This morning I embarked on a new project - to watch every single (existing) episode of Doctor Who, in order, while walking on a treadmill. The idea came to me a few days ago, as I pondered a few things.
- I feel blah, and have for quite a while. For a long time I used the treadmill every day and felt progressively better over time, but that was disrupted over a year ago when my (autistic) son aged out of the school system. That completely fragmented my daily routine, which was reinforced by a very stressful work schedule plus some other personal issues. I have known for a while now that I needed to get back at it, and to make the time regardless of my chaotic schedule. "Knowing" and "doing" are two very different things, though.
- For years I have collected Doctor Who DVDs. I've been at it for around ten years now, maybe more, and at this point I have amassed a complete run of every Doctor except Tom Baker. I countinue to fill in that middle area. This is becoming more difficult, as more and more episodes are being allowed to go out of print in the North American market as existing supplies are depleted. I have literally hundreds of discs of Doctor Who, taking up nearly seven feet of shelf space. But when am I ever going to find the time to watch them?
Somewhere over the weekend, those two completely unrelated facts collided and presented the perfect opportunity. As of this writing, there have been 264 individual stories aired since 1963. The vast majority of those are from the Classic era of the first seven Doctors, where most of the stories are comprised of multiple half hour episodes. I could spend an hour a day on the treadmill watching these episodes, and it will take me at least two years to finish watching them all.
So the goal is spend at least part of each day getting exercise and watching Doctor Who, and over the course of a few years to regenerate from a fat geek into a not-so-fat geek. I don't care about any particular goal weight, I don't want to be "skinny" or "healthy" (whatever that means). I just want to feel good about myself physically and mentally. I know empirically from my own past history that I feel best when I get some exercise every day, and I am most likely to stay committed to that daily exercise if I wrap it up into a measurable project. So here we go!
An Unearthly Child
What to say about this classic episode? This morning I watched both the original unaired version, and then the actual broadcast version that was shot two weeks later. There is a very interesting history as to why the first episode wound up being re-shot, which was highly unusual at the time. If you are interested in that story, and of the entire genesis of the show, I can highly recommend An Adventure in Space and Time, a drama produced by the BBC as part of the 50th anniversary of the show that dramatizes the creation and production of the initial William Hartnell era.
Half a century later, the first episode still holds up well. Most of the differences between the two versions of the episode come down to performance choices by the actors - most notably in how the Doctor is introduced.
In the unaired version the Doctor is portrayed as antagonistic, argumentative, and smugly dismissive of teachers Barbara and Ian. In the version ultimately broadcast, he is played more as being amused by the interlopers than anything else. It is not so much a dramatic shift, but rather a general softening of the character to make him less off-putting.
There is a weird inkblot thing that Susan does in the unaired version that is rightly excised from the second take, and a general tightening of the earlier scenes to allow more space for exposition in the big TARDIS reveal.
The trivial thing that really jumped out at me, though, was that in the unaired version when we first see the police box in the junkyard, the St. John's badge on the right door is brightly visible. The second time around, at first I thought the badge was removed completely because it was not visible in the dim light. It turned out to still be there, but was now very subdued and blended into the dark background color. Over the years that badge comes and goes, disappearing completely for quite a while. But there it is, right at the beginning.
On the whole, I still enjoy this episode as much today as I ever have. I like character-based stories, and everything about this episode is geared to introduce you to all of the main characters. Mysterious Stranger, Exotic Schoolgirl, Man of Action, Curious Woman -- throw in a combination time machine and spaceship, and you have everything you need. The stories practically write themselves.
Unfortunately, I know that the next three half-hour episodes are all a crappy caveman story to slog through before we get to the Daleks.
Companion(s): Ian Chesterton, Susan Foreman, Barbara Wright
Episode(s): An Unearthly Child (first unaired recording), An Unearthly Child (broadcast version)
Steps Walked: 5,649 today, 5,649 total
Distance Walked: 2.4 miles today, 2.4 miles total
Weight: 307.3 lbs