Brainy Specs! We've Got Brainy Specs!!
Look, here's the deal: Today has been a long day of work, plus a theatrical performance, plus a software release, and now it's almost midnight and I want to go to bed. But I'll write this up all quick-like first.
So let's talk about the very first Fifth Doctor episodes.
Castrovalva - Parts 1 & 2
(TARDIS Data Core recap)
Right off the bat, the first episode surprises by having a pre-credits scene for the first time in the history of Doctor Who. It's a standard thing in the modern series, but for Classic Who it was a real surprise to not start off with the familiar opening credits. It is basically a re-staging of the end of the last episode and the regeneration. After the credits, the plot hinges around the fact that the regeneration has gone poorly. The Doctor is confused and unstable, and mentally drifting between his different incarnations. He makes multiple references to past companions, and at turns his physicality and speech patterns shift between his previous identities. As this is happening the Master kidnaps Adric, leaving Tegan and Nyssa to deal with the Doctor on their own.
Even worse, the TARDIS is hurtling backwards in time - relentlessly heading towards "Event One", a.k.a. the Big Bang. As I am sure you will recall, this same thing happened way back in The Edge of Destruction, and the TARDIS doesn't like it any more in 1981 than it did in 1963. The only kind-of good news is that the intense heat as the TARDIS nears its doom is enough to snap the Doctor into mental shape for a few minutes, which is when he whips out the Brainy Specs and rapidly sorts out how to avoid certain doom -- by jettisoning about 25% of the TARDIS' interior in order to generate enough energy to escape the hydrogen influx and bounce forward to safety.
Unfortunately, one of the rooms that gets jettisoned is the Zero Room, which the Doctor needs to be able to heal properly. Failing that, Tegan and Nyssa consult the TARDIS data files and find a place called Castrovalva that could provide the environment needed to set the regeneration back on track. As a stop-gap, Nyssa builds a sort-of Zero Coffin out of the Zero Room doors, and the Doctor crawls inside. Upon their arrival at Castrovalva, though, the Doctor disappears from the Zero-Coffin as Tegan and Nyssa are seeking help. They return to find an empty box, and what appears to be the Doctor's blood. Oh no!
This was a great introduction for Peter Davison in the role of the Doctor. Apparently the bits with him behaving like past incarnations came about entirely because he stared doing impersonations of them on set. Although this was his first story aired, it was actually the fourth one filmed due to issues with the originally-planned season opener. That being the case, script editor and writer Christopher Bidmead got to incorporate a lot of cool things into the story based on Davison's performances in the next three.
But no joke - when the Brainy Specs came out for the first time I squealed like the fanboy I am. It was a glorious moment, and one day into it I am 100% on board with this Doctor.
Companion(s): Adric, Nyssa, Tegan
Episode(s): Castrovalva - Parts 1 & 2
Steps Walked: 7,700 today, 1,935,450 total
Distance Walked: 4.39 miles today, 984.31 miles total
Weight: 248.24 lbs (five day moving average), net change -59.06 lbs