victory!
I had the hang of it by Episode 5. I served it up with dinner, so that they had no choice but to eyeball the black and white goodness while eating their macaroni cheese and coleslaw. This episode is The One With The Robot Doctor, notable for its quite beautiful if surreal and stagey carnivorous jungle set (seriously, they made an entire carnivorous jungle set for a single episode!), and for the gratuitous use of a body double in the scenes where William Hartnell and his robot double go toe to toe.
“Was this filmed live?” my honey asked in fascination as they deliberately chose not to use William Hartnell in certain shots where they really could have done.
“As good as.”
While Vicki was bullied by giant land-jellyfish, and managed to reunite herself with the TARDIS crew, who promptly all lay down for a random nap, Jemima became utterly fascinated with the Daleks.By fascinated of course I mean scared, and I watched with muffled squeals of delight as she figured out all on her own what a sofa is for when there are Daleks on screen. That’s my girl! That’s how you do it!
The experiment wasn’t a total success, as the final episode with so many of my favourite bits – well, Steven Taylor, the Mechanoids and the toy panda, to name three – unfurled with no one quite paying it the appropriate amount of attention. But the battle between the Daleks and the Mechanoids certainly caught the eye of both girls, and they enjoyed the fact that they didn’t quite know which side they should be barracking for (or against).
Raeli had coped quite well with all the black and white, but was utterly baffled by the sequence of stills at the end that celebrated Barbara and Ian’s first day back on Earth. She couldn’t for the life of her see why anyone would choose to do that instead of making the pictures move. She was, however, a bit outraged that I hadn’t warned her ahead of time that it was their last story.
Never mind the fact that she hasn’t seen any of the rest of their adventures, she was sad to see Barbara and Ian go! And so (sniff) was I. It’s always nice to reacquaint myself with the original TARDIS team, and to learn that the First Doctor story that I watched and rewatched most often in my childhood is not entirely inaccessible for the kids of today.
ELSEWHERE ON 1965:
The Rescue [Wife in Space]
The Romans [Kasterborous]
The Crusade [The Memory Cheats]
There will be a bonus 1965 post on Thursday, because I accidentally wrote two!