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Doctor Who radio script is back from another time

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2012-01-14 Times.jpg

  • Publication: The Times
  • Date: 2012-01-14
  • Author: Jack Malvern, Charles Norton
  • Page: 29
  • Language: English

The only Doctor Who episode to have eluded even the most dedicated of fans has turned up after 46 years. Scripts for all but one of the radio and television programmes survive but the content of a 23-minute episode starring Peter Cushing as the Doctor has been a long-standing mystery.

Journey into Time, in which the Time Lord and his granddaughter send themselves across time and space to the American Revolution, was recorded as a radio pilot episode but never broadcast. Evidence that it existed emerged in 1989 in the form of promotional material but there were no plot details. The only people known to have heard it — the writer and a few executives at the BBC — are long dead.

The script was discovered recently after Richard Bignell, a freelance researcher, worked out that the show's producer, Richard Bates, had edited scripts for The Avengers in the early 1960s. Mr Bates, who is still alive, encouraged Mr Bignell to search in parts of the BBC's archive usually neglected by fans.

The script was found in a file of merchandising queries, such as soap companies asking for permission to make shampoo bottles in the shape of the Tardis. "When I opened [the file] up, I got so excited, seeing all this paperwork and flicking through it, that I didn't notice what was on the front cover, which was the entire pilot script," Mr Bignell said.

The script was written by Malcolm Hulke, one of Doctor Who's most prolific writers, who worked on 47 television episodes between 1967 and 1974. It was his first recorded script for the show after numerous rejections by the programme's production office.

Unusually for the time, the pilot was recorded by an independent company, a collaboration between Stanmark Productions and Watermill Productions. They were licensed by the BBC to broadcast the series in Australia and other overseas territories and engaged Cushing, who had already appeared as the Doctor in a pair of Dalek-based films in the mid-1960s.

The episode was meant to be the first in a series of adventures also involving Julius Caesar, Marco Polo and Neanderthal cavemen but the BBC was unimpressed with the proposal. Martin Esslin, head of sound drama, wrote in a memo: "As a typical commercial production for unsophisticated listeners in Australia or even some parts of the United States, it stands up quite well. As a piece of science fiction, however, it strikes me as extremely feeble."

The proposal for a regular BBC radio slot was rejected in November 1966. Stanmark was dissolved in 1972 and there is no trace of an archive.

Mr Bignell has searched in vain for a recording but has not given up hope. "There were at least two copies of the tape made," he said. "There's a chance that it's still stuck at the back of a cupboard somewhere, but I've pretty much drawn a blank."

The script will be published on Monday in the fanzine Nothing at the End of the Lane.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Norton, Jack Malvern, Charles (2012-01-14). Doctor Who radio script is back from another time. The Times p. 29.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Norton, Jack Malvern, Charles. "Doctor Who radio script is back from another time." The Times [add city] 2012-01-14, 29. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Norton, Jack Malvern, Charles. "Doctor Who radio script is back from another time." The Times, edition, sec., 2012-01-14
  • Turabian: Norton, Jack Malvern, Charles. "Doctor Who radio script is back from another time." The Times, 2012-01-14, section, 29 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Doctor Who radio script is back from another time | url= | work=The Times | pages=29 | date=2012-01-14 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=12 April 2021 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Doctor Who radio script is back from another time | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=12 April 2021}}</ref>