Tuesday, February 23, 2010

 

So, You Want To Repeat Doctor Who

BBC3’s endless but cheery rotation of Doctor Who hits a particular highlight with Utopia tonight at 7 – the episode that closes with, for me, the most thrilling 16 minutes of 21st Century Who so far (while last night’s featured BAFTA-winning Carey Mulligan). The two tiny clips from much older Who in tonight’s episode, though, made me wonder how I might devise a repeat schedule for the rest of the Doctors. Which would you pick? The lot, or a run of just one or two? Surely it’s not too much to ask for in the run-up to the new series…

The Eleven Faces of Doctor Who

Well, this would be the obvious one – a story from every Doctor so far, rather than just the last four and a bit seasons. And, yes, as yet you might think we only have a minute’s forthcoming season’s trailer boggling into 3D for Matt Smith, but remember how they showed a story for Peter Davison in 1981’s warm-up repeat season The Five Faces of Doctor Who? So it can be done.

The trouble is, there are so many stories to choose from – even if you kept it down to those running about an hour and a half so they could all fit in the same sort of slot – that I can easily think of, ooh, at least two for poor old Pat whose episodes were largely tossed away by the BBC (imagine if they still did such things today), three for Colin, four or five for Billy, Jon, Peter and Sylv, and fifteen for Tom that I’d want to show. So you get your thinking caps on for a set of eleven, and I’ll get mine. In the meantime, there are other options…

Update: rather belatedly, I did devise my own set for The Eleven Faces of Doctor Who. Almost at The Eleventh Hour, you might say (groan).

Tomtastic!

Who was the most famous, longest-lasting, most iconic of all the Twentieth Century Doctors? Who does everyone still recognise? Who isn’t quite my favourite, but has my favourite set of stories? If I were a BBC channel controller – look, even BBC Parliament, it needs the ratings somehow, but these would probably be BBC2 or BBC4, wouldn’t they – I’d be sorely tempted just to start with Robot, and show the whole of Tom Baker’s Doctor. In order.

It’s not just my personal bias – from a practical point of view, every episode of Tom’s still exists, in its original format, in colour, while the first three Doctors all have bits missing or knackered (thanks, BBC). And I do love Tom’s first season. And Genesis of the Daleks seems like it’s hardly been repeated at all after Chris and David’s daily outings…

But, if I really were a BBC channel controller, I know which repeats would be my secret desire, and they wouldn’t exactly be repeats at all. And I’d probably have to be a channel controller to order them, because unlike ordinary repeats, they’d take quite an allocation of budget.

Doctor Who and the Daleks

Imagine, if you will, the determination, the commitment, and most of all the money to show a good long run of Doctor Who repeats. Surely, you want two things to get attention and pull in your viewers: Daleks, and a unique selling point.

You may be aware that the BBC carelessly tossed many of the 1960s Doctor Who stories into skips and burnt them. Fortunately, people were audio-recording them from the first, so all the soundtracks survive, and are available on BBC CDs. Now, some of them are terrific, but the pictures would be better, wouldn’t they (and some of those narrations are very intrusive)?

So here’s what I’d do. I’d commission animation to replace the missing stories, starting with the twenty-six episodes of Daleks that need doing (twenty-two missing ones, and four that still exist without the episodes on either side of them and wouldn’t match the new versions. You can release them as extras on the DVDs, just as they are now on the Lost In Time box set). The BBC did the same for the two missing parts of Patrick Troughton’s The Invasion on DVD, and it became one of their biggest sellers – but the cost of animation still means only a channel can really afford to stump up the cash.

My perfect Doctor Who repeat season, then, would set out its stall with the newly re-animated The Power of the Daleks, The Evil of the Daleks, Mission To the Unknown and The Daleks’ Master Plan. Each is a terrific story, not a single dud amongst them, each starring a terrific Doctor, Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell – or in one case, starring no Doctor at all, which is why I’d start with the one that introduces a new Doctor rather than confusingly omitting him – and each would look fantastic with all the Daleks you can eat and fabulous new designs and special effects.

How about trailing them heavily immediately after each BBC3 repeat, saying, ‘turn over now to BBC2 / BBC4 for more exciting Doctor Who you’ve not seen before’? Show two episodes back-to-back every night, and you can have a regular two-hour multi-channel Doctor Who slot.

And, when those have been an enormous success, you can commission another set, Doctor Who and the Monsters – I for one would love to see The Macra Terror – and keep on until all 108 ‘missing’ episodes had been renewed, along with new versions of the ‘orphaned’ episodes that would stick out too much in a story mostly made up of animation.

Then, once the whole series is complete again… It’s simple.

Just start your repeat season starring William Hartnell as the Doctor in An Unearthly Child, and show the whole lot. Just in time for the Twelfth Doctor.


And, yes, I know this is a strange flibbertigibbet sort of post to break my block of the last few weeks, but anything to get me back on the treadmill, eh? I’m sure I can get into even more outrageous wish-fulfilment once I start writing about the General Election.

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Comments:
There was one weekend a few years ago, just before the local elections, when UK Gold had a "Daleks Weekend" showing every(?) Dr Who & the Daleks episode and I think the film version to boot.

Nearly wrecked the whole campaign as I was meant to be writing a tabloid!
 
My ones (bearing in mind my dislike of the Welsh Series...)

Hartnell - Either The Aztecs or The Time Meddler, if we're going for 90-minute-ish stories.

Troughton - If we're going for stories that are shortish and which exist in full, then Tomb. Famous Monster, decent story, right length, good scene with Victoria.

Pertwee - The length thing again rules out a lot of my favourites (Green Death, most of his first series), so a toss-up between Spearhead and Time Warrior. I'd go for Time Warrior as it has a Famous Companion.

Baker, T - Hardest to make a choice for. I'd probably go for City Of Death, but could argue for Genesis, Traken, Ark or half a dozen others.

Davison - Three-way tie between Castrovalva (my personal favourite), Caves (obvious best) or Five Doctors (nonsensical fun that fits the theme of the season).

Baker, C - Are you *SURE* I can't have anything from Big Finish? Not even Doctor Who And The Pirates? Vengeance On Varos then - easily his best TV appearance.

Sylv - Ghostlight

McGann - the animated version of Shada from the webcast.

Eccles - Dalek. Easily his best, although problematic.

Tennant - either Blink or Utopia.
 
Yay, Hywel! Great that you have the right priorities.

And, Andrew, bless you. I don't think there are any that I can disagree with - all good choices - though your McGann is entertainingly naughty. I'm finding it difficult to come up with a set that balances out right (horror / comedy, action / weird shit, past / present / future, etc), but I'll get there eventually.

And I have to confess Richard's just reminded me that the Doctor Who and the Daleks re-animated series was his idea from ages ago, and I'd forgotten it. But he didn't take it to the extreme that I did...
 
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