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This is the official blog of Phoenix Roleplaying, a multi-genre simming site, created in August 2010.

Run by the players, we hope to achieve great things.

Where our journey takes us, who knows.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors (1983)

Every November since 1980, the BBC has run a telethon called Children in Need, which raises large sums of money for children’s charities in the United Kingdom. This annual event features musical acts from pop stars and musicals, as well as sketches featuring popular programmes, including those from the ‘other side’ (ITV), with frequent in-character appearances and crazy cross-overs[1]. Pretty much everyone involved waives their fees for taking part. This is interspersed with videos talking about CiN’s work and regional features on the various fundraising activities (e.g. non-uniform days, sitting in a bath of baked beans, bake sales).


Personally, I find it best watched the following morning with liberal use of the fast forward button.


Doctor Who has made annual CiN appearances since 2005, with a Christmas special trailer or excerpt at the very least, sometimes with a special (canonical) scene added. We are now going to talk about the first such involvement on the telethon…

A 20th anniversary special had been planned by JNT since at least June 1981 – this had been the reasoning behind his attempt to return the show to an autumn time slot. However, an agreement was made to put aside two episodes worth of money from Season 20 aside for the special, with the hope of getting additional funding from the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Enterprises, who had made a lot of money from the show over the years. Enterprises didn’t put up any money, but ABC in Australia did – not even asking for a credit for the AUS$60,000 that they put towards the costs.


It was now May 1982 – with funding in place, Nathan-Turner went to find a cast. This is how things went:

·         With William Hartnell having died in 1975, Richard Hurndall was recruited to take his place as the First Doctor. Hurndall would die a few months after transmission – it’s unclear if he lived to get paid.

o   A clip of Hartnell from the end of “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” was added to the beginning in postproduction.

·         After concerns over scheduling were cleared up, Patrick Troughton would reprise his role.

·         Pertwee agreed to take part.

·         Tom Baker initially wanted to take part, but then pulled out. Footage from “Shada” would be used instead, with an in-story explanation for his absence.

·         Davison and the other two regulars were easily signed up.

·         Lis Sladen would appear alongside Pertwee, with Carole Ann Ford (Susan) appearing alongside Hurndall.

·         Frazer Hines was not able to do more than a cameo due to commitments to Yorkshire Television soap Emmerdale Farm[2], precluding tying him with Troughton; Nick Courtney’s Brigadier was assigned with him instead, thus giving birth to the Season 6B theory.

·         Ian Marter was unable to play Harry Sullivan due to commitments in New Zealand.

·         Any possibility of using Lalla Ward in the story was ended with her divorce from Tom Baker.

·         Caroline John (Liz Shaw), Richard Franklin (Yates) and Wendy Padbury (Zoe) agreed to make cameos, as did Deborah Watling (Victoria), but the last had to pull out.

·         Louise Jameson offered her services at a late stage, but it was too late to write her in.

·         Only one of the four guest stars from “Arc of Infinity” proved available.


Robert Holmes was approached to write the story and got quite a way through the storyline, but struggled with it (not being too happy using past characters) and had to pull out – Saward instead gave him a four-parter for Season 21. Terrance Dicks took over and did a new story from scratch, that had appearances from a whole host of past monsters – after some reluctance, he added K9.


The production in North Wales also proved somewhat problematic – a Yeti costume was found to be flea-ridden, a hang glider scene was dropped due to prop problems and Mark Strickson had to cut short a holiday to do a remount after footage was damaged.

The plan had been to put it out on the anniversary date itself – 23 November 1983, but with Children in Need on the coming Friday (the 26th), the special was put back and broadcast as part of that event. Thus, WTTW in Chicago became the first network to broadcast the story; the first time a Doctor Who episode had been aired first outside the UK. Also, much to JNT’s annoyance, the Target novelisation came out two weeks before transmission.

The Five Doctors (1 90-minute special)


The five incarnations of the Doctor are taken out of time by a banned Time Scoop. Four of them end up in the Death Zone of Gallifrey. They must make their way to the Dark Tower, the tomb of Time Lord founder Rassilon…


This was one of the first stories I saw and it’s a great anniversary piece, although it should not be analysed too closely.

7.7 million watched this special, making it one of the highest rated episodes of 1983 and a strong success.


A major convention at Longleat also formed part of the celebrations; it seemed that the show’s future was assured and things were going well. Within 18 months, those beliefs would be sorely tested.

[1]For example, 2012’s event featured Lord Alan Sugar (of The Apprentice) on the set of Eastenders holding conversations with the characters regarding CVs…

[2]Now known simply as Emmerdale.

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