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The Dark Dimensions: The story that almost was...

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  • Publication: SFX
  • Date: June 1995
  • Author: David Jackson
  • Page: 42
  • Language: English

A 90-MINUTE DOCTOR WHO STORY WITH A BUDGET OF OVER £1 MILLION, REDESIGNED DALEKS AND CYBERMEN, AND STARRING ALL THE SURVIVING DOCTORS? TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE? As IT TURNED OUT, YES.


At the end of 1992, BBC Video realised that the 30th anniversary of Doctor Who was fast approaching. Since the Who range was one of the department's biggest sellers, it seemed like an opportunity too good to miss. As the man in charge of Doctor Who videos at the time, and the eventual producer of what briefly became "The Dark Dimensions," David Jackson explains:

"The 30th anniversary of the show was coming up in November 1993 and we came up with the idea of a special video-only story as a treat for faithful fans."

A key factor in getting the story made was Tom Baker, who was warming to the idea of handing out jelly babies once again. Baker had recorded some material for two BBC Video specials - "Shada" and "The Tom Baker Years" - and, according to Jackson, had "got rather nostalgic."

Baker's suggestion was to get Douglas Adams to do the script. When that fell through, Jackson commissioned first-time writer, and long-time Doctor Who fan, Adrian Rigelsford to script the special. Graeme Harper, respected for calling the shots on two of the finest Doctor Who stories ever, then came on board as director.

"Graeme loved the script," enthuses Rigelsford. "He thought it was more Hammer Horror than Doctor Who. He wanted to make 'Ridley Scott does Doctor Who' - a $40 million movie for a 40th of the budget."

That's when things started to get complicated...

"We had hoped to do it for about half a million," says Jackson. "When we did our sums, it worked out at more like a million and a half. So we begun looking around at other ways we could raise money. That's when we started talking to BBC Drama."

Suddenly, "The Dark Dimensions" was going to be a major tele-movie to celebrate the show's 30th anniversary in November '93. Controller of BBC 1, Alan Yentob, and Head of Drama, Peter Creegan, threw their weight behind the project. However, it wasn't only the financial side of things that was getting complicated. There was the script too...

"It started with Sylvester McCoy being found dead at some point in the future," explains Rigelsford, "and a group of warriors travelling into the past to sort out what had actually killed him. They come to a point where Tom Baker's Doctor had never regenerated. He had been kept alive by an alien force. He's a lot older and grumblier. There was going to be a black version of his costume. The other Doctors then come into it via a search through time. Sylvester was in it a bit, and the others had their chunk. There were complaints that Tom got the lion's share, but that's what the BBC wanted."

Indeed, Davison, Pertwee, McCoy and Baker all went into print, criticising the script for not being "all for one and one for all."

Away from the ego wars, Chris Fitzgerald at the Henson Creature Workshop was called in to radically

redesign the Cybermen and the Daleks. There was to be a much more Gigeresque look for the latter, which would now be able to hover and have numerous interchangeable attachments.

The lead Cyberman was to be very different too. "It was very skeletal," explains Rigelsford, "and had some pipes running down its arms towards its knuckles. When it clenched its fists, six-inch blades would come out its knuckles."

Kevin Davies, the post-production effects supervisor, was set to create the story's main enemy. "The big alien, Death itself, began as this ethereal, billowing, glowing, gigantic ghostly thing," he explains, "which was going to float across the landscape spreading destruction beneath it." Both Rik Mayall and David Bowie had also been approached to play the main humanoid bad guy, Hawkspur - "a classic Doctor Who villain," according to Davies.

The whole thing was snowballing. A Cyber-Dalek war was in preparation - and, at one point, there was even talk of a theatrical release. And then, suddenly, it was all over. "In the end," explains Jackson, "it just became too complicated financially to make it work, and time was running out." Kevin Davies agrees: "What was terrifying was that only three-and-a-half months before it was to go on the air, we were having the first production meeting."

End of story? Well, not quite. Jackson immediately arranged a meeting with Rigelsford and Davies, and together they tried to come up with a script for a much lower budget 50-minute special.

"The BBC was committed to paying Tom, so they wanted a much smaller film on a normal drama budget," remembers Davies. "We kicked around the idea that there's an investigation going on at a UNIT warehouse, a kind of Hangar 18.We were going to bring in Sarah and the Brigadier.

"But then, the next morning, I got a phonecall from David saying forget it. He never did tell me why."

The Daily Mail ran a report claiming that there was friction between BBC Enterprises and BBC Drama. Rigelsford believes there may have been another factor: "There was a lot of ducking and weaving going on because negotiations had begun with Amblin," he says. "Graeme was certainly going to make something that had never seen before, which is part of the tragedy of it not being done."


Captions:

McCoy, Davison and Baker would have appeared in the 30th anniversary special - but only in supporting roles.

Adrian Rigelsford makes a cameo appearance in 30 Years in The TARDIS, covered in cobwebs.

Jon Pertwee and Colin Baker both went into print, criticising the script of "The Dark Dimension."

Tom Baker's costume would have been black in this Who.

The man who wanted to direct "Doctor Who meets Ridley Scott" - Graeme Harper.

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to whovian@cuttingsarchive.org

  • APA 6th ed.: Jackson, David (June 1995). The Dark Dimensions: The story that almost was.... SFX p. 42.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Jackson, David. "The Dark Dimensions: The story that almost was...." SFX [add city] June 1995, 42. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Jackson, David. "The Dark Dimensions: The story that almost was...." SFX, edition, sec., June 1995
  • Turabian: Jackson, David. "The Dark Dimensions: The story that almost was...." SFX, June 1995, section, 42 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The Dark Dimensions: The story that almost was... | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/The_Dark_Dimensions:_The_story_that_almost_was... | work=SFX | pages=42 | date=June 1995 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 February 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=The Dark Dimensions: The story that almost was... | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/The_Dark_Dimensions:_The_story_that_almost_was... | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 February 2024}}</ref>