Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Dark Dimensions

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Following the abrupt cancellation of Dark Dimensions, the Doctor Who 30th anniversary special to have been produced by BBC Enterprises and BBC Drama, rumours have been flying fast and furious about the 'real' reasons for the programme's demise.

CAUGHT in the storm of hearsay and half-truths are four of the former Doctors: Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy, whose alleged rejection of the Dark Dimensions script is one of the reasons unofficially cited by the press for its cancellation.

To set the record straight regarding their involvement in the project, the four Doctors met on the set of Bill Bagg's The Airzone Solution, and spoke exclusively with Starburst. With the cancellation of Dark Dimensions, the Airzone video has become a kind of 'Four Doctors' special for the cast and crew.

As might be expected in a meeting of four of the five living Doctors, a spirit of good natured rivalry is very much in evidence, but amidst the barbs and banter is a real sense of disappointment over the now-defunct special...

Starburst: How do the four of you feel about the rumours that have been circulating about the cancellation of the 30th anniversary special?

Sylvester McCoy: Well, Colin Baker.. [realizing this discussion is being recorded] I think the BBC are splendid chaps!

Peter Davison: I think the way Sylvester behaved in it was just appalling!

Sylvester: No, I was just following your example, Peter.

Peter: I'd like to thank Jon Pertwee for turning it down on my behalf. [everyone laughs]

Jon Pertwee: That is absolutely right, because I was told by a source who shall be unknown [looking at Sylvester] and it wasn't Colin Baker, that you had turned it down, but I know your agent had a great deal of difficulty finding the right number. Colin Baker: I had the same problem, because I said to my agent, "I'm sure Peter will turn it down!"

Sylvester: You're the one who told me that Peter would turn it down, and I told Jon.

Peter: [laughing] I was the only one who never had the opportunity to turn it down. I was told that it was off. Peter: It's ludicrous that BBC Enterprises should be sending us scripts saying, "We look forward to working with you," but they hadn't managed to make contact with any of our agents, or asking us if we wished to be involved.

Starburst: The consensus seems to be that with the right script, all of you would have been interested in doing it.

Jon: You bet your ass! We would all have done it, otherwise we wouldn't have gone as far as saying, "negotiate with us for this one," although we hadn't read the script.

Colin: I would say in defence of somebody who's lamentably out of favour at the moment, John Nathan-

Handing over the TARDIS key?

Turner, that he managed to get a 20th year special by the simple expediency of ringing up the Doctors involved, and asking them on what basis they would like to be involved in a project like that, and it was turned around that.

Jon: At least it should have been given to a writer that knows something about what we're doing. Someone like Barry Letts, who is a marvellous writer, and has just written for my radio version we've just completed the Doctor Who on radio, which incidentally, was a joy — Barry wrote a damn good script for us.

The Right Writer

Starburst: Do you think that's the way this project should have been handled: by someone who has experience writing your characters? Colin: Perhaps someone who has written a television script before. Sylvester: 1 think there are a great many writers out there who would really love to be invited to write for Doctor Who; well-known writers, and as this was the 30th anniversary, a very big special, you most likely could have got some incredibly grand writer. They didn't even go there. They should also have gone along the lines there were going to be five Doctors, and they were all going to have equal parts.

Colin: They were a bit misguided in how to structure a television script for five people of arguably equal status.

Starburst: One of the other flaws you've mentioned previously is that everyone was doing their own thing. Do you think the fans would rather see you doing scenes as a group, and is that the way you would prefer? Jon: [after nods of agreement] Like we did with Peter, when he was the gaffer in The Five Doctors. We all integrated, and worked together. Sylvester: There wasn't a scene in this one where all the Doctors were together.

Colin: [referring to Jon's previous comment] Those that were in it! Peter: That's this side of the table versus the other. Although we did have a scene where we were actually together. John Nathan-Turner told me he was worried before we made The Five Doctors there would be ego clashes on the set, and in fact it didn't work out like that at all . We could have done far more together, looking at it with the spirit of hindsight. Jon: It worked like a dream. Everyone worked well together, we had enormous fun doing it, and that's what the fans want: they want a jolly with all the Doctors.

Peter: As Colin pointed out, he suspected — if I may say speak for you, Colin...?

Colin: Please do Peter.

Peter: ...he suspected that it was because if one of us turned the part down, they could just remove that segment, and not have that particular Doctor in it, so it would be Tom, and whichever of us deigned to be in it.

Starburst: Would it have been better to have gone for a 'one for all' approach?

Sylvester: Yeah, the Five Musketeers. That's what it should have been. Colin: There was a point when it was suggested to me, because I found my part extremely similar to the one I had done in my last season, ie: a trial scene, "Oh, in that case, you could change over with Peter's part, because he's got scenes with a Cyberman!" I said, well, that shows you how the parts have been written specifically for us. It's absurd isn't it? They're interchangeable. I said I'd change with Tom! [roars of laughter] Sylvester: I get killed off in the first instance, and I kind of raced towards the end to see if I came back.

Colin: There's a good part for a villain in it, I'll tell you that. This Hawkspur part I thought was marvellous. I'd quite fancy this Hawkspur.

Sylvester: I think it was written for Brian Blessed, because the author kept promising him parts. I think he hoped Brian Blessed would become the next Doctor.

Colin: And indeed, perhaps Anthony Ainley deserved a visitation as the Master.

Jon: I actually thought he'd be in it. Starburst: Haven't things changed though, since The Five Doctors? Since then you've all been together at conventions, and you've got to know each other quite well. Obviously it's no longer a case of egos; it's simply a matter of scheduling.

Colin: There are egos of course, we all have egos, but they're not fighting each other. There isn't a clash of egos. Jon: I've never had a clash of egos in all the years I've been connected with Doctor Who with anybody, even with Pat [Troughton], when we were in The Three Doctors together all those years ago, when he never gave me a single cue! [laughter]

Starburst: Do you think the project should have been done as a TV programme, or as a heavily promoted video release?

Jon: I think they should have played it as they intended to do, with one big transmission, and then put it out on video.

Sylvester: One of the big mistakes was the people who started doing it don't know very much about the world of Doctor Who. What they're doing now is they're taking us all out to dinner, to apologize to us for the balls-up they've made, but they actually should have invited us out a year ago, and sat down and said, "Tell us what you think Doctor Who is about," and then met with the fans. What they seem to have done is taken all the information from the fan club end of it. That seems to be where they've judged their information, but they haven't actually taken it from the professional side, and as JN-T is no longer working for them, there's no one to say, "Look, this is in the balance".

Colin: They didn't have a professional eye over it. All the information seems to have come from a few fans who have jobs at the BBC.

Sylvester: That's no bad thing, because they should have spoken to them as well, but they should also have spoken to our side to balance it.

Starburst: But is there anything wrong with the fact that a few people were able to do something that no-one else has been able to do, namely get a Doctor Who special off the ground?

Peter: Well, except that I heard literally through my agent — I don't know how accurate this is, but he was told by Peter Creegen that in fact someone in the ordinary BBC had come up with an idea, and was told that somebody in Enterprises already had their project underway, so you really have the amateur side of it stymieing what could have been a professional production.

Jon: There seems to be a great deal of antipathy between the BBC and Enterprises; a lot of jealousy. Sylvester: I was told that the reason it was cancelled was that the BBC Drama department was really upset by the fact that Enterprises were doing it. They said they were not going to be allowed to do it. Jon: The whole thing is a joke anyway, because Enterprises has never produced anything. They originally had artistic control over my radio programme until everyone screamed very loudly, and said, "This is preposterous!"

Starburst: Isn't the fact that a radio show was produced using a Doctor lasted 30 years would certainly have some kind of celebration of it, and I'm sure that was their intention. Starburst: But isn't one of the things that's upsetting all of you right now is the thought that there's been a sort of inter-Doctor conspiracy, when in reality, you all would have done the special, given the chance?

Jon: Yes, that's nonsense. There certainly wasn't a conspiracy, because we never negotiated, we never discussed it.

Peter: It annoys me that there's any implication that we killed the project. It was killed by incompetence. Starburst: What is it about Doctor Who that 30 years later still has you interested in working on the programme in one form or another? Colin: [Holding up both hands] One, two, three fall four actors join in] Money! [everyone laughs]. I know that surprises you, but we get paid for doing it.

Jon: We're working, jobbing actors, and we need to work; at least I do! Colin: It is enjoyable to do. Some jobs are a real pain, and some jobs are enjoyable. This is one of the enjoyable ones. *

Stars Colin Baker, Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy and Jon Pertwee

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Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Jon Pertwee — out of the Dark Dimension ...

Spelling corrections: Bill Baggs

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  • APA 6th ed.: Nazzaro, Joe (issue 181 (September 1993)). Dark Dimensions. Starburst p. 12.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Nazzaro, Joe. "Dark Dimensions." Starburst [add city] issue 181 (September 1993), 12. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Nazzaro, Joe. "Dark Dimensions." Starburst, edition, sec., issue 181 (September 1993)
  • Turabian: Nazzaro, Joe. "Dark Dimensions." Starburst, issue 181 (September 1993), section, 12 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Dark Dimensions | url= | work=Starburst | pages=12 | date=issue 181 (September 1993) | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 July 2021 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Dark Dimensions | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 July 2021}}</ref>