It is appropriate that I have reached the episode “The Daleks’ Master Plan” from the William Hartnell era. In addition to being something of an epic – it had twelve parts! – it also can be said to be or at least contain the first “Doctor Who Christmas Special” – a tradition that continues to the present day, with fans eagerly awaiting this year’s Christmas special, “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.”
Since this is a lost episode, you can only see reconstructions and animations, not the actual episode with video. Here are two versions of the moment when the Doctor suddenly turns and wishes a happy Christmas to viewers at home.
The episode picks up where The Myth Makers left off, with Vicky having been left behind and Katarina having ended up on board. At the end of that episode, Katarina had assumed that the Doctor was a god, and William Hartnell actually flubs the line with which he responds slightly, although one won’t notice it unless one is listening closely for it. He says “You must call me Doctor, I’m not a dog. I’m not a god.” Hartnell was experiencing the onset of as yet undiagnosed multiple sclerosis, and would soon have to leave the show.When Katarina sacrifices herself for the sake of others, the Doctor says that he will always remember her as a “daughter of the gods.”
While much of the story focuses on the Doctor’s efforts to prevent the Daleks from completing, or using once completed, a powerful weapon called the “time destructor,” in his unpredictable jumps through time and space, one place that he and his companions end up is Hollywood, where they land in the middle of the filming of the Keystone Kops.
When the Doctor met a clown (Bing Crosby!) on the set in Hollywood, I found myself thinking of the clown who appears in “The God Complex.” I wonder whether the clown in the room is not an expression of the fear of one or more of the writers that Doctor Who is nothing more at the end of the day than a ridiculous bit of clowning around across time and space. The second Doctor would play the buffoon even more than the first, and the fourth Doctor actually put on a clown’s costume among the outfits he tried before settling on his famous outfit with its famous scarf. And do we really need to mention what the sixth Doctor wore? William Hartnell was more famous as a comic actor than anything else. Some would say that Doctor Who only really works if one considers it to be not entirely serious.
Whatever one thinks, the story of “The Daleks’ Master Plan” covers the show’s full scope, from the terrifying and deadly to the silly and comical. And of course, the Christmasy.