Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Who's a television legend

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Time Lord Doctor Who celebrates his 35th birthday next week Phil Gould celebrates the life [or, more accurately, lives] of a legend who lives on despite being exterminated a decade ago by the BBC.

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

Generations of youngsters grew up peering from behind the sofa as the Doctor tackled his many foes in his attempts 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.

With its wobbly sets, bargain basement baddies and planets which all seem to resemble an abandoned quarry somewhere in Dorset, the programme - which enjoyed cult status long before attaining cult status became fashionable - has also been a target for much derision.

Critic Victor Lewis-Smith has created his own slant on the Doctor's best known enemy - re-inventing them as the Gay Daleks with the tin pot tarts mincing through the countryside yelling 'yoo-hoo duckie' at each other.

Despite this sporadic Who-bashing, the show is still regularly shown on cable and satellite television and 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 back in the early 1960's when 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 the old box was called a Tardis which could travel through time and space.

The Doctor was also a scriptwriters dream. Not only could they let their imagination run riot, he also had - because of his Time Lord status - the ability to regenerate himself, a very handy device when you need another actor to take over the role.

The first incarnation brought in the flute-playing Patrick Troughton, followed by the bat-capped dandy Jon Pertwee. Next was the floppy hat and scarf wearing goggle-eyed Tom Baker, a period 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.

As well as famous enemies, some of the Doctor's assistants have gone on to become pretty 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 showbiz starlet Bonnie Langford as health fanatic Mel.

Langford recalls: "It was such an amazing time - such unusual people wanted to be in the show. The cast list was phenomenal. There was Richard Briers, Stubby Kaye, Kate O'Mara and Ken Dodd.

"I did it for two series. I found there was an awful lot of 'But Doctor' lines in it, which made it awfully difficult."

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 shed some light on the phenomenon.

He says: "I think there is something very British about Doctor Who. People who point to the wobbly sets, and it was 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."

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 which agreed to tone 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.

Today's fans are still hopeful of another regeneration.

"It's 10 years since Doctor Who was pulled," says Beech " 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."

GRAPHIC: Five Doctors: This special episode appeared in 1983 and featured all five Doctors to date. They are, from left: Richard Hurndall, representing original Doctor William Hartnell, Peter Davison, Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee, and Patrick Troughton.

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.: Gould, Phil (1998-11-20). Who's a television legend. The Newcastle Journal p. Life, p. 11.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Gould, Phil. "Who's a television legend." The Newcastle Journal [add city] 1998-11-20, Life, p. 11. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Gould, Phil. "Who's a television legend." The Newcastle Journal, edition, sec., 1998-11-20
  • Turabian: Gould, Phil. "Who's a television legend." The Newcastle Journal, 1998-11-20, section, Life, p. 11 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Who's a television legend | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Who%27s_a_television_legend | work=The Newcastle Journal | pages=Life, p. 11 | date=1998-11-20 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 October 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Who's a television legend | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Who%27s_a_television_legend | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 October 2019}}</ref>