The first story of Season 27 had been called Lucky Devil and maybe it was fate, but Doctor Who seemed to enjoy a burst of good luck that ran counter to the apparent death sentence hanging over the show.
Luck seemed in short supply at the outset of production. Producer John Dale had been given a budget cut. The BBC had decided that as Doctor Who was a show winding down, there was no need for extravagance. Dale went back to one of his predecessors to turn this limitation to his advantage.
"I admit, I consciously decided to go 70s style on Season 27," recalls Stone. “They'd always been careful with their budgets so that they could divert some of the money to a couple of spectacular looking stories, while other stories could trade on atmosphere instead of effects. I only needed one spectacular story, the last. So, I decided to start the series with low on effects, high on atmosphere story. For that, I just had to get Peter Hammond to write it. People have complimented me on having a terrific idea, but I think the good fortune we had was mostly down to Peter. He turned it into a triumph."
As it was, the cancellation rumours would draw viewers to Doctor Who who hadn't seen the series in years. What they would find would be a story very similar to the perceived "golden age" of the series in the 70s. Hammond wrote The Doctor with the same easy charm and dry humour as Delgado and Cuthbertson. Tony Haygarth managed to deliver some of The Doctor's aphorisms as if he wasn't sure he would get away with it, showing a boyish glee when his wit hit home. It was a perfect synthesis of two different approaches to the character. The new companion, Selnasian diplomat Koryn Jath played by Seeta Indrani, had the same intellectual bemusement at "primitive" social mores as Kay Gee had had. All in all, just as the eyes of the nation as a whole returned to Doctor Who, it was perfectly placed to demonstrate that, yes, it was just as good as it had been in the old days.
This success caused a flurry of activity at the BBC. The proposed BBC2 repeat run became a BBC1 repeat run. BBC Radio 4 commissioned two six-part adventures starring Haygarth and Indrani, to run in Spring and Autumn. Finally, plans for the next TV season, originally the result of pressure from BBC Enterprises to make a more attractive syndication package, were now plans for the triumphant return of a well loved institution. The 1990 "uncancellation" had given the show enough momentum to carry it comfortably to its 30th anniversary.
Someone else sprang into action when the "year of no Doctor Who" was announced. He saw the break in production as an opportunity to transfer Doctor Who to his employer, Amblin Television.
- Doctor Who In The Nineties, Gordon Weythe and Andrew Barbicane
"Can I answer a question you didn't ask? I was talking to Roger earlier and he says the two most obvious questions are 'where do you get your ideas from?' for writers and 'did you think you'd be talking about this years later?' for actors. (audience chuckles) Roger wasn't being mean, I'm not sure he knows how. He said they're only the most obvious because they're the questions most people want to know the answer to. I think he was trying to tell me if I got asked the 'did you think' question not to treat it as a silly question.
"Here's the thing, I didn't really think I'd be sitting here in front of so many people. I know Doctor Who was and is very popular, Tony gave me a full rundown on what to expect, but I thought I was going to be the 'and also' of Doctor Who assistants…sorry, it's companions isn't it? Roger doesn't like it when people say 'assistant'.
"It was an open secret that the season I was in was meant to be last, at least until the BBC found a co-producer to relaunch it in the States. So, I had no illusions that I was going to be up there with Jenny and Gabrielle as one of the most popular…companions. I was just going to be the name between Jennifer Calvert and the next, turned out to be, erm…the American one, what's her…? Leah Remini, that's it! So yes, the companion list would go 'Jennifer Calvert and then Leah Remini, oh yes, Seeta Indrani was in there somewhere'.
"If I'd know that all that behind the scenes stuff was going to make Doctor Who so popular again, I think I'd have asked for a different wardrobe. I know you guys…and some of you girls, like that succession of velvet-look catsuits, but I think I'd have gone for something more dignified. I did question it at the time, because everyone was laughing about Teri Hatcher in…thingumy…Starwatch. Her catsuit was all spangly wasn't it? Still, I did wonder if I was doing the right thing. I suppose it didn't do her any harm in the long run, but it could have completely derailed the career of a less assured actress.
"Another thing. There were letters to Points of View saying 'She looks lovely in those tight clothes, but why must she wear those big clunky boots? They spoil the effect'. Let me tell you, those 'big clunky boots' were wonderful. Not only comfortable and practical, I would have looked silly running around in heels like the letter writers wanted, they were also lovely and warm on location. Tony was wearing two pairs of socks because those beaten up old suede shoes weren't keeping out the cold."
I assume you've all listened to The Last Cyberman on Radio 4. Is it just me or was that so good that the lack of visuals didn't matter? It was really Doctor Who, not just a stopgap. I eagerly await Triumph Of The Ice Warriors this autumn.
- Doctor Who Magazine editorial, June 1991
"It's interesting what you said about the radio series, because I thought the same thing at first. When I got the call from Radio 4, I thought it was a bit opportunistic; get all the Doctor Who fans tuning in and staying for The Archers. I had a meeting with the producer and he started telling me about how what appealed to them about Doctor Who was its audience was young. It was all pretty high-minded really. Get a younger audience tuning into Doctor Who and maybe some of them will listen to the news afterwards. That was the hope, not boosting the listenership of The Archers, which didn't really need any help. I bet all that'll get edited out."
- At Home With…Tony Haygarth, BBC Radio 4, 1998.
Between Seasons 27 and 28, the BBC's plans for Doctor Who remained fundamentally the same, but the effects were hoped to be different as far as the viewing audience was concerned.
The original plan, what we might call the "cancellation plan" was to wind up the filmed series after 52 episodes and concentrate on finding a US co-production deal. The unexpected success of Season 27 moved the powers-that-be onto what we might call the "continuation plan". While there would be no TV episodes of Doctor Who produced for 1991, the show's profile would still be high with the Radio 4 series and the summer repeat run. Behind the scenes, a co-production deal could be sought and hammered out. Season 28 would go out and Doctor Who would officially end as a BBC production. The production office had permission to produce a 30th anniversary special, so that would be it for Doctor Who in 1993 and all being well, the co-production would be ready for 1994. So in markets that had shown Seasons 24-28, Doctor Who would just continue, albeit in a modernized form.
It didn't work out that way and some aspects of the plan would prove to be a headache for the eventual co-producer. But Doctor Who was now a show that appeared to enjoy the confidence of the BBC.
- Doctor Who In The Nineties, Gordon Weythe and Andrew Barbicane
"Ha! Yes, you can tell which bits Gordon I wrote and which bits I wrote. In Gordon's view, once Season 28 was commissioned, it was all plain sailing until 1993. Gordon's not wrong, because he's interested in the show from 1963 to 1993.
"Originally, it was going to be two distinct works. Gordon would write it up to 1993 and then I'd take it from the CBS pilot onwards. But the eras overlap messily. From one point of view, 1991 is a year the whole enterprise was kept simmering, followed by a solidly popular season and then a year's gap and the 30th anniversary special, which was a bit of an instant classic. That's the end of BBC-only Doctor Who in the 20th Century and it's a happy ending.
"From my point of view, 1991 is the start of the next era and it's a turbulent one. Amblin have made their interest known and the BBC had initially been treating Doctor Who as something that needed to be rested and then revived. It takes large organizations longer to notices things, so they're still treating it that through the first half of 1991. They're smiling on the reboot proposals and all that mythology about the Doctor's homeworld. By the end of 1991, they've noticed that the show is hugely popular again and they're suddenly telling Amblin it has to be a continuation. They're just beginning to test Amblin's patience and then the 30th anniversary special kicks into gear. The one the BBC told Amblin not to worry about, the one the BBC said was 'a little thank-you to the fans'. That ends up getting reworked and the cast is announced and Amblin go ballistic. I really don't know why they didn't spike the deal there and then. According to Roger, bless him, it was all his fault. He had a point. God, I miss him.
- Andrew Barbicane, Convention appearance, 2006
"Just as we were going to press, we received the news that Roger Delgado had had a heart attack. We wish him a speedy recovery and all the best to his wife, Kismet."
- Doctor Who Magazine editorial, December 1992
Put down that obit file, you young rascal! You don't get rid of me that easily! The doctors told this Doctor that the attack was just a warning and that I'm to take it easy. Feet up for old Roger as usual, but I think I have to forgo the brandy. Giving up the cigars was bad enough, but probably saved my life this time around so mustn't grumble.
All the best to everyone at Doctor Who Magazine,
- Letter from Roger Delgado to Gary Russell at Doctor Who Magazine, January 1993.
Seems Doc Who will be getting a new American make-over but not a reboot. I like this.
I do wonder what the 30th Anniversy show is going to be. A X Doctors special must be likely, but I think a long running mystery playing through each of the Regenerations until 'modern' Doctor solves it (possibly due to Koryn Jath's background or viewpoint) might be more fun giving each Doctor a little moment with the mystery, working on it, before passing it along. Would highlight each Doctors style perhaps?
You know, what with Hartnell's arteriosclerosis, Cuthbertson's stroke, and now Delgado's heart attack, it seems that none of the anniversary specials can come about without one of their leads being somewhat incapacitated.
The most recent one is based around this public domain photo. I then went looking for pictures of shirts and neckscarves to finish it.
The first one, the Radio Times one, is Tony Haygarth's body (I don't know what from) with a younger looking Haygarth's head on it and all the little accessories I found in Google Image Search (the scarf, watch fob, enamel badge of a hornet). Yes, the 7th Doctor has a watch on a chain and a watch on a fob. He probably has at least one wrist watch.
Delgado is mainly taken from Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain. Never seen in any image, but I imagine for some location work, he reuses Hartnell's cape and Astrakhan hat.
Iain Cuthbertson is generally just himself in The Railway Children (with Photoshopped hairpiece), but one image is Christopher Lee's tweed suit in the 1958 Hound of the Baskervilles and another it Peter Cushing's outfit from later in the same film.
Don Henderson's body is Christopher Lloyd's from Clue.
Colin Baker's is a lot of photoshopping and an image of a high-necked waistcoat that I have since lost in a hard-drive disaster and is locked into the image. His cravat is actually a cummerbund.
The Eighth Doctor won't need anything adding. The actor in question appeared in an episode of something pretty much already costumed. Nine and Ten will have each individual element of the costume from a different image.
Also at that time, she was doing a lot - including voiceovers on Phantom 2040 and in one of the Gabriel Knight games. Where did you decide on Antony Hamilton? Just because he was a generic 80s renta-pretty boy. I know him best from Nocturna - Granddaughter of Dracula. And the 80s Aussie M:I.