William Hartnell’s final episode of Doctor Who is regrettably among the lost. Even into the 1970s, the BBC was more concerned with conserving storage space and reusing videotape than preserving its archive, and the survival of those episodes that still exist is a matter of chance. When the BBC began to care about the historical importance of its old programs, restoration work often depended on still photographs or audio recordings made by early, devoted fans (See, for example, Marco Polo). In some cases, such as this, they were recreated by animation.
Part 4 picks up where Part 3 left off, with the countdown for the Z-bomb missile launch–but this time it’s in striking black-and-white toon form. The audio is a fan recording from the original episode, and the artwork is based on photos and a few video fragments. It looks very good, like a graphic novel in motion.
The big question is: was Ben successful at sabotaging the missile’s launch before General Cutler caught him, or will both the Earth and Mondas suffer from planet-destroying level of radiation when the Z-bomb goes off?
Well, the missile fails to launch. That’s a relief.
The Doctor is back, up and about for his final show in his present form. When Polly asks him what was wrong with him, he explains: “This old body of mine is wearing a bit thin…”
The General now has Polly and the Doctor on the list of people he’s ready to kill along with Ben and Dr. Barclay. He’s gone over the edge, waving his gun around and threatening to shoot them all when Barclay says that the missile can’t be refueled for another launch.
The base receives a transmission from Cutler Jr., the General’s astronaut son currently in orbit. He reports that Mondas is behaving strangely; it suddenly glows brighter and then dims again. The Doctor says that it can’t absorb much more energy. What he’s anticipated from the beginning is going to happen soon.
By this time, the Cyberman invasion force has landed on Earth, but General Cutler has his own ideas of who the enemy is. He attacks the Doctor, shouting “You killed my son!” even though we just saw his son alive a minute ago and there’s no indication that the capsule has lost its power and crashed like the one containing the two other astronauts from the first episode did.
The struggle is interrupted when a fresh batch of Cybermen come in and take over, zapping the General. The surviving soldiers on the base had a handful of captured Cyber-weapons from the Cybermen they killed earlier, but apparently haven’t set up any kind of defense using them. This latest group seems to have arrived unexpectedly. Perhaps the possibility of everyone on the side of Earth facing Mondas has distracted the base personnel from the threat of another Cyber-ship landing on top of them.
The Doctor seems to be in charge now that General Cutler’s out of it. He tells the Cybermen that he knows why they’ve come to Earth. Their planet is disintegrating. Since they soon won’t have a home, why not stay on Earth and live in peace?
But the Cybermen aren’t interested in peaceful coexistence; they still think that draining the power from Earth will save their own planet.
They know about the missile aimed at Mondas and don’t believe the Doctor’s claims that his friends prevented it from launching. They insist it must be deactivated and the Z-bomb removed from it and stored away. To make certain their orders are obeyed, they take Polly hostage.
Ben is sent along with Dr. Barclay and a couple of other members of the base science team to put on heavy radiation-proof gear and enter the missile chamber to work on removing and transporting the missile’s warhead. The Doctor remains in the base control room.
Polly is taken to the Cyber-ship and placed in a box-shaped cubicle chair with a sort of handcuff bar across the front and center.
Meanwhile, other Cybermen have taken over key strategic positions all over the world. We see one at the UN Secretary General’s office in Geneva. The Cyberman at the UN announces that he’s in charge of the Earth now.
The Doctor realizes that the Cybermen want the Z-bomb to destroy the Earth as part of their plan to save Mondas. He manages to alert Dr. Barclay et al via the base intercom not to move the bomb.
The others are certain that they’re doomed either way–blown up or zapped by the Cybermen for not obeying–but chipper Cockney Ben observes that “Where there’s life there’s hope.”
Ben’s no scientist, but he’s the one who notes that the Cybermen are much stronger than humans–so why don’t they shift the Z-bomb more quickly themselves? Their Cyber-guard hasn’t come into the room with them, but stands in the corridor outside, watching their activities through the little window in the thick lead door. Can’t Cybermen withstand the levels of radiation in the room?
They test the premise by feigning radiation sickness themselves and falling over so that the Cyberman on guard outside opens the door, then immediately gets woozy and quickly retreats back into the corridor. There’s nowhere for Ben, Barclay, and the other men to escape to, but Ben insists they’re all right where they are. They just have to stay put and keep the Cybermen from getting hold of the Z-bomb until Mondas falls apart as the Doctor’s predicted.
The Doctor tries to renegotiate under these new circumstances, but the Cybermen still refuse to believe that Mondas is a lost cause. They give Dr. Barclay et al 3 minutes to surrender the Z-bomb, then take the Doctor to their ship to sit in another cubicle handcuffed next to Polly. He seems to be fading out again.
The Cyber-ship begins buzzing and Polly is afraid it’s going to explode. The Doctor speculates that its power is connected to that of Mondas, and for once he admits that he doesn’t know what’s going to happen.
Ben’s next idea is to remove a couple of reactor rods and carry them out of room at the end of long lead pincers, making the Cybermen on guard outside all woozy. Once the Cybermen are out of commission, they return the rods to the radiation chamber, get rid of their heavy protective gear, and head back up to the base control room.
Everyone’s braced for the final battle, when Mondas finally starts to break up and melt.
So do the Cybermen. In a matter of seconds, nothing organic is left of them, only their empty suits and mechanical parts. It’s the same all over the world–or at least in Geneva, as the Secretary General calls to inform them.
Cutler Jr. checks in too. He’s okay. No one tells him about his dad flipping out or getting killed by the Cybermen.
While everyone else is dealing with the aftermath–not to mention the mess–of the failed Cyber-Invasion which couldn’t have lasted more than a couple of hours, Ben exits the base and goes up to the Cyber-ship on the surface to free Polly and the Doctor. The latter is unconscious.
“Come on, Doctor. Wakey, wakey!” Ben urges him. “It’s all over now.”
As he gets up, the Doctor replies, “It’s all over..? No, it isn’t all over. It’s far from being all over.” Nowhere near, as a matter of fact.
He’s very weak and dazed, and insists that he must get back to the Tardis right away. They aren’t even going to say goodbye to their new friends on the Antarctic base.
The Doctor heads out into the snow and reaches the Tardis ahead of his companions.* By the time Polly and Ben catch up, the Tardis door appears to be locked and they can’t get in.
Inside, the Doctor activates the Tardis. He places both hands flat on the console panel in front of him, then crumples to the floor. When Ben and Polly do manage to get in, they find him lying there.
The last shot of the episode is a significant event in Doctor Who history: A close-up on the Doctor’s face, which becomes obscure and seems to dissolve in a haze of bright white light…
…and when the light recedes, it’s no longer the same face.
In addition to the usual commentary, making-of documentary, and informative info-text that seem to accompany all of these old Dr. Who episodes on DVD/BluRay, this set has an extra disc to accommodate the numerous extra features. The most noteworthy to me is the other reconstruction of this final, lost episode, using those video fragments I mentioned above. The opening countdown and the transformation scene are clear, since they were taken from Part 3 and the beginning of Patrick Troughton’s first episode, but the rest of the video is rather snowy and visually poor. There are gaps in the story, which scrolling text notes fill in with still photos; I’ve used a couple of these above.
There’s also a short feature about how this first transformation of the Doctor was accomplished as a two-camera effect: the two actors were both lying on the floor, each with a camera on his face at the same angle. During the electronic haze, they switched from one camera to the other. It’s not as dramatic or showy as the modern-day regeneration blasts that end up making a wreck of the Tardis console room, but it remains impressive considering its age and the limitations of the show’s budget.
*Dr. Who fans who’ve seen the much-later episode “Twice Upon A Time” will know that before his regeneration, the first Doctor had plenty of time to meet one of his subsequent selves and a WWI officer and go off to have one last adventure. That episode recreates some of the scenes from this one.