Doctor Who – The Feast of Steven

merry xmas

Originally transmitted – 25th December 1965

I can’t have been the only person to have the cockles of their heart warmed by the prominent sight and sound of William Hartnell in the new BBC Christmas trailer.  Of course, if they hadn’t wiped the tapes some forty years ago then we wouldn’t have had to have a shot of Hartnell from The War Machines matched up with audio from The Feast of Steven, but as it’s the season of goodwill we’ll let that pass.

That brief clip of Billy wishing everybody the compliments of the season made me think that The Feast of Steven would be an ideal addition to my Christmas television viewing.  I wouldn’t normally watch an individual episode of Doctor Who, but let’s be honest – The Feast of Steven has no connection to the rest of The Daleks’ Master Plan, so why not?

Indeed, as others have noted in the past, The Daleks’ Master Plan is a curiously constructed story.  The beginning and the end of the serial can be said to form one story, whilst the episodes in the middle are essentially The Chase Part Two.  And since it’s debatable whether The Chase was a good idea to begin with, the notion of a sequel is an interesting idea.  Within this second story, sits The Feast of Steven, an odd episode (yes, a very odd episode) all on its own – broadcast on Christmas Day 1965.

The fact it was broadcast on Christmas Day must explain the tone of the episode.  Presumably it was felt that 25 minutes of the Daleks exterminating all and sundry would be out of place – so instead we have something much lighter.  It’s difficult to believe that the original plan was to have the cast of Z Cars appear in the first section, but if they had it would have been a bizarre crossover, more in the nature of a Children in Need skit than a normal episode of Doctor Who.  But it does give us one of Hartnell’s best lines, when the Doctor describes himself as “A citizen of the Universe, and a gentleman to boot”.

After the Doctor, Steven and Sara extract themselves from the clutches of the police, the TARDIS drops them in the middle of Hollywood’s golden age, where they rub shoulders with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Bing Crosby.  This section of the story is probably not best served by the lack of visuals (you can be sure Douglas Camfield would have had a few tricks up his sleeve).  There are a few memorable lines, though some (like Hartnell’s “Arabs”) are memorable for the wrong reasons.

And it ends with that line from the Doctor, wishing everybody at home a Happy Christmas.  A Hartnell ad-lib or something scripted? I’m not sure, but I do find it bizarre that some recons (although fortunately not the LC one below) have removed it.  This seems to be similar to snipping out the fast-talking Ogron (“no complications”) from the Day of the Daleks SE.  Don’t they know that you can’t re-write history, not one line?

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