US fans now have a new way to enjoy Doctor Who’s classic era. Pluto TV, which is a free streaming channel stateside, has set up a dedicated pop-up channel purely to screen 200 episodes of the original run. This channel is the result of a licensing deal between BBC Studios and Viacom and is a great place to start if you’re a NuWho fan looking for a way into the series as it was 1963- 89 or if you’re already familiar but don’t own the DVDs or Blu-rays.
Pluto TV originally planned to make these episodes available in May, so they’re a little late. The full deal between Viacom and BBC Studios covers nearly 1,000 episodes of British TV, including The Antiques Roadshow, Robin Hood, and Primeval. And there are some absolute Who gems available.
From the William Hartnell era, there is the second season epic, Terry Nation’s The Dalek Invasion of Earth. This was the sequel to the Daleks’ first appearance, the previous year (The Daleks), and was later remade for the big screen as Daleks’ Invasion of Earth: 2150 A.D. It’s the story that cemented ‘Dalekmania’ and has a particularly poignant ending.
Speaking of poignant endings, fans can also jump forward to 1981 and revel in the fantastic Earthshock. This stone-cold classic stars Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor and was written by Eric Saward to bring back an old monster in fine style. Peter Grimwade’s superb direction shines and there’s a magnificent/magnificently mis-cast guest turn from the late, great Beryl Reid.
And if anyone would like to learn more about ‘Grimwade’s Syndrome’ then they’d be well advised to sample another classic ‘classic,’ The Robots of Death, penned by Chris Boucher. A tight Agatha Christie-style whodunnit with gorgeous production values and a smart script, this story sees Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor and Leela take on the titular Robots, plus a Storm Mine full of avaricious prospectors. Naturally, Tom Baker’s era is well-represented and other jewels in the Coronet of Rassilon include The Ark in Space and The Deadly Assassin, two triumphs written by the towering Robert Holmes.
Add to these the first ever appearance of the Master in Terror of the Autons and Peter Davison’s stunning final story, Caves of Androzani, and US fans truly are in for a treat – and it won’t cost them a dime.
For more detail, head over to Pluto TV here.