The April 2012 A-Z Challenge is a lot of fun - but boy does it seem we never have enough time for our posts. We do, on the other hand, have quite a bit of space to post in. I know one fellow, though, who's got plenty of both time and space...and I'm happy to report that today:
D is for Doctor Who!
A lot of people have started watching Doctor Who since it was revived in 2005. There have been six seasons since then, with a seventh in production. But a lot of people who are watching the show don't necessarily realize the show's been around a lot longer than that - so here is the LGOOH history of the show!
|The show's various logos over the years 1963-2012|
The story is that of a mysterious individual who calls himself the Doctor. He travels through time and space in a rickety old machine called the TARDIS, which stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. The TARDIS should be able to change its appearance and blend in with the background of whatever time and place the Doctor travels to, but it is stuck in the form of a police box, which is a wooden contraption roughly the size of a phone booth that normally does have a phone in it.
|Police box in use circa the 1950's|
Police boxes were used mainly in 1950’s England as a way for policemen on the beat to check in with their precinct, and also as a way for people in trouble to summon help. They went out of full use by the early 60’s. And the TARDIS is very neat because although it is the size of a phone booth on the outside, it is much larger inside, a matter explained by the TARDIS being “dimensionally transcendent.” So the Doctor roams around in his TARDIS, usually finding himself in some trouble spot in the past or future, sometimes on Earth, sometimes in the far reaches of the Universe. He also usually has a companion with him, a regular person from Earth who serves as a sounding board, as audience identification, or as a convenient kidnapee for the Doctor to rescue.
Now, that’s the basics of the show. But the reason I like the show so much goes far beyond the basics. The show actually premiered in England originally on November 23rd, 1963 (coincidentally the day after JFK’s fateful Dallas motorcade), running then almost non stop until 1989, then mostly disappearing off television until being revived by the BBC a few years ago.
|William Hartnell as the First Doctor|
As originally conceived in the early 1960’s, the Doctor would have traveled mostly to the past, and the show would have served as education in the form of entertainment as these travels would have presented history lessons to the kids of England. However, the show’s creator was a fan of science fiction as well, and wanted to occasionally let the Doctor head to the future at times. During the first season, the Doctor, played by William Hartnell, was a fairly crotchety (or tetchy as the British would say) old man and was completely mysterious, with no backstory other than the presence of his granddaughter Susan as one of his companions. The other companions were two Earth teachers, Barbara and Ian, who’d had Susan in their classes. Finding her a little too smart but naïve in the ways of the world, they followed her home in the first episode, finding her apparently living with her grandfather in a police box in a junkyard. They burst in to the police box, whereupon the Doctor sets the TARDIS off and running. Of course, Barbara and Ian were initially skeptical but soon had to give in to the crazy truth that they had traveled in time and space.
|Ian, Susan, The Doctor, and Barbara have landed someplace cold, apparently.|
At this point in the series, the TARDIS was completely unpredictable, taking the Doctor and his companions on seemingly random jumps that the Doctor had no control over. The first story took the quartet to prehistoric times and drama with some cave people. The show was presented as a serial, with each story lasting usually four episodes, and each episode ending in a cliffhanger. The second story however, was what set Doctor Who on fire in England. The Doctor and his trio of assistants went forward in time and battled evil robotic looking creatures called the Daleks. Ratings soared, and the Doctor’s future was assured as he traveled back and forth from historical adventures to whimsical fantasy and science fiction stories for three seasons. Over the course of that time Susan, Barbara and Ian all took their leave from the TARDIS and the show, being replaced by other companions such as Vicky and Ben. Sometimes these new companions were contemporary people from 1960’s Great Britain, and other times they were from the past or future themselves. Although these companions all had their fans, no one seemed too torn up when they would leave after some number of adventures.
The First Doctor's Companions
|Susan (Carole Ann Ford)|
|Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill)|
|Ian Chesterton (William Russell)|
|Vicki (Maureen O'Brien)|
|Steven Taylor (Peter Purves)|
|Katarina (Adrienne Hill)|
|Sara Kingdom (Jean Marsh)|
|Dodo Chaplet (Jackie Lane)|
|Polly (Anneke Wills)|
|Ben (Michael Craze)|
At this point in the show's life it was very much like a live production - on tape, but performed in as close to one live run as possible, with some filmed inserts and recording breaks to allow changes in set or costume. As a result, these might seem a little slow and primitive to modern viewers - but they're still awfully cool to my eyes.
During this period the show gained a huge following - "appointment television" for nearly every child in England - even if they did have to watch it from behind the sofa because they were scared. It was decided to try to make a movie version of the series to sell overseas and rake in big bucks. They decided the Daleks - rapidly becoming stars themselves - were slated to be the movie's villains in a bigger budgeted remake of their initial series appearance. For this movie - titled Dr. Who and the Daleks - the film producers decided to go with a star better known to American audiences, so William Hartnell was out, and Peter Cushing was in!
|Doctor Who (Peter Cushing)|
And because even then producers liked to muck about in things - the setup of the show changed for the movie. The Doctor was no longer a mysterious alien with one granddaughter and two shanghaiied teachers in tow - in the movie he's an Earth scientist named Doctor Who with two granddaughters and the older girl's boyfriend in tow!
The film did well enough to spawn a sequel a year later - again a bigger budgeted remake of a story from the show called Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. This time Doctor Who was again played by Cushing, though the companions changed a bit.
The Movie Doctor's Companions
|Susan (Roberta Tovey) / Both movies|
|Barbara (Jennie Linden) / first movie|
|Ian (Roy Castle) / first movie|
|Louise (Jill Curzon) / second movie|
|Tom (Bernard Cribbins) / second movie|
But back over at the TV series - what do you do when you have the hottest science fiction show in England and your aging star needs to retire for his health? In this case, you invent a science fiction “out” for yourself. At the end of an adventure near the end of the third season the Doctor was injured by the villains of the piece. His companions hustled him back to the TARDIS, where the Doctor told them not to worry. He seemed to faint or die, but then a strange glow covered the body, and when it faded a few moments later, a new man was sitting there.
|Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor|
Younger, smaller, with a mop of Beatles-ish hair, this impish looking fellow had a wily grin. When asked who he was he replied “The Doctor,” and a new era of the series was underway. This Second Doctor was played by Patrick Troughton, who performed the character in a lighter, less tetchy manner and was often described as a “space hobo.” He explained to his confused companions that his race (ah, so he’s an alien!) had the power to “regenerate” the body when it was mortally wounded. This then gave the audience a reason why the Doctor had a new face and off the show went again.
|The Second Doctor and some of his foes, including a Yeti, an Ice Warrior (in back), a Dalek,|
A Cyberman, and a Quark.
This run of the show saw it open up a bit - but still shot in a fashion that makes it seem like a "live" show. Sadly, the Second Doctor's seasons are mostly missing from the BBC vaults as the network had a policy in the late 60's and early 70's of wiping old master videotapes for reuse - a horrifying thought to the show's fans - but a practical decision at the time as tapes were expensive and the BBC had almost never rerun a show after its initial premiere in those days. Most of what we do have - some whole stories, other random single episodes - came from film prints made to be shipped overseas for other countries to show. The wiping policy came to an end before any of the Third Doctor's stories were completely wiped - but, the show had moved to color with the Third Doctor's first show, and there are a few early stories that have episodes only preserved in black and white! Mind boggling!
The Second Doctor's Companions
|Polly (Anneke Wills) - inherited from the First Doctor|
|Ben (Michael Craze) - inherited from the First Doctor|
|Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines)|
|Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling)|
|Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury)|
Colonel Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart
|Colonel Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney)|
A couple of times during the Second Doctor's adventures, the TARDIS arrives on Earth just in time for the Doctor to help stop an alien invasion. During these adventures he meets Colonel Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart, a career military man eventually assigned the task of investigating possible alien activity on Earth. While not strictly speaking a full on companion, there are reasons he rates a special mention, as will be seen later...
And Nicholas Courtney was already a Doctor Who veteran, having played a role with William Hartnell in an epic 12 part story called The Daleks' Masterplan.
|Bret Vyon (Nicholas Courtney)|
Patrick Troughton stayed with the show for three seasons before he decided it was time to move on. He had a few companions along the way, with Highlander Scotsman Jamie McCrimmon being the one to stick around the longest. (And if you’re not a fan of the classic Doctor but you watch movies, you may have seen Troughton in The Omen as the priest with the unfortunate lightning rod experience, or in Jason and the Argonauts as a blind man plagued by harpies.)
When Troughton made it known he was ready to throw in the towel the show was still incredibly popular, so the producers rolled out the “regeneration” idea again. This time though they had the second Doctor’s last story feature him in a 10 episode epic called The War Games. To stop the bad guys in this one, the Doctor finally has to admit he’s overwhelmed and call in his people to set things right. At this point the audience finally got some back story on this mystery man. He came from a planet called Gallifrey. His race was called Time Lords, and they had the same power to travel through time and space. But the other Time Lords were content to simply observe the events they traveled to. The Doctor could not stand the idea of simply standing by while evil might triumph so he stole a TARDIS from a repair shop (explaining both his inability to control it properly and the broken chameleon circuit that kept the craft in the police box form) and took off as a renegade to help anyone in need. He’d stayed one step ahead of the Time Lord security division for several years, but after calling them for help, he was captured and put on trial and his current companions were sent home with their memories of their time in the TARDIS wiped out. The Doctor’s sentence: a forced regeneration to a new body even thought the current one was still healthy (we now found out a Time Lord can only regenerate 12 times, so the Doctor was in effect losing one here) and an exile to one time period on Earth.
|Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor|
So as the next season began the Doctor had become actor Jon Pertwee, a flamboyant actor with a shock of curly white hair. This Doctor was a man of action, being favorably compared to James Bond because of his love of action and gadgets. Stuck on Earth in the late 1960’s, the Doctor took a position as science advisor to a group called UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) headed up by his old friend Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart, now promoted to Brigadier General - and what good luck that he did since Earth started being attacked by aliens and other menaces on a weekly basis at about this time!
The Third Doctor's Companions
|Liz Shaw (Caroline John)|
|Jo Grant (Katy Manning)|
|Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen)|
While these guys hung around the Third Doctor a lot during his Earth exile, whether or not they are considered official companions is in contention. But they played a big part in several stories, so I will therefore include them - under their own section:
|Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney)|
Inherited from the Second Doctor, sorta
|Sgt. John Benton (John Levene)|
|Capt. Mike Yates (Richard Franklin)|
The Third Doctor's run is an interesting counterpoint to his predecessors - now the show is in color, and shot more like modern shows. Along with the Doctor's exile on Earth and service with UNIT, the show also introduced a running villain - The Master, another renegade Time Lord, but with considerably less kindness in his heart. Roger Delgado plagued Pertwee's Doctor across a couple of seasons before his untimely death in a car accident in 1973.
|The Master (Roger Delgado)|
About midway through Pertwee’s tenure the Doctor helped out his home planet when they were faced with a disaster. In fact this peril was so terrible the Time Lords were forced to bend the rules of time and space and bring the first three Doctors together to team up! Thus was the show’s 10th anniversary celebrated. Sadly, William Hartnell was very ill at the time, so he only checks in now and again from a television screen as Troughton and Pertwee handle the bulk of the action.
I really love crossover stuff like this - like Spock and Scotty showing up on The Next Generation - so let's get in some pictures from this 10th Anniversary story:
|William Hartnell, Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton|
|Hartnell did appear for some publicity photos with the |
other gentlemen, but even this weakened his fragile health.
|So when it came time to shoot the show - |
Troughton and Pertwee are together a lot -
|- with all too few viewscreen check-ins from Hartnell.|
Still, it's a marvelous story.
After saving the day, the third Doctor was once again allowed to roam through time and space as his exile was lifted. After a few adventures roaming with Jo, Doctor #3 got a new companion, a feisty reporter named Sarah Jane Smith for what would turn out to be his final season. Sarah Jane proved very popular, so when Pertwee put in his walking papers actress Elisabeth Sladen stayed on to usher in the fourth Doctor. Pertwee’s Doctor was mortally wounded in his final story, and after the glow dissipated there sat new Time Lord Tom Baker.
|Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor|
Baker brought new energy to the show, combining a madcap persona with humor and charm. He stuck around longer than anyone else, too, staying with the show for seven seasons. Although an attempt had been made to bring the Pertwee Third Doctor episodes to America as early as 1972, the show didn't catch on at that time - it was near the middle of Baker's run that his early seasons were aired in syndication and on PBS stations in America - and despite a weird bit of having American actor Howard DaSilva hosting the show with "Last time on Doctor Who" and "Next time on Doctor Who" narrations that cut up to three minutes from each episode in syndication - the show attained cult status.
The Fourth Doctor's Companions
|Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) - inherited from the Third Doctor|
|Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter)|
|Leela (Louise Jameson)|
|K-9 (voice of John Leeson)|
|K-9 Mark II (voice of John Leeson)|
|Romana (Mary Tamm) - a Time Lady partner for the Doctor|
and between seasons she too regenerated:
|Romana (Lalla Ward)|
|Adric (Matthew Waterhouse)|
|Nyssa (Sarah Sutton)|
|Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding)|
For most Americans Tom Baker was the Doctor - none of the other actors ever attained his fame in the role in the United States - in the 20th century. His look was very iconic as well - with the period suits, the greatcoats, the slouch hat, the mop of curly hair, and of course, the iconic scarf. That scarf was truly legendary - starting with its origin - the BBC costumers sent a load of yarn over to an older woman to knit a custom scarf for the Doctor - but forgot to mention how long they wanted the scarf to be. So, the old lady simply knitted every inch of the yarn they sent into one gargantuan 18 foot long scarf! I mean, sure, Tom Baker's more than 6 feet tall, but that's up him, down him, with another him left over! And yes, Tom Baker did trip over it more than once - breaking his collarbone at one point!
At the tail end of the 18th season of the series, producer John Nathan-Turner offered Elisabeth Sladen a chance to return to the show for a brief run - she declined. He then offered her a chance to star in a spin-off series along with the robotic K-9 - she agreed, and a pilot was shot:
|Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and K-9 Mark III (voice of John Leeson)|
K-9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend
The pilot is okay - carried along by the effortless charisma of Sladen - but the series was not picked up.
And back at Doctor Who, after seven seasons, Baker finally signed off as the Doctor, with another mortal wound...then came the 80's equivalent of a morph...and...
|Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor|
...and Peter Davison took on the mantle of the Time Lord. The youngest yet - only 29 when he took the part - Davison brought a new kind of vibe to the show. His Doctor seemed closer in age to his companions, so now there was more give and take - his companions were as likely to argue with him as follow any directive he gave. This certainly gave the show a new dynamic, and it seemed a welcome one, as the ratings stayed high. The show also tried to go a little deeper with its writing during Davison's three seasons - with pretty positive results.
The Fifth Doctor's Companions
|Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding)|
- inherited from the Fourth Doctor
|Nyssa (Sarah Sutton)|
- inherited from the Fourth Doctor
|Adric (Matthew Waterhouse)|
- inherited from the Fourth Doctor
|Vislor Turlough (Mark Strickson)|
|Kamelion (voice of Gerald Flood)|
|Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown (Nicola Bryant)|
The show brought back The Master in the form of actor Anthony Ainley - regeneration again! This time they used him a little more sparingly than previously - but Ainley came back to plague the Fifth Doctor several times.
|The Master (Anthony Ainley)|
The Brigadier even dropped by for a visit - continuing actor Nicholas Courtney's unbroken string of Doctors.
The show reached its 20th Anniversary during Davison's run - and they celebrated with another multi Doctor special: The Five Doctors. Strictly speaking, it was really only The Three Doctors again - as Troughton, Pertwee, and Davison were the only original Doctors to show up.
Of course, William Hartnell had passed away by this time - but they recast the role with an actor named Richard Hurndall - and he did a corker job channelling Hartnell, so the First Doctor was there in some form.
|Richard Hurndall as the First Doctor 2.0|
Tom Baker, on the other hand, had only left the role a year or so previously. With a little of the haughtiness he could sometimes bring to the table during his run - according to reports - he refused the offer to appear since the story wouldn't revolve around his Doctor being the main hero. The "official" story was that Tom Baker was contracted to be touring with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the time. That didn't stop the show's producers from bringing the Fourth Doctor in - after a fashion, anyway - check out this publicity photo highlighting the anniversary special:
That is actually the Madame Tussaud's wax figure of Tom Baker! In the show, they use some previously unseen footage from an unfinished story called Shada to get the Fourth Doctor in as a cameo - and his character gets caught up in a "time eddy" which keeps him trapped and unable to participate as the other four Doctors run around with several returning companions. With my love of crossovers, of course this is one of my favorite stories. And in recent years Tom Baker admits that he regrets not participating and would if he could hop a TARDIS back to those days. Good on you, Tom Baker!
After his three seasons, Davison moved on, turning the role back over to Baker...
...Colin Baker! No relation to Tom, Colin Baker seemed very gung ho about the role - saying in interviews at the start of his run that he planned to beat Tom Baker's seven season record on the show.
|Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor|
The first thing you must know: Colin Baker did not choose this outfit. It was forced upon him. More on that in a bit.
Unfortunately, Colin came on the show at a weird time in the run - the head of the BBC - Michael Grade - jackwagon extraordinaire - hated the show - putting it on an enforced 18 month hiatus in the middle of the Sixth Doctor's run. That weirdness I mentioned actually stemmed from some soap opera-like shenanigans going on behind the scenes - it seems that Grade was at the time dating Colin Baker's ex-wife. What a creep and a douchebag, putting a show - all the actors, all the crew - on hiatus, and then firing the lead actor - because he was dating the ex. Geez.
The Sixth Doctor's Companions
|Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown (Nicola Bryant)|
- inherited from the Fifth Doctor
|Melanie "Mel" Bush (Bonnie Langston)|
I like Colin Baker's Doctor - but the show was in a creative slump. There are so many off kilter moments - the Doctor causing accidental deaths, and not caring, for example - and his main companion Peri is definitely not one of my favorites - as the British actress Nicola Bryant plays this American character as the mother of all whiners. They also dress Peri in some ridiculous outfits - I mean, I'm a red blooded American boy - I like cleavage and legs as much as anyone - but wow. Just wow.
There were some good moments in his run - probably my favorite? When the Second Doctor and Jamie stopped by for The Two Doctors:
|Patrick Troughton and Colin Baker|
|Baker, Troughton, and Frazer Hines|
While we're on the subject of Two Doctors - here's a fun picture:
|Third Doctor Jon Pertwee and First Doctor William Hartnell together years before the show.|
Sadly, Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart did not get to meet up with the Sixth Doctor - on television, anyway - they did later meet in at least one audio adventure though.
After two seasons with a whopping year and half in between that had the show changing format twice, and moving around in different time slots, Colin Baker was shown the door. Understandably angry, he did not participate in the new Doctor's regeneration scene. So the new guy had to put on the old guy's clothes and hide his face for a few seconds.
Just to end on a happier note with Colin Baker - he eventually did come back for a very well received series of audio adventures, allowing him at last to flesh out his Doctor in more depth, and in the cover art for the CDs - correct that horrendous outfit they originally gave him. Here's the new costume, as represented by an officially released collectible figure:
|It's got the same basic style, and it's still a little garish - but it's soooo much better|
than the coat of many colors.
The British have never lost their taste for audio drama - with several radio dramas still on the air over there - so new adventures of all of the surviving Doctors have been made - which is wonderful, as audio doesn't care if an actor has gotten older, or heavier.
And thanks to these silly employment shenanigans, the Sixth Doctor ends his time in the most undignified way of all: the TARDIS hits a bit of Space/Time Turbulence, and the Doctor trips and hits his head - mortally wounding him. *sigh*
|Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor|
Smaller in stature, and very Scottish - Sylvester McCoy came in as the writers were trying to salvage the show from the shambles the previous few years had caused. They were casting the Doctor now as almost a force of nature - a very dark being with many secrets and a lot of cosmic angst in his baggage. I like McCoy's Doctor a lot, especially in his interactions with his second companion Ace.
The Seventh Doctor's Companions
|Melanie "Mel" Bush (Bonnie Langston)|
- inherited from the Sixth Doctor
|Dorothy "Ace" McShane (Sophie Aldred)|
The Brigadier stopped by again - and it was always cool to have Nicholas Courtney back on the show.
The show has some very cool stories - but there's also a tendency to take the "mysterious stranger" thing a bit too far - and there are some real clunkers in this run as well.
When the show signed off at the end of the 26th season, they fully thought it would be back the next year. But it was not to be. The BBC finally cancelled the series. Fans the world over were gobsmacked. Prior to the announcement it almost seemed the old cliche was going to have to be amended to "there are only three things in this world you can count on: death, taxes, and Doctor Who."
But that was not the end of the story, because the series continued in book form, and then in the mid 90's a plan was hatched to bring the show back as an American production. Consequently, in 1996 Fox TV in America aired a movie called Doctor Who.
|Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor|
It started out with good old Sylvester McCoy back for an opening setpiece that sees the Seventh Doctor wounded - and it's American hospital care that kills him - prompting a regeneration to Paul McGann - the Eighth Doctor. He spends the rest of the movie's running time trying to stop the Master - now regenerated into American Eric Roberts for some star power - and hanging with his companion Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook).
|The Master (Eric Roberts)|
It's a pretty cool stopgap adventure - there are some issues here and there, mostly thanks to -surprise!- the American TV execs demands, but overall it is a solid flick, and McGann seems like he would have been a corker Doctor. Unfortunately, he only got this one televised adventure as the ratings did not lead to the hoped-for new series on American television.
The Eighth Doctor's Companion
|Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook)|
Thankfully, Paul McGann has been able to continue playing the role and fleshing out his characterization in audio adventures that started not long after the movie aired and continue to this day.
This was originally where I'd planned to end this post - as the new series is pretty popular and well known anyway. But I hate not finishing what I started - so I went on and took this spotlight piece all the way out to the most recent episodes.
But that made for a Megapost that was almost cruelly long - so I decided enough was enough. We're stopping here - wrapping up 20th Century Doctor Who.
However - since I actually had the entire post finished - I didn't just jettison the rest of it. I will finish this thing off with a Part Two before this A-Z Challenge is over. Feel free to hang around through the intervening posts, by the way!
In fact, I hope I can E-xpect you for the next post - until then, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!