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Doctor Who Season 3 overview

Season One, Season Two

Season 3 brings me almost to the end of the First Doctor era, closing with the Doctor just two adventures away from his first regeneration.

When I began this journey, I did not expect to fall so much in love with this era of the show, but the First Doctor and Susan, and Ian and Barbara, and Vicki and Steven and the others have well and truly won me over. The seeds of every Doctor there has ever been can be found in William Hartnell's performance – he is the Doctor, the pattern for every incarnation after him. Very much of its time, his era isn't always easy viewing for an audience accustomed to modern stylings and slick production values, but if you commit yourself to taking that journey with him and hook into the characters along the way, it really is a fantastic ride, an age when almost anything could happen. Although at times the show could be over-ambitious, the limitations of the cramped little studios often worked in favour of the drama, as, without sophisticated special effects to fall back on, there was much greater emphasis on characters, dialogue, drama and tension. Equally, while we are so accustomed to dramatic shortcuts now that it is easy to become frustrated by the slow pace of this storytelling, there is something only too relatable about seeing the characters struggling to overcome the obstacles they encounter along the way, rather than simply glossing over them to save time. There were no quick fixes in this era of the show, no shortcuts and no easy way out, the characters had to work through their adventures on their own wits in a way that brings their fantastic adventures right back down to Earth.

Of Hartnell's three complete seasons, the third is the weakest and there's no getting away from that. Those ten adventures, told over 45 episodes, were a time of transition for the show, both behind and in front of the camera, and it was very much a season of two halves as the departure of the show's pioneering first producer, Verity Lambert, ushered in a new era, leading to an experimental, more light-hearted and less character-focused second half of the season. The cast, meanwhile, went through a period of rapid turnover, swapping Vicki for Katarina for Sara for Dodo in the space of just four adventures. Space pilot Steven was the constant figure at the Doctor's side through all this, carrying entire adventures virtually single-handed, an absolute stalwart through some turbulent times, but he too had departed before season's end, while yet another change in the season finale saw granddaughter-figure Dodo exchanged for the trendy young adult pairing of Ben and Polly to launch a new era going into the new season ahead.

3.01 Galaxy 4
3.02 Mission to the Unknown
3.03 The Myth Makers
3.04 The Daleks' Master Plan
3.05 The Massacre
3.06 The Ark
3.07 The Celestial Toymaker
3.08 The Gunfighters
3.09 The Savages
3.10 The War Machines