Read an Excerpt
The Doctors Who's Who Celebrating Its 50th Year
The Story Behind Every Face of the Iconic Time Lord
By Craig Cabell
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2013 Craig Cabell
All rights reserved.
Doctor Who: Who are you?
Chesterton: I'll ask the questions, Buster.
From a draft script of Doctor Who and the Tribe of Gum, Episode One 'An Unearthly Child'
Who is responsible for creating Doctor Who?
It's not an easy question to answer. A TV show has many people who play a major role in creating it, from its initial idea through to the first transmission; but Sydney Newman must be recognised as the catalyst, the person who laid down the fundamental building blocks for Doctor Who and, most importantly, the main character.
Sydney Cecil Newman was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1917. He was educated at Ogden Public School and the Central Technical School, Toronto, where he studied painting, stagecraft and industrial and interior design. His skills were put to work as an artist, designing posters for cinemas and theatres in Toronto, but he soon branched out.
In 1938, Newman decided to go to Hollywood, where he was offered a job by the Walt Disney Company, which was impressed by the young man's skills as a graphic designer. Unfortunately, he couldn't obtain a work permit and had to return to Toronto where, in 1941, he secured employment with the National Film Board of Canada as an assistant film editor.
Later, Newman returned to America to study their film techniques. He would incorporate what he learnt into the ever-growing Canadian broadcasting industry. In the 1950s, he moved across to Britain and became Head of Drama at ABC (former Thames Television), where he created Science Fiction (SF) show Pathfinders in Space and cult TV series The Avengers.
One of Newman's strengths was his ability to gather the right team of individuals together to make a quality TV series. This was quintessential to his success and, ostensibly, the individual show's success too.
In 1962, Newman moved from ABC to the BBC. Again Head of Drama, he was given the task of trying to fill the gap between Grandstand and Juke Box Jury on a Saturday afternoon. For the time slot, the show had to be for children. Traditionally, the spot had been filled with a classic serial, such as Oliver Twist or Kidnapped, but it was felt that it was time for something different.
Donald Wilson was appointed Head of Serial and Series and began to forge the initial ideas of what would become Doctor Who with Newman – but what would the show be about?
A report concerning the development of the programme was written in July 1962. It stated that 'bug-eyed monsters' were out but time travel was in. The show continued to be developed and, in March 1963, a second report proposed a 52-week serial featuring 'scientific troubleshooters', with a time machine. The characters would include a handsome young man, an attractive young woman and a 'mature man' somewhere between 30 and 40 years of age, with some kind of twist to him.
Sydney Newman wasn't totally happy with the report – he didn't like the 'scientific troubleshooters' bit. He wanted the show to be different and, for a SF show, educational. Also, he wanted to include 'a kid' who would get into trouble, perhaps somebody the young audience could identify with.
Newman developed the idea further himself, writing a three-page document about 'Dr Who' (Who is this man? Nobody knows – 'Dr Who?'). 'Dr Who' was 'a frail old man lost in space and time ...' but apart from that nothing else was known about him. From here, the show really started to take shape.
The script unit was now brought in. C. E. Webber (aka 'Bunny Webber') was the first to try and make sense of this unusual programme. It is unclear if Webber wrote a script or an extended treatment based upon Newman's idea of the regular characters being shrunk to the size of a pinhead and exploring a school laboratory. What is clear is that the script/treatment was rejected and David Whitaker brought in as story editor and Australian writer Anthony Coburn as scriptwriter. Coburn wrote the first useable script, after several drafts had been tweaked by Newman. Around this time, Newman and Wilson decided to find a producer. It was Newman who suggested a young woman from his former employer, ABC Television: Verity Lambert.
Lambert was called 'out of the blue' and asked what she knew about children. The 27-year-old stated that she knew nothing about them. Undeterred, Newman asked if she would mind coming over to the BBC for an interview. She agreed. Newman and Wilson interviewed her and almost immediately she was offered the job of producer of the new programme, which she accepted.
In later years Lambert confessed that the leap from being a production assistant to producer was a huge step. She recalled her first day at the BBC as being somewhat nerve-wracking as she had to go into a meeting with other producers from the Drama department, all middle-aged men, who were amazed that a young female like her held such an senior position. She said that the initial atmosphere affected her for about six months, until she really got her feet under the table.
Lambert was assigned a director, Rex Tucker, who was experienced in making classical serials for the BBC, but his way of doing things didn't sit well with Lambert and, after several artistic disagreements, Tucker asked to be removed from the show.
Lambert was given a new director, Waris Hussein, who was about her own age and who soon came to share her vision for the show.
Lambert and Hussein started to shape the programme and cast the main roles. To begin with, Lambert cast a friend of hers, Jacqueline Hill, as schoolteacher Barbara Wright, while William Russell, a somewhat dashing young lead actor with a strong BBC pedigree, was cast as schoolteacher Ian Chesterton. The casting of teenage schoolgirl Susan Foreman was slightly trickier. Hussein watched Carole Ann Ford while casually visiting a set one day, and was struck by the way she presented herself on and off camera. He instantly asked Lambert down to the set, who agreed that Ford was exactly what they were looking for and soon offered her the part, which she duly accepted.
Ford remembers the chance meeting: 'I was doing one of The Wednesday Plays, when Waris Hussein, the original director of Doctor Who, spotted me. He was up in the control box and I was on the set – screaming. I think they chose me because they wanted a good screamer. I certainly did an awful lot of it!'
Casting the Doctor was a more difficult affair. Both Lambert and Hussein had their own ideas, which included Cyril Cusack and Leslie French, but the actors weren't interested. William Hartnell became the next choice. Hartnell was an actor concerned about being typecast. He had played an army sergeant in the movie The Way Ahead and the TV series The Army Game; he also appeared as one again in the very first Carry On movie, Carry On Sergeant. It seemed that if there was a soldier or hard-man role, he would be typecast; but the role of the Doctor presented a new challenge. He was offered the part despite Lambert and Hussein's concerns that a mature actor wouldn't want to take on a single role for 52 weeks (i.e. a whole year), but their fears proved short-lived, as Hartnell accepted the part and delighted in telling all his friends that he was to star in a children's television series.
The main elements of what was to become the longest-running SF TV series ever had now been gathered together. Newman, Wilson, Lambert, Hussein, Whitaker and Coburn were the main people who devised the show and then brought the vision to screen for Hartnell, Ford, Hill and Russell to captivate their weekly audience. The first Doctor Who family had been created.
It was essentially Newman who shaped the lead character of the Doctor on paper during the early reports, but David Whitaker was not a sleeping partner in this process. In fact, his original idea of introducing the Doctor at the end of a road in a swirling fog (titled 'Nothing at the End of the Lane'), while not used on screen, was later used at the beginning of the first novel spawned from the show: Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks (Muller, 1964). Slightly different from the TV show, Whitaker wrote the first Doctor Who novelisation introducing the characters in the way he had originally visualised them for screen, and then he amalgamated the show's second broadcast story, which introduced the Daleks, as the main story. So the writer had strong ideas that he could see through to their natural conclusion, albeit in a slightly different medium, and combined with Terry Nation's Daleks – creatures that were not developed until the late summer of 1963 – he could create a strong, one-off novel, which would influence the likes of future Doctor Who writers, such as Neil Gaiman.
Newman certainly liked to have tried-and-trusted people around him. Verity Lambert was a known entity, as were David Whitaker and Anthony Coburn. And that cascaded down. Lambert found a like-minded director and cast a friend, Jacqueline Hill.
Coburn wrote the first episode, the initial draft of which was completed by the end of April 1963 before Lambert was hired from ABC. The script was 43 pages long and entitled 'Doctor Who and the Tribe of Gum', subtitled 'Episode One "An Unearthly Child"'.
Early drafts of this script have only recently surfaced and are some of the most important documents in our understanding of how Doctor Who was developed. One specific draft used in research for this book showed that the characters were still far from fully formed. Although the script was essentially what later became the first ever episode (not a shooting script but an early out-sourced script of Coburn's), it had some very different dialogue to that seen on screen. Firstly, the script did not mention the TARDIS by name. The Doctor's ship was indeed a police telephone box but no reference was made to its name, unlike the final version of the script. Additionally, in order to pilot 'the ship', as it was referred to, the Doctor had to sit down at the control panel and strap himself in, so some traditional 'rocket-ship' ideas had not been ruled out at the time of the draft script; but Newman was later keen to have all clichés taken out.
There is another interesting point about the draft script. Barbara Wright's character is called Miss Canning. It is made clear that the reason she wants to talk to fellow schoolteacher Ian Chesterton about the bright but strange 'Suzanne Foreman' is because she is new to the school and wants to confide in another teacher and not bother the head teacher about the pupil. In the copy of the draft script used in research for this book, the first time Miss Canning's character is mentioned her name is crossed through and the name Barbara Wright is inserted in pencil.
It was after this draft that Miss Canning was developed into Barbara Wright, and 'Suzanne' became 'Susan'. It seems that Newman wasn't 100 per cent happy with other areas of the script. There was an expensive element to it to begin with: when the two schoolteachers jump into 'the ship' it is still a police box, it was only when the door was shut that it transported them into the main control room. It was decided that this piece should be kept simple, losing an extremely eerie moment in which Suzanne's favourite music is being played in the empty police box but the schoolteachers cannot see where it is coming from. Suzanne later explains this:
Suzanne: You've read stories about space and time machines ... When you shut the door and felt everything spinning around you, you were being adjusted to a new relationship of space and time.
In the draft script the Doctor says that in Earth language his name is translated as 'Doctor Who'. This is important in regard to the final six-page synopsis of the show, which was sent out to actors and writers by Whitaker when offers were made to take part in it. That document clearly stated that the companions refer to the Doctor as 'Doctor Who' because they know nothing about him, which is indeed what happens in the first ever TV episode. Also, Miss Canning is suddenly Barbara Wright. This is very important because it is clear that Carole Ann Ford didn't read the draft script (where she is 'Suzanne', not 'Susan') – that was only sent out to writers before casting, and as an aide-memoire of how to write for the show. The version received by Ford was the final version of the script with the names changed and plotlines and main character developed (in line with the six-page synopsis). This is a great shame because if she had read the earlier script she would have found out what her character's relationship to the Doctor was originally intended to be (one of the show's greatest mysteries).
The nuances of the early script of 'An Unearthly Child' have only recently been appreciated. In the original draft Suzanne explains that her parents are dead and her world is gone; all she has left is her grandfather and the ship. Little insight perhaps until the Doctor refuses to let the schoolteachers leave the ship. Suzanne tries to help them understand her situation but they are worried about her welfare and argue with the Doctor, whom they believe to be deranged.
It is here that a very sinister sequence starts, which was changed dramatically (and quite rightly so) in the final version of the script. To begin with Suzanne states, 'I'm trying to save you both,' implying that the Doctor wants to kill them. She goes on to say that '... if you both behave like ... like primitives. If you insult him ... he won't listen to me.' So it seems Suzanne was scared of the Doctor and, more importantly, it is clear that he considered human beings below him and, if they provoked him, he would destroy them. In fact, that's what he says: 'We must destroy them [Suzanne].'
This was far too scary for children, moving the Doctor character away from a potential hero and into the realms of a potential murderer, or abductor at least. The final script could be interpreted as a tussle at the controls that sends the two schoolteachers, the Doctor and Susan on their journey through time and space but this is not the case in the first draft, where the schoolteachers are clearly abducted. The rest of the dialogue is also lost, where Suzanne's history is explained to all: who she was, where she came from, her relationship to the Doctor, and the reason for them being in London in 1963, i.e. all the things that we – and Carole Ann Ford – wished to know and have been a mystery for the past 50 years.
The Doctor calls Suzanne 'Findooclare'. He explains that if he let the schoolteachers go now that they had seen the ship, they would tell people about it, and although many people wouldn't believe them, the enemy would.
Doctor Who: Everywhere he listens. He searches for you Findooclare ... for you. His victory is not complete until he destroys you. He would listen to these primitives. The wilder their talk, the more he would listen.
Here, parallels with David Tennant's story, 'The Family of Blood', begin coming into the equation. It becomes clear that Suzanne is being hunted.
Ian Chesterton believes that they (the Doctor and Suzanne) are both mad:
Chesterton: ... I'll have a few words to say to the Head about this. A child like her left in the care of a doddering old fool like that. An old man who steals police boxes! (to Doctor Who) Where are her parents? I demand to see her mother and father.
Suzanne then explains that her parents are dead, her world is dead and all she had was what the schoolteachers saw before them: her grandfather and the ship. The Doctor elaborates: 'Findooclare would rule! Findooclare would be Queen in a world greater than any your minds could dream of. But her people are enslaved by the Palladin hordes.'
It is at this point that one of Doctor Who's greatest secrets is explained away in one sentence from Suzanne: '[Findooclare] It's a name he has for me. I was a baby when the Palladins attacked our world and he saved me. We got away in this machine ... It was the first our people made.'
If one were to put this into context of the present Doctor Who mythology, it would suggest that 'the ship' was indeed a TARDIS, which would make both the Doctor and Susan [Suzanne] Time Lords, maybe at the time of the Time Wars. What it concludes, answering one of the great unexplained questions of the show, is that the Doctor and Suzanne are not related and she is simply another companion, albeit an important one, and indeed one that feels so incredibly thankful and affectionate towards him, because he managed to save her while the rest of her race – also the Doctor's own race – perished.
Excerpted from The Doctors Who's Who Celebrating Its 50th Year by Craig Cabell. Copyright © 2013 Craig Cabell. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.