Though much of the acting was good, it can hardly be said that the enormously popular British sci-fi television series Doctor Who suffered from a budget surfeit. For all the handicaps under which the show labored in its early years (threatened constantly by cancellation, strangled by budget overruns, almost toppled in the stylistic left turn involved when it went immediately from being an educational program to being an adventure series) it turned out remarkably well overall.
Doctor Who: The Hartnell Years is a fascinating tape because it manages, over its course, to provide insights into the beginnings of the show -- aside from Sylvester McCoy's sometimes blunt narration, there is the original recording of the pilot show, "An Unearthly Child." Rejected for being too harsh, with the Doctor portrayed almost as a villain, the original pilot is an intriguing curiosity for its differences. Originally, the producers were quite specific about the time and place from which the Doctor and his granddaughter hailed -- this was finally abandoned in favor of making the characters as mysterious as possible to the humans who stumbled into their lives, and the viewers who watched the show. The tape also includes a snippet from a show dubbed into Arabic -- while from a highly dramatic show, the mix of Hartnell's overdone acting and the frenetic Arabic dubbing is nothing short of hilarious. Also available for the curious are a couple of orphaned episodes, including the lone survivor from "The Crusades." Overall, an entertaining and fascinating release. ~ Steven E. McDonald, Rovi