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Exterminated: But You Know Who Still Lives On

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He's centuries old, has lived in eight different bodies but is only coming up to his 35th birthday. Who is he? Doctor Who.

It is 10 years since the last series of Doctor Who appeared on terrestrial television but the galaxy-trotting Time Lord still holds a special place in the hearts of the nation.

Generations of youngsters have grown up peering from behind the sofa as the Doctor has tackled foes to save the universe.

Over the years the Cybermen, Ice Warriors, Autons, Sea Devils and the instantly recognisable Daleks have all tried - and failed - to outwit the man with two hearts.

In fact the recently published Oxford Dictionary of 20th Century Quotations even includes the Daleks' memorable catchphrase, "Exterminate, exterminate!"

With its wobbly sets, bargain basement baddies and planets which all seem to resemble an abandoned quarry somewhere in Dorset, the programme has also been a target for much derision.

Despite sporadic Who-bashing, the show is still regularly shown on cable and satellite television. A BBC video has just been released of four episodes thought to have been lost for ever from the 1967 series, which introduced the Ice Warriors.

The monthly Doctor Who magazine has a readership of 30,000 and there is an official fan club which holds regular conventions up and down the country.

The time travelling do-gooder had pretty humble origins. Viewers encountered the first doctor, a white haired William Hartnell, living in an old police box in a junk yard with his grand-daughter Susan.

It turned out that the old box was called a Tardis (standing for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space) which could travel through time and space.

It also transpired that the Doctor could regenerate himself - very handy when you need another actor to take over the role of battling against scores of evil monsters.

First came the flute playing Patrick Troughton followed by the bat-capped dandy Jon Pertwee, next was the floppy hat scarf wearing goggle-eyed Tom Baker, widely regarded by fans as being the Time Lord's finest hour. Next came Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Vision On escapee Sylvester McCoy who remained as the Doctor until the series was shelved in 1988.

The Doctor made another body hop when Paul McGann took the role in the Spielberg TV movie in 1996, which fans hoped would herald the dawn of a new era - but didn't.

Some of the Doctor's assistants have gone on to become well known themselves. Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves played Steven in the days before he had to declare 'here's one I made earlier', Frazer Hines was Jamie before learning to cope with the more earthly traumas of Emmerdale Farm.

Louise Jameson played the leather clad Leela more than a decade before she turned up in Albert Square as Rosa Di Marco, and then there was Bonnie Langford as Mel.

But why, after 10 years of exile, is the show still so well remembered and well loved?

Andrew Beech, of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, is a man who should be able to shed light on the phenomenon. The 39-year-old solicitor confesses that he has one of four original Tardis's in his conservatory - not to mention three Daleks in his garage.

He says: "I think there is something very British about Doctor Who. People who point out the wobbly sets and it being cheaply made miss the point.

"Before the days of Star Wars Doctor Who was pretty ground-breaking stuff. It had strong characterisation, good storylines and was genuinely scary to watch.

"There was always the cliff hanger ending which would have people on the edge of their seats waiting to find out what had happened to the Doctor and his accomplices."

In the mid 70s the arrival of hi-tech Star Wars on the big screen and ITV's Buck Rogers in the 25th Century on television, scheduled directly opposite the Time Lord, did have an impact, but viewers stayed loyal.

Although the Doctor saw off some of the deadliest foes known to mankind it was a little old lady from Birmingham who would turn out to be his most deadly opponent.

Beech explains: "There was one season when Tom Baker was the Doctor and there had been quite a bit of violence and horror used in the stories. Mary Whitehouse kicked up a real fuss. She complained about the effect it would have on young viewers."

He believes Whitehouse and her National Viewers and Listeners Association ground down the BBC who toned the series down.

The end result was that the horror, violence and heart-stopping cliff hangers disappeared, to be replaced by a new lightweight more jokey kind of Doctor.

Other things changed too. Beech says the arrival of Davros, the Daleks' leader, had a dramatic effect on their power to terrorise the viewers.

"When the Daleks first appeared they were their own commanders and they had only to look at you and you would be dead.

"But when Davros appeared he started to make the decisions and they were relegated to running around yelling exterminate, exterminate, but not bumping many people off.

"In the early days there was a high body count but later on the Daleks just lost their teeth and weren't frightening any more."

The gradual decline continued and in 1988, despite protests from fans, BBC chiefs pulled the plug on the Doctor and his time travels. But even today they remain hopeful of his return.

Beech says: "I do think the 1996 film was a wasted opportunity. Paul McGann was great but the Americans went and made something which was more about car chases and hospitals than time travel and space. Where were the Monsters?

"It's 10 years since Doctor Who was pulled but we do know that the BBC is looking for a Saturday tea time sci-fi series. So even if he appears to be dead it might be time to consider bringing him back to life."

Ten things you MAY not know about Doctor Who ...

  • The Millennium Dome in Greenwich, London, was the site of a pitched battle between the Cybermen and a group of neo-Nazis in the 1988 adventure Silver Nemesis.
  • Doctor Who was mentioned in The Joe Orton Diaries and Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.
  • If you don't want to be exterminated wear red. The colour is unknown on the Daleks' home planet, so they can't see it.
  • The Tardis doesn't always appear as a 60s police box. It has resembled a fairground organ and a cupboard at times.
  • Koo Stark was lined up to play a part in the 1985 Attack of the Cybermen, but wasn't happy about the publicity involved and was replaced by Sarah Greene.
  • The 1988 Silver Nemesis series was filmed around Windsor Castle. Prince Edward was offered a walk-on part - he declined.
  • Doctor Who number four Tom Baker married his assistant, the second Romana, actress Lalla Ward, in real life. The partnership only lasted a few months.
  • Mary Whitehouse went into hysteria when a policeman removed his face to reveal he was really an Auton kidnapping the Doctor. She claimed it would cause children not to trust police officers.
  • The Abominable Snowmen, or Yeti, which live in the Himalayas are actually crashed Daleks which have crawled out of their dustbins to live in the mountains. Or so goes the theory.

GRAPHIC: FAMOUS DOCTORS: from left to right, William Hartnell, Patrick; Troughton and Jon Pertwee, among others, have taken to the Tardis in a bid to save the universe

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  • APA 6th ed.: Gould, Phil (1998-11-19). Exterminated: But You Know Who Still Lives On. The News Letter p. 18.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Gould, Phil. "Exterminated: But You Know Who Still Lives On." The News Letter [add city] 1998-11-19, 18. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Gould, Phil. "Exterminated: But You Know Who Still Lives On." The News Letter, edition, sec., 1998-11-19
  • Turabian: Gould, Phil. "Exterminated: But You Know Who Still Lives On." The News Letter, 1998-11-19, section, 18 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Exterminated: But You Know Who Still Lives On | url= | work=The News Letter | pages=18 | date=1998-11-19 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Exterminated: But You Know Who Still Lives On | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 April 2024}}</ref>