Doctor Who A to Z: B is for Black & White Episodes

Inspired by a series of Facebook posts that I saw, we are going to run through an alphabetical series of Doctor Who-related themes. Today we continue this with the letter B…

(Daily Doctor Who #272)

Black & White Episodes

The idea is to just pick a favorite. Doctor Who was all in black and white for its first six seasons, and those seasons each had more episodes than any of the seasons that have come since. So all told, that’s 253 black and white episodes of the show. It wasn’t until Season 17 that the color episode count caught up, in the midst of Destiny of the Daleks.

I haven’t seen a lot of these episodes–many of them I’ll probably never see, at least in the way they were originally intended (thanks to the fact that they no longer exist in the BBC archives). But a lot I have seen, and a lot I have enjoyed.

Some of my favorites are The Mind Robber, The Dalek Invasion of the Earth, and especially The Azteks. I’m especially a big fan of the series’ original line-up, especially companions Ian and Barbara (William Russell and Jacqueline Hill). But I’m going select an episode from a little later in the show’s history:

The Enemy of the World

Until relatively recently, this six part story by David Whitaker (the former script editor) and directed by Barry Letts (the future producer) was one of the ones you couldn’t watch the majority of, but then in 2013, just before the show’s 50th anniversary, the rest of the story was found at a relay station in Nigeria of all places. So now it’s back, and it’s a lot of fun.

The whole thing is a bit of a James Bond-ish romp about an evil mastermind who is using weather control to take over the earth. But it takes a little while to get there–in the earlier episodes the story focuses more on the political machinations of the villain, and the Doctor and his friends’ attempts to get close enough to find out what exactly he is up to. I found that the story’s slow build works really well.

And of course, the story features the treat of having Patrick Troughton play not just the Doctor (which is a pretty good treat, actually), but the villain as well. Troughton makes the power-mad Salamander into one of the show’s more memorable bad guys, even without him being a super-powered monster or anything.

It’s not perfect by any means, but there’s lots to enjoy about the story–you can read more of my thoughts here.

Before I wrap up though I wanted to mention one other episode of the show–one that not only works in black & white but is distinctly better for being so. And that’s the show’s original episode…

An Unearthly Child

Waris Hussein directs this masterpiece of atmosphere and character which introduced the Doctor, the TARDIS, and the whole series. The black & white cinematography adds so much to this story–I can’t imagine it in color.

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