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BBC sued for £4m over Dr Who film

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1997-02-14 Evening Standard.jpg


THE BBC is being sued for £14 million after it allegedly reneged on a deal for a film version of the cult TV series Doctor Who starring Alan Rickman and directed by Leonard Nimoy.

A consortium of three film-makers and other backers, including singer Bryan Ferry and John Insley of Dire Straits, issued a writ in the High

Court today seeking immediate compensation for the 11 million they claim to have lost after the deal turned sour. They will also demand damages of more than £14 million for the potential profits of three big screen versions of Doctor Who they had planned to make.

The consortium, known as the Daltenreys, say they negotiated exclusive film rights to the Doctor Who film.

They say they were on the verge of casting Alan Rickman in the lead role in January 1994 when the BBC announced it was going ahead with a rival American version with Steven Spielberg's company Amblin TV.

In today's writ they claim the BBC had blatantly "breached its undertakings" with the Daltenreys.

The American film, which was not made by Spielberg, flopped when it came out last year starring Paul McGann. The three principals in the Daltenreys consortium — George Dugdale, John Humphreys and Peter Litten — say they negotiated the deal after the TV series was axed.

To raise the £440,000 for the rights, they put up everything they owned including savings and money raised from second mortgages on their homes.

They were convinced they could make a box office success of the zany story of Time Lords and Daleks with Rickman in the leading role.

The American actor and director Leonard Nimoy, best known as Star Trek's Mr Spock, had been recruited as director.

"The simple fact is that we have been ruined by the BBC," John Humphreys said. "They have behaved in a way that, even now, we find unbelievable."

The Daltenreys signed their original deal in 1987 with John Keeble, head of BBC Enterprises, now the bigger BBC Worldwide but it started to go awry in 1993 when Humphreys, Dugdale and Litten secured an agreement with Lumiere Pictures, a company which wanted to sink £20 million into films.

They went to the BBC for final approval as they were contractually bound to do. According to the writ, BBC executives "obstructed and delayed" progress and even encouraged Lumiere to cut the Daltenreys out of the equation.

It was only a few weeks before their rights deal expired on 6 April, 1994, that the consortium heard through an announcement on the BBC children's programme Alive and Kicking, of the deal with Spielberg.

"We were devastated," said Humphreys.


Missed: Paul McGann was the Doctor but the film flopped

Missed out: Alan Rickman who might have played Dr Who

Missed out: Bryan Ferry, one of the "losing" backers

Steven Spielberg: BBC choice

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  • APA 6th ed.: O'Carroll, Lisa (1997-02-14). BBC sued for £4m over Dr Who film. London Evening Standard p. 21.
  • MLA 7th ed.: O'Carroll, Lisa. "BBC sued for £4m over Dr Who film." London Evening Standard [add city] 1997-02-14, 21. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: O'Carroll, Lisa. "BBC sued for £4m over Dr Who film." London Evening Standard, edition, sec., 1997-02-14
  • Turabian: O'Carroll, Lisa. "BBC sued for £4m over Dr Who film." London Evening Standard, 1997-02-14, section, 21 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=BBC sued for £4m over Dr Who film | url= | work=London Evening Standard | pages=21 | date=1997-02-14 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 May 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=BBC sued for £4m over Dr Who film | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 May 2024}}</ref>