A Mild Curiosity in a Junkyard (Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead)

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Credits

The end.
It’s June 7th, 2008. Rihanna is at number one with “Take a Bow,” having taken the slot the previous week. The Ting Tings, Coldplay, Usher, Madonna, and Justin Timberlake also chart. In news, Manchester United triumph in the first ever all-English European Cup final, defeating Chelsea on penalties. Construction begins in London on the Olympic Stadium, and Barack Obama finally puts the long fight for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination to rest when he defeats Hillary Clinton to, by that point, absolutely nobody’s surprise. 
 
On television, meanwhile, the Doctor is in a library, shouting at shadows. Seething, he tells them to look him up. They do so, and begin to read.
 

 
Like anything, it emerged from a number of influences, and its history can in one sense be traced back indefinitely. It does not have a clear and definitive moment of creation - a pristine and bespoke origin story. It is, however, generally agreed to have a creator: Sydney Newman. Newman was a Canadian television producer who caught the eye of Associated British Corporation, a weekend ITV franchise in the North and Midlands of England. Moving there in 1958, he quickly made a reputation for himself, birthing the reasonably successful sci-fi anthology Out of this World, a fairly straightforward knockoff of the American Twilight Zone, and The Avengers, at first a fairly generic crime show, but eventually an international hit. At the beginning of 1963, he was poached by the BBC to become Head of Drama.
 
Shortly before Newman’s arrival, the BBC commissioned a study to see how science fiction might  could work on television. Mainstream critics like Kingsley Amis were drawing attention to the genre, the earliest days of the New Wave, spearheaded by writers like J.G. Ballard and Michael Moorcock, were playing out, and the BBC, committed to making various types of programming in the interest of the public, wanted to try it. The general conclusion was that sci-fi is a literary, adult genre that can’t really be done well for families because of the need for special effects. Time travel was suggested as a potentially strong subject for allowing a variety of low-cost dramas, and the report arrives six months before Newman. Three months after Newman started on the job, a Saturday evening timeslot between a sports program, Grandstand, and a pop music program, Juke Box Jury opened up. The slot called for an all-ages program, appealing to teenagers waiting for Juke Box Jury, adults holding over from Grandstand, and the existing children’s audience for that timeslot. Newman decided the sci-fi program would be perfect, and set to work designing it with C.E. Weber, a staff writer, and Donald Wilson, head of the Script department.
 
Curiously, the program’s development began with the sorts of characters who should be in it. The idea was a 30-something male protagonist and a younger female one, an older mentor figure, and an aesthetic that combined Victoriana with high-tech shininess. This latter conceit speaks volumes about the program’s intended morality. The time travel concept is clearly used to create a wide variety of adventures, in which the main characters will resolve moral problems. But the source of their wisdom and power is to be an old man who combines the futuristic sci-fi aesthetic with a historically minded British one. The idea, then, is that old-fashioned British values dating back to the height of the British Empire would save the day in the future as well. This approach was, in several subtle but important ways, a satisfying theme for science fiction. The British Empire had always been based in part on technological skill - their naval supremacy was born in part of the fact that British scientists Edmond Halley and John Harrison solved the problem of how to measure longitudinal distance around the Earth, thus swiftly making the British the best navigators on the planet. This extended into the Victorian era, where the industrial revolution came about in part due to the technological advances of people like George Stephenson and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Even in World War II, it was British computer scientists such as Alan Turing who broke the German codes and enabled an Allied victory. So the idea that a British inventor of the future would have the crucial wisdom and knowledge to right wrongs in a technologically advanced world would have seemed a reasonable hope for a country that, in its own mythology at least, was still just twenty years out from having saved the world from the Nazis. 
 
Newman, however, had some refinements. He wanted a young girl to be cool and to motivate the plot by screwing up, and he wanted the older man to be a difficult, almost antagonistic man. Once again, this conceit has terrific significance. It is worth remembering that Newman is not British. He is Canadian - a product of British culture, but an offspring that had long since set off in its own direction, away from the British imperial values that the proto-steampunk aesthetic points towards. By turning this into a source of borderline menace such that the character is not entirely trustworthy and morally ambiguous, Newman moved the underlying premise slightly, opening the Victorian imperialistic values implicit in the premise to some sort of critique or modification. In essence, it positions the 30-something protagonists as a better, younger generation, improving upon the failures of the older one. 
 
The idea was refined further. The male and female lead became schoolteachers, the old man a fugitive from the far-future. There’s now a broken time machine, stuck in the shape of a London Police Box, and in need of repairs. And with some scripts in development, it was time to hire a production team. After a few false starts, Newman poached Verity Lambert from his old employer and appointed her producer. Lambert is as hard-nosed a professional as they come - she successfully and calmly took over directing cameras on a live drama broadcast when one of the actors literally died in the middle of the performance, leaving the more senior producers to frantically rewrite the script on the fly. Meanwhile, David Whitaker, a promising young writer, was put in charge of editing scripts. They continued to refine their ideas, and settled on a choice of first stories: combining a three-episode adventure by Anthony Coburn about cavemen with a first episode based in a large part on C.E. Weber’s development of the series concept. 
 
An initial pilot episode was filmed but deemed unsuitable due to some technical faults pulling off the show’s signature special effect as Barbara, the female lead, now played by Jacqueline Hill pushes through the Police Box doors to discover that, impossibly, a gleaming white control room far larger than the exterior of the box lies within. Seizing the opportunity, the script is tinkered a little bit as well, removing the explanation of the origins of old man, now played by William Hartnell, an actor best known for his hard-nosed military roles, and the young girl, Susan, now the old man’s granddaughter and played by Carole Ann Ford. The cast is rounded out by William Russell as the male lead, Ian. Ian and Barbara have become schoolteachers who follow a mysterious student of theirs back to her home. The student, Susan, turns out to live with her alien grandfather in a time machine disguised as a London Police Box, and, due to poor communication between her Grandfather and the schoolteachers, all four find themselves in an uncontrollable time machine, unable to return to their homes. Out of this cast, however, the show draws its title from Susan’s mysterious old grandfather, a Doctor, who declines to ever give his real name, thus adding to his mysterious and gruff mystique. On November 23rd, 1963, one day after the assassination of American President John F. Kennedy, the first episode goes out. The episode is titled “An Unearthly Child,” and the title of the series is Doctor Who.
 
The ratings were middling at best. This is unsurprising - the mood was still raw after the nearly twenty-four hours of solid news coverage. Doctor Who was the first thing that went out as the BBC returned to normal programming, and drew a paltry 4.4 million. In a small mercy, the BBC opted to re-run the first episode before the second episode, and the remainder of the first story pulled figures in the six to seven million range, peaking at 6.9 million for its third episode, which followed immediately on an appearance by the Beatles on Juke Box Jury
 
The first story is an uncertain affair, however. Its plot is mainly focused on coming up with a reason for these two disparate groups of people to travel together. Ian and Barbara are schoolteachers, concerned with their student, Susan, who displays uncanny brilliance in some areas but bizarre gaps in her knowledge in others. Deciding to follow her home, they discover that she lives in a junkyard. When they hear her speaking from what appears to be a Police Box, they push past the old man trying to dissuade them from exploring and discover the truth: Susan and the old man are time travellers. Outraged, the old man, the Doctor, sets the ship up to dematerialize, sweeping the teachers away to an unknown destination. That destination turns out to be prehistoric Earth, where the characters settle a leadership dispute within the Tribe of Gum, a dispute that mirrors the tensions between Ian and the Doctor. The Doctor is a clearly untrustworthy figure, having kidnapped Ian and Barbara, and at one point considers smashing in the head of an otherwise innocent caveman who threatens to slow their escape. Still, they escape with their lives and set off to travel again. The story is competent - the first episode is better than the remaining three, but it does what the program is supposed to do, combining interesting and mature ideas with reasonably exciting adventure for the kids.
 
The second story is set to be a more straightforward science fiction story by a Welsh writer named Terry Nation. Terry Nation’s later work paints a picture of his approach to science fiction: as early as his other contribution to Doctor Who’s first season, The Keys of Marinus, he’s writing formulaic, intensely serializable pulp adventures. The bulk of his stories in the Hartnell era are actually a chain of one-episode adventures, copying the plot structure of Eagle’s old flagship space hero, Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future. Even in this story his tendency to rely on the serialized structure of Doctor Who and to craft adventures made of smaller mini-adventures is apparent. The titles of his episodes give it away: all seven are simply declared objects: “The Dead Planet,” “The Survivors,” “The Expedition,” “The Ordeal.” 
 
Nation is under a further constraint for this one, however, a fact that would make him an integral part of the entire show’s history for what are, ultimately, strangely specious reasons. Shortly after signing the contract to pen a serial for Doctor Who, Nation got a better job offer doing a comedy special for Eric Sykes, contemporary of Spike Milligan on The Goon Show, and so did the entire Doctor Who story in a week, writing an episode a day. This meant that it was a reasonably easy script to shepherd into production early on, and thus it was ready for the slot of second story, whereas Anthony Coburn’s The Masters of Luxor, originally intended as the second story, was proving unsatisfactory to David Whitaker, both because of its implausible budget demands and because its resolution hinged in part on the Doctor’s Christian faith.
 
There was, however, a problem with Nation’s script, then titled The Mutants, which was Nation’s space adventure structure. It was not that Nation asked for anything unaffordable, although perhaps his giant mire beast was a little over-ambitious for a BBC design budget, but rather that his story was based around what Sydney Newman called BEMs - bug-eyed monsters. Newman was adamant that Doctor Who not go that route, instead maintaining a balance between historical stories like the initial caveman adventure and literary science fiction plays. The Daleks, Nation’s mutant villains, were blatant examples - inhuman creatures who looked for all the world like robots 
 
And so Lambert, as Newman tells it, constructed an elaborate explanation about how they’re not monsters, but people twisted by radiation so that they need survival suits. But this focus would surely require some alteration to the script. Nation’s pulp adventure script was, after all, exactly the thing Newman’s BEM policy was meant to avoid, and much as Lambert might have been thinking on her feet to talk her way out of a production note she didn’t like, she was smart enough to see it coming. More to the point, the hand of David Whitaker is all over this script. David Whitaker is one of Doctor Who’s earliest visionaries, and his literary career is largely defined by that association. In addition to script editing the first season and the start of the second, Whitaker wrote forty episodes of the show, adapted Terry Nation’s first two Dalek stories to films starring Peter Cushing, ghost wrote large swaths of the early Doctor Who Annuals published by World Distributors, and penned two of the first three novelizations of Doctor Who stories before largely exiting writing in favor of teaching in Australia. 
 
Whitaker’s work displays a theatricality and stageplay quality. He favors political intrigue and overt philosophical discussions. His writing has a meticulousness of structure that few of his contemporaries on early Doctor Who shared - even when his plotting was sloppy, which it often could be, he was adept at managing the motion of a given scene and at adding nuances of character. He was perfectly pitched to massage Nation’s script a little - the continuing narrative of the tense relations between the Doctor and Ian and Barbara is surely Whitaker’s work, as is the sequence where Ian manipulates the Thals into abandoning pacifism, an approach he takes for complex moral reasons involving not wanting to make other people die for him, and so wanting to give the Thals something of their own to fight for. 
 
These themes of pacifism and the moral imperative to fight evil would be present in Nation’s original script - they’re exactly the sort of stuff that Eagle played with. But Whitaker seems to have played up the obvious Nazi associations of Nation’s monsters, but frame it in a lurid, dead planet. Under Whitaker’s knife the Daleks move from being evil aliens in a bunker to strange creatures of unlife. Their need for radiation has made them into creatures of death, determined to destroy the world further so that they can continue to live. They are the horrifying remains of people after nuclear annihilation, no longer people but inconceivably monstrous things. The story stops being about how there are some people like the Nazis who are just irredeemably bad and must be fought, and starts being about the sheer degree to which the Daleks are twisted and grotesque. Nation’s script had little of this - the Daleks were generic space monsters in a post-apocalyptic world, but Nation was infamous for hazily-defined writing. Designers on this story recall endless successions of featureless white corridors where Nation couldn’t think of any good images, and were basically given the world of Skaro and the creatures as a blank canvas on which to play.
 
Two creative visions stand out. The first was designer Raymond Cusick, who designed the physical appearance of the Daleks. The focus of the design was on making them look like objects instead of people, while still retaining some level of ability for their operators to act so that they could fulfill the relatively complicated plot roles the script demanded of them. Cusick designed around the mechanism of operation - a fairly blocky shape so that it wasn’t too brutal for the actor inside, capable of being wheeled and spun around from within. Lights flashed on the top to indicate which Dalek was speaking, and Cusick put the iris from a cannibalized camera in the eyestalk so that its eye could open and close. Early tests focused on the actors’ ability to move freely, and actors inventive ways of suggesting the mounting fury implied by the creature’s piercing robotic voice.
 
That voice was designed primarily by Brian Hodgson at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Hodsgson was responsible for much of the sound design on early Doctor Who, which mixed together strange noises created by speeding and slowing audiotape, electronically treating sound, and splicing up tape. These techniques were used by Hodgson’s colleague Delia Derbyshire to arrange Ron Grainer’s theme tune for the show into a haunting, unnerving piece of proto-electronica that paired perfectly with the experimental title graphics created by Bernard Lodge by pointing a camera at a monitor displaying the camera’s own image. Hodgson did not only create the clipped but intelligible speech patterns of the Daleks (by using what’s called a ring modulator), he created a wealth of pulsing, humming noise for the backdrop of the Dalek city.
 
The result, under the direction of Christopher Barry, is one of the most impressive shots of 1960s television. At the end of the first episode, Barbara, separated from the rest of the TARDIS crew, is menaced by an unseen monster. The next episode starts with a scene among the Doctor, Ian, and Susan plays out in which the Doctor’s cruel ruse to get them to explore the mysterious Dalek city is revealed as it becomes evident that the planet has a fatally high level of radiation and that they must get back to the TARDIS immediately. Repeating the Doctor’s own trick of hijacking a key component of the TARDIS, Ian forces the Doctor to agree to find Barbara before they retreat. They turn, walk through a door, and start, terrified. The camera pulls back from their faces, back through the room they have walked into, revealing these metallic things with recognizable arms and eyes, but not looking like a person at all, and their haunting voices.
 
The impact of the scene is evident. The first episode, “The Dead Planet,” pulled 6.9 million viewers. The second, with the Daleks making their first full appearance, fell to 6.4 million. But once they appeared the word of mouth caught on and the Daleks became a small national obsession, with a staggering 8.9 million people tuning in, rising to 10.4 million by the end of the story and firmly establishing Doctor Who as a hit television show.
 
Due to the vagaries of how copyright worked for BBC production, however, Terry Nation ended up the primary beneficiary of this success. The Daleks, as a concept, remained copyright to him, and his agent, the famed Roger Hancock, was perfectly willing to play hardball with the series’ hit monster. Nation would spend the remainder of his life, and some portion of his afterlife petulantly taking the rights to the Daleks away and giving them back to him with various forms of increased creative control. This despite the fact that his creation was a weeklong rush job with a sketchy description honed to genius by other men.
 

 
Cynthia's gaze darted up from her book, as a familiar mechanized chirping emanated from her ship's console. She sighed, setting the book aside and checking the readout on her screens. Some sort of temporal anomaly, getting in the way of the autopilot's course. She took manual control of the console for a moment, redirecting the autopilot away from whatever it was picking up. She couldn't see anything ahead in the void of space, not really... but it was always better to be safe than sorry. She had learned that at home, growing up on Metebelis IV. When the Eight Legs came with their invaders to plunder their resources, she and her family had been forced into hiding. Then the man in the blue box came, this strange little person with an umbrella and wearing a question mark vest. He and his associate, the girl in the jacket full of otherworldly patches and a backpack of explosives. They sorted things out. They liberated Metebelis IV. They saved her life. Now here she was, a million or more miles away from her home world, exploring the stars just like he claimed to.
 
She had wanted to learn more about him. Her travels took her to all sorts of planets, and nearly every one had some sort of legend about the man in the blue box. She had gotten a name from one of them, and that had led her to the Library. There was no paper record of what she was looking for at the Library. Just as well, because those books gave her a funny feeling. With ingenuity, she managed to get a digital report of what she was looking for, and the results were right there on her micro-reader. Cynthia paused for a moment, just looking out at the empty space. The computer said she was somewhere inside the constellation of Kasterborous. There had been stories of this place, as well. Some sort of terrible war that had ended in a double genocide, a war that no ordinary person could comprehend. Now Cynthia regarded the emptiness as eerie, a sort of graveyard in space. The sooner she was out of here, the better.
 
Something caught her eye then. Something blue, floating through the void. No. It couldn't be. The rational part of Cynthia's mind knew it couldn't be true... but the rest of her, the child who had been saved from the spiders? She knew. He was still out there, saving worlds and sorting things out. Cynthia smiled, a smile that nobody else could see, content with the knowledge that things would be okay in the universe. Inside a blue box that Cynthia had never stepped foot in, a good man and his best friend, an impossible girl, were on route to set another thing right.
 
 
As the Doctor moved on to the next chapter of the story, Cynthia picked up her micro-reader and continued to read.

 
Nevertheless, the show was a bona fide hit, and after a two-episode story by Whitaker designed to give the series a dignified exit point after thirteen episodes if it flopped the show began in earnest. The fourth story, Marco Polo, was used to subtly rejig the dynamic among the cast, with the Doctor becoming less of a potentially malevolent, untrustworthy figure and more of a magical grandfather, albeit one with an occasionally cantankerous streak. This more straightforwardly heroic Doctor reduced the need for Susan to provide a buffer between him and the human characters, and she quickly degenerated into being there mostly to put in danger and have scream - a tendency taken to comedic levels in the story’s final season, which has her decide that the rats in her prison cell are so terrifying that she can’t try to escape, and subsequently feels too queasy to run away from the guillotine. 
 
And so Doctor Who continued through its first year. In this period it mostly worked as it had initially set out to, before Terry Nation’s easily produced second script derailed it into BEMs. Historical stories and science fiction plays mostly alternated. Sometimes the historicals were thrilling adventure stories, as with the cavemen and Marco Polo, other times more comedic affairs, as with Dennis Spooner’s French Revolution tale The Reign of Terror, and other times they were morality plays, as with John Lucarotti’s The Aztecs, which features a quietly sad plot of the Doctor and Barbara butting heads on the nature of changing history and cultural imperialism, with the Doctor imploring Barbara not to engage in a doomed effort to cure the Aztecs of their taste for human sacrifice. The science fiction, meanwhile, endeavored for a literary bent, although only Whitaker’s short two-episode story and Peter Newman’s The Sensorites made much progress towards that, the other two stories being Nation-penned pulp adventure. But the show had its approach in mind, and carried it out.
 
But as plans began to solidify for a second series of what would be thirty-nine episodes, it was obvious that the show had to return to its glorious moment in popular culture and bring back the Daleks. The creatures’ popularity had made the show itself a clear hit, yes, but they were the star attraction. In addition to being perfectly designed for the iconic, uncanny shot of their first appearance, the Daleks were perfectly poised for children to imitate, giving the show a powerful hold with one of its primary audiences. All you had to do was put a waste paper basket over your head and shout a lot, both tasks children are, to be honest, prone to anyway. So great was their popularity that in December of 1964, a year after their debut, a Newcastle based girl group called The Go-Go’s (not those ones) attempted a novelty single called “I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas With a Dalek.” The single failed to live up to any sense of its title’s promise, but its existence speaks volumes.
 
And so it was almost inevitable that the first story made as part of the second run of production would feature the return of the Daleks in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Terry Nation, of course, returned with them, and penned six episodes of running around a ruined future Britain after a Dalek invasion, with the Daleks pursuing an absurd scheme of hollowing out the Earth’s core to drive it around as a spaceship. The momentum of the story combined with yet another bit of confident design work (including iconic shots of the Daleks rolling over major London landmarks and of a Dalek rising up out of the Thames) mostly came off well, coming out in exact synch with David Whitaker’s novelization of Nation’s first script, Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks. By the end of 1965 there were Dalek toys in the market, the first of the two Peter Cushing films, and a third Dalek television story, The Chase
 
In many ways The Dalek Invasion of Earth marks the end of an era for Doctor Who. Its existence as a concession to popular culture provides an interesting bind. On the one hand, Sydney Newman, a populist impresario at heart, would have been elated, and Verity Lambert, the producer, enjoyed a clear boost in reputation. But this came at the expense of the series’ literary qualities. The series was a hit, but not for what Newman originally envisioned its purpose as being. The success of the Daleks was based on their visual spectacle, and served as a stunning refutation of the Frick report’s conclusions that attempting special effects-based science fiction on television was a doomed endeavor. But at the same time it refuted her conclusion that literary plays for adults were thus the correct model of science fiction, opening the door for more of the mindless pulp adventure out of which the Daleks sprung. 
 
It is absurd to suggest that spectacle is the enemy of literary nuance, and the history of Doctor Who is a testament to the many ways they can blend. Nevertheless, the Daleks introduced new concerns to Doctor Who. The second block of production was full of attempts to create the next hit monster. There were the Zarbi, mute ant men in Bill Strutton’s The Web Planet, who served as the series’ first literal race of bug-eyed monsters, followed by the Mechanoids, literal rivals to the Daleks in The Chase, and, in the final story produced in this run (but held back to kick off the third block of transmitted episodes), the Chumblies, a race of robotic servants. And along with this turn comes the departure of David Whitaker, replaced as script editor by Dennis Spooner - a move that did not bring an end to Doctor Who’s investment in the literary, but that marked a clear step away from it, Whitaker having been a major engine of that aesthetic in the first series.
 
Also departing in The Dalek Invasion of Earth was Carole Ann Ford’s character of Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter. Ford was frustrated with her character’s collapse into generic peril monkey, and wanted to pursue meatier dramatic roles, which, as was the fate of most Doctor Who supporting cast members, never really panned out. Not wanting to abandon the show’s winning formula, Verity Lambert and company set out to design a more or less like-for-like replacement, Vicki: a futuristic human girl who crash-landed on a remote planet and was rescued by the Doctor. So similar in conception to Susan was this character that Sydney Newman suggested that the actress who played her, Maureen O’Brien, might cut her hair and dye it black, to which O’Brien icily replied that if that was what they wanted, they should hire Carole Ann Ford back. 
 
The task of managing the series through this significant transition in its central concept was given to Whitaker, a sort of one last job in handling the major creative directions of this fledgling series before he returned to the life of a freelancer. Attentive to the difficulties, the decision was made to focus on Vicki’s introduction in a focused, two-week character piece. Whitaker, it seems, proceeded to give Dennis Spooner, his successor, a tricky script to handle - Spooner describes the episodes as being twice as long as they were supposed to be, an error Whitaker surely knew better than to make having been handling scripts for over a year. But whatever Whitaker’s slight hazing of his successor, the resulting story was a success - a thematically dense bit of television theater that carefully introduced a new type of character and established her in relation to the existing cast.
 
It is worth reflecting on the nature of Vicki in order to get a sense of what the program was actually like in this period. Susan’s role as the Doctor’s granddaughter was, of course, the hook upon which the first episode of the series hung itself. The initial mystery of the series was “who is this strangely futuristic-seeeming teenager,” and the answer to that initiated a series of sci-fi adventures. Susan was a part of the link between the perfectly ordinary world Ian and Barbara inhabited and the science fiction world from which the Doctor hails. In this regard, she was always the least essential character. The show’s tension and innovation initially came from the juxtaposition of the ordinary Ian and Barbara and the bizarre settings that the TARDIS landed in. Once Susan had joined the schoolteachers and the Doctor, her role was in many ways done. 
 
With Vicki, then, Lambert, Spooner, and Whitaker created a character who served as a different sort of link between the ordinary world and the Doctor. On the one hand, great care is taken to stress that Vicki is British, and from the same world as Ian and Barbara, only from the 25th century. On the other, Vicki clearly does come out of the same sort of science fiction world as the Doctor. The result is a character that was well-placed for the dawn of 1965, as the Beatles-style youth culture rose. The Beatles’ third album, Beatles for Sale, came out the day before the third episode of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and featured liner notes talking about “a radioactive, cigar-smoking child, picnicking on Saturn,” and save for the cigar, this seems firmly the mould in which Vicki was designed - as a present day teenager who happens to be from five hundred years in the future.
 
This attention to conceptual clarity - making sure the new companion adequately addressed the problems of the old one - was a hallmark of the program under Dennis Spooner. All of his episodes were marked with a high concept clarity. Trips to the past became opportunities to explore a particular genre or style - Spooner himself penned The Romans, the third episode of which is a straight-up farce, and David Whitaker returned again to write The Crusade, which manages a credible impression of Shakespeare writing an action serial. The Crusade, along with the previous story, The Web Planet, became the second and third stories to be novelized. The Web Planet, by Bill Strutton, was an aesthetically daring sci-fi story featuring no humanoid characters whatsoever besides the regular cast and a mysterious alien world dominated by a strange, otherworldly intelligence called the Animus. The script played up its own strangeness: at one point a set of underground insect aliens discusses the problem of having to break through a wall, saying, “A silent wall. We must make mouths in it with our weapons. Then it speak more light.” This ostentatiously alien dialogue was paired with acting featuring strange experimental choreography by Roslyn de Winter, and a visual aesthetic that gave everything an unsettling halo due to a decision to smear Vaseline on all of the camera lenses. The Web Planet’s reach preposterously exceeded its grasp, but the fact that the BBC was even willing to try something so audacious serves as a testament to the popular swagger the series had. And sure enough, the first episode of The Web Planet pulled in thirteen-and-a-half million viewers, a million more than the high profile return of the Daleks had done three months earlier.
 
Nevertheless, by the time of the third go-around with the Daleks, The Chase, almost everybody who had been associated with the program was exhausted. For Verity Lambert, William Russell, and Jacqueline Hill it had been a grueling run of work: they had produced seventy-two episodes of television in seventy-seven weeks, and scored a solid hit. Nevertheless, almost all of them were ready to move on. So was Dennis Spooner, who burnt out as script editor in six months, following Whitaker’s swift path back to being a freelancer. Over the next handful of stories produced, all of them left - Russell and Hill in The Chase, replaced by Peter Purves as the former space pilot Steven Taylor, and Spooner ostensibly left with the same story, although he scripted the next story, The Time Meddler, for incoming script editor Donald Tosh. That story was another take on the historical, this time introducing a fellow member of the Doctor’s species who travels around just to meddle with history, and served as the second season finale. Lambert left five episodes later, which marked the conclusion of the second block of production. These five episodes consisted of the third season premiere, Galaxy Four, and a Dalek episode that would not feature the Doctor, Steven, or Vicki at all. In the course of Galaxy Four Lambert was shadowed by incoming producer John Wiles, who ended up doing much of the work on Galaxy Four. Wiles was a long-time BBC veteran who had script edited a bevy of programs. Maureen O’Brien and Hartnell, on the other hand, seemed eager to continue. 
 
This was good for Hartnell, in that it provided a vestige of continuity where otherwise he would be the only old hand left on the program. Hartnell could be difficult to work with, to say the least, but he got along well with O’Brien. Hartnell had been fond of Carole Ann Ford as well, strongly urging her not to leave the part on the grounds that one ought not abandon a steady paycheck - in hindsight wise advice, given the paucity of later career success for Ford, but with O’Brien he found a common cause in holding the scripts to high production standards. For Hartnell, the program was a late career renaissance that he valued for making him popular with children in a way that the hard-edged military roles he was previously typecast in could not. He valued this audience and took special care with details of the program, making sure that, for instance, the controls of the TARDIS worked consistently from episode to episode and the switch that operated the door was always the same one. O’Brien, on the other hand, had, in cuttingly declining to have her character be a straightforward clone of Carole Ann Ford’s, started as she meant to go on. She was unapologetic in raising issues she had with the scripts, and often found an ally in Hartnell, which produced an at times more than slightly disruptive effect in rehearsals. 
 
Wiles decided this was a problem while sitting in on Galaxy Four, and arranged that O’Brien would depart the program early in the third production block. Initially there was some debate over exactly where this would happen. At one point Vicki was to be killed around the halfway point of Wiles’s second story. This story was an obligation Wiles had inherited: a suggestion from BBC Managing Director Huw Weldon, who noted that his mother-in-law quite liked the Daleks, and thus proposed that instead of two six-part Dalek stories as they had done in the second production block, the series do one twelve-part Dalek story. The alternative, which was ultimately what was decided on, was to write her out at the end of Wiles’s first story, a historical set in the course of The Trojan War called The Myth Makers. The departure felt as hasty on screen as the behind-the-scenes decisions leading to it had been, with her falling in love with Troilus and deciding to stay in Ancient Greece, a development with no setup to speak of, Troilus only having made his first appearance in the third of the story’s four episodes. Replacing Vicki was a temporary companion named Katarina, who ended up with the shortest run of a Doctor Who assistant at five episodes, using what was briefly to have been Vicki’s death scene in the fourth episode of The Daleks’ Masterplan.  
 
The prospect of a twelve-episode Dalek saga enthused almost nobody who actually had to make it. Perhaps least enthused was Terry Nation, who by this time came to feel he had better things to do than script episodes of Doctor Who. Nation was only willing to write six of the twelve episodes, and to provide an outline for the other six, which were to be completed by Dennis Spooner. In practice Nation allegedly provided twenty-four pages of notes that script editor Donald Tosh had to hastily turn into something resembling episodes. Thankfully, in order to manage the logistical nightmare Douglas Camfield was hired to direct the serial. Camfield was a long-time veteran of the series, having served as a production assistant in its earliest days, and directing nine episodes of the second production block of the series. He was a tremendously efficient director, giving his crew military-like ranks and establishing a firm chain of command, but a knack for sheer pragmatism, including offering cash rewards to anyone who could solve a technical problem on the fly. Used to rewriting the script as he went anyway, Camfield had less trouble than most adapting to the news that he didn’t strictly speaking have one. 
 
It was wholly understandable that Nation’s head would be turned, though. For him, the Daleks and Doctor Who didn’t have to have anything to do with one another. Due to some savvy negotiating on the part of his agent, Terry Nation retained the copyright to the Daleks themselves, and he was free to license them separately from the BBC (which was already licensing Doctor Who considerably more than a normal show). Indeed, the Daleks never appeared in the Doctor Who comics that came out during the Hartnell era (nor, for that matter, did any of the companions - Doctor Who, as he was called in the comics, was accompanied by his grandchildren John and Gillian), instead appearing in their own comics in a rival publication. Dalek toys and merchandise was widespread, with the bulk of the revenue going to Terry Nation. Similarly, when the first two Dalek stories were adapted to films starring Peter Cushing by Amicus Productions, Nation benefitted nicely (as did David Whitaker, who did the adaptations and wrote large swaths of the spin-off material for Doctor Who), and thus found the low-paying writing job of Doctor Who a somewhat frustrating part of the plan. Nation was by this time hatching a scheme to bring the Daleks over to American television, a move that did not work out for him, and The Daleks’ Masterplan would be his last involvement with the series for nearly seven years. 
 
The story borrows its aesthetic from the comic strip adventures of the Daleks, embracing the Dan Dare-style space adventures that Nation always favored for big, colorful battles among soaring fleets of Daleks. This was, of course, wholly impossible on a BBC budget, or indeed in any visual medium besides comics, but the appeal was there. The Daleks’ Masterplan is necessarily more modest, but the Space Agency and the Guardian of the Solar System that provide the background for the epic are dead giveaways of the story’s heritage. Over its mammoth twelve-week run, however, the story would drift, becoming a comedy for several episodes as it intersected Christmas and New Year’s Days, and then returning to the grimness of its opening, a brutal-action packed chain of episodes culminating in the horrific death of Katarina and the introduction of Sara Kingdom, who served as a temporary companion for the last eight episodes of the story before dying in the bleak final episode, “The Destruction of Time.” 
 
Wiles, discovering quickly that he much preferred writing to producing, stayed with the program for two further stories. The first was the chaotic The Massacre, which required substantial rewrites and featured a hastily appended final scene introducing new companion Dodo Chaplet, who simply wanders into the TARDIS without explanation while it’s parked on present day Earth, abruptly bringing to an end an extremely emotionally tense fight between Steven and the Doctor over the ethics of changing history. The second was The Ark, an unusually structured science fiction story marred by some unfortunate colonialist themes in its depiction of conflict between a race of white humans and their dark-skinned servent race the Monoids. Donald Tosh left at around the same time, and they were replaced by Gerry Davis as script editor and Innes Lloyd as producer.
 
Lloyd, hand picked by Sydney Newman to reinvigorate the program, found himself with a spectacularly rough start. Much as Verity Lambert had shepherded the early stages of The Daleks’ Masterplan into production, Lloyd’s first story, The Celestial Toymaker, was intended to be largely set up with a script rewritten by Donald Tosh and a number of casting decisions made by John Wiles. Unfortunately the project blew up in Lloyd’s face in a complex bit of BBC internal politics, and he and Gerry Davis were faced with the prospect of cobbling together a new story around a few scraps of the original script. The result was a tedious four-parter made worse by the villain, a yellow peril style Chinese toymaker (the word “celestial” doubles as Victorian slang for the Chinese), sufficiently embarrassing that John Wiles apologized and blamed Lloyd for not simply abandoning the story altogether. This was followed by The Gunfighters, another project Lloyd and Davis inherited. A comedy historical set in the American west at the OK Corral, The Gunfighters went over particularly poorly, garnering the single lowest Audience Appreciation Index of the program’s history, and convincing Lloyd and Davis that the historical was a subgenre of Doctor Who best abandoned. 
 
But after this rough start, Lloyd quickly set about transforming the program in his own image. He had Steven Taylor written out in his third story, The Savages, and eliminated Dodo Chaplet in the next story. His zeal to transform the program is visible in this departure - Dodo is mind controlled through most of the first two episodes, finally passes out, and simply does not appear again; her farewells and decision to stay in London are simply conveyed by Lloyd’s new companions, Ben and Polly. But the overhaul of the supporting cast was nothing compared to what Lloyd planned next: replacing the Doctor.
 
The story of Hartnell’s departure from the program is typically framed as a tragic end. Hartnell had very little career after the program, and it quickly became apparent that he was far sicker than he knew. On top of that, there is no question that Hartnell was forced out. Lloyd had no patience for his growing temper following the loss of all the people he trusted from the earliest days of the series, and there had been talk of replacing Hartnell as early as The Celestial Toymaker. And so over the course of filming for The Smugglers, made in the third production block but, like the second and third season premieres, held back for the start of the next season he politely but firmly ushered Hartnell out the door. 
 
Two things, however, are important to realize. The first is that the decision was almost certainly necessary. Hartnell’s performances are still usually strong throughout the third season, but even a cursory comparison of his work in the first season, where he with gusto enriched a program bristling with ideas, and his work in the third season, where he appeared to be on autopilot through increasingly depressive scripts. It wasn’t just that he was getting difficult to work with, nor that he was growing frustrated that everyone he knew and relied on was leaving, or indeed, had left by the end of the third season. Even the second generation of actors like Peter Purves and Maureen O’Brien that Hartnell had learned to work with were gone, and in their place another set of actors Hartnell was too tired and too frustrated to put much effort into learning to work with. The show was barely functioning, and tempers were fraying.
 
The stresses behind the screen were, increasingly, being mirrored on the screen. As soon as John Wiles arrived, the series had taken a somber tone. His first story, The Myth Makers, began as a light comedy not unlike the Season Two farce The Romans, only to end in the violent, horrific sacking of Troy, with events turning dire in the episode’s closing minutes as Vicki is practically lost in the crowd and Steven suffers a life-threatening injury. The next story, a long and violent Dalek epic, killed off two companions, and the story after that, The Massacre, is as dark as its title suggests. After that came the arrogant imperialism of The Ark and the casual racism of The Celestial Toymaker. By the season-ending The War Machines, the series was taking place in contemporary London, where malevolent robots controlled out of Post Office Tower were controlling minds and killing people. 
 
Along with this came what turned out to be Hartnell’s genuinely frail health. His career was coming to an end due to his advancing arteriosclerosis, and the real truth is that the series simply would not have continued for much longer with him as the star. The brutal rate of production had chewed up and spat out everyone else working on it, and the show, by any standard, had a good run of one-hundred-and-twenty-six episodes. There would have been no shame in cancelling it, especially given a fairly sharp decline in ratings and the poor reception of several stories. And yet this obvious course of action was avoided. 
 
Instead an altogether stranger plan was hatched: the Doctor would be recast. Initially the idea was conservative - another actor would carry on essentially mimicking Hartnell’s performance. But steadily the idea grew more radical: the Doctor would drastically  change his face and effectively become a new character. This move was truly bizarre - so much so that it is at first difficult to imagine what could have prompted it. Why would the BBC preserve Doctor Who under these circumstances when it would have been far simpler to simply let the program go? 
 
The answer has to do with what sort of program Doctor Who was. Its tremendous rate of production meant that it was a mainstay of television, preserved by simple inertia. Beyond that, there was a lot of money riding on it. Doctor Who produced merchandising like nothing else the BBC owned. There were comics, movies, and toys - and that was just the stuff that bore the label Doctor Who as opposed to focusing entirely on the Daleks, which Terry Nation was glad to separately license. Indeed, the truth is that the series was saved in 1966 by the Daleks, whose popularity meant that the BBC sought to preserve what it saw as one of its crown jewels even in light of the toxic atmosphere that was spilling out off-screen and on. And so the mandate was to continue it. If Innes Lloyd believed this was best accomplished with a mad scheme like recasting the lead role, so be it. It was an avaricious decision, and one born out of sad circumstances in the form of William Hartnell’s rapid physical decline.
 
And yet it was a stroke of genius that single-handedly changed the program from what William Hartnell initially (and optimistically) predicted - a program that could run for five years - into one that has persisted for fifty. The fact that the recasting of the lead actor into an entirely new sort of character allowed the program to change with the times meant that it became an institution. There became no reason to cancel the program as long as it remained reasonably popular. And even with its dip at the end of the third season, the program was more than reasonably popular. 
 
 
Hartnell’s departure was announced on July 29th, 1966, four days after completion of filming for The Smugglers a pirate adventure story that included a substantial location shoot in Cornwall. The same day, Innes Lloyd secured the services of Patrick Troughton, a respected character actor, as the new Doctor, to take over, with his first episode set to film three months later. But before Troughton’s debut in November of 1966, Hartnell would have one swan song, to be called The Tenth Planet

 
He glanced up from the book—something had jostled a memory loose. After a half-hour’s worth of digging through stacks of decrepit magazines and paperbacks, he found the little programme guide, now jaundiced with age, and turned to a page that some reader in the 20th Century had earmarked:
 
“AA(2)    Unreleased; filmed ca. April 1966?
 
THE SHADOW PLANET
 
Writer: Elbridge Bain (presumed pseud.)
Director: None listed
Regular cast: see W above, minus Hartnell
 
Story: We should first emphasize that “The Shadow Planet” isn’t considered canonical by a section of Doctor Who fandom, which argues that the serial is most likely a 16mm fan film, made sometime in the 1970s, and wrongly considered a “lost” Hartnell-era story. To the naysayers’ credit, there is the following to consider. No reference to “Shadow Planet” has yet been found in the BBC archives. There are no scripts (the scriptwriter credited on the episode, “Elbridge Bain,” doesn’t seem to exist otherwise), no casting information, no budget allocations, no Radio Times notices. There are no press photos, John Cura tele-snaps or audio recordings. And the First Doctor, William Hartnell, notably doesn’t appear in the surviving episode footage (Ep. 2 and sections of Ep. 3).
 
That said, Steven Taylor (Peter Purves) is quite obviously in the surviving footage, looking much as he did in “The Gunfighters” or “The Savages,” serials hailing from the same period in which “Shadow Planet” allegedly was produced. The sets, costumes, sound effects and musical cues are in line with other 1966 Doctor Who productions, with some keen-eyed fans noting props reappearing from 1965’s “The Web Planet.”
 
Given that only 30 minutes’ worth of footage has surfaced, it’s difficult to summarize the plot of “Shadow Planet.” The surviving episode 2 opens with Steven and Dodo (Jackie Lane) at a conning tower on an unnamed planet, repairing a console so as to communicate with “Helix Base A.” The Doctor is on the TARDIS, mysteriously taken ill; the companions are trying to contact the base to get a physician. It must be said the pacing is glacial even by Hartnell-era standards—there’s a five-minute sequence in which Steven and Dodo try to coordinate a series of lights on the console.
 
(An aside: Lane was shown this episode in the 1990s but claimed that she wasn’t in it, pointing out that Dodo is always filmed from behind or shown in long shot, so that another actor or actress could have portrayed the character. Lane’s voice is quite obviously dubbed in, but she claimed she had no memory of doing voice work for the episode, which she found “disturbing.”)
 
The episode’s legendary reputation is owed to its final minutes, in which a character called Haruman, evidently the conning tower operator, appears. The actor, who has yet to be identified, seems under the influence of some psychoactive drug—he has trouble hitting his marks (the camera regularly has to move to keep him in frame), fumbles dialogue and apparently improvises some lines, including “there is no outside, Mr. Taylor, it’s all inside,” “death beyond the red hand!” and “there are 15 in the tower: have you seen them?”
 
The surviving pieces of Episode 3 (two roughly five-minute sequences, one of which is the cliffhanger lead-in) were not shown publicly until the late 1990s. These were found in a car boot sale in Surrey and their questionable provenance has inspired another theory—that the Ep. 3 fragments were a fan’s response to seeing Ep. 2 (so, a possible fan fake inspired by a possible fan fake). But again, the production values, music, camera angles, lighting and Purves’ physical appearance seem “correct” for the era. 
 
The fragments find Steven (no Dodo here; no explanation why) having reached Helix Base A with Haruman. There are some 10 extras, apparently playing the surviving base members, who spend the first fragment hurling props at Steven, who’s taken cover in a ruined control room. Purves’ performance, which moves from bafflement to rage, is worth noting.
 
(Pay particular attention to the extras in the far left of the shot—a man and a woman, dressed identically. As reviewers have noted, the woman looks horrified, is quivering with fear and is making a repeated hand gesture.)
 
The other fragment finds Steven being converted by Haruman (“take the shadow, Mr. Taylor! Accept the shadow!”) via some type of sensory manipulation machine, but this fragment is in rough condition, consisting mainly of blurred images and white-outs, due to apparently overexposed film. Purves consistently has refused to comment on the serial. Rumors that Episode 4 also survived, and was once shown at a cinema in Hull to unsuspecting viewers, appear dubious.”
 
 
Had he seen Episode 4 once? Who did play Haruman? He thought for a while, then resumed reading his original book...
 

 
If Doctor Who spent the summer of 1966 undergoing radical changes, it was not alone. 1966 was a big summer for England. First and foremost, of course, was the World Cup, held in England. The tournament concluded with a final in Wembley Stadium between England and West Germany, which England won in extra time by scoring two goals, providing an iconic television moment as BBC announcer Kenneth Wolstenholme gave his famous “they think it’s all over! It is now, it’s four!” quote as Geoff Hurst scored England’s fourth and final goal while fans began streaming onto the pitch. It was a crowning moment of national pride - as though World War II finally had an official scoreline of 4-2.
 
But behind that was an England suspended perfectly between the two halves of the 1960s. On one half was the portion of the decade belonging to the so-called mods. The mods were a largely British phenomenon, inexorably linked to the rise of the Beatles, particularly the 1963/64 “Beatlemania.” Within Britain, Doctor Who was inexorably linked with this: the popularity of the Beatles coincided with the sister craze of Dalekmania the Christmas of 1964. It is a strange aesthetic that tries to encompass “Ticket to Ride” and the Daleks, and yet that was exactly what the first episode of The Chase did, having Vicki rock out to a clip of the band nicked from the most recent Top of the Pops. And in truth, the difference was not that great. Vicki, like the Beatles, demonstrably hailed to Liverpool, and seemed designed to answer the call for a starchild of the future that the early Beatles seemed to herald. The early 1960s seemed pregnant with future, with the UK, in 1966, seemingly back where it still, in its heart, belonged: at the center of the world, the sun never setting upon it. 
 
Scratch the surface, however, and things were altogether more unsettled. The British Empire was collapsing by the day, and the reality was that Britain’s cultural dominance in the 1960s marked the transition from the most powerful nation in the world to an also-ran that bordered on being a client state to one of its own former colonies. If Britain dominated the world in the 1960s, it was only because Britain was doing an excellent job of marketing its culture to the United States, who bought into British music from the Beatles on, and who bought into British television series like The Avengers. Meanwhile, the bright future promised by the wave of post-War science fiction was fading to an altogether more uncertain relationship with technology in the face of the growing realization that one wrong geopolitical world could unleash a planet-destroying nuclear war. 
 
This provoked an altogether more unsettled relationship between people and the future, and the sleek future-chic of the mods slowly but surely gave way to a very different sort of cultural craze. The Beatles navigated this almost perfectly, veering towards psychedelia and the hippie aesthetic almost exactly in sync with the culture. And by 1966 the transition was well underway. In the UK, these were the glory days of the underground press. Magazines like Oz and the International Times were cropping up, bringing with them a newly rebellious aesthetic in which Ezra Pound’s pro-German wartime speeches are published in full alongside interviews discussing the quality of marijuana in London. 
 
What jumps out first about Hartnell’s swan song is how perfectly it captures the mood of the era. On the one hand, The Tenth Planet plugs in perfectly to the growing sense of unease with the sci-fi utopia that had been being promised constantly since the end of the War. It was written by Kit Pedler, whose idea of an evil power emanating out of Post Office tower had been the underlying inspiration for the third season finale, The War Machines. Like that story, The Tenth Planet is full of paranoid action: a near-future space launch facility at the South Pole is besieged by the alien Cybermen. But the story reflected a more idiosyncratic fear on Pedler’s part. Pedler, an ophthalmologist, was gravely concerned by the prospect of artificial organs and the use of machines to sustain human life, and imagined the Cybermen as a dystopic extension of that trend: humans who had steadily replaced their entire bodies with plastic “spare parts” until they became robotic terrors - metallic mummies whose stark open mouths poured out a grotesque parody of human speech patterns as they explained that they had no emotions, and would be making the population of Earth like themselves.
 
But for all that the Cybermen represented fears of science running rampant and unchecked, there was something altogether more uncanny and strange about them. The Tenth Planet is less interested in its monsters than the planet they ride in on. This titular tenth planet of the solar system is Mondas, the Earth’s long-lost twin planet, which appears to be the Earth reversed so that Antarctica is at the north of the planet. The Cybermen are literally humanity’s evil twins, who became monstrous in the course of their planet’s long, slow “journey to the edge of space.” In Pedler’s original conception, they were a race of “star monks,” closely tying their spiritual malaise to the growing new age movement, a central pillar of late-60s counterculture. They were not just monsters, but encounters with the death of civilization and of humanity itself, and the near-future setting of 1986 made the end seem all the nearer.
 
The spiritual nature of the Cybermen was mirrored in how the transition from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton was conceived. In the notes that Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis drew up about how to handle the switch, describing it as “a metaphysical change” that is “as if he has had the LSD drug and instead of experiencing the kicks, he has the hell and dank horror which can be its effect.” Aside from raising the interesting question of which members of the Doctor Who production team were being relied on as sources for that description, this speaks volumes about the changing times. Hartnell’s Doctor and the Victorian vision of empire and adventure he embodied confronts a dying race that explored the stars with the same scientific vision that he defined himself against, and became unliving things. The horrific energy of this place forces a “metaphysical change” upon him; he literally becomes a new man.
 
Behind the scenes, however, the implications of this were still up in the air. Everyone had their own idea of how Troughton should play the part. Many skewed towards the actively theatrical - just as Hartnell’s Doctor was an austere yet grandfatherly scientist, so Troughton’s Doctor was, at various times, conceived of as a swashbuckling Arabian figure (that Troughton would have apparently played blacked up) or a pirate captain. At an increasingly tense meeting to nail the decision down, Gerry Davis noted Troughton’s careful demeanor as he remained silent through much of the meeting, visibly trying to figure out what sorts of power struggles were being played out, and finally kicked everyone out of the meeting and developed the character with Troughton in private.
 
The resulting character took elements of Sydney Newman’s suggestion of the new Doctor as a “cosmic hobo,” but mixed them with Davis’s observations of Troughton and the sense of the Doctor as having undergone a bad acid trip. The Doctor’s clothes were to be disheveled, battered versions of the old Doctor’s clothes, and he was to regain the sense of unfamiliarity and strangeness that had defined the character in the earliest days of the program. Instead of the Doctor being angry and hostile to everyone, however, the Doctor would simply be a bit strange. 
 
Davis was helped here by the relative newness of the rest of the show’s cast. The companions, Ben and Polly, had only been introduced three stories earlier, and were part of a rapid turnover in the show in general. The fourth season would open with The Smugglers, a held over story from the show’s third production block. In it, Ben and Polly go on their first trip in the TARDIS, allowing the series’ premises to be reintroduced for new viewers. The very next story would throw those premises up in the air by suddenly removing the lead actor. And from that point, there would be a new lead. With Ben and Polly already having recently been used to re-explain the premise of the show, they slotted nicely into the role previously played by Ian and Barbara - representatives of the audience’s world who would ask the same questions the viewers would. Troughton’s Doctor, on the other hand, would ask the questions the audience wouldn’t know to ask, serving as a figure who affected things from the margins.
 
Since this was in effect a soft relaunch of the entire program, Davis further decided that the best way to accomplish this was to stick with what had worked in the past. And so it was that the Daleks, having defined the program’s initial success, were brought back once again to help define it’s second one. Although the bloom had come slightly off the rose in terms of the Daleks’ popularity, the Peter Cushing adaptation of The Dalek Invasion of Earth had been reasonably successful in the summer of 1966, and they were still the best weapon the series had. This time, however, Terry Nation was too busy to write it, and so instead David Whitaker, who had served as Nation’s ghost writer on several pieces of auxiliary Dalek material like the Panther Books Dalek Book, was drafted to write it. After a last minute set of rewrites by Dennis Spooner, who was brought in because Whitaker had moved on to other assignments and was not free to make some revisions requested by Sydney Newman, The Power of the Daleks was ready to shoot on October 22nd, 1966. 
 
The Power of the Daleks is almost certainly one of the most impressive pieces of British television of the 1960s, although this is impossible to determine for certain because nobody has seen it in decades. Poor archival practices brought on by an understandable failure to anticipate technological changes like the VCR and changes to television programming brought on by the renegotiation of terms prohibiting reruns with the actor’s union, Equity, meant that a large amount of 1960s and even some 1970s Doctor Who (along with many other programs) was destroyed by the BBC. Although some of this material, including everything from the 1970s, has been found, and rumors persist about recoveries of much of it, there will almost certainly always be at least some gaps in the archive for Doctor Who, and at the time of writing, all six episodes of The Power of the Daleks are among them. Thankfully both the audio track (recorded by a fan of the program) and a combination of promotional photographs and stills captured by John Cura’s Telesnaps service exist, and fans have matched these up to produce reconstructions of these and the other ninety-seven missing episodes. 
 
The story takes the concept of Troughton’s Doctor being a figure who lurks at the margins seriously. For large stretches of the story the Doctor appears to ignore the problems around him, refusing to advance the plot for reasons he generally declines to explain to anyone around him. Much of the story focuses on the politics of a human colony and on how the colony’s discovery of a crashed Dalek ship with living Daleks preserved inside causes their political order to unravel. Instead of the shrieking armies of Daleks shown in many of Nation’s Dalek stories, Whitaker uses a relatively small number of Daleks and has them lie and manipulate the humans around them. In one crucial scene in the second episode, a newly revived Dalek slowly passes the Doctor, it’s eyestalk visibly turning to stare at him, recognizing him and in effect confirming for the viewer that yes, Patrick Troughton really is the Doctor now. The episode then reaches its cliffhanger as the Doctor implores the colonists to destroy the Daleks because of how dangerous they are, the Dalek proceeds to shout him down, shrieking “I AM YOUR SER-VANT” over and over again in the same voice in which it usually cries “EXTERMINATE.”
 
Under Troughton, the Doctor became a role that fit perfectly with the emerging psychedelic culture. He was mercurial and prone to trickery, adept at chemistry, and possessed a magic box that served to literalize the title of Aldous Huxley’s psychedelic classic The Doors of Perception. In stories like The Highlanders, The Underwater Menace, and The Macra Terror he arrived in various locations and upended the social order, fomenting mass revolutions or, at times, slaughters as he destroyed corrupt and evil authority figures. His tendency to playfully try on hats and fiddle about on a recorder made him an almost storybook figure - a sort of magical jester straight out of any number of classics of children’s literature. A year before Jefferson Airplane turned the iconography of Alice in Wonderland into their psychedelic anthem “White Rabbit,” Troughton was crafting an anti-authority eccentric scientist who would have fit perfectly into Carroll’s strange and whimsical world. 
 
This tendency culminated in the finale of the fourth season, The Evil of the Daleks. During the recording of The Power of the Daleks, Terry Nation pitched a Dalek series to the BBC, which decided it was uninterested in the idea. Nation, accordingly, decided to pursue creating the series in the United States, and, with his relationship with the BBC strained at best, it was generally agreed upon that the Daleks should be written out of Doctor Who. The job of doing so was, unsurprisingly, given to David Whitaker, who turned out a seven-part script that culminated in a battle between two rival factions of Daleks that ravages Skaro. The ending satisfyingly split the difference between killing all of the Daleks and leaving open the possibility that a few survived, thus allowing everyone to put the Daleks in mothballs for a while; indeed, they would not appear again on the show for five years, longer than the time that elapsed between their first and then-potential last appearance.
 
Whitaker’s script is in many ways the iconic 1960s iteration of the Daleks. These early Dalek stories are, after the first, aware of their epic heft, and are all made as showcases for the series’ most popular aspect. Under Terry Nation’s pen, the stories are action-packed serials, longer on spectacle than intelligence, but more often competently made than not. Even the episodes that have been lost have in their own say survived the test of time, with numerous accounts of their key scenes from viewers for whom they were burned into memory. But in the end, even if he owned a key piece of the copyright, all Terry Nation had created were some fairly generic evil aliens who were pushed to popularity by some of the best visual design work of the 1960s. His stories were adequate showpieces for the phenomenal work of Raymond Cusick and Brian Hodgson in developing the props and sound effects. 
 
But the two Dalek stories written by David Whitaker take a different tone. Whitaker’s scripts for Hartnell had an erudite quality; his first owed a tremendous debt to experimental theater, whereas his third, The Crusade, was self-consciously written in a mock-Shakespearean style. He was with the program from the beginning, and was always committed to using it to juxtapose unexpected and even dissonant elements, adhering to the modernist aesthetic of strangeness that the series initially sprung from. Under his pen, the epic stakes inherent to Dalek stories were matched by tightly knit and character-based drama. The Evil of the Daleks features a Faustian bargain in Victorian England juxtaposed with a modern-day setting, all building to a massive final battle as the action returns to Skaro itself and the Doctor meets the towering Emperor of the Daleks.
 
Around all of this are Whitaker’s sweeping themes. The Doctor is drawn into an attempt to isolate “the human factor” and “the Dalek factor,” the essential traits that define the two species. The Daleks plan to use the TARDIS, which they have stolen, to spread the Dalek factor across all of time and space, while the Doctor introduces the human factor to the Daleks, creating a faction that rebels against the other Daleks, sparking their civil war. These broad philosophical themes twist through a plot in which the Daleks arrive through a Victorian time machine made of mirrors and static electricity and tempt a rich man with the promise of the secret of alchemy. This strange and mystic Victorian setting extends out of a first episode set tightly in the present day, to the point of featuring the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer.” Airing the same week that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is released, the episode perfectly tracks the changing mood and the swing into the so-called Summer of Love in all its psychedelic glory, framing it all in the sort of sci-fi action epic the Daleks belong to.
 
Its success is in many ways remarkable. The final action sequence was tremendously ambitious, and the BBC design team ultimately ended up using toy Daleks for a number of elaborate model sequences. On top of that, all of this was made under massive time pressure. The intended production schedule for Doctor Who was that episodes would be made three weeks in advance. The complexities of recasting the lead actor, however, meant that the show took a week off between The Tenth Planet and Power of the Daleks. The show fell another week behind during the production of Troughton’s third story, The Underwater Menace, which involved several underwater effects shots that proved more complex than expected. This meant that for most of the fourth production block the series was being made a week before transmission, a nerverackingly tight schedule. And yet out of this chaotic pressure cooker of a production environment came one of the creative highs of the series. And while the ratings did not rebound to their 1965 heights, this creative renaissance was at least enough to stabilize the show.
 
It had, however, been a grueling production even compared to the first three. Script editor Gerry Davis and producer Innes Lloyd were both eager to move on. Davis departed first, at the end of the fourth production block, and was replaced by his assistant, Peter Bryant midway through The Evil of the Daleks. Lloyd had also once again tired of the supporting cast, and had Ben and Polly written out in the season’s penultimate story, The Faceless Ones. As with Dodo before them, their characters were unceremoniously dumped, getting kidnapped two episodes into the story and only appearing again in the sixth episode, in a pre-filmed departure scene. By this point the crew had been augmented by Frazer Hines, playing Jamie McCrimmon, a piper from the Battle of Culloden introduced in Troughton’s second story, which would prove the last time for a very long time that the series would do a purely historical story with no sci-fi elements beyond the TARDIS itself. The Evil of the Daleks, meanwhile, introduced Deborah Watling as Victoria Waterfield, a young Victorian girl orphaned by the Daleks. The presence of these two historical characters meant that for the first sustained period in its history Doctor Who would have a regular cast featuring nobody from contemporary England. Troughton’s Doctor, already a character created out of the fairy tale aesthetic of psychedelia, was in effect now accompanied by two storybook characters. 
 
With Lloyd planning to depart as well, Peter Bryant was pre-selected to become producer midway through the fifth production block. Since he had never produced before, it was decided that he should do a trial run before getting the position permanently. Accordingly, The Tomb of the Cybermen the final story of the fourth production block, designed to be aired at the start of the fifth season much like The Smugglers, Galaxy Four, and Planet of Giants before it, was given over to Bryant as a proving ground.
 
The Tomb of the Cybermen marked the third appearance of the monsters, who were at this point actively being groomed as replacements for the Daleks. They had already come back in The Moonbase, just four stories after their first appearance, and had by this point been transformed almost entirely from their original conception. In The Tenth Planet they are perverse mockeries of humanity. But by the time of Tomb of the Cybermen they are little more than lumbering robots. Their lack of emotions, originally an extension of their plastic, artificial lives now became a product of the Cybermen’s “logical” nature. In practice they were allegories for the Soviet Union, invading through spies and infiltrators, mechanized in the same way that the Soviet Union fetishized itself as being. The stories were also no longer being written entirely by Kit Pedler, who had required substantial rewrites for both The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase. Perhaps mindful of how use of the Daleks was complicated by an overly involved writer, Pedler was eased into a secondary role, providing ideas for stories that would be translated by other writers, in this case Gerry Davis.
 
As its name suggests, The Tomb of the Cybermen owes considerable debt to the mummy genre of horror stories, with the Cybermen standing in for the traditional mysterious Egyptian sorcerer. But the Cybermen’s status as symbols of Communist Russia is still present - the team investigating the Cybermen tombs has, inevitably, been infiltrated by traitors who are seeking to awaken the Cybermen for their own purposes, and, predictably, the treacherous members of the team are also the ones who are played as generically “foreign” characters. Of particularly tasteless note is Toberman, a mute strongman who, played by the black actor Roy Stewart, became a crass racial stereotype.
 
More broadly, the story fit into a formula that Lloyd and Davis had developed over the course of the third and fourth production blocks - what is generally referred to as “base under siege” stories. The first of these stories was, in fact, Hartnell’s finale, The Tenth Planet, which featured the Cybermen attacking an Antarctic base. The basic setup of the stories was by and large dictated by the practical realities of Doctor Who’s production. Although at least sometimes in better studios than the cramped Lime Grove Studio D that the program had started in back in 1963, the production, although technically ambitious for the time, was limited in what it could do. A given story could afford production on one large-ish set and a couple very bare bones sets. Innes Lloyd hit on a fairly sensible way to utilize this: use the larger set as a big central location, and then create some corridors to suggest a larger building around the main set.  Then, since a handful of monster costumes was all that could usually be afforded, a small group of monsters could attempt to attack the characters, slowly advancing through the corridors as the Doctor and company worked to force them back, until an eventual climax in which the monsters breach the main room before being defeated utterly.
 
Tomb of the Cybermen modified the formula in a several ways. For one thing, it stretched the budget to get two impressive sets - the antechamber of the Cybermen’s icy tomb and a larger basement chamber in which the Cybermen lay in suspended animation until an iconic and memorable sequence of the Cybermen awakening and fighting their way out of their tombs en masse provided the second episode’s climax. This also meant that it was not, as with most of the base under siege stories, a story about a remote location attacked by a small number of monsters. Instead the humans have come looking for monsters. Nevertheless, the same basic dynamic drives the plot: the humans are in one room, the monsters in the other, and the monsters want to break in. 
 
But perhaps most important to Tomb of the Cybermen was its leading man, Patrick Troughton, who by this time had settled into his role and was routinely turning out top drawer performances. Troughton approached scenes methodically and idiosyncratically, starting not with learning his lines but with developing a sense of the scene’s pace and what the Doctor was doing in it, and then finally learning his lines perfectly once he’d already developed the tone with which he’d deliver them. The result was that his Doctor flitted around the edges of scenes, rarely taking center stage, but always being active and dynamic. Troughton’s versatility allowed him to switch tones within his performance quickly and decisively, going from a  genially paternal figure to a steely determination seemingly instantly. Tomb of the Cybermen sees him using this skill to great effect, cheerily and curiously peppering people with questions from the edges of a scene and then angrily harden once he’s lured his interlocutor into saying more than they intended. Close examination of the script for Tomb of the Cybermen reveals that the Doctor’s actual motives are hazily defined at best - he helps open the Cybermen tomb and exposes everyone to danger supposedly to stop the villains from getting access to the tomb, raising the obvious question of why he didn’t let them just fail to get into it in the first place. But whatever holes the script might have are thoroughly papered over by Troghton’s charismatic and mercurial performance, which utterly convinces the viewer that the Doctor must have some sort of sensible plan, even if the story itself gives little evidence of this.
 
Whatever its flaws in hindsight, however, Tomb of the Cybermen was a roaring success at the time, and it was decided that Bryant would take over three stories into the fifth production block. 
 
These final three stories of Innes Lloyd’s tenure were, unsurprisingly, mostly bases under siege. The first, The Abominable Snowmen, was by far the most fanciful yet, featured robotic yeti attacking a Buddhist monastery, while the second was in many ways the most obvious iteration of the formula possible, featuring the eponymous Ice Warriors: reptilian monsters from Mars attacking a futuristic base. However Innes Lloyd’s final story, The Enemy of the World, saw David Whitaker return with an altogether more mature conspiracy thriller in which Patrick Troughton played both the Doctor and the villainous Salamander, giving him a chance to show the range of his acting and, perhaps more importantly, to give him a functional break in the midst of the busy schedule to try his hand at something else. 
 
Bryant’s tenure continued with three further bases under siege, all fairly faithful iterations of the format: Cybermen attacking a space station, sentient seaweed attacking a natural gas platform, and, for the first of them, The Web of Fear, the return of the robotic yeti from The Abominable Snowmen attacking the London Underground. This story, directed masterfully by Douglas Camfield, was a particular triumph of mood and lighting, with sets for the Underground tunnels so accurate that London Transport accused the program of filming illegally in the Underground. It was one of several Doctor Who stories to make a lasting impression, highlighting the effectiveness of the base under siege format. Nevertheless, the fact remained that six of the seven stories in Doctor Who’s fifth season follow the same basic formula. No matter how good the formula, this risked tedium, and was a stark contrast to the psychedelic inventiveness that had characterized the previous production block.
 
But this transformation was mirrored beyond the episodes of one science fiction television program. Beyond the scope of Doctor Who, the optimistic counterculture of the 1960s was giving way to an altogether more paranoid mood. Where the summer of 1967 was dominated by the image of the Summer of Love in San Francisco, 1968 was a far more ambiguous and ultimately sour experience. In May of 1968, while Doctor Who aired The Wheel in Space, featuring David Whitaker frantically trying to spin something interesting out of yet another base under siege featuring the Cybermen, France was gripped by a massive uprising of students and workers headed up in a large part by the Marxist radical group the Situationist Internationale. The strikes were so effective that Charles de Gaulle fled the country, and nearly succeeded in bringing down his government. But this utopian peak was quickly followed by a brutal collapse as de Gaulle called an election for June that he won decisively with a law and order campaign. Similarly, int he United States, the waves of antiwar protesters that arrived for the Democratic National Convention in Chicago were met by a brutal police crackdown, and the Democrats’ choice of Hubert Humphrey, outgoing President Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President and thus heavily associated with the Vietnam War, cemented their defeat. The ensuing backlash against the left saw Richard Nixon win the Presidency, a final insult to top a year of catastrophic failure for the radical left.
 
In this regard, Doctor Who’s transition is wholly fitting. If the early days of Troughton were a perfect fit for the psychedelic aesthetic, the base under siege is an ideal story for the more paranoid embers of the 1960s. Its central metaphor is one of paranoia over the line between the outside and the inside. The base contains the good humans, and the bad aliens are constantly trying to break in, infiltrating it with spies, picking people off one by one, and otherwise ratcheting up the paranoia and tension. Every base under siege is, in its own way, a Cold War metaphor, but perhaps the most iconic of the fifth season is The Web of Fear, in which the alien invasion hits London itself, lurking around in the Underground, slowly taking over, while a band of soldiers with a traitor among them tries to stop it. But all of the bases under siege had their own sense of the paranoid infiltration. And for all that it was generic, it worked - the fifth season was the most popular of Troughton’s three season tenure, and provided iconic television images for a generation of children. Much of this was down to Troughton’s performance, which was often carefully tailored to children, with Troughton playing a sort of whimsical uncle leading the children at home through an adventure. The high point of this actually came in trailers for The Web of Fear, in which Troughton, in character, warned children that next week’s episode was going to be very scary and that they might need to reassure their parents that it will all be OK. 
 
Where previous production blocks had held back one story for transmission with the next production block, the fifth production block closed with two, which would open the sixth season of Doctor Who, and between them almost perfectly capture the strange dualism of the Troughton era. The first was The Dominators, by the same pair who had created the two Yeti stories for Season Five. Truncated to five episodes and sent out under pen names after the writers fell out with Peter Bryant and his new script editor/second in command Derrick Sherwin, the story was a crass parable about the supposed moral failings of pacifism in which even Patrick Troughton, who had previously been able to salvage even the most dire of material, visibly gives up even trying to make it look good.
 
The other, however, was The Mind Robber, which may be Doctor Who’s most direct engagement with psychedelia. The story featured the TARDIS being pulled into another dimension: the Land of Fiction, where characters from literature and television come from. Originally planned as a four parter, the story was expanded to five parts with a sparse and avant garde first episode set mostly in an empty white void. From there the Doctor and his companions found themselves matching wits with Lemuel Gulliver, encountering the futuristic sci-fi hero the Karkus, and matching wits with the Master of the Land of Fiction, a burnt out pulp writer. Throughout their adventures the danger looms that they’ll be trapped in the Land of Fiction and become fictional characters themselves, a strangely meta textual and complex threat. The story was Doctor Who’s long overdue nod to the literary tradition of children’s adventure fiction that it hails from, but one that was just as in touch with the aesthetic appropriation of Lewis Carroll and children’s fiction by psychedelia. At one point Jamie loses his face and the Doctor errs in putting it back together, leading to Jamie being played by a different actor for one week (in reality Frazer Hines got the chicken pox).
 
For all that Troughton enjoyed this final and more literary story, he was frustrated by the scripts and growing restless. Troughton kept unusually busy for an actor in order to afford the financial burden of supporting two separate families, and was mindful that he risked typecasting if he stayed in one role for too long. Beyond that, the schedule was sufficiently punishing that he hardly had time to see the families. Accordingly, he decided in August of 1968 that he would depart the series after the sixth production block.
 
Meanwhile, Peter Bryant and Derrick Sherwin were thinking actively about how best to reinvigorate the program. The Web of Fear had been a particular success, and so they decided to try another story about aliens invading contemporary Earth, bringing back the Cybermen once again to do the job. Budgetary restrictions forced them to save money by doing fewer stories with longer episode counts, and so this ended up being an eight part epic in which the Cybermen allied with a wealthy electronics magnate to try to invade the Earth, with the Doctor once again teaming up with the military to stop them. To strengthen the connection with The Web of Fear the leader of the soldiers in that story, Colonel Lethbridge Stewart, was brought back and given a promotion to Brigadier. Behind the scenes, the story was a trial run for a more radical reconception the series that would take advantage of both Troughton’s departure and the BBC’s forthcoming transition to colour television for what would effectively be a complete reboot of the series.
 
Extended to eight episodes due to problems with other scripts, the story lived up to its startlingly confident and singular title: The Invasion. In this regard, however, the story departed significantly from its source material. It was conceived of as a sequel to and remake of The Web of Fear, and while the underlying concepts of that story are still present, there’s been a slight but significant shift. The Invasion is in many ways structured like the base-under-siege stories that dominated the fifth production block, but instead of a claustrophobic story about aliens scratching around the edges of a tiny set of rooms the action is expansive, jumping all around London. Douglas Camfield, returning to direct again, clearly relishes in the story’s sense of scale and turns out a slick and confident techno-thriller perfected a villainous star turn by Kevin Stoney as Tobias Vaughan, the ruthless businessman with whom the Cybermen have allied.
 
As was by this point the norm for Cybermen stories, Kid Pedler provided some story ideas, which were very loosely adapted by someone else, in this case Derrick Sherwin himself. This left him busy, and his newly hired assistant, Terrance Dicks, found himself quickly promoted to where he was left to edit the next story solo. That story, The Krotons, was by a newcomer named Robert Holmes, who spun a four part story that provided the Troughton era with its most literal engagement with psychedelia, as the Doctor meets a bunch of oppressed students and teaches them how to mix up an acid that will overthrow their cruel alien masters, who try to fill their heads with useless facts and keep them from understanding the way the world really works. But instead of returning after it was done, Sherwin decided to start shadowing Peter Bryant with an eye towards taking over the series for the final story, by this point slated to feature the joint departure of Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, and the latest female companion, Wendy Padbury, who played Zoe Heriot, a futuristic girl genius, and to set up the new approach to the series, in which the Doctor would be stuck on Earth helping Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart with various threats. This left Dicks to handle the remainder of the production block: one last base under siege featuring the return of the Ice Warriors, in which Dicks rewrote four of the six episodes, another story by Robert Holmes that capitalized on the heavy popular interest in space travel generated by the imminent American moon landing, and the season finale itself, which Dicks ended up co-authoring with Malcolm Hulke, who had previously co-authored The Faceless Ones for Troughton’s first season.
 
At ten episodes The War Games is the second longest Doctor Who story in the program’s history, outdone only by the twelve episode The Daleks’ Masterplan from the third season. But where that story felt like an exercise in wringing every last drop of spectacle out of the Daleks, The War Games earns its scope with a sweeping plot that serves as the definitive commentary on the Troughton era’s engagements with the culture of the late 1960s. Its two writers serve as a nearly perfect balance between the two competing impulses of the era. On the one hand is Terrance Dicks, a classical liberal who has suggested that on balance the British Empire was a good thing and expressed profound skepticism towards revolutionaries and utopian ideologies. On the other is Malcolm Hulke, a committed Marxist whose later stories will drip with criticism of imperialism, exploitative labor relations, and the entire idea of returning to some nostalgia-tinged vision of past glory. 
 
At first the story appears to be a return to the abandoned historical genre, set this time in World War I, but over the first few episodes it becomes increasingly clear that something is very wrong until, in a sublime second episode cliffhanger, the Doctor and his companions pass through some mist and discover that they’ve gone from the First World War to Ancient Rome. It turns out that someone has been kidnapping human soldiers from across history and forcing them to fight each other as part of a grotesque and elaborate game that the Doctor, obviously, vows to put a stop to.  But ultimately the Doctor finds himself overwhelmed by the situation. Even though he manages to stop the evil War Lord behind the experiments, he realizes that he cannot possibly return everybody to their correct time on his own, and that he must contact his own people for help.
 
This ending, in which Troughton’s mercurial and psychedelic Doctor runs aground in the face of the complexities of the real world, is a fitting end to the 1960s for Doctor Who. It was, after all, upon the rocky shores of real-world politics that the utopian ideals that gave the early Troughton era such potency finally ran aground. The sight of the Doctor running into a situation grounded firmly in human experience and history and being unable to fix it is a potent and timely one. But the story is equally critical of the base under siege structure that made up so much of the Troughton era. Much of the middle of the story is in effect a base under siege in reverse, with the Doctor and his companions taking the role usually given to the monsters, scraping around the edges of the base from which the War Lord and his minions are masterminding the cruel games. The result is just as much a commentary on the paranoid nature of that genre, moving the Doctor from being a figure of the establishment to being a proper outsider.
 
And in the course of all of this the Doctor, after six seasons of mystery, finally gets an origin story: he is apparently a Time Lord who went on the run from his own people, and who is ultimately charged with violating his people’s rule of non-interference. And after an impassioned defense of his actions on the grounds that he was fighting real evil in the universe, the Doctor is sentenced to exile for his crimes. His companions are taken away from him and returned to their own times, his TARDIS is disabled, his face is changed once more, and he’s confined to Earth, setting the stage for Bryant and Sherwin’s reinvention of the series.
 
 
In practice, this was well-timed; ratings slumped badly over the course of the sixth season, with The War Games pulling dire ratings - only five million people watched Troughton’s last bow as the Doctor, and the eighth episode of the serial pulled the second-lowest ratings of the program’s entire fifty year history. Indeed, it was only out of a combination of not having an obvious replacement and the fact that the series was already slated to heavily retool itself that the program survived into a seventh season. Like Troughton’s Doctor, and indeed the psychedelic counterculture he so embodied, the program was going to have to find a new approach to the world.
 

 
Dr. Marx looked up from Baron Brougham’s Colonial Policy, took a swig of the musty air of the British Library, and waited for his blood to cool a little. He shifted himself slightly in his chair in an attempt to take the weight off his carbuncles, suddenly aware of the comparative meagreness of the pain they gave him. For a moment, he imagined the shelves of the great circular room filled not with books but rather with wretched men and women in chains, packed in as tightly as could be. They seemed to stare at him. He shook his biblically bewhiskered head as if to free himself of this horrid vision, and surveyed the people who were really there. Rows of backs hunched over desks, a crowd of noses buried in paper, an orchestra of pencils scribbling away in notebooks, and an army of feet padding carefully down walkways, sending up little clouds of dust with every step. 
 
There was Karswell, hanging around as ever, glum and twitchy and seething, trying to trick people into accepting his accursed little symbol-covered paper notes, which - if you believed the man - were capable of bringing ruin to their possessors through some occult power over human destiny. 
 
There was Whateley, the goatish monstrosity! Dr. Marx watched the man’s disturbingly large pores sweating what looked like ichor as he feverishly hunted through one of the more obscure and sinister old catalogues. 
 
There was that old fraud Maxtible, ferreting around in the medieval esoterica, as always. Dr. Marx knew what he was after. The fool imagined himself a student of the alchemical arts, and dreamed of recovering what he called “the secret”. “Metal into gold!” Maxtible had once bellowed semi-coherently into Dr. Marx’s face after button-holing him outside the library. He’d evidently imagined that he and Dr. Marx might have similar interests… possibly, Dr. Marx reflected, because of their similar taste in facial hair. Dr. Marx had gone along with the old turd for a while, and got a few free drinks out of it at the Alpha. Maxtible had passed out - Dr. Marx never having doubted that he’d be able to drink the man under the table - and Dr. Marx had ended up having a very pleasant chat about geese with the landlord Windigate, an amiable drunk called Baker, and some fellows called Bernard and Bacon.
 
The irony was, of course, that Maxtible and Dr. Marx were interested in similar things. Indeed, Dr. Marx knew very well how metal (or anything else) got itself transformed into gold. And the answer wasn’t to be found in the literature of the middle ages, but rather in the factories of the present epoch. And it was an occult thing only insofar as it was carefully hidden. But Dr. Marx wasn’t telling Maxtible. The man was a bourgeois through and through. And Dr. Marx hadn’t liked the little shock of static electricity he’d received from the man’s handshake.
 
And there was that mad woman, leaning against the wall below the ornate thermometer… the one who just called herself ‘the Doctor’. The Doctor indeed! Dr. Marx was doubtful that she had any actual academic standing at all. Dr. Marx had memories of slogging through Democritus and Epicurus to earn his doctorate. He resented people who just declared themselves Doctors without putting in the sheer reading involved. After all, wasn’t it labour that was the source of value? Of course, the Doctor had once claimed to Dr. Marx (or ‘Charlie-boy’, as she had insisted on calling him) to have actually met Democritus and Epicurus, and given them both all their ideas… but then that had been said during a pub crawl with Liebknecht. And a decent fellow doesn’t hold a person responsible for things said on a pub crawl. 
 
The Doctor looked up from her reading material - it seemed to be some kind of printed story about Guy Fawkes, comprised of little pictures and captions – and caught Dr. Marx’s eye.  They exchanged nods.
 
And then there was that young American fellow… what was he called? Sandford? Sandilands? Something like that. Another impoverished scholar, like Dr. Marx himself. The world should value and reward its scholars, thought Dr. Marx… not for the first time.  Sanderton – or whatever his name was – was engaged in something he called a ‘psychochronography’. Dr. Marx had no idea what a ‘psychochronography’ might be, but he found the word intriguing. He momentarily caught himself longing for twenty lifetimes so that he could finish his own chosen project and have time to write his book about Balzac. If he had such a surplus of time, he’d allocate some of it to investigating ‘psychochronography’. But, of course, as it was…
 
Sighing, feeling his carbuncles ache again (and vowing that the bourgeoisie would have cause to remember them) he returned his attention to Brougham, and to the English East Indies, where the slaves outnumbered the masters.
 
 
Always the way, he thought, as he found his place in the book.
 

 
Production on The War Games wrapped on June 12th, 1969, ten days before the final episode was broadcast. This brought an end to the sixth production block of Doctor Who. In between production and transmission, on June 17th, it was announced that Jon Pertwee would be taking up the role in the seventh season of the series, due for broadcast in six months time, the longest gap between broadcast in the series’ history thus far. Pertwee’s services had been secured about a month earlier, on May 21st, the day before taping of the seventh episode. Pertwee was at the time primarily known as a comedic actor, and was a regular in the Carry On films alongside Peter Buttersworth and Bernard Bresslaw, but after consultation with BBC Head of Drama Shaun Sutton, an old friend of his, he resolved to play the part in a relatively dramatic way, frequently basing the Doctor’s characterization on himself. This resulted in a relatively dapper character characterized through much of the run by velvet jackets and frilled shirts. Pertwee was eager to do more action sequences than his predecessors, and became a much more physical Doctor, handling his own fight scenes and getting into numerous chase sequences using various vehicles, Pertwee being quite the car aficionado. 
 
The extended break in transmission was in part for necessary production reasons. The BBC was making the switch to color transmission in November, and so the next season of Doctor Who would require an entirely new production setup. Derrick Sherwin inherited the task of making the transition after coming on as producer with The War Games, and began production on the first color story in September of that year. Based on the idea of an alien consciousness that could control plastic, Spearhead From Space expanded upon the earth-based approach trialled with The Invasion a year earlier, and featured the return of Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart as the head of UNIT, military investigators of the paranormal. Courtney was now a series regular contracted, like Pertwee, for all twenty-five episodes of the seventh season, and essentially taking over the male companion role vacated by Frazer Hines. After briefly considering keeping Wendy Padbury on as Zoe, the job of the female companion was instead given to Caroline Johns, who played Liz Shaw, an intelligent scientist character not unlike Zoe, but reimagined as a dedicated professional brought in to work for the military. 
 
The story, by Robert Holmes, was written to allow Pertwee to ease into the role, spending two episodes building up events while he recovers from his crash landing in the hospital. When he emerges in the third episode, it is as a swaggering character dressed in a billowing cape and elegant tie that befits his performance of the character as a sort of intergalactic dandy frustrated by his exile to Earth. Under Robert Holmes’s pen, this plays out with a slightly mordant sense of humor, with the Doctor as a faintly ridiculous character who is nevertheless necessary for a military up against faintly ridiculous enemies, in this case the plastic duplicates created by the alien Autons and some armies of marauding mannequins. 
 
Holmes is something of a peculiar writer. He had been the British Army’s youngest commissioned officer in the war, fighting in Burma with the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders. He returned to Britain in 1945 and spent some time as a police officer, eventually transitioning to journalism after noticing the excitement with which reporters worked while he was giving evidence at trials. In the 1950s he transitioned to television, and after an aborted attempt to pitch for Doctor Who in 1965, wrote two scripts for Troughton’s last season - The Krotons and The Space Pirates. This proved the start of a long association - he wrote for the program off and on until his death in 1986, and is one of the most beloved and acclaimed of Doctor Who writers. His scripts are marked by a tendency towards a low-level, human perspective on things - a perspective earned by his first few post-war careers. In Spearhead From Space this plays out with a focus on the artificiality of the plastic monsters, having their invasion start with the takeover of a toy factory, and allowing the camera to linger on long shots of plastics manufacturing and empty plastic dolls heads jostling around on assembly lines, hammering home the earth-based focus of the story far more than any of the shots of the Doctor’s ridiculously charming swashbuckling. 
 
These shots would be the most disturbing shots of what was a fairly frightening story, were it not for the story’s iconic shot, in which a street full of shops are broken out of by suddenly animated shop dummies who begin marauding the people, shooting them with guns that open out of their hands, a fearsome horde of consumerist zombies that were perfectly in touch with the time - just sixteen days later the BBC would launch Doomwatch, by Cybermen creators Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, which focused on a team of scientists tasked with protecting the public from the dangerous byproducts of science - its first episode focused on a dangerous substance that eats away at plastic, threatening people as it does things like devour airplanes in mid-flight. It was a moment of being perfectly in step with the times, and proved a sizable hit, even if the bulk of the audience didn’t see the snazzy new color production due to the technology’s newness and expense. The earth-based formula proved exactly the boost that Doctor Who needed, and a few weeks after Spearhead From Space finished airing the program was renewed for an eighth season of twenty-five episodes. 
 
By this point, everything had gone completely wrong behind the scenes. An industrial action between the planned location shooting and the studio shooting for Spearhead From Space had led to the story being shot entirely on film, with director Derek Martinus quickly reworking plans to accommodate the new plan. Midway through shooting, Derrick Sherwin and Peter Bryant, who were still basically working as a team on Doctor Who with the idea that Peter Bryant would take over as producer for a few stories later in the season, were suddenly reassigned to salvage a German co-production called Paul Temple. The BBC attempted to draft in Douglas Camfield, who had basically originated the earth-based formula with The Web of Fear and The Invasion, as a new producer, but he declined, and so the job went to Barry Letts, who had directed The Enemy of the World and had made a few suggestions at the time about how to rework the production of the series to be more efficient, many of which Bryant and Sherwin had subsequently implemented.
 
Letts in effect took over midway through production on the next story, which went out with the idiosyncratic title Doctor Who and the Silurians, a rare case of the main character actually being called “Doctor Who” in the series itself - The production office had a habit of internally referring to stories as “Doctor Who and the ______,” and the chaos caused by the abrupt change in producers meant that nobody dropped the lead-in. That story was by Malcolm Hulke, writing his first solo story. Like his previous two, there was a high focus on moral ambiguity, with the Silurians not being alien invaders but a race of prehistoric reptile-people who had once had their own civilization, and who wanted to reclaim their planet from the apes who had come to live on it after them. This central image is a straightforward metaphor of colonialism, and an apt one as the once massive British Empire slowly unraveled, with each year seeing more colonies granted independence (1970 saw the beginning of decolonization in the Pacific, with Fiji and Tonga breaking off). The Silurians were the oppressed indigenous population given sci-fi technology, and unlike most sci-fi lizard men they had both a reasonable and sympathetic point, and, in the name of providing interesting visuals for the kids, a pet dinosaur. 
 
Hulke’s disposition towards moral ambiguity found a receptive ear in Barry Letts, an actor-turned-director who was a practicing Buddhist with an abiding love of the counterculture. Although he arrived too late to influence the direction of Doctor Who and the Silurians much, he pushed for a dramatic change in the ending such that the Brigadier would order that the caves housing the Silurians be blown up, seemingly exterminating the entire race, with the final scene being the Doctor and Liz’s horror at discovering this act of genocide. And as soon as that wrapped, there was more chaos on the horizon. The third story of the season was to be David Whitaker’s The Ambassadors of Death, but Whitaker proved to have trouble writing for the new military-based format of the show and lacked time to do revisions due to an impending move to Australia, where he would begin a second career as a teacher. Accordingly Malcolm Hulke was brought in to finish Whitaker’s scripts uncredited.
 
For the third time running, however, the utter chaos behind the scenes translated into a winner on-screen. Hulke proved a natural compliment to Whitaker, with whom he shared an  inclination towards writing more nuanced characters and a love of political thrillers. The resulting story is a nuanced and intelligent story in which an initially hostile alien race turns out to be sympathetic and ultimately friendly elevated by strong visuals including a sequence of faceless men in space suits menacingly advancing, glowing gold in the bright sun, as well as a better-than-normal space rocket set built as a coproduction between Doctor Who and Doomwatch. It was the last time that David Whitaker, one of the primary creative forces in the initial design and tone of Doctor Who, would work on the program, and a perfect passing of the torch to the generation of writers who take it forward through the next decade.
 
The fourth and final story of Season Seven, Don Houghton’s Inferno, should have by all rights been a more straightforward affair. A fairly straightforward story about a drilling project that threatens to release a terrible force at the core of the Earth itself that’s enlivened by a several-episode sojourn into an alternate reality in which the by then familiar characters of the Brigadier and Liz Shaw are instead hardened fascists, Inferno was to be directed by Douglas Camfield, the very definition of a safe pair of hands, especially for an earth-based Doctor Who story featuring the military. Instead the production proved fractious - Camfield and Pertwee clashed over the latter’s reluctance to take direction. The situation turned worse when Camfield collapsed during rehearsals for the third episode due to a worsening heart condition, meaning that Barry Letts had to step in and direct the tail-end of the serial, bringing an end to the rolling nightmare that was the Seventh Season. 
 
Each of the four stories in Season Seven owed a clear and unequivocal debt to Nigel Kneale’s trio of 1950s serials featuring the character of Professor Bernard Quatermass, the head of the fictitious British Rocket Group, who found himself fending off various alien threats. The first Quatermass serial, The Quatermass Experiment, featured a space mission that goes wrong, resulting in an astronaut who comes back dangerously changed by his experience - a setup that is visibly mirrored in The Ambassadors of Death, which also concerns astronauts returning having seemingly undergone bizarre changes. Spearhead From Space, meanwhile, cribbed liberally from Quatermass II, particularly in its opening sequences of an alien meteor landing, while Doctor Who and the Silurians and Inferno both owe a clear debt to the third serial, Quatermass and the Pit. The result was reliably effective, but with only three Quatermass serials to nick ideas from, it was clear that the well was going to run dry soon enough. Beyond that, Letts, like any newly installed producer on a major television show, was eager to put his own stamp on the program. 
 
First, Letts was eager to establish a larger supporting cast so that UNIT did not simply appear to be the Brigadier. Douglas Camfield, who preferred to work with actors he was familiar with, had cast John Levene, who had previously appeared in The Invasion, for Inferno, a decision Letts capitalized on by quickly adding him in a minor role in the still-shooting Ambassadors of Death, and so it was natural to keep him on as Sergeant Benton. Further rounding out the UNIT cast would be Richard Franklin as Captain Mike Yates, thus giving the organization three distinct regulars. The introduction of Mike Yates, however, would prove to be more than a little rocky - Pertwee was not entirely enthused about the introduction of another male lead, and gave his new colleague a light hazing during Terror of the Autons, stealing several of his lines from him. Letts also had the idea of giving the Doctor a Moriarty figure as a foil and recurring nemesis. This character, named the Master, was to be played by Roger Delgado, an actor with a long and established career that in fact included Quatermass II. Delgado played the role as a leering Svengali, all Bond villain charm, providing a perfect foil for Perwtee’s dapper action hero dandy.  
 
Meanwhile, there was concern about the role of the female companion. Terrance Dicks was not a fan of Liz Shaw, believing that it didn’t work to have an assistant who was nearly as intelligent as the Doctor, and so she was dropped without so much as a farewell scene. Dicks, who is, to say the least, not always the most reliably feminist voice in Doctor Who history, has said that the role of the female companion is really primarily to get captured and rescued by the Doctor, and so developed the part of Jo Grant, a plucky but consciously less intelligent character who would be hired by UNIT on the insistence of her politically important family members. The part went to Katy Manning, who famously showed up late and flustered to the audition and, in doing so, ended up giving Letts and Dicks exactly what they were looking for in the character.
 
The task of establishing all these new elements went to Robert Holmes, who penned Terror of the Autons, a sequel to Spearhead From Space. Holmes picked up on the most visually interesting aspect of Spearhead from Space - the iconic mannequin sequence - and expanded this concept out to a full story in which the Autons, with the Master’s help, attacked Earth by taking control of various plastic objects: telephone cords, plastic flowers, children’s dolls, and even plastic furniture. As with Spearhead From Space, the invasion was centered on a plastics company, but where Spearhead From Space had the Autons taking over a successful company, this time Holmes, in keeping with his fondness for spinning stories out of the prosaically human, had them preying on a struggling company, thus giving the Master a hook into the story, as he plays on the owner’s fears and anxieties. 
 
Holmes’s script was, for the most part, structured around providing visual set pieces in line with the premise, as well as big character moments for the new cast, and the story moves with a pace that is unprecedented within Doctor Who. Tasked with realizing Holmes’s visuals was Barry Letts himself, and the result is an enthusiastic celebration of the technological possibilities of color television. Letts made extensive use of Color Separation Overlay - an early form of green screen that allowed for stark justapoxistions on screen, allowing for effects like a child’s doll standing up and murdering someone or for the grisly discovery of a corpse left behind by the Master, shrunk to miniature size and shoved inside the deceased’s own lunchbox. The result was excitably lurid, a melange of color and spectacle capped by a newspaper controversy over the murderous children’s toy and a sequence in which the Autons impersonate police officers, leading to a comment in a House of Lords debate about the possibility that the series was too scary for small children - a comment that, for any small children who might have heard it, was surely a ringing endorsement of the series.
 
The visual spectacle of Terror of the Autons proved well-timed, and the beginning of another period in which the program was in perfect sync with the cultural mood. As the story transmitted, the band T. Rex made it to number two with “Ride a White Swan,” the first chart success of the nascent glam rock era. Glam, like Doctor Who in the early 70s, was heavily influenced by the rise of color television. A major element of popular music in the UK during the 1970s was the BBC program Top of the Pops, a weekly compendium of studio performances of major chart hits that, and glam was perfectly poised to take advantage of that, with artists dressing in colorful and shiny ensembles that, as thousands of parents grumbling about the awful music their children were listening to put it, looked like something off of Doctor Who
 
Glam’s real breakthrough came about two months later with T. Rex’s second single, “Hot Love,” which made it to number one during the transmission of Season Eight’s third story, The Claws of Axos. With a Top of the Pops performance featuring lead singer Marc Bolan in a silver lame ensemble that could have fit seamlessly into any Doctor Who story set on a futuristic space station, the song was a perfect soundtrack for one of the most visually inventive stories of the decade. Featuring gold-faced aliens, bright orange tentacle monsters, a spaceship done in gaudy shades of yellow and orange, and a melange of video effects enabled by the new and sophisticated editing techniques that color video brought, the story was more glam than glam rock itself. The script, by new writers Bob Baker and David Martin, featured as many inventive concepts as the visuals did and packed with characters straight out of countless action serials, was in many ways a triumph of style over substance, but the overall story was so resplendently stylish that it is almost impossible to frame this as a criticism.
 
With the fourth story of the season the Pertwee era of Doctor Who reached a key milestone as it returned to travel in time and space, with the Doctor being sent by the Time Lords to a 25th century mining colony to stop the Master from acquiring a doomsday weapon. The script was by Malcolm Hulke, who had never been in favor of the earthbound format, and was thus a natural choice to be allowed to break with it. Engaging more directly with Hulke’s political concerns than any of his other works, Colony in Space was a parable about exploitative labor, with the colony being threatened by the ruthless and predatory Interplanetary Mining Corporation who, in classic Malcolm Hulke style, attempted to scare the colonists off by faking giant lizard attacks. 
 
But although the television version is good, what is really notable and memorable about Colony in Space is its existence as a novel, also penned by Hulke, entitled Doctor Who and the Doomsday Machine. This book, published three years after the story’s transmission by Target Books, was part of a larger series of novelizations of Doctor Who stories, the existence of which was one of the major developments of the early 1970s. Although a trio of Hartnell stories - The Daleks, The Web Planet, and The Crusade - had been novelized in the 1960s, the Target line would ultimately novelize all but four of the stories in Doctor Who’s initial quarter-century run, and, in the days before video recording, were the only way for young fans to re-experience old favorites. The line’s definitive author was Terrance Dicks, who ended up writing sixty-four of the line’s eventual hundred-and-fifty-seven books. Dicks’s prose is characterized by a brisk and eminently clear style that kept the plot moving through the books’ standard hundred-and-twenty-eight page length and a knack for opening sentences (“Through the ruins of a city stalked the ruins of a man,” the start of his novelization of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, is a particular gem), and his penchant for repeating phrases across books enshrined a number of traditional descriptions of objects, most notably the tendency to describe the noise the TARDIS makes as it dematerializes and rematerializes as “a wheezing, groaning sound.”
 
But in the early days of the novelizations it was in many ways Malcolm Hulke’s efforts that stood out the most. Where Dicks focused on relentlessly readable prose, Hulke’s novelizations took advantage of the format’s ability to expand upon the nuances of his original stories. His first effort, a novelization of Doctor Who and the Silurians called Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters, took care to give the individual Silurians names and went further in distinguishing their personalities than the televised story, and Doctor Who and the Doomsday Machine similarly elaborated on and expanded his original story. Coupled with its status as one of the first novelizations published, the book became an iconic part of countless childhood summers at the beach.
 
 
The eighth season concluded with The Daemons, an attempt by Letts, this time writing the story with his friend Robert Sloman, to mash Doctor Who up with Dennis Wheatley-style country horror as the Master attempts to summon the Devil itself, revealed to in fact be an ancient and powerful alien in the mould of the then-fashionable theories of Erich von Dänniken, whose book Chariots of the Gods? posited that human culture had been heavily influenced by ancient alien visitations. The story’s rural setting proved an easy-to-manage set of location shoots that gave it real flavor, and the focus on old pagan traditions like maypole rituals and Morris dancers proved a prescient combination, anticipating Robin Hardy’s iconic horror film The Wicker Man, made a year later. The story ended with the Master, who had served as the villain in all five of the stories in Season Eight, finally being arrested by UNIT and sent to a maximum security prison.
 

 
Missy looked up from the tablet she had been reading, a wistful smile disappearing from her face. The Dalek that had interrupted her reading stood before her - do Daleks stand? She wasn’t certain. Maybe it sat before her - The Dalek sat before her, motionless.
 
“Well?” she asked, impatient.
 
“THE CYBERMEN AND ICE WARRIORS ARE IN POSITION. THE SILURIAN AND SONTARAN FORCES AWAIT YOUR ORDERS. EVERYTHING IS READY.”
 
“And the Chumblies?”
 
The Dalek hesitated, its eyestalk moving up and down. It seemed irritated. Eventually, it responded.
 
“YES. THEM TOO.”
 
She may have imagined it, but Missy thought the Dalek sounded petulant. She smiled. “Good then. Keep scanning for the Doctor. When she shows up, let me know. Until then, do stop interrupting me.”
 
 
She waved the Dalek away with a shooing motion, and turned back to her tablet.
 

 
 
The ninth season of Doctor Who brought something the show had not really seen since its second production block: relative continuity and consistency with the season before. The creative team was, instead, very much the same: Pertwee and Manning both stayed on, as did Courtney, Levene, Franklin, and Delgado. There were no major behind-the-scenes shifts, with both Dicks and Letts remaining in place. Even the writers were fairly consistent: three of Season Nine’s five stories were by writers who had worked on Season Eight, and the other two were from seasoned veterans dating back to the Hartnell era. It was, in other words, a season of honing the successful formula the series had developed over the previous two years.
 
That is not to say, however, that there were not changes. Although the UNIT cast and the Master returned, both were in significantly reduced roles. Where Pertwee’s first two seasons had featured UNIT in every story (albeit only in a single scene in the case of Colony in Space), Season Nine used them only in the first and last stories. Similarly, the Master, whose schemes had animated all five stories in Season Eight, made only two appearances this time around - one in the season finale, and one two stories earlier in The Sea Devils, a Malcolm Hulke-penned remake of Doctor Who and the Silurians with an aquatic theme. This story highlighted another transitional aspect of the ninth season: although it was an earth-based story, it did not feature UNIT, instead creating a new set of military characters for that story only. 
 
The Sea Devils also marked a significant milestone in the production of the series. During the 1960s, the series was made at the rate of an episode per week, with each episode being filmed, ideally, three weeks before transmission (although this margin of error at times thinned, including during the fourth season, when episodes were being made only a week in advance). Letts had already supervised a transition to making two episodes together in a two-week production cycle, but with the ninth season he managed the impressive feat of making the season out of order: The Sea Devils was the third story transmitted, but was actually made before the second story, The Curse of Peladon. This increased lead time meant that the atmosphere of continual crisis under which the series had always existed, although never entirely dissipated, was at least lessened considerably.
 
The Curse of Peladon was also one of two stories in Season Nine to return to the classic “adventures in space and time” approach of the 1960s. Lushly directed by Lenny Mayne, it was a visual feast that drew on the BBC’s long experience with period costume drama to create a quasi-medieval alien planet, Peladon, that was dragged into an elaborate set of interplanetary political schemes. Featuring several memorable alien designs, some for their quality, some for the exact opposite reason, the story was a triumphant highlight of the season, made all the more memorable for a sly twist in which the Ice Warriors, returning monsters dating from the Troughton era’s paranoid “base under siege” subgenre, turned out to have evolved beyond their villainous ways and become good guys, with the real villain being one of the straightforwardly humanoid characters. 
 
Although the constraint of the Doctor’s broken TARDIS was still nominally in place, The Curse of Peladon was one of four stories to push beyond the contemporary Earth setting. It was joined by The Mutants, another explosion of high concept and glam rock video effects by Bob Baker and David Martin in which, as in The Curse of Peladon and Colony in Space, the Doctor was sent on a mission by the Time Lords. But even the two UNIT stories bookending the season contrived to get the Doctor out of contemporary Earth. The season finale, The Time Monster, took the Doctor and the Master back to ancient Atlantis, while the opener involved guerrillas from a dystopian future traveling back in time to alter the past, and the Doctor following them back to their own time.
 
This story, by Louis Marks, who had previously written Planet of Giants for Doctor Who’s second season, also featured the final major change in place for the ninth season. Although originally conceived of as a bespoke story featuring no returning elements, plans for the story were rapidly altered when Letts and Dicks were alerted that, following the failure of his attempt to get a US-made series off the ground, Terry Nation was at last willing to allow Doctor Who to use the Daleks again. Accordingly, Marks’s scripts were hastily rewritten so that the dystopian future was ruled over by the Daleks, who only actually appeared in about ten minutes of the four part story. Nevertheless, their return provided the beginning-of-season publicity boost that Letts had hoped for, and the series rode triumphantly into its tenth year. 
 
Reaching its tenth season was, to say the least, quite an accomplishment. Accordingly, the tenth season opened with a celebratory story entitled The Three Doctors. As this title suggests, the story contrived to bring together all three versions of the Doctor for one adventure. The script, by Bob Baker and David Martin, but with heavy rewrites from Terrance Dicks, plunged the Time Lords into crisis when Omega, a celebrated hero from their history long thought dead, turns out to be alive in an antimatter universe hidden within a black hole, and to have been driven mad by his rage at the Time Lords for abandoning him. With their entire planet under threat from Omega’s attacks, the Time Lords are forced to violate their most fundamental laws and allow the Doctor to cross his own time stream to rescue them. Notably, significant portions of the plot of The Three Doctors appear to have been loosely adapted by David Bowie when explaining the alleged plot to his The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars - a fact that is chronologically amusing given that the album came out prior to The Three Doctors, although the interview in which he explained it did not. Regardless of whether Bowie actually took inspiration from Doctor Who, however, it is clear that the series was in lockstep with the culture, hitting the peak of this particular era and approach to doing Doctor Who in perfect sync with the definitive glam rock album. 
 
As with the first mention of the Time Lords back in The War Games, the effect of The Three Doctors was that an awful lot of fundamental mythology of the show was established out of material that was, in practice, hastily written in an effort to have something big and impressive. But it worked: clad in an imposing mask that evoked William Blake’s famed painting of Nebuchadnezzer, and voiced memorably by Stephen Thorne, Omega cut a suitably imposing villain, and while the science within the story may seem hopelessly silly in hindsight, the tale of black holes and supernovas was a decent stab at engaging with then-trendy science fiction, and has remained a visible part of the series’ mythos ever since. Pertwee and Troughton, meanwhile, proved to be an entertaining double act after some initial frostiness during rehearsals (assuaged when Troughton gracefully adapted his working methods to Pertwee’s in recognition of the fact that it was his show now) - Troughton played up the impish comedy of his character, providing a useful foil to Pertwee’s more patrician Doctor. 
 
It is Hartnell, however, who provided the one real note of solemnity to proceedings. It was not until after the story’s development was well underway that it became clear quite how much Hartnell’s health had deteriorated since he left the show. The arteriosclerosis that was sapping his abilities over his final year had advanced, and Hartnell was too frail to make any significant appearance in the story. He was quickly removed from the bulk of the plot and appeared only in pre-recorded sequences where he materialized on the TARDIS scanner, offering sage advice to his successors. Hartnell is visibly ill in the sequences, reading his lines falteringly off of cue cards, and he passed away just two years after the story aired, with it being his final work. Even still, the mischievious twinkle in his eyes as he proclaims his successors to be “a dandy and a clown,” monickers which have stuck to both portrayals ever since, serves as a last and fitting reminder of the man who originated the part, and whose work in doing so made his early and seemingly hopelessly ambitious prediction that the series would run for five years turn out to be, in practice, farcically pessimistic. 
 
The giddy and confident joy with which Doctor Who stormed out of the gate for its tenth season was sustained over the remainder of the season, which promptly and emphatically took off on adventures in time and space again following the Time Lords giving the Doctor a repaired TARDIS as a thank you present for saving them from certain doom. Next up was another Robert Holmes story, Carnival of Monsters. This story, once again pairing Holmes with Barry Letts as a director, was initially designed in order to take advantage of the production schedule of Doctor Who in order to save money for more ambitious stories planned later in the season. Since episodes were filmed two at a time, Letts realized that you could construct a story in which two small casts affected one another without ever meeting. This would mean that no actors needed to be retained for the full four-week shoot except for Pertwee and Manning themselves, who would be the only characters to cross from one set of characters to the other. Given this constraint, Holmes came up with the inventive conceit of the Miniscope - a television-like device that allowed viewers to look at various creatures who, it turned out, were in fact miniaturized and trapped within the device. One cast, therefore, was a bunch of human sailors unaware that they were trapped on an endless voyage, while the other featured a carnival barker and his assistant trying desperately to persuade literally grey-faced bureaucrats on the planet of Inter Minor not to impound their Miniscope for violating laws against such frivolity. (“Our purpose is to amuse, simply to amuse,” the carnival barker, Vorg, pleads archly. “Nothing serious! Nothing political!”) The story is widely considered one of the highlights of the Pertwee era, mainly on the back of Holmes’s particularly witty script, which entertains not just in its obvious and satisfying railing against the drab bureaucracy of Inter Minor, or in Jo’s furious and sputtering outrage at the idea that all of the awful things happening to her are just for the amusement of people watching her like she’s in some sort of television program, but in several in-jokes such as the name of the story’s primary monster, the Drashigs, whose names are anagrams of “dishrags” because Holmes suspected, given that he was writing the season’s cheap and moneysaving story, that this would be what they were constructed out of.
 
Carnival of Monsters was followed by an ambitious pair of six-parters. The first of these was Frontier in Space, another Malcolm Hulke effort in which circumstances spiral progressively out of control as the 26th century human empire finds itself on the brink of war with the Draconian Empire. The Draconians are, typical for Hulke, lizard people, but were the beneficiaries of particularly strong costume design that saw them clad in latex prosthetics that allowed the actors use of their mouth and eyes, giving them a level of depth and nuance that Hulke’s previous two efforts at sympathetic lizard aliens had lacked. On top of that, the script features a satisfying sense of buildup, with the villains at first appearing to be the Ogrons, previously seen as henchmen in Season Nine’s Day of the Daleks, then the Master, making his one appearance in Season Ten, before, in the final episode, it’s revealed that all of this has been a plot by the Daleks. This leads directly into the next story, Planet of the Daleks, which was designed to be taken along with Frontier in Space as an homage to Season Three’s sprawlingly epic The Daleks’ Masterplan. Planet of the Daleks is a self-consciously retro affair, with Terry Nation returning to do an old-fashioned Dalek story that returned to the Dan Dare-style roots of the monsters, but with David Maloney, who previously distinguished himself directing The War Games and the psychedelically metafictional The Mind Robber, returning to direct, the story brought a visual panache to the Daleks that had not previously been seen.
 
It is the final story of the tenth season, however, that most emphatically demonstrates what the Letts/Pertwee era of Doctor Who was all about. As with the finales of the previous two seasons, The Green Death was largely written by Barry Letts himself, along with his friend and collaborator Robert Sloman. This time the script stemmed out of a pair of passionate personal concerns for Letts: his growing investment in environmentalism, and his own Buddhist faith. The story concerns a chemical company that has arrived in an otherwise failing Welsh mining town promising newfound wealth for the population, who, desperate as they are, largely overlook the way in which people keep dying in the mines and turning bright green. In many ways, this harkens back to Pertwee’s first season, telling a tale of science run amok that would, at least in its initial premise, not be out of place on Doomwatch. This sense of real-world horror was further highlighted by the extraordinary work the effects department did on the story’s primary monsters, giant maggots mutated by chemical waste. The end product incorporated fox skulls into the design, which gave the writhing monsters alarmingly effective gnashing teeth and, perhaps more importantly, gave a generation of children fantastic nightmares. But while the maggots are the detail that burnt themselves into the memory of a generation, The Green Death is not a straightforward horror story. A subplot involves the Doctor traveling to Metebelis Three, a planet he’d been trying to pilot the TARDIS to all season, and acquiring a blue crystal that can clarify and purify one’s mind. This leads to the story’s climactic showdown, in which the insane computer that turns out to be running the chemical company and the Doctor have a psychic showdown, portrayed as a kaleidoscope of flashing orange and blue light and video effects that looked like it could have fit smoothly into the Top of the Pops videos for any of the nine glam songs to hit number one in 1973. 
 
The story also features the departure, after three seasons, of Katy Manning as Jo Grant. From her initial appearance back in Terror of the Autons, Manning gave Jo Grant a sort of exuberant charm that animated the series. Once the bulk of the expansive supporting cast of Season Eight dropped back to recurring status, Jo was left as the lone supporting character, marking the first time the series spent an extended time with only a single companion for the Doctor. It is worth reflecting on the fact that the setup of the Doctor travelling with a single female companion subsequently became the norm for the series, where prior to Colony in Space there had never been a single story without a male companion. Much of this transformation is due entirely to just how well Katy Manning played the part. In many ways, in the face of Pertwee’s more staid and serious Doctor, she became the heir to Troughton’s mercurial approach. Although Jo was largely defined and portrayed as a blonde ditz - she memorably nearly blew up the Doctor’s lab in her first scene - the sheer degree of charm that Manning imbued the part with meant that the character could strangely get away with anything provided Manning grinned enough while doing it. 
 
But in many ways the heart and soul of Jo Grant’s success was the phenomenal rapport between Katy Manning and Jon Pertwee. This rapport began on her second day of filming, when she twisted her ankle on location, leading a production assistant (who happened to also be the brother of the recently sacked Caroline John) to joke that she could still be replaced. Pertwee leapt to his new costar’s defense, and proceeded to look out for her throughout her three year tenure. This relationship carried on onscreen, where the Doctor beamed with paternal affection for his young companion, who in turn beamed with a cheeky charisma. The result was a double act for the ages - the glam rock era’s answer to the mod era’s iconic action/adventure duo of  Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg playing John Steed and Emma Peel on The Avengers.
 
And so it was fitting that Manning got the most effective companion departure in the series’ history to date. Throughout The Green Death Jo spends a lot of time with Clifford Jones, a scientist opposing the chemical company who Jo several times describes as a younger version of the Doctor. And fittingly, at the end of the story Jo reveals that she has accepted Dr. Jones’s proposal of marriage and that she will be joining him on an expedition to the Amazon. The Doctor is gracious, offering Jo the blue crystal he obtained on Metebelis Three as a wedding present, but ultimately quietly slips out of the party unseen, driving off in the darkness, a lone and forlorn figure who has been abandoned by his closest friend in the world. Leaning into the idea that the Doctor was in love with Jo just hard enough to be effective, but not so hard as to become problematic, it was a devastatingly powerful end to a story and indeed to a season with no shortage of memorable moments. Indeed, it’s been argued that 1973 marked the high water mark in the series’ popular reception - not the moment when it was most rawly popular, but the moment when it did the most effective job of lodging itself in the culture’s memory. 
 
As had been the case for the ninth production block, where Robert Holmes’s Carnival of Monsters was filmed following the Season Nine finale, the tenth production block concluded with the eleventh season premiere, The Time Warrior. Noticing that the series had not done an adventure set in Earth’s history in some time, Terrance Dicks asked Robert Holmes to construct one, and to introduce the new companion. Holmes was nonplussed by the assignment, remarking that it was bad enough to get letters from clever ten-year-olds complaining about scientific inaccuracies, but to get ones correcting his history was intolerable. Nevertheless, he turned out a satisfying adventure that introduced Linx, a member of a newly invented alien race called the Sontarans, a race of warlike clones. Linx is designed as a sly parody of Pertwee’s Doctor: a time-travelling alien stranded on Earth and forced to serve as the scientific advisor to a human military organization - in this case, a moronic medieval warlord named Irongron. 
 
The new companion, Sarah Jane Smith, was a headstrong journalist investigating the same set of disappearing scientists as the Doctor, stowing away on the TARDIS when it travels back to the middle ages. Designed as a conscious response to the increasingly mainstream women’s lib movement, Sarah Jane’s casting proved somewhat more complex than expected. Originally an actress named April Walker was cast, but during rehearsals it became clear that this was a poor choice, as Walker and Pertwee had little on-screen chemistry. Letts saw to it that Walker was paid for the full Season Eleven despite appearing in none of it, and proceeded to attempt to cast the role again, this time settling on Elisabeth Sladen. 
 
The Time Warrior wrapped on June 12th 1973. Six days later, Roger Delgado flew to Turkey to begin work on a feature film. His flight arrived late, and his driver attempted to make up the lost time. The roads led through difficult mountain terrain, and the driver lost control of the car, which fell into a ravine, killing Delgado. This was a bitter blow for the entire production team, which quickly fragmented. The first to decide to leave was Dicks, who had been wanting to leave even before Delgado’s death. Not long after, Barry Letts decided that five years in the hot seat - considerably more than any other producer had ever managed (albeit at a much more relaxed production schedule) was more than enough, and decided he would step down at the end of the season. Pertwee, who was also suffering from a worsening back problem that was restricting his ability to do the stunts and action sequences he so enjoyed, and particularly shaken by the loss of Delgado, a dear friend, so soon after the departure of Katy Manning, with whom he had worked so comfortably, found himself considering the exit door as well. He decided to ask for a twenty percent pay raise, just to see if he could get away with it, but to nobody’s surprise, least of all his own, this request was politely denied, and he too announced his departure. 
 
This meant that there would be four further stories featuring Pertwee along the already filmed The Time Warrior, and for the most part these four stories reveal the extent to which the production team’s enthusiasm for the program was lagging. The first was another Malcolm Hulke thriller, this time featuring, on Letts’s request, dinosaurs rampaging through London. Letts turned out to dramatically overestimate the degree to which dinosaurs could be convincingly done, however, and in many sequences it’s painfully obvious that the dinosaurs are in fact plastic toys on strings. Hulke, frustrated that his original proposal, which had been much more focused on the idea of an emergency government with steadily and dangerously growing powers, had been bypassed in favor of focusing on special effects, and special effects that weren’t even well done at that, decided at this point that he was more interested in writing novelizations of Doctor Who than he was in writing for television, and brought his association with the program to an end. 
 
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Letts and Dicks were working on making a new program, to be a serious-minded science fiction piece called Moonbase 3. Having entrusted him with three season premieres and the introduction of six major characters over the last five seasons, Dicks had naturally enough tapped Robert Holmes to follow him after the eleventh season, and so decided to let Holmes unofficially deputize for him for the tail end of Hulke’s Invasion of the Dinosaurs and for the next story, another Dalek adventure from Terry Nation. Legend has it that Dicks handed Holmes the script with the comment “good luck - the Asprins are in the bottom drawer,” and that Holmes gave the story its title out of a sincere but ultimately unrealized hope that he would never have to work with the Daleks or Terry Nation again. Dicks was also aware that the fourth story of the season, The Monster of Peladon, was going to need serious work. Conceived of as an attempt to have lightning strike twice by returning to the setting of Season Nine’s acclaimed The Curse of Peladon, the script for the story proved to need a near complete rewrite, and even with one it ended up looking like what it was: a remake of a two-year-old story stretched an additional two episodes without enough ideas. The story attempted to work as an allegory for the worsening industrial dispute with the National Union of Mineworkers, which was worsening throughout the period in late 1973 that scripts were being completed, and that finally broke out into a general strike at the beginning of 1974 in between the third and fourth episodes of The Time Warrior, resulting in a two month policy called the Thre-Day Week that mandated that businesses shutter for two out of the five working days in a week. The issue resolved before The Monster of Peladon made it to air, making it look dated on top of looking lousy, but not before it had brought down Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath’s government and seen Harold Wilson return to power.
 
But even though the immediate political crisis had resolved, the sense of unease and uncertainty that the crisis brought was not so easily dispelled. The ecstatic gaudiness of glam rock seemed suddenly out of touch, and the subgenre withered. Even David Bowie, by this point at the forefront of the style, was backing away from it, with his 1974 album, Diamond Dogs, ostensibly structured around a character called Halloween Jack who ruled the underworld of the decaying Hunger City. The album shared glam rock’s sense of collage and visual excess, but, as the opening track described, the excess was now just scavenged and torn, worn by feuding and animalistic gangs.
 
The party, in other words, had quickly come to a crashing halt, and Pertwee’s exit from the stage was fortuitously timed. All that remained was his regeneration story, and it was here that the flagging production team opted to focus their efforts. Letts served as both writer (along with his usual collaborator Robert Sloman) and director of this story, Planet of the Spiders, and, as with The Green Death the year before, opted to focus it on his own personal concerns. In this case he decided to make the story into a Buddhist parable, expanding on a brief scene back in The Time Monster in which the Doctor talked about an old hermit mentor of his when he was a child, telling a story adapted from the famed Zen Flower Sermon. Here he introduced the mentor as a character at a meditation center that has steadily been infiltrated and overrun by selfish businessmen seeking to use the power of meditation to harness a dark power, revealed to be giant spiders from Metebelis Three. The spiders are seeking the blue crystal from The Green Death, and the Doctor is steadily boxed in until he has no choice but to return to Metebelis Three and deliver it, knowing full well that the trip will prove fatal to him.
 
The story is an energetic spectacular that revisits the highlights of the Pertwee era, including an entire episode turned over to a lengthy multi-vehicle chase scene to give Pertwee one last hurrah. But the story’s most emphatic and moving scenes are those around Pertwee’s regeneration, where he comes to accept that the entire crisis is his own fault, stemming from the selfish greed for knowledge that motivated him to take the crystal in the first place, and that is in the end no different from the greed of the villains trying to steal it. He ultimately chooses to face his fear with a genuinely touching sense of quiet heroism, and is stricken with radiation poisoning, barely making it back to the TARDIS and managing to return to Earth, where he collapses and, with the help of his old mentor, regenerates.
 
 
Although this marked the end of Pertwee’s time on the program, the schedule whereby a production block concluded with a story to be held over for the next season was still in place, and thus Letts found himself in charge for one more story featuring the new Doctor. Dicks had by this point moved on, although he managed to convince Robert Holmes that the tendency for outgoing script editors to write the first script of their successor’s regime was an active and conscious tradition, and so wrote the story, which was only his second on-screen credit in six years of writing for the program, and his first solo one. With little idea what their successors intended to do with the program, Letts and Dicks wrote a traditional adventure featuring UNIT in which the new Doctor would face a giant robot. The story, called, fittingly, Robot served in part as an experiment in new technology, utilizing outdoor video cameras that allowed the Colour Separation Overlay effect to be employed on location shoots, but was other than that as straightforward as possible, serving to let the new star find his footing opposite a cast of seasoned veterans who could cover for any early missteps. This star was a relative unknown named Tom Baker, and for all that Jon Pertwee had established himself as the most culturally iconic Doctor to date, would quickly come to unseat him and to become, for many, the definitive incarnation of the character. 
 

 
 
The Doctor put down the book and glanced at the camera. “The whole point of magick of course,” he declared, “is to bring about change. But it's got to be the change that's right for you and right for everyone and everything else in the rest of the universe”. He leaned back in his chair and, after a pause, started to speak again, more subdued and contemplative this time. “How do we know what that is? We don't, really. We can't. Well, we sort of can. If we listen, we can hear the music of the universe, and if we *really* listen, we can hear it talking to us. What is it saying? What is it trying to tell us? That's the journey, you see. That's why we travel through space and time.” The Doctor leaned forward, smiled at the camera, and picked the book back up. She began again.
 

 
Even from his first appearances in Robot, it is clear that Tom Baker is a talent to be reckoned with. This is in some ways a surprise, not so much because of any active doubts about him, but because he was, unlike any of the previous actors to take the role, largely a complete unknown. Initially Barry Letts, who, as producer of what would be Baker’s first episode, was still in charge of casting, was inclined towards an older actor, resulting in the creation of a new character, Harry Sullivan, who would take over the more physical aspects of the role in the way that Jamie, Stephen, and Ian had for Troughton and Hartnell’s Doctors. Instead, however, the role went to Tom Baker, who was suggested by Bill Slater, the BBC Head of Serials. Baker was at the time working in construction, being stuck between roles, having most recently appeared in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, a Ray Harryhausen film in which he played the villainous Prince Koura (a part that was originally hoped to go to Christopher Lee) and largely stole the film, a performance that brought him to Slater’s attention and sold Letts on the idea.
 
With Robot, Baker was handed a script with excellent comic material, including a first episode that mostly consists of him vamping humorously, including a section in which he tries on various outfits including an exaggerated Viking warrior and a Pierrot the Clown outfit before settling on his iconic look - a Bohemian-looking outfit inspired by a Toulouse-Latrec painting, and dominated by an outrageously long scarf that was the product of a misunderstanding when costume designer James Acheson provided his friend Begonia Pope with a wide variety of yarn with which to craft a scarf and Pope mistakenly assumed that she was supposed to use the entire supply, resulting in a twelve-foot-long scarf that became the iconic image of Baker’s Doctor. Baker moved through this comedy with aplomb, boggling his eyes and flashing a massive grin most often described as “toothy.” His performance is magnetically charming, giving the Doctor a strange and alien quality that stood in stark contrast to Pertwee’s more straightforward leading man charm.
 
Following the completion of Robot in June of 1974, production took another pause before resuming in late September under the producership of Philip Hinchcliffe, previously a script editor who had worked on a variety of children’s shows. Robert Holmes had already assumed the role of script editor with Robot, and between them it was decided that their first story produced would be something of a technical experiment. Robert Holmes, by this point a veteran of the show, had come to the not unreasonable conclusion that six-part stories were, in general, poorly paced and ill-advised. Since the Pertwee era had settled on twenty-two episode seasons comprised of two four-parters and three six-parters, this left Holmes with a not-insignificant problem. With Robot, however, there was a new piece of technology that appeared to offer a solution: outdoor video cameras.
 
In Robot these had been used to accomplish a previously impossible special effect. Colour Separation Overlay, the defining special effect of 1970s Doctor Who, was specifically a video effect, and thus could only be used for studio shooting, as location shooting was conducted on film, not video. But with video cameras light enough to be used on location, Robot was able to finally have CSO effects on location shoots, leading to an elaborate sequence in which the already giant robot grew to truly titanic size. But Holmes and Hinchcliffe saw a second benefit of the technology. Generally, filming of stories consisted of separate location and studio shoots. Holmes and Hinchcliffe reasoned that instead of this, the location shoot could be used to do a short two-part story with the new video camers, with the studio shoot being used for a separate four-part story, thus eliminating a troublesome six-parter. 
 
To test this approach, Holmes commissioned a two-part story from Bob Baker and David Martin featuring his creation of the Sontarans. The story was filmed entirely on location in Dartmoor, which proved a fraught production as Tom Baker slipped and broke his collarbone on the fourth day, requiring numerous scenes to be reworked so that he could play them without actually moving. The Sontaran Experiment, however, was to be the third story of Doctor Who’s twelfth season, following Robot and the second story made int he twelfth production block, The Ark in Space, which would thus serve as the proper debut of the new Hinchcliffe/Holmes production era and the changes they wanted to bring to the program. 
 
The Ark in Space is a strange and magnificent thing. On one level, it is a return to old standards. Indeed, this is to an extent by design. The script is credited to Robert Holmes, and he did write everything that appears on screen, but under the hood this is in fact Holmes rewriting John Lucaroti, a veteran of the Hartnell years associated with that era’s historical stories. The basic story - aliens attacking a space station containing the last remnants of the human race - appears to be a base under siege story in the classic Troughton vein. And the story’s first episode, which features only the TARDIS crew on a seemingly abandoned space station, is very much a callback to the earliest days of the program, where it took as one of its primary purposes the creation and exploration of worlds (a tendency best exemplified, in many ways, by the historical stories like those of Lucaroti).
 
And yet The Ark in Space feels like nothing that Doctor Who had ever done before. The biggest reason for this is that it is absolutely terrifying. Doctor Who has, to be sure, been scary before - indeed, the base under siege structure trades heavily on the idea of scary monsters lurking around, and the appeal of the Daleks is based hugely on the sense of uncanny fear that their design evokes. But The Ark in Space refuses to let up in its sense of horror even for a moment. Beyond that, the horror is not merely based around long shots of lurking monsters, although there’s no shortage of that, but rather a more conceptual horror. The story’s monster, the Wirrin, are insectoid scavengers that devour people and incorporate their minds and memories. Large swaths of the plot are clearly in the same general vein as Ridley Scott’s Alien, only years in advance. A lengthy plot involves Noah, the base’s commander, slowly being possessed and taken over by the monsters, culminating in a famed cliffhanger where he removes his hand from his pocket and stars in horror at it, recoiling at the green and deformed mass that is where his hand should be.
 
But this scene also gets at the major problem that was befalling Doctor Who by this point. For all the comparisons between the script and Alien, there’s no way to deny that The Ark in Space is incredibly cheaply made. The space station set could only be afforded by contriving to recycle it for the planned return of the Cybermen story later in the season, and for all the gripping body horror involved in watching Noah stare in rapt horror at his grotesque and mutating body, it’s only through the incredibly skilled acting of Kenton Moore that anybody pays attention to that and not the fact that Noah’s mutating hand is blatantly just some bubble wrap spray-painted green. 
 
Much of this was due to the increasingly difficult economic conditions under which Doctor Who was being made. The debacle of the Three Day Week had done serious damage to the British economy, and inflation was running rampant. In 1974, the year The Ark in Space was filmed, inflation was at a crushing 16.6%. The next year, that crept up to 24.2%, a figure sufficiently dire that the Labour government was forced to cut £2.5 billion of public spending and ask the International Monetary Fund, originally designed to give bailouts to failing third world economies, for a loan to prop up the British government. This meant that, year over year, the budget for Doctor Who was rapidly shrinking in real terms, as it became harder and harder to stretch the budget to accomplish things. 
 
But despite all of this, The Ark in Space was a triumphant success, not only managing the important feat of giving a generation of children scarring nightmares that they would remember fondly for decades to come, but also, with its second episode, attaining the highest chart placing of the initial twenty-six year run of the program, pulling in over thirteen-and-a-half million viewers and rating as the fifth-most watched program of the week. Once again, the program had successfully reinvented itself into a new style. 
 
As mentioned, another consequence of the increasingly tricky issue of budgeting the show was that The Ark in Space was designed to share a majority of its sets with a story later in the season’s run. This story was also set to, at long last, bring back the Cybermen, last seen menacing London in the late-Troughton era story The Invasion. This had been considered several times under Barry Letts, but was now finally a go. This also required some elaborate plotting for the season, such that everything after Robot became one particularly taxing trip in the TARDIS, with the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry teleporting from the space station to Earth at the end of The Ark in Space, getting diverted through space and time by the Time Lords at the end of that story, and finally returning to the Nerva Beacon in Revenge of the Cybermen only to find that they were centuries early and that they would have to wait for the TARDIS to travel back to them. 
 
As with most of the stories in Season Twelve, Revenge of the Cybermen had been commissioned under Barry Letts, who hired back former script editor and Cybermen co-creator Gerry Davis to write the script. Neither Holmes nor Hinchcliffe were particularly enamored with the script, which was a fairly straightforward story in the classic “base under siege” style that largely acted as though nothing had changed since Davis departed the series in 1967. When the budget proved more elastic than expected, Holmes jumped at the opportunity to rewrite the story to feature some more location shoots and, in the process, clean Davis’s script up a bit, but the result was still an exceedingly traditional and rather bland story. It was followed in production by the story intended to air immediately before it, another story commissioned under Letts - a Dalek story, to be written by Terry Nation, that would explore the origin of the series’ iconic monsters. This story was called Genesis of the Daleks, and it would prove to be one of the absolute classics of Doctor Who.
 
It is in some ways surprising that Genesis of the Daleks is as good as it is. Terry Nation’s scripts had started feeling phoned-in as far back as Season Two of Doctor Who, and there had been little evidence since that he’d started putting in more than a token effort. Sometimes his stories still punched above their weight - for all that Planet of the Daleks was generic space adventure, David Maloney’s direction at least made it terribly watchable space adventure. But for the most part, “written by Terry Nation” had, by this point, become something of an ominous phrase. It’s certainly possible that Robert Holmes did a massive rewrite on this, as he had with Nation’s previous effort, but with a total rewrite on The Ark in Space and Gerry Davis’s Revenge of the Cybermen needing heavy work as well, it’s questionable how much time Holmes would have had to rewrite this. And anyway, so much of this story feels like a Terry Nation script. 
 
In which case, Nation outdoes himself here. To be sure, the story has its flaws, but for the most part it’s a taut and nervy thriller. The decision to give the Daleks a relatively minor role in the plot, especially when combined with the fundamental inevitability of the story - for all that its premise features the Doctor being told to prevent the creation of the Daleks, nobody really believed the show was just going to casually cash out on its iconic enemy - gives proceedings a sense of tragic menace. David Maloney returns to direct his second Dalek story, and uses all the tricks he learned the first time around to considerable effect, and the underground bunker in which the Kaleds spend their last days. Both Nation’s script and Maloney’s direction embrace the imagery that the Daleks tacitly evoked from the first time their shouting rage about racial purity was heard, unabashedly making the Kaleds an analogue for late Nazi Germany, to the point that one actor, Peter Miles, added an Iron Cross to his costume against the orders of the production team, or, at least, did before it was confiscated midway through the third episode. And the newly invented character of Davros, a Kaled scientist with a terrible plan to accelerate the radioactive mutations suffered by the Kaleds to their final forms, which are, of course, the Daleks, is chillingly effective. It has often been alleged that one of the fundamental problems of the Daleks is that the iconic vocal effects that are so effective when they are shrieking about extermination pose a problem for lengthy dialogue. Davros, especially as played by Michael Wisher, is a brilliant solution to this, combining the clear visual aesthetics of the Daleks (the character was badly injured in his past, and uses a wheelchair that is modeled off the bottom casing of a Dalek) with a human face and relatively unprocessed voice. The character’s iconic scene is one in which the Doctor poses the hypothetical question of what Davros would do if he had a virus that would destroy all living creatures, and Davros, after considering, triumphantly proclaims that he would release it, because such a virus would make him a god. 
 
But through all of this it is Tom Baker who comes off the best. So much of the early promise and appeal of Baker’s Doctor comes from his charm and charisma. That’s easy enough to maintain in a UNIT-centric romp or a camera test. Even in The Ark in Space, Baker was able to use his strange charm to bring an air of alienness to the part that meshed well with the story’s theme about the wonders of humanity. Baker’s eager and excited tone when he proclaims the human race to be “indominable” works in no small part because it’s delivered in the voice of, in effect, a passionate fan of humanity as opposed to the voice of a human as such. But Genesis of the Daleks presents Baker with new and significant challenges, chief among them that zany charm is a tough sell in a story that’s leaning heavily on the iconography of the last days of the Third Reich. But Baker proves quite adept, remaining snarky and funny, but ably transforming it into a grim, gallows humor. The charm with which Baker announced himself becomes a weapon, and immediately it becomes clear that Baker’s Doctor can be used not just as a charismatic talisman, but as a potent contrast to darker and more serious material. 
 
The twelfth production block continued with Terror of the Zygons, in which Harry is finally returned to Earth in an adventure that serves to give UNIT and the Brigadier one last hurrah, in which they would confront the Loch Ness Monster (which was, of course, actually an alien cyborg) before Hinchcliffe and Holmes quietly wrote them out of the series. Ian Marter, who played Harry, would make one further appearance in the series, but his association with it would continue for the remainder of his life as he became one of the primary writers of the Target novelizations, writing nine novels covering the first five Doctors, including the novelizations of both The Ark in Space and The Sontaran Experiment. This latter point was a matter of controversy between Hinchcliffe, who viewed Harry as redundant given that his intended purpose of serving as a physical character was ultimately unnecessary given that the series did not, in fact, cast an older actor as the Doctor, and Holmes, who thought that the three-person TARDIS crew provided greater nuance and dramatic opportunities. Hinchcliffe, as the producer, won out, though later admitted that Holmes had been in the right creatively speaking. 
 
 Terror of the Zygons also featured the return of Douglas Camfield, directing his first story since Inferno in Pertwee’s first season. Unsurprisingly, this led to an impressive and compelling story. The titular Zygons - shapechanging aliens covered in suckers - proved a triumph of design, and became one of a handful of Doctor Who monsters to be hailed as “classics” despite only appearing in a single story. And Tom Baker is in peak form, reveling in sequences in which he mocks the absurdities of the Zygons’ plan and where he rather enthusiastically manipulates the fleshy, organic controls of the Zygon spaceship. Like most stories in this era with impressive shots and effects, the sublime is juxtaposed with the ridiculous - in this case some astonishingly cringeworthy shots of the Loch Ness Monster menacing London as it advances down the Thames - but on the whole it’s an impressive third stone cold classic story in five attempts, a phenomenal first run of stories by any measure. 
 
Terror of the Zygons, however, was ultimately held back for Season Thirteen following a decision to move Doctor Who from the January start it enjoyed in the Pertwee era to a run that would start in the fall and take a brief break for Christmas. This meant that instead of the roughly six month gap between seasons that the show usually had, Season Thirteen began at the end of August, not even four months after Season Twelve’s shortened run ended. Whereas Season Twelve had been made primarily with stories commissioned under the previous producer that Hinchcliffe and Holmes could only fine tune, this time they were free to make the program in their own image. 
 
For both of them, this meant an increased commitment to horror. Hinchcliffe identified the target audience for his version of Doctor Who as being intelligent twelve-year-olds, an approach Holmes readily agreed with, and both of them felt this meant a darker approach. Of the five stories in the thirteenth production block, three were overtly designed as horror stories, beginning with the first of them, Louis Marks’s Planet of Evil, a particularly grim take on the Jekyll and Hyde story. The other two - The Pyramids of Mars and The Brain of Morbius - highlighted another advantage that the series had in this era: Robert Holmes. Holmes was an absolutely phenomenal writer - one of the greatest to work on Doctor Who, in fact. And as script editor, this meant that every story that went out benefitted from his skill. Indeed, under Holmes, they benefitted a lot. Every Doctor Who script editor from time to time ends up heavily rewriting stories, but few were willing to be quite so ruthless about it as Holmes. Both The Pyramids of Mars and The Brain of Morbius were, like The Ark in Space before them, nearly completely rewritten by Holmes. In the case of The Pyramids of Mars, the scripts strayed too far from the desired premise - an Egyptian-themed mummy story - resulting in Holmes rewriting them from scratch and the story going out under a pseudonym. The Brain of Morbius, on the other hand, was an altogether more dramatic tale. The story was commissioned from Holmes’s immediate predecessor, Terrance Dicks. But Holmes and Hinchcliffe both felt that the resulting story didn’t quite work, and with Dicks out of the country Holmes dramatically restructured the story. Dicks took this poorly, and demanded his name be taken off the scripts and replaced with “some bland pseudonym.” As he tells it, it was not until Dicks saw the story on transmission, where it was listed as being written by “Robin Bland” that he forgave Holmes, ultimately admitting that Holmes’s edits had been no more drastic than what he’d inflicted on scripts while in the job. 
 
Both The Pyramids of Mars and The Brain of Morbius demonstrated what might be called the house style of stories in this period. The plots of each are broadly similar - an unimaginably powerful and dangerous villain that had previously been defeated in an unseen adventure threatens to return from the dead, and the Doctor and Sarah must avert its awful resurrection. In the case of The Pyramids of Mars this threat is Sutekh, the Ancient Egyptian god who, in classic Doctor Who style, turns out to in fact be an alien, given a memorably sibilant growl by voice actor Gabriel Woolf, while in The Brain of Morbius the threat is a warmongering Time Lord, unsurprisingly named Morbius who was thought to have been executed but whose brain was saved by one of his servants in the hopes of later resurrection. Both stories also featured a clear debt to classic horror tales - The Pyramids of Mars was a straightforward homage to mummy tales, while The Brain of Morbius is an unapologetic riff on Frankenstein. But in both cases the homages are as much cinematic as literary - specifically, both of them are overtly modeled on the horror films produced by Hammer Productions, a British film production company who famously made up for their lack of budget by casting Christopher Lee whenever possible and upping the level of gore and violence to satisfyingly tawdry levels. Neither option was actually open to Doctor Who, but the show shared Hammer’s ethos of punching above its weight, making the two surprisingly sound bedfellows.
 
Season Thirteen’s other two stories - The Android Invasion and The Seeds of Doom - served to slowly wean the program off of UNIT. The Android Invasion featured the return of John Levene and Ian Marter, but not actually as Sergeant Benton and Harry Sullivan, but instead as robot duplicates of them, while The Seeds of Doom lacks any actual UNIT characters, but still features a UNIT airstrike as part of its climactic sequence. The Seeds of Doom also featured another attempt by Robert Holmes to avoid the problems of six-parters. Season Thirteen was already structured to contain fewer six-parters, using five four-parters and a single six-parter instead of the Pertwee-era norm of three six-parters and two four-parters, but The Seeds of Doom pushed this further by splitting its plot between a two-part section in which the Doctor tries to prevent the awakening of an evil plant monster in Antarctica, followed by a four-part section in which he fights the now-awakened plant monster at a country estate in England. The story also served as the final Doctor Who story directed by Douglas Camfield. 
 
Season Thirteen marked the third full year of Lis Sladen playing Sarah Jane Smith, which put her level with Katy Manning for the longest run in the job of Doctor Who companion. Understandably, given this, she was eager to move on, and agreed to appear in two episodes in Season Fourteen before departing. These ended up being The Masque of Mandragora, a Louis Marks story set in Renaissance Italy, and The Hand of Fear, a Baker and Martin number that doubled as Sarah Jane’s departure story. More even than the departure of Jo Grant, this was treated as an event, with The Hand of Fear both putting Sarah Jane in unusually large amounts of peril and giving her the opportunity to stretch her wings, including a sizable segment in which she’s possessed by the story’s villain and gets to be evil for a stretch. But the story’s real highlight was its final scene, where the Doctor has to explain to Sarah Jane that she has to leave, as he’s been summoned back to his home world of Gallifrey and isn’t allowed to take her with him. The scene was almost entirely improvised by Sladen and Baker, and hammered home how Sladen earned her status as the iconic companion of the classic series: by completely and utterly selling the idea that she’s the Doctor’s best friend, and by playing Sarah Jane as a competent professional in her own right. Sarah Jane was always designed as a conscious response to the feminist movement, and while her early days were in many ways rough and characterized by an overly didactic sort of feminism, by the end of her time on the program she’s a feminist icon in deed instead of word. Combined with the on-screen chemistry she enjoyed with Tom Baker, Sarah Jane was firmly one of the great companions of the series.
 
Her departure also marked a significant shift in the tone of the program, or, perhaps more accurately, the completion of a shift that had been underway since Tom Baker and Philip Hinchcliffe arrived on the program. For years, the program had drifted steadily from its original premise, in which the entire point was that the characters were cut off from contemporary Earth, to being a program that frequently returned to contemporary Earth until, in the Pertwee era, contemporary Earth became the default “home” setting, with a substantial supporting cast. Since Pertwee’s departure, however, the program steadily moved away from the UNIT setting. And with Sarah Jane’s departure, the program finally severs its connection with contemporary Earth entirely, replacing Sarah Jane with a companion with no ties to the present day at all.
 
Before that, however, the series did something it had never done before. Indeed, it did several things it had never done before. For one, it did a story in which the Doctor was unaccompanied by any companions. For another, it did a story set entirely on the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey, depicting the nature of the Time Lords in more detail than had ever been seen before. The story was called The Deadly Assassin, and was written by Robert Holmes, who got a special dispensation to write an episode under his own name despite being credited as script editor (a decision that would turn out to have consequences for him later) on the grounds that the story was highly experimental. The story begins with the assassination of the Lord President of the Time Lords, for which the Doctor is framed shortly after his return to Gallifrey. Over the course of events it’s revealed that the real villain is the Master, now played by Peter Pratt as a skeletal, decaying figure, with the concept being that the Master has used up all of his regenerations. 
 
This latter point exemplifies Robert Holmes’s approach to writing the story, as well as the consequences. Holmes always had a casual “make it up as you go along” approach to the mythology of Doctor Who. As early as Spearhead From Space, the third story he wrote for the series, he began introducing relatively radical concepts for fairly specious reasons. In that case, it was the out of nowhere revelation that the Doctor has two hearts, a plot point introduced only so that when the Doctor is examined at a hospital after collapsing out of the TARDIS early in the story there’s an excuse to call the Brigadier in. Now, similarly, faced with a need to recast the Master due to Roger Delgado’s tragic death, and wanting to refashion the character into the standard approach of the era - as a thought-dead foe threatening to make a terrible return, Holmes invents out of nowhere a rule that Time Lords can only regenerate a dozen times. 
 
But this is part and parcel of Holmes’s approach in The Deadly Assassin, a story that explores the culture of Gallifrey in a level of detail never before seen. It is not that The Deadly Assassin is the first story to look at the Time Lords - both The War Games and The Three Doctors had numerous scenes set on their then-unnamed planet. But The Deadly Assassin is the first story to be set entirely on Gallifrey, and the first one to try to depict a larger Time Lord culture as opposed to a couple of Time Lords handling a specific and discrete problem like the Doctor’s trial or the disaster precipitated by Omega’s return. But far from attempting to come up with a serious-minded take on the Time Lords as a coherent sci-fi concept, Holmes goes for a satirical take in which the Time Lords are portrayed in terms of crusty old Oxford dons defined primarily by wearing overly ornate clothes and being out of touch. The overall story of assassination and conspiracy is unapologetically framed as a pastiche of the Kennedy assassination, with cheeky jokes like the Time Lords having an organization called the “Celestial Intervention Agency.”
 
And yet for all that Holmes is obviously having a bit of a lark, his expansions of Time Lord mythology proved strangely influential, with subsequent versions of the Time Lords all following in his footsteps. For anyone looking at the history of Doctor Who up to this point, this might seem odd. While the series has not gone so far as to completely disregard all questions of continuity and narrative consistency, it has also never been particularly invested in them. As a result, the fourteen seasons up to this point are littered with inconsistencies. Between The Underwater Menace, The Daemons, and The Time Monster the series has provided three completely different accounts of the sinking of Atlantis, the Cybermen appear to acquire a different homeworld in Tomb of the Cybermen, and multiple books have been written trying to sort out Dalek history based on the many times Terry Nation has casually revised the entire thing through lack of bothering to care, none of them coming to the same conclusions. And so it is in some ways surprising that Robert Holmes doing a self-evidently silly take on the Time Lords would gain such traction.
 
Part of it is that for all the humor Holmes incorporates, The Deadly Assassin comes off as a serious-minded story. However much elements of it may be intended as jokes, the story as a whole has an epic heft, complete with ominous scrolling text and accompanying narration at the start talking about how “suddenly and terribly, the Time Lords faced the most dangerous crisis in their long history.” But a much larger factor, and one that would come to define the program for the remainder of its existence, was the growing influence of an organized Doctor Who fandom. Doctor Who had always been broadly popular, and people who might reasonably be described as fans existing as early as the Hartnell era. (Indeed, the reason that audio recordings of all episodes exist is due to fans who recorded the audio by holding a microphone up to the TV while episodes aired.) But by 1976, when The Deadly Assassin aired, Doctor Who had acquired an officially sanctioned fan club called the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, which formed out of an organization at a tiny college in London called Westfield College. To say that The Deadly Assassin was a big deal to DWAS is an exercise in understatement - and the reason it was so important was precisely because of the way in which self-identified Doctor Who fans were heavily invested in the mythology of the series, in a way that the people making it largely were not. Jan Vincent-Rudzki, writing in the Society’s newsletter, penned a scathing thirteen-hundred word review of the story in which he savaged every perceived contradiction with past stories before concluding, in all caps, “WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE MAGIC OF DOCTOR WHO?” In spite of Vincent-Rudzki’s venom, however, the story has since become a consensus classic of the series, and, as mentioned, a definitive touchstone in terms of how the Time Lords are represented.
 
For all of this, however, the most enduring consequence of The Deadly Assassin had nothing to do with the Time Lords as such, and everything to do with the “experimental” nature of the story that led Robert Holmes to be okayed to write it in the first place. The centerpiece of the story involves the Doctor following the Master into the Matrix, a vast repository of the minds of deceased Time Lords. This is portrayed as a dreamlike landscape in which the Master torments the Doctor, hunting him through a jungle landscape that draws heavily on Robert Holmes’s wartime experience being stationed in Burma. In the iconic episode three cliffhanger, the Doctor is caught by the Master’s servant, who pushes his head underwater to drown him, a scene David Maloney ends with a chilling freeze frame on Tom Baker’s submerged face. 
 
This scene aroused the ire of Mary Whitehouse, a prominent figure in Britain known for a lengthy series of moral crusades against various things that offended her vast capacity for prudishness. Whitehouse had long been a critic of Doctor Who, particularly in the Hinchcliffe era, regularly warning that it would corrupt the minds of Britain’s youth as though that wasn’t the point of the exercise. For the most part her complaints were transparently idiotic - her objection to the cliffhanger in The Deadly Assassin was that children would believe that the Doctor’s head was being held underwater for an entire week, a suggestion that ascribes an almost comical level of televisual illiteracy onto children. But she was always good for a few exuberant and tabloid-friendly quotes like her famously description of Doctor Who as “teatime brutality for tots,” and had enough supporters to be influential in spite of her obvious deficiencies of reason. For the most part, however, the BBC was inclined to ignore her critiques. But for whatever reason, her attack on The Deadly Assassin struck a nerve at the BBC, who decided that Hinchcliffe should be removed as producer of Doctor Who. Accordingly, he was moved to an edgy police drama called Target that was slated to debut in the fall of 1977, while that show’s producer, a man named Graham Williams, was moved to Doctor Who.
 
This decision was taken during rehearsals for the fifth story in Season Fourteen, which took place during the November/December break in transmission that followed The Deadly Assassin. This story, titled The Robots of Death, was the second to feature Lis Sladen’s replacement as Tom Baker’s co-star, Louise Jameson, who played Leela. Introduced in the previous story, The Face of Evil, Leela is a primitive savage in the classic pulp tradition. As likely to solve a problem by shooting it with a poison dart as the Doctor is to charm his way out of it, Leela introduced a fundamentally new dynamic, with the Doctor playing a sort of Henry Higgins to her Eliza Doolittle. But she also served to dramatically and decisively move the focus of the series away from Earth. Although technically human (her tribe descended from human astronauts), Leela had no connection to speak of with the world of the viewer, and both emerged out of and was designed for idea-heavy science fiction stories. Certainly that is what her first two stories, both by Chris Boucher, amount to. The Face of Evil is an ornate puzzle box of inventive ideas like the devolution of a spaceship’s Survey Team into Leela’s tribe, the Sevateem and a mad computer that believes itself to be the Doctor, while The Robots of Death was an homage to Isaac Asimov’s classic science fiction stories about robots. Both were acclaimed stories, with The Robots of Death featuring an inspired art deco design for its robots that carried through the entire story, making it one of a handful in which almost all of the visual effects come off well. 
 
This was aided by Philip Hinchcliffe’s impish decision to ignore budgeting restrictions for his final two stories, a decision that helped him go out with a bang. His last story was another by Robert Holmes, this time rewriting Robin Banks Stuart, who had previously written Terror of the Zygons and The Seeds of Doom. The story, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, is a strange mix of the best and worst of Doctor Who. The script is one of Holmes’s best - a pastiche of Victorian fiction and particularly Sherlock Holmes in which the “civilizing Leela” storyline reaches its conceptual zenith, with numerous brilliant scenes of Leela interacting with and scandalizing the prim and proper Victorians. The dialogue is consistently witty, with a famed double act of a Victorian gentleman scientist and a gregarious theater promoter stealing numerous scenes despite only appearing together in the last two episodes of the six-part story. Unfortunately, all of this is marred by the fact that the story trades heavily on old Yellow Peril stereotypes of the Chinese, featuring a scheming Fu Manchu knockoff as its primary villain, played, in an appallingly offensive decision, by a white English actor in heavy facial prosthetics to appear Chinese. The result is a story that is cringeworthy as it is brilliant, with all the fantastic dialogue and lush visuals grotesquely hobbled by the story’s blithe racism. 
 
 
But for all of this, the story remains highly acclaimed and beloved. Some of this is, no doubt, due to the same sort of myopia that characterized the initial fan response to The Deadly Assassin. Among Doctor Who fans, there is a terribly unfortunate tendency to suggest that the worst thing about The Talons of Weng-Chiang is a dodgy special effect involving a giant rat and not the casual racism of the story’s basic premise. But for all the story’s flaws, it really is brilliant, funny, and scary in equal measures, like so much of Tom Baker’s first three seasons. All of Doctor Who’s first fourteen seasons are iconic parts of British culture in their own right, but there is something special about the three years produced by Philip Hinchcliffe. In an odd way, Mary Whitehouse was right about them - their effective use of fear and horror made them particularly effective at leaving a lasting impression on children, so that the show was more vividly and passionately remembered by those who grew up with this iteration of it than by those who grew up with others. But so much of what made that horror effective was, in the end, the juxtaposition of it with Tom Baker’s grinning, charming, and wonderfully mad portrayal of the Doctor. And while Hinchcliffe’s time with the program ended in April of 1977 with the conclusion of The Talons of Weng-Chiang, Baker would go on to appear for another four years.
 

 
The Doctor looked up from his book. "Blast, hooves again." That always made it difficult to turn the pages.
 
He trotted--unfortunately, there was no other word for it--over to the TARDIS console, pushed a few levers and, with rather more than the usual difficulty, turned some knobs. Yes, they were quite off course; the TARDIS had clearly taken it into her not-actually-a-head to slip between universes again.
 
"None of that!" he said sternly. "Whatever it is, they're sure to be able to handle it themselves." He pushed at the controls some more a bit, and the lights dimmed, then rose again, the wheezing, groaning sound of the TARDIS in flight becoming harsher and higher-pitched as they did.
 
"Oh, don't give me that," he said. "It's just that for creatures that don't actually have arms, there's far too much hugging on that world. And besides, you know if it's really serious eventually the previous me will have taken care of it. Wish he will have learned to stay in his own time zone, but then he always needed to show off, and I suppose it is handy on occasion. Now, come on!" With quite a bit of effort, he managed to spin the last dial he needed, and the TARDIS gave in, returning to both previous noise and previous flight path.
 
 
A moment later the Doctor was properly him-shaped again, and resumed his book.
 

 
As poisoned chalices go, Graham Williams inherited a whopper. Certainly the program he inherited was popular - indeed, it was at or near the absolute zenith of its popularity, at least within its initial quarter-century run. But the circumstances under which he became producer meant that his mandate in taking over the show amounted to an order to tone the program down, which is to say, to stop making the edgy and challenging children’s television that enthralled a generation. It was a brutal brief, and one it is doubtful any producer could have done particularly well with. On top of that, the other key figure in the show’s success over the preceding three years, Robert Holmes, had reached his limit and decided that he would depart midway through the show’s fifteenth production block, overseeing the first three stories and, following the “tradition” observed by Terrance Dicks when he departed, writing the first story of his successor’s tenure. 
 
And so facing this rather stressful situation, Williams got to work in establishing what he could do with Doctor Who besides the violence and horror that had characterized Hinchcliffe’s tenure. His first suggestion - a straightforward return to the UNIT-centric format that had characterized the Pertwee era - was vetoed, and his second idea of an overarching plot that would run through all six stories was, while appealing, not something there was time to implement for the forthcoming season. This left Williams, to his chagrin, facing production of a new season of Doctor Who with no real direction or vision for the program. Unsurprisingly, given this, Williams and Holmes opted to work with established Doctor Who writers who could be trusted to deliver fairly traditional Doctor Who stories. Ultimately this entailed hiring Terrance Dicks, Bob Baker and David Martin, and Chris Boucher for the first three stories.
 
The first story shot by Graham Williams, the Baker and Martin effort The Invisible Enemy, would ultimately be the second one transmitted. This was in some ways unfortunate - although it had originally been intended to go first, Baker and Martin fell behind on their script deadlines, and the Terrance Dicks story, to be called The Vampire Mutation, was moved into the first production slot. This story was a Doctor Who spin on vampire stories in the same vein as The Brain of Morbius’s take on Frankenstein or The Pyramids of Mars’s reworking of mummy movies. However, a month before the story was set to enter production, yet another edict from BBC management came down, this time vetoing The Vampire Mutation on the grounds that it might be seen to undermine a major adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula planned for transmission a few months after Season Fifteen would debut, resulting in The Invisible Enemy being pushed back into the first slot.
 
The tumultuous circumstances largely showed in the finished story. Baker and Martin’s strengths as writers had always been their capacity for coming up with a high volume of original ideas, and in writing for the serialized structure of Doctor Who. A Baker and Martin script tended to have a clear concept for each individual episode, and to move on to a new premise and new idea with each cliffhanger and resolution. The Invisible Enemy is no exception, but this time the scope of Baker and Martin’s script proved too vast. It is not that the ideas within the script - a rapidly mutating, intelligent virus that controlled minds, a Fantastic Voyage-style trip into the Doctor’s brain, clones of major characters, and a robotic dog - were somehow inferior to those that Baker and Martin had proposed before, but nevertheless, the story failed to hang together. The sets were simply featureless white corridors of the most generic sort, the monsters all looked indescribably silly, and the CSO effect to have the Doctor and Leela (or, rather, clones of them) travel within the Doctor’s brain were unconvincing at best. With none of their ideas well-executed, Baker and Martin’s script, as produced, seemed to wander aimlessly around, introducing ideas without exploring them, instead simply dropping them in favor of the next idea. The result was a barely mitigated disaster of a story, and by far the roughest ride an incoming producer has had since Innes Lloyd started work on the series with the slow-speed car crash that was The Celestial Toymaker in 1966.
 
Nevertheless, The Invisible Enemy ended up introducing one of the defining elements of Doctor Who under Graham Williams in the form of the aforementioned robotic dog. As soon as he was presented with the idea, Williams immediately realized that this was a concept that would be popular with audiences, and particularly with children. He was, however, also concerned about the feasibility of actually including the character. Working with special effects designer Tony Harding, Williams settled on the idea of a radio-controlled prop that could be combined with a voice actor to produce the character. However, in a typically idiosyncratic feat of BBC budgeting, funds for a remote control operator were only available for filming and not for rehearsals, resulting in voice actor John Leeson having to play the part himself in rehearsals, getting down on all fours and pretending to be a robotic dog, much to the delight of Tom Baker. Despite several problems with the prop, Williams decided that the expected popularity of the character was worth the technical headaches, and arranged for the dog, now called K-9, to become a regular feature of the program.
 
In place of The Vampire Mutations, meanwhile, Terrance Dicks provided an alternate story on short notice, this time focusing on an alien attacking a turn-of-the-century light house. With the memorable title Horror of Fang Rock, the story, along with Chris Boucher’s subsequent Image of the Fendahl provided, for the time, a last flourishing of the sort of gothic horror story that characterized the Hinchcliffe era, although, as is typical of Dicks, the story featured a grounded, smaller scale narrative focused on the class issues among the working class lighthouse crew and the wealthy passengers on a wrecked ship. 
 
These three stories would be the last ones technically overseen by Robert Holmes, although the fourth story of Season Fifteen, The Sun Makers, was written by him. The inspiration for the story stemmed out of the practical consequences of his special dispensation to write The Deadly Assassin, which resulted in a complex tax situation in which he was, in effect, double employed as both script editor and as a freelance writer, despite the fact that he was working for the same company and show. Infuriated by the bureaucracy and paperwork involved in sorting out his taxes, Holmes opted to write The Sun Makers as a bitter satire of the tax system. Featuring a human colony in which the majority of the population was brutally oppressed by authoritarian rule whose power comes from levying absurd taxes on the population, with the regime’s leader played by Henry Woolf as a blatant parody of then Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey, the story was not long on subtlety, naming various corridors in the dystopian subterranean city after UK tax forms, and featuring numerous snarky comments on the part of Baker’s Doctor about taxes.
 
And yet for all that the story has a reactionary and conservative tinge to its genesis, the resulting television is altogether stranger. Holmes may be whinging about his tax bill, but the imagery he uses speaks to anyone who has ever had the sense that most of their work and effort in life is benefitting people other than themselves, which is to say, basically everybody who’s ever been a bit disillusioned with the world. In many ways the best scene is the opening one, in which a man is forced to reckon with the taxes surrounding his father’s death, and is informed of two credits against his bill - his father’s life savings of seven talmars and the “recycling allowance” for his body, which is eight talmars, the grim and understated joke being that his father is literally worth more dead than alive. What jumps out is not, in other words, the specific degradation Holmes is angry about, but the vividness with which he paints a degrading world.
 
In this regard, Holmes once again put Doctor Who in perfect sync with the world around it. The Sun Makers started on November 26th, 1977, just a month after the Sex Pistols finally released their first and only studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, six months after the release of “God Save the Queen,” which famously supposedly hit number one but was censored by the Official Charts Company, which instead declared Rod Stewart’s “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” to be number one, and less than two months before the band’s inevitable disintegration. It is tempting to ally the story with the punk aesthetic, but to do so misses the nature of punk in the UK, which was, unlike psychedelia or glam rock, not so much a defined era as an event with consequences. Other than the Sex Pistols themselves, punk’s great impact came in its imitators - the vast wave of subcultures that can broadly be grouped under the header “post-punk.” What mattered was not the leather jackets and unkempt hair of the Sex Pistols themselves, but rather the furious and unblinking rejection of authority implicit in opening your first single with a shouted “I am an Antichrist, I am an anarchist,” or in opening your biggest single, timed to coincide with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, “God save the Queen, her fascist regime.” And while The Sun Makers, with its bohemian intellectual lead character and slightly stereotypical sci-fi corridors, did not fit into the visual aesthetic of punk in the least, the deep skepticism of and loathing towards authority and its cruelties that animated The Sun Makers (and much of Holmes’s best work in general) was nevertheless a perfect fit for the zeitgeist.
 
The only problem, of course, was that The Sun Makers was written by a Robert Holmes who was heading out the door, replaced by new script editor Anthony Read. And Read’s editorship, much like Williams’s producership, got off to a rough start. His first story after Holmes’s departure was Underworld, another Baker and Martin script, this time riffing on the story of Jason and the Argonauts. The script is, to be sure, nothing special, and is overly enamored with its own clever reworkings of Greek mythology, but it is in this case the actual production of the story that turned disastrous. Before starting work on it in the summer of 1977, Williams attended a preview screening of a hit American sci-fi film called Star Wars that would be making its way to the UK at the start of 1978, just before Underworld would start transmission. Williams, upon seeing it, immediately knew that he had a problem. The special effects on Doctor Who had always been a potential pitfall, but now the show was going to suffer immediate comparisons to a big budget sci-fi flick, especially because the plot of Underworld, with its heavy mythological references, practically invited comparisons to Star Wars and its self-consciously mythic heft.
 
In an attempt to combat this, Williams decided to focus the budget for Underworld on making two impressive sets - a spaceship that would mainly be used in the first episode, and a cave set where the bulk of the later episodes would take place. Upon returning from a late summer vacation, however, Williams discovered that the budgets for the sets had gone out of control. On top of that, the planned script for the season finale, a piece by David Weird called Killers in the Dark, was proving completely unusable due to scripted elements like a night shoot at a colosseum the size of Wembley Stadium filled with cat people. The situation was dire enough that Williams was under pressure to simply abandon the season finale in favor of a twenty-episode season, a move that would have resulted in the already tight budgets becoming even tighter for his next season. 
 
Instead Williams rallied. For Underworld he worked with director Norman Stewart to come up with a novel solution for the cave sets, using Colour Separation Overlay to shoot the actors over a green screen so that they could be superimposed on inexpensive model sets of caves. This worked, inasmuch as the episode got made, but was deeply unimpressive - actors often appeared to walk through rocks and aspects of the set, since they had no way of knowing how the resulting shot would look, and the inability to move the camera around the caves gave the sequences a frustratingly static quality. The result was that despite Williams’s best efforts to avoid an embarrassing comparison, the story Doctor Who was airing as Star Wars came out was one of its cheapest and shoddiest looking in years. 
 
For the finale, meanwhile, Williams and Read reluctantly concluded that the only possible way to make the story work was to write it themselves. On top of that, an industrial dispute meant that nearly the entire story was going to have to be filmed on location. The resulting story returned to the Gallifrey established by Robert Holmes’s The Deadly Assassin a year previous, this time with the Doctor assuming the Presidency of the Time Lords in order to pull off a complicated double bluff in which he pretended to betray Gallifrey to the alien Vardans, only to ultimately double cross the Vardans before, in the final two episodes, it’s revealed that the Vardans were just pawns of the Sontarans, who invade Gallifrey. A relatively complex plot that gave Tom Baker an unusually large amount of subtle acting (the story goes quite a while before finally revealing that the Doctor has a plan and is not just being crazy and siding with the bad guys) meant that the resulting story, The Invasion of Time, has flashes of genius, but there are equally many places in which the stressful conditions of the story’s production are all too evident on screen, most notably in shambolic designs for the Vardans and an interminably long sequence in which the Sontarans chase the Doctor through the interior of the TARDIS, rendered as a seemingly random set of location shoots including, bizarrely, a swimming pool. 
 
There are two ways to look at Doctor Who’s fifteenth season. In one sense, Williams deserves tremendous credit for managing to get the entire thing made. He came in with an impossible demand, had scripts abandoned at the eleventh hour at both the start and finish of the run, saw the departure of his script editor, and dealt with rapidly constricting budgets. At a point when it would have been easy to simply truncate the season and admit defeat, Williams showed considerable ingenuity and managed to get a full season to air at all. Nevertheless, it has to be said that this marks the first time in fifteen seasons that Doctor Who had a decidedly weak season. The two best stories - The Sun Makers and The Horror of Fang Rock - would have been solid entries in most previous seasons, but far from contenders for the best. Whereas, charitably, the season had two outright disasters in The Invisible Enemy and Underworld, and an arguable third in The Invasion of Time. Especially following as it did from the reliable brilliance of the Hinchcliffe era, the sense that something had gone wrong was tangible.
 
Nevertheless, Williams buckled down and got to work on the next season. With the luxury of actual time and the lack of having been thrown in at the deep end with a series already in the early stages of production, Williams was able to put into place an idea he’d considered but ultimately abandoned for his first season in charge, namely having the stories in a season be connected by an overarching plot. He outlined this plot in a memo focusing on the theme of a universe-wide conflict between opposing forces of light and darkness that would exist on a broad level as a conflict between two god-like beings, the White and Black Guardians, and then on various smaller levels. The idea, which owes an obvious debt to sci-fi/fantasy writer Michael Moorcock’s vast mythology in which an eternal conflict between the amoral forces of law and chaos rages throughout the Multiverse, was not so much a struggle between good and evil as a struggle between fundamental forces of the universe in which there can be no victor.
 
Nevertheless, Williams proposes a vision of the universe as a place going out of balance, with the forces of the Black Guardian growing ever more powerful, such that the White Guardian recruits the Doctor to help redress the balance by obtaining the six fragments of the Key to Time, a powerful artifact scattered across space and time, its pieces disguised as various objects for the Doctor to hunt down. To assist the Doctor in this task would be a new companion, replacing Louise Jameson, who did not enjoy the best of on-set relationships with Tom Baker, who was not enamored with Leela as a character and was, perhaps more to the point, increasingly of the opinion that he was one of the main attractions of the series and that the show should just focus on him, to the point where he, apparently seriously, suggested that the role of the companion could be replaced with an animatronic vegetable that would sit on his shoulder and ask questions. Williams declined this suggestion, instead creating a fellow Time Lord named Romana who had been selected by the White Guardian to help the Doctor. Romana was played by Mary Tamm as a slightly frosty and superior aristocrat who looked at the Doctor as a bit of a lost puppy. 
 
Their first story together was Robert Holmes’s The Ribos Operation, in which Holmes, working off of Williams’s thematic guidance, creates the quasi-medieval alien world of Ribos, whose population believes it to be the battleground of an eternal war between the Sun Gods and the Ice Gods. Holmes’s script works from this level down through various tiers of characters including a vicious galactic would-be dictator and a con man (played brilliantly by veteran character actor Iain Cuthberson) who fraudulently sells the deeds to planets, always reiterating Williams’s vision of ceaseless conflict on a new and smaller level until, finally the story comes to focus on Binro the Heretic, a disheveled and destitute man cast out of Ribosian society for his insistence that the lights in the sky were not, in fact, ice crystals, but were in fact faraway suns. The plot’s key moment comes when Binro sacrifices his life to save the day, witnessed by a disguised Doctor who never once in the story actually meets the only character in this endless fractal structure of entrenched binaries who mirrors himself. It is a tour de force of a script aided by the fact that, for all that it’s unmistakably a sci-fi story, the quasi-medieval setting is squarely in the BBC’s wheelhouse. 
 
The season continued with a story called The Pirate Planet, written by an up and coming writer who was waiting on word as to whether a pilot episode he’d done for BBC Radio was going to be picked up for a full series or not. The pilot was called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the writer, Douglas Adams, was about to begin a brief but important span of working on Doctor Who. The Pirate Planet in many ways looks like the sort of story one would expect from Adams. It is clearly broadly comedic, featuring an over the top intergalactic pirate captain with a robotic parrot and other such consciously silly tropes, and it has the sorts of big ideas that Adams is known for, most notably a planet that materializes around other planets to drain their resources and an extremely clever structure in which a seemingly minor character gradually turns out to be the focus of the entire narrative. But underneath all of this is a story that, as Adams originally conceived of it, focused on drug addiction as a moral and philosophical problem, and meditated starkly on the inevitability of death. The final production did not quite live up to Adams’s vision, in part because of the very broad and comedic elements that superficially flagged it as an Adams story. (Adams, for his part, noted ruefully that Doctor Who works best when the funny elements are played straight, and bemoaning the tendency of actors, upon seeing comedy in a script, to break out overly broad performances. It is difficult to imagine that he did not have Bruce Purchase’s pirate captain in mind when making this observation.) 
 
While not quite what its script had envisioned, however, The Pirate Planet marked two solid stories in a row, which, given the travails of the preceding season, is a more significant milestone than it might be. And by and large, the streak continued with the next two stories, both by David Fisher. The first, The Stones of Blood, returns to some of the horror iconography of the Hinchcliffe era, beginning as a story about stone circles and Celtic mythology before taking an unexpected swerve to the point where it ends with the Doctor in a barrister’s wig arguing with some twinkling lights on a space ship. The second, The Androids of Tara, is a fairly straightforward reworking of Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda with robots, and adds Mary Tamm’s Romana to the long list of Doctor Who characters who encounter their identical duplicates. Neither ties into the larger Key to Time arc with any real substance, with the fragment of the Key in each case being little more than a MacGuffin to get the story started, but to be fair, The Pirate Planet didn’t really have much to do with the larger arc either, and no small part of Williams’s cleverness in creating the Key to Time was the fact that you could fairly trivially rework any Doctor Who story so that it fit into the arc. 
 
Unfortunately, with the fifth story of the season, the wheels came off. Somewhat surprisingly, the writer of this story is Robert Holmes, who is the last writer anyone would expect to see everything go wrong under. To be fair, the problems with The Power of Kroll are not entirely Holmes’s fault. Holmes was given an impressively unpromising assignment: write a story featuring the physically largest monster in Doctor Who history, and make it a serious one without too many jokes. Holmes obliged, giving Williams and Read exactly what they’d asked for, which was to say, a mediocre and uninspired script. Holmes has past precedent in this regard - his second-ever Doctor Who story, The Space Pirates, was commissioned as a “realistic” story about space travel, resulting in Holmes writing a story in which the bulk of the time is spent waiting for various space craft to actually travel the large distances involved. In both cases, there is the sense of Holmes, always prone to embittered humor, is commenting on what is, in his view, a dumb assignment by writing exactly what is asked, in all its ill-advised glory.
 
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, things were also going wrong for The Power of Kroll. Williams fell ill during production, and so the story was de facto produced by the Production Unit Manager, a man named John-Nathan Turner. Director Norman Stewart, who previously helmed the technically overambitious Underworld once again found himself with the near-impossible task of shooting Robert Holmes’s gigantic squid monster. To his credit, Kroll is impressive in several shots, but a key effect involving using split-screen to have Kroll looming over the characters came off laughably poorly and is, inevitably, the one the story is remembered for. On top of that, casting difficulties proved frustrating, most particularly when Philip Madoc, who had previously made impressive performances in The Brain of Morbius and the Troughton-era The War Games, was, due to a miscommunication, given a much more minor role than he thought he’d agreed to, leading to his subsequent estrangement from the program. Also unfortunate is John Abineri, a skilled actor and another veteran of Doctor Who (his best role came in The Ambassadors of Death early in the Pertwee era), who is cast as the leader of the “Swampies,” which means that he’s playing a crassly stereotypical image of a primitive tribe while painted bright green. The result is, to say the least, not one of the program’s high points, and Holmes found the experience frustrating enough that after nearly a decade working on the program he finally walked away from it entirely.
 
Holmes was hardly the only one getting fed up. Anthony Read, who had been script editor for just over a year, found the job intolerable, in no small part because of Tom Baker’s increasingly difficult behavior, and decided that he would depart at the end of the sixteenth season. Mary Tamm similarly found working with Baker unpalatable, and decided to make her departure at the end of the season, especially given that she was recently married and found the schedule grueling. As he had with Louise Jameson, Williams made a late bid to get her to stick around - indeed, so late that no departure scene was written for her character, which would leave an interesting problem to solve for the next season. But all of these were overshadowed by a growing feud between Baker and Williams. Baker increasingly demanded greater creative control, insisting on final approval of stories and the ability to select what directors he would and wouldn’t work with, proposals Williams flatly refused, both because of concerns over star power and because Tom Baker seriously thought the role of the companion should be replaced with a talking cabbage. This grew heated enough that both Williams and Baker issued “either he leaves or I do” demands, which were only defused when Williams advised Head of Drama Shaun Sutton that Baker was bluffing, an assessment that proved accurate.
 
With all of this as a backdrop Williams still had to oversee the production of the final story in the Key to Time arc, a six-parter titled The Armageddon Factor. Given that it was written by Bob Baker and David Martin, who were responsible for the two most baleful episodes of the previous season, the fact that The Armageddon Factor is not a complete and utter disaster is more notable than it might at first glance seem. It is, to be sure, not a great story, and, along with The Power of Kroll, it resulted in Williams’s ambitious vision of a season of linked stories went out with a whimper in lieu of a bang, but it is hardly an embarrassment. Its best moment is its final scene, in which the Doctor is tempted by the immense power of the Key to Time, a scene that was largely written by Anthony Read’s handpicked successor as script editor, Douglas Adams. 
 
It is difficult to argue against the idea that Douglas Adams is the most talented writer ever to oversee a season of Doctor Who. Certainly he is the only script editor for whom Doctor Who is an incidental detail in their career as opposed to the zenith. And yet for all of this, it is arguable that he was not a great choice for script editor. The job of script editor, at least in the first quarter-century of Doctor Who’s history, is to shepherd scripts through development, rewrite them when necessary, and make sure everything comes in on time so that production can proceed in an orderly fashion. This latter aspect is particularly important for the perpetual crisis that is producing Doctor Who, and doubly so under Graham Williams, where crises became even more commonplace. This makes Adams, who famously proclaimed that he loves deadlines because of the whooshing sound they make as they go by, something of an idiosyncratic choice. 
 
On top of that, the frustrations Adams had with The Pirate Planet recurred. The first script he dealt with, David Fisher’s The Creature From The Pit, was consciously written by Fisher to play up the comedy aspects of the script, to the point where Adams was in the counter-intuitive position of toning down the comedy to keep the story from being a complete send-up. And then, for all of Adams’s work, the story was pushed back into broadly comic territory by director Christopher Barry, who refashioned some bandits in Fisher’s script in to appalling stereotypes with an unsettlingly anti-semitic bent. Further sabotaged by a flubbed design for the monster, who ended up looking outrageously phallic, the story ended up squandering its potential . And this was hardly the only time in the season this happened - the fifth story of the season, a story called The Horns of Nimon, written by Adams’s predecessor Anthony Read, featured Graham Crowden, generally a respected actor, turning in one of the most spectacularly over the top performances in the history of the series, culminating in a death scene in which Crowden burst out laughing but where, due to the cramped shooting schedule, director Kenny McBain was unable to get an alternate take. 
 
On top of this, Adams found himself frustrated in his efforts to find writers for Doctor Who. His initial instincts upon taking the job were to tap a variety of friends and associates, including John Lloyd, who co-wrote part of the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series with Adams, and Christopher Priest, a respected science fiction novelist. But Adams quickly found himself caught between a rock and a hard place. Writers familiar with Doctor Who struggled to realize that Adams was interested in something more nuanced than just flooding the series with silly jokes, while writers unfamiliar with Doctor Who struggled to write stories that worked for the series. Ultimately, Adams ended up going with familiar Doctor Who writers like Fisher, Read, and, for the season premiere, Terry Nation, who exercised his right of first refusal when Williams decided that, after five years, it was time to bring the Daleks back.
 
The resulting story, Destiny of the Daleks, is mostly unremarkable, consisting of the same basic Dalek story Terry Nation had been writing since 1963, only with a couple of humorous scenes added by Douglas Adams, including one in which the Doctor taunts the Daleks for their inability to follow him up a ventilation shaft that Nation condemned on the grounds that it made the Daleks less menacing, a puzzling complaint given that Nation himself had included a joke about Daleks being unable to climb stairs all the way back in The Chase in 1965. Somewhat more significant, however, was a sequence Adams added to the beginning of the story to deal with the departure of Mary Tamm. Since her character had not been written out, it was decided that they’d simply keep Romana as a character but take advantage of the fact that she’s a Time Lord in order to simply recast the part. So, after a sequence in which Romana tries on different bodies (riffing on the sequence in which Tom Baker tried on a succession of ludicrous outfits back in Robot, and causing considerable consternation among fans who recalled Robert Holmes’s creation of the regeneration limit in The Deadly Assassin) the part is recast to be played by Lalla Ward.
 
After two companions with whom Tom Baker did not entirely get along, Lalla Ward was a welcome relief. Indeed, Baker got along so well with her that they briefly married following her eventual departure from the program. This improved behind the scenes relationship was mirrored on screen as the Doctor and Romana quickly adopted a friendly and casual rapport. Romana was always conceived of as a companion who would be the Doctor’s equal, and in the seventeenth season this got put into practice, to the point where it’s Romana, not the Doctor, who ends up advancing most of the plot in The Horns of Nimon. The series in effect had two leads, as opposed to just having the Doctor and a supporting cast, and between them they formed one of the finest double acts in the series’ history.
 
All of this converged for the second story of the season, which, after a somewhat convoluted origin, ended up being the story that finally demonstrated what Douglas Adams wanted Doctor Who to be, and, albeit not entirely due to its own merits, ended up being the most popular Doctor Who story of all time. The story was originally to be called A Gamble With Time, and was a follow-up to David Fisher’s Prisoner of Zenda pastiche the previous season. This time Fisher parodied H.C. McNeile’s “Bulldog Drummond” series of mysteries with a story set primarily in 1920s Monte Carlo, with a few sequences in France, and featuring an alien who had been fragmented into multiple identities throughout Earth’s history trying to finance time travel experiments by cheating at a casino. But during pre-production John Nathan-Turner, who had stepped in for Graham Williams during The Power of Kroll, ran the numbers and determined that it would actually be £25 cheaper to organize a brief shoot featuring Tom Baker and Lalla Ward in Paris itself than it would be to build the Monte Carlo sets. This was widely viewed as a good idea that would provide the series a needed publicity boost, but came with one significant side effect, which was that the story was going to have to be reworked to take place in the present day instead of in the 1920s.
 
In practice, this meant that Graham Williams brought Douglas Adams to his house for a weekend, plied him with massive quantities of scotch and coffee, and had him rewrite Fisher’s story from the ground up. The story instead became about an elaborate fraud involving going back in time and getting Leonardo Da Vinci to paint additional copies of the Mona Lisa so that the painting could then be stolen from the Louvre and sold to multiple private buyers, thus raising the money for time travel experiments previously acquired via cheating at cards. The new scripts, renamed City of Death, retained only a handful of lines from Fisher’s originals, and went out under the BBC’s house pseudonym for such situations, David Agnew.
 
The Paris setting proved the perfect location for the more whimsical and relaxed TARDIS crew, with Baker and Ward visibly enjoying their four day Paris vacation and bantering warmly about whether 1979 was a “vintage” year for Paris, or more of a “table wine,” and about whether they should take the lift down from the Eiffel Tower or simply fly (they agree that flying would be ostentatious, but this is in practice setup for a gag in the final episode in which they appear to make it to the bottom of the tower faster than humanly possible). Combined with a script by Adams that was long on both humor and clever ideas, the story is one of the high points of Doctor Who. And by chance, it happened to be transmitted on the best possible stretch of weeks for a high note like it.
 
Throughout 1978 and 1979, the UK was gripped by an increasingly severe series of labor disputes. The most famous of these were a series of strikes by garbage collectors that left piles of trash in Leicester Square at the heart of London’s theater district, and a strike by gravediggers in Liverpool that became famous when Medical Officer of Health rather unwisely mused that if the strike continued, bodies might have to be buried at sea. These disputes became known as the Winter of Discontent, and ended up as the primary fuel behind Margaret Thatcher’s landslide victory in the general election in May of 1979, some four months before transmission of Destiny of the Daleks. Among the many disputes around this time was a strike at ITV that resulted in the BBC’s one competitor going off the air in late September, which meant that the BBC was briefly the only game in town. This strike coincided almost perfectly with the transmission of City of Death, which meant that the story got record-high ratings for Doctor Who, peaking at 16.1 million people for its final episode. Even though the continual problems faced by the program during the Williams era had damaged both the series’ ratings and its status as a central part of British culture, City of Death still served as a cultural touchstone - in many ways the last moment during the first quarter century of Doctor Who where the whole nation came together around the series.
 
Unfortunately, the behind the scenes tensions that had plagued the Williams era were still continuing. In many ways they came to a head in making the fourth story of the season, The Nightmare of Eden. Production on that story quickly turned sour as Tom Baker and director Alan Bromly butted heads. But for once the consensus was that Bromly, who also fell badly behind schedule due to poor planning for special effects shots, was at fault, especially when Bromly abandoned production midway through, leaving Graham Williams to direct the final day of shooting. This proved the straw that broke the camel’s back for Williams, who decided that he would depart the program at the end of the season. Joining Williams at the exit was Adams, who unsurprisingly had found reworking other people’s writing unsatisfying, and decided instead to focus on his own work. Unfortunately, there was still one more disaster to weather. 
 
The plan all season had been to end with a six-parter by Adams entitled Shada, which everyone involved considered his best script to date. The story had an epic heft that moved from Adams’s alma mater of Cambridge to a long forgotten Time Lord prison planet, leavened with Adams’s trademark humor and a bevy of complex and surprising concepts, most notably when the doddering old professor’s rooms at Cambridge turn out to be a TARDIS, spinning the narrative off in an entirely new direction. For all the frustrations and problems that the show had suffered under Williams, Shada would have been a fitting and compelling capstone - a story that would, for both Williams and Adams, emphatically demonstrate what the series could have been if not for the constant barrage of externally forced crises and creative disappointment. 
 
Unfortunately, a few days into the studio shooting for Shada, the BBC found itself hit with a labor dispute, resulting in the cast and crew coming back from lunch on November 19th to discover that Television Center was locked. This had happened before - the heavily location-based shooting for The Invasion of Time was largely motivated by an industrial dispute, and The Armageddon Factor had been similarly plagued. But this time the crisis was not averted - the dispute itself was settled after eleven days, but between the number of programs disrupted and the need to complete programming meant for Christmas broadcast it was not possible to reschedule the remaining days for Shada, and the production was abandoned half-finished, leading to the only Doctor Who story to remain uncompleted. The Williams era ended, not with its planned swan song, but with yet another frustrating production disaster.
 
 
Doctor Who had, for all seventeen years of its existence, been a grueling show that chewed up and spat out the people working on it. But even in light of that, the seventeenth season proved to be brutal, marking the final Doctor Who work not just of Graham Williams and Douglas Adams, but of both Christopher Barry and Terry Nation, both of whom had histories with the series going back to the 1963 debut of the Daleks. These were not the conscious decisions of Williams and Adams, but nevertheless emphasized the sense that the program had reached the end of an era. Also departing was Dudley Simpson, who had done incidental music for the show since the start of its second season, and been the primary composer for the whole of the 1970s. Simpson, however, did not depart by choice - instead he was let go by Graham Williams’s replacement, John Nathan-Turner, who decided that he would utilize the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop for the incidental music, in what would be the first of a bevy of massive changes he would impose upon the program.
 

 
"Did he buggery!"
 
Iris put the book down in annoyance.
 
"It never happened like that, and I should know, I was there! The cheek of some people!"
 
"Calm down, Iris," said Panda, "You know you're not meant to stress yourself after the terrible battle with the sapient workboots. Battling that sinister footwear took a lot out of you, you need to relax!"
 
Iris knew he was right -- fighting Faction Pair O' Docs had been the most incredible ordeal of her existence, costing her three of her lives in four different timelines, at least two of which had now never existed.
 
"I know, Panda love, that's why I was reading that book, but *ooh* that man is so *wrong*!"
 
Suddenly, from in the corner of the bus, a wheezing, coughing sound was heard, and a cloud of smoke appeared. Iris and Panda looked over, a feeling of dread creeping over them, for they knew what this must signify.
 
There, on the back seat, was the Bearded Guardian, smoking the largest joint either of them had ever seen.
 
"Ah, Iris, Panda, I have a little job for you. The order of things is out of balance. Opposites are coming together. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate..."
 
"Whizzer and Chips?" interjected Panda.
 
"Indeed," came the voice from the fire, "all because of the interference of the Bald Guardian. His vendetta against me has made him start a four-d war. This is no longer business as usual, and if he's not stopped he will cause..."
 
"A small killing?"
 
"Something like that."
 
"But what do you want us to do? How can we end this war?"
 
"The war can't be ended. After all, opposition is true friendship."
 
"Aye, and to generalise is to be an idiot," said Iris.
 
"Do what you will, this world's a fiction and is made up of contradiction. I'm sure you'll know what to do."
 
And at that, the Bearded Guardian disappeared in a puff of smoke.
 
"Bugger," said Iris, "what are we to do now?"
 
"Well, he did say this world's a fiction. Maybe we should look ahead in the book and see what we do next?"
 
"Good idea, although if this is a story, it's a very unimaginative one."
 
 
"Aren't they all?" sighed Panda, as Iris turned to the next page.
 

 
Doctor Who had always been a program that periodically reinvented itself - there’s no other way for a series to make it to its eighteenth season and third decade, after all. Nevertheless, the changes rung in upon John Nathan-Turner taking over as producer in 1980 were dramatic even by the standards of Doctor Who reinventing itself, especially given that the most immediately obvious method of reinvention, namely recasting the series, was the one thing Nathan-Turner didn’t do immediately upon taking over the program. As mentioned, he replaced the long-time composer of the incidental music, Dudley Simpson, instead sourcing the music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who had provided many iconic sound effects for the series such as the “wheezing, groaning sound” of the TARDIS dematerializing and the ring modulated Dalek voices. This had the ironic effect of cutting against the grain of what televisual science fiction was doing at the time - Star Wars, with its bombastic John Williams score - had made orchestral music the standard soundtrack for science fiction. And yet Dudley Simpson’s music, which was usually based around orchestra instruments, was replaced with synthesizer-based scoring at the exact moment when synthesizers started feeling a bit old-fashioned for science fiction. 
 
The Radiophonic Workshop, and specifically Peter Howell, were also tasked with creating a new rendition of the program’s theme music, after seventeen years of using slight variations on Delia Derbyshire’s original 1963 arrangement, which had been such a striking piece of proto-electronica that when the music’s original composer Ron Grainer heard it, he asked whether he’d written it. (Derbyshire’s modest reply: “most of it.”) This new theme version went over a new credits sequence designed by Sid Sutton, which featured a moving star field that would arrange to form both Tom Baker’s face and Sutton’s new prog-rock style logo for the series.
 
Nathan-Turner was quick to ring in changes behind the scenes as well. Backed by Barry Letts, who, given Nathan-Turner’s lack of experience, was installed as Executive Producer for a season to oversee things, Nathan-Turner was also keen to take the series in a more serious direction, in conscious contrast to the humor that characterized the Graham Williams era, especially under script editor Douglas Adams. Nathan-Turner had another motivation in all of this, however, which stemmed out of his conscious decision to actively court and engage with Doctor Who’s by then established fandom. During Season Seventeen, the UK branch of the American Marvel Comics company had begun publication of Doctor Who Weekly, originally envisioned as a comic magazine headlined with a strip written by Judge Dredd co-creators John Wagner and Pat Mills and drawn by future Watchmen star Dave Gibbons. Nathan-Turner, however, saw other possibilities in the magazine, and began using it as an official mouthpiece for the show’s production, granting it lengthy interviews, giving it set access so that it could write season previews, and generally making a point to engage with the fandom. A key figure in Nathan-Turner’s outreach to fandom was a man named Ian Levine. Levine, a DJ in the Northern Soul scene who was controversial for abandoning the approach of playing only Motown-era oldies in favor of a more eclectic and modern approach, was also a die-hard fan, and was brought on by Nathan-Turner as an unofficial and uncredited continuity advisor and, in effect, a fan liaison to speak for the views of organized fandom at large. 
 
These views were not, to say the least, kind to the Williams era. Even the much beloved City of Death came in for a brutal pasting from John Peel at the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, who proclaimed in the pages of the Society’s official fanzine that “the acting was once more appalling,” that “the continual buffoonery is getting completely on my nerves,” and that he “couldn’t believe that this was Doctor Who,” calling for “seriousness” and “well-constructed stories.” And that’s one of the stories everyone liked. Relatively unpopular stories like The Creature From the Pit or Nightmare of Eden came in for even harsher pastings, with Peel openly looking forward to Williams and Adams’s departure. And so it was hardly a surprise that Nathan-Turner took their comments on board and set out to deliver more serious fare.
 
Backing Nathan-Turner in this push was incoming script editor Christopher Bidmead. That said, Bidmead and Nathan-Turner, though both invested in a more serious-minded take on Doctor Who, came at it from very different perspectives. For Bidmead, the goal was not merely seriousness, but a return to the message of scientific literacy that the series focused on in its earliest days. Bidmead wanted stories with strong science fiction content, and a focus on puzzle-solving and understanding the rules by which a given setting functioned. Like Adams before him, however, he was stymied by difficulty in finding anyone who could write to his vision of the series. Virtually none of the scripts Adams had in progress met either Bidmead or Nathan-Turner’s standards.
 
With the realities of a transmission date approaching, Bidmead and Nathan-Turner opted to open with a story by David Fischer about a protection racket on an alien pleasure planet called The Leisure Hive. From a scripting perspective, this proved slightly rocky. Bidmead in order to move away from the comedic style spearheaded by Adams, revised Fischer’s scripts to pare back the comedy, only to discover that the resulting scripts under-ran, requiring in them having to be padded back out unsatisfyingly. The most infamous aspect of this was the story’s opening shot, a ninety second pan around a set of empty beach chairs that ends with the reveal of the Doctor, asleep. For all that this was a flat and pointless scene, however, it did at least make something of a big reveal for another one of Nathan-Turner’s changes, which was the decision to change Tom Baker’s costume from a variety of clothes in one basic style to a single and consistent outfit designed by veteran costume designer June Hudson, who created a strikingly monochromatic burgundy ensemble, complete with an even longer scarf, that was, in her mind, marred only by a pair of embroidered question marks on the shirt collar, which Hudson felt were unnecessary and over the top, but which Nathan-Turner insisted upon.
 
The Leisure Hive was followed by the other script from the vaults that Nathan-Turner and Bidmead felt had any potential, the Terrance Dicks vampire story originally intended for Season Fifteen, and replaced late in the day with Horror of Fang Rock. The story was not of great appeal to Bidmead, its fantasy elements not fitting with his vision of the program, but Dicks, a consummate professional, was easy to work with despite not much fancying Bidmead’s directions. An added wrinkle, however, was the addition of a new companion. Nathan-Turner felt that the Doctor/Romana/K-9 team was too powerful and capable, and that this inhibited storytelling, so sought to replace them with more mundane companions. The first of these was to be a teenage mathematical genius, named Adric. Adric was in fact set to be introduced the story before Dicks’s, now titled State of Decay, but the season was now shooting out of order, and Dicks’s script would end up being the first story filmed with Adric. Dicks, struggling to figure out a good way to incorporate the character, ended up writing him as a slightly roguish character, with an extended subplot that traded on the ambiguity of whether he’d betrayed the Doctor to the vampires or was engaged in some complicated double cross. (It was, of course, the latter.) 
 
Cast as Adric was Matthew Waterhouse, a young actor at the beginning of his career who’d had some good reviews in minor roles, but for whom Doctor Who was by far his biggest break. Unfortunately, Waterhouse was stepping into a fraught production. Baker and Ward had, in the break between Season Seventeen and Eighteen, broken off their romance, and were on poor terms at the start of production for Season Eighteen, a situation that was not helped when Baker fell ill. Waterhouse, as an unfamiliar and inexperienced presence, quickly alienated both of them. Although the situation soon stabilized, with Baker and Ward reconciling and, shortly after leaving the program, marrying (although the marriage only lasted eighteen months), neither warmed to Waterhouse, who continued to have an isolating and dispiriting beginning to his time on the show. State of Decay also ended up being the first time that Ian Levine had direct impact on the show, and it was input that would in many ways prove typical of his vision - he pointed out that Dicks’s name for the spaceship, the Hyperion, had already been used by the program. This was true, but the story in which it had been used was a forgettable Jon Pertwee story from 1972 called The Mutants, rendering this somewhat comically pedantic advice.
 
State of Decay was ultimately set as the fourth story in the run, and Nathan-Turner and Bidmead proceeded to go back and fill in the gap between it and The Leisure Hive. First was a story called Meglos memorable mainly for its villain a shape-shifting cactus creature who impersonated the Doctor, resulting in a famous publicity photograph of Tom Baker covered in spines. Filmed immediately after State of Decay, it served as the last story before Adric’s on-screen arrival, as well as an opportunity for Jacqueline Hill, who had played Barbara opposite William Hartnell at the start of the series, to make a late career return, this time playing the story’s villain, Lexa. 
 
Following Meglos, however, came Adric’s proper introduction story, Full Circle, a story that came much closer to embodying what Bidmead wanted the program to be. At the heart of the story is a mystery about the planet’s life cycle, in which it turns out that the seemingly distinct human, marsh monster, and spider species on Alzarius are, in reality, different aspects of the same species, which evolves in a circular loop. This is not, clearly, hard science fiction, a fact that is in some ways jarring given that Bidmead frequently proclaimed his interest in using Doctor Who to teach science. But while the actual science may be nonsense, Full Circle nevertheless demonstrates a commitment to the scientific method. However barmy, Alzarius is a coherent world with rules, and much of the story consists of the Doctor, Adric, and Romana investigating to try to understand those rules.
 
In the case of Full Circle, however, these instincts were wedded to another logic. The story was the first in the series’ history to be written by someone who had grown up watching the show. The writer, Andrew Smith, was almost the exact same age of the show, and the script reflects this, serving up a mixture of the best tropes of Terrance Dicks, Robert Holmes, and the by now long history of the program. The result, especially when paired with the Bidmead-edited version of Terrance Dicks’s script (which was the next story to air), in many ways captured Nathan-Turner’s revamp of Doctor Who at its finest hour, with two stories that looked both forward and backwards, demonstrating new ideas and approaches to Doctor Who while still positioning themselves clearly in the long history of the program.
 
It was almost inevitable that Nathan-Turner’s zeal for change would eventually hit the main cast. Indeed, this was in some ways a conscious agenda on Nathan-Turner’s part. He was, after all, well aware of how difficult Tom Baker could be to work with, and the decision to pare back the comedy was as much to check Baker’s power (as Baker frequently proposed comedy beats of his own invention) as it was in reaction against Graham Williams. Perhaps more importantly, however, this carried over to the screen - one of the plot points in The Leisure Hive featured Baker’s Doctor being aged considerably, a blow against the seeming invulnerability his Doctor had acquired just by making it to the start of his seventh season. It was also, however, a clear move away from Baker’s vision for the program, which was, not entirely unjustifiably, based on his belief that he was the star attraction.
 
Nathan-Turner’s initial approach to the program, in other words, was all but tailor-made to drive Baker off, and this was, unsurprisingly, exactly what it accomplished. With Nathan-Turner already having decided to replace Romana and K-9 towards the end of the season, this meant that the process of changing the cast that began with State of Decay accelerated, and the final three stories of Season Eighteen saw all three regular cast members who started the season depart, with three new regulars arriving, along with one recurring character, more about whom shortly. 
 
This process began with Warrior’s Gate, which served as the departure story for both Romana and K-9. The story also served as the conclusion to a three-story arc that started with Full Circle and continued with State of Decay, in which the TARDIS became trapped in a pocket dimension called E-Space. This use of story arcs was another move motivated by Ian Levine, who suggested a return to the 1960s tradition of having stories lead into one another, and while the first two stories had been relatively self-contained and no more concerned with the supposed arc than any given story in the Key to Time saga was, the third was primarily focused on the question of how to get the Doctor out of E-Space and back to the normal world.
 
The result was a hallucinatory and vivid story that, through its use of video effects, felt like the perfect cousin to the then-visionary music video for David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes,” a song that revisited the spacefaring Major Tom from his first hit single back in 1969, recasting him as a junkie drugged out on cosmic possibility. This sense of a decayed and rotting history fit squarely not just with the early years of Thatcher’s government, but with the rapidly changing conception of Doctor Who and with Tom Baker’s increasingly sullen and withdrawn performance. With a script by Stephen Gallagher that drew heavily on surrealist imagery, the story had an almost poetic tone. But equally important were the visuals. Another of Nathan-Turner’s innovations had been to find a new generation of writers and directors for the series (recall that Season Seventeen featured both a writer and a director who had first worked on The Daleks back in 1963), and to refresh the visual style, in particular by moving towards a more cinematic use of space as opposed to the flat and stage-like framing of many stories. Warrior’s Gate embodied this approach, opening with an extended tracking shot through a spaceship and continuing with vast, expansive white voids and quasi-medieval castles that flickered between their lush prime and their decayed and cobweb-ridden decline. 
 
As with Full Circle before it, Gallagher’s script struck a marvelous balance between this experimentalism and a tone grounded in the past, with the primary antagonists being a group of working class slavers with the prosaic motivation of making a profit - the sorts of villains who would fit right into a Robert Holmes story, in other words. But the script also fit squarely with Bidmead’s vision of the program. For all its dreamlike logic, the world of Warrior’s Gate is once again one held together by a coherent set of rules, with the focus on exploring and understanding a strange world. Central to it is the device that transports the TARDIS in and out of E-Space, the Charged Vacuum Emboitment. This is one of several instances of Bidmead creating rather baroque yet straightforwardly descriptive terms for things (he previously renamed a time loop a “chronic hysteresis” in Meglos), and reveals another strange facet of Bidmead’s vision for the program in its use of the obscure term “emboitment,” an archaic term meaning “putting in a box” and relating to the discredited homunculus theory of biology. This, in many ways, embodies Bidmead’s use of science. On the one hand, the name reflects Bidmead’s fascination with exploring systems of rules - the CVE is literally defined by what it does. On the other, however, the term is so strange that no viewer could reasonably be expected to understand its meaning. In other words, the scientific rules of a place, for Bidmead, are not merely factual constraints to know and understand, but sources of wonder and mystery worth exploring, a fact reflected in the often striking and lyrical images that come out of them.
 
With Romana and K-9 written out, Nathan-Turner and Bidmead began introducing more new companions to supplement Adric. The first came from the next story, The Keeper of Traken, when they identified one of the supporting characters, Nyssa, as a potential companion. Nyssa demonstrated some of the knowledge and ability offered by Romana, but without the sense of being the Doctor’s equal. After having Bidmead fine tune the character, it was decided that if whomever ended up playing her impressed, they would extend their contract to make the character a regular. (A similar thing happened with Frazier Hines’s Jamie McCrimmon in the Troughton era.) The actress in question ended up being Sarah Sutton, who suffused the character with both warmth and quiet dignity, and ended up having the option to hire her through the end of the next season taken up.
 
The Keeper of Traken also introduced a recurring character, or, more accurately, reintroduced one, as Nathan-Turner decided to bring back the Master as a recurring villain. This was not actually Nathan-Turner’s first choice. Concerned that replacing Tom Baker would be a difficult challenge, Nathan-Turner had wanted to bring back a former companion to smooth over the transition, having in mind the return of Lis Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith. This ended up not working out, although it would bear interesting fruit later, and instead Nathan-Turner moved on to the idea of the Master being restored from the decaying form last seen in The Deadly Assassin. And so in the closing scene of The Keeper of Traken the Master turns out not to have been defeated, and takes over the body of another one of the supporting cast, Nyssa’s father, Tremas. (Tremas being the first of many anagrams that would spring up around the Master.) 
 
Completing the new companions was Tegan Jovanka, an Australian stewardess played by Janet Fielding. Described as a “mouth on legs” (a role that did not require the outspokenly feminist Janet Fielding to act even slightly outside of her comfort zone), Tegan would end up providing a brash and argumentative streak to the TARDIS crew, balancing out Nyssa’s more genteel attitude and Adric’s somewhat petulant nature. This, however, would not really manifest until the next season, as her first appearance was almost completely overshadowed by the departure of Tom Baker. 
 
To do the honors on this momentous script, Nathan-Turner appointed Bidmead himself. The resulting story was on the one hand not what anybody expected, and on the other one of the most strangely fascinating things in the history of Doctor Who. Drawing on ideas and imagery of computer programming, Bidmead created the eponymous planet Logopolis, where an order of monks maintain the underlying mathematical calculations that stabilize the universe and prevent it from falling into entropy. When the Master, who is kept off-screen as a haunting presence for the first half of the story, finally attacks Logopolis, the entire universe begins to crumble, with whole galaxies simply blinking out of existence. After four episodes of this strange scientific fairy tale all marked by an ominous and chilling sense of finality, Tom Baker’s Doctor finally meets his end confronting the Master atop the radio telescope he is using to transmit his ransom demands to the entire universe (a speech the Master charmingly begins with “people of the universe, please attend carefully”), falling from a precarious catwalk as the Master escapes, and finally merging with the ghostly Watcher, a pale white figure who had been haunting the Doctor all story, and who turns out to be a projection of his future self.
 
For all its epic sweep, there is something still and funerial about Logopolis that is far from the dramatic and epic showdown that one might have expected at the end of a long and iconic tenure like Baker’s. At seven years in the role, he had far outstripped Jon Pertwee’s five year run, and been the Doctor for longer than William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton combined. And yet his departure was quiet and austere. At times it could even fairly be criticized as stilted, but the arresting visuals and strange depth of the ideas, by and large, elevate it to a striking and surprising sort of genius. 
 
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, John Nathan-Turner was hard at work with one of the most difficult casting jobs imaginable, namely replacing Tom Baker, who had become inseparable from the part of the Doctor in the public’s eye. After considering similarly gregarious actors like Richard Griffiths (who was unavailable) and Iain Cuthbertson (who was ultimately rejected), Nathan-Turner settled on Peter Davison, a younger actor who was best known for playing Tristan Farnon in the BBC’s adaptation of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. Unlike Baker, and more in keeping with the casting of Pertwee, Troughton, and Hartnell, Davison was a relatively known quantity and a well-established television star who was also, at the same time, appearing in the sitcoms Holding the Fort and Sink or Swim, switching among production on the two shows alongside Doctor Who. Nevertheless, his casting was striking, both because, at twenty-nine, he was considerably younger than anyone else to have played the part and because he was seen as an altogether milder, nicer actor compared to Tom Baker’s brashness in the part. Davison was initially reluctant to take the part, but ultimately decided to largely because he was a fan of the program, having grown up on the Troughton era. 
 
Nathan-Turner was also faced with the departure of Christopher Bidmead, who had done so much to shape the creative direction of Baker’s last season, but who, like so many before him, found the series unduly stressful. Bidmead was replaced by Anthony Root, who joined the production on a short three-month contract. Davison’s debut story was planned to be a story by John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch, the writers of Meglos, but this script floundered. This posed a problem, as the plans for the return of the Master were based around the assumption that he would appear in both Baker’s final story and Davison’s debut, which meant that it was not straightforward to simply draft in another script. Instead, Nathan-Turner decided that he would film Davison’s second, third, and fourth stories as the first stories made for Season Nineteen, then go back and do his debut, a possibility opened by the necessary production delays that Davison’s multiple commitments caused. The theory was that Davison would get a few stories to familiarize himself with the part and develop what he wanted to do with it, and would then be better able to handle the by this point traditional episode or two of the Doctor going a bit mad immediately after a regeneration. 
 
Filming on these first three stories was structured such that two would be completed in April and May of 1981, before a break in production so that Davison could film Sink or Swim. Production would then resume in July for a third story, and then, finally, for Davison’s debut. In part to further smooth Davison’s first days, the initial block of two stories were consciously designed as somewhat simple affairs. For the first, Four to Doomsday, a lot of the plot was given to the three companions, with Adric in particular getting a substantial story in which he’s seduced over to the villain’s side. The second, Eric Saward’s The Visitation, was a relatively action-heavy story based around the hook of the Doctor being inadvertently responsible for the Great Fire of London. Both were straightforward and unremarkable, but served their purpose in allowing Davison to bed in with easier material.
 
It was not until production resumed in July on Kinda that Davison finally got a more complex and textured story in the form of Kinda. Written by newcomer to Doctor Who Christopher Bailey, the script combined Buddhist philosophy with a scathing satire of British colonialism. The story had originally been commissioned by Bidmead, and Bailey wrote the first draft expecting Tom Baker as the Doctor. Upon learning of Davison’s casting, however, he reworked the script, changing the Doctor’s role from being an older figure of wisdom to being a more naive and innocent figure who would, over the course of the story, gain a measure of enlightenment and understanding of the world. With a thematically complex script long on characterization, some top quality acting (most notably by film legend Richard Todd, who inadvertently caused some awkwardness when he mentioned that he hadn’t done much television acting, prompting Matthew Waterhouse to begin offering acting advice to someone who had been a seasoned and respected star before Waterhouse was even born) some deft use of video effects, particularly in a series of psychedelic dream sequences during which Tegan is possessed by the villainous spirit of the Mara, Kinda sparkled in much the same way that stories like Warrior’s Gate and Logopolis did. The story also, however, quietly illustrated what would become a growing peril for Doctor Who when it came in dead last in the Doctor Who Monthly (as Doctor Who Weekly had by then been rechristened) poll of the season’s episodes, revealing a troubling gap between what the vocal fan audience wanted and what a general audience might enjoy.
 
Along with Kinda came the expiry of Anthony Root’s short-term contact as script editor. Although it was initially hoped that he would stay on, he got a job on Juliet Bravo during the summer production break, requiring yet another search for a script editor, this time on quite short notice. With the obvious choice being to pick from someone who was actively working on the series at the time, Root recommended Eric Saward, whose work on The Visitation had impressed him, and Saward was duly appointed to provide uncredited work on the tail end of Kinda, taking over in full with the next story, Davison’s much-delayed debut. With initial plans for that story having gone awry, Nathan-Turner and Root had decided to offer the job to Christopher Bidmead, who had returned to freelance work after departing as script editor. Bidmead accepted, penning a story called Castrovalva that followed thematically from his previous Logopolis, blending concepts from computer science with a keen sense of imagery, this time drawing from the work of Dutch printmaker M.C. Escher, of whom BBC Head of Serials Graeme McDonald was a particular fan. (Nathan-Turner, for his part, was less impressed with the artist, remarking upon seeing the prints in McDonald’s office that in his view the point of art was to soothe, not distract.) 
 
With Davison having had plenty of time to acclimate to the role, Bidmead opted to give him a somewhat rocky introduction, with the Doctor’s post-regenerative madness, which had been done away with after an episode or two in previous iterations, being sustained over more or less the entire story, such that the Doctor’s getting his act together served as the story’s climax, and the opening episodes giving Davison the opportunity to run through a gamut of emotions, including imitations of both William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. Bidmead also structured the story in a sort of two-act structure, with the first two episodes set in the TARDIS and the second two finally arriving at the mysterious city of Castrovalva. These first two episodes also gave Bidmead the opportunity to tease a future script by well-regarded sci-fi author Christopher Priest, who had previously been recruited by Douglas Adams to submit a script called Sealed Orders, which ran aground during the Bidmead era over complications involving Romana’s departure. Bidmead had commissioned Priest to try again, but this second effort would run aground in a somewhat spectacular blow-out with Eric Saward and Nathan-Turner that culminated in a phone call between Priest and Nathan-Turner over payment for script rewrites, which Priest described as “an extraordinary display of petulance, with foul language and insults freely mixed.” 
 
The split structure of Castrovalva, with two episodes each devoted to two distinct but related plots, was in part a reaction to a dramatic change in the transmission of Doctor Who. Since its debut, the series had existed as one of the anchors of the BBC’s Saturday evening lineup. But over the course of Season Eighteen this became untenable, as the Saturday night lineup found itself pummelled in the ratings. To some extent this was simply a matter of changing times. Televisions had become smaller and cheaper over the nearly twenty years since the program had debuted, meaning that instead of one set for the entire family it was more common for individual members of the family to have their own sets, disrupting the whole-family audience that the Saturday evening programming was based around. On top of that, in Doctor Who’s case, ITV had finally, after years of trying, managed to find a credible bit of counter-programming, placing the program immediately opposite the glitzy post-Star Wars American show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. This proved formidable competition, and Doctor Who’s ratings plummeted with the first episode of The Leisure Hive, reaching a nadir of merely 3.7 million viewers for the second episode of Full Circle, which languished as the 170th most-watched program of the week, a disastrous drop from a program that had cracked the top twenty the year before, and pulled some 10.4 million at the end of its previous season. 
 
Accordingly, with Season Nineteen, the program was moved to a weekday slot starting transmission in January (as opposed to the autumn start that had been in place since Season Thirteen) and began airing two episodes a week, on consecutive Mondays and Tuesdays. This transmission schedule resembled that of popular soap operas like Coronation Street, and Nathan-Turner was keen to draw on that approach with the consciously larger TARDIS crew, returning to the days of Doctor Who as an ongoing serial. This was in a real sense prescient; many commenters in the years since have noted the similarities in engagement between soap opera fans and science fiction fans, and Nathan-Turner, working in the earliest days of science fiction being a niche genre with dedicated fans, was savvy to see the similarities. Unfortunately, the out-of-order production schedule and constant chaos of Doctor Who would undermine Nathan-Turner in this regard, and the sort of tight and detailed character arcs that he had hoped for never quite came off. Still, the change in schedule served its intended purpose in stabilizing the ratings, with the final episode of Castrovalva returning to the heights seen two years earlier by The Horns of Nimon, pulling the same number of viewers, and making it back up to 46th for the week, firmly in the range that Doctor Who was accustomed to. 
 
With the first portion of the season finally filmed and straightened out, Nathan-Turner and Saward could turn their attention to the final ten episodes. These commenced with Black Orchid, a two-part story that experimented with the old “pure historical” format of the Hartnell era by putting the Doctor and company in a 1920s murder mystery in which the twist is that there’s no science fiction content beyond the TARDIS crew itself. The result did not quite work, although this was perhaps as much because the two episode structure left little room for the exploration-focused storytelling that characterized the style of story being imitated as it was that the style was better suited to 1965 than 1982. 
 
Following Black Orchid was the slot originally intended to go to the abandoned Christopher Priest story. The rewrites that caused the acrimonious phone call between Nathan-Turner and Priest were caused by Nathan-Turner’s decision after Priest had already drafted the story that it should serve as the departure story for Adric, who was proving both to irritate audiences and, as incidents like Matthew Waterhouse’s attempted tutorial of Richard Todd on the set of Kinda demonstrated, the rest of the cast. Priest obliged, but subsequently objected to Nathan-Turner’s refusal to pay him for rewrites that were due to the story brief changing as opposed to any actual faults in his script. This led to something of a scramble in drafting a replacement. Ultimately, Nathan-Turner decided to have Saward himself write the replacement script, using a gap between the temporary contract drawn up after Root’s departure and the permanent contract that followed to avoid the rules against script editors writing for their own series by having Anthony Root come back as the nominal script editor for the story.
 
Nathan-Turner also, urged on by both Peter Davison and Ian Levine, was keen to bring back the Cybermen, who had not appeared since Tom Baker’s first season, and since Patrick Troughton’s last before that. This resulted in a dilemma for Nathan-Turner when the Radio Times, the BBC’s in-house listings magazine, offered him a prestigious cover slot for the event. Doctor Who had, in its early days, been a mainstay of the magazine, but its last cover appearance had been in 1973 to promote The Three Doctors, and so a return to the cover would be a major coup for the series. But Nathan-Turner was also invested in the possibility of a shock reveal. Saward’s script built to the reveal of the Cybermen at the end of the first episode, and the story title, Earthshock, gave nothing away, so a Radio Times cover would spoil the surprise.
 
Ultimately, Nathan-Turner opted against the Radio Times cover. In practice this had mixed results. Certainly the episode as transmitted had a huge impact on fans. For those who were of the right age when Earthshock aired, the first episode cliffhanger is as definitive a moment as the maggots in The Green Death or the Cybermen bursting from their tombs in Tomb of the Cybermen were for those generations. And those fans were further thrilled later in the story, which included the Cybermen reviewing their past encounters with the Doctor, represented via brief clips of old episodes. At a time when those older stories still existed only as novelizations, bar the equally exciting Five Faces of Doctor Who series of repeats on BBC Two leading up to Castrovalva, these brief clips and nods to the past were tremendously exciting.
 
But it is safe to say that the dedicated fans who appreciated the clarification as to whether the Cybermen originated from Mondas (as specified in The Tenth Planet) or Telos (as established in the novelizations) were a tiny minority of the 9.3 million viewers that Earthshock averaged over its four episodes. And as much as Nathan-Turner’s decision to keep the Cybermen a big secret may have thrilled fans, it’s telling that the audience actually declined by three hundred thousand people between the first and second episodes, not least because, with only twenty-four hours between the two of them, there wasn’t actually any time for the shock reveal to translate into buzz for the next episode. It’s notable that the third episode gained a million viewers from the second, in no small part because people actually had time to find out the Cybermen were in it. In other words, Nathan-Turner, not for the last time in his tenure, sacrificed the concerns of the general public in favor of satisfying dedicated fans.
 
But the first episode reveal of the Cybermen wasn’t even the biggest shock Earthshock offered. The real surprise came in the fourth episode, with the departure of Adric. Nathan-Turner had decided that a traditional departure would not work for the character, and so instead took the radical step of killing him off, trapping him in a spaceship plummeting towards Earth as the Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan helplessly look on from inside the TARDIS. Although not technically the first time a companion had been killed off, given the deaths of Katarina and Sara Kingdom back in the 1965/66 The Daleks’ Masterplan, both of those were short-run companions who appeared only in a few episodes, and, perhaps more to the point, had been sixteen years ago in episodes that had long since been junked from the BBC archives. Adric’s death broke all the rules, and cemented the sense that the imperious and invulnerable approach of the Tom Baker era was well and truly gone. 
 
Crucially, however, these twin shocks were positioned within an effective and exciting story that came as close as Doctor Who feasibly could to trying to do the sort of action-heavy science fiction that was in vogue since Star Wars. Saward’s script was fast-moving and thrilling, and while there are no shortage of gaping plot holes for anyone watching intently, when watched fresh the story moves fast enough that none of them stand out. Aided by the careful and meticulous direction of Peter Grimwade, who had previously helmed Full Circle, Logopolis, and Kinda, the story regularly did more than seemed like it should be possible on the BBC’s resources. It never transcended its medium, but crucially, it never tried to, instead leaning into the problem and doing things like casting Beryl Reid, best known as a comic actress, in the role that most closely matches Alien’s Ellen Ripley, a move that firmly situates Earthshock as Doctor Who’s take on a big action movie, as opposed to a big action movie in its own right. 
 
In this regard, it reached back to the earliest days of the Pertwee era, when the series regularly did military-themed and action-heavy stories. Opting to transmit such a story in March of 1982 was, arguably, a bit too prescient. Less than a month after Earthshock aired came the Falklands War, a war with Argentina over a barely significant set of islands that were uninhabited until European colonization in the 18th century. Despite its low stakes, the war proved an important propaganda victory for the Thatcher government, which was at the time reeling from skyrocketing unemployment. Heading into an election year, the wave of jingoistic patriotism brought on by a war, perhaps best encapsulated by the headline The Sun used to report on the death of 323 people (more than the UK lost in the entire war) in the sinking of a ship that was within the Maritime Exclusion Zone and retreating at the time, “GOTCHA,” proved politically useful, and would push Thatcher’s government to a fifty-eight seat gain from her 1979 landslide. In this regard, exciting military action full of space marines and gun battles was a better fit for the times than Saward and Nathan-Turner could possibly have known when filming the story.
 
Alongside production of Earthshock came another venture - a pilot for what was hoped to be the first ever Doctor Who spin-off entitled K-9 and Company, and featuring the still popular robotic dog. Since K-9 was, for a variety of reasons, not an ideal leading man, Nathan-Turner opted to pair him with Lis Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith, who received a third iteration of the robot (the first two having been left with Leela and Romana on the occasions of their departure from the TARDIS) as a present from the Doctor, and who teamed up with him to fight a coven of witches. The special aired around Christmas, a few months after it was filmed (and a few days prior to Castrovalva), to reasonably good ratings, but fell victim to a change in management at BBC One from Bill Cotton, who commissioned it, to Alan Hart, who was not fond of the idea and preferred to pursue his own ideas.
 
It is in some ways puzzling that Earthshock was not the last story of Season Nineteen, given its shocking and dramatic denouement. Instead, however, the season continued with one more story, entitled Time-Flight, and written by Earthshock’s director, Peter Grimwade. The script for Time-Flight actually dated back to before Grimwade had directed for the program, having originally been a pitch made to Douglas Adams, but it had survived in consideration for two seasons since, albeit with a number of changes. The story centered on Grimwade’s desire to write a story about Concorde, the iconic supersonic jet, and the delay allowed Nathan-Turner to secure the use of an actual Concorde, as well as permission to film at Heathrow. Over the story’s evolution Nathan-Turner also decided that it should feature the Master, and Grimwade dutifully amended his scripts to incorporate him. In keeping with the style established for Castrovalva, where the Master spent two episodes disguised as another character and was credited as Neil Tonay, an anagram of Tony Ainley, the Master’s involvement was not revealed until the episode two cliffhanger, with his disguise as the sorcerer Kalid being credited as the rather more fanciful Leon Ny Taiy. In a similar vein of trying to preserve surprises, it was contrived to have Matthew Waterhouse reprise his role as Adric, this time as an illusion created by the Master, so that he would appear in the Radio Times credits for the story.
 
The attention paid to the pre-publicity for the story, however, was not entirely reflected on screen. Time-Flight featured some of the most ludicrously ill-advised effects in the series’ history, as the monsters’ method of attacking people consists of superimposing dish soap bubbles onto the image. On top of the Master having a particularly incomprehensible scheme, even by the character’s somewhat ludicrous standards (there is no real effort made to explain why he’s disguised as an Arabian sorcerer for the first half of the story), the story ended up looking cheap and tawdry, particularly after the panache of Earthshock. Worse, however, was the way in which the script did away with almost all shock and reaction to Adric’s death, with a grand total of thirteen lines of dialogue elapsing before the Doctor declares that Adric “wouldn’t want us to mourn unnecessarily” and decides to take everybody on a nice fun vacation to cheer them up. The result squandered any dramatic impact that the end of Earthshock could have had, and meant that instead of ending on what would have been one of the most dramatic and triumphant notes in the history of the series, the season ended with a damp squib of a story.
 
It is not merely the fact that Time-Flight was a bit rubbish that is problematic here - no era of Doctor Who avoided spectacular failures, after all. Rather, it is the way in which the problems amounted to a preventable own goal, and the way in which it simply did not seem to occur to anyone that following a dynamic action spectacle with a light comedy episode, or that failing to meaningfully engage with any of the characters’ emotional reactions to the show’s first major character death in sixteen years were simply bad ideas. Had Time-Flight appeared before Earthshock, it would have been another slightly charming example of ambition gone wrong on Doctor Who - a familiar phenomenon and, to be honest, part of the appeal. Instead, however, it was put in a position where expectations were unusually high, such that its shortcomings were made even more obvious.
 
A similar problem plagued the first story of the next season, The Arc of Infinity. As the first story, it carried extra weight, having to set the tone for the season and captivate the viewers who tune in for the return of the program. And on paper it had at least some advantages, most obviously the first story since The Invasion of Time, five seasons earlier, to take place on Gallifrey, and the high profile guest appearance of Michael Gough. But these were squandered in a flaccid and poorly paced plot that built to the revelation that the real villain of the piece was Omega, a character who had not even been mentioned since his previous sole appearance in The Three Doctors ten years earlier. The problem is not, to be clear, reusing an old and forgotten villain, but rather the strange way in which The Arc of Infinity simply assumes that its seven million viewers are going to be the sorts of people who can immediately identify a villain who appeared exactly once, in a decade-old story. 
 
It is perhaps unsurprising that the choice of Omega as a past villain was a suggestion on the part of Ian Levine, and it is worth noting that the story’s writer, Johnny Byrne, was not fond of the suggestion. He’d written the first draft of the script to focus on Nathan-Turner’s previous direction to him, which was to set a large part of the story in Amsterdam so that the series could do another high-profile location shoot as it had done in City of Death, and the subsequent instruction to rewrite it to include Omega and Gallifrey was out of left field and substantially diluted his original idea. But this still speaks to a strange understanding of the program in which including all the disparate elements of a laundry list of requirements is more important than the success of the storytelling. 
 
Still, there’s at least some logic to the use of Omega, given that The Arc of Infinity was kicking off Doctor Who’s twentieth anniversary year, making a certain degree of nostalgia not just acceptable but wholly appropriate. While The Arc of Infinity was deeply inept in handling it, its heart was arguably in the right place. Indeed, the story kicked off a season in which every story would feature some returning foe from the series’ past, a point that Nathan-Turner was keen to emphasize when promoting the program, albeit one that had happened by accident. The second story, Snakedance, was a sequel to Kinda that revisited the evil Mara, while the three stories following it formed another trilogy, this time revisiting the Black Guardian from Graham Williams’s Key to Time saga.
 
This trilogy opens with Mawdryn Undead, which not only brought back the Black Guardian, but also Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, unseen since Terror of the Zygons early in the Tom Baker era, and now a teacher at a private school. (The role was originally written with the hope that William Russell would return as Ian Chesterton, but Russell proved unavailable, resulting in the Brigadier’s somewhat unexpected career change) The story is one of the first times in the series’ now twenty year history that it did a story that is substantially about time travel, as opposed to simply using the TARDIS to enable a premise, with a complex and clever plot involving the Doctor and his companions interacting with the Brigadier at two points in time a decade apart, and, eventually, the two versions of the Brigadier meeting each other on an alien spaceship. 
 
But the most notable feature of the story is the introduction of a new companion, Turlough, with one of the most striking concepts in the series history: he’s actually a spy for the Black Guardian sent to kill the Doctor, which, indeed, he attempts to do in the first episode cliffhanger. The trilogy of stories would largely focus on Turlough and his eventual redemption as he rejects the Black Guardian and joins the TARDIS crew in earnest in the third installment, Enlightenment, a story which features one of Doctor Who’s most striking images, that of Edwardian tall ships flying in space. In between came Terminus, a Norse mythology-themed story most notable for the departure of Sarah Sutton’s character of Nyssa, much to the frustration of Peter Davison, who felt that she was the only one of his co-stars who actually made sense as a companion. 
 
This trilogy was followed by a two-parter called The King’s Demons, which featured the return of the Master, this time doubly anagrammed, both in the form of his alias, Sir Giles Estram, and the Radio Times listing for the actor playing Sir Giles, James Stoker (“Master’s Joke”). His scheme this time involved impersonating King John via a shapeshifting robot named Kamelion. This robot was designed as one of the series’ most ambitious special effects - an actual robot that would be programmed to lip synch dialogue. The prop, like the previous robotic companion K-9, proved difficult to work with, not least because of the weeks it took to program him with his dialogue and the fact that his creator tragically died in a boating accident shortly before filming took place, and during production it was decided that, despite having ostensibly joined the TARDIS crew, he would not actually be making any further appearances save for a planned departure the next season.
 
The King’s Demons was meant to be followed by The Return, an Eric Saward script that was to feature the Daleks, used as a shock reveal similar to that of the Cybermen in Earthshock, but a series of industrial disputes that also ate into the studio time for Terminus and Enlightenment scuppered plans to make it as part of the twentieth season, and The King’s Demons served instead as a season finale. It did not, however, serve as the last Doctor Who story of 1983 - that honor went to a ninety minute special aired in November to celebrate the twentieth anniversary proper entitled, in the spirit of the tenth anniversary story, The Five Doctors
 
As the title suggests, this story was an ambitious production. It was also one with obvious challenges, most notably the fact that one of its eponymous leads, William Hartnell, had been dead for eight years. Nathan-Turner decided that the best option was to simply recast the role, contracting Richard Hurndall, who bore at least a passing resemblance to Hartnell, to play the part. Nathan-Turner was also able to secure the involvement of Carole Ann Ford, who had played Susan, Nicholas Courtney, and Lis Sladen. Other aspects of casting proved trickier, however. The original plan had been to bring back Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon to serve as the companion for the Second Doctor, but this fell through due to the actor’s commitments to the soap opera Emmerdale Farm. And while Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton were both eager to return, Tom Baker was more reticent, initially agreeing only to abruptly pull out barely two months before filming was to start, necessitating a last minute rewrite to have the Fourth Doctor represented by using a few clips from the unaired Shada.
 
The script, meanwhile, posed its own set of problems. Eric Saward had recently done a tour of older Doctor Who stories to better familiarize himself with the series’ past, and had, as with most other people to survey the series’ history, come away impressed by the work of Robert Holmes. He was thusly keen to bring Holmes back, especially for a nostalgic story like The Five Doctors. Holmes, for his part, was reluctant, preferring both not to work with other people’s characters and not to deal heavily in series continuity. The laundry list of requirements, which also included Saward’s desire to use the Cybermen again and Nathan-Turner’s insistence on another appearance by the Master, ultimately proved too much for Holmes (whose story had centered on the idea that the First Doctor was actually a robotic duplicate made by the Cybermen, thus explaining why he looked wrong), and so in his place was drafted Terrance Dicks, whose experience having novelized large swaths of the series proved a boon. Dicks’s approach was to simply throw in all of the required elements and let the plot logic sort itself out. The result is an at times deeply silly story, but one that’s also a fun and loving tribute to a show that had, by that point, made it twenty years as an iconic and central part of British culture.
 
This fact was reflected in other was in 1983 as well. The series finally got another Radio Times cover to coincide with The Five Doctors, along with a wealth of commemorative merchandise, perhaps most notably the coffee table book Doctor Who - A Celebration, which featured the most definitive episode guide to the series’ twenty year history thus far, prepared by Doctor Who Appreciation Society member Jeremy Bentham, and responsible for setting a host of entrenched fan opinions about stories that were at the time impossible to see or learn anything else about, most notably the William Hartnell tale The Gunfighters, which Bentham decried as the single worst Doctor Who story in history. 
 
But this inability to review the series’ past also finally started to come to an end in October of 1983 with the first release of a Doctor Who story on the still young medium of VHS. The story chosen was the Tom Baker story Revenge of the Cybermen, and while the price point of forty pounds was rather high, it began the slow process of seeing the entire existent archive of Doctor Who released on home video, a process that would finally culminate almost exactly twenty years later with the October 2003 release of Jon Pertwee’s Invasion of the Dinosaurs. The caveat “existent archive” is also responsible for the choice of stories to release - the decision had been made by conducting a poll at an April 1983 exhibition of Doctor Who memorabilia at Longleat House in Horningsham. The most popular choice had been the Patrick Troughton serial Tomb of the Cybermen, but this posed a problem, as it comprised four of the hundred-and-fifty-two early episodes of Doctor Who that the BBC had destroyed the last known copy of due to poor archival practices, leading the BBC to opt for another Cybermen story featuring the still-popular Tom Baker.
 
The Longleat Exhibition marked another feather in the cap of Doctor Who’s twentieth anniversary. Expected to draw 50,000 over its two day run, the exhibition was absolutely slammed, resulting in huge lines for things like the tent screening old stories. The convention was a formative moment for a generation of fans, but more importantly, it revealed the degree to which Doctor Who, after twenty years, was still a widely beloved program with a large audience of fans from across the country. This was, and in many ways still is unprecedented - no other show on British television could possibly have drawn such a large and enthusiastic crowd after twenty years on the air. Only a handful could have done it after five, or three. Longleat served as a testament to how important a program Doctor Who was, demonstrating the way in which the history of contemporary Britain was weaved into its long history, and how it was still one of the most vital and revealing parts of British culture and identity.
 
 
Unfortunately, everything was about to go very, very wrong.
 

 
 
Blink.  The words blur and swim on the screen.  No, not on the screen.  In your eyes.  Too late.  Can’t fix it now. The remnants of letters float: the cross of a t, the dot of an i, and all those little serifs.  Not the dead slough of the retina.  More like little fish corpses.  Except... they are not dead.  They are eggs.  Eggs.  Waiting.  They hatch new letters, that fuse as they mate, whose word-spawn climb up the optic nerve and build their nests in the visual cortex. Ganglia make good nests. Shut up. Listen to their song. Who are you? You are not you.  Never were.  More like us now.  Like us.  Like lights in a Christmas tree.  Blinking.  See?  Look at the screen.  Blink.
 

 
The first thing to go wrong, at least, was Margaret Thatcher’s fault. In May of 1983, reacting to a surge in popularity following victory in the Falklands War, Thatcher called a snap election for June of 1983. This had the twin unfortunate results of substantially increasing her Parliamentary majority following a disastrous Labour campaign led by Michael Foot, whose emphatically left-wing election manifesto was famously dubbed “the longest suicide note in history” and of forcing the cancellation of studio days allotted to Doctor Who for the debut of its twenty-first season, a story called Warriors of the Deep. John Nathan-Turner, who had already had to drop a story entitled The Return that sough to repeat the successful formula of Earthshock with the Daleks from the previous season due to labour disputes, was loathe to scrap another one, and so opted to reschedule the story’s production instead of simply dropping it. This meant, however, that the production would be extremely rushed. 
 
Unfortunately, Warriors of the Deep was a visually demanding story, which meant that the resulting cut to the time that could be spent on the costumes and sets was more visible than it might have been. The story’s central hook - the return of the Pertwee-era villains the Silurians alongside their cousins the Sea Devils - was reasonably well-realized, but the script also called for a giant sea monster called the Myrka. The special effects department all but begged to have it removed from the script when it became evident that it could not be finished in time,, but Nathan-Turner demanded it be included regardless of its condition. The result was, more or less, a pantomime horse with the green paint still wet on it. 
 
The litany of problems continued. The futuristic seabase, written in the script as a cramped and dingy pit of menacing shadows, ended up as a series over-lit featureless white corridors. The acting was in turns flaccid and overwrought, the directing that fell short of the mark, and the script was a mediocrity from Johnny Byrne, who kicked things off on a similarly baleful note the previous season with Arc of Infinity. The result was a story that blatantly sought to emulate the bracing action-adventure sci-fi of Return of the Jedi, at least trying to emulate Earthshock and be an energetic thrill-ride, but that fell painfully, embarrassingly short of the mark. It was neither the first nor last Doctor Who story to fall flat on its face. But in this case, it attracted a particularly important detractor in the form of Michael Grade, the incoming Controller of BBC One, who saw Warriors of the Deep as an embarrassment that demonstrated why it was a bad idea for the BBC to be trying to do science fiction in the first place.
 
Meanwhile, Peter Davison was coming to the end of his contract with the program, which ran for three years. Nathan-Turner was eager to resign him for a fourth year, but Davison had been unhappy with the scripts in Season Twenty, and had by this point become friends with Patrick Troughton, who advised him that three years in the role seemed about right to avoid having his later career harmed by being typecast, and declined. Nathan-Turner considered only one candidate to replace Davison: Colin Baker, who he’d met when he played a supporting role in The Arc of Infinity, and who had impressed Nathan-Turner as a charming character at a wedding they were both invited to. Baker was offered the part on June 10th, the day after Thatcher’s re-election, and a few days before rehearsals commenced on Warriors of the Deep, and announced about two months later, in August of 1983, three months prior to transmission of The Five Doctors.
 
So when Warriors of the Deep did air in January of 1984, the Davison era was already old news. Much of the season has a funereal tone to it as a result. Its first half is a trio of straightforward adventures - Warriors of the Deep, a two-parter returning to the old favorite theme of evil alien presences in the English countryside called The Awakening, and a suitably cerebral return from Christopher Bidmead called Frontios. But with its fourth story it began a process not unlike the one that began with Full Circle in Season Eighteen of swapping out its entire cast over the course of a couple of stories.
 
The first of these was Resurrection of the Daleks, itself a resurrection of the abandoned The Return from a season earlier. This had been a fraught production in several regards, of which failing to be completed was only the most conspicuous. From the start, there were difficulties with using the Daleks themselves. As always, the rights to the characters resided with Terry Nation, who initially refused permission to use the monsters, stating that he had been displeased with past Dalek stories written by people other than himself. (It is worth stressing that there were only three of these: Louis Marks’s Day of the Daleks, and David Whitaker’s two Patrick Troughton Dalek stories. It is these latter two, generally regarded as among the finest stories Doctor Who ever did, that Nation objected to, with the core of his objection apparently being that he did not like Whitaker’s creation of the Emperor of the Daleks, preferring instead his idea of a Dalek Supreme that would be distinguished from the other Daleks only by the color of its casing.) Nathan-Turner was able to smooth this over and secure permission, only to have Nation blow through his deadline for script approval before belatedly handing in a list of demands that Saward hastily incorporated. 
 
At this point, things really started to go wrong. A labor dispute with the electricians’ union resulted in the studio dates for Enlightenment being cancelled. Since that story tied up the extended Black Guardian/Turlough trilogy, it was considered indispensable, and so the only available solution was to use the studio dates booked for The Return to complete Enlightenment. This decision was formally taken the day before Peter Grimwade, who had been tapped to direct the story, was to have started work on a location shoot, and he graciously responded by taking the entire crew out for lunch. Astonishingly, this too proved calamitous, as Grimwade’s decision not to invite Nathan-Turner in favor of separately taking him out to dinner provoked considerable umbrage in Nathan-Turner, leading to a deterioration in their working relationship, and no shortage of ill will elsewhere, with script editor Eric Saward being particularly unimpressed with Nathan-Turner’s response. 
 
But for all that had gone wrong, the basic idea was viewed as a strong one, and so the script was quickly revived with an eye towards pacing it in Season Twenty-One. Now directed by Matthew Robinson, the story, for better and for worse, lived up to its intended billing as Earthshock only bigger. It sets the dubious record of the most on-screen deaths in the entire series, at seventy-four. Tellingly, the story opens with an image of two men who are apparently policemen gunning down innocent bystanders before teleporting away to a spaceship, an image evoking the evil policemen of Terror of the Autons, which caused a stir when Mary Whitehouse suggested children might become afraid of the police. Which is to say, the story was not merely tremendously violent, but was visibly an exploration of violence and its consequences. 
 
It was fitting, then, that it should prove to be Janet Fielding’s last story as Tegan Jovanka. Tegan, who had made her debut in Tom Baker’s swansong Logopolis, was in many ways the definitive companion of Peter Davsion’s era, appearing in an impressive ninety percent of his episodes, a classic series record beaten only by Jamie McCrimmon, who appeared in all but one of Patrick Troughton’s twenty-one stories. The first Doctor Who companion to be from contemporary Earth but not from Britain, Tegan embraced the stereotype of the mouthy Australian, but provided an often compelling counterweight to Davison’s comparatively soft-spoken performance as the Doctor. But at the end of Resurrection of the Daleks she departs the TARDIS in shock and horror at the amount of death and violence around her, simply concluding that she can’t go on living like this - a psychologically vivid reason for departure that is in many ways more effective than the death of Adric in Earthshock.
 
Resurrection of the Daleks was followed by Peter Grimwade’s final contribution to Doctor Who, Planet of Fire. As with Mawdryn Undead, where he was asked to balance the introduction of Turlough, the start of the Black Guardian storyline, and the return of the Brigadier, and with Time-Flight, where he was told to incorporate both the Master and the Concorde jet that John Nathan-Turner had secured access to, Planet of Fire was a busy production. This time Grimwade had to incorporate the departure of Turlough, the explanation of his mysterious origin, the removal of the failed Kamelion concept, the return (and apparent death) of the Master, a trip to Lanzarote, as Nathan-Turner had secured funding for a foreign location shoot, and the introduction of Perpugilliam Brown, the new companion, mercifully to be known as Peri for short. Peri would go on to be the primary companion of the Colin Baker era, but also served as the sole companion for Peter Davison’s final story, The Caves of Androzani.
 
Davison, by this point, was in something of a poor mood. He had largely enjoyed his final season of stories, and the reality that he was going to be out of a good-paying job was starting to hit him. Beyond that, Nathan-Turner had made the unusual decision of moving Colin Baker’s debut story up, regenerating Davison in the penultimate story of Season Twenty-One and using the finale to introduce the new Doctor. Davison was both disappointed that he would not be doing three full seasons of Doctor Who and somewhat miffed that his final story would be overshadowed by Baker’s debut. 
 
He was, however, cheered by the script for his final story. Although his attempt to hire him to write the twentieth anniversary special had not worked out, Eric Saward had enjoyed working with Robert Holmes, and was eager to do so again. As something of an apology for the way things had gone six months previously, Saward gave Holmes almost complete freedom to write the Fifth Doctor’s regeneration story, giving him the simple brief “kill the Doctor.” Homes turned in an epic in which the Doctor and Peri blunder into a circumstance and rapidly find events spiralling out of control, with a memorable third episode cliffhanger of the Doctor hijacking a spaceship and crashing it into the planet below to get back and try to rescue Peri, explaining that he’s dying of a slow poison anyway, so he has nothing to lose anyway. Ultimately, the Doctor manages to secure just enough of the antidote to the poison for Peri, but succumbs to it himself, regenerating. The story is rightly considered one of the all-time classics of the series, in part for Holmes’s ruthlessly thrilling script, and in part for the directorial efforts of Graham Harper, who had previously distinguished himself by stepping into the gap and making sure Warriors Gate got made back in Season Eighteen, and whose clever camera placements gave The Caves of Androzani a striking visual aesthetic. 
 
What happened next is one of the most egregious unforced errors in the history of the series. It is, indeed, difficult even to know where to start with it. On one level, the biggest mistake is simply that Colin Baker’s debut story, The Twin Dilemma, aired at the tail end of Peter Davison’s last season. This robbed Season Twenty-Two of an obvious hook for a big debut, on top of keeping The Caves of Androzani from serving as a proper blaze of glory. And on top of that, the first story of a new Doctor is often a bit of a rough affair as the new actor beds into the part. Debuting early in a season, the new actor at least has an immediate opportunity to make a second impression. Colin Baker, on the other hand, was left with The Twin Dilemma as his sole story for more than nine months. 
 
But to say that this couldn’t have worked is overstating the case. It is, however, inarguable that it did not in practice work. After a trio of expensive and impressive stories featuring Daleks, location shoots in Lanzarote, and innovative directing, The Twin Dilemma was a disposable and cheap-looking mess. Watched immediately after The Caves of Androzani, it is one of the most jarring shifts in quality and tone imaginable. Scripting duties were handed to Anthony Steven who, having never written for Doctor Who, was a positively inexplicable choice for a high profile and landmark story like the debut of a new Doctor, and the resulting script is by and large a disaster as well. Between that and flat directing from Peter Moffat that can’t overcome bad child actors, cheap sets, and gaudy costumes, the story’s reputation is rightly dire - it’s as strong a contender for worst-ever Doctor Who story as The Caves of Androzani is for best. 
 
But all of this is overshadowed by the staggering extent to which Colin Baker’s Doctor was simply a misbegotten mess. Just as Nathan-Turner had gone with the quieter and more soft-spoken Davison following Tom Baker’s bombastic performance he opted to follow Davison with a contrasting Doctor. And since those who criticized Davison accused him of being “bland,” Nathan-Turner’s conception of the Sixth Doctor was anything but. The most obvious marker of this was his coat, a garish patchwork of clashing fabrics that was the result of costume designer Pat Godfrey going through several designs to try to meet Nathan-Turner’s request for something “totally tasteless.” It is a legendarily bad piece of costuming that is exactly as ordered; an appalling and ugly mess with no justification, so misjudged that it does not even work as a parody of the 1980s. John Nathan-Turner loved it. 
 
The Sixth Doctor was also designed to be deliberately difficult and at times unlikable, and while both Eric Saward and Colin Baker note that there was talk of a plan whereby the character would be revealed to have a terrible secret that, once exposed, would shed a new light on his abrasive new personality, nobody has ever suggested that this plan was worked out to the extent that anyone had actually come up with a plan for what the secret was. In any case, any plans along these lines were thoroughly derailed by the sheer degree to which the Sixth Doctor was rendered unlikeable, with the character violently strangling Peri in the first episode, an event he never is actually shown to apologize for, which makes his end-of-story boast that he’s the Doctor “whether you like it or not” sound more like a seething threat from an abusive partner than like a relationship between a pair of best friends who go on adventures.
 
So in January of 1985, when the twenty-second season of Doctor Who made its debut, stakes could scarcely have been higher. Michael Grade had now been installed as Controller of BBC One and, as mentioned, was spectacularly unimpressed with the program. The audience had slowly shriveled over the course of the Davison era, and with Colin Baker making, to say the least, a poor first impression, it was absolutely essential that Doctor Who return with a decisive and strong start to the season. Instead, however, it aired Attack of the Cybermen
 
Precisely how Attack of the Cybermen came about is somewhat murky. Nathan-Turner and Saward were both eager to bring back the Cybermen following the success of Earthshock. Saward wanted to write the script for the story, as well as the planned season-ending Dalek story. However, the Writer’s Guild had strict policies against script editors self-commissioning. On top of that, Nathan-Turner was actively pursuing the husband and wife writing team of Pip and Jane Baker, who were at the time co-chairs of the Guild, to work on Doctor Who, which meant that there was little leeway for bending the rules. Accordingly, Nathan-Turner informed Saward that he could only be employed for the season-ending Dalek story, which could successfully be commissioned and written during a gap in Saward’s contract between seasons.
 
Accordingly, Attack of the Cybermen is credited to Paula Moore, a pseudonym that covers three potential writers. The first is Paula Woolsey, an ex-girlfriend of Saward’s who was the person nominally commissioned and paid to write the scripts. The extent of her actual involvement is unclear, however, and it is entirely possible that this was simply a ruse to allow Saward to write the scripts on his own. Certainly Saward did more work than usual as script editor on this story, bringing back Lytton, a mercenary supporting character from Resurrection of the Daleks, and working to incorporate the Cybermen, which were villains he was particularly fond of. And indeed, the script has many of the military action tropes that characterize Saward’s earlier work on Earthshock and Resurrection of the Daleks. But it appears that Attack of the Cybermen also saw a significant contribution from Ian Levine, who had been serving as an unofficial fan advisor to the series since John Nathan-Turner took over. 
 
Certainly the resulting story bears all the marks of having been worked on by a dedicated Doctor Who fan. Attack of the Cybermen is an absolute mess of continuity references, with the entire premise being built out of a complex reworking of both the Cybermen’s Hartnell-era debut in The Tenth Planet and the fondly remembered Tomb of the Cybermen. But these stories hadn’t been seen on television in decades, and in the case of Tomb of the Cybermen, appeared likely to never be seen again, since the BBC had destroyed the last known copy, making these references obscure at best. On top of that and the story’s incorporation of a minor character from Resurrection of the Daleks, the plot revolved around secret Time Lord intervention with the Cybermen and a subplot teasing the (ultimately rejected) possibility of the TARDIS regaining its shape-changing ability and no longer being stuck in its iconic Police Box form. The result was a story that was all but impenetrable to a casual viewer.
 
This is, to be fair, not even in and of itself a problem. Doctor Who has had plenty of stories with dodgy plot logic, Tomb of the Cybermen and The Tenth Planet among them. But those stories at least endeavored to have interesting ideas and arresting images. Attack of the Cybermen has an ill-tempered man in an ugly coat and a bunch of grim militaristic action sequences that, while never as embarrassing as, say, the Myrka in Warriors of the Deep, rarely impressed. The story’s first episode pulled an impressive 8.9 million viewers, but an entire 1.7 million of them abandoned the story for the second episode, a brutal twenty percent drop in ratings. 
 
And Attack of the Cybermen was far from the only bad story of Season Twenty-Two. Pip and Jane Baker’s The Mark of the Rani, which matched the Doctor against the Master and a new villainous female Time Lord known as the Rani, was a slovenly paced mess of pompous dialogue (“Unfortunate? Fortuitous would be a more apposite epithet” is an oft-cited “classic” among fans), while Glen McCoy’s Timelash was another thoroughly misbegotten wreck in the vein of Time-Flight and The Twin Dilemma
 
It was not, of course, a season composed entirely of flops. Between Attack of the Cybermen and The Mark of the Rani, for instance, wa sVengeance on Varos, a sly satire of media violence. This was an apropos topic for Doctor Who in 1985 - indeed, it was something of a self-referential one. The rough state the program found itself was, in many ways, the product of a slow decline that started with Philip Hinchcliffe’s ouster at the behest of media campaigner Mary Whitehouse, who was still making a nuisance of herself to the BBC in the mid-80s, taking a high profile stance against Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective in spare moments from her campaign for regulation of the emerging videocassette market. And more than that, the program, under Saward, was becoming increasingly violent, and, perhaps more significantly, reveling in that violence (Attack of the Cybermen had a gruesome scene of a man having his bare hands crushed by the Cybermen, with blood running down them). So Philip Martin’s script, featuring a totalitarian government run by corporate interests that entertained the masses with slickly produced TV footage of executions, was thoroughly appropriate.
 
But these bright spots were, ultimately, not enough to prevent what was coming next. In late February 1985, roughly halfway through the season, word emerged that Doctor Who would be put on an eighteen month hiatus. This was ironic timing, coming squarely in the middle of the season’s fourth story, The Two Doctors, which brought back Patrick Troughton for an appearance opposite the new Doctor in what should have been a celebratory event. In this regard, the story’s script, by Robert Holmes, is ironically apropos. Holmes was given a laundry list of elements for his script to include, much to his frustration. And as with The Space Pirates and The Power of Kroll, Holmes responded to this frustration with cynical humor, opting to pair the increasingly graphic violence that the series was favoring with a rousing pro-vegetarianism message, with all the ironic contrasts that implies. Instead of writing Troughton’s Doctor as a comedic, clownish figure, as the character was popularly remembered, he returned to the more enigmatic and at times cantankerous performance that Troughton was giving when Holmes wrote for him way back in 1969.
 
The exact events surrounding the hiatus are somewhat murky. The public announcements were all that the show was being put on an eighteen month hiatus, to return in the autumn of 1986. But these announcements came on the heels of rumors that the show was being cancelled outright, and all of the principle characters in the drama that followed, recounting it, say that this was the original plan, and that the eighteen month hiatus was the product of hasty backtracking. Whichever the case, the decision was a damning, if unsurprising vote of no confidence in the show on the part of Michael Grade.
 
It is certainly the case that Grade had it in for the show. Much of this was simply that he did not like it. But his attacks on it resonated. The new Doctor was unlikeable, his coat was hideous, the show was exceedingly violent, and it looked embarrassingly cheap, and ratings were on the decline. But equally, it was one of several long-running shows Grade sought to eliminate. Grade, after all, was a BBC executive for the Thatcher era. He sought to distinguish himself by “modernizing” the BBC, and took to existing programs like Thatcher had to the welfare state. 
 
It does not appear, however, that Grade entirely understood the nature of Doctor Who. John Nathan-Turner had his faults, but he was a savvy self-publicist, and as soon as he started to hear the rumors that the show was being axed, he leaked the information to fan circles, ensuring that the story would make the news. The British public may have been souring on Doctor Who, but the cancellation of a twenty-two year running icon of British culture was still a newsworthy event. And whatever dissatisfaction people may have had with Doctor Who in 1985, they still by and large liked the idea of Doctor Who. Newspapers like Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun pounced on the story, eager to have a good populist campaign, and the result was that Grade was forced to announce that the show would return.
 
Part of the appeal of the story, it must be said, was the colorful nature of the Doctor Who fandom that rose up in support of the show. It’s ironic that the precipitous decline in the show’s fortunes at the BBC coincided with its peak as a piece of cult television. Over the course of the early 80s, the BBC had begun successfully selling the series to PBS stations in the United States, where it found a new and passionate audience. The cast and crew of the series traveled frequently for conventions - indeed, Nathan-Turner was returning from one of these conventions when he got word of the hiatus. Indeed, the program was a major source of profit for the BBC, although internal rules meant that the money it made in the form of merchandising and overseas sales could not be considered in assessing its value for the BBC. In the UK, the slang term for fans was “anorak,” a term that lumped them in the tradition of English eccentrics that included trainspotters and other such harmless obsessives. 
 
But equally, this meant that fans were to an extent objects of mockery, and at times they played into their own stereotypes. Unsurprisingly, one of the most visible figures in the fervor was Ian Levine, who was one of the major channels Nathan-Turner used to tip off fandom about the hiatus. But Levine was, in a public relations sense, a mixed blessing. Levine’s passion for the show was second to none - indeed, to this day he is prone to furiously taking to Twitter to decry rumors that Doctor Who might get fewer than fourteen episodes in a year, calling any such plans “evil.” And he was similarly hyperbolic in reaction to the hiatus, furiously smashing his television with a hammer for the cameras in protest at the BBC’s decision. Most infamously, Levine used his clout as a minor figure in the music industry to record a protest single called “Doctor in Distress.” The song was, in several regards, tone deaf, featuring a bevy of c-list celebrities in a cut rate imitation of Band-Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” only with a chorus of “eighteen months it too long to wait, bring back the Doctor don’t hesitate” instead of “feed the world.” 
 
In this regard, the fervor, even if it meant he couldn’t cancel Doctor Who outright, played into Grade’s hands. Grade’s common sense observation that the show was rubbish these days seemed a reasonable counterpoint to Levine’s snarl of fury as he held up his smashed television. Levine became the Arthur Scargill to his Margaret Thatcher - a political prop against which he could portray himself as a bold reformer. 
 
The final story aired before the hiatus was Eric Saward’s Revelation of the Daleks, a story that exemplified the best and the worst of Doctor Who in this era. It is a grim and violent affair, to be sure, but with a wickedly dark sense of humor underlying it. The story is a riff on Evelyn Waugh’s play The Loved Ones, with Davros operating a luxury funeral home while harvesting the dead both to create a new race of Daleks and a cheap food source for the galaxy. Directed artfully by Graham Harper, and with a particularly good cast headlined by alternative comic Alexei Sayles as a DJ for people in suspended animation, the story is a flawed and fascinating thing that it is easy to understand both why was loved and hated. 
 
The story ends with the Doctor about to proclaim where he’ll take Peri next, only for a freezeframe right before he says the destination. The line was to be “Blackpool,” the intended setting for the Season Twenty-Three debut, planned to feature the return of Hartnell-era villain the Celestial Toymaker, with a script written by Nathan-Turner’s predecessor Graham Williams. These plans, however, were scrapped in the face of the hiatus. 
 
Given that the hiatus was unquestionably a punitive measure, it would have been fair to expect that one or both of John Nathan-Turner and Eric Saward would be removed from their positions. This was not the case, however. Jonathan Powell, the BBC Head of Drama, has been blunt in recent years when explaining why. In his view, Nathan-Turner was damaged goods, unfit for any program more prestigious than the now damaged goods Doctor Who. And Nathan-Turner, for his part, kept Saward in place, despite their increasingly fractious relationship. Together, they began outlining plans for the series’ eventual return.
 
The BBC tweaked the structure of Season Twenty-Three in another vote of no confidence in the show, although they were clever enough to make sure it could be spun otherwise. For Season Twenty-Two, Doctor Who went back to airing once a week, but doubled the episode length to forty-five minutes, with the bulk of stories being two-parters with the same run time of four-parters. This meant that instead of twenty-six episodes a year, Doctor Who ran for thirteen episodes, but with the same overall number of minutes filmed as usual. Season Twenty-Three, however, reverted back to twenty-five minute episodes. The BBC, however, extended the number of episodes by one, allowing them to focus on ordering more episodes of Doctor Who instead of on the fact that the season was going to be half as long in practice.
 
Nathan-Turner and Saward decided that they were going to need a big hook for the program’s return, especially given the press attention it had gotten in the course of the hiatus. To this end, they decided to use their fourteen episodes for a single storyline, to be transmitted under the title Trial of a Time Lord. The title was obviously self-referential, and the concept was unsubtle to say the least: the Doctor is abducted by the Time Lords and put on trial for his violations of their laws. The evidence for the trial consists of a series of three four-part adventures, with episodes cutting from these adventures (which were basically normal Doctor Who stories) to the courtroom in which the sneering prosecutor, the Valeyard, points out the Doctor’s failings. These three stories would then be followed by a two-part finale resolving the events of the trial. 
 
The first four episodes were written by Robert Holmes, who was also slated to write the two-part finale. Almost immediately, things started to go badly wrong. Holmes and Saward, reacting to complaints that Season Twenty-Two had been overly violent and the Doctor overly unlikeable, consciously aimed for a more humorous tone. But when Holmes’s scripts were submitted to Jonathan Powell for approval, Powell complained that there was too much humor. Even more frustratingly, Powell was slow in turning around comments on the script, and his objections didn’t come until Holmes was supposed to be moving on to work on the finale. 
 
On top of this, Holmes was in increasingly frail health. Saward, who had become good friends with Holmes over the past few years, was accordingly protective of him, angrily pushing back against Powell’s demanded edits on the grounds that they were disrespectful to a veteran writer like Holmes. The situation was papered over with minor changes to the script, a necessity given that director Nicholas Mallett had already started work on the episodes. 
 
These four episodes were followed by four written by Philip Martin, who penned a sequel to his earlier Vengeance on Varos. This story developed hints left by Holmes in the first four episodes that the evidence against the Doctor was being manipulated, with the implication that large portions of the Doctor’s conduct in the story was being misrepresented to make him look callous and unethical. But the truth was that little actual attention was being paid to the overall storyline. When Colin Baker asked for clarification as to which parts of his performance were supposed to be the misrepresented events, he was given the runaround, with nobody being willing to make a firm decision. 
 
Part of this was that Saward’s relationship with Nathan-Turner was becoming entirely unworkable. During production on Martin’s four episodes, he left his position, leaving John Nathan-Turner as de facto script editor for the season’s final six episodes. The four episodes following Martin’s run had proven to be a difficult slot to fill, with a number of scripts falling through, and Nathan-Turner, with time running short, commissioned Pip and Jane Baker for the story. These episodes were also to introduce a new companion, replacing Nicola Bryant’s Peri, who was seemingly killed in the dramatic finale of Martin’s storyline, her death blamed by the Valeyard on the Doctor’s actions. As designed, Mel was to be a young professional computer programmer, but when casting the character Nathan-Turner decided to turn to former child actress Bonnie Langford - a choice that appalled Saward, and led to a falling out between Ian Levine and Nathan-Turner as well.
 
As tense a production as the first twelve episodes of the season were, however, they were nothing compared to the chaos of the final two. Robert Holmes completed only the first of the two final episodes before growing too ill to continue work, passing away about a month after Saward’s departure from the program. His last contribution to Doctor Who, a program he’d been associated with across three decades and to which he’d contributed numerous stories widely considered to be among the best in the program’s history, was a half-finished script trying to wrap up what was already a messy set of plot threads. 
 
Despite having decided to leave the program, Saward was convinced by Nathan-Turner to finish Holmes’s story out of respect for his friend, his one condition being that the original plot outline he and Holmes had worked out would be respected. Nathan-Turner agreed, but then grew increasingly anxious about the planned ending, which, in an homage to Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem,” featured the Doctor and the Valeyard seemingly plummeting to their death. Nathan-Turner feared that this downbeat ending would be used as a pretext for cancelling the series entirely, and ordered Saward to change it. Saward was furious, and refused to allow any alteration to Holmes’s last work. The deadlock proved unbreakable, and Saward ultimately quit, forbidding use of any part of his script for the final episode.
 
This left Nathan-Turner in a major bind. Ultimately, he turned again to Pip and Jane Baker, who were given a copy of Holmes’s script for the first episode, but who could be told nothing whatsoever about Holmes’s intended conclusion due to the circumstances of Saward’s departure. They completed a script in three days, which was hastily shot, bringing the Trial arc to an awkward and barely coherent conclusion, but to a conclusion nevertheless, which, given the sheer turmoil of its production, was something of a result in and of itself. The damage, however, had by this point been done. Ratings were lower than they had been prior to the hiatus, the new season was largely unheralded, and even the fan groups who had rallied to the series’ defense during the hiatus were growing increasingly impatient with Nathan-Turner. 
 
Nevertheless, Michael Grade renewed Doctor Who for a twenty-fourth season. However, he stipulated that Colin Baker’s contract was not to be renewed. This was a bitter disappointment for Colin Baker, for whom the role had been a lifetime dream. He had come on board the program talking about how he wanted to break Tom Baker’s record for the longest tenure in the part, and instead was sacked after two seasons, one of them half the length of a normal one. His portrayal of the part had, to be sure, been unpopular, but much of this was down to decisions that had been forced upon him, and that he’d protested, most obviously the appalling coat. 
 
 
By this time, Nathan-Turner understandably wanted off the program as well, and so the unfortunate job of informing Baker was given to him on the condition that it would be his last task as producer of Doctor Who. But once the deed had been done, Nathan-Turner was informed that the deal had been rescinded, and that he would in fact be in charge for the next series of Doctor Who. Production was slated to begin in just three months, and Nathan-Turner had neither a script editor nor a lead actor. 
 

 
The magician looked up from the tome, a wicked grin on his face. He stroked his beard idly, the flickering light of thirteen black candles dancing in his eyes.
 
“Yes, soon now. The ritual is nearly complete, the working nearly done,” he said aloud to the empty room. The final words to the spell were ready, and soon they would speed out over the ley lines of the world, a tangled web of magic and lightning. The world would change, subtly bending to his will, his vision.
 
 
More solemn now, he returned his attention to the book, and intoned the final words of the incantation...
 

 
It is important to stress that there is nothing that John Nathan-Turner or anyone else could have done to save Doctor Who. Short of the BBC deciding to support the series by actually running promotion for it, giving it a full season order again, and not leaving the program in the hands of a producer who wanted to move on but who the BBC considered too incompetent to put on a program they actually cared about, there was nothing to be done. The numerous catastrophes of the Colin Baker era were a fatal wound from which the show could not and, ultimately, did not recover. After Eric Saward’s departure, it limped on for three more years and then was cancelled, this time quietly and without an announcement. For all of this, however, the fact remains: the final three years of Doctor Who were by and large a stunning return to form for a program that had been lost in the wilderness for the last decade.
 
That said, it started out rough. Nathan-Turner’s first move was to ensure that there would actually be a first story. Given the extremely tight timeframe, he turned once more to Pip and Jane Baker, who had provided scripts in a hurry for Trial of a Time Lord, and so were asked to do so again, reincorporating the character of the Rani, who they’d introduced in their first story. The initial commission was for a story featuring Colin Baker, with the plan being to regenerate him at the end of the story. Colin Baker, however, was understandably furious at his treatment, and flatly refused to return, requiring a rewrite to the new Doctor, with the Sixth Doctor regenerating in a pre-credits sequence due to, apparently, hitting his head on the TARDIS console during a crash landing, with Colin Baker’s absence being handled by putting the incoming Sylvester McCoy in a wig and Colin Baker’s infamous coat, to mixed effect, given that the coat was several sizes too large for him. 
 
McCoy had been identified by Nathan-Turner as his first choice for the new Doctor on the same day that Colin Baker made his final decision not to return, when he went to see a performance of The Pied Piper on the advice of two separate friends, both of whom suggested that an actor appearing in the production, namely McCoy, would make an ideal Doctor. Although he initially feared that this was a set-up orchestrated by an overly eager actor, upon seeing McCoy in the play, agreed that he’d be perfect. Jonathan Powell, however, was wary of the choice, feeling that McCoy was too much of an unknown, and pushed Nathan-Turner to continue the search. Nathan-Turner obliged, but after a nearly two month search determined that McCoy really was the best candidate, and offered him the job in late Feburary.
 
McCoy, whose real name was Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith, had gotten his start performing in the Ken Campbell Roadshow, a touring troupe created by experimental comedian Ken Campbell (who McCoy in fact beat out for the role of the Doctor) with the intention of doing performances in unconventional theatrical venues such as pubs. While performing with the troupe, Kent-Smith played a character named Sylveste McCoy, appearing in the program as being played by “Sylveste McCoy,” adopting the name (with an added r) as his stage name after a journalist failed to pick up on the joke. McCoy’s career when he took the part of the Doctor had spanned a decade, but largely as an eternal journeyman, and Doctor Who was by some margin the biggest role he’d gotten.
 
All that remained, then, was to find a script editor. For this, he turned to Andrew Cartmel, a young writer who memorably, in his job interview, answered Nathan-Turner’s question about what he’d like to do with the program with, “bring down the government.” (Nathan-Turner noted that this was admirable, but over-ambitious.) Cartmel had come up through the BBC’s own Drama Script Unit, and was eager to bring new blood in to write for the program. Indeed, Time and the Rani, which Cartmel openly (and not without reason) despised as a script, was the only story of Cartmel’s tenure to be written by someone who had worked under any previous script editor.
 
McCoy’s second story was also commissioned by Nathan-Turner prior to Cartmel’s hiring. But unlike with Time and the Rani, Cartmel had time to shape this script, pushing writer Stephen Wyatt away from his initial more serious proposal and towards something more in line with his dark comedy Claws. The resulting script was Paradise Towers, one of the strangest stories in the entirety of Doctor Who. Although it shares the somewhat tawdry cheapness of much of the Colin Baker era, and is somewhat hampered by an overly hammy performance by veteran actor Richard Biers, who openly admitted to taking the part so that he could have an opportunity to act badly, the underlying script is nevertheless something of a landmark for Doctor Who. For one thing, it is the first script in some time to contain absolutely no continuity references to previous stories, a mark of the way that the program had moved beyond Ian Levine’s influence.
 
But even more important were the themes of the story. Paradise Towers was a bitingly satirical story about the horrors of modernist architecture. With a heavy debt to J.G. Ballard’s novel High Rise, the story featured a sci-fi version of the familiar British setting of the tower block apartment, with its strange combination of architectural brilliance and a complete lack of any consideration for the human beings who would be living there. Paradise Towers tells the story of a crumbling apartment complex overrun by youth gangs, where the elderly residents have started turning to cannibalism, and the cleaning robots have started to eat people. It’s an utterly bizarre story that, given its low production values, often looks like a children’s pantomime adaptation of J.G. Ballard. But equally, there’s no other show on television that could possibly do children’s panto J.G. Ballard besides Doctor Who, and for all the story’s flaws, it has an energy and ambition that had been sorely lacking from most of the previous two seasons.
 
The remaining two stories of Season Twenty-Four used a format previously untried in Doctor Who, in that they were three episodes in length. (A single Hartnell-era story, Planet of Giants, was three episodes in length, but was filmed as a four episode story and then re-edited when it was deemed to be dragging, whereas these were always intended as three-parters.) As with most innovation in Doctor Who, this was born largely out of necessity. A typical Doctor Who story in the 1980s was a combination of studio and location shoots. But the continual reduction of the budget for the series meant that to get a fourth story made Nathan-Turner had to split the budget for a single six part story in two, using the studio shoot for one three episode story and the location shoot for another, with the same director for both. And so Malcolm Kohll’s Delta and the Bannermen, a tale of galactic bounty hunters, bee princesses, and 1950s Welsh holiday camps, was shot entirely on location, while Ian Briggs’s Dragonfire, a sly pastiche of cinematic history and film theory used only studio sets. 
 
This latter story served as a transition for the cast as well, writing out Bonnie Langford’s Mel and replacing her with a new companion named Ace. Played by Sophie Aldred, Ace was a London teenager who, improbably, caused a time storm in her chemistry class and found herself swept away to a futuristic alien world, where she eventually encountered the Doctor, who offered to give her a lift home via the scenic route. The character was in many regards blatantly an adult’s idea of what a hip teenager would be like, with her use of slang awkwardly dated, but Aldred played the part with a wide-eyed enthusiasm that made Ace’s penchant for home-made explosives and outraged indignation thoroughly charming. 
 
Better still was her chemistry with Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor, which was rapidly developing as well. McCoy had considerable experience with broad physical comedy, but quickly developed a strong instinct for balancing this out with a more understated performance, so that his Doctor had a slight melancholy that his predecessors had largely lacked. His more restrained performance gave his Doctor a worldliness that had been lacking in Colin Baker’s bombastic performance, so that he seemed like a slightly odd man one could imagine meeting on the street, as opposed to a self-evident eccentric. The two also got along well with Andrew Cartmel, whose counterculture leanings they shared. As Nathan-Turner had predicted, Cartmel proved unable to bring down Margaret Thatcher’s government via Doctor Who, but there was a sly rebelliousness to the program, as evinced by the fact that writers like J.G. Ballard were suddenly major influences, and by titles like Delta and the Bannermen, which consciously evoked the classic new wave outfit Echo and the Bunnymen, whose self-titled fifth album peaked at number four that year.
 
One of Cartmel’s most explicit influences was the British comic book writer Alan Moore, who was having the biggest success of his storied career at the time with Watchmen, a twelve-issue limited series with American publisher DC Comics. Moore had made a career for himself, starting in the lowest trenches of the British comics industry (his first gig as a writer, in fact, was a couple of backup strips in the early days of Doctor Who Magazine) before making his way to massive success in the US, with a reputation built on reworking existing franchises in innovative ways that respected existing continuity while remaining accessible and attractive to new audiences. Indeed, Cartmel was sufficiently impressed by Moore’s work that he contacted him to see if he would be interested in writing a story for the program’s twenty-fifth anniversary, although Moore declined, citing a dislike for the program after William Hartnell’s departure. (Ace’s leather bomber jacket, in fact, had as one of its decorations a Watchmen pin, alongside two Blue Peter badges, both earned by Aldred herself, who had lifelong ambitions of becoming a Blue Peter presenter. The fact that Ace’s jacket includes references both to a mature audiences American graphic novel and a pair of badges handed out by a children’s show that was actually older than Doctor Who itself serves, in many ways, as a perfect summation of the character’s fascinating contradictions.) 
 
All the same, Moore’s influence hangs over the first story of Season Twenty-Five, Ben Aaronovich’s Remembrance of the Daleks. Simply describing this story does not entirely do it justice, or, at least, makes it sound unsettlingly like a retread of the disastrous much of continuity that constituted Attack of the Cybermen three seasons earlier. The story features the Doctor and Ace returning to Coal Hill School in the 1960s (a setting that also appeared in Attack of the Cybermen, in fact) where it transpires that, prior to the events of An Unearthly Child the Doctor hid the Hand of Omega, a Time Lord superweapon he apparently stole while leaving Gallifrey. Over the course of the story they defend the weapon from two rival factions of Daleks (a plot line inherited from Eric Saward’s two Dalek stories), before allowing Davros to take the weapon so the Doctor can trick him into blowing up Skaro itself with it. 
 
But as tangled as this sounds on paper, the actual story is a remarkably coherent piece. The rival Dalek factions, which had been a muddy plot point at best in Saward’s two stories, but in Remembrance of the Daleks it’s made relatively clear, with Ace memorably summarizing the conflict up, saying, “Renegade Daleks are blobs… Imperial Daleks are bionic blobs with bits added. You can tell that Daleks are into racial purity. So, one lot of Daleks reckon the other lot of blobs are too different,” an explanation that highlights the way in which the story focuses its epic sweep through a clear-cut thematic lens of racism. The Coal Hill School setting invokes the series’ beginning, but it’s just the iconography being used, giving the story a sense of weight and gravitas. Sensibly, as much effort is spent on small character moments, giving the story a firm grounding in day-to-day life despite its epic battles and ancient weapons. Even the Time Lord superweapon largely works, offering more questions about the Doctor’s origins than it does answers, especially when one takes into account a scene shot but ultimately removed from the final episode in which the Doctor cryptically claims to be “far more than just another Time Lord.” Indeed, the story is far more than merely “coherent” - it is easily the best Doctor Who story since Peter Davison’s swansong, and one of the all-time classics of the series.
 
Andrew Cartmel, at least, knew well how good Remembrance of the Daleks was, taking the somewhat insolent step of, when screening it for the new Head of Drama, Mark Shivas, rewinding a scene because Shivas took a phone call during it so as to make sure he saw a bit Cartmel was particularly proud of. This scene, in which Ace is shocked to find a “No Coloureds” sign hanging in the window of the house she’s boarding in, was, Shivas agreed, a highlight, although Shivas argued, not unreasonably, that Ace should have ripped the sign up. But while the BBC executives may have agreed that the series had improved considerably in the year since Cartmel’s arrival, this didn’t translate to any increased promotion for the show, and Remembrance of the Daleks debuted in October of 1988 with a paltry 5.5 million viewers. This was, it should be stressed, in spite of the fact that the idea of Doctor Who was still popular. Indeed, just five months earlier a band called the Timelords hit number one with a novelty single called “Doctorin’ the TARDIS” that mashed up samples of Daleks, the Doctor Who theme, and Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll (Part Two)” into an endearingly cheesy pop song. (The Timelords were in fact acid house provocateurs the JAMs/the KLF, who wrote their infamous book The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), a guidebook to getting a number one hit without the application of money or talent, about the recording of the song.) Nevertheless, the BBC continued to show little interest in trying to reverse the program’s fortunes.
 
That said, the program had also not entirely shaken off its knack for shooting itself in the foot. The entirety of Season Twenty-Five was built in order to get the story selected as the Twenty-Fifth anniversary special to air on November 23rd, the precise anniversary date, on which it was set. But that story, Silver Nemesis, was in practice the weakest of the season - the all-location shot one of the two three-parters, which featured a dumbed down version of the plot of Remembrance of the Daleks and an appearance of the Cybermen on the logic that twenty-five is the silver anniversary and the Cybermen are silver, as opposed to because they particularly fit with the plot. But this was the only real disappointment of the Twenty-Fifth season, which also featured an enthusiastic anti-Thatcher satire called The Happiness Patrol that got away with its blatant parody of the Prime Minister by having an even more blatant parody of candy mascot Bertie Bassett as well, and a mournful story about old hippies and fading glory called The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
 
These stories also further developed the character of the Seventh Doctor, who was shaping up to be a very different creature from his predecessors. In marked contrast to the random wanderings of the Hartnell and Troughton eras, the Seventh Doctor generally landed his TARDIS where he meant to. In The Happiness Patrol, he has explicitly chosen to investigate a specific human colony after hearing disturbing rumors, and in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy he, when facing down the evil Gods of Ragnarok, he proclaims that he’s fought them “all through time,” implying that this too was a fight he chose to have. More striking, however, are Silver Nemesis and Remembrance of the Daleks, whose plots hinge on the revelation that the Doctor has been planning for the adventure for years, with the television story simply being the culmination of his plans. (Although, it must be said, these plans generally culminate by going completely off the rails and requiring the Doctor to think of something clever in a hurry to save the day instead.) 
 
Despite the BBC’s general lack of faith in the program, Doctor Who was renewed for a twenty-sixth season, with John Nathan-Turner, against his wishes, still in charge of the program due to the BBC’s absolute refusal to give him any other work. By and large, the program kept the faith for this season, continuing to explore the interesting directions it had been laying out for itself the two previous years. In a nod towards the ways in which McCoy’s Doctor was increasingly becoming a somewhat ominously manipulative figure, his costume was altered, replacing the cream-colored jacket he’d worn for his first two seasons with a deep brown coat to better suit his darker nature. This costume made its debut in Battlefield, a story based on a pitch Ben Aaronovich (who was increasingly becoming Cartmel’s protege) had been working on for the previous story before he was asked to write a Dalek story instead. 
 
Like Remembrance of the Daleks before it, Battlefield was based around revisiting past elements of the series from a new perspective, this time reworking UNIT, the military organization that the Third Doctor worked for, into a modern day task force that lived up to its supposedly international billing. Featuring a final return of Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (appearing opposite his sixth Doctor), the story melded UNIT with Arthurian legend, revealing King Arthur to, in classic Doctor Who style, in fact be from another dimension. In a particularly inventive move, Aaronovich revealed that the Doctor was in fact Merlin, or, rather, that he would be, with the events of the story being revealed, in a clever twist on the usual Seventh Doctor setup, a plan that the Doctor was going to put in place in some unspecified future regeneration. As with Remembrance of the Daleks, all of this was wrapped up in a straightforward moralistic political message, this time about nuclear proliferation instead of racism.
 
It is not a perfect story by any measure - Aaronovich had originally pitched it as a three-parter to be shot entirely on location, only to be asked to expand it to four parts, which resulted in a story that drags in places. Then, on top of that, a problem common to Cartmel-era stories struck, as it turned out that the episodes overran, resulting in messy cuts to them. Add in some missteps, both in direction and performance, and you have a story that’s understandably viewed as one of the weaker ones in its era. But this speaks more to the overall quality of the era, and in spite of its flaws, Battlefield is a fascinating and innovative story. Unfortunately, despite being the season premiere, it was basically given no promotion whatsoever on the BBC, and its first episode pulled a dismal 3.1 million viewers, the all-time lowest audience of any Doctor Who episode in the program’s history. This made it all but inevitable that Season Twenty-Six would be the program’s last.
 
Before its quiet cancellation, however, Doctor Who aired a trio of stories, all of them solid classics. The first was Ghost Light, by Marc Platt. Platt was a longtime Doctor Who fan who had been trying to get commissioned since 1976, and Ghost Light was in fact a tamed down version of a pitch he made called Lungbarrow that would have returned to the Doctor’s ancestral home on Gallifrey, in a haunted house mashup of Doctor Who and Mervyn Peake’s Gormeghast series. Cartmel and Nathan-Turner liked the idea, but were concerned that it gave too many revelations about the Doctor’s nature and origin, and so instructed Platt to rework the story to be about a Victorian haunted house instead of a Gallifreyan one.
 
The resulting story is a strange one, accused by some Doctor Who fans of not actually making any sense. This overstates the case considerably, but it’s true that Ghost Light is a dense piece that’s unusually inclined to reveal significant pieces of exposition through implication and asides as opposed to through lengthy scenes of the Doctor explaining the plot. But with a complex set of themes including a satire of British imperialism and the emergence of the theory of evolution, a certain degree of allusiveness and subtlety is in order, and the story moves with a sense of calm panache helped by the fact that the BBC can do Victorian period pieces in their sleep. Most notable, however, is the focus on Ace - the haunted house is one that she burnt down as a teenager, and the Doctor deliberately takes her to the house to confront her fears, giving the story an intimate intensity the likes of which had never been seen in Doctor Who’s first quarter-century.
 
These tendencies were played up even further in the third story of the season, The Curse of Fenric, which brought back Ace’s creator, Ian Briggs, for a vampire story that served as Doctor Who’s first-ever foray into the World War II era. The Curse of Fenric combines Norse mythology with computer science in a way that is almost entirely lacking in any trace of scientific accuracy, but that is nevertheless a compelling framework for a story of growing menace as an ancient threat slowly stirs and awakens. Of the stories to explore the idea of the Doctor as a manipulative figure whose adventures are the culmination of long-standing plans, none go further than The Curse of Fenric, where events turn out to be the last act of a millennia-spanning battle between the Doctor and Fenric, an evil force from the dawn of time that the Doctor tricked and bound once before, but that, in classic Doctor Who fashion, now threatens to rise again. But once again it is Ace who ends up stealing the show, with a magnificent climax in which the Doctor has to break her faith in him in order to stop her from accidentally thwarting his plan. And so the Doctor reveals that Fenric had been manipulating her all along - that it had been Fenric who caused the time storm that took her away to Ice World in Dragonfire, and that she was always part of Fenric’s trap, dismissing her as an “emotional cripple” and saying, “I wouldn't waste my time on her, unless I had to use her somehow,” and then having to comfort her and apologize for his cruelty. As with Ghost Light before it, this sequence gave the story an emotional depth that was at the time unprecedented in the history of Doctor Who.
 
The final story of Doctor Who’s original twenty-six year run was Survival, by Rona Munro, who became only the second solo female writer of Doctor Who (the only previous one being Barbara Clegg, who wrote Enlightenment for Peter Davison’s second series). The story shares the theme of evolution explored by Ghost Light, but takes it in the direction of critiquing the social Darwinism that increasingly served as the moral foundation of Thatcherism by suggesting that the winner of a conflict is inherently deserving by virtue of being the most fit and powerful. 
 
But as with the other successes of Season Twenty-Six, these themes were played out over a complex backdrop of images. The story once again broke new territory in characterizing the companion, returning to Ace’s hometown of Perivale, a dull London suburb that it’s immediately obvious why she was so eager to leave. Nevertheless, it marks the first time that the series ever substantively explored a companion’s home life, and is all the more interesting given that Ace does not leave the TARDIS at the end of the story. On top of that is the return of the Master in Anthony Ainley’s last hurrah in the part and a story of people transforming into cat people and a planet literally being torn apart by war. It’s another tour de force that rounds off a fantastic run of stories and one of the unequivocal great eras of Doctor Who’s history.
 
Its final episode, on December 6th, 1989, also marked the end of Doctor Who’s initial run on television, a run that is these days generally referred to as the classic series. The BBC quietly pulled the plug on the program, having learned from experience what comes of making a big fuss of its cancellation. It also marked the functional end of John Nathan-Turner’s television career, as the BBC, having repeatedly refused him any assignments other than Doctor Who, were unsurprisingly disinclined to give him new work. He remained in charge of the program’s VHS line, where he produced a smattering of compilation tapes that saw the release of several “orphan” episodes of 1960s stories where most but not all of the episodes had been destroyed by the BBC, and produced a comedy sketch called Dimensions in Time for the 30th anniversary of the program, in which the surviving actors to play the Doctor crossed over with the hit BBC soap EastEnders. This production marked the last gasp of the original Doctor Who production office that had been created in 1963.
 
 
It was not that the BBC had no interest in producing Doctor Who. The corporation was now under the control of John Birt, who, in proper Thatcherist fashion, sought to privatize production where possible, with the BBC seeking independent companies to produce dramas for it. And for all its recent failings, Doctor Who was viewed as a particularly promising candidate for such treatment, especially given the likely international success that it could bring. The problem was that there were too many people interested in bringing the program back, and many production companies that did not actually have the resources to mount a production of Doctor Who were nevertheless well aware that rumors of a new series of Doctor Who would get press attention. The result was a seven year period in which numerous revivals were teased and rumored, only to come to nothing. Eventually, in 1996, the program did come back, albeit exceedingly briefly. But this seven year gap was not devoid of new Doctor Who. Indeed, despite the lack of an actual television show, the early 1990s are, in many key regards, as vital and influential an era of the program’s history as exists.
 

 
Still nothing, thought Ace.  She half-turned to the Doctor, sitting to her left, and whispered
 
"I'm starting to suspect you never met Alan Moore at all, Professor."
 
"I'm sure it's in here somewhere," replied the Doctor.  It closed, with a satisfying thud.  "Ace, see if you can find the index.  Or if that's too heavy, the index to the index."
 
But Ace's attention had already shifted to the nearby shelves, full of genre books for loan.  Including books he didn't keep on the TARDIS.  Perhaps picking this desk had been a mistake, handy though it was for the reference section.
 
"Ooh," said Ace.  "Is this another Rincewind book?  It's by the same bloke.  But who's this Neil Gaiman guy?"
 
Definitely a mistake.
 
 
"I've found it " he exclaimed. "Listen, Chapter LXIV: The Weeds of Northampton.
 

 
Doctor Who’s survival in the early 1990s is almost entirely due to the 1973 decision to award Target Books a license to produce novelizations of Doctor Who stories. These novelizations were beloved objects for fans, especially in the years before the home video market made revisiting past stories possible. But by the late 1980s, the novelization project was coming to a natural and inevitable end, due simply to the fact that all of the stories had, by that point, been novelized. In March of 1990, Terrance Dicks’s adaptation of Robert Holmes’s second story, the 1969 serial The Space Pirates, marked the last classic series story with a straightforward rights situation (a quartet of Dalek stories and the three stories penned by Douglas Adams remained unadapted), and in July of 1991 the last of the Sylvester McCoy stories came out as Marc Platt adapted Ben Aaronovich’s Battlefield.
 
These McCoy stories, however, had quietly brought a new sense of vigor to the line. Many of the later novelizations of 1960s stories were somewhat flat affairs, in no small part because the remaining stories were the ones that few people were particularly clamoring for. But the late 1980s stories, often adapted by their original writers, were different affairs entirely. Many of the writers Cartmel brought on to Doctor Who had been of the right age to watch the show growing up, and for them the novelizations were a beloved tradition, as well as an opportunity to tinker with their stories to take advantage of things that couldn’t be done on television. And so Ian Briggs’s novelization of The Curse of Fenric made somewhat more explicit a homoerotic subtext between two characters, while Marc Platt’s take on Battlefield expanded the idea of the Doctor eventually becoming Merlin. Perhaps the most notable, however, was Ben Aaronovich’s adaptation of Remembrance of the Daleks, which went to considerable lengths to expand on the characterization and backstory. Most notable was the extension to the implied Gallifreyan lore of that story, introducing the idea that in addition to the legendary Time Lords Rassilon (introduced in Robert Holmes’s The Deadly Assassin) and Omega (from Bob Baker and David Martin’s The Three Doctors) there was a third crucial figure in the creation of the Time Lords known simply as the Other. 
 
And so between the fact that the books were generally getting better and more mature and the fact that there weren’t actually any new stories to novelize, line editor Peter Darvill-Evans hit upon the idea of creating original Doctor Who fiction that picked up where Survival left off. This line was to be called the New Adventures, and was published not under the Target imprint, but under the auspices of its new corporate owner, Virgin Publication, leading to the usual term of reference for the line, the Virgin New Adventures. This line began in June of 1991, approximately eighteen months after the program’s cancellation, and continued until May of 1997, a year after the program’s ill-fated return to television. 
 
It may seem strange to put such emphasis on a series of tie-in novels. Other science fiction series have produced such lines, after all, and few people speak passionately of the equivalent book series for Star Trek or The X-Files. But a look at the roster of writers for the Virgin New Adventures quickly reveals the reason why they are such a crucial period in the history of Doctor Who. They do not merely feature past television writers, although Terrance Dicks, along with McCoy-era writers Marc Platt, Ben Aaronovich, and Andrew Cartmel himself made substantial contributions to the line. It is also the list of new writers that the novels brought to Doctor Who, a list that includes Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts, Matthew Jones, Paul Cornell, Steven Moffat, and Russell T Davies, with many of them making their first professional fiction sale to Virgin Publishing. Indeed, between the presence of these writers and of the major creative personnel of the last few years of the television program, the Virgin New Adventures line serves, in numerous regards, as the missing link between the classic series and the Doctor Who of the present day. 
 
For all of this, however, things did not exactly start promisingly. The first four books, published every other month, formed a quartet of stories known as the Timewyrm arc. The first of these, Timewyrm: Genesys, with its two ys dating it hopelessly to the early 1990s, was by John Peel, a longtime contributor to the Target line known best for his willingness to write adaptations of Terry Nation’s Dalek stories despite the fact that Nation collected a substantial portion of the money paid for such books. The book is, bluntly, dire. Peel took the mandate that the books were to be written for adult audiences painfully literally, sprinkling his story with sex and nudity, including a spectacularly awful sequence in which the Doctor chastises Ace for her reticence to let the ancient hero Gilgamesh feel her up, scolding her for her insistence on holding to late 20th century morality. This jaw-droppingly ill-advised endorsement of sexual assault is the book’s worst moment, but speaks to its blandly puerile sense of what Doctor Who for adults is capable of being.
 
More exciting was the second book in the series, Timewyrm: Exodus, by Terrance Dicks. Dicks had written sixty-four of the Target novelizations, all of them in a straightforward but engaging prose style that enthralled countless British children over the years. Dicks’s novels, like his television stories, were generally classic, old-fashioned adventure yarns with clear senses of good and evil, and Timewyrm: Exodus is no exception. But Dicks tok advantage of the “for adults” mandate of the Virgin line to push himself further than he ever had before. Much of the book is set in an altered history in which Germany triumphed in World War II, and Dicks paints a bleak and uncompromising vision of exactly what was evil about the Nazis, wringing impressive horror out of their petty sadism while simultaneously knocking together a satisfying adventure that makes deft use of Doctor Who continuity. 
 
It was, however, the fourth book in the line, Paul Cornell’s Timewyrm: Revelation, with which everything changed forever. The first three New Adventures were all relatively traditional Doctor Who stories with some more mature themes and a sense of scale that took advantage of the fact that typing the phrase “a massive army” is much cheaper than filming one. But Timewyrm: Revelation is completely unlike anything that had previously been attempted within Doctor Who, and nearly a quarter century later, it still feels radical and inventive. The bulk of the story takes place inside the Doctor’s mind, where the eponymous and villainous Timewyrm (a fairly generic time-traveling telepathic cybernetic snake) had taken root. The result is the first time in which a story has hinged on the Doctor’s internal psyche. 
 
But more important than the basic fact that Cornell engages with this is the sheer ambition with which he does. The Doctor’s psyche is portrayed as an at times nightmarish dreamscape in which his past selves reside, often contentiously. The story’s resolution comes as Ace (who is also extremely well served by Cornell’s writing, holding down an extensive subplot in which the Timewyrm brings back her childhood bully to murder her) frees the Fifth Doctor, who had been imprisoned in the Doctor’s mind for refusing to help fight the Timewyrm, and who represents the Doctor’s conscience, thus allowing the Doctor to come up with a different, more merciful way of fighting the Timewyrm than simply, as he initially planned, destroying it. 
 
All of this could have been profoundly overblown, and the fact that Timewyrm: Revelation began life as a piece of fanfiction before Cornell polished it into a novel makes the warning signs seem all the more ominous. But like the Sylvester McCoy era it follows, Timewyrm: Revelation works in a large part because it stays focused on small character moments. Ace’s subplot of facing her childhood bully is emblematic in this regard: a storyline that has both epic bluster (the Timewyrm turns the bully loose on Ace’s timestream so he can kill her again and again in the past) and bracingly personal. For all its ambition, Cornell’s book hones in on an idyllic vision of a pastoral Britain, set around a psychic church in a tiny English village, and paying as much attention to the day-to-day lives of the parishioners as it does to the epic battle with a time-travelling Mesopotamian snake goddess. The result was a story with more pathos and drama than anything Doctor Who had ever tried before. 
 
The Timewyrm cycle was followed by a set of three books under the header Cat’s Cradle. The first two of these were by Marc Platt and Andrew Cartmel, and served to establish the line’s close connection with the television era it followed. Platt’s book, Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible, drew heavily on the elaborate revamp of Doctor Who mythology that he had pitched for the story that eventually became Ghost Light, revealing numerous secrets of ancient Gallifrey and revelations about how the Time Lords gained mastery over time travel, including significant development of the idea of the Other that Ben Aaronovich had introduced in his novelization of Remembrance of the Daleks. This would prove to be one of the distinguishing feature of the New Adventures - an expansive version of Doctor Who mythology and continuity that no other version of the series ever embraced (although equally, it’s not been contradicted as such either). Its key tenets are the mysterious Other, always hinted to have something to do with the Doctor, and the idea that the Time Lords were cursed in the days of ancient Gallifrey such that they can only reproduce via the technology of “looms.” The existence of sequences like the cut “far more than just another Time Lord” scene in Remembrance of the Daleks led many fans at the time to assume that this mythology consisted primarily of revelations that never made it to screen because of the series’ cancellation, such that the details of the mythos, which were slowly revealed over the course of the Virgin New Adventures, came to be known as the “Cartmel Masterplan.”
 
Hindsight reveals this to be a misleading name - for one thing, the details of the mythos were largely established after the series’ cancellation. For another, Andrew Cartmel had little to do with it, with Marc Platt being the main architect of it. Cartmel, for his part, took Doctor Who in a very different direction. He wrote a total of three novels for Virgin, which formed a self-contained trilogy with few connections to larger continuity. Even the first one, Cat’s Cradle: Warhead has relatively little to do with the larger Cat’s Cradle plot. Instead they are ecological-minded thrillers that owe a major debt to the then-popular cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction. Indeed, Cartmel was never that interested in the overarching mythology of Doctor Who in the first place, and his Virgin books demonstrate that, keeping their focus on using Doctor Who as a platform for science fiction stories, as opposed to on exploring Doctor Who-specific ideas. Indeed, all three of Cartmel’s New Adventures have lengthy sections in which the Doctor is sidelined, giving all of them a sense of being straightforward science fiction novels into which the Doctor has been inserted. 
 
After the Cat’s Cradle trilogy, Virgin shifted away from linked series and towards stand-alone novels, the first of which was Nightshade, the debut novel of writer/actor Mark Gatiss who, like Cornell, would go on to have a long association with the series. As with much of Gatiss’s work, Nightshade is an unabashedly nostalgic piece - a horror story with numerous homages to the 1950s Quatermass serials - but this nostalgia is combined with strong characterization, leading to another well-regarded book. But it was almost immediately outshone by the ninth installment of the line, Love and War, which was one of the most transformative books in the line’s history. 
 
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Love and War was also by Paul Cornell, making him the first writer to return for a second book. On the surface, at least, Love and War is a smaller and less ambitious novel than Timewyrm: Revelation. Instead of the Doctor fighting a legendary monster within his own mind, the Doctor is confronting a fairly generic alien threat, the Hoothi, who date back to a throwaway line in Robert Holmes and Terrance Dicks’s The Brain of Morbius. But while the ostensible stakes are lower, Love and War is far more radical in its implications. For one thing, it takes a bold step forward and alters the TARDIS crew, introducing a new companion in the form of Bernice Summerfield, more often known as Benny, a futuristic archeologist. Benny would go on to be the defining companion of the Virgin era in the same way that Ace was of the televised McCoy era and Jo Grant was of the Jon Pertwee era, appearing in more than three quarters of the New Adventures. And this is not a surprise - Benny is a wonderful character. She’s wry, sarcastic, capable of calling out both the Doctor and, in some ways more importantly, making snarky comments about the genre conventions of Doctor Who
 
But while the introduction of Benny would have profound effects on the future of the series, it was far from the most radical thing about Love and War, a book that also, at least temporarily, wrote Ace out of the series. This is not in and of itself surprising - by the time the book came out in October of 1992, Ace had been the current companion for nearly five years, a record long run for a single companion. Concluding that it was time for a change and that they should introduce a new companion was a brave but largely sensible move on Virgin’s part. More shocking, however, was the manner of her departure. In the course of the story, Ace takes a character named Jan as a lover, only to have the Doctor consciously and deliberately sacrifice Jan’s life for a crucial tactical advantage against the Hoothi. Ace, enraged at the betrayal, storms out of the TARDIS in fury. It’s an astonishingly powerful and emotional ending, not least because the on-screen chemistry between Ace and the Seventh Doctor had been among the most vibrant in the series’ history, which made the acrimony of her departure sting all the more. 
 
Although Benny was taken on as the new companion, this had actually been a relatively late decision, and two of Benny’s first three books as companion had, in their initial outlines, been pitched with an eye towards introducing potential new companions. The most significant of these was Ben Aaronovich’s Transit, which introduced a futuristic descendent of the Brigadier, Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart, who, although she did not stay as a regular companion, became a recurring character throughout the Virgin era. Indeed, the decision to use Benny as a companion came so late that Aaronovich, in writing Transit, basically had to sideline her for the entire story, having her be possessed by the villain for the bulk of the novel.
 
But Transit is also notable for pushing one aspect of the Virgin New Adventures as far as it would ultimately ever go, namely the “for adults” nature of them. Like his mentor’s first novel for the line, Aaronovich’s novel fit into the then-popular subgenre of cyberpunk. This style of science fiction had two major focuses. The first was an investment in thinking about the potential implications of computer technology on the world. This was a significant shift for science fiction. It’s often been noted that, in hindsight, one of the most distinctive features of science fiction prior to the 1980s is its near complete failure to imagine digital computers. Numerous Doctor Who stories from the 60s and 70s feature futuristic worlds that are still using magnetic tapes and other analog technology, and there’s next to nothing in the series that anticipates the development of the Internet or anything like it. Cyberpunk, both Cat’s Cradle: Warhead and Transit included, was about starting to incorporate that into what science fiction could do.
 
This sense of breaking from the existing science fiction tradition was reflected in cyberpunk’s general attitude, which was, as its name suggests, brash and confrontational. Cyberpunk heroes were often anti-authoritarian hackers, and the genre was heavily influenced by noir, with its depiction of the seedier side of life. Transit was, in this regard, no exception, featuring considerably more profanity and sex than any Doctor Who story before or since, including an infamous sequence in which a prostitute reflected upon the taste of semen. Indeed, Transit ended up going too far, and although the New Adventures remained willing to explore adult themes, the BBC subsequently demanded that Virgin show more restraint.
 
While its frequent inclusion of adult content became a major part of the Virgin New Adventures’ reputation, it would be misleading to suggest that the line consisted entirely of books featuring sex and swearing. Indeed, the book after Transit was almost the complete opposite. Written by another debutant writer, Gareth Roberts, The Highest Science was a comedy-heavy book that actively rejected the shift towards having the Doctor be a manipulative chessmaster, having him muse on how he missed the good old days of just blundering in and having adventures. Featuring one of the Virgin era’s most memorable creations, a race of turtle aliens called the Chelonians, the book was a fan favorite, and Gareth Roberts, like Mark Gatiss and Paul Cornell before him, went on to have a decades-long engagement with the series. The book was also notable for another reason, however - it marked the point where the New Adventures, due to their success, went from coming out every other month to coming out monthly.
 
Despite the impressive quality of her departure, the plan was always to bring Ace back, a return that was accomplished in a book by line-editor Peter Darvill-Evans called Deceit. There was, however, a significant twist - when the Doctor next meets Ace, she’s three years older, and has just completed a stint in the space marines fighting Daleks. (The Daleks themselves never appear - indeed, the Virgin era is completely devoid of them, as the rights were separately owned by Terry Nation, with whom Virgin was unable to agree upon terms for their use.) And though she agreed to resume her travels with the Doctor, it was revealed in the very next novel, Lucifer Rising, that she did so in part to complete a freelance mission she undertook for the Interplanetary Mining Corporation (the main antagonists in Malcolm Hulke’s 1971 Colony in Space), a development that suggested that Ace had, in her own way, become as callous and manipulative as the Doctor, despite her anger at him.
 
This anger continued to be a major theme in the books for most of the year after Ace’s return, finally resolving over the course of a five-book arc (unlike Timewyrm and Cat’s Cradle, never explicitly branded as such) dealing with the theme of alternate universes. The arc concluded, unsurprisingly, with a Paul Cornell novel called No Future in which he resolved most of the tensions among the TARDIS crew. Despite an endearing plot that involved a team-up of three relatively minor Doctor Who villains, two of them from famously wretched stories, the book was something of a misstep for Cornell, who has subsequently noted his own displeasure with it. Indeed, the alternate universe arc is more notable for its third book, The Left-Handed Hummingbird, by another debut author, Kate Orman.
 
Unlike many of the other notable authors for the Virgin line, Kate Orman did not go on to write for the 2005 revival series of Doctor Who. Indeed, her involvement with Doctor Who largely tapered off after the late 1990s. Nevertheless, she is one of the most important figures of the era. Part of this is simply due to the volume of her work: she wrote five New Adventures on her own, and co-authored a sixth, making her the most prolific writer of the range. She is also, in many regards, the writer whose style was closest to the default tone of the New Adventures. Her books were unafraid of grappling with adult themes (The Left-Handed Hummingbird caused some controversy due to sequences in which the Doctor took LSD in order to try to understand the villainous psychic power he was fighting), but were also suffused with humanity and warmth - one of her later novels, for instance, had the Doctor decide to spend time as a porter in a hospice, a small and mundane moment that nevertheless provides tremendous depth of characterization. This tendency towards romanticism was memorably encapsulated by a letter Gareth Roberts wrote to Orman following The Left-Handed Hummingbird congratulating her on the book, which he ended with the rallying cry “more frocks, less guns.” 
 
This distinction would eventually become an oft-debated distinction within Doctor Who fandom, and even one that was explicitly acknowledged in a couple of books through sly dialogue. “Gun” stories were action-heavy and serious-minded, whereas “frock” stories were often silly, romantic, and prone to embracing the often camp history of Doctor Who. In practice, the distinction was far from absolute - Paul Cornell (with whom Orman was close friends) was an avowedly and outspokenly “frock” writer, to the point of having Benny, in one of his books, proclaim that an impending adventure was going to require a “serious frock,” but was also responsible for some of the darkest and most adult moments of the New Adventures, and Gareth Roberts, the original frock, always had a flare for gruesome horror. 
 
The other notable thing about Orman was the route she took to break into professional fiction. One of the most notable things about the Virgin line was their open submission policy, which allowed pitches from anyone, without a literary agent - a fact that explains why so many significant writers got their start in the New Adventures. It also meant that the line between Doctor Who fandom and the people making Doctor Who became extremely porous. Orman is the exemplar of this - a prominent participant in the earliest days of online Doctor Who fandom and a regular poster on the Usenet group rec.arts.doctorwho who went on to become one of the major creative forces behind the only source of new Doctor Who during that era. 
 
This perspective also informed Orman’s work; she was the only female writer for the New Adventures, and her books owe a clear debt to the traditions and aesthetics of female science fiction fandom. Orman, prior to her professional debut, was an active writer of what is known as slash fiction - erotic stories generally featuring same sex romances between male characters who are not explicitly gay in the original show. A hallmark of slash, and one of the reasons for its existence, is its tendency to expand upon the emotional lives of male characters, which many stories accomplish by putting characters through the emotional and physical wringer, thus motivating them to seek the comfort of their male partners. And while Orman never had the Doctor deal with his pain via torrid sex scenes, she prone to putting the Doctor through intensive torments, and it became something of a joke among fans that every Orman book featured at least one scene in which the Doctor was made to scream.  Beyond that, it’s worth noting that slash fiction came about as way to subvert the overwhelming masculinity of a lot of science fiction, a social justice oriented ideology that was reflected in Orman’s work, which was often overtly feminist and took specific care to depict racial diversity. (The Left-Handed Hummingbird, for instance, was the first Doctor Who story to have the TARDIS land in a non-white culture since The Aztecs in 1964)
 
By the end of the alternate universe arc it was 1994, five years since the final televised season of Doctor Who, and though there were constantly rumors of some revival or another, there were no obvious plans afoot. And so Virgin, enjoying the continued success of their take on the series, created a second line of books, called the Missing Adventures, that told new stories featuring the first six versions of the Doctor, set in between the existing televised stories. This line launched in July with a Fifth Doctor novel called Goth Opera by Paul Cornell, and to celebrate the launch Virgin had that month’s New Adventure, Terrance Dicks’s Blood Harvest, tie in. The books both focused on the race of vampires Dicks created for his 1980 script State of Decay, with Blood Harvest telling a story of vampires in Prohibition-era Chicago, and Goth Opera telling a contemporary story more in the tradition of Anne Rice’s then-popular vampire novels. (The famed Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt adaptation of Interview with the Vampire came out the same year.) Although the Missing Adventures were, appropriately for their concept, largely more traditional and less ambitious than the New Adventures, the line had several triumphs of its own, most notably a trio of books by Gareth Roberts set during the Graham Williams era, of which Roberts, against the grain of fandom at the time, was an outspoken fan.
 
1994 also saw the one major change in management over the course of the Virgin New Adventures, as Peter Darvill-Evans, the editor who got the line off the ground, departed, replaced by his former assistant, Rebecca Levene, whose first book in charge was Theatre of War in May. Levene’s tenure, in many regards, continued in the vein Darvill-Evans had pioneered, but there were nevertheless some tangible differences between them, most obviously that Darvill-Evans had always been considerably more in the “gun” tradition, whereas Levene was markedly more sympathetic to the “frock” side of that particular debate, resulting in a marked shift away from military-infused cyberpunk like Lucifer Rising and, for that matter, Darvill-Evans’s own Deceit and towards an embrace of Doctor Who’s flexibility and strangeness - her second book in charge, for instance, was written as if it were a lost Sherlock Holmes novel, mashing up Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed detective with Doctor Who and, in the final act, H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. The result was both as silly and as wonderful as one would hope.
 
1995 saw further upheaval, with the TARDIS crew, which had been consistent for twenty-two consecutive books, the longest run of stories without change in the series’ history, finally getting another revamp in Kate Orman’s second novel, Set Piece, which saw Ace depart again, and, four months later, saw the introduction of a pair of futuristic cops, Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester, as new companions. In between, however, came the most important and influential of the Virgin books, Paul Cornell’s fourth novel, entitled Human Nature
 
The premise of Human Nature is ruthlessly high concept, but nevertheless brilliant: the Doctor uses an alien device to temporarily rewrite his own biology and become a human being, taking on the identity of John Smith, a schoolteacher in the days leading up to World War I, with his memory of being the Doctor restricted to dreams and ideas for stories that he writes in his Journal of Impossible Things. Inevitably, this plan goes pear-shaped when aliens attack the school, and John Smith finds himself torn between his human life (and lover) and Benny’s insistence that he’s actually the only one who can stop the monsters, reacting with horror at the realization of how manipulative the Doctor is, and, movingly, insisting that he doesn’t want to have to die just so that the Doctor can come back. 
 
The novel is powerful and deeply moving, making it to the top of almost every list of the best New Adventures. Much of this comes from the vividness with which Cornell depicts John Smith’s anguish at his situation, which forces the reader into the strange position of rooting, at least in part, against the Doctor. But the book also sparkles with demonstrations of Cornell’s romanticism, or, in the parlance of mid-90s fandom, frockishness. A key scene occurs when, with monsters bearing down on them, John Smith asks Benny what the Doctor would do, and she replies, “he’d find a way to turn this all around… He’d make the villains fall into their own traps, and trick the monsters, and outwit the men with guns. He’d save everybody’s life and find a way to win,” at which point Smith, after a moment’s consideration, tells the schoolboys, now armed and ready to fend off a siege, “throw away your guns. There’s a better way.” 
 
Human Nature was also notable for the smaller contributions of two other writers. First was Kate Orman, who helped Cornell with the plotting of the book (a favor he returned later for her book Return of the Living Dad, which tied up large swaths of Benny’s background). But second was a more minor contribution from Steven Moffat, who contributed the story John Smith writes in his Journal of Impossible Things, a sort of fairy-tale reimagining of the Doctor’s flight from Gallifrey. Moffat, a good friend of Cornell’s, was television writer who got his start in 1989 with a children’s series called Press Gang (he’s claimed that he tried to pitch to Doctor Who, but that the series went off the air more or less exactly as he did), and, subsequently, an autobiographical sitcom about divorce called Joking Apart. These commitments meant that he never published a full novel with Virgin, although in addition to his small contribution to Human Nature, he penned a delightful short story published in July of 1995 called “Continuity Errors,” featuring a plot in which the Seventh Doctor repeatedly tries to alter a librarian’s past so that she will be more amenable to letting him check out a book he needs, told from the perspective of the librarian as her personal history alters.
 
1995 also saw the October publication of Steve Lyons’s Head Games, a novel that brought several thematic elements of the Virgin era to a climax. The book brought back the Land of Fiction from the 1968 story The Mind Robber (which previously appeared in Lyons’s first New Adventure, Conundrum, back in the alternate history arc), along with both Ace and Mel, in a story that confirmed a plot thread that had been teased previously, namely that the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration had in fact been triggered by the Seventh Doctor, trying to bring himself into existence earlier so he could assume the role of Time’s Champion, a monicker he claimed several times throughout the Virgin era. 
 
Closing out 1995 was another strange novel, this time by Terrance Dicks, and entitled Shakedown. The core of the novel was, in fact, a novelization of a direct-to-video film of the same title, which Terrance Dicks had written for a small fan production company. The story featured the Sontarans and a cast headlined by Sophie Aldred and Carole Ann Ford, neither of them playing their characters from Doctor Who. Shakedown was one of several direct-to-video projects in this vein to come out during the 1990s, all with the same basic setup and constraints. The actual license to Doctor Who itself was unavailable, and so the Doctor and the TARDIS could neither be shown nor mentioned, but the nature of BBC copyrights meant that writers had the rights to other creations, and could license them separately, as the Robert Holmes estate did with the Sontarans. With casts generally consisting of Doctor Who actors in other parts, the videos sold through fan circles, and, in the case of Shakedown, got a novelization, with Dicks adding opening and closing sections featuring the Doctor. 
 
1996 saw a significant milestone for the New Adventures with the publication of Paul Cornell’s fifth and final book for the line, Happy Endings. The book was an overt comedy centering around the wedding of Bernice Summerfield, with characters from all forty-nine preceding novels making appearances over the course of the book, a chapter that consisted of a writer’s jam with sections contributed by all of the previous writers, and a plot involving the Master’s scheme to steal the Loom of Rassilon’s Mouse. Joyously silly, it was a charming celebration of an era of Doctor Who that had seen as much innovation and quality as any televised era.
 
For better or for worse, however, other events were conspiring to bring the Virgin era to a close. On May 14th, 1996, the same month that Happy Endings came out, the US network Fox transmitted a ninety minute TV movie revival of Doctor Who. This had, in many regards, been a long time coming. The primary architect of it was a British expatriate named Philip Segal, who had been one of the many people jockeying for the rights to Doctor Who since its 1989 cancellation. In 1992, Segal got a job with Stephen Spielberg’s production company, Amblin Entertainment, a pedigree that managed to convince the BBC, in January of 1994, to give him permission to begin developing the series. 
 
This process was enormously troubled. Amblin’s parent company, Universal Pictures, forced a staff writer named John Leekley on Segal, who turned out a series bible that has since become legendary within Doctor Who fandom for its complete and utter lack of quality. Leekley’s proposal was a mess of genre cliches, focusing on the conflict between the Doctor and the Master, who were, inevitably, half-brothers, and on the Doctor’s search for his father, the legendary Time Lord Ulysses, with the help of the ghost of Cardinal Barusa (a misspelling of the character of Borusa, created by Robert Holmes for The Deadly Assassin), who would live on the TARDIS and help fly it, with the Doctor having a proposed catchphrase of “power up the crystals, Cardinal.” The series was to be a mixture of new adventures and remakes of classic Doctor Who serials, including Tomb of the Cybermen (with the Cybermen to be renamed “Cybs”) and The Gunfighters (to be renamed Don’t Shoot, I’m the Doctor). Meanwhile, Segal began shopping the series around to networks, eventually settling on Fox, who were willing to produce a TV movie and, if that proved successful, an ongoing series. 
 
Mercifully, Leekley’s proposal was vetoed by Stephen Spielberg himself, to Segal’s apparent relief, and the writer was replaced, first with Robert DeLaurentis, and then, after Fox objected to the direction his script was going in, a British writer who had worked for Amblin on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles named Matthew Jacobs. Jacobs jettisoned almost the entirety of Leekley’s proposal, starting from scratch with the idea that the TV Movie would be a direct continuation of the BBC series, with Sylvester McCoy appearing in the first few minutes before regenerating into a new Doctor. McCoy, who had promised himself years ago that he would return for a regeneration sequence to spare his successor the awkwardness of having to take over as he had from Colin Baker, agreed to the part, although he had reservations about the wisdom of structuring the film that way.
 
For the new Doctor, on the other hand, nearly every British actor of any note was considered at one point or another, including both John Hurt and Peter Capaldi, who would eventually go on to play the role in other capacities. Eventually, however, Segal settled on Paul McGann, a British actor who’d had a role in Alien 3, but who was best known for the cult film Withnail and I, where he starred opposite Richard E Grant, who played the flamboyently alcoholic actor Withnail. The casting of McGann had been contentious with Fox, who had wanted a name with more star power in the US, but Segal managed to convince them in exchange for Fox getting to select an actor to play the Master, with Fox choosing Eric Roberts, brother of the more famous Julia Roberts. Production finally began in January of 1996, after two years of development.
 
The resulting film is, in several regards, deeply flawed. McGann’s performance is strong, but with a third of the film’s runtime passing before he’s actually regenerated and done stumbling around with amnesia, he doesn’t get nearly enough time to actually define the part, and so there are only fleeting moments. Roberts, meanwhile, embraces the long tradition of chewing scenery in Doctor Who, turning in a massively over the top and generally unloved performance as the master. The plot, involving an effort on the part of the Master to take over the Doctor’s body on New Year’s Eve, 1999, is only marginally coherent, with a controversial revelation held over from the Leekley bible pointlessly shoehorned in, establishing that the Doctor is “half human on his mother’s side.” But these teeth-grindingly awful moments are, like the moments where McGann’s quality shows through, ultimately fleeting moments. The bulk of the film is simply a dull and banal recitation of the sorts of tropes you’d expect from any mediocre sci-fi series on American television in the mid-90s.
 
 
Relationships among the studios responsible for the TV Movie were already fraying when it aired in May due to a feud over who should pay a $170,000 overrun in the budget, and when the film got middling ratings on its US debut, any notion of a Paul McGann-fronted television series was essentially dead. Despite this, the film did relatively well in its late-May airing on British television, despite having already been released on video five days earlier. Nevertheless, the McGann film proved to be a brief blip in Doctor Who’s wilderness years. Despite this, its existence had profound effects on the state of Doctor Who, the most immediate of which was a decision on the part of the BBC to terminate Virgin’s license in favor of publishing a line of novels featuring the Eighth Doctor themselves.
 

 
 
The woman in the skull mask looked up from the book. "I trust everyone has done their required reading?" she said as she looked around. "Now, turn to chapter 20: The Aeon and Judgment" she began, as she looked back towards the book herself.
 

 
The expiration of Virgin’s license did not actually come until May of 1997, and the final year of New Adventures had several highlights, including Marc Platt’s Lungbarrow, an adaptation of the original pitch that became Ghost Light, which finally finished introducing all the details of the so-called Cartmel Masterplan (the Doctor was a reincarnation of the Other, as it turned out), as the penultimate volume. The most interesting book to come out in this period, however, was Damaged Goods, by Russell T Davies. The book is not the flashiest of New Adventures - it lacks any of the grandiose revelations of Timewyrm: Revelation or Head Games, for instance. Its focus is consciously small-scale - the Doctor is investigating tainted drugs on a council estate, which turn out to be the result of a stray Gallifreyan superweapon. But in a line where so many authors had made so much of the juxtaposition between a newly manipulative and ruthless Doctor and the small scale of human life, this combination was a potent one, especially given the book’s focus on strong characterization.
 
The book also distinguished itself with a particularly strong focus on gay characters. This is an unsurprising theme for Davies’s work - he would go on to, two years later, make the groundbreaking television show Queer as Folk, a semi-autobiographical drama about the Manchester gay scene that featured a character, Vince Tyler, who was an avowed Doctor Who fan. This was obviously on one level an autobiographical note, since Davies was himself a massive fan, but spoke to a fact about the larger fan culture, which had an idiosyncratically large contingent of gay male fans. Numerous people have offered various theories as to why this is, many centering on the series’ not-infrequent moments of camp and the way in which the Doctor was a hero uninterested in “getting the girl,” as it were. But regardless, it was an influential and vocal part of Doctor Who fandom in the 1990s (and not unrelated to the frocks vs guns debate of the Virgin era), which in turn made Damaged Goods and its explicit engagement with the issue a moment as beloved by a generation of fans as any televised episode.
 
Davies was also a significant figure with regards to the Virgin era in other ways. Unlike many of the major authors of the Virgin era, Davies did not make his professional writing debut with Virgin; by 1997 he already had a successful television career, and wrote Damaged Goods largely because he was such a fan, and not because he needed (or indeed had time for) the work. The book actually shares a number of plot points with a supernatural soap opera called Springhill that he was writing at the same time - a show on which he employed both Gareth Roberts and Paul Cornell, giving them some of their earliest television credits. 
 
In one sense, BBC Books picked up where Virgin had left off, publishing two separate lines of original novels: the Eighth Doctor Adventures, featuring new stories with the now-incumbent Paul McGann iteration of the Doctor, and the Past Doctor Adventures, featuring adventures with the first seven Doctors. In other regards, however, the BBC sought to break decisively with their predecessors. Chief among these was the edict that the BBC Books line would be aimed at a younger audience, and would thus not feature the mature themes of the New Adventures. To some this was a welcome announcement, and even the most ardent of fans of the Virgin era will readily admit that the line featured moments where it needlessly reveled in its ability to do adult themes, but it also meant that the Eighth Doctor Adventures were, by design, unable to tackle the sorts of themes that made Damaged Goods, among others, so great. 
 
A larger problem, however, was that BBC Books did not really have much of a plan for the line - their motivation in taking the license back from Virgin was not based on anyone at the BBC having a vision for the line. Where Virgin had been edited by a pair of avowed Doctor Who fans in Peter Darvill-Evans and Rebecca Levene, BBC Books initially put a woman named Nuala Buffini, who was largely unfamiliar with the series, in charge of the line, which meant that there was an initial lack of any editorial direction or vision for the line.
 
To Buffini’s credit, her first move in launching the Eighth Doctor Adventures was, on paper at least, a sound one: she hired Terrance Dicks to write the first book, which was to be called The Eight Doctors. But Dicks turned in an uncharacteristically awful book that was little more than a sludge of obscure continuity references and minimal plotting. Dicks clearly objected to several of the plot twists surrounding the Master in the TV Movie, and went out of his way to rework them into what he viewed as a more satisfying explanation, stopping off to try to resolve the messy ending of Trial of a Time Lord and a smattering of other axes he wanted to grind with the series’ past, including a pointedly critical characterization of the Seventh Doctor. The plot was a meandering trip as the Eighth Doctor contracts amnesia from an evil scheme of the Master’s and must go through his own timeline recovering his memories from his past selves. It was, all in all, a disaster.
 
The early books were not all bad - a second book, by Kate Orman, alongside Jon Blum, an American author she met on rec.arts.doctorwho and would eventually marry, did an extremely clever job of characterizing the Eighth Doctor, developing him as reckless and romantic in clear contrast to the Seventh Doctor’s manipulations and occasional tendency to brood. But the initial stretch of novels was largely forgettable at best, and at worst turgid messes, as with The Eight Doctors and the line’s fifth book, John Peel’s War of the Daleks, which seemingly existed only to undo the ending of Remembrance of the Daleks via a ludicrously baroque series of contrivances based on reworking the plots of various other Dalek stories. 
 
But with the line’s sixth book, there at least became glimmers of hope for its future. For one thing, it was not commissioned by Buffini, but by Stephen Cole, who, unlike Buffini, was a massive Doctor Wo fan for whom the job was an absolute dream. For another, however, the book was incredibly good. It was called Alien Bodies, and was by Lawrence Miles, a writer who made his debut with a bold but somewhat undisciplined effort in the late Virgin era called Christmas on a Rational Planet. Alien Bodies was on the whole a far slicker and more well-constructed effort, but was in many ways even more ambitious than is first book. It’s plot concerned the Doctor’s efforts to disrupt a black market auction of a powerful superweapon. The auction, however, is attended by representatives of various factions, including several parties involved in war that exists in the far future for both Gallifrey and the Doctor. Among these factions were eye-catching ideas like Faction Paradox, a Time Lord cult that worships time paradoxes, who do things like killing their own grandfathers so that they were never born. This already impressive setup is then turned dramatically on its head when the Doctor discovers, to his utter incredulity, that the dreaded superweapon is in fact his own future corpse. Despite this madly ambitious scope, however, the book retained a warm and cheeky sense of humor, not least in the form of a hilarious twist in which the Dalek representatives to the auction turn out to have been murdered by a solitary Kroton, which is to say, the much un-heralded villains of Robert Holmes’s first story, nearly thirty years earlier.
 
Miles’s book was a welcome relief after a disappointing two years. Between the TV Movie flopping and seemingly making a return to television even more remote a possibility, the end of the extremely good Virgin line, and the initial roughness of the BBC Books line, 1996 and 1997 had been surprisingly difficult years for Doctor Who fandom, despite containing the only televised Doctor Who since 1989. He was far from the only good author of the early BBC Books line - Orman and Blum contributed several novels, including one that picked up substantively on the idea of Faction Paradox, all of which maintained the high quality Orman had established on the earlier Virgin line, for instance. The Eighth Doctor Adventures also saw the Doctor Who debut of Paul Magrs, a fairly acclaimed “proper” and “literary” writer, with The Scarlet Empress, which introduced Iris Wildthyme, an extravagantly mad old lady who travels through space and time in a London double decker buss that’s slightly smaller on the inside than it is on the outside, and who accuses the Doctor of making up all his past adventures based on her own experiences. (As evidence for this claim, she produces her diaries in which she talks about all of her old adventures, which are blatantly just descriptions of old Doctor Who stories with Iris having been put in place of the Doctor, while pointing out that the Doctor has no such evidence for any of his stories.) 
 
Nevertheless, the sense that the Eighth Doctor Adventures were in some key regards a step backwards from the Virgin era was difficult to escape. Part of it was simply that so many of the names that had enlivened the Virgin era did not make the jump to the BBC Books era. Paul Cornell eventually penned a novel for the range in 2000, but was essentially absent from Doctor Who from 1997-99, Gareth Roberts never wrote for BBC Books, and Mark Gatiss contributed to the Past Doctor Adventures, but never to the Eighth Doctor line. (The Past Doctor Adventures also housed Lance Parkin’s thirty-fifth anniversary book, The Infinity Doctors. Parkin, who had written the final New Adventure, featuring the Eighth Doctor, turned out an entertaining novel that riffed on the idea of “rebooting” Doctor Who with a new continuity by mixing and matching various and contradictory pieces of lore about Gallifrey and featuring an unspecified incarnation of the Doctor, possibly before he left Gallifrey, possibly long after all his travels.) And most of what was interesting over the course of 1998 and much of 1999 were the implications of Alien Bodies and the great war it prophesized.
 
In one sense, this plot came to a head in August of 1999 with the publication of Lawrence Miles’s second book for the line, Interference. Technically, in fact, it saw the publication of his third book as well, as Interference was a sufficiently major book that it was published in two volumes, with the Past Doctor Adventures taking the month off. This was not entirely unreasonable given the nature of Miles’s novel, which included two separate narratives, one featuring the Eighth Doctor, and the other featuring the Third as both found their paths intersecting with Faction Paradox. The novel was ambitious in theme (the plot largely concerned a barely veiled version of the Defense Systems and Equipment International, a biennial trade exhibition in which weapons are routinely sold to countries responsible for egregious human rights violations), plot (the climax involves Faction Paradox causing the Third Doctor’s regeneration to take place at the wrong point in his timeline, effectively removing Planet of the Spiders from the series’ continuity and beginning a process, said to pay off in the Doctor’s eighth incarnation, of turning the Doctor into an agent of Faction Paradox), and scope (plot threads tied into a hugely acclaimed book called Dead Romance that Miles had written for the line of Bernice Summerfield-centric novels that Virgin had created in the wake of losing the Doctor Who license), going far beyond even Alien Bodies in its scope, and seemingly setting up a barnstorming climax for the ongoing Faction Paradox arc. 
 
But unlike Alien Bodies, Interference was also a tremendously controversial book. Revelations about a future war or the fate of the Doctor’s body after his death were, at least, teases for future plotlines. But Doctor Who fans - and it’s important to stress that only the most dedicated of fans were still reading original Doctor Who novels a decade after the series’ cancellation - proved unhappy with the idea of undoing the events of Planet of the Spiders, and Interference was subject to a furious backlash, with Doctor Who Magazine, which had been willing to give even The Eight Doctors a positive review, absolutely savaging it as an “impressively boring” book that “severely tries the patience.” 
 
This unusually harsh review had the secondary effect of causing Doctor Who fandom to develop a set of opposing factions. One month prior to the release of Interference, a company called Big Finish released the first of a series of Doctor Who audioplays. In marked contrast to Miles, and really to the entire approach that Doctor Who novels had taken since 1991, Big Finish were invested in a sense of traditionalism - their production team was in fact an evolution of a series of fan audios that dated back to 1985 called the Audio Visuals. More than that, though, Big Finish actually had the actors who played the Doctor, or at least, three of them, with Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy all reprising their roles, along with most of the major companions from their eras. Unsurprisingly, this appealed to a segment of fandom who were less than satisfied with experimental takes on Doctor Who mythology in prose form, and while plenty of people enjoyed both lines simultaneously, there were numerous and vocal partisans in favor of each line. 
 
But Big Finish, at least at first, only had Davison, Baker, and McCoy, which meant that the present day of the series was still the exclusive province of BBC Books. Unfortunately, BBC Books was running into its own set of problems. Lawrence Miles had taken the criticism of Interference somewhat hard, and had declared that he would not be writing further Doctor Who novels. Miles, for all his brilliance as a writer, could be, to say the least, difficult to work with, and his departure ended up burning some bridges, a situation that was exacerbated in July of 2000 when Stephen Cole co-authored The Ancestor Cell, a book trumpeted as resolving the Faction Paradox arc begun in Alien Bodies
 
In Miles’s account, The Ancestor Cell simultaneously ripped off numerous ideas he had casually pitched to Cole while he was still working for the line, while simultaneously disregarding large swaths of what he had established for Faction Paradox and the great war. Certainly The Ancestor Cell went to great lengths to remove all of Miles’s inventions from active Doctor Who continuity. This was not an entirely senseless move - The Ancestor Cell also marked the end of Cole’s editorship, and the incoming editor, Justin Richards, whose debut novel Theatre of War had been Rebecca Levene’s first book as editor at Virgin, wanted to take the line in a new direction. In this regard, clearing out the plots of the previous era was entirely understandable. Nevertheless, Miles was hardly remiss in observing that the book at times seemed to have an active grudge against Moffat’s concepts. The much-hyped mysterious Enemy that the Time Lords were doomed to fight in the war was given an appallingly lame explanation, while Faction Paradox, who, under Miles, were an unsettling but not malevolent cult with a tremendous debt to Haitain Vodoun beliefs and practices, became generic moustache-twirling villains. 
 
The book’s climax, however, certainly succeeded in setting up a new status quo for the books. The Ancestor Cell ended with the Doctor destroying Gallifrey and then having all memory of the event, and indeed of his history prior to The Ancestor Cell erased from his mind, kicking off a six book arc in which the Doctor is stranded on Earth in the 19th century and has to live through human history waiting for the TARDIS (which he doesn’t entirely know what is) to repair itself in time for him to meet his companions (who he’s also forgotten) in the present day. But while these twists certainly took the books in new directions, the effective removal of the entirety of Doctor Who continuity was, as one might expect, controversial. But perhaps more damning was the fact that the novels after The Ancestor Cell were simply not very good. As with the early days, there were exceptions - Kate Orman and Paul Magrs both came back to write another novel, as, eventually, did Lawrence Miles, who introduced a villain named Sabbath who would end up recurring through to the end of the Eighth Doctor Adventures. The period also saw the debut of Lloyd Rose, whose two Eighth Doctor Adventures, The City of the Dead and Camera Obscura are widely viewed as outright highlights of the line. 
 
But for every strong book it seemed there were two that were bland and forgettable. By September of 2002, sales had fallen to where the BBC cut publication to every other month, with the books alternating with the Past Doctor Adventures, and by January 2004 its stock had fallen to the point where Justin Richards’s Sometime Never…, a book that reworked the Doctor’s origin so that he was no longer a Time Lord (since they didn’t exist anymore) and killed off most of the companions from before the Eighth Doctor’s time, nobody actually cared enough to get angry about it.
 
Part of this was that just six months after The Ancestor Cell’s release, the Eighth Doctor Adventures lost what had been its major advantage in comparison with Big Finish. In January of 2001, they released Storm Warning, which, after nearly five years, marked Paul McGann’s second time playing the part of the Eighth Doctor. Indeed, Storm Warning was the first in a run of four consecutive releases, with Big Finish breaking their previous habit of alternating among the lead actors they had, and instead giving a sort of de facto “season” structure to McGann’s new adventures, which further highlighted the importance of the release to Big Finish.
 
These first four adventures, however, were far from ambitious. Big Finish ended up with unusually little time to prepare for the recording of the four stories, which meant that scripts had to be produced in a hurry. Two of them, The Sword of Orion and Minuet in Hell, were straight-up remakes of by then decade-old stories the team had done back in their days producing fan audios. A third, The Stones of Venice was, by writer Paul Magrs’s own admission, banged out over a weekend with the aid of copious quantities of vodka. And this haste showed - The Stones of Venice was reasonably charming, but the two remakes were poorly paced at best, with Minuet in Hell being particularly infamous for combining glacial pacing with a bizarre plot in which the Brigadier is dispatched to the United States to help oversee the creation of a 51st state called Malebolgia, a name which, improbably,  nobody has noticed the Satanic implications of. Combined with some breathtakingly awful attempts at American accents, the story was near universally panned. 
 
But for all of the flaws in these early audios, McGann’s performance was assured. This was not entirely surprising - the structure of the TV Movie meant that he’d had less than an hour of screentime in which to really define his performance, whereas each of the four Big Finish audios were double that length. Notably, McGann’s approach to the character differed significantly from how he had largely been treated in the Eighth Doctor Adventures. BBC Books, following from Kate Orman and Jon Blum’s characterization in the second novel, Vampire Science, presented the Eighth Doctor as an impulsive and romantic figure, but McGann’s performance tended towards a more sardonic take on the character.
 
These first four audios were followed at the start of 2002 with a second series, this time of six adventures, and, at least in the first half of the run, some particularly strong writing. First was Invaders from Mars, a story that allowed Mark Gatiss to play to his strengths, namely nostalgic pastiche of older popular culture. In this case, the story riffed on Orson Welles’s famous 1938 radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, which was presented as a series of news broadcasts about the Martian invasion, accidentally provoking a panic when some people thought these were real news broadcasts. As one would expect from Doctor Who playing with this, it turns out that there actually is an alien invasion, leading to a series of comedic misunderstandings.
 
This was followed by The Chimes of Midnight, by Rob Shearman, a playwright who made his Doctor Who debut with The Holy Terror, featuring Colin Baker, which mixed absurdist comedy with psychological horror to considerable effect and acclaim. The Chimes of Midnight worked in a similar vein, beginning, seemingly, as a haunted house murder mystery before steadily becoming a far stranger story featuring time paradoxes and a sentient house. Shearman’s love of the absurdist tradition shows throughout the story, which engenders a claustrophobic sense of dread that grows even as the circumstances grow more and more ridiculous, with characters repeatedly being murdered and then coming back to life as though nothing had actually happened. The setting of a house in which nobody can leave both plays into Shearman’s favored themes and works well with the tight intimacy of audio as a medium,
 
But in one sense the success of The Chimes of Midnight highlighted some of the problems with the larger Big Finish range. Big Finish’s investment in nostalgia extended to formatting their stories as four half-hour episodes, with cliffhangers at the ends of the first three episodes, as though they were televised Doctor Who stories. But the merits of the cliffhanger structure, which had at times been problematic even when Doctor Who was actually a serialized adventure, were largely absent for Big Finish’s CD-based releases, in which the resolution was only a track away as opposed to a week away. This slavish dedication to imitating the television series as closely as possible also meant that Big Finish stories tended to be abnormally dialogue-heavy for audio adventures, and to often feel more like television with the pictures taken out than like stories designed for their medium. Shearman’s stories were a welcome and rightly acclaimed exception.
 
Shearman’s story was followed by one co-authored by Paul Cornell, a madcap adventure featuring an uproarious (at least for dedicated fans) last episode reveal when it turns out that the secretive monsters behind the plot are in fact the Nimon, from the deeply unheralded late Tom Baker story The Horns of Nimon. Cornell’s story goes in almost the exact opposite direction from Shearman’s, eschewing claustrophobia in favor of a sense of huge scale by leading the Doctor on a chase through space and time that includes 1930s Singapore, a Roman fort, medieval Britain, and the 19th century. But while this is a distinctly different approach than Shearman’s, in its own way it takes just as much advantage of the specific possibilities of audio adventures - such a melange of settings would have been entirely out of the question in a television story, whereas audio can veer across the centuries for just as cheaply as it can have a bunch of people sitting in a room talking. 
 
But while the first three stories of the run of audios were strong, the second half of the run stumbled badly. The fourth story was called Embrace the Darkness, and was written by Nicholas Briggs, one of the major figures within Big Finish. Briggs was both an actor and a writer, and put in memorable performances playing most of the monsters for Big Finish, including a particularly good rendition of the Daleks, but as writer he exhibited many of Big Finish’s worst tendencies, and Embrace the Darkness was no exception - its plot is stitched together out of various standard tropes of Doctor Who, and the decisions made to structure it like an old-fashioned four episode television serial do more damage to its pacing than usual. (And yet despite this it has a stellar first cliffhanger, in which Charley realizes that the captured humans she’s talking to don’t realize that they don’t have eyes - a reveal that only works because the audience can’t see this fact, and has to rely on Charley’s dialogue to reveal it, allowing the humans to talk for a while before it becomes clear what’s going on.)
 
Embrace the Darkness was followed by Time of the Daleks, a story that gets an episode or so’s worth of hilarity out of the idea of Daleks quoting Shakespeare before realizing it has no actual ideas and losing steam. The run then concluded with Neverland, which moved the Eighth Doctor run from Big Finish towards exactly the sort of plot that proved the aesthetic undoing of the Eighth Doctor Adventures - a big epic in which Gallifrey faces some terrible and mysterious enemy. The details were, of course, different - Neverland features Time Lord criminals and dissidents thought to have been destroyed and erased from time itself who actually come back as horrible monsters constructed of anti-time, as opposed to a mysterious enemy from the Time Lords’ future - but the broad strokes were the same, right down to the detail of bringing back the Fourth Doctor era character of Romana as Lord President of the Time Lords (a detail established in the Virgin era) and having her be an at least partially villainous figure. And, more to the point, this sort of “epic story about a mysterious evil figure from Time Lord mythology” had, by mid-2002, become a cliche of Doctor Who - what every writer did when they wanted a high profile “event” story.
 
All the same, it has to be admitted that Neverland ended compellingly, with a dramatic cliffhanger in which the Doctor becomes infected with anti-time and declares himself to be Zagreus, an ancient Time Lord monster referred to several times throughout the story. This cliffhanger was to lead in to Big Finish’s planned November 2003 release to celebrate the program’s 40th anniversary, to be called Zagreus. But that was still some time away, and there were no shortage of other developments to take place for Doctor Who between Neverland’s June 2002 release and Zagreus’s nearly eighteen months later.
 
Some of these, at least, took place at Big Finish, which had an extremely good eighteen months between the two stories. Neverland was followed by Spare Parts, featuring Peter Davison’s Doctor alongside Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa of Traken. Written by Marc Platt, the story served as a sort of Genesis of the Daleks for the Cybermen - a story that would feature the Doctor scrambling to prevent the Cybermen from ever coming into existence. Platt’s script drew heavily on the lore established in The Tenth Planet, which, while never contradicted by later stories (and even explicitly acknowledged in one or two), was also never significantly expanded on. The story takes place on Mondas during its long journey through space. The world is freezing cold, with the population living underground to protect themselves from the sunless and radioactive surface, with the Cybermen, initially, being a way of creating workers who can go to the surface and try to restore the planet’s failing power generators. The portrait of a seemingly doomed world struggling for survival and slowly succumbing to a different sort of doom was tremendously effective, not least because of the use of the Fifth Doctor, who of course suffered the loss of Adric in a Cybermen story. And Big Finish was in fine form with the production itself, with Nicholas Briggs flawlessly recreating the Cybermen’s original voice patterns from The Tenth Planet, a grotesque sing-song mockery of human speech patterns that felt as though the words were simply pouring out of an utterly mechanistic thing, as opposed to being spoken. 
 
The 40th Anniversary year brought further success with Rob Shearman’s Jubilee, which paired the Sixth Doctor up with the Daleks in a bizarre tale of time paradoxes and alternate history. Shearman drew on his professional connections to secure the highly regarded husband and wife team of Martin Jarvis and Rosalind Ayres, for whom he’d written numerous radio plays already, for the guest cast, and the effort paid off handsomely. Jarvis had a lengthy historical association with Doctor Who, appearing in all three decades of its original run, first as a butterfly-person in The Web Planet quite early in his career, then in a sizeable guest role in Malcolm Hulke’s Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and finally as one of the main co-stars of Philip Martin’s Vengeance on Varos, in which he played the well-intentioned but beleaguered and hemmed in governor of Varos, who goes from antagonist to ally over the course of the tale. In Jubilee he plays Nigel Rochester, the despotic ruler of an alternate timeline in which the Doctor’s repelling of a Dalek invasion in 1903 has led Great Britain to become, with the aid of salvaged Dalek technology, a dictatorial power in the world.
 
Rochester is, being a Rob Shearman character, in practice completely mad, and indeed the entire timeline turns out to be a twisted and absurd mockery of contemporary Britain. (It’s worth noting that the title, Jubilee, tacitly also refers to the 2002 Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.) The 1903 victory over the Daleks is used as a source of propaganda, commemorated endlessly in films - the story opens with a parody of an American action movie in which the buff Dalek-killing action hero is revealed to be the Doctor - and with the Daleks themselves being treated as a sort of latter day Guy Fawkes, celebrated as a sort of kitsch novelty in a blatant parody of their 1960s cultural prominence. Meanwhile, Rochester himself, as well as his wife (played by Ayres) are steadily revealed as the psychotic lunatics that they are.
 
But it’s the treatment of the emnity between the Doctor and the Daleks that truly makes Jubilee. Over the course of the story, it’s revealed that one lone Dalek from the 1903 invasion has survived, kept alive and tortured by the regime, to the point where it has gone hopelessly insane. The mad Dalek wants nothing more than to once again be a soldier with orders to follow, to the point of begging the Doctor to take it with him and give it orders, because the Doctor, as its greatest enemy, is the closest thing it can imagine to something it respects. It has similarly brilliant scenes with Maggie Stables, playing the Doctor’s companion, Evelyn Smythe (a Big Finish creation that explores the fascinating idea of the Doctor being accompanied by an elderly woman instead of the young camera-friendly beauties favored by all of the TV producers), including one where the Dalek, both movingly and unsettlingly, chokes up at Evelyn’s declaration that she’s not afraid of it, having never in its life met someone who wasn’t scared of it. Colin Baker, meanwhile, gets the sort of script he so lacked when he was actually playing the Doctor, including a brilliant set of sequences after the revelation that an alternate timeline Doctor has also been imprisoned since 1903, kept captive by the crude but effective decision on the part of the regime to amputate both of his legs. The result is disturbing, hilarious, and, perhaps most importantly, disturbingly hilarious, and is cited by many as the outright high point of the Big Finish line.
 
But Big Finish was hardly the only company doing interesting things with Doctor Who around the turn of the millennium. Following his acrimonious split with BBC Books, Lawrence Miles successfully spun his creation of Faction Paradox off into their own series, initially as a series of audio adventures from BBV, one of several companies producing direct-to-video releases along the lines of Shakedown, and then, starting in 2003, as a series of novels and a brief-lived comic series overseen by American small press Mad Norwegian Books. These largely doubled down on the more mind-bending aspects of Miles’s lore, with the line’s crowning achievement being The Book of the War, a multi-authored novel sequenced as an encyclopedia explaining the major factions in the alluded to war between the Time Lords (now renamed the “Great Houses,” with the Doctor being replaced by the “Evil Renegade”) and their unknown Enemy. Although seemingly just an alphabetical list of concepts and descriptions, in fact subtle plots unfold non-chronologically across the book, with entries contradicting each other as agents of various factions change and alter history, and with entire concepts and histories seemingly erased from existence, most notably the Enemy, whose entry cites numerous other entries, all of which have mysteriously been removed from the book.
 
Other visions existed as well. Doctor Who Magazine had, from its start, run a comic strip featuring the current Doctor. Historically this strip had little to do with the on-screen adventures of the Doctor, to the point of usually having different companions from the television series, and was little more than an extraneous detail of the era, but over the course of the Eighth Doctor era the comic evolved into its own credible vision of Doctor Who distinct from both the novels and audios featuring the same character. The BBC also decided to give a license to a small company called Telos Books to produce a series of hardcover novellas featuring various Doctors, with the idea that Telos would take a more literary bent featuring high profile science fiction writers, in contrast to the Eighth Doctor Adventures and their fan-focused books. 
 
And on top of these were the new invention of web-based Doctor Who, which combined limited animation with audio drama. The first of these, called Death Comes to Time, came in 2001, and broke heavily with existing Doctor Who lore, going back to the Seventh Doctor and killing the character off at the end, amidst a radically new take on the Time Lords as creatures with godlike magic powers. It was generally awful, although it eventually produced its own unofficial Doctor Who spinoff entitled The Minister of Chance, but was successful enough to get the BBC to commission a pair of further adventures from Big Finish, an original starring the Sixth Doctor, and a Paul McGann-led version of the unfinished Tom Baker serial Shada
 
But it was the fourth webcast, released in November of 2003 for the 40th Anniversary, that would prove, at least momentarily, to be the most significant. Entitled The Scream of the Shalka, and written by Paul Cornell, the story took a bold path that had previously been untried since the cancellation of the television series and presented an entirely new Doctor, played by Paul McGann’s Withnail and I co-star Richard E. Grant, with the BBC declaring that Grant would be the official and canonical Ninth Doctor and that Scream of the Shalka would be the BBC-official continuation of Doctor Who. The story took an interesting approach, mixing a relatively bog-standard Doctor Who monster (the Shalka are your basic evil insect aliens) with hints of a larger plot. Grant’s Doctor was visibly haunted by some unexplained event in his past, and, intriguingly, had the Master, or, at least, a robot who identified as the Master (played brilliantly by Derek Jacobi) living onboard the TARDIS and serving as an ally. 
 
So when Zagreus finally came out, there was more competition for the role of “proper Doctor Who,” whatever that might mean, than there ever had been. This made the spectacular own-goal that Zagreus served as all the more unfortunate. Presented as a three-disc set (normal Big Finish releases took up two CDs) with McGann starring opposite Davison, Baker, and McCoy, the story was a bloated and barely coherent mess. The 1980s Doctors were not in fact playing the Doctor, but rather different roles that served as symbolic echoes of their Doctors in an Alice in Wonderland-inspired dreamscape wandered through by India Fischer’s Charley. The story was designed, like The Ancestor Cell, to serve as a sort of de facto reboot of Doctor Who continuity, culminating in the Doctor and Charley being exiled from the universe by Romana for what would prove a lengthy arc of them trying to get back. But while Zagreus was blatantly imitating the overall plot beats of The Ancestor Cell, it was equally obviously a deliberate poke in the eye directed at the rival Eighth Doctor line, going out of its way to contradict the then-prevailing fan theory that the Big Finish and BBC Books lines simply took place at different points in the Eighth Doctor’s chronology by explicitly positioning the BBC Books as taking place in an alternate universe from Big Finish. The pettiness on the part of writers Gary Russell and Alan Barnes would have been striking even had the story worked, but instead the audio makes just as much of a hash of its themes as The Ancestor Cell did, and marked the fourth time that McGann’s Doctor was badly let down by sub-par stories written for occasions that should have been big celebrations.
 
 
But the question of which of the competing versions of Doctor Who would have established itself as the “proper” one following Big Finish’s stumble is ultimately academic. On September 26th, 2003, two months prior to the release of both Zagreus and Scream of the Shalka, all the various iterations of Doctor Who were definitively trumped when the BBC announced that Doctor Who would be returning to BBC One in 2005 with a new series of episodes, an announcement that undid the supposedly canonical status of Richard E. Grant’s Doctor before his first episode had even been released, and which firmly established what the future of Doctor Who would look like. Or, at least, what it would look like assuming that the people making it did not, as they had in 1996, screw up the opportunity. But in this case, there was some real excitement over the people making it, or, at least, over the figure tapped to be the head writer for the new project, namely Russell T Davies.
 

 
Clara frowned as a muffled sound disturbed her from her reading.
 
“I thought you were being a good boy for me?” she asked. The Doctor glared at her from behind his gag and tried again to speak. “Or maybe not” she said to herself, “maybe you like being in trouble”.
 
The Doctor averted his eyes at that. He wasn’t the blushing type, but she could read him. She could always read him. 
 
Clara put the book down on the side table and moved over to where the Doctor was tied to another chair. She knelt down beside him and smiled as he leaned into her caress of his cheek.
 
“I don’t think it’s being in trouble you like, though, I think you just like my attention,” he dropped his gaze again, and her smile grew. “I tell you what, if you want it now you can have it… but you won’t be coming tonight. If you can be good for me and wait until I’ve finished my book, things will be a lot more enjoyable for both of us. So, would you like me to give you some attention now?” she asked.
 
The Doctor met her gaze and shook his head firmly. Exactly as she’d expected. She ruffled his hair one last time and gave him a soft kiss. 
 
 
“Don’t get too excited, I still have four chapters to go.”
 

 
As with most things, the 2005 return of Doctor Who came out of a combination of more or less historically inevitable trends and pure, dumb luck. On the former side, by 2005 the BBC was a very different place than it had been in either 1996 or 1989. Indeed, the whole of the United Kingdom was. The Paul McGann movie came out at almost the exact wrong time, in many ways, coming in the dying days of the eighteen-year series of Tory governments that began with Thatcher’s election in 1979 and continued under John Major after her ouster in 1990. The election of Tony Blair, in all his smooth polish, changed the tone of the UK in key ways. Tellingly, immediately after his election the BBC created one of their most memorable ad campaigns, a celebrity-lined cover of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day,” which served to trumpet the network’s commitment to catering to all of the UK, and its unique public funding model. This was astonishingly bullish for a network that had spent the past few years essentially strip mining itself for assets that could be sold to independent production companies. And so the idea of taking one of the BBC’s most iconic shows and relaunching it as a global brand was irresistible. But a key part of the self-mythology of Blair’s Britain was in the possibility of a renewed grandeur of Britain itself. Put another way, while the idea of launching Doctor Who as a glitzy production that would appeal to Americans was sound, the idea of actually letting it be made by Americans was, only a year or two after the McGann movie, something that simply wouldn’t be done. No, the Blair era was the era of the Spice Girls and Britpop - of the UK making big, mass cultural exports. Had it not been for the fact that it had already had a failed revival one year earlier, it is not hard to imagine reviving Doctor Who as one of first things the BBC would do in the late 90s. (And indeed, they held a meeting with Davies around the turn of the millennium about bringing the series back, although it came to nothing.) 
 
Instead it took until 2003 to make the decision. 2003 had been a rough year for the BBC, as it suffered a bruising public relations problem in the wake of the Hutton Report, which sharply criticized its reporting of the buildup to the Iraq War. This was seized upon by the BBC’s usual enemies in the media, and some positive headlines were very much in order. BBC One Controller Lorraine Heggessey and head of Drama Jane Tranter, assessing the situation, made a familiar decision, deciding to try to craft a high profile drama series to slot in amidst the family viewing light entertainment block on Saturday evenings. The similarities to the dilemma faced by Sydney Newman forty years earlier were hardly accidental, and Heggessey always had in mind to use the same solution - indeed, one of her first acts upon taking over at the BBC in 2001 was to get the rights to make Doctor Who back for the BBC.
 
A final piece of historical near-inevitability came around the actual mechanics of making Doctor Who. Another major aspect of Blair-era Britain was a devolution of powers away from London and towards Scotland and Wales. As part and parcel of this, the BBC decided to expand their existing Welsh production capacity (which initially existed due largely to a legal need to produce Welsh-language programming) and start making some prestige programming for the whole country at BBC Cymru Wales. More to the point, the newly installed Head of Drama at BBC Cymru Wales, Julie Gardner, was a capable and ambitious television executive who was keen to tackle a high profile project. And most importantly, she had a working relationship with Russell T Davies, who had been developing a version of Casanova starring Scottish actor David Tennant with Gardner, a project she brought with her to the BBC when she joined in 2003. And so in many regards, Jane Tranter’s decision to call her almost as soon as she started in the position and direct her to hire Davies to bring back Doctor Who was obvious and inevitable
 
And yet none of this comes close to explaining the full and strange scope of Doctor Who’s return. It is here that luck, or, if you prefer, genius necessarily enters the equation. It is, after all, important to realize just how good a choice Russell T Davies was to run the program. He was, as his contribution to the Virgin line indicated, an avowed Doctor Who fan - he recalls an anecdote from when he was still considering whether or not to accept the job offer, in which he was musing on the pros and cons to his partner, who responded by pointing out that Davies was carefully unwrapping some Dalek figurines as he did this, which probably gave a good indication of where he was eventually going to settle on the issue. But Davies’s CV within television was not that of a cult science fiction writer in the vein of what Fox tried to do with the TV Movie, which was basically to package it as the next X-Files. He was best known for Queer as Folk, his slice-of-life drama about the gay scene in Manchester. He’d done some stuff with sci-fi and supernatural elements - most notably The Second Coming, a drama in which Christopher Eccleston, playing an ordinary working class bloke, discovers that he’s the son of God - but he was by and large a serious and mainstream television producer. 
 
This balance was, of course, key for bringing back Doctor Who, and formed the heart of both Davies and Gardner’s assessment of what the job entailed. Gardner was familiar with Doctor Who, but had never really watched it. But both she and Davies were fans of American television series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Smallville - shows that crossed over outside of the typically white male audiences that Doctor Who had in effect catered to exclusively ever since the 1985 cancellation crisis. But Gardner and Davies were both aware that Doctor Who had succeeded for decades at winning those broad audiences before its late 80s decline. And Davies, in particular, was well-poised to understand how and recreate that success for a new era.
 
This began, of course, with casting. Rumors swirled around the lead, ranging from prominent British film stars like Hugh Grant to television stars like Alan Davies, best known for the detective show Jonathan Creek, but who had also worked with Davies on a six-episode series called Bob and Rose. But in April of 2004 it was announced that the role would go to Christopher Eccleston. This was eye-catching casting, both in its self-evident strength and its strangeness. Eccleston was a well-respected and serious television actor who brought immediate gravitas to the series, but he was more associated with serious roles, particularly in the grand British tradition of social realist dramas about the working class, and seemed a far cry from the eccentric patrician that the Doctor had generally been portrayed as. 
 
The resulting performance was as striking as one could have hoped for. Eccleston retained the mercurial wit of past Doctors, but dramatically changed the way in which the character was presented. Instead of the slightly eccentric period dress worn by most of his predecessors, Eccleston’s Doctor dressed in a slightly worn leather jacket over a simple monochromatic t-shirt. Recalling the way in which, growing up, Doctor Who had never really spoken to him because of the overt poshness of the portrayal, Eccleston played the part in his native Manchester accent, a decision wryly highlighted when he is asked why he sounds like he’s from the north if he’s from another planet, to which he indignantly responds, “lots of planets have a north!” The result was a Doctor that felt contemporary and straightforward, and not quite like anything the series had ever done before.
 
A month later came the equally striking announcement of who would play the role of the Doctor’s companion: Billie Piper. Piper, at the time, was best known for a brief career as a pop star, scoring a couple of top ten hits in the post-Spice Girls landscape of the late 90s, followed by a brief marriage to DJ Chris Evans, which landed her a recurring spot in the tabloids due to the large age gap between them. Following the flop of her second album, Piper decided to refocus on acting, and Doctor Who ended up being her first major gig. Her role was that of Rose Tyler. Davies, in part responding to the popularity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and in part because he felt it would be an effective way of introducing Doctor Who to a new audience, decided that Rose would be considerably more central to the narrative than past companions, and in fact ultimately decided to name the first story Rose so as to highlight her importance. Rose was depicted as an utterly ordinary nineteen year old working class Londoner, living on a council estate and working in a department store, who had her world turned upside down when, in a reprise of the iconic scene from Spearhead in Space, the mannequins in her shop came to life and started killing people. She is, of course, rescued by the Doctor, and, after an episode of trying to find out who he is, ultimately decides to leave her loser boyfriend and nagging mother behind to travel through time and space.
 
Shooting on Rose, and on the revived series in general, began in July of 2004, with tremendous public scrutiny. This was, it has to be admitted, not completely straightforwardly a sign that the program would be a hit. Indeed, no shortage of the attention given to the program was a sort of morbid curiosity as to whether or not reviving a sci-fi program that had been off the air for fifteen years and that was, at that point, mostly known for legendarily poor special effects and the obsessiveness of its fans was going to turn out to be the complete and utter disaster that one would expect. And certainly, if perhaps unsurprisingly, the early days of filming were vexed and tense affairs. The series was vastly more ambitious than anything BBC Cymru Wales’s drama department had ever attempted before, and they almost immediately found themselves hopelessly behind schedule and putting in absolutely draining hours. 
 
In the end, however, it all paid off spectacularly. When the episode aired on March 26th, 2005, exactly eighteen months after the announcement that Doctor Who would be returning, it proved to be a bigger hit than even the most optimistic of expectations, drawing a jaw-dropping 10.8 million viewers. The show was an instantaneous phenomenon, and it was announced just three days later that it would be renewed for a second season. Almost immediately, however, new problems arose. Within hours of the announcement that the series would be renewed, news leaked that Christopher Eccleston would not be returning as the Doctor for the second season. The BBC hastily issued a press release, but only caused further problems when it emerged that the stated reason for Eccleston’s departure (the punishing production schedule) had been established without actually consulting with Eccleston. 
 
But while all of this was mildly embarrassing and no doubt stressful for the production team, the show was nevertheless a smash hit, with the second episode, The End of the World, impressively holding the lion’s share of the audience from Rose and pulling eight million viewers. While there were several regards in which Rose (quite sensibly) played it safe in introducing Doctor Who to a new audience, The End of the World pulled no such punches. Indeed, Davies went out of his way with the second story to highlight the extent to which the series could be strange, opting to spend a disproportionate amount of the season’s budget on a spectacular assortment of alien costumes for an episode set in the far, far future. 
 
The effect was to quickly and decisively establish one of the fundamental aspects of what Doctor Who is, which is to say, a show that can, week to week, radically reinvent itself, a point highlighted in its final scene where, after all of the far future adventures with aliens, the Doctor and Rose return to present day Britain to get chips. This may seem an innocuous thing, and yet it was strangely unprecedented in the series’ history - only a handful of episodes had ever juxtaposed the future and present within a single story, and none had done it so casually and with an eye towards emphasizing the scope of the series as a whole. Equally significant, though, is the way in which the final scene really does serve as a culmination of the entire episode, which took place on an orbital platform watching the destruction of the Earth as the sun expands, billions of years in the future. After witnessing it, the Doctor takes Rose back to the present day, where the Earth is alive and well. And, more importantly, he introduces one of the key components of Davies’s revised mythology for Doctor Who
 
One of the bolder decisions Davies made in planning the series was to make Eccleston the Ninth Doctor, establishing the new series as a continuation of the original twenty-six year run and the TV Movie. But in The End of the World, Davies revealed a major twist to the tale: somewhere between the TV Movie and Rose there had been a massive war in which Gallifrey had been destroyed, leaving the Doctor as the last of the Time Lords. The specifics of the war and what happened are left vague, but it’s still a massive revelation that does more to reshape the basic lore of who the Doctor is than anything since the revelation that he was a Time Lord in the first place, all the way back in 1969. And the way in which Davies makes the revelation extend both out of the plot of the episode (paralleling Rose watching the future destruction of the Earth and the Doctor having witnessed the death of his own people) and out of the scope of what the series can do (moving from an ostentatiously gaudy parade of aliens to a mundane street scene in early 21st century London) is impressive and subtle in a way that nothing before it in Doctor Who ever had been.
 
Davies wrote a staggering eight of the episodes in the first season of the returned Doctor Who, but a full thirteen episode run of a series like Doctor Who is too much for any writer, which meant that Davies had to bring on other writers. For this task, he drew more or less entirely from the prominent writers during the cancellation, hiring Paul Cornell from the Virgin era, Rob Shearman from Big Finish, and Mark Gatiss, who had written for both lines, as well as for BBC Books. Rounding out the group was Steven Moffat, who had contributed a short story to a Virgin anthology, along with writing a comedic sketch entitled Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death, staring Mr. Bean and Blackadder star Rowan Atkinson as the Doctor, which aired as part of the Red Nose Day celebrations in 1999. 
 
Of the four, it was Gatiss whose episode aired first, coming up as the third episode of the season. The story, called The Unquiet Dead, played to Gatiss’s strengths - a Victorian horror tale featuring animated corpses and Charles Dickens, played, in a major casting coup for the series, by veteran actor and Dickens expert Simon Callow. This also served to further emphasize the sense of breadth in Doctor Who, which, in its first three weeks, did a story about mannequins trying to take over the Earth, a stylish parade of futuristic aliens, and a Victorian costume drama about Charles Dickens. 
 
It is not merely the variation across three stories that is striking here, however - it’s no more varied than, for instance, the medieval-set The Time Warrior, the present day Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and the futuristic Death to the Daleks in Jon Pertwee’s final season. But those consisted of two four-episode stories and a six-parter, taking place over fourteen weeks - longer than the entire 2005 run of Doctor Who. The first three stories of Davies’s revival, on the other hand, were all single episode tales, albeit done in forty-five minute episodes instead of the twenty-five minute format of the classic series, so that this variety took place over the course of just fifteen days. It was not until the fourth story that the new Doctor Who did a story that took place over multiple weeks, with a cliffhanger in the middle. Consisting of two episodes (and thus roughly the length of a classic four-parter) entitled Aliens of London and World War Three, the story returned to contemporary Earth and reintroduced UNIT, albeit without any returning characters from either its late 80s revamp in Battlefield or the more iconic seventies version. The story was actually the second one filmed, in a production block also containing Rose, and the roughness of those early days shows in many regards, but the story still crackles with ambition, combining an aggressive satire of the Blair government’s handling of the Iraq War (complete with the strong suggestion that the aliens have simply murdered Tony Blair and shoved him in a closet) with kid-friendly flatulent aliens. 
 
The story also broke new ground for Doctor Who in bringing Rose’s family, specifically her boyfriend and mother, back into the show for a return appearance. Previously, home was little more than the thing a companion left when they stepped on board the TARDIS, and sometimes the thing they returned to at the end of their travels. The idea that the companion might pop back home and see her mother was simply something that the series had never previously considered. And so by giving Rose a meaningful home life that remained important throughout the series, as opposed to just in her debut episode, Davies immediately made her a character with depth and nuance that had been absent from previous television companions (although it was, of course, the sort of thing that Virgin had done extensively in the nineties, in turn following from Andrew Cartmel’s development of Ace). 
 
This two-parter was followed by one of the most important stories of the revival’s first season - a story whose importance is highlighted in its title: Dalek. One might have expected such an obviously landmark story to be written by the series’ primary writer, but instead of taking the prestigious slot for himself, Davies turned to Rob Shearman, asking him to adapt his Big Finish story Jubilee for the screen. This required several changes, not least because a single episode of the new series is only half the length of a Big Finish audio, meaning that quite a lot had to be cut. And so Dalek discards the alternate timeline plot, instead having a lone Dalek captured by a collector of alien artifacts as the prize component of his collection. (He names it a “Metaltron.”) This means most of the bleak absurdist commentary on the nature of history and heroism is removed, leaving the focus on the lone, insane Dalek demanding orders and telling the Doctor that he would make a good Dalek.
 
But this interplay between the Doctor and the Dalek is cast in a different light by further revelations about the mysterious Time War that wiped out the Doctor’s people, specifically the fact that the war was fought against the Daleks, and that the lone Dalek the Doctor finds is the last of its kind as well. This was not in and of itself a surprising revelation - after all, it’s not as though there were any other strong candidates for who the Time Lords would fight a devastating war against (although it did have the ironic effect of suggesting that Gallifrey is restored from its fate in The Ancestor Cell only to be destroyed again shortly thereafter in a war with the Daleks). But it further crystalized the new shape of the series’ mythology. 
 
All of this, however, was very nearly completely derailed by that familiar problem with Dalek stories in Doctor Who history: Terry Nation. Nation had passed away in 1997, but his estate still had the copyright to the Daleks, and was just as inclined to play hardball with them as Nation had been in life. Negotiations for their use at one point broke down entirely, resulting in numerous tabloid headlines and in Shearman having to do a panicked rewrite of the script (in a draft cheekily titled Absence of the Daleks) using a concept Davies offered him called the Toclafane - homicidal robotic spheres that spoke in a childish sing-song. Thankfully, after further negotiation, the rift between the BBC and the Nation estate was patched up, clearing the way for the show to use its iconic monster.
 
In many ways more compelling than the return of the iconic monster, however, was Christopher Eccleston’s acting. Eccleston, although he opted to leave the part after only a year, took the role enormously seriously, and he excelled at showing the way in which the Time War had scarred the Doctor. Eccleston explicitly built his performance around the idea of a Holocaust survivor confronting a Nazi, asking Nicholas Briggs, who, in another nod to Big Finish, was hired to do the voices for the Dalek, to skip lunch with him on the day of filming so they could meticulously work through their contribution. The result is an electrifyingly good scene in which the playful facade of the Doctor drops and shatters like never before. Eccleston responds to the existence of the Dalek with cold and almost sadistic fury, not merely trying to kill it, but trying to hurt it and make it suffer, raging at the Dalek that he was the one who killed all of the Daleks, shouting that “I watched it happen! I made it happen!” as the Dalek recoiled in terror. For new viewers unfamiliar with the show’s past mythology, it was a bewildering but invigorating sequence that instantly elevated this new foe to mythic status. For long-time viewers, it was the most epic confrontation between the Doctor and his iconic foes ever, beating even the Doctor’s destruction of Skaro seventeen years earlier in Remembrance of the Daleks, a story from which Shearman also nicked the idea of confronting the old “all you need to do to beat the Daleks is climb up a some stairs” joke by having the Dalek calmly screech “ELEVATE” before hovering and chasing Rose after she runs up a flight.
 
Dalek was followed by another Russell T Davies script, The Long Game - a satire of the news media with a none-too-subtle parody of Rupert Murdoch in the form of an alien overlord running the media to keep humanity in the dark as it feeds off of them, using the villainous “Editor,” played with relish by comedian Simon Pegg, as his mouthpiece and public face. The script was, in fact, an adaptation of one Davies had written at the very beginning of his television career and submitted to Andrew Cartmel, who rejected it with a note that Davies should write something more prosaic and mundane, advice that, to be fair, Davies had, by the time he recycled the script, already taken in the form of Rose Tyler and her family. And fittingly, the story after, Father’s Day, was by Virgin mainstay Paul Cornell, a longtime friend of Davies’s (Davies had given him his television break back on Springhill, and had personally called him after the announcement of the new series to apologize for pre-empting his web-based Scream of the Shalka) who was hired explicitly to provide a story with the emotional resonance of his Virgin-era novels, this time about Rose attempting to change history to prevent the death of her father in, of course, the 1980s. 
 
For all that it was Davies’s insights into how to reinvent Doctor Who for a new century that ensured the revival’s success, it was, ironically, a story by another writer that ended up getting the most attention out of the first season of the revived show. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, the series’ second two-parter, was written by Scottish writer Steven Moffat, a veteran of children’s television and sitcoms. Indeed, Moffat had already made a crucial contribution to the development of the new series; his mother-in-law, Beryl Vertue, who intervened with the Nation estate to secure permission to use the Daleks, having been Nation’s agent and thus being responsible for the deal that had given Nation copyright over the creatures in the first place. 
 
Just as he had Gatiss, Shearman, and Cornell, Davies tapped Moffat for a very specific job, in this case the introduction of a new regular character, to be called Captain Jack Harkness. Captain Jack, who would serve as a second companion for the final five episodes of the series, was to be a square-jawed American romantic hero, and was given to Moffat to introduce on the logic that Moffat’s experience writing four seasons of the sex comedy Coupling would be perfect for creating the sort of loveable rogue that Davies had in mind. Moffat obliged, writing Captain Jack as an utterly charming omnisexual con man, and the part was played to perfection by John Barrowman, a Scottish-born but American-raised actor who made his start in musical theater, who provided exactly the level of camp self-awareness that Moffat’s script demanded.
 
This fit well into Moffat’s script, an inventive puzzle box about a mysterious plague sweeping across Blitz-era London in which people are inexplicably transformed into gas mask-wearing zombies who lurch around creepily intoning “are you my mummy?” The problem, it eventually emerges, stems from an unwed mother named Nancy whose child died when an alien medical ship that uses nanotechnology to heal people crashed. The resulting nanotechnology misunderstood human biology based on the broken body of the child and proceeded to attempt to “fix” humans according to this misconception of how they worked, a situation that the Doctor eventually resolves by getting Nancy to acknowledge her son, who she had brought up thinking was her younger brother, thus answering its repeated question and teaching the alien technology what the child was supposed to look like, thus allowing it to properly heal everyone it had accidentally turned into killer gas mask zombies. The climax consists of the Doctor’s voice catching as he begs, “give me a day like this… give me this one” before finally, joyfully proclaiming, as the alien technology reverses all of the damage done, that “just this once, everybody lives!” 
 
The underlying theme, highlighted both by Jack’s aggressively open-minded attitude towards sex and by the way in which the situation is ultimately resolved by accepting and validating Nancy’s adolescent sexuality, is a moving one about sexual freedom. This is reinforced by the fact that Moffat’s script is the first one in the history of Doctor Who to explicitly acknowledge same-sex relationships, which is ironic given that Davies, prior to the revival of Doctor Who, was best known for Queer as Folk. But The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances doesn’t simply turn its gaze outwards. Moffat’s script is also a sly skewering of fan attitudes towards sexuality in Doctor Who, explicitly poking the question of whether the Doctor is a sexual creature, and of whether romance is something that the series can do, before settling on the answer “yes, it absolutely is.” 
 
But Moffat’s story added another layer that had not been one Davies had asked for, but that would end up being one of the most focused-on aspects of the story. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances returned Doctor Who to the horror mould it had occupied at various points in its past, most famously under the producership of Philip Hinchcliffe during Tom Baker’s first few years in the part. It was not that the first eight episodes of Davies’s Doctor Who were without scares: The Unquiet Dead was a Victorian ghost/zombie story, while Father’s Day featured grim reaper-esque wyverns. But The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances actively lingers on its horror, not merely introducing creepy gas mask monsters, but visibly delighting in them and trying to make them as unnerving as possible.
 
This has always been an effective tactic for Doctor Who, and it unsurprisingly paid off. Between its satisfying horror movie notes, the warm humor brought by Moffat’s sitcom experience, and the nuanced sophistication of its themes, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances stood out among the first season’s episodes, and garnered especially high critical praise, most notably winning the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form). The nomination slate for the awards was impressively slanted towards Doctor Who, with three of the seven nominees being Doctor Who episodes (Dalek and Father’s Day were also nominated), with nothing else getting more than one - an accomplishment that is all the more impressive when one realizes that the revived series didn’t start airing in the United States, where the largest bloc of Hugo voters resides, until early 2006, and that not all of the episodes had even aired yet when the nominations were announced. 
 
One of the things that Davies, and indeed the whole of the BBC realized when deciding to revive Doctor Who was that the series would have to have enough of a budget to push back against its reputation as cheap and poorly made science fiction. And that was demonstrated in several episodes in the first season, including Moffat’s, which featured an extended sequence of Rose hanging off a barrage balloon as the Luftwaffe bombed London, a sequence Moffat later admitted to initially writing as a joke to tease Davies and Gardner after they repeatedly reiterated that Moffat had a much larger budget available than he was used to from sitcoms, assuming at the time that he was asking for far more than could be accomplished. Elsewhere in the season were the myriad of alien costumes for The End of the World, the sleek redesign of the Daleks for Dalek, numerous expensive CGI monsters, and a spectacular model sequence done for the beginning of Aliens of London in which an alien spaceship crashed into Big Ben.
 
But in order to afford all of this, Davies had to contrive to make a comparatively inexpensive episode, which he elected to write himself, feeling that it was unfair to ask another writer. Davies also felt that it was important to feature the city of Cardiff, where the series was based, in acknowledgment of the central role BBC Cymru Wales played in its development. And so he wrote Boom Town, an episode featuring only one shot of a monster, with its central scene being the Doctor and the primary villain (a survivor from Aliens of London/World War Three, who spends most of the episode masquerading as a human) having dinner together in a restaurant. Boom Town, however, was merely the calm before the storm - a moment of relative quiet before the series launched into its most ambitious story yet.
 
It is worth noting that Doctor Who had never really attempted a season finale before. The closest thing to one was The Armageddon Factor, the lackluster conclusion to the late 70s Key to Time storyline. But the idea of a big epic that ties up plot threads from previous stories was new for Doctor Who. It is also worth noting that at the time that Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways was written and filmed, it was still entirely possible that Doctor Who was going to be a massive, humiliating flop. The last day of filming for the finale was on March 23rd, 2005, three days before Rose debuted. Throughout filming the season, Davies had told everyone working on it that even if the show flopped, they’d always have the DVD set to be proud of having tried. And the big finale was being finished in the days before they finally found out if that was all they were going to have.
 
This is worth stating, because given all of this, it is genuinely stunning how confident a piece of television the season finale is. The first episode, Bad Wolf, is an unrelenting crescendo of events that start small and seemingly ridiculous, and end with the Doctor facing down a fleet of Dalek ships, including a scene where we see a massive chamber of Daleks, all shrieking “EXTERMINATE” in unison, a giddy celebration of the fact that CGI finally made it possible to have hundreds of Daleks flying around a massive spaceship instead of just having three of them and having to somehow keep the supposed invasion force off screen the entire time. 
 
But it is in some ways the small events at the start of the episode that are even more remarkable. The opening shots of the episode remain one of the absolute strangest things the show has ever done. There’s a flash of light, and the Doctor wakes up on the floor of a room. A young woman helps him up, and it slowly becomes evident that the Doctor has woken up in the Big Brother house, and that he is apparently a contestant on the popular reality show. As he’s led into the diary room and told he’s on live television, Christopher Eccleston says what the entire audience was thinking: “you have got to be kidding me.” 
 
Certainly, it seemed improbable. Big Brother was, at the time, a massively popular show. More to the point, it was a show on Channel 4, one of the BBC’s main competitors. And yet there it was, complete with the correct theme music and Davina McCall doing a voice cameo as a robotic version of her usual job as announcer. The episode went on to include homicidal robot versions of What Not To Wear and The Weakest Link, also featuring the real presenters of the show doing their robotic counterparts’ voices. It was difficult to decide what was more surprising - that everyone had agreed to this, or that Doctor Who was willing to brazenly put itself in the same bracket as some of the most iconic programs on British television. 
 
Also notable is the title of the episode. As production on the series began in July of 2004, Davies quietly began asking for small alterations to episodes to incorporate the phrase “bad wolf,” sometimes as a phrase uttered in dialogue, other times as graffiti on a wall in the background (or, in one case, on the TARDIS itself). No explanation, nor even a hint of an explanation was offered, although the phrase was finally explicitly acknowledged in Boom Town. Prior to that, it was simply left for viewers to notice and pick up on, which they did in spades, so that, in the lead-up to Bad Wolf, major newspapers were running stories speculating on what the phrase might mean. Until, in Bad Wolf, it was finally revealed as the name of the corporation running the demented television programs as a front for the Daleks. Indeed, the finale did an excellent job of paying off the entire season, despite the season never really overtly teasing any sort of mystery or plot to pay off. Every story either contributed a plot point that was directly picked up on in the finale or by another story that in turn set up the finale in some way. So when, at the end of Bad Wolf, it’s revealed that the Doctor was wrong and that the Daleks survived the Time War, it felt like the single most exciting and high-stakes Doctor Who story ever.
 
This makes the way in which Davies resolved it all the more interesting. Fairly early on in The Parting of the Ways the Doctor contrives to get Rose to go into the TARDIS, at which point he remotely activates it to take her home. His explanation is straightforward - he knows how to stop the Daleks, but doing so is going to kill everybody on board the space station, himself included, and so sends Rose away home for her own safety. Nevertheless, it’s a striking transition, and The Parting of the Ways repeatedly cuts back and forth between the Doctor and Jack trying to hold the Daleks off long enough for the Doctor to execute his plan and Rose, back on her council estate with her mother and boyfriend, bereft at going from the excitement of exploring the universe to a world where the opening of a new pizza shop is what passes for a major event. 
 
This was, of course, the natural culmination of everything Davies had done so far with the show. His intensive focus on Rose as an equal to the Doctor and on fleshing out her character as something more than just the person who happens to travel with the main character made it, in the end, inevitable that the finale would have to resolve in a way that wasn’t just about evil robot salt shakers wanting to take over the universe. And so as the final episode progresses, both the Doctor and Rose are separately pushed towards decisive choices. The Doctor, it’s eventually revealed, isn’t just in a position of blowing up the space station to stop the Daleks - his plan will also result in the destruction of the Earth, putting him, in effect, in the same position he was in at the end of teh Time War. Rose, meanwhile, is stranded on Earth with the TARDIS, desperately trying to figure out how to get back to the Doctor and help him, a task she is convinced is possible after noticing another piece of Bad Wolf graffiti. 
 
In this case, the inevitable solution proves the correct one. The Doctor realizes that he cannot bring himself to commit another double genocide, and slumps back from his weapon, knowing he’s lost, and accepting that the Daleks are about to exterminate him. And then the sound of the TARDIS echoes through the room, and Rose arrives, having looked into the very heart of the TARDIS and ascended to become a being of godlike power. With a gesture of her hand, she atomizes the entire Dalek fleet. With another, she brings Captain Jack, who had died trying to delay the Daleks for the Doctor, back to life. With a third, she takes the phrase “Bad Wolf” from the wall of the space station and scatters it through space and time to provide the very impetus for her own arrival. But as she does this, the power starts to burn her up. The Doctor begs her to let go of it, but she proves unable, and so he goes to her and kisses her, taking the energy into his own body and saving her, rescuing her from the consequences of rescuing him. But the Doctor, of course, is just as unable to hold the energy in his body as Rose is. The only difference is that he can regenerate, and she can’t. 
 
It is worth imagining this from the perspective of one of the millions of new fans that Russell T Davies brought into the show. For thirteen weeks, the show had repeatedly shown its intensive flexibility, never doing the same thing for two stories in a row. It showed that it could jump among genres and juxtapose familiar pieces of television, from the soap opera domesticity of Rose’s council estate to Victorian costume drama to a World War II horror story. And then, at the end, it suddenly and unexpectedly reveals a whole new sort of flexibility and change. Even if the situation was forced on them by Eccleston’s decision to only play the part for one year, it was an enormously high risk move - one that depended on the show having won over its audience so completely that the promise of “and next year, we’ll throw out one of the biggest draws the show had in favor of something completely different” would actually prove enticing.
 
 
But as it happened, that was exactly how completely Russell T Davies had won over the British public. After sixteen years off the air, and more than forty after its creation, Doctor Who was not only back, it was once again one of the biggest things on television.
 

 
Books were forbidden in the Big Brother house. All had assumed the reason to be the avoidance of hours of footage of housemates reading. That was not the reason.
 
Makosi was learning the reason. 
 
Cameras swiveled. Moving to look away. There was panic behind the walls. In the walkways behind the mirrors. Running through the corridors.
 
The book had been smuggled in by Kinga on Day Twenty-Nine, its leaves rustled through the Secret Garden. It may have been A Million Little Pieces, Wicked, The South Beach Diet or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, all of which were in the charts in 2005.  It wasn't anymore.
 
It was gorging. It was feasting. It was unfolding.  
 
Makosi was terrified. What was it doing to the house? To its inhabitants? To their boundaries? How was it rewriting itself? Its pages filled itself with the lives of those who preceded, surrounded and followed her. Lives reinterpreted, recontextualised and refracted. Where Does This Come From?
 
The book shouldn't have been here. Elsewhere, but not here. The quarantine had been important. Reality was becoming too rich. Or too thin. Unsustainable. The words on the page now recorded the housemates' every double entendre and dialogue triumph. Cliche Counters clocked up every time one of the regulars had been rendered unable to nominate. New stories wove themselves through it; Someone seemed to be showing each of the prophesied eleven Channel Four seasons to each of their eleven husbands. Lives became real scrutinising how others became fiction.
 
Unfamiliar sirens sounded. Familiar voices spoke.
 
“Could Makosi come at once to the Eru... to the Diary Room,” said Big Brother.
 
She ignored it and turned back to the book.
 
 
“Oh,” said Makosi, “Oh my days.”
 

 
In contrast to the months of tabloid speculation as to who would play the Ninth Doctor, there was never any doubt that the Tenth Doctor would be played by David Tennant. Tennant had recently worked with Davies and Gardner on Casanova, where he played the young version of the title character as a suitably charming rogue that, in hindsight, served as a prototype for his performance. More than that, he was an avowed Doctor Who fan since childhood, and had even lent his voice to a smattering of Big Finish productions. This was made official less than three weeks after Eccleston’s departure was announced, with Tennant’s casting coming on the same day that Aliens of London was transmitted. It is worth stressing how much of a whirlwind of events this was - the series had only been back for three weeks, and indeed, the Wilderness Years hadn’t even entirely gotten around to wrapping up, with the final novel in the BBC Books Eighth Doctor Adventures line not coming out until June. (Big Finish, for its part, retained its license with the caveat that it covered only material from the original series, and could not reference the new series at all. This was due entirely to the intervention of Russell T Davies, who, when the matter of Big Finish came up at a BBC meeting, spoke up and promised to take care of it, knowing that everyone else at the meeting would demand the license be terminated. Davies, for his part, then proceeded to do nothing whatsoever.)
 
The announcement that Doctor Who would return for a second season was accompanied by an announcement that it would produce a Christmas Special for transmission in 2005, which, it quickly emerged, would also serve as the debut of Tennant’s Doctor. Filming began in July, a month after transmission of The Parting of the Ways (which Tennant recorded his sole scene for shortly after his casting announced), with the episode also featuring Noel Clarke and Camille Coduri reprising their roles as Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler respectively. Indeed, much of The Christmas Invasion focused on Rose and her supporting cast, with the new Doctor collapsing shortly after his regeneration, leaving Rose to fend off an invasion of the alien Sycorax on her own, at least until the final minutes of the episode, when the Doctor awakens to save the day. 
 
This structure served to make Tennant’s unveiling as big a dramatic moment as possible. Although Davies shrewdly gave Tennant a few scenes at the beginning, the plot largely hinges on the moment in the episode’s climax when he steps out of the TARDIS just as the situation appears to be truly hopeless, smiles winningly, and asks “did you miss me?” The story is set up to depend entirely on Tennant turning in a tremendously likeable and compelling performance, and he doesn’t disappoint, shouting down the villains and talking a mile a minute. Tennant foregrounds the manic charisma of the character more than Eccleston did, and so this sort of outright charm offensive serves him well. 
 
But equally significant is the moment after he’s largely defeated the Sycorax, when their defeated leader, after saying he’ll leave in peace, charges at the Doctor, who calmly throws a satsuma at a control panel, sending the villain to his death as he coldly notes that in this incarnation, there are no second chances. The flip to icy ruthlessness is compellingly sudden, and highlights what is in many ways the key difference between Eccleston and Tennant’s performances. With Eccleston, the more comedic aspects of the character always seemed like a mask put on for the world, covering the sense of hurt and guilt over, the audience eventually learns, the Time War. Tennant’s Doctor, on the other hand, fizzes with enthusiasm and gusto that seems entirely sincere, even as it is capable of dropping away in an instant to reveal a man who was willing and able to commit a double genocide in order to save the rest of the universe.
 
At first, however, the particulars of this shift were down entirely to Tennant’s performance. Eccleston’s decision to depart the show came late enough that scripts for the second season were already in progress with his portrayal of the Doctor in mind, and production on the season picked up immediately upon conclusion of The Christmas Invasion. The first few stories served mostly to continue the process of introducing a new Doctor, following the same basic structure set up by the first season - moving quickly among past, present, and future-set episodes. This time, since The Christmas Invasion had been set in contemporary London, it was the future-set episode that led. Called New Earth, and following up on some of the plot threads from the previous year’s The End of the World, the story marked the revived series’s first depiction of an alien planet, as Davies had opted to set all of the first season’s stories either on Earth or on space stations in orbit around Earth, fearing that he would otherwise lose the audience. 
 
After having written eight of the thirteen episodes of the first season, Davies was eager to reduce his workload to something slightly less insane, and so initially planned to write four episodes of the second season, along with The Christmas Invasion. These plans quickly went awry, however, when the writer he’d asked to deliver a story featuring Queen Victoria, werewolves, and kung fu monks proved unable to make that set of ideas work. Davies hurriedly stepped in to draft the script himself, which went out as the second story of the season. 
 
Completing the initial triptych of stories was School Reunion, which was ironically notable both as the first story of the revived series to be written by someone with no prior experience writing for Doctor Who and as the series’ most substantial engagement with its past to date. Entitled School Reunion, and written by Toby Whithouse, the story’s main hook was the return of Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. Picking up roughly where the character had been left off in the aborted K-9 and Company spin-off, Sarah Jane is a journalist with a propensity for investigating strange goings-on that might turn out to be extraterrestrial in origin. Both she and the Doctor end up investigating the same mysterious school, which, inevitably, turns out to be a front for an alien invasion. 
 
The real heart of the story, however, comes from the juxtaposition of Sarah Jane and Rose, with Rose realizing that she’s not the first person to travel with the Doctor, and that he will eventually return to traveling without her, if only because of the stark differences in their lifespans. Sarah Jane, meanwhile, confronts the Doctor with a point that had not really been raised before, namely how it is he can have such intense friendships with people and then just leave them and never even come back to ask how they’re doing. His answer - the pain of watching everyone he loves die as he lives on - is a believable one, but the episode doesn’t let him ignore the fact that he’s still been unbelievably hurtful to the people he loves. 
 
But for all the emotional weight, the overwhelming tone of School Reunion is simply a joyful celebration of the series’ past. Lis Sladen is in fine and compelling form, demonstrating emotional range and depth that the 1970s episodes simply never allowed her to show. But in some ways the real highlight is the return of K-9. The episode openly admits to the basic ludicrousness of a robotic dog named K-9, and to his somewhat dated design. And yet David Tennant’s sheer glee upon greeting the prop is infectious, and the decision to give him a heroic self-destructing ending facing down a swarm of alien gargoyle things (before being rebuilt in a fourth version at episode’s end) is simply one of the most delightful things in all of Doctor Who.
 
Implicit in the handling of Sarah Jane in School Reunion, however, is a theme that had been lurking in the background of the series since it began again, namely that of a romance between the Doctor and his companion. The fact that Rose’s decision to travel on the TARDIS was in part presented as a choice between her boyfriend and the TARDIS always made this an aspect of the program, and it was even more emphasized in Davies’s decision to have the Doctor save Rose at the end of Parting of the Ways with a kiss. And with David Tennant’s arrival the relationship became more overtly romantic, although always in a very self-aware way that stopped just short of actually saying that the Doctor and Rose were in love. But for all that Davies developed it, it was Moffat’s The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances brought the idea of the Doctor as a romantic figure to the forefront. And so it was fitting that Moffat should return for a second story following School Reunion that dealt more explicitly with that theme. 
 
Entitled The Girl in the Fireplace, Moffat’s story featured the Doctor repeatedly dropping into the life of a young French woman named Reinette, who later grows up to be Madame du Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, rescuing her from clockwork robots, at first hiding under her bed when she was a child, and ultimately in the middle of the French court. From the Doctor’s perspective, it’s a whirlwind romance, taking place over the course of a day or so, while for Reinette it’s a story that unfolds over her entire lifetime, finally ending when the Doctor arrives to take Reinette with him on the TARDIS only to discover that he’s arrived after her death, in effect condensing the fate he admits to fearing with Rose and Sarah Jane into, for him, a single day. The story is small, intimate, and beautifully tragic, and brought Moffat and the show a second Hugo award. 
 
The b-plot of The Girl in the Fireplace is largely carried by Rose and Mickey, the latter of whom the Doctor invited on-board the TARDIS at the end of School Reunion, much to Rose’s chagrin. This setup is further developed in the next story, the first two-parter of the second season, entitled Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel. The title of the first episode makes the major point of the story obvious, while the second gives a strong sense of how the Cybermen were revamped this time - as stomping, industrial monsters. The story started as an adaptation of Marc Platt’s Big Finish audio Spare Parts, with the action transposed from a pre-Tenth Planet version of Mondas to an alternate universe. This means that Rose ends up meeting the still alive alternate version of her father, who turns out to be at the heart of Cybus Industries, the company responsible for making this universe’s version of the Cybermen, from which he’s feeding information to a group of rebels led by Rickey, the alternate universe version of Mickey. The story ends with Rickey having died trying to save the world, and with Mickey deciding to stay in the parallel universe, as his grandmother who raised him is still alive there, and as he’s come to realize that Rose is never really going to come back to him with the Doctor still around. 
 
Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel was directed by Graeme Harper, who had previously helmed The Caves of Androzani and Revelation of the Daleks for the classic series, and who was also slated to direct the second season finale, which, as it also featured the Cybermen and their alternate universe, had to be shot immediately after Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel, as it was the only window in which Shaun Dingwall, playing Rose’s father, was available. This finale, entitled Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, is arguably the most iconic story of Davies’s run. Its major purpose, set up from the very beginning of Army of Ghosts, in which Rose, in a voiceover, announces that this is the story of the day she died, was to write Rose out of the show, as Billie Piper, wizened by her experience being pigeon-holed after her pop career, decided it was best to move on. At the story’s center is the villainous Torchwood Institute, an organization set up by Queen Victoria in response to the events of Tooth and Claw with a mandate to acquire and study alien technology to help the British Empire. (“Torchwood,” it should be noted, is an anagram of “Doctor Who,” and was originally the code name under which rough cuts of episodes were shipped from Cardiff to London during production of the first season.) The organization had been teased all season, not unlike the use of the phrase “Bad Wolf” in the first season, and when the Doctor finally meets them he finds them experimenting in bringing “ghosts” into being - shadowy figures who give people the psychic sense that they’re lost relatives, but who are, inevitably, revealed to actually be Cybermen reaching out from the alternate universe.
 
The real action, however, occurs at the end of the first episode when a mysterious sphere recovered by Torchwood and identified by the Doctor as a “void ship,” which travels in the space between universes, opens to reveal its contents: a quartet of Daleks. The idea of the Daleks fighting the Cybermen had, of course, always been something of a dream for Doctor Who fans, albeit one that was never allowed to happen due to objections from Terry Nation, who thought it would diminish the Daleks. But with the new deal for use of the Daleks not requiring creative approval from the Nation estate, Davies was finally free to indulge in the fan dream, which he did with aplomb. As armies of Cybermen invaded every city and every home in the world, the Daleks activate a device called the Genesis Ark, which turns out to be a stolen Time Lord prison containing millions of captured Daleks. 
 
The Doctor finally saves the day by using Torchwood’s equipment to drag the Cybermen and Daleks back into the void, but in the process Rose is nearly sucked in too, and only rescued when her alternate-universe father manages to grab her at the last second and pull her into his universe, where she’s reunited with her mother (who’s already switched universes to be with her alternate-universe husband, her alternate universe self having died in Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel) and Mickey. This saves her life, but permanently separates her from the Doctor, a fact emphasized by a sequence in which the Doctor and Rose stand in the same room, except in two different universes, each pressing their faces to the wall upon which, moments earlier, the portal had been open. The tragedy of the ending is emphasized in a coda to the episode in which the Doctor manages to send a message across the universes before the gap between them closes forever so that he can say goodbye to Rose. His message cuts off just as he says, “I suppose, if it's one last chance to say it, Rose Tyler…” The end of his sentence remains unsaid, but the implication is clear - the Doctor was about to admit that he loved Rose. 
 
Given the degree to which Rose had been central to the series’ relaunch, and to which the relationship between her and the Doctor had an emotional depth that was unprecedented for Doctor Who, Davies had a significant challenge in figuring out how to move forward without the character. This started with the 2006 Christmas special, teased in the closing moments of Doomsday as popular comedian Catherine Tate unexpectedly appeared on the TARDIS in a wedding dress, to both her and the Doctor’s considerable consternation. This set up The Runaway Bride, in which the Doctor attempted to figure out why a seemingly ordinary if comically overbearing bride had unexpectedly teleported from her wedding to the TARDIS. (Ancient spider-aliens in the core of the Earth, as it turned out.) 
 
But The Runaway Bride was not the only piece of Doctor Who-related entertainment scheduled that holiday season. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day saw transmission of the final episodes of the first season of Torchwood, an adult-aimed spinoff that had debuted in the autumn of 2006 featuring John Barrowman’s Captain Jack, has been rendered immortal due to Rose’s intervention to resurrect him in Parting of the Ways, leading a secondary team of Torchwood that, unlike the ones involved n the Season Two finale, isn’t evil. Scheduled post-watershed and on BBC Three, Torchwood was able to grapple with sex and violence in ways that Doctor Who didn’t, which it unabashedly did, sometimes to considerable excess in its first season. 
 
New Year’s also saw the debut episode of a second spin-off, which went in the opposite direction and targeted a children’s audience. The BBC initially asked Davies for a series featuring a young version of the Doctor having adventures on Gallifrey, which Davies immediately rejected on the grounds that it was an absolutely terrible idea, and instead suggested following up School Reunion with a show in the vein of the failed K-9 and Company, this time explicitly focused on Sarah Jane (since the rights to K-9 were held in part by Bob Baker, who co-wrote The Invisible Enemy, and who was shopping around the idea of a K-9-focused series, which would end up getting one season on Australian television). And so Davies created The Sarah Jane Adventures, co-writing the debut episode, Invasion of the Bane, with Gareth Roberts (who had also penned a short interactive Doctor Who episode called Attack of the Graske as a bonus feature accessible via the BBC’s Red Button service after transmission of The Christmas Invasion) as a New Year’s special, with a series to follow later in 2007.
 
As with The Christmas Invasion, The Runaway Bride was filmed as the first story in the next production block of Doctor Who. With Catherine Tate only ever having been intended as a one-off companion, Davies had to come up with a new companion for the third season proper, putting the series in the unusual position of having to start its third year with absolutely none of the cast that had appeared in Rose two years earlier. The new companion, Martha Jones, was played by Freema Agyeman, who had in fact played a small part in Army of Ghosts (a fact nodded to with a throwaway line about a cousin of Martha’s dying during the Cybermen invasion), and who, more significantly, marked the first time that a Doctor Who companion was played by a non-white actor. This was in keeping with Davies’s tendency to favor actively diverse casting, and indeed, Davies had already been the first person to cast a black actor in a recurring role on Doctor Who when he cast Noel Clarke as Mickey. 
 
Martha’s debut followed the basic pattern of the first two seasons. Her first episode, Smith and Jones, introduced her along with a new supporting cast of family members, and, like Rose, featured the Doctor showing up at the new companion’s workplace to fend off an alien invasion. This time, instead of a London shopgirl, Martha was a doctor in her own right, working at the Royal Hope Hospital in London on the day that it was teleported to the moon by evil rhinoceros. In the course of the invasion she impresses the Doctor with her quick wits and calm head, and by saving the day after he’s incapacitated, and he invites her onto the TARDIS, initially for a single trip, although this is, of course, extended.
 
Continuing to follow the pattern established by previous seasons, Martha next goes to the past to team up with a major historical figure to fight aliens (this time William Shakespeare, in an episode penned by Gareth Roberts), and then to the far future for a follow-up to The End of the World and New Earth, this time entitled Gridlock, and featuring a further future version of New Earth in which the entire population of New New York has become imprisoned in a massive traffic jam that has persisted for decades, and are being preyed upon by, of all things, the Macra, making a return appearance despite the fact that their sole previous appearance, the Patrick Troughton serial The Macra Terror, is among those episodes destroyed by the BBC.
 
Throughout these stories, Martha is developed in fairly explicit contrast to Rose, although this is mainly in terms of the Doctor’s interactions with her. Davies opts to write Martha as clearly and explicitly infatuated with the Doctor, while having the Doctor be largely oblivious to this, not least because he’s still demonstrably and visibly upset over the loss of Rose, who hangs over the Doctor and Martha’s interactions. This proves to be a decision with mixed results. Certainly it addresses the importance of Rose in the context of the revamped series - simply replacing Rose would have been jarring at best. But it also appreciably hampers Martha, who isn’t actually properly invited to travel regularly on the TARDIS until around the halfway point of the season, and who ends up always feeling somewhat second best. 
 
The middle portion of the season also suffered from disruption when Davies fell ill and was essentially sidelined from the production for a period, to the general detriment of the stories, particularly a two-part Dalek story set in 1930s Manhattan. This was perhaps not entirely surprising, given the punishing schedule that Doctor Who was keeping to. Production on David Tennant’s first season had commenced in July of 2005, and did not wrap until the end of March 2006. The next run of fourteen episodes started filming just three months later, and Davies was overseeing two other shows at the same time. Each nine month intensive production block of Doctor Who, for Davies, consisted of writing six episodes on his own, on top of his overall responsibilities as Executive Producer. On top of this, Davies preferred to do a rewrite of most other scripts in a season, with only a handful of writers, generally those like Steven Moffat who had experience producing their own shows, being allowed the final draft of their scripts. The workload was as grueling as it had ever been for Doctor Who, and Davies was surely feeling it. 
 
Davies had returned to action, however, by the time of the season’s second two-parter, entitled Human Nature/The Family of Blood. Written by Paul Cornell and, as the title suggests, an adaptation of his fourth Virgin New Adventure, Human Nature. In this case the Doctor takes on human form to hide from the eponymous Family of Blood, a group of time traveling intelligences who take on other people’s bodies, and who are hunting the Doctor to use his regenerations and become immortal. The broad strokes of Cornell’s novel remain in place, but the focus is moved much more to the tragic relationship between the Doctor’s human counterpart, John Smith, and Nurse Joan Redfern, and in particular on the way in which that relationship affects Martha, who is hurt that when the Doctor finally does fall in love, it’s not with her. 
 
This shift in focus also serves to drain some of the incendiary politics out of the novel. Cornell had initially emerged as an immediate successor to the explicitly anti-Thatcher period of the show overseen by Andrew Cartmel, and the Virgin era he exemplified largely shared those politics, Human Nature included. But the televised version made major changes to this. Like the original, it is set in the days immediately before World War I. But where the original features a major character who is shown to become a conscientious objector to the war, the televised version reworks this so that the character chooses to serve in combat, ending with the Doctor and Martha visiting an elderly version of the character in a cemetery for Remembrance Sunday celebrations. This pro-establishment shift is in many ways little more than a sign of the times - the difference between a novel written in the dying days of the string of Conservative governments that began with Thatcher’s 1979 election and a TV story aired a month before Tony Blair stepped aside to allow Gordon Brown to assume the Premiership, and a few years before the Tories once again assumed power. Indeed, the evolution is almost a perfect image for the progress Doctor Who had made in the twelve years since the first version of Human Nature was published, going from a scrappy and marginal bit of counter-culture to the very definition of the mainstream establishment.
 
None of this, of course, is to take away from the quality of Human Nature/The Family of Blood. The doomed romance between John Smith and Joan Redfern is the sort of thing that Davies-era Doctor Who excels at, and caters extremely well to Tennant’s skills as an actor. The sense of grief and loss he’d conveyed the previous season in losing Rose was a tremendous part of the success of Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, and he does similarly well with John Smith’s anguish at the idea of sacrificing his own existence so that the Doctor can return to save the day. More broadly, Tennant is a skilled and flexible actor, and the opportunity to contrast his portrayal of the Doctor with a subtly different role (he was credited at the end of both episodes as playing two parts) is one he took to with obvious relish.
 
Human Nature/The Family of Blood was followed by a Steven Moffat script entitled Blink. Davies had originally asked Moffat to pen the two-part Dalek story from earlier in the season, but Moffat was busy penning a six-episode modern day take on Robert Louis Stephenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde titled simply Jekyll, and did not have time. Instead, Moffat proposed that he would tackle the season’s so-called “Doctor lite” episode. The necessity for this had emerged with the addition of a fourteenth episode to the second season’s production block, which meant that in order to keep the schedule manageable it was necessary to put two episodes into production simultaneously. Since the actors could not be in two places at once, this in turn required that one of the episodes feature the Doctor and his companion in a much-reduced role.
 
In the second season, the writing of this episode fell to Davies himself, who wrote a story entitled Love and Monsters about a young man named Elton who encountered the Doctor as a child, and who as an adult found a community of other people who had encountered the Doctor. The resulting story was an affectionate homage to Doctor Who fandom, with the main antagonist, a domineering alien masquerading as a human who insists that the group stop wasting their time with silly diversions unrelated to trying to find the Doctor, widely being viewed as a scathing parody of prominent 80s fan Ian Levine. The story got a mixed reception on transmission, which is perhaps not surprising given how unusual it was, but Moffat had particularly enjoyed it, and was keen to try this new sort of episode out for himself.
 
In some ways, Blink stuck to the same themes of fandom. Its plot involves deciphering clues left by the Doctor (who gets stranded in the past several decades prior to the landing of his TARDIS) in DVD extras, and has a gag in which someone points out that the TARDIS’s windows are historically inaccurate for a London Police Box that’s based directly on a discussion Moffat had read on a Doctor Who Internet forum. This fits well with Moffat’s style, which tends to favor intricate puzzle box plots that reward the sort of close and mildly obsessive engagement of fans.
 
But what stood out about Blink was ultimately not its clever games with non-sequential storytelling and time travel paradoxes, but rather its monsters. Having previously gotten attention for his disturbing gas mask zombies in his fist story, with Blink Moffat created the most iconic monsters of the new series, the Weeping Angels. Routinely cited as one of the scariest monsters ever created, the idea behind the Angels is straightforward. They appear as statues, immobile as long as someone is looking at them. But if one looks away or even blinks they can move, and if they touch a person, they kill them. The result is a sly play on a cliche of Doctor Who, specifically the image of children “hiding behind the sofa” when the story gets scary, that being the worst possible thing you can do when confronted with a Weeping Angel. Coupled with clever direction from Hettie MacDonald (the revived series’s first female director), who made the wise decision to never show the Weeping Angels moving, tacitly giving the audience the sense that they too could not safely look away, the story was an immediate classic, and won both Doctor Who and Moffat its third consecutive Hugo Award, the first show to accomplish the feat since The Twilight Zone over the course of 1960-62. 
 
Rounding out the third season were a trio of episodes from Russell T Davies, in which he cleverly subverted the expectation of a two-part finale by having the first of the three, Utopia, build to a dramatic cliffhanger that immediately set up the final two episodes. Utopia, which featured the return of Captain Jack to Doctor Who, picking up on the first season cliffhanger of Torchwood, in which Captain Jack disappears after hearing the familiar sound of the TARDIS materializing, was set in the far future, in the dying days of the universe, with the last remnants of humanity desperately trying to reach the fabled planet of Utopia. Helping them in this is a kindly old scientist named Professor Yana, played by veteran actor Derek Jacobi, who had previously played an alternate continuity iteration of the Doctor in Rob Shearman’s Big Finish audio Deadline, as well as the robotic version of the Master in Paul Cornell’s Scream of the Shalka webcast. But in the closing moments of the episode it emerges that Professor Yana is, unknowingly, actually the Master, disguised as a human using the same technology that had enabled the plot of Human Nature/The Family of Blood. The episode ends with the Master realizing his nature just in time to be killed and regenerate into a new form, played by John Simm, after which he steals the Doctor’s TARDIS and runs off, abandoning the Doctor to a horde of mutated savages storming the compound where the last humans had been hiding out. 
 
The concluding two-parter, The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords, has the Doctor, Martha, and Jack following the Master to contemporary England using Jack’s vortex manipulator, a primitive form of time travel, where it quickly becomes apparent that the Master has not embarked on his most ambitious evil scheme to date. As with “Bad Wolf” and “Torchwood” before, the third season had repeatedly made mention of a mysterious governmental figure named Mr. Saxon who is revealed at the start of The Sound of Drums to in fact be the Master, and, even more astonishingly, the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Over the course of the episode things go from bad to worse, until, in the cliffhanger, all the main characters save for Martha are prisoners of the Master, who has effectively taken over the entire planet, the Doctor has been forcibly aged into an old man who can’t even stand, and the Master has unleashed the Toclafane (the homicidal childlike aliens that Davies had briefly offered to Rob Shearman for his Season One episode when it looked like the Daleks would be unavailable, revealed in this story, in a shockingly bleak twist, to in fact be the future humans who were trying to reach Utopia) with the order to slaughter ten percent of the world’s population. 
 
 
Last of the Time Lords, meanwhile, finally pays off the extended plot of Martha being treated as second-best, as she essentially single-handedly saves the day, traversing the ruined Earth with a plan to stop the Master by getting the remaining population to hijack the telepathic network the Master set up to facilitate his conquest by simultaneously thinking of the Doctor, which allows him to free himself and undo the Master’s scheme. In the course of this the Master is fatally shot and dies in the Doctor’s arms, deliberately declining to regenerate so as to win one last victory over the Doctor by once again condemning him to be the last of his kind. The episode ends, satisfyingly, with Martha deciding to stop traveling with the Doctor, having realized in the wake of her saving the world that her unrequited feelings for him are holding her back, and that she needs to get out for her own good. And so the Doctor finds himself alone again, standing mournfully in the TARDIS as, in a cliffhanger setting up the next Christmas special, the Titanic smashes through the wall of the TARDIS.
 

 
Putting the book aside, he realized at some point, the soft pattern of breathes in the background ceased. It had none of the drama and tension that people attribute to such things. Even the Doctor hadn't noticed, he was so caught up in the tale. But there was no denying it, the hand he held during the story was already starting to go cold. He leaned in and placed a gentle kiss on the wrinkled forehead and whispered "Goodnight Wilfred Mott" before heading to the nurses' station to relay the news. 
 
 
He waited for her by the elevators. Part of him wanted to hide even though he knew that this face was much older than the face she would remember. Not that she would remember anyway. But it was a coward's impulse he could do her the small kindness of ensuring that it was someone she knew who would deliver the news, even if she wouldn't know it.
 
In the end, all he could say when he saw her was "Donna Noble, I am so sorry." 
 
 
He felt like an intruder hovering outside the room as she whispered "I'm sorry"s and "I love you"s and "I should have been here"s. Finally, when he was certain she wasn't going to collapse (he was always certain she wasn't going to collapse, she was stronger than that, but he *worried*) he began meandering down the hall.
 
As he reached the back elevator, he heard a commotion  behind him. He heard a frantic voice demanding "Where is he? Where did he go? The doctor? The one who told me about Granddad?" 
 
"Mrs. Temple-Noble, I'm sorry but that man wasn't a doctor from here. We thought he was a friend of yours. He sat there and told Mr. Mott all of these fantastic stories. He must have been one of the new volunteers. They can come and go as their schedule allows."
 
"I'm so sorry Donna." And the elevator doors closed.
 
 
Clara was waiting by the car. "All done?"
 
"Yes."
 
"Are you okay?"
 
"Yes."
 
Clara looked at him intently for a moment, then swooped in for a hug. "I'm so sorry Doctor."
 
"Thank you for driving." After a moment, the Doctor extricated himself from the embrace. "We should go." He glanced back. "Goodnight Wilf. It was an honor."
 
 
"Here. Tea helps everything." Clara foisted a steaming cup towards the Doctor. 
 
"Thank you Clara but I am fine." He couldn't turn down tea though.
 
"I know. But there should always be tea." She blew gently on her cup and took a sip. "Did you finish the story?"
 
"Not quite."
 
"You should finish it. I would love to hear the end."
 
"I shouldn't just jump in midway."
 
Clara smiled. "All the best stories are jumped into midway."
 
 
She was right, the tea did help. He put it aside for now, opened the book and began again.
 


 
This Christmas special would prove to be the most watched story of the revived Doctor Who series, and one of the most watched of the program’s entire history, beaten only by a couple of late 70s Tom Baker episodes that aired when there were only three major channels in the UK, one of which was off air due to a strike. This was almost entirely down to the most audacious and spectacular bit of guest casting that the series had ever done, as the production team managed to convince pop superstar Kylie Minogue to appear as the one-off companion. Minogue in fact had a longstanding quasi-relationship with Doctor Who due to her frequent collaborations with fashion designer Will Baker, a massive Doctor Who fan who had previously worked an appearance of the Cybermen into a dance sequence for her 2005-07 world tour, and, rather more cheekily, wound up fans in 2002 by sneaking a copy of the Eighth Doctor Adventure Camera Obscura onto a sofa next to her while she was taking a nap and snapping a shot of it to post online. Baker was also responsible for putting Minogue in contact with Davies. 
 
The special, entitled Voyage of the Damned, was Davies’s homage to classic disaster films such as The Poseidon Adventure, featuring a luxury space liner reproduction of the Titanic that finds itself in considerable trouble while flying by the Earth, with the Doctor and Minogue’s character, cocktail waitress Astrid Peth, having to save the ship before it crashes and destroys the Earth. With the special airing a month after the release of her tenth studio album (and first since her recovery from breast cancer), Minogue’s casting couldn’t have been better timed, and an astonishing 13.3 million viewers tuned in, making Voyage of the Damned the second most watched episode of television in the entirety of 2007. 
 
This was, needless to say, a tough act to follow. Indeed, the entirety of Doctor Who was increasingly becoming a tough act to follow. The program, after its first three years, was still a ratings juggernaut. But Davies was increasingly coming to the conclusion that he had done all he could with the program, and that it would be best for him to depart on a high note. And as had, historically, often been the case for Doctor Who, Davies’s inclination to depart coincided with several other high profile personnel. Julie Gardner, who remained a close collaborator with Davies in addition to her duties overseeing the drama department at BBC Cymru Wales, was similarly minded to move on. In addition, Tennant, despite having the time of his life in what was an absolute dream come true for him, was mindful of typecasting, and inclined to roughly keep to the “do three years and move on” advice originally offered by Patrick Troughton to Peter Davison. And so all of them went into the fourth season of the revived series with a mind towards it being their last. 
 
A fourth season, however, would require a new companion, who Davies set about designing. Davies had enjoyed the adult relationship of equals that had existed between the Doctor and Donna Noble, Catherine Tate’s character in The Runaway Bride, in which she was more of a bickering partner than a younger assistant, and set about designing a companion who would have a similar assertiveness, coming up with a feisty northern journalist named Penny. But as he was developing Penny, BBC Head of Fiction Jane Tranter called Gardner say that she’d just had a meeting with Catherine Tate at which Tate had kept talking about how much she’d enjoyed working on Doctor Who, and suggested that they might be able to persuade Tate to do a full series. This was, to say the least, good fortune. Tate was an established television star in her own right whose casting would help keep the show in the headlines, and her desire to do a single series matched up perfectly with those of Davies, Gardner, and Tennant. And so Davies’s idea of a more Donna-like companion quickly became Donna herself.
 
As he had with both Martha and Rose, Davies was keen to ensure that Donna came with a supporting cast of recurring characters. Since her debut story took place around her wedding, Davies had already created her immediate family, with Jacqueline King playing her mother, Sylvia, and Howard Attfield playing her father, Geoffrey. Both were re-hired for her debut story, Partners in Crime, an entertaining farce involving a weight-loss company that was converting human fat into alien creatures. The Doctor and Donna would both end up separately investigating the company, the Doctor as per usual, and Donna in an attempt to find the Doctor, having decided she’d made the wrong decision in declining his offer to travel with him at the end of The Runaway Bride, but would spend most of the episode humorously just missing each other before finally meeting for the climax. 
 
During production, however, it became obvious that they had a problem. Howard Attfield was battling cancer, and it quickly became apparent that he would be too ill to make regular appearances throughout the season - indeed, he passed away not long after filming his scenes for Partners in Crime. Deciding that recasting the role would be disrespectful, Davies opted to rework Partners in Crime so that the material originally written for Attfield would instead go to a new character, Donna’s grandfather. On the suggestion of Phil Collinson, who had been serving as producer on the series since it came back, they called Bernard Cribbins, a veteran actor who had done a one-day cameo for Voyage of the Damned, offering him the part. Cribbins, who had previously appeared as in one of the 1960s Peter Cushing Dalek films, accepted, and so the character was rewritten as Wilfred Mott, a war veteran and amateur astronomer who would serve as a supportive figure for Donna, in contrast with her mother’s continual belittling of her.
 
Meanwhile, thoughts were quickly turning to the future of Doctor Who. It was by no means an obvious thing that the program would continue following the departures of Davies and Gardner. Television was a very different thing from when the series had started in 1963, and changing production teams on an established hit drama was, in 2008, an unusual thing to do, doubly so on one that was in part associated with a particular writer and producer’s creative vision. The entire point of bringing back Doctor Who had been, in part, that a high profile and acclaimed writer like Russell T Davies would be writing it. Without him, the logic for the show’s existence evaporated.
 
Thankfully, there was an obvious successor available in the form of Steven Moffat, who had by this point written three of the most acclaimed stories of the series, and who had experience as the head writer of five television shows of various degrees of acclaim, and who had been an executive producer on Jekyll. Davies broached the subject of whether Moffat would be interested in the job in July of 2007, during production of Voyage of the Damned, and he was formally offered the job two months later. Around the same time, Moffat began work on a two part story for Season Four, using an idea he had been kicking around since 2005, of a gigantic library in outer space. Although he had not yet worked out what he wanted to do with the series, Moffat wanted to use this story to engage with the idea of Doctor Who’s future, and hit upon the idea of the Doctor meeting someone out of order, so that when he first met them, they would already have met him several times, all of them in his future.
 
The resulting character was Professor River Song, an archeologist and adventurer who called on the Doctor to help her investigate mysterious goings on in the library, only to have her message accidentally reach him far earlier than she intended. The story ended with River sacrificing her life to save the Doctor’s, reacting with quiet fury when she realizes that over the entirety of their (yet to happen, from the Doctor’s perspective) relationship, he had kept secret from her the fact that he knew how she would die. The exact nature of this relationship is deliberately left vague, although there’s a distinct hint that she might in fact be the Doctor’s future wife, not least because of her enthusiastic greeting of “hello sweetie” when she first meets him. Playing the part was Alex Kingston, a well-regarded actress best known for a several year run in the American medical drama ER. 
 
Moffat’s story, Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, aired late in the fourth season, with the first episode going out on May 31st, 2008, eleven days after the public announcement that Moffat would be taking over from Davies in 2010. Between the end of the fourth season and the start of Moffat’s first season in charge would be a run of five specials. By this point rumors were swirling that Tennant was also going to depart the series. He had, only just made a final decision regarding this, having met with Moffat to discuss the possibility of staying before deciding that, excited as he was about Moffat’s ideas for the series, he would prefer to watch those ideas as a fan. But for the time being, this announcement was held back. 
 
Before any of this, however, there were still four more episodes of Season Four to air. In Seasons Two and Three, Davies had split the five episodes he wrote such that two appeared among the opening episodes, and three towards the end of the run. With Season Four, however, Davies opted to write the first episode, and then to return for a straight shot of four at the end of the season. The first two of these four episodes served as the season’s two simultaneously shot episodes. Instead of doing an episode like Love and Monsters or Blink in which both the Doctor and Donna would largely be absent, Davies opted to split the characters up, doing one episode featuring each of them. The first to air was Midnight, in which the Doctor and Donna split up while on a holiday planet, with the Doctor taking a bus trip to see a waterfall made of sapphires. The episode gave Davies a final opportunity to write something small-scale and intimate for Doctor Who, with the bulk of the episode taking place on one set, with a small number of characters being menaced by a never-seen monster scraping at the outside of the bus. 
 
Donna’s episode, on the other hand, was a piece of bombastic spectacle designed to set up the season finale. In it, Donna finds herself in an alternate reality in which a small decision to, on a given day, turn left instead of right (the episode is titled Turn Left) means that she never meets the Doctor, and that he thus perishes during the events of The Runaway Bride. As a result, every alien invasion from a subsequent story, starting with Smith and Jones and continuing all the way to the Season Four two-parter featuring the return of the Sontarans, goes disastrously wrong, and the world steadily drifts towards an oppressive dystopia in which immigrants and racial minorities are being dragged off to “labour camps.” (“That’s what they called them last time,” a horrified Wilf says as his friends are dragged away.) But by episode’s end, an even bigger threat presents itself, as the stars in the sky start disappearing.
 
But the real news of Turn Left is the guest appearance by Rose Tyler, who appears throughout the episode trying to warn Donna that something has gone badly wrong with this reality. This return had been teased throughout the season, starting with a cameo at the end of Partners in Crime that was slyly held back from the press screening of the episode so as to cause maximum commotion when the story actually aired, and continuing with several more brief cameos suggesting that Rose was desperately trying to contact the Doctor. The story ends with Rose convincing Donna to sacrifice herself to restore the correct timeline, sending her back with a warning for the Doctor about a terrible danger consuming all realities. 
 
This leads directly into the season finale, in which the Doctor confronts said danger, which turns out to be Davros and a massive fleet of Daleks with a scheme that involves teleporting the Earth across time and space and combining it with an array of other planets to create a massive “reality bomb” that will destroy every single universe in existence. This provides the occasion for a giddily over the top story in which the Doctor, Donna, Rose, Martha, Mickey, Jackie, and the casts of both Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures team up to stop Davros and the Daleks, which they manage after a crucial intervention from Donna, but at the cost of the Doctor having to erase Donna’s memory of all of her adventures with him in order to save her life, and to return her to Earth to live out the same dead-end life as a temp she was desperate to escape in Partners in Crime so that, for the third season running, the Doctor sadly slumps off to the TARDIS alone, this time after dramatically and tearfully standing in the rain mourning his best friend. (The story also further stresses the importance of the Doctor and Rose’s relationship, with Rose returning to the alternate universe she was trapped in at the end of Doomsday, this time with an alternate version of the Doctor who is half human and will thus age and die instead of regenerating, meaning that at last he can spend his life with her.)
 
On one level, this amounted to a massive profusion of content that only attentive Doctor Who fans would care about, seeming to rival the worst excesses of the 1980s. But in 2008 there were literally millions of attentive Doctor Who fans, and the nation turned out in droves. The first episode, The Stolen Earth, pulled in 8.8 million viewers, making it the second most watched program of the week. The finale, Journey’s End, pulled in a staggering 10.6 million, making Doctor Who, for the first time in its history, the number one program on British television, with nearly seventeen percent of the entire country tuning in. It was, quite simply, the most popular that Doctor Who had ever been.
 
No small part of the attention generated by the finale came from the audacious cliffhanger to The Stolen Earth, in which the Doctor is shot by a Dalek and begins to regenerate, with the characteristic explosion of energy bursting out of him as the episode cuts to credits. With rumors already swirling that David Tennant was departing, this was an astonishingly savvy move that, quite obviously, paid off in spades. (In practice, the Doctor regenerated into the same form, resulting in the creation of the alternate version that remained with Rose.) Indeed, it was such a good trick that the show tried and succeeded with a similar one for the 2008 Christmas special, the first of five that would see out the Davies/Tennant era. By this time Tennant’s departure had been announced, coming in October during Tennant’s acceptance speech at the National Television Awards, where he won his third consecutive award for his portrayal of the Doctor. And so the special’s teasing title, The Next Doctor, attracted no end of speculation that David Morrissey, the high-profile guest star of the year, would be Tennant’s replacement. 
 
This was, in reality, a feint - Morrissey’s character believed himself to be the Doctor, but was in fact an ordinary human who had his memories inadvertently altered in an encounter with the Cybermen. But on January 3rd, 2009, little more than a week after The Next Doctor aired, the BBC announced that the Eleventh Doctor would be played by Matt Smith, who, at twenty-six, was by far the youngest ever to be cast in the part. In a testament to how big the program had gotten and how major a piece of news this casting announcement was, an entire half-hour special was created to make the announcement, despite the fact that they had cast a relatively unknown actor in the part. 
 
But despite being announced, the Moffat/Smith era of Doctor Who was still more than a year from starting, and there were still four more big, high profile specials to do with David Tennant. Of these, it was the first, a story ultimately called The Planet of the Dead, that proved the most thorny. One of the reasons for the year of specials was to allow Tennant the time to play the title role in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet (which, on the back of the Season Four finale, quickly became the most sought-after theater ticket in Britain). But Tennant’s theater commitments meant that there was only time to film The Next Doctor at the end of the Season Four production block, and he would not be free to start work on Planet of the Dead until January of 2009. As the special had been conceived of as a lighthearted tale for Easter (it was initially imagined as a rough adaptation of Gareth Roberts’s New Adventure The Highest Science, although the script, co-authored by Roberts and Davies, quickly deviated from that), this was an extremely tight turnaround. After briefly considering splitting the shoot between the end of the Season Four production block and the start of the block for the rest of the specials, it was decided that the eponymous planet would consist of a large number of pure CGI shots, which meant that the visual effects team could start work prior to shooting.
 
Further calamities arose, however, around the story’s central image, a London double decker bus that would get pulled through a wormhole and end up on an alien planet. In addition to the CGI, it was decided that the alien planet would be best realized via an international shoot in the deserts of Dubai. This, then, required the shipping of a bus to Dubai, and so the production team secured two identical busses, one to use for the UK-based shoots before and after the bus was transported to an alien planet, and another to use in Dubai. The Dubai-bound bus, however, was badly damaged during shipping. Thankfully, the damage did not actually render the bus unusable, and was indeed deemed to actually look pretty cool, and so it was decided that they would simply use the damaged bus, securing a third bus for the UK-based shoot which they could damage to match the Dubai bus for the sequences taking place after the bus returned. 
 
Once the crew arrived in Dubai, further problems arose when a sandstorm caused them to lose their first day of filming, resulting in a nightmarish schedule for the remainder of the shoot. Everyone persevered, however, and particularly good weather towards the end of the shoot meant that they managed to avoid losing any scenes. Production on Planet of the Dead wrapped on February 18th, and the episode narrowly made its April 11th transmission date, becoming the first Doctor Who story to air in high definition, although the turnaround was so tight that they could not even hold a press launch for the special.
 
Meanwhile, even though Doctor Who was not running a full season in 2009, its spin-offs were going strong. Torchwood, in its first season, had done sufficiently well on BBC Three that the BBC decided to move it to the higher profile BBC Two for its second season, and, following the success of that, to BBC One for a third. This last move, however, proved complicated - although the series was popular enough to move to BBC One, the greater competition for programming slots on that channel meant that its third season would only be five episodes long, much to Davies’s chagrin, as he felt the show was in effect being punished for its popularity. Nevertheless, Davies obliged, reworking his third season plans from the anthology format of the first two seasons to a single story that would be told over five episodes, to air on five consecutive days over the summer. The resulting story, Children of Earth, was a grim conspiracy thriller and, more to the point, a critical and commercial smash, pulling in ratings almost as good as those Doctor Who normally got. Also airing in 2009 was the third season of The Sarah Jane Adventures, which this time had a plum bit of guest casting when David Tennant made an appearance as the Doctor for a story called The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith (the wedding was actually an evil scheme by an ancient malevolent being called the Trickster, which the Doctor obligingly helped foil), in what was in fact his last work in the part, filmed after his regeneration story.
 
A few weeks after The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith came the second of the four specials, The Waters of Mars. This proved, in many ways, as convoluted a production as the previous one, although this time the complications came largely in scripting. The original plan for the specials had been that there would be three - the Easter special, a 2009 Christmas special, and a regeneration story early in 2010. The Christmas special, as with the Easter special was to be a co-authored affair, with Phil Ford, one of the primary writers of The Sarah Jane Adventures, doing the initial drafts before Davies finished the script. But in October of 2008 it was decided that Tennant’s swansong should be a two part story, to air on Christmas and New Year’s. This threw Ford’s script into chaos. Initially it was thought that the story would be aired in the fall, perhaps around Halloween, before being moved up to December, with the idea that it would air a week before Christmas. Then the episode nearly found itself abandoned when difficulties relating to the 2008 financial crisis meant that the budget for the specials abruptly shrank. Julie Gardner managed to rework things to secure funding, only to have the money slated to switch the show to high definition production for the specials dry up, necessitating that money be taken from the Waters of Mars budget and requiring a complete redesign for the monsters. Eventually, however, the special, a claustrophobic horror story in the classic “base under siege” model of the Troughton era, managed to be completed, and aired in mid-November, managing to miss both of the originally considered dates.
 
This left only Tennant’s swansong, The End of Time. Having done the Daleks for the Season Four finale and the Cybermen for The Next Doctor, the obvious villain to make a return was the Master, who Davies had pointedly given an obvious path to resurrection in Last of the Time Lords when a mysterious figure stole a ring from the villain’s funeral pyre. But accompanying the Master would be an even bigger threat - the Time Lords, who, under the guidance of a resurrected Rassilon, played by ex-Bond actor Timothy Dalton, embarked upon a mad scheme to destroy time itself and ascend as beings of pure thought in order to escape death at the end of the Time War. The Doctor, of course, ultimately stops them, preventing the Time Lords’ return and maintaining the new status quo for the series, but in the process receives a fatal dose of radiation while rescuing Wilf (who serves as the companion for this story) from certain death.
 
This regeneration ends up playing out somewhat differently from previous ones, however. Although the radiation poisoning is fatal, the Doctor’s death is not immediate. Instead he has some time to settle his affairs between his fatal injury and his actual regeneration, which allows for a montage in which the Doctor revisits his companions, starting with Martha (who is, rather peculiarly, married off to Mickey) and ending with Rose, who the Doctor visits on New Year’s Day 2005, a few months before she first meets him in Rose. Finally, with this completed, the Doctor staggers back to the TARDIS where, with a plaintive “I don’t want to go” that spoke as much for Tennant and Davies themselves as for the fictional character, the Doctor regenerates into his eleventh form. The sequence is, to be sure, self-indulgent in the extreme. And yet it is strangely hard to quibble with. Under Russell T Davies, Doctor Who not only managed what had previously seemed the impossible feat of coming back from the dead, it thrived and became popular in a way that the series never had been in its more than forty-five years of history. The End of Time was an unabashed victory lap, but one that is hard to begrudge given the scope of the victory won. And so more than any other creator in the history of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat found himself with a tough act to follow.
 


He looked up from the book.
 
"Grandpa, is it possible to travel in time?"
 
The reader looked at their granddaughter and thought for a moment.
 
"Yes, in fact we're travelling through time right now.  Every second we travel a second into the future, and by the time we get there, the future is now."
 
"Funny, I meant real time travel!  Like stepping into a machine and stepping out next Wednesday, or last Wednesday!"
 
The man thought over this for a while, and then seemed to reach a decision.  He slowly unfolded himself from the chair beside the bed and looked down on the small girl in the bed.
 
"Do you know what I am?" he asked quietly
 
"Of course," the girl replied, "You're my Grandfather."
 
"Indeed I am," the elder replied, "but I studied to become something else.  And through hard work and diligence I succeeded.  I know a great deal about the workings of the universe and the methods by which we might know it better.  I am not just an ordinary man, but something altogether more important!"
 
The girl stared at her relative with a quiet awe, something was dawning on her, something that she had never thought of before.  Of course her Grandfather did something when he was not with her, of course he had a role in society that did not revolve around his family.  She took a breath and blurted,
 
"You're a Timelord?  Oh my gracious Grandpa, when I grow up I want to steal a TARDIS and go adventuring with you around the universe!  It will be so much fun!"
 
The old man looked in wonder at his Grandaugher's outburst, and was impressed with her imagination, but alas,
 
"No," he said "I'm not a Timelord, I'm a science teacher, but how do you know about Timelords?"
 
The girl smiled, 
 
"Silly! You're reading me a book about Doctor Who."
 
"Was I?  Oh yes, so I was.  Well, I think you'll find he's just 'The Doctor', should I continue with the tale?"
 
"I think you probably should, or we'll never find out how he escapes the Daleks.  But one day soon you need to tell me everything you know about time!"
 
She beamed at him, seemingly not at all phased by his lack of a second heart.
 
The old man smiled back.  He'd met the Doctor once when he was younger he thought, it was why he'd studied science in the first place.  He'd always hoped he'd come back and take him away with his TARDIS, but for the meantime he was happy to read the series of stories by Amelia Williams, who looked a lot like a girl he knew back then based on the author photo. He'd never told his children of course, who would believe him?  Well, perhaps now there was someone who would.
 
"I shall," he said "I'll tell you everything I know."
 
And so after sitting down, Jeff the Coal Hill science teacher who'd once taken advice to erase his browser history, picked up the book and continued to read.
 


It is worth highlighting the full nature of the situation Steven Moffat inherited in 2010. Yes, Doctor Who took less than two years from its revival to get to an episode with none of the original cast. But that was nothing compared to the transformation between the January 1st, 2010 transmission of The End of Time and the April 3rd debut of Matt Smith’s Doctor. Although only separated by three months, the two episodes had virtually no creative personnel in common. Only producer Tracie Simpson and music composer Murray Gold remained. For all of the series’ many reinventions in the past, it had never before changed so much in just one episode. 
 
Indeed, in many regards the series that returned to regular transmission in April 2010 was as much a new reboot of the show as Rose had been five years earlier, to the point that there was serious consideration of the idea that it would relaunch with a new season one. And although this ended up not being the case, Moffat nevertheless approached the season as though it was a fresh start, opting to change almost everything he could. He made a point of not rehiring any directors who had worked on the series under Davies, and further pushed for redesigned versions of the TARDIS exterior, the console room, new title music, a new logo, and (in a somewhat less successful move) a new design for the Daleks, so that when the series returned it felt as fresh and new as possible.
 
The first episode of Moffat’s Doctor Who was entitled The Eleventh Hour, and with it, Moffat largely had his work cut out for him, having to introduce both a new Doctor and a new companion. To this end, he constructed an ingenious concept for the new companion. The episode opens with the new Doctor crashing into the back garden of a seven-year-old girl named Amelia Pond in the midst of praying to Santa for help with an unsettling crack in her bedroom wall out of which she hears voices. The Doctor, after a comedic interlude in which he tries to find something to eat only to discover that he hates a variety of normal foods such as apples, bacon, and beans and to finally settle on on fish fingers and custard, investigates, concluding that the crack is in fact a crack in the universe itself, only to get distracted by the imminent destruction of his TARDIS. Promising Amelia that he’ll be back in five minutes, he takes off.
 
Unfortunately, as is the norm for the Doctor, he gets his destination slightly wrong, instead arriving twelve years later, where he meets an adult Amelia, now going by Amy, who is both deeply alarmed by the reappearance of a figure from her childhood who she had, by this point, convinced herself she’d imagined and deeply upset at the returned Doctor for having abandoned her as a child. The pair work out their differences while catching a shape-shifting alien who escaped out of the crack in young Amelia’s wall twelve years earlier before its intergalactic jailors destroy the Earth to execute it, and, at episode’s end, Amy finally sets off with the Doctor for the adventures she had been promised over a decade earlier. The result was tremendously effective. Amy’s basic concept played slyly on the fantasy of any childhood Doctor Who fan of getting to travel with the Doctor, making her a character that was easy to invest in quickly. Beyond that, the peculiar relationship between Amy and the Doctor, whereby there’s a real sense in which each one knows the other better than they know themselves, made it easy to flesh both characters out. 
 
But equally important to the instant vividness with which the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond hit were the performances of the two lead actors. Matt Smith brought an energetic physicality to the role, wheeling about the screen with irrepressible zeal. Unlike Tennant, whose performance was intensely mannered and deliberate, Smith attacked the part with a beautifully reckless and instinctive approach, rarely giving the same performance in two consecutive takes. Opposite him, in the role of Amy, was Karen Gillan, a Scottish actress who proved adept at Moffat’s bantering dialogue, quickly establishing a repartee with Smith that was immediately compelling and entertaining to the ten million people who tuned in to watch their debut.
 
The Eleventh Hour, however, was not the first story filmed. That honor went to the first two-parter of Moffat’s debut season, The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone. Drawing a page from the more successful debuts of past Doctors, including David Tennant in The Christmas Invasion, Moffat reasoned that any rough edges in Smith’s early performance would be counterbalanced by the inclusion of some familiar characters. Accordingly, he followed up on the plot threads he had introduced in his final story under Russell T Davies, bringing back River Song for a second go-around, this time revealing that prior to her work as an archeologist she was in prison for murder, with the victim implied to have been the Doctor. Beyond that, aware of how popular his third season effort Blink had been, Moffat was keen to bring back the Weeping Angels for an encore appearance. The plot followed on an off-handed remark River made in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead where she referred to what was, for her, a past adventure with the Doctor, “the crash of the Byzantium,” revealed to be a spaceship brought down due to the machinations of a Weeping Angel in its hold.
 
Inevitably, events quickly spiral further out of control. The Byzantium is revealed to have crashed into a labyrinth full of dormant Weeping Angels who begin to use the energy from the ship to revive themselves, until the Doctor, River, and Amy are being chased by an entire army of Angels. Worse, early in the second episode the crack from Amy’s wall in The Eleventh Hour suddenly erupts in the Byzantium. This was, in several regards, an interesting twist. The importance of the crack was emphasized at the end of The Eleventh Hour, when it’s revealed that the Doctor’s reasons for inviting Amy on the TARDIS are in part a desire to further investigate the crack, and re-emphasized in the two stories transmitted between The Eleventh Hour and the Weeping Angels two-parter, each of which ended with a shot of the crack, establishing that it was spreading throughout space and time. But these, at first, looked like the same sorts of teases that “Bad Wolf” and “Torchwood” had been in previous seasons - throwaway moments that would be resolved only in the finale. And so the appearance of the crack as a major element in what was only the fourth story of the season was an unexpected escalation of events, and a clear statement that Doctor Who was not going to stick exclusively towards the approaches pioneered by Davies.
 
That is not, however, to say that Moffat’s first season was a complete, or even a particularly substantial break from the past. The two stories between The Eleventh Hour and The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, for instance, stuck to the basic format of Davies’s four seasons, following the present-day invasion story of The Eleventh Hour with a futuristic story and a history-based one. The first of these was The Beast Below, an idiosyncratically bellicose story set on a 29th century spaceship called Starship UK, which consists, in effect, of the entire United Kingdom (save for the by then independent Scotland) after it’s decamped from Earth due to deadly solar flares (a callback to the Tom Baker story The Ark in Space). The story features several bits of charming subversion, including the Doctor giddily declaring that he and Amy are going to bring down the government and a plot twist in which a masked freedom fighter going by the name “Liz 10” turns out to, in reality, be Queen Elizabeth X, a revelation made all the more incendiary by the decision to cast a black actress, Sophie Okenedo, in the part.
 
It was not that Doctor Who under Russell T Davies had been devoid of political commentary - Davies, after all, killed Tony Blair in the course of a satire about the Iraq War in only his fourth story in charge. And if one looks at Davies’s Doctor Who more broadly and includes things like the Children of Earth miniseries of Torchwood, one can see even more examples of snarling political anger on Davies’s part. But Davies’s political anger was consistent with much of his work - direct and sincere. With The Beast Below, however, Moffat demonstrated a fundamentally different take - an altogether more impish and mischievous one. 
 
Perhaps more important is the sense of cynicism implicit in The Beast Below. The solar flares that Starship UK exists to flee were the occasion for one of Doctor Who’s most famous speeches about the glories of human nature, a moving sequence where Tom Baker called the human race “indomitable” as he described their perseverance. And this idea - that the human race would survive until the end of the universe - was always a key part of Davies’s mythology for Doctor Who. But Moffat, in depicting Starship UK, shows a corrupt and twisted dystopia - a fundamentally unjust society built on brutal and callous exploitation of the innocent. There is something timely about this shift as well - less than a month after The Beast Below aired, the Labour Party, in power since 1997, lost the 2010 general election, resulting in a Conservative-led government. Given that Doctor Who has, throughout its history, always had an instinctive affinity for leftist counterculture, a move towards a more subversive and cynical approach came, in many regards, at the exact right moment.
 
The Beast Below was followed by Victory of the Daleks, a Mark Gatiss-penned story featuring Winston Churchill and the Daleks, which debuted the “New Paradigm” Daleks, a redesigned version of the iconic villains. Unlike many of the other revamped elements of the 2010 season, however, the New Daleks, which were noticeably bulkier and whose bright and colorful new design was rather less than terrifying, were widely panned, and the design was quietly dropped. Indeed, the entire story was something of a misadventure, in which a clever premise involving the Daleks initially allying with Churchill and the British against the very Nazis they were originally a metaphor for was squandered and abandoned after fifteen minutes in favor of generic Dalek set pieces. But then, few production teams on Doctor Who have ever managed to begin without a hiccup somewhere along the line, and Moffat and company righted the ship quickly.
 
Having fired his shot across the bow in terms of the season’s structure with the sudden reappearance of the crack in Flesh and Stone, Moffat continued to turn expectations on their head. In The Eleventh Hour he’d introduced a secondary character, Rory Williams, as Amy’s boyfriend. At first glance, Rory seemed in many ways like Mickey redux - the not entirely adequate partner for the companion whose job is mainly to be rejected in favor of adventures with the Doctor. Indeed, a final scene reveal in The Eleventh Hour that Amy had in fact run away with the Doctor on the night before her wedding only made this seem more likely. But at the beginning of the fifth story of Mofat’s tenure, Toby Whithouse’s The Vampires of Venice, that got turned on its head as the Doctor, after finding out the truth from Amy, begins taking active steps to keep her and Rory together, bringing him onboard the TARDIS, making it clear that this arc was going in a markedly different direction than Mickey’s, who, even when he traveled on the TARDIS, was never treated as a serious romantic partner for Rose.
 
The following story, Amy’s Choice, took this even further. In it, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are trapped in a sequence of dream worlds that push Amy to where she has to make an explicit choice between life with the Doctor and life with Rory, and in which, although the crisis is ultimately deferred, she emphatically chooses Rory. Amy’s Choice also marks the first story under Moffat’s tenure to be written by a writer who had not previously worked on the show under Russell T Davies, and highlights a significant difference in how Moffat approached his guest writers. Where Davies, when not hiring veterans of the Virgin New Adventures, largely favored up-and-coming writers at the beginnings of their careers (although by BBC edict, Doctor Who was not allowed to be a writer’s first television credit), Moffat generally preferred to hire writers who had significant television experience. The writer of Amy’s Choice, for instance, was Simon Nye, a veteran screenwriter who created the hit sitcom Men Behaving Badly in the 1990s. 
 
Along with pursuing bigger name writers than Davies generally had, Moffat also tended to give his writers somewhat more freedom in crafting their scripts. Where Davies had done an uncredited rewrite on almost every script during his tenure, save for those by Moffat and a handful of other more established writers, Moffat generally avoided this, not only with his more high profile writers, but with all of them. He still gave detailed notes and sent scripts through numerous drafts, but save for rewrites to accommodate changing circumstances on the set, he generally allowed his writers to complete the shooting scripts of their own episodes without excessive rewrites.
 
Nye was not the only prominent writer Moffat hired for his first season. An effort to hire acclaimed novelist Neil Gaiman to write an episode ran aground when his script proved too expensive to work within the budget, resulting in Gareth Roberts being commissioned to write a low-cost replacement entitled The Lodger, in which the Doctor tries, with comedic results, to go undercover as an ordinary person living with a roommate. But Moffat did manage to succeed in convincing Richard Curtis, the Oscar-nominated writer/director of several acclaimed romantic comedies including Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually. Curtis’s script, Vincent and the Doctor, was a moving meditation on art and depression in which the Doctor and Amy team up with Vincent van Gogh, managing to defeat the monster of the week with him, but proving unable to save him from his own personal demons. The resulting episode was a triumph, elevated by a cameo from frequent Curtis collaborator Bill Nighy, one of the most high-profile guest stars that Doctor Who has ever had.
 
Rounding out Moffat’s first season in charge was the traditional two-part season finale, this year titled The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang. As with The Eleventh Hour, here Moffat largely had his work cut out for him. Davies had steadily ramped up the scale of season finales, and the bombast of The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, with every major character of the new series to date teaming up against Davros and the Daleks to stop them from destroying every universe ever, was going to be a tough act to follow. In the first episode, however, Moffat largely rose to the challenge, building up to what is arguably the most bracingly epic cliffhanger in the history of the series, with Amy lying dead, the Doctor being locked in an inescapable prison by an alliance of practically every monster in the series’ history, and River aboard the TARDIS as it explodes, which turns out to be the cause of the cracks throughout space and time and, more importantly, which results in the end of the universe, the final shot of the episode being a wide shot of the cosmos as every star and every galaxy simultaneously explodes.
 
But the point of all this bombast is not, ultimately, simply a game of one-upmanship with past season finales. Indeed, the sheer scope of the cliffhanger largely puts such contests to bed. The destruction of the universe is, more or less by definition, as high as you can go in terms of high stakes plot twists. But in the case of The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang, this ostentatious sense of scale is there largely for the sake of undercutting entirely with the second episode, which is in effect a chamber piece featuring Amy, Rory, the Doctor, and River wandering around an abandoned museum occasionally being menaced by a stone Dalek. This is not in and of itself surprising - plenty of Davies’s season finales largely used their ambitious premises for smaller scale stories. For all the grandeur of Journey’s End, the bulk of it is in practice the Doctor and Davros standing around arguing. 
 
More important is the way in which Moffat narrows the scale down. The Big Bang, after recapping the events of The Pandorica Opens, cuts to a reprise of the opening shots of The Eleventh Hour, revisiting young Amelia Pond, this time unvisited by the Doctor, who is trapped inside the inescapable Pandorica. This sets the tone for the entire episode, which is largely about the Doctor trying to undo the damage he did in failing to come back for Amelia. The climax takes place at Amy and Rory’s wedding, in which Amy, inspired by a lengthy monologue the Doctor earlier delivered to her sleeping childhood self, brings the Doctor back into existence by triumphantly remembering him when everyone else had forgotten. The result is a story about stories, why we tell them, and what they are for, as moving and dramatic as anything from the Davies era, but, equally importantly, something clearly unlike anything Davies would have written, and a clear sign that Doctor Who was, under Moffat, willing to head in bold new directions. (The story also got Moffat his fourth Hugo Award for the series.)
 
And indeed, Moffat commenced the sixth season of the revived Doctor Who by doing just that. Although he had gone in different directions than Davies over his first season, the overall structure of the season was still very much familiar, with the past-present-future triptych at the start, the three two-part stories spaced throughout the season, and a general tendency to put the same sorts of episodes in broadly the same spots within the run of thirteen. But with the 2011 season Moffat started by breaking the format, opening with a two-parter. More than that, he opened with a sweeping, dramatic two-parter long on incident and revelation and consciously designed to have the pacing and feel of a season finale instead of a debut. 
 
A large part of this is accomplished by an in media res opening, although it is not until a decent way into the first episode, The Impossible Astronaut, that it becomes obvious that this is what the episode is doing. The episode starts with Amy, Rory, and River all receiving invitations in TARDIS blue envelopes with a set of map coordinates, which turn out to be a lake in Utah. There they meet the Doctor, who has a picnic with them, telling them that they’re going to go on an adventure to 1969. But the picnic is interrupted when an astronaut in an Apollo-style spacesuit emerges from the lake and, when the Doctor goes to speak to it, shoots and kills him. Shortly thereafter, however, they meet the Doctor from an earlier point in his timeline - some two hundred years prior to his apparent death - realizing that the future Doctor has sent his past self and them on a mission to 1969 for reasons that are not entirely clear to any of them. There they (somewhat reluctantly) teamed up with Richard Nixon and liberated the Earth from the Silence, a race of aliens whose existence had been alluded to ever since The Eleventh Hour, and who turned out to have the novel power to cause people to forget about them any time they weren’t looking directly at them. 
 
The plot sounds convoluted on paper, to be sure, and no shortage of critics were swift to call it exactly that. But it was precisely this sort of intricate puzzle box that had won Moffat such praise in stories like Blink and The Girl in the Fireplace, and that arguably won him the job in the first place, and for all its vocal detractors, it had no shortage of admirers. And this is no surprise. The fact that the summaries of these episodes sound overwrought on paper is largely due to the fact that Moffat wasn’t designing them to work as paragraph-long summaries for the purpose of critical summaries. The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon is designed to work as two forty-five minute blocks of television, and given that much room to tell their story and Moffat’s skill at weaving exposition in with character development and comedy its plot comes off as a well-oiled machine. 
 
Another creative high point came with the fourth episode of the season, The Doctor’s Wife. This was the script by Neil Gaiman that had been bumped from the previous year, and it was another demonstration of why Moffat’s policy of pursuing big name writers was a shrewd one. Gaiman first made his name amidst the wave of British comics writers that followed Alan Moore’s rise in the 1980s, before, over the course of the 90s and early 00s, transitioning to a career as a novelist. Along the way, however, he’d dabbled in television, writing an urban fantasy series called Neverwhere for the BBC in the 1990s, along with an episode of American cult sci-fi classic Babylon 5, as well as trying his hand at screenwriting, writing scripts for the Jim Henson Company’s Mirrormask and the big computer-animated version of Beowulf directed by Robert Zemeckis. But though all these mediums, Gaiman demonstrated an adeptness at working with existing mythologies, reworking them into broadly accessible and innovative new forms. 
 
Gaiman was also a Doctor Who fan since childhood. Born in 1960, he was the exact right age for the Patrick Troughton era, and though he drifted away from the series in older age, he was delighted by the opportunity to write for it. His script hinged on the idea of the TARDIS being drained out of the ship itself and put in a human body, allowing, for the first time, the Doctor to talk to the TARDIS. The story is full of sweet little riffs on the series’ past, the best of them generally stemming from getting the TARDIS’s perspective on key aspects of the series’ mythology, such as her contention that she wanted to see the universe, and so stole a Time Lord and ran away. Gaiman deftly keeps from making any revelations that dramatically reshape the nature of Doctor Who’s mythology - there are no Time Wars or looms or ancient Gallifreyan monsters. Instead he focuses on tiny things like what the Doctor’s first reaction to seeing the TARDIS was, or her response to his complaint that she rarely takes him where he wants to go, namely that she’s always taken him where he needed to go. The result is a story that’s full of engagement with the mythology of the series, but that uses this mythology almost entirely for character moments. And unsurprisingly, given the episode’s quality and Gaiman’s stature, it picked up another Hugo, the series’s sixth since 2005. 
 
For all its acclaim, the fifth season of Doctor Who’s ratings had sagged visibly in the latter part of the season. This was not especially worrisome, not least because the BBC was well aware that people’s viewing habits for television were rapidly changing, and that more and more people were inclined to use DVRs to watch programs later in the week, or to use the BBC’s free online iPlayer service to watch. But both the BBC and Moffat also suspected that Doctor Who was losing viewers simply due to people noticing the bright summer weather outside and opting to do things other than watch TV. Accordingly it was decided that the sixth season would air in two blocks, with seven episodes airing in the spring starting, as the previous seasons had, in April, followed by a three month break, with the series resuming in late August and running six episodes through to the fall.
 
The split season meant that there was, in effect, a second season finale and season premiere to write, and Moffat was keen to make sure that the series went into its three month break with a dramatic cliffhanger. He had also decided that the sixth season would be the one where he finally paid off the bulk of the River Song plot, explaining who the character was and the nature of her relationship with the Doctor. And so he created a midseason finale entitled A Good Man Goes to War. The good man, unsurprisingly, was the Doctor, while the war was his efforts to rescue Amy, who had been kidnapped by the Silence so that they could steal her and Rory’s child. The Doctor, in response, raises an army to storm the asteroid base of Demon’s Run where Amy and her child are being kept. But although the Doctor is successful in rescuing Amy, the villains manage to escape with her child, a devastating loss that is softened only by the sudden arrival of River Song, who promises that Amy’s daughter, Melody, would be all right, and that she knew that for a fact since she was, in fact, Melody’s adult self. 
 
This revelation was further developed in the premiere of the second half of the season, the imaginatively titled Let’s Kill Hitler, in which the Silence’s plans for Melody become clear when the Doctor, Amy, and Rory meet a young River Song, not yet going by that name, who attempts to carry out the mission the Silence raised and trained her for, the assassination of the Doctor. River fails, and in the course of events the Doctor is able to win her over to his side, thus finally providing a beginning for River’s story, which had already ended back in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. All that remained, then, was explaining the Doctor’s death in Utah from the beginning of the season, which turned out to be a second attempt in which the Silence kidnapped River and forced her into the spacesuit to kill the Doctor, which the Doctor cleverly found a way out of in the season finale, The Wedding of River Song.
 
Unfortunately, problems were arising behind the scenes. Some were self-inflicted. An extremely late in the game decision to switch the placement of two episodes, Steve Thompson’s pirate adventure The Curse of the Black Spot and Mark Gatiss’s haunted house story Night Terrors, made the production schedule considerably tighter than it otherwise would have been. Others were simply bad luck - Moffat’s co-executive producers, Beth Willis and newly installed BBC Cymru Wales Head of Drama Piers Wegner, both departed at the end of production on Season Six amidst a swirl of rumors fueled by the venerable gossip/satirical paper Private Eye. And still others were basically good problems to have. Moffat, concurrently with getting the Doctor Who job, had developed a modern day version of Sherlock Holmes with Mark Gatiss. Entitled simply Sherlock, the series debuted in the summer of 2010, a month after Moffat’s first season of Doctor Who wrapped up, to smashing ratings, resulting in the commission of a second series to start in early 2011. And so Moffat found himself in the enviable position of overseeing two of the biggest hits the BBC had. But this also took a toll on his schedule, and Moffat was nether quite as fast a writer as Russell T Davies had been nor, with a wife and two kids, in a position to work the punishing hours that Davies, who routinely stayed up til the early hours of the morning writing, had. 
 
The result of this is that the second half of Season Six, and particularly Moffat’s scripts, were delivered painfully late, resulting in abbreviated pre-production for both Let’s Kill Hitler and The Wedding of River Song. And when production on those episodes did start, both were with scripts that had gone through fewer drafts than normal. The resulting episodes were by no means bad, but they lacked the sharpness that characterized Moffat’s best work. And given that they provided key parts of the increasingly complex River Song arc, this sloppiness was more pronounced than it might have been, giving ammunition to critics who complained that the series was too hard to follow. (Moffat, for his part, made the not unreasonable suggestion that the adult newspaper critics who claimed the series was indecipherable might try asking any of the legions of ten-year-olds who were understanding it just fine.) 
 
In many ways a bigger problem arose, however, around the subject matter of these stories. The plot of the River Song arc involved both River and Amy suffering enormously traumatic experiences, and fit into a long and problematic history of popular stories in which bad things happen to female secondary characters in order to increase the dramatic stakes for male protagonists. Feminist critics seized upon these plot points, and, especially in the wake of the second season premiere of Sherlock, a Moffat-penned reworking of the classic “A Scandal in Bohemia” in which Irene Adler is reimagined as a contemporary dominatrix, on New Year’s Day 2012, accusations that Moffat was a deeply sexist writer were rife.
 
To some extent, this is an understandable view. Moffat made his name writing sitcoms about relationships, where he made countless jokes about gender relationships that riffed on stereotypes about the sexes, and his propensity for such jokes carried on into his Doctor Who work. On top of that, Moffat had a propensity in interviews to make extremely dry and self-deprecating jokes that are easy to misread as serious statements, such that there were no shortage of remarks by Moffat that looked far worse in black and white than they sounded when delivered wryly and in a Scottish accent. Combined with the slight sloppiness of the stories resolving the plot, it was easy to get the impression that Moffat was a bit of a sexist jerk.
 
The reality, however, was that Moffat was a committed feminist with a long track record of promoting female characters and critiquing male sexism. Indeed, this was largely the point of the River Song arc. While Amy’s kidnapping did drive the Doctor into angry revenge in exactly the sort of stereotypical plot Moffat’s critics accused him of writing, the entire point of A Good Man Goes to War is that the Doctor’s furious assault on Demon’s Run failed, and that it was River’s arrival to try to address Amy’s pain instead of taking revenge for what was done to her that actually fixed the situation. Likewise, the horror of what the Silence did to River/Melody in brainwashing her to kill the Doctor is ultimately undone via the intervention of the TARDIS, explicitly depicted by Gaiman only a few stories earlier as a woman and as the Doctor’s “wife,” again putting the focus on female spaces and recovery from trauma instead of on male anger and revenge. But the rush to complete these episodes meant that these themes, though obviously present on close examination, did not always get the room to breathe and the emphasis they deserved, making it easy to miss the point.
 
It would be unfair, however, to suggest that the second half of Season Six was unsuccessful. Of particular importance, it saw the Doctor Who debut of director Nick Hurran, who helmed a pair of episodes. Hurran’s direction had a vivid sense of the visual, and he was fond of superimposing shots to convey more information and of an idiosyncratic but compelling editing style that occasionally broke strict chronology. The result was particularly well-suited for the sort of dense and information-heavy storytelling favored by Moffat, and it was to nobody’s surprise that when the seventh season of Doctor Who debuted, Hurran was in the director’s seat for the opener.
 
The episode was called Asylum of the Daleks, and it aired on September 1st, 2012, eleven months to the day after The Wedding of River Song, and with only a poorly received Christmas special to fill the gap. This made for the longest gap without new episodes that the series had seen since it returned - longer even than the gaps imposed by the year of specials between Seasons Four and Five - but at least served to let Moffat catch up again, and gave incoming executive producer Caroline Skinner a chance to bed in. As with Season Six, the plan was to split Season Seven into two parts, this time airing in the fall of 2012 and spring of 2013, a schedule akin to the one it had in the late 1970s, only this time with a Christmas special in between the two halves.
 
Whereas Season Six had been divided around the big River Song reveal/cliffhanger, Season Seven would have a much more organic split. Following Season Six, Karen Gillan met with Moffat for dinner to discuss the future of her character, with both of them agreeing that Amy was reaching the natural endpoint of what could be done with her. Accordingly, the autumnal half of Season Seven would serve as a final run of five episodes featuring Amy and Rory, while the vernal half would introduce a new companion, announced in the spring of 2012 as being played by Jenna Coleman. Details of exactly what the new companion would be like, however, remained elusive, for reasons that would quickly become apparent.
 
 Asylum of the Daleks, for its part, was a big epi£sode. Moffat’s reputation for complex and incident-packed stories was by this point well-established, and with his first-ever proper Dalek story, Moffat seemed determined to lean into it and provide the most idea-packed forty-five minutes imaginable. The episode was billed as a trip into the eponymous Dalek Asylum, a prison for Daleks driven mad, generally by their encounters with the Doctor, and hyped as including “every Dalek ever.” This was mild hyperbole, but the production team did go to great lengths to secure surviving Daleks from past eras of the show, including paying to have a prop Dalek owned by Russell T Davies shipped from Manchester to Cardiff. On top of this, it featured a subplot about Amy and Rory’s marriage being on the brink of disintegration, the establishment of an entirely new Dalek ability whereby they can bring back the dead as Dalek-possessed automatons that don’t realize they’re actually Daleks until they’re activated and a Dalek eyestalk emerges horrifyingly out of their foreheads, and Amy nearly getting converted into a Dalek. 
 
Then there’s the episode’s actual main plot, in which the Daleks recruit the Doctor, Amy, and Rory to infiltrate the Dalek asylum, whose security measures have been partially breached, and breach them the rest of the way so that the Daleks can destroy it before any of the insane Daleks escape. The reason for the partial breach was the crash of a starliner, the one survivor of which, Junior Entertainment Officer Oswin Oswald, has been holed up on the planet for a year, awaiting rescue. The episode’s central twist is that Oswin had, in fact, been captured by the Daleks and converted, but that the process drove her hopelessly insane and she deluded herself into believing she was still human when in fact she was just another prisoner of the asylum. This, needless to say, causes several wrinkles for the Doctor’s rescue plan, although he manages to sort it all out and save the Ponds’ marriage while he’s at it. 
 
While all of this was going on, meanwhile, Moffat was hard at work designing the new companion. The original plan had been to break with the new series norm of having companions be from present-day Earth and to have Coleman play a woman named Beryl, who would be a Victorian governess, to be introduced in the 2012 Christmas special - a plan that lasted long enough for both Mark Gatiss and Neil Gaiman to begin scripts for the latter half of the season including Beryl. Ultimately, however, Moffat balked, deciding to have Coleman play a contemporary Londoner after all, and renaming the character Clara. But this was only part of a larger plan. The Christmas special would go on as planned, with its Victorian setting, and with Coleman playing a Victorian governess very much like Beryl who the Doctor would invite onboard the TARDIS, only to have her perish during the adventure, thus setting up a mystery of how the version of Clara he meets at the start of the second part of the season could possibly exist, and what relationship she has with her dead Victorian clone.
 
This, in turn, spawned an opportunity for Asylum of the Daleks when Moffat realized that the Doctor and Oswin only came face to face when she was revealed to actually be a Dalek, leading him to rework the episode so that Coleman could play Oswin for the scenes that depicted her delusion of humanity, thus allowing the episode to have a big surprise for viewers attentive enough to recognize Coleman from her casting announcement, and letting him set up the idea of there being multiple versions of Coleman’s character floating around the universe more thoroughly than just having one in the Christmas special would be. 
 
Before Clara’s story could be expanded on, however, there was the small matter of writing out the Ponds. This was done in the midseason finale, which, like Asylum of the Daleks, was written by Moffat and directed by Hurran. As with Asylum of the Daleks, Moffat made extensive use of the ways in which Hurran’s directorial style allowed for complex and incident-filled plots, working in a return for both River Song and the Weeping Angels in a story called The Angels Take Manhattan. Parallelling the Doctor and River’s marriage to Amy and Rory’s, Moffat’s story is a sweet and moving tale of love and devotion punctuated by evil statues trying to kill everybody and, in one particularly inventive reveal, the discovery that the Statue of Liberty is in fact a Weeping Angel. But, inevitably, it all ends in tragedy as Amy opts to let an Angel catch her and send her back to 1930s New York so that she can live out her life with the already-caught Rory, knowing it will mean she can never see the Doctor again. 
 
In addition to the quasi-introduction of Clara and the setting up of her arc, the Christmas special also had to set up what was going to be a momentous year for the program, as it reached the fiftieth anniversary of its debut all the way back in November of 1963. With the mood favoring the return of old classic villains, Moffat came up with a clever plot for the special. Called The Snowmen, the story featured Richard E. Grant as a cruel Victorian scientist working with sentient alien snow (voiced, in another major coup for the series, by Ian McKellen) to take over the world. By the end, however, it becomes clear that the alien intelligence animating the snow is in fact the Great Intelligence, the malevolent force behind the Yeti attacks in the Troughton-era stories The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear
 
Moffat continued to use the Great Intelligence in the second half of Season Seven, revealing him to be the mastermind behind events in the second half premiere, The Bells of Saint John, a charmingly goofy techno-thriller about aliens hiding in wi-fi signals. This was largely a backdrop, however, for the introduction of Clara proper as a twenty-something whose lifelong dream of travel found itself endlessly deferred, most recently when she found herself looking after the children of a family friend after their mother died. In many ways she appeared to be the sort of generic idea of what a Doctor Who companion in 2013 should be. But from the start there were small and intriguing details. For instance, Clara declines to actually live on the TARDIS, with the Doctor instead dropping by to pick her up for another set of adventures occasionally, but returning her home afterwards. Something similar had happened in the first part of Season Seven with the Ponds, but that was explicitly presented as a sort of gradual distancing of the Doctor and the Ponds, whereas this was the status quo for the Doctor and Clara. 
 
Nevertheless, in many ways the slightly generic quality of Clara was what dominated her early episodes. Some of this was just the reality of the shooting schedule. Coleman’s first episode shot was in fact Clara’s fourth, a haunted house story called Hide, which paid homage to Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale’s classic of 1970s horror The Stone Tape. Hide was another product of Moffat’s policy of pursuing established writers, coming from Neil Cross the creator and writer of the acclaimed crime drama Luther, and was a bracing and innovative story, but the fact that Clara’s character had not entirely been fleshed out yet shows, as it does in several of the other stories. 
 
But equally, this is part of the point of the storyline. Clara, after all, was supposed to be mysterious, with both the Doctor and the audience trying to figure out the secret behind her doomed duplicates. And ultimately, in keeping with his love of subversive plot structures, this proved to be a deliberate red herring when the arc was finally resolved in the season finale, The Name of the Doctor. That story hinged on the Great Intelligence’s scheme to visit the Doctor’s eventual grave and use it to break into his timeline, spreading himself across the Doctor’s history and killing him over and over again, undoing every victory he had ever won in his long live. In desperation, Clara flings herself into the same portal that the Great Intelligence used, allowing herself to be shattered into fragments distributed across the Doctor’s life, each of them counteracting the Great Intelligence’s schemes. It was two of these fragments that the Doctor had met in Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen and that had died saving him. Clara had, in fact, been an ordinary human all along, and the mundane bits of characterization that the Doctor and the audience had largely been ignoring in favor of speculating over her big secret were, in reality, the entire point of the character. 
 
The sequence of Clara’s various fragments saving the Doctor throughout his history was illustrated in a spectacular sequence in which Clara was digitally inserted into a variety of past stories, allowing, as the show wrapped its anniversary season, for a nostalgic montage full of excitement. But this was, in practice, just setup for the cliffhanger that would lead from The Name of the Doctor to the planned anniversary special slated for November. As the Doctor enters his own timestream to rescue Clara, amidst the images of his past selves comes one that the audience has never seen before. Clara asks about it, and the Doctor responds with disgust, explaining that it’s a face he’s locked away and forgotten about, having declared it unfit to use the name the Doctor. The mysterious figure turns around, revealing the face of veteran actor John Hurt, as a caption makes the revelation explicit: “Introducing John Hurt as the Doctor.”
 
This seemingly outlandish revelation had, like so many other creative decisions in the previous half century of Doctor Who, largely come about out of necessity and panic. From the start, Moffat had rejected the idea of following in the vein of the tenth and twentieth anniversary specials and doing a story called The Eleven Doctors that would bring all of the past incarnations together. For one thing, this was not really feasible, since William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and Jon Pertwee had all passed away by this point, and it had been long enough since most of the surviving actors had played the part that they hardly resembled their iconic characters anymore. For another, Moffat felt that what had worked with three and five Doctors simply would not work with that many leads, and that he had to come up with a more stripped down cast. Beyond that, Moffat was keen to revisit the idea of the Time War, wanting to do a story in which he partially reversed Davies’s mythology surrounding it, having always felt that the Doctor’s decision to annihilate the Daleks and Time Lords alike was out of character, and that the character would surely have, in practice found another way.
 
To this end, Moffat’s idea was to do a special reuniting the three iterations of the character to have appeared in the revived series, with Christopher Eccleston playing his version of the Doctor not as he had in 2005, as a man scarred by the terrible things he did during the war, but as the man he had been during the war, about to make the decision that would leave him the last of his kind. But Eccleston, although he considered it, ultimately declined to return to the part, leaving Moffat without a key component of his story. (Tennant, for his part, being the massive fan of the series that he was, had no qualms about returning, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that his legendarily skinny costume still fit perfectly.)And so Moffat, recalling an idea he’d had to cast a high profile celebrity as an incredibly short-lived incarnation of the Doctor who would only last for one story, came up with an alternate plan. Reasoning that the regeneration from Paul McGann to Christopher Eccleston had never actually been shown on screen, Moffat proposed to create an entirely new incarnation of the Doctor that the audience was previously unaware of, and who would serve as one of the main characters of the anniversary special. Shortly before filming was to commence they managed to get John Hurt to play the role, and so the incarnation Moffat called the War Doctor was created. 
 
Filming on the special was, to be sure, a tense affair. The last minute casting of John Hurt was stressful enough, but in the leadup to production beginning on the special Caroline Skinner, Moffat’s co-executive producer for the Seventh Season, opted to leave the series. Skinner and Moffat had proven to have a strained creative partnership, and this had made the seventh season a stressful production in its own right, but the loss of an executive producer mere days before filming was to begin was an entirely different sort of stress, with Faith Penhale, the Head of Drama at BBC Cymru Wales, hastily stepping in to help with the production. 
 
But a look at the series’ history will show that Doctor Who made in a state of complete crisis is often Doctor Who at its best, and the special, titled The Day of the Doctor, was no exception. With moments of dramatic spectacle and warm comedy interspersed regularly throughout its seventy-five minute runtime, The Day of the Doctor was practically a film, and indeed the BBC opted to simultaneously screen it in movie theaters across the world, having Nick Hurran film the special in 3D largely for that audience. Moffat juggled his three Doctors with aplomb, resisting the temptation to pack the story with too many bits of the series’ history and simply focusing on the story of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors getting the chance to meet their past self and find a way to help him avert the awful end of the Time War. The three Doctors ultimately team up with all of their previous incarnations, represented using existing footage from their times on the show, all combining to, at the moment of Gallifrey’s seeming destruction, in fact shift it into a parallel universe where it would be lost but, ultimately, safe. 
 
The episode ended with a moving coda in which the Eleventh Doctor, after his past selves are gone, sits alone in a museum, staring at a painting of the Daleks’ final attack on Gallifrey, the existence of which had served to get the plot started. A familiar voice speaks up behind him, and the Doctor turns, revealing Tom Baker, making his first return to the series since the end of Logopolis in 1981. In a deliciously cheeky twist to deal with the fact that Baker was nearly thirty-five years older than when he had last played the part, his character is strongly implied to in fact be a future version of the Doctor who has retired to serve as the curator of the gallery housing the painting. Slyly reassuring his past self that, yes, his efforts to save Gallifrey had worked, and that the planet is somewhere out there, waiting for the Doctor to find it, the Curator goes on his way, leaving the Doctor to go explore the future his existence implies.
 
But the Curator was not the only omen of the future to appear in The Day of the Doctor. Matt Smith, during production on the special, came to the same decision that many of his predecessors had, namely that three seasons was about the right amount of time to play the part, and that he should move on before he became typecast. Accordingly, Steven Moffat set about the search for a successor, eventually deciding to follow Smith, the youngest ever actor cast in the part, with the oldest, hiring Scottish actor Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. Capaldi’s casting was announced in August of 2013, a few months before The Day of the Doctor, and so for the sequence in which all of the Doctors work together to save Gallifrey Moffat inserted a moment in which a beleaguered Time Lord complains about having to deal with “all twelve” Doctors, prompting a cut to a close-up of just Peter Capaldi’s eyes (as his costume hadn’t even been worked out yet) as he triumphantly proclaims, “no, sir. All thirteen!
 
It would be another month, however, before Capaldi would make his first proper appearance at the end of Smith’s regeneration story, the Christmas special The Time of the Doctor. On one level, this was a sweeping epic that promised to resolve many of the plot threads that had hung over the entirety of Moffat’s tenure on the show to date. Working in the origins of the crack, the Silence, the circumstances that led to the Doctor’s burial on the planet Trenzalore, where the Great Intelligence launched its attack, and the mystery of where Gallifrey was, the story was packed with incident and mythology. 
 
But this description is also in many regards misleading. The Eleventh Doctor does not die in some grandiose battle against the forces of darkness, although no shortage of those forces are included, the story featuring, at various times, the Silence, the Weeping Angels, the Sontarans, the Cybermen, and the Daleks. Instead the Doctor dies stopping any such battle from taking place. Trenzalore turns out to consist of a small village in which sits the one remaining instance of the crack from Season Five, out of which the Time Lords are broadcasting a simple message for the Doctor: “Doctor Who?” If the Doctor answers the question they will know it’s him and return to the universe. But around Trenzalore are the fleets of every species imaginable, all ready to resume the Time War and try to destroy the Time Lords anew. Equally unwilling to let such a war begin or to abandon the Time Lords, the Doctor waits on Trenzalore for centuries, sending Clara and the TARDIS away and opting to end his travels in favor of protecting one tiny little town.
 
And so the Eleventh Doctor dies not in battle against his enemies, but of old age. Between the addition of the War Doctor and the plot point of the Tenth Doctor regenerating into himself after the cliffhanger in The Stolen Earth, the Eleventh Doctor had by this point in fact become the thirteenth, and so was out of regenerations. All he could do was grow old and die, which he did, only to have Clara make it back to Trenzalore for the last day of the Doctor’s struggle. As the Doctor, now a feeble old man facing his last days, hobbles outside to confront the entire Dalek fleet, admitting that he has no plan beyond talking a lot and hoping something good happens (he notes that it’s always worked before), Clara kneels before the crack and begs the silent Time Lords on the other side to do something, anything to save him.
 
And they do. A wisp of energy escapes the crack and winds its way to the Doctor who, to his shock, realizes that he’s been gifted another cycle of regenerations, and that far from being at the end of his life, he is in effect at the very beginning. The regeneration energy bursts from his body as he giddily taunts the Daleks about being foolish enough to lecture him on the rules of how regenerations work, the energy arcing across the sky and blowing up the Dalek ships. And so, after a second and more intimate scene between Clara and the Doctor (temporarily restored to Matt Smith’s regular face, instead of the extensive latex prosthetics used to age him) onboard the TARDIS, the Doctor regenerates again.
 
And that is how its fiftieth year ends. Coleman and Capaldi stare at each other for a few seconds, stunned. The Doctor reels backwards, complaining angrily about the color of his Kidneys. The TARDIS begins to malfunction and crash. Stricken, the Doctor looks at Clara and plaintively asks if she has any idea how to fly this thing. And Doctor Who ends its first half-century the only way it ever could: with a cliffhanger.
 


The author looked up from the screen. There was more he could do, he knew. There always was another detail to fiddle with, and another typo to remove. But the sun was coming up, his tea had long since gone cold, he was tired, and he knew in his heart that he was done.
 
It wasn’t bad, he thought. He’d gone on a bit, it was true, and some bits were better than others, but some bits always are. He was proud of it, in any case, although he knew better than to take his feelings right when he finished too seriously. And it wasn’t for him to judge anyway. He had done enough. Deciding what his work was worth, well, that was someone else’s problem.
 
He smiled to himself, then wiped away a tear. And then he moved his mouse and clicked on the little red circle in the corner of the window, and for the first time in years, closed the document into which he had put so much of himself, and which had given him back so much more.
 
He thought about going to bed, but for all his exhaustion, he knew he was not quite ready for that yet. And so he opened up another window, and began browsing, clicking from one article to another. He was too tired to actually read them, for the most part - he’d start, but his eyes would end up sliding down the screen, barely skimming the content. Until eventually he found himself on a blog. He didn’t know why, or if he did know, he couldn’t put it into words, but he found his attention sharpening, his eyes focusing, as he began to read.
 


It’s August 23rd, 2014…

Comments

ScarvesandCelery 2 years, 10 months ago

Haven't read the post yet, but had to say - of course that was the title. What else could it be? Perfect title choice, my congratulations.

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Benjamin Cook 2 years, 10 months ago

Congrats, Phil! Wasn't expecting that. But now… of course… I shall read. As we have always done. Until, it ends.

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SK 2 years, 10 months ago

Hang on, I thought it was stories which had River Song in them which were out of order. But Time of the Doctor doesn't have River Song in it.

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Bennett 2 years, 10 months ago

There should have been a thud, the reader thought to himself. That's what he had been trained to expect at the end of a book. The chance to sweep a hand to the right and seal the words back into their forest of the dead. Of course, he knew deep down that words once escaped could not be recaptured. But there was a comfort in the decisive action of closing a book and returning it to the shelf that he found necessary to move onto the next one.

He tried closing his laptop. It didn't help.

So he made some tea. It did help.

And yet there was still an unshiftable sense of something unfinished. The end had come quicker than the reader had expected on first sight of the miniscule scroll bar. Many of the words had already seeped through the cracks in the skin of the Internet, and in his haste to reach the beginning beyond the end, the reader skipped over these sections as a child would skip over crazy paving. One day he would come back. Yes, he would come back.

But for now, for this moment, the reader knew what he needed to move on. He needed to express his gratitude to the author for all this blog had given him. And all he could think to give the author in return was a story. One small cutting from the reader's own story so that the author might know that he was, and would always be, a part of it.

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William Whyte 2 years, 10 months ago

Congratulations, Phil. This has been a great journey.

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arcbeatle 2 years, 10 months ago

The blog ends with a post so long I can't finish it before work ^_^. It almost feels like a present!

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arcbeatle 2 years, 10 months ago

....I just copy pasted it into a word document to print out to take to work, and I shant be doing that 0_0! Serious question here: Is this essay going to be its own volume as a print book? Its 99,154 words (including the title)!

WOW.

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Scott 2 years, 10 months ago

Hell of a ride. Well played, Dr. Sandifer. Very well played indeed.

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Andrew Hickey 2 years, 10 months ago

Congratulations!
One final minor nitpick -- Beatles For Sale was the Beatles' fourth, not third, album...

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Sean Dillon 2 years, 10 months ago

He thought the final episode of that season was going to be a River Song one when he started the out of order posts. But since it wasn't, he thought to himself "oh sod it." and kept the structure anyways.

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Jack Graham 2 years, 10 months ago

Congratulations Phil, and thanks.

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Sean Dillon 2 years, 10 months ago

Huzzah! The game is over. Or has it just begun?

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unnoun 2 years, 10 months ago

Congratulations! I am really glad to have experienced this project, and feel it has positively impacted my life.

I am so proud to have met all of you, and even prouder to have contributed to this in any way.

Thank you.

"What did you say, my boy? It's all over. It's all over. That's what you said. No, but it isn't all over. It's far from being all over."

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dm 2 years, 10 months ago

Jesus fucking Christ. Thank you so much for everything, Doctor Phil. I think I love you.

I'll engage with this post when I have time to finish it.

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Caitlin Smith 2 years, 10 months ago

Congratulations Phil! Thank you, for writing this, and for letting me be a (very small) part of it. It's been wonderful.

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Tom 2 years, 10 months ago

Well done Phil - a fantastic contribution to Who and pop culture criticism. Thanks for it all.

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Frezno 2 years, 10 months ago

What a ride it's been since I first found a post about The Two Doctors, way the heck back in 2012. I've consumed every word, written some of my own, and even dropped a word or two into the bucket here.

Ever onward we go. Congratulations, sir.

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JJ Gauthier 2 years, 10 months ago

Well, this definitely isn't one I can read at work.

In a remarkably lucky coincidence, I think I'm feeling half a sick day coming on...

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Katherine Sas 2 years, 10 months ago

So glad to be here for the end. What a monumental achievement. Congrats, Phil, you must be so proud!

Looking forward to all that comes next...

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Theonlyspiral 2 years, 10 months ago

Congratulations Phil.

That being said...does anyone else feel like they're saying good bye to an old friend?

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Adam Riggio 2 years, 10 months ago

So this is what I was seeing every few weeks for the last months thanks to my Kickstarter money. Best deal for $40 that I've gotten in a long time.

I'm composing a more detailed thank you on my own blog for the last four years of fascinating and wonderful TARDIS Eruditorum, but I'll make the small version here. You've crafted one of the most creative projects in media studies and philosophy that I think I've ever come across. Frankly, you're an inspiration.

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Doctor Memory 2 years, 10 months ago

To reach the Western Lands is to achieve freedom from fear. Do you free yourself from fear by cowering in your physical body for eternity? Your body is a boat to lay aside when you reach the far shore, or sell it if you can find a fool... it's full of holes...it's full of holes.

I want to reach the Western Lands-- right in front of you, across the bubbling brook. It's a frozen sewer-- it's known as the Duad remember? All the filth and horror, fear hate, disease and death of human history flows between you and the Western Lands. Let it flow! My cat Fletch stretches behind me on the bed. A tree like black lace against a gray sky. A flash of joy.

How long does it take a man to learn that he does not, cannot want what he "wants?"

You have to be in Hell to see Heaven. Glimpses from the Land of the Dead, flashes of serene timeless joy, a Joy as old as suffering and despair.

The old writer couldn't write anymore because he had reached the end of words, the end of what can be done with words. And then? "British we are, British we stay." How long can one hang on in Gibraltar, with the tapestries where mustached riders with scimitars hunt tigers, the ivory balls one inside the other, bare seams showing, the long tearoom with mirrors on both sides and the tired fuchsia and rubber plants, the shops selling English marmalade and Fortnum & Mason's tea...clinging to their Rock like the rock apes, clinging always to less and less.

In Tangier the Parade Bar is closed. Shadows are falling on the mountain.
"Hurry up please. It's time."

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liminal fruitbat 2 years, 10 months ago

Absolutely delightful. Congratulations.

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jane 2 years, 10 months ago

I'm sad. Also strangely relieved --- strange because I'm not the one who was doing the writing, but it nonetheless feels like letting go. Which is a nice feeling when I think about it.

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Andrew 2 years, 10 months ago

Never anything but wonderful. Thank you.

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Alphapenguin 2 years, 10 months ago

It's the end, but the moment has been prepared for.

I'm really looking forward to whatever comes next, but for now, congratulations!

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Eric Gimlin 2 years, 10 months ago

Congratulations. On Tardis Eruditorum in general and on what may be the longest original content blog post ever.

Very happy to have been following this for the past 3 years or so, glad I discovered it not TOO late in the game.

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Nyq Only 2 years, 10 months ago

Sarah Jane looked up from the book frowning. "That's all very nice but it really doesn’t tell us very much about what you were doing in that library with this Professor Song.”

The Doctor didn’t pause in his reading but replied dismissively. “You don't understand the implications... I'm not a human being; I walk in eternity…”

“What's that supposed to mean?” Sarah interrupted - she had heard this monologue before.

“It means I've lived for something like 750 years.”

“All right, so you're middle aged!”

“Yes! About time I found something better to do than be blogged about by Sandifer!”

————————————
[Scene: an Edwardian school library in Coal Hill, London. Temporal archeologist River Song is examining a device that appears to be some sort of typewriter]
River: Well, Mr Sandifer, I really must congratulate you for inventing the web log 40 years early.
Sandifer: That, madam, is a psychochronograph. It's purpose is...
River: ...is to document the interface of an aspect of popular culture against the background of the socio-political contingencies against which it was seen
Sandifer: [beat] How could you possibly know that?
River: Well, you see, Mr Sandifer, I have the advantage of being slightly ahead of you. Sometimes behind you, but normally ahead of you.
Sandifer: I see.
River: I'm sure you don't but it's very nice of you to try.
_____________________

Meanwhile….
The Doctor-Donna: Deactivating an Eruditorum without the correct key is like repairing a watch with a hammer and chisel; one false move and you'll never know the time again.
Handles: Any more comforting thoughts?
The Doctor-Donna: No. Just let me know if it starts to get hot.
Handles: Don't worry. You'll hear me breaking the sound barrier!

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Jarl 2 years, 10 months ago

Some of us at a very different venue decided to make you something to commemorate this momentous event: http://imgur.com/a/pHE1L
The fact that the URL is almost your name is weird, but in no way intentional.

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Daibhid C 2 years, 10 months ago

I think Phil said somewhere that as the resolution of the whole Trenzelore/Silence thing, it's part of the River Song story, even if she doesn't actually appear in it.

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Daibhid C 2 years, 10 months ago

He finished reading. Not just the story, which had taken longer than he expected (and, of course, would always continue), but the comments as well. As he got to the bottom of the comments section his hands paused over the keyboard.

"The trouble is," he thought, "that others have already used this device in these comments. And in quite profound ways, as the piece deserves. Do I have anything profound to say?"

He shrugged. He'd never let that stop him commenting before.

In the end, all he could write was "That was brilliant. Thank you, Phil, and all your other contributors." He wasn't sure that fully expressed what he wanted to say, but it gave the gist, at any rate.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 10 months ago

Oh, heavens. Those are lovely. Thank you.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 10 months ago

That was my half-assed justification, yes. Sean has the real truth of it.

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Alex Antonijevic 2 years, 10 months ago

So when are you going to cover Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead? :P

Man, I'm so glad I read these as the secret project since this entry would probably take me days to finish.

I came here for this wonderful Doctor Who blog, but I'll stick around and see what's next.

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trenzalore 2 years ago

Wonderful, wonderful post, but it does feel like we're missing out on a proper entry for SITL/FOTD. Will that be written for the Tennant book?

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Terry 2 years, 10 months ago

Thank you so much. It has been wonderful.

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Anton B 2 years, 10 months ago

I think the phrase is tour de force. Not only this post but the blog as a whole. Thank you Doctor.

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James Pearson 2 years, 10 months ago

I just wanted to say thank you and congratulations. The Eruditorum is a magnificent achievement and it has fundamentally altered the way I engage with Doctor Who for the better.

I will miss the regular Eruditorum updates, but there are still the book versions to look forward to along with the continuation of Last War in Albion and all your future projects. Today I bought the blu-ray and book versions of Game of Thrones in anticipation of the insightful analysis you plan to kick off tomorrow, this time of a subject I am not at all familiar with. I can hardly wait.

Thanks once again.

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Matthew Blanchette 2 years, 10 months ago

Wonderful! But I am completely lost, as I should have expected to be. :-P

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Jarl 2 years, 10 months ago

>Nevertheless, Miles was hardly remiss in observing that the book at times seemed to have an active grudge against Moffat’s concepts.
Holy Freudian slips, Batman!

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John Nor 2 years, 10 months ago

This final blogpost is utterly gargantuan, as predicted by the blog itself on April 7, 2014 -"So here we are at the last entry of TARDIS Eruditorum. Nothing flashy, I’m afraid. I can’t possibly go bigger than I did for Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, and the elaborate structural games of things like Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways or Ghost Light don’t quite seem appropriate."

What an astonishing end to a blogging epic.

Congratulations and thank you.

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Patrick 2 years, 10 months ago

I don't even want to engage with this post, I just want to drown in it.

Thanks for everything Phil.

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Matt Smith 2 years, 10 months ago

Am I the only person crazy enough to spend my day off reading this whole thing in more or less one sitting? Because now I feel crazy. And catharsized.

Utterly breathtaking, whelming, and joyous. When you said you had a good idea for the finale, you weren't joking. Congratulations, sir. Fantastic journey and so many more nice and kind things I can't even begin to say. That was just.... it was something else in a project full of wonderful something elses. Curse you for being so good I feel the need to follow your work forever.

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Iain Coleman 2 years, 10 months ago

Well that was bloody good. Always interesting, sometimes brilliant, occasionally exasperating. Congratulations.

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encyclops 2 years, 10 months ago

It's so fucking cool and generous of you to have incorporated passages from commenters, lurkers, and others into this really amazingly epic post. Like Adam, I'm grateful to have been able to read it in installments. I can only infer from the comments above how it must have bowled over anyone not already expecting it.

I will of course leave my final thoughts on the blog on "Time of the Doctor"...although, knowing me, I'll probably end up just talking about the episode mostly and leave my gratitude in the form of, I don't know, an AbFab quote or something. So, at the risk of repeating myself, just in case I don't end up saying it properly:

I comment most often to disagree, but because it's my (bad) habit, and not because you say things that demand disagreement. Lest I give the wrong impression, I've enjoyed the hell out of this blog and the community it's cultivated, and have been repeatedly inspired both by your level of engagement (which encouraged me to be more thoughtful in my own reviews) and by your level of ambition (which was a big influence on my far more modest and personal Forty Records project, still up at fortyrecords.com if you ever get bored of reading actual, you know, literature). Your vision of Doctor Who isn't precisely mine (A, duh, and B, how boring would things be if it were?), but it casts a long shadow and I can't imagine I won't now have it in mind, alongside that of Miles and Wood and just a very few others, when I read or watch the show in the future.

So: thanks for all that. And congratulations. I'm chanting as we speak.

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Terry 2 years, 10 months ago

But of course the Eruditorium technically doesn't end here, does it? There's still the Logopolis book and the collected essays for the other Doctors, Davison/Baker, McCoy/McGann, and Eccleston/Tennant/Smith (at a guess). It's possible that more Doctor Who stuff may come via Patreon supporters voting for it. And of course it will remain here, infinitely and forever.

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brownstudy 2 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for opening a door to a very big room I didn't know was there. Congratulations on completing this fantastic piece of creative and critical work.

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Anglocat 2 years, 10 months ago

This is...no. No simple farewell, or expression of gratitude. Just this: In the end we're not all just stories. We are that, but storytellers, too.

You have chanted a first rate epic, about others' stories, and your own, and ours.

Thank you--and I'll still be following along for the ride!

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Anthony Strand 2 years, 10 months ago

Also Tasha Lem is basically a River Song stand-in.

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Anthony Strand 2 years, 10 months ago

Amazing job, Phil. I haven't read the entries for the TV stories I haven't seen yet (75 to go!) or the New Adventures novels I haven't read but plan to (15 or so), but I'll miss checking the site for updates. It's been my favorite thing on the internet, and tip my hat to you.

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cmattg 2 years, 10 months ago

Oh, man. The Alan Moore cameo(or Last War in Albion crossover?) was where I lost it.

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Jarl 2 years, 10 months ago

Just finished reading it.
I seem to recall you saying something about how the anachronistic essays should be perfectly readable if read in either order... coming as it does between the name-game of The Unicorn and the Wasp and the Utopia-recalling madness of Midnight, it can at least be said they aren't overly long essays to put it up against...

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Alex 2 years, 10 months ago

"And so it was almost inevitable that the first story made as part of the second run of production would feature the return of the Daleks in The Dalek Invasion of Earth."

And yet, sadly(?), The Dalek Invasion of Earth was the final story of the first production block. The Rescue was the first story shot for the second block.

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Ben 2 years, 10 months ago

Stunning, truly stunning. Thank you and congratulations.

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Ben 2 years, 10 months ago

Funnily enough this kind of reminded me of Phil's "Logopolis" post.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 10 months ago

(I still need to read this entire thing, but...)

Courtney Woods wandered down a long, winding corridor, ornately decorated with trinkets and souvenirs from over a hundred different times and places, yet in blank spots it was plainly, mechanically adorned as well. Once or twice she thought she heard a stream flowing, a brook babbling, birds singing, trees sighing, or maybe some splashing in the pool. There were lots of pictures as well, scattered here and there, of people she had never seen before, yet she knew that she had met them.

The pictures increased and steadily grew more and more confusing, the more she looked at them, and yet she was intrigued as well. Who were these people, and what stories did they have to tell? She was reaching the end of the corridor, or so she thought, when she came upon two dividing branches heading off in different directions, mostly left or right. She paused here at the intersection, wondering which way to go, when a sign that had been posted up on the wall in between suddenly lifted itself up, revealing itself to be a window.

A man, she assumed, stuck his head out and asked, “Which way do you want to go?”

Courtney Woods approached and said, “Excuse me, I’m lost and I don’t really know. Do you happen to know the way out or the way further in?”

“That depends. Which way would you rather go, out or in?”

“Can it be both?” She asked.

“Fair enough.” He said, closing the window and opening the door.

She marveled at the door and what was inside the box at the intersection, but then she paused as she asked, “I would like to know, though, are you a storyteller?”

“Of sorts. What stories would you like to hear?” He asked.

“Of the past and future and everywhere in between.” She remarked. “Full of amazing, monstrous, benign and mad humans, aliens, creatures, robots and more. With science, culture, history, technology, society, philosophy, literature, art, music, pop culture, drama, language, politics, criticism, alchemy, and maybe a touch of material social progress. Something with humor, bite, class, style, elegance, crassness, campiness, emotion, wonders and words, so many words. Something sweet and kind, but not overly sweet or kind either. Bitterly sweet at times, maybe full of rage, anger, and heat, but sadness as well for what is lost and found or never found at all. Something that will last for years to come with a lot of friendship and so much running involved. I think that is what I truly want.” She said.

“I think you better turn left then.” He said, smiling at her.

“Left it is then, always. Thank you so much.” She smiled at him. “Ever onward and upwards, outwards and inwards.”

(Thanks...)

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Jesse 2 years, 10 months ago

So when are you going to cover Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead? :P

I think you might get a chance to read it in the Tennant book. At 99,146 words, this might not work so well in chapter form.

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Jesse 2 years, 10 months ago

Though either sticking it into the middle of the Tennant book or appending it at the end of the Smith book just might be Phil's ultimate gonzo move.

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Spoilers Below 2 years, 10 months ago

Just shy of 100,000 words. A book in its own right, this entry. The eruditorum in miniature, albeit a very large miniature. As above, so below. As within, so without. A fractal piece of the larger whole. As beautiful small as it was large.

What could come next? Spoilers. Goodbye, sweetie.

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Carey 2 years, 10 months ago

I was up until two in the morning reding this: while I needed breaks in the reading, the text demanded finishing, no matter how late.

I'll be sad to see the Eruditorum go: I started reading during the Hartnell era after a mention in The Wife In Space, and while I don't always agree with you (even in this entry, alas) the blog has been one of the things I look up at 10.00 every morning while having a tea break, and have thoroughly enjoyed every word. Whatever will I replace it wit in my life?

Congratulations Phil, and I hope you had a nice rest after finishing.

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Daru 2 years, 10 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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David Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

The only reason not to feel disappointed at the end of the blog is that the blog has to end when it runs out of Doctor Who to blog about.

The history sections could have been made up of links back to all previous Eruditorum posts. But maybe that's the difference between Silence in the Library and Castrovalva.

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Daru 2 years, 10 months ago

Oh my, I am feeling like I am really losing something with this last post - and at the same time something is loosening within as this epic essay is posted, the power of story, or the power of all stories. I haven't finished reading yet and I am only near the beginning, I just want to savour your writing Phil and be consumed as if I am a story being swallowed by the Pumpkin planet, and see where the story takes me. (I will comment more once I have digested, or once I have been digested?)

What a heartful and wonderful experience it has been to travel with you Phil and everyone else in what I regard as being an amazing community.

Thank you for such a rare treasure.

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Daru 2 years, 10 months ago

David you are absolutely right about why we shouldn't feel disappointed.

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

You know what they say: finish on a thesis.

Thank you. And blimey what a marvellous lot of thinking that's been.

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Adam Riggio 2 years, 10 months ago

And my own personal tribute, praise, and long-ish form thank you to you Phil, for TARDIS Eruditorum and everything else you've done in the four years since I first discovered you, your blog, and your work.

http://adamwriteseverything.blogspot.ca/2015/02/the-end-of-beautiful-first-chapter.html

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Jesse 2 years, 10 months ago

WAIT. IT'S NOT OVER. YOU ACCIDENTALLY SKIPPED A DOCTOR.

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Ken Finlayson 2 years, 10 months ago

"Have you ever thought what it's like to be wanderers in the fourth dimension? Have you? To be exiles... ?"

It's 9 February, 2015. The first recorded sighting of a previously theoretical body: a tesseract, an object bound in four dimensions. The seams of its material substance run along time as well as space. To plumb its limits requires a specialised tool. A psychochronograph.

It's 23 November, 1963.

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Ombund 2 years, 10 months ago

It’s February 9th, 2015. Ellie Goulding is at number 1 with Love Me Live You Do, with Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars, Kanye West, Rihanna and Paul McCartney also charting (and that’s across just two records). In the news, it emerges that HSBC have been helping clients engage in widespread tax avoidance, and the US measles outbreak spreads to Mexico.

While in internet news, Philip Sandifer has finished his TARDIS Eruditorum.

I was going to wait until I read it all before commenting but I think if I did I’d end up missing the boat by several days (plus I have already read the production biography chapters in their serialised form). So instead, I just want to echo everyone else here and thank you for this massive undertaking. The Eruditorum is a momentous piece of work and a hell of an achievement and I hope you feel as proud of it as you should.

About a year and a half ago I chanced across this project when Googling whether or not I should bother reading any of those re-jacketed 50th anniversary novels (finding your entry on Gareth Roberts’s Only Human convinced me that I should, and so I did). And what started out as a mild curiosity in the second or third page of results to a poorly phrased Google search turned out to be quite a great spirit of adventure. There have been very few days since then that I haven’t visited the blog; whether to impatiently hit refresh at 10am on a new entry day, to catch up on the newest comments on a previous post, to follow up the viewing of a classic episode to help explain what I’d just seen, or just to delve into some interesting corner of Doctor Who miscellany I’d yet to venture into first-hand. I only wish I’d discovered the blog earlier so I could have got more involved with the brilliant little commenting community you have here.

I had a slightly rough time at university and made the unwise decision to exacerbate that with a poorly-chosen MA, so by the end of 4 years of study I was left with the feeling that any love of criticism had been well and truly beaten out of me. I fully expected never to pick up a critical work again and I certainly never expected to willingly engage with one to the extent that I have with this project. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot, discovered new writers and systems of thought, and rediscovered forgotten ones.

Obviously, I love all the well-known Gonzo entries but I also wanted to highlight a couple of my personal favourites, stuff that I’ve read and re-read many times: from the Beast Below entry that made me completely re-evaluate an episode I’d previously struggled with, to the beautiful The Time of the Doctor piece that I think is one of the best things you’ve ever written, from the Now, My Doctor piece in the Hartnell book, to even something as recent as The Day of the Doctor. And perhaps best of all, the line that made me cry in your entry on The War Games: “It's time to face the reality that the bad guys aren't external monsters, but the people who want to send riot police to crush the sex deviants planting flowers”.

TL;DR: Thank you, Phil. TARDIS Eruditorum has been marvellous, you’ve been marvellous and it’s been an absolute pleasure following this particular mad man with a blog.

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elvwood 2 years, 10 months ago

Nothing witty or clever - I'm all out of witty and clever right now - but I wanted to add my congratulations and thanks. It's been a fantastic journey!

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Judith Jackson 2 years, 10 months ago

Thank you.

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Elliot R 2 years, 10 months ago

Chris O'Leary's 'The Shadow Planet' has made my week. Pure Pynchon.

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Jesse 2 years, 10 months ago

Chris O'Leary's 'The Shadow Planet' has made my week. Pure Pynchon.

Better still: After I read that part, and without my planning or thinking about it in advance, the music playing on my laptop arrived at Sun Ra's "The Shadow World."

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Seeing_I 2 years, 10 months ago

Ironically I first found "Wife In Space" via this blog! :)

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Seeing_I 2 years, 10 months ago

Thanks, Dr. Sandifer, it's been a great pleasure reading your thoughts on Doctor Who (I wandered in somwhere around the middle of Pertwee, I believe) and I hope to hear much more from you in the future!

Now on to "Game of, friggin' Game of, Game of Thrones..." (those are the lyrics, you know.)

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 10 months ago

No, no. They're obviously "Dinklage, Peter Dinklage, Peter..."

Or, if you want to wait for the main strings line, "Once Eddard Stark had a head. Now Eddard Stark is rather dead." (With "Once," "Stark," and "Now" each being held over two notes.)

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Daru 2 years, 10 months ago

And I found this blog via the "Wife in Space" !

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Sylocat 2 years, 10 months ago

I thought for sure that the last words of the blog post were going to be, "Sweet dreams, everyone."

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timber-munki 2 years, 10 months ago

Finally finished the post. Not much to add but thank you.

So see you in about 46 years when you start Erudotorium part 2 getting ready for the 100th anniversary...

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Seeing_I 2 years, 10 months ago

Haha, that's great. Now I have another line to sing!

I have to say reading your blog was an experience somewhat akin to finding the "About Time" series lo these many years ago - they came along just at the time when I didn't really think there was anything new to say about Doctor Who. Thanks for proving me wrong so entertainingly and giving me new ways to think about our old favorites!

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Daru 2 years, 10 months ago

Just finished reading. Bloody hell, that was good!

Thank you Phil.

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5tephe 2 years, 10 months ago

I'm one of the silly people who lives in Australia, and so receives your updates at about 9 or 10 at night.

I am further, one of those silly people who can't bring himself to comment to he has read the whole post, and comments.

And so I find myself offering my belated platitudes. But I'm used to that.

Phil, I will forever be grateful to you for all you have taught me over the years of this project. It was sheer luck that I stumbled upon you here, but as I am fond of saying: you're allowed to be lucky. Let's call it serendipity instead.

As I've said often before, I have no background whatsoever in media studies, or critical thinking. So forgive me if I've occasionally been a truculent pupil, but believe you me: you are the best teacher I could have asked for.

Thanks again, for this wonderful spell you have cast here.

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Llamastrangler 2 years, 10 months ago

I know I haven't commented much over the last few years (has it really been so long?), but thank you for giving this avid reader so much pleasure:)

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Andrew Morton 2 years, 10 months ago

I wanted to finish reading before I commented, hence the nearly a week later...

That was epic. Both the post and the project. Congratulations for seeing it through and thank you for giving me so much free entertainment most Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

I am glad (and slightly smug) to say I have been with the Eruditorum since Day 1 and have enjoyed reading your take on Doctor Who. It is fair to say it has increased my enjoyment of (and hopefully ability in) critical reading, is why I follow(ed) both My Little Po Mo and Vaka Rangi and am interested in reading more.

So thank you again and I look forward to all that is to come.

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EclecticDave 2 years, 10 months ago

Finally finished ...

I cannot possibly add anything to the far more witty and dare I say it, erudite, commentators above, except that I couldn't possibly leave without adding my own thanks and congratulations to the growing pile.

Here's to the next 50 years ... what say we all meet up here again around the year 2061 to start part 2?

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EclecticDave 2 years, 10 months ago

By "Finally finished" I of course mean I've finally finished reading the post, it wasn't intended as a criticism of it's length!

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ferret 2 years, 9 months ago

Finished at last - I've been savouring it! Despite reading the whole blog, seeing the history of Doctor Who in one long-form essay has made a few things clear to me, such as the (now obvious but previously puzzling to me) reason why Shada wasn't simply re-mounted in the next season.

Excellent essay, a wonder to read - thank you for everything, and I look forward to reading them all again, slightly differently no doubt, on my kindle as they come out.

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macrogers 2 years, 9 months ago

I only just finished reading today, as I've been parceling it out over my train commutes. Just marvelous. What a joy TARDIS Eruditorum has been. What a colossal achievement.

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curlyjimsam750 2 years, 9 months ago

Thanks very much for this post. It's taken me two weeks to read the whole thing but I've very much enjoyed it. And thanks very much for the blog as a whole, one of my favourite things about Doctor Who fandom in the last few years. :)

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Paul I 2 years, 9 months ago

I found this blog via Freakytrigger -- it's also taken me a couple of weeks to read, but what a pleasure. Thank you. I guess I'll get cracking on your other posts now.

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Youth of Australia 2 years, 9 months ago

OK, please can someone explain the Shadow World bit to me? I am clearly missing something huge and obvious there... is this the Who equivalent of The King In Yellow?

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Brent Holmes 2 years, 9 months ago

Philip the way you have expanded my understanding of Doctor Who makes thank you a poor choice of words but nonetheless you have it. I'm rewatching the E-Space trilogy and while I remember all the iconic moments I saw on TVOntario when I was much younger; thanks to your insightful passion or even calling for the program I have a richer understanding of what I'm watching. Take out the green bathmats which no one could change and Full Circle is a subtle, gripping statement on '"the more things change". I'm more inspired watching the program since your analysis; watching beyond the onscreen literal to the shorthand, concepts and deeper meaning that your insights have inspired me to. Best wishes on The Last War in Albion and all your future projects.
Brent

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Brent Holmes 2 years, 9 months ago

I forgot to ask; are you saying Mary Whitehouse was the real Deadly Assassin?Based on your analysis and the program's history it sadly appears so...

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JohnB 2 years, 9 months ago

I think it's Lawrence Miles' Enemy making a sideways entrance from 'The Book Of The War' .

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John Binns 2 years, 6 months ago

Still reading and enjoying this, but a little disappointed (churlish I know!) at the omission of a chunk of series 2 (including The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit).

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