We all have our first Doctor. For some of us now, it might be Christopher Eccleston. For some it might be David Tennant, and for some it might be Matt Smith. But the story we know today started almost 51 years ago with a grandfather, his granddaughter and two teachers.
The first Doctor, and "the original you might say"(as Richard Hurndell proclaimed in The Five Doctors) was introduced to us for the first time on the 23rd of November 1963 and was played by William Hartnell. The Doctor that people were introduced to people was crotchety and unthinking of others he encountered. He does not want Susan to engage with anyone. He berates Susan for wanting to go to experience Human culture. This is probably the Time Lord instinct to merely observe other planets and their inhabitance and not to engage with them in any way. In fact, in the first couple of episodes, the Doctor's actions are less than admirable. When the Doctor is forced to engage with people, he does not do it in a good way. In fact, it is up to Ian Chesterton in one of the first episodes to stop the Doctor from sneakily killing one of the cavemen with a piece of flint.
Over time we see somewhat of a change in the way the Doctor acts though. This change comes with the continued companionship of Susan, Ian and Barbara. We see the Doctor discover the universe and start to understand it a bit better than before. Much of this shift in attitude that the Doctor has can best be seen when the Doctor is meeting new people and when he sees people move on from him. We see this when the Doctor leaves Susan behind in 'Dalek invasion of Earth',he sees that she has to lead her own life and leaves her behind.
And when he meets Vicki in The Rescue, he is more friendly to her than he had been when Ian and Barbara had first joined him a few years previously. Indeed when Steven joins the Doctor in The Chase. In fact, for the bickering that they sometimes had with the Doctor, the Doctor see's their departure at the end of The Chase as dangerous and clearly cares for them more than he did when they first found their way onto the TARDIS. Secretly though, and this is purely taken from my interpretation from watching William Hartnell's performance in this episode, one gets a sense that the Doctor doesn't really want to see them go. With Steven the Doctor has a rather uneasy relationship due to the fact that he blames the Doctor for the death of Katarina who the Doctor had first met in the Myth Makers. Steven left not long after.
The Doctor changes from each encounter with a new companion that he has taken on board the TARDIS. Because of this, he becomes a little bit more accepting of those around him. Even saying that though, it becomes clear over time that the Doctor should not really be left on his own.Probably the less admirable way in which we see the Doctor act in this type of manner is in The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve.
I haven't gotten to watch (or listen) to all of the first Doctor stories quite yet, but I'm getting there. However, here are a few suggestions though that are worth checking out as a starter with the first doctor:
An Unearthly Child
Possibly the most important story for fans to try and watch. This is the first story that aired on the 23rd of November 1963. Granted this story befell some problems when it was first release. Namely being first aired on the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Only to be repeated the next week. The story introduced the world to Susan Foreman, a girl with knowledge beyond her time who travels through time Doctor the rest as we say is history.
Another quite important story is the story which first features the Daleks. Also as an aside, it is also the first of two stories to be made into a feature film starring Peter Cushing. the first story to be made into a film starring Peter Cushing as 'Dr.Who' and Roberta Tovey as Susan.
In TV serial, the Doctor travels to Skaro with Ian and Barbara and Susan, but unlike the film, there is an impending menace all the time with the Daleks. The Thaals are seen as more of a slave people who are kept low by the Daleks. Also, adding to this, most of the theatrical flourishes which can be seen in the film. It is a better story just in terms of the atmosphere that it invokes.
Edge of Destruction
Quite a nice spooky tale which takes place entirely inside the TARDIS. An awful lot of credit has to go to the actors in this regards for setting the tone of this serial. Hartnell still is in the early throws as the Doctor, so he still doesn't trust Ian and Barbara. In fact he even accuses them of sabotaging his ship. Susan for her part, takes to grabbing a scissors and and nearly attacking Ian. In a way, this is the first real time that we see the TARDIS sentience in how she warns them to repair the broken spring in the Fast Return Switch before the TARDIS explodes. The Doctor is forced to apologise (something he does not like to do) to Ian and Barbara and admit that he was wrong about them.
Dalek Invasion of Earth
I must admit to first having seeing the film version of this that stars Bernard Cribbins. I watched the series version a bit later and I have to say that I prefer the series version. The series version is quite different than the film.This is a significant story also because it marks the first departure of a companion in Doctor Who. In this story we see the departure of the Doctor's granddaughter Susan. This time, however they seemed to have got it right in the film as well as the series. Both are darker stories, both are enjoyable to watch.Definably recommended to check this one out.
The Time Meddler
The Time Meddler is a rather interesting story as it is the first time that we are greeted with a Time Lord other than The Doctor and Susan. This Time Lord is a bit more mischievous than the Doctor. It's also interesting to see a real moral compass start to develop for the Doctor. On his own without Ian there to stop him. It is clear that Ian has rubbed off on him a bit in this regards, despite all the bickering the two had done over the few years that they were together in the TARDIS.
This is the first story that Vicki features. It goes into interesting territory again in that there is a psychological element behind it, much like in 'Edge of Destruction'. Vicki lives in fear of Koquillion, who apparently lives outside the crashed spaceship that she has found herself on with a fellow traveller Bennett. We find Bennett is not what he seems to be and it's up to the Doctor, Barbara and Ian to figure out what is going on. Vicki then decides to go with the Doctor in the TARDIS.
The War Machines
This particular episode came to my attention via the audiobook which had been made available by the DVD. This CD was released prior to some of the footage being found. I also got my hands on the DVD of the story which was reconstructed from prints found in South Africa. Unfortunately though, a few of the scenes were still missing, however it is hardly noticeable on the existing film. But nonetheless, it is definably a story to check out, not just because it gives a hint to what the series can become. But also in how it starts in this story to incorporate London landmarks like the then brand new Post Office tower (now the BT tower) into the story. Something we see being still incorporated into the show with using the Shard in 'The Bells of Saint John' and the use of St Paul's Cathedral in 'Deep Breath' and 'Death in Heaven'.
The Tenth Planet
I must admit, I have not seen this one in full yet. But already it's an iconic episode for being the first episode to feature the Cybermen. It is also an iconic first for the Doctor Who series. It is the first episode to feature regeneration. It is also where we hear of the Cybermen's home planet of Mondas. A planet that has come into the spotlight lately as Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi has been put on record as saying that he would like to see the Mondasian Cybermen return to the series some day. I have seen the footage that had remained of the regeneration as it had appeared on the 'Lost in Time DVD'. I also am looking forward to watching the reconstructed episode which was made available on DVD.
Note: Owing to the fact that I hadn't watched many of the First Doctor's stories as of yet, I mentioned the stories which I had seen and asked people did I miss any stories that they deemed essential first doctor viewing. They suggested the following:
Postscript: (since I started writing this article, I have had the opportunity to see 'The Aztecs'. Would definably recommend it)