REVIEW: Doctor Who : The Feast of Steven (1965)

Feast of Steven 2I’ve decided to revisit some of the lost episodes from Doctor Who’s history which no longer exist in the archives by using the original audio recordings which have been remastered and released onto CD. It is also possible to find some very good reconstructions on the internet using images taken from the broadcast.

This is effectively the first Doctor Who Christmas Special, broadcast on Christmas Day 1965. It is a total departure from the epic ‘Dalek Master Plan’ story, in fact the Daleks are barely mentioned at all. In fact it is like no other episode of Doctor Who ever produced, a peculiar comedy during which William Hartnell wishes the viewers a happy Christmas.

The TARDIS lands and the Doctor is concerned by the pollution outside, telling Steven and Sara to remain inside. As it turns out they have landed outside a police station in the North of England, on Christmas Day. Following the Doctor being arrested Steven poses as another policeman, which is to facilitate a visual joke later. In the mean time Sara manages to fix the TARDIS scanner and the three escape and dematerialise in another location. The travellers immediately jump to the aid of a woman being tied to a circular saw only to discover that they have stumbled onto a film set and have ruined that take, much to the dismay of the actress. It is not the only film being made however as the TARDIS trio have landed at a Hollywood studio in the 1920’s. Sara encounters a Lawrence of Arabia style movie and Steven is confused for a cast member of a Keystone Cops picture, explaining the borrowed police uniform which triggers a comedic runaround chase. Two of my particular favourite quotes to sum up the ludicrous nature of the episode come from Sara who complains that, “a strange man kept telling me to take my clothes off” and the Doctor who describes the location as “a madhouse, it’s all full of Arabs”. Not sure modern Doctor Who could get away with that, although ‘Love and Monsters’ did manage to get an oral sex reference accepted. During the visit to the Hollywood film studio Steven and the Doctor bump into Charlie Chaplin and the Timelord also meets Bing Crosby.

Feast of StevenAfter the travellers return to the TARDIS and leave they take a pause to celebrate, despite being in the midst of an epic battle with the Daleks, toasting a happy Christmas with some champagne. The Doctor turns to the camera and wishes “a happy Christmas to all of you at home”, breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly, the only time in the programme’s history that this has been done.

As mentioned previously this is effectively a stand alone episode within the Daleks’ Master Plan story, and perhaps does provide some comic relief in what is admittedly a dark story where the whole solar system is in jeopardy, but fortunately we will return to that with the next episode, ‘Volcano’.

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