In January 1970, Doctor Who returned after its longest break ever – six whole months – and it was all in color with a new lead, played by Jon Pertwee. When our son saw the new psychedelic title sequence, he went “Ooooh, color!” Behind the scenes, Derrick Sherwin was still producer, at least briefly, and Terrance Dicks was settling in for five more years as script editor. Nicholas Courtney was back as the Brigadier, now a regular member of the cast. And there’s a new companion in the form of Caroline John as the Cambridge-based scientist Liz Shaw.
The new Doctor spends almost this entire episode in bed. It’s the first act of a four-part serial by Robert Holmes, and our hero is experiencing what we’d later call the after-effects of his regeneration, but at the time, all that was explained was that the Time Lords changed his appearance. His antics are no less silly than what we’d occasionally see from Patrick Troughton; our son giggled as the Doctor grumbled about his missing shoes, and he had a field day when the Doctor made an escape bid from some shiny-faced men under the direction of guest villain Hugh Burden. He makes a getaway in a wheelchair, and our son just adored that.
Our boy didn’t really notice that the strange men have shiny faces. We’ll deduce later that these, along with Burden’s character (called Channing), are the first of the Autons that we’ll meet. The Autons only appeared in two serials in the original run of the show, but they quickly became iconic enemies and were used to relaunch Doctor Who in 2005 and appeared again in the form of some Roman legionnaires in 2010.
A couple of guest actors here would return in slightly larger roles later in the Pertwee years. Talfryn Thomas, who we’ll later see in “The Green Death,” plays the hospital’s porter, and Prentis Hancock, who will appear in “Planet of the Daleks,” is a reporter with a couple of lines. They’re only in this episode; we have several new characters to meet next time.