(With “The Chase”, we reach Part 16 and the thrilling climax of our Name Dropping journey through the First Doctor’s character arc as represented by his changing ways of addressing Ian: in which we wave a tearful goodbye to Ian and Barbara and speculate on what sort of companions other Blue Peter presenters might have made.)
Surprisingly for a show of its time, Doctor Who seems so far to have avoided the trap of making futuristic machinery and equipment the size of a house and thus instantly dated. Then along comes the Time Space Visualiser whose main claim to fame is that it was the original cross-sectional design model for the Large Hadron Collider at Cern.
Why oh why did we have to wait until the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour to see Ian dressed gloriously as an Everton mint. Perhaps this blog series missed a trick in not analysing his character arc through his clothes. Mind you, “suit, cardie, suit, cardy, suit, cardy, Doonican, stripey” would have told us little, I suspect. What a prescient coup to get footage of The Beatles. Even Ian can’t get their music out of his feet as he shimmies across the TARDIS floor throwing the now famous twisty-ear-cupping shapes which took over the world’s dancefloors.
Of the plot of “The Chase”, the less said the better. Even the Daleks are treated as comic relief here, grunting and erring their way through Time. It’s a testament to the genius of Raymond Cusick that their reputation survived the multiple vehicle pile-up which is the haunted house encounter. Little wonder that Dracula turned up. He must have been attracted by the prospect of a real feast as TV viewers across the land began slashing their wrists in despair. It’s also a testament to the talent of Peter Purves that his reputation survived the Morton Dill scene. Maybe no-one was still watching at that point.
Eventually we reach the only decent part of “The Chase” which is the happenings on Mechanus. The idea of a duplicate Doctor is lovely and I don’t think it deserves its reputation as looking nothing like William Hartnell. The duplicate’s mistake in calling Vicky “Susan” is quite clever but relies on Ian and Barbara being surprised to hear the Doctor getting people’s names mixed up. Imagine if the writer had decided that the duplicate’s identity would be revealed by it accidentally calling Ian “Chesterfield”. Would anyone have even blinked?
We’re introduced to Steven Taylor on Mechanus and surprisingly good he is in spite of the toy panda. His sardonic line “Help yourself to a piece of eternity” is delicious and bodes well for the future. We’ll pass quickly over Vicky briefly reverting to a helpless Susan archetype on the roof of the city as we reach the sad departure of Ian and Barbara. Our kidnapped schoolteachers have been with us from the very beginning and I think have played just as big a role as William Hartnell in ensuring the popularity of Doctor Who.
We get a nice reaction from the Doctor. When he sees Ian emerge from the Dalek time machine doing a Barbara from “Dalek Invasion of Earth” doing a Dalek, he’s overjoyed and sufficiently moved to say “My dear boy, I could kiss you”. I think we can all agree that the Doctor has moved a long way since the “young man” with which he first grumpily addressed Ian as he accused him of having “pushed your way in here uninvited and unwelcome”. When he realises that Ian and Barbara genuinely want to go home, he briefly turns angry and really loses his temper with Ian. All the more convincing for such a sad departure. It’s up there with saying goodbye to Sarah and, in its understatedness, easily beats the schmaltz of Bad Wolf Bay.
Sadly to the final stage of our mission. In their final story, the Doctor addresses Ian as follows: Chesterton x 5, my dear Chesterton x 2, dear boy x 14, my dear boy x 3, my boy x 4, young man x 1, sir x 1. Here we find ourselves in a dilemma. The duplicate Doctor addresses Ian as Chesteron 3 times. Do these count towards our statistics? I think not. Next time, I’ll post the final analysis.
(select NAME DROPPING from the list of Categories in the left hand menu to catch the rest of this series)