Friday, May 29, 2009

V11 - The Abandoned Planet

The final two parts of this story see the story return to Kembel for the big finish, and, after the initial TARDIS scenes, the oddest thing happens: The Doctor completely disappears from the story from the moment the action leaves the TARDIS interior. No explanation is given in the story for this sudden vanishing, either.

I have searched the world (well, two or three websites, anyway) to try and find the reason for this shocking left turn in the narrative, and have been unsuccessful. If you look at the final TARDIS interior scene (or, more likely, the reconstruction of the scene), it's not explicitly implied that The Doctor will be disappearing once he, Steven, and Sara leave the TARDIS. But, lo, the next scene afterwards, set just outside the TARDIS, does not feature The Doctor, and Steven and Sara are wondering where's run off to. The Doctor doesn't appear for the rest of the episode.

Production wise, The Doctor's lines were predominantly given to Steven, and most of Steven's original lines were dispensed between Steven and Sara. As I said, I can find no explanation of why this occurred, but I'm going to offer a hypothesis. William Hartnell and producer John Wiles were already at each other's throats during the making of this story, and, although it's no great stretch of the imagination, I think one of their spats led to The Doctor's absence. One can probably ascertain that just such a spat happened after the recording of the TARDIS scenes, where a recording break was probably scheduled beforehand. Tempers were raised, words were exchanged, and Hartnell walked off the set in a huff. Aware that studio time was rapidly running short, instead of wasting valuable studio time to try an lure the incorrigible lead actor back, Hartnell's lines were instead given to Peter Purves, The Doctor's absence was worked into the script, and recording carried on until the end of the evening. (Skipping ahead a bit, The Doctor is also absent for a good deal of Episode 12 of this story, as well).

Understand that this is just a hypothesis, validated by n o one. Douglas Camfield, Wiles, and Hartnell are no longer with us, but Purves, Jean Marsh (who played Sara Kingdom), and script editor Donald Tosh (who would have performed all the required rewrites) still are, and they, nor anyone else who was working on the serial at the time, have never spoken about this distinct incident, to my knowledge.

The Wiles/Hartnell era is a fascinating time in the history of Doctor Who as it was probably the most volatile behind the scenes era in the show's history (perhaps even outstripping the later Colin Baker era), and it is this incident that I'm always most intrigued by. So much so that, as you can see, I can scarcely remember what the actual episode was about!

But I bet you it was good!


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