Pop Culture: The David Burton 'Doctor Who'

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by DValdron, Oct 1, 2014.

  1. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009
    This guy:


    Okay, here's the story. There was a local actor named David Burton, and as part of some promotion, he wangled a car to drive from a local dealership. The dealership blazoned up the car, one of the blazers on it was "David Burton: The New Doctor Who."

    The story that emerged was that Burton a mildly successful actor, had appeared in a play called "Lock Up Your Daughters" directed by Paul Bernard. Bernard had directed three Pertwee era sequels. Shortly after the play, in 1991-1992, Bernard approached Burton and invited him to a meeting with a group called Millenium productions at the Grosvenor Hotel.

    He was invited to assume the role of Doctor Who. The BBC had cancelled Doctor Who back in 1989. According to Burton, Millenium Productions was a small production company which was making a bid to license the Doctor Who intellectual property. They planned to film a few episodes and go to the BBC.

    I'm told that around this time this is something the BBC was actually doing - ie, purchasing privately introduced properties, and licensing production properties.

    Doctor Who had actually been licensed a few times. AARU/Amicus had obtained a license to do two movies in the 60's. Stanmark productions had an abortive license to do a Doctor Who radio serial. More recently, Nelvana productions just missed out on a Doctor Who cartoon series, and Big Finish productions has actually licensed a line of Audio Adventures, some of which played the BBC. Then there's the comics, books, toys, stuff like that. So it's not actually impossible.

    According to Burton, there were a number of liberties taken. The iconic blue phone box was going to be replaced with a more recognizeable red british phone booth with blacked out windows. For companions, he would have adolescent twins, Hart and Diamond. They apparently filmed two episodes, one of which was 'The Monster of Ness' (or maybe that was the collective title).

    According to Burton, he had a contract for three months. Millenium filmed out of a production office in Kensington, they also apparently did a rocky bay down at St. Austell in Cornwall, a school recreation ground in the Beaconsfield area and Chislehurst Caves, and apparently Vienna, in Austria. The whole thing was very hush hush. They spent quite a lot of money, and then it was axed. Burton never heard from anyone again, had no actual proof - no video, no stills, no scripts, no sides.

    It was almost certainly a hoax. Or more likely, a scam that blew up and turned into a small hoax. There's a major shortage of tangible proof or verification, and frankly, there's a few too many inconsistencies.

    Television production, even cheap television production, is expensive, and I just can't imagine a production company blowing tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands on a project they don't have the license for - in hopes of getting that license. Stranger things happen daily in the film and television industry, but that story is ab initio, bad practice and risky business. Not impossible, but not... desirable.

    But what if it turned out to be real?

    I dunno, maybe this isn't a proper alternate history thing. It's more 'magic' if it's all in David Burton's imagination. But there was a Millenium Productions (no sign it was ever involved). There was a Paul Bernard. Hypothetically, this could have had some objective reality - ie, somewhere between actually filming a couple of episodes at one end, to just a Bernard, Millenium's backers and Burton having a chat around a coffee table that was the beginning and end.

    But I am kind of intrigued by the possibility. Burton in his youtube clip seems like a bit of a ham, a bit of a con, he might have made quite an interesting Doctor. Possibly a very comic and slapstick Doctor.

    I suspect that the production, if it had happened, was going to be cheap and threadbare. If they're doing it on spec, there's no way they're using a full budget. Even if they got picked up by the BBC, they'd likely be using a lot less money.

    The very style of the show might well have shifted. The impression from Burton is that they were going for a much younger target market. Say, 8 to 12. Possibly shorter serials, or standalone episodes, overt comedy and slapstick?

    Purists would be struck dead and rolling over in their graves. And probably it would have been rankly terrible.

    But it's still intriguing to see what a David Burton season would be...

    Thoughts, observations, reflections? I almost feel like wanting to design the season. Anyone want to go in on this? Any cool ideas?

    How would it have affected the 1993 revival projects - Dark Dimensions and Dimensions In Time, or the 1996 McGann movie? Would it have at all?
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2014
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  2. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009
    The Completely Fictional Story of the Lost Doctor


    The story of the New Doctor begins with Paul Bernard. Bernard, born in 1929, had entered show business as a production and art designer in the 1960's, from the mid 60's through the 1970's he had been a successful television. In the 1970's, he had directed three Pertwee serials, Day of the Daleks, the Time Monster and Frontier in Space. During this time, he’d also directed two ‘Tomorrow People’ serials ‘Slaves of Jedikiah’ and ‘The Vanishing Earth.’

    By the late 80's, however, Bernard’s directing career in television was largely over. His final television credits were Coronation Street in 1987. By the late eighties and early 90's, Bernard had shifted almost entirely to theatrical production. It was in the middle of 1989, during a local production of ‘Lock Up Your Daughters,’ that Bernard encountered David Burton, a local actor, and was impressed by Burton’s charisma and manic charm.

    In and of itself that wouldn’t have gone anywhere. But on December 6, 1989, the final episode of the final serial of Doctor Who, Survival, had aired. The series had gone on hiatus through 1990. But by the beginning of 1991, there was still no sign of it and fans were getting restless.

    The second part of the story came with Ian Levine, a successful music and record producer. Levine was also notable as a hardcore Doctor Who fan. In the 1970's, he’d almost single handedly halted the destruction of the old Doctor Who tapes, personally salvaging whole serials. He’d travelled the world, searching out missing episodes. He had scored the music for the Sarah Jane spin off ‘K9 and Company.’


    In the 1980's his association with the show had become semi-professional. He had been brought on board as a continuity advisor and script consultant, he was an uncredited writer for the Colin Baker serial ‘Attack of the Cybermen’, and during the hiatus had organized a ‘Save Doctor Who’ campaign. Following this, he’d had a falling out with John Nathan Turner.

    Levine was a volatile personality, but one with a deep knowledge of Doctor Who’s history and deeper pockets. Again, this in and of itself, wouldn’t have gone anywhere. But by the early months of 1990, it was increasingly clear that the show was cancelled, and there was a growing discussion among a lot of fans looking for a way to revive the series. People were talking to each other, and it was often a principal discussion. Certainly Paul Bernard and Ian Levine had had casual discussions. There’d been a lot of these discussions between a lot of people. Most of them would go nowhere.

    In some cases though, things did go somewhere. Bill and Ben Bags had been inspired to form BBV Productions, eventually producing Doctor Who spin off video and audio. Reeltime Pictures had started up. The Audio-Visuals group, the amateur predecessors of Big Finish, were starting up. In this case, Levine’s and Bernard’s conversation might well have been forgotten. But Paul Bernard had directed ‘Lock Up Your Daughters,’ he’d met David Burton and he’d been impressed.
    Bernard contacted Levine once more, "I’ve found the next Tom Baker." Ian Levine was intrigued. Between them they brought together a handful of associates, primarily from the music production and theatre fields, people they knew personally and felt that they could enlist in a potential project, and scheduled a meeting with Burton.

    The meeting took place on April 7, 1990, at the Grosvenor Hotel in London. Burton had no idea that it was an informal audition. He was introduced to Ian Levine and almost immediately forgot his name. But luck was with him, he was charismatic, charming and outgoing. By the end of the meeting, Ian Levine was convinced, Millenium productions was born.

    They had a music producer and hardcore fan who had deep pockets and access to funding, they had a former television director, and they had a Doctor. There was no next step....
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2014
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  3. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009

    Bernard was potentially credible through his work as a television Director, but that had been a long time ago. Levine was well known for his association with the show, which both hurt and helped. And Burton was a complete unknown. Millenium Productions had no track record whatsoever. There wasn’t enough. The BBC wasn’t going to let this trio through the door, much less hand over the rights to make a series.

    Levine and Bernard agreed that to make a credible pitch with any chance of success, they needed something more. They needed a proof of concept.
    Proof of concept was a well established principle in film and television production. Proponents for a production needed something tangible to sell the concept to backers or investors. Sometimes posters or promotional material would be sufficient - Roger Corman had sold entire pictures based on a poster. Storyboards would be commissioned, production sketches and artwork. Scenes would be shot, sometimes fake trailers, sometimes segments of the proposed script.

    Millenium Productions needed a proof of concept to do two things: To ‘sell’ their concept of the Doctor Who’ and to persuade the BBC that they had the technical skill and resources to make a series.

    Now, a proof of concept is not a cheap thing. Even a basic package - script, storyboards, production drawings, a short trailer can be expensive and complicated to put together. But Paul Bernard, through his decades long career as a production designer and director in theatre and television had the critical skill sets and contacts. He simply didn’t have the money.

    Ian Levine, on the other hand, had the money, and more critically, he had the motivation. A lifelong fan of the show, a man who had come so close to the center of production, suddenly he had a real prospect of realizing a lifelong dream, to actually be at the heart of the storm, to be a producer- creator for the show, to make his own Doctor Who, to create his own Doctor.

    And it was on. Between them, Levine and Bernard hammered out the principles of their new show, and the proof of concept. The quality of this Doctor would need to at least match the original series, but the inspiration would be the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker years, particularly the first Pertwee years when the Doctor was Earthbound.

    This Doctor would begin in media res - there would be no origin, no regeneration, the Doctor and his companions would just show up. There was enough history, people would have the idea, they didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. For purposes of the proof of concept, a Doctor in action was better than a Doctor beginning.

    Bernard, perhaps borrowing from his early experience with the Tomorrow People, suggested young companions, teen agers to balance out Paul Burton’s middle age. They should have powers, perhaps inspired by the Tomorrow People, or perhaps by Saphire and Steel. These eventually became the twins - Heart and Diamond, a girl with spiritual/emotional powers, and a near robot with strength, invulnerability and physical attributes.

    Another element was the redesign of the Tardis. Levine had played with this as a plot thread in Attack of the Cybermen, where the chameleon circuit was briefly restored and the Tardis had appeared as a variety of random object. For simplicity and updating, the obsolete Police Box would give way to a more recognizeable and accessible red phone booth.

    Levine and Bernard collaborated, working out the story which became the Monsters of Ness. It almost became a game between the two men. They brought in a writer, Trevor Booth, to flesh out the dialogue. They commissioned storyboards and scouted locations. They even quietly cast the roles of several characters, including Jenny and Judy Lannister as the twins.

    A Warehouse in Kensington was rented, both as offices for Millenium Productions, and as studio space. Since studio space was paid for, a basic set and props were commissioned, for a short segment. But since the props and sets were there, the temptation was to do something more ambitious, to commit do more scenes, which would eventually call for more sets, more props, more locations. Plans for a five or ten minute ‘mini-episode’ became a full episode, became a two part serial.

    Bit by bit, the project drifted closer and closer to production. Drift being the operative word, the collaboration between Bernard and Levine was an evolving one, and the further it went the more ambitious it became. During this time, Levine bore much of the expense, but he was also getting more deeply involved, the project had taken on very personal dimensions.

    Around this time, Levine began to work under the name Peter Hillyer, to both distinguish the project from his musical career, and perhaps to avoid negative associations from his previous mixed involvement with the BBC.
    In the fall of 1991, production began on the first shooting block of the Monsters of Ness, a two part pilot.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2014
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  4. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009
    A quick note on Ian Levine. David Burton's story is almost certainly a hoax.

    No one does a pilot alone. Burton would have had to have had co-stars, played off and against a cast, there would have been Directors, Assistant Directors, First and Second AD's, grips, props, lighting, sound men, camera operators, camera assistants, drivers. Surely someone would have come forward in 20 years if only to say 'I worked on/acted in that piece of crap.' No one ever has.

    But if it hadn't been a hoax, but an actual lost project, then someone very like Ian Levine would have had to be involved. Consider Levine's 'Doctor Who' career after 1991.

    In 1995, he was involved with Reeltime Productions, and their 70 minute feature, Downtime, which featured the Great Intelligence, the Yeti, and companions the Brigadier, Sarah Jane Smith, Victoria Waterfield and Professor Travers, as a producer and composer. This was essentially Doctor Who without the Doctor. I would assume that his role was as a funder and supporter, but other people wrote the script, directed and likely were the controlling or guiding creative minds behind the production.

    In the 21st century he got into animation, animating or reconstructing lost episodes and stories in various ways. Excerpts of fan animations can be seen here. This was much more hands on, essentially acting as a producer of sorts.


    Tellingly, he also did a 'completion' of the lost serial, Shada. He hired or recruited most of the old cast, except for Baker, to recreate their roles. For Baker, he hired a voice impersonator. Then he commissioned animation. He was trying to sell it to the BBC. This is unnervingly similar to the Paul Burton story, although a decade removed, engaging in a wildly ambitious and copyright violating project willfully, without apparently making arrangement in advance, and sinking a ton of money into it with the expectation that the BBC would just buy the finished project. No surprise. They declined. But it can be found here:


    So as far as the incongruities or inconsistencies in the Paul Burton story... they match closely for aspects of Levine's later history with Doctor Who 'spin offs' particularly Shada and Downtime, disturbingly closely.

    The only thing that's particularly inconsistent is the 'hush hush' nature of the project. But even that might be explained by the nature of the project, the time period, fresh on the heels of the show's cancellation, and Levine's eccentricity. While in progress, I can see him treating as a covert op, and if it went wrong - ie, a falling out with his partners or hated the final product, he might choose to bury the whole thing as an embarrassment.

    Levine is a critical figure in the history of Doctor Who. At times essential - he'll always be a hero for his work in stopping the destruction of the old serials, and for trying to save the series from Michael Grade.

    But within fandom and within the show, he's been often controversial, frequently antagonist, prickly, and prone to getting into very public bunfights. He's despised as much as he's admired. He's arrogant, talented, flamboyant, erratic and he's had the frustration of being simultaneously too close to and too far from something he loved. He's also got money and commitment to burn.

    So if in fact, there had ever been anything to the David Burton story, I think we would have found Levine as a key figure in it. Or someone so similar as wouldn't make a difference
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2014
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  5. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009

    Opening on the sterile corridors of a research laboratory. There’s an alarm underway, the corridors are awash in red, scientists and female assistants in white coats are rushing back and forth. Among them are a scattering of military and security personnel. There are sounds of panic, a shouted ‘they’re coming... bullets don’t stop them’

    Then the monsters come into view. They are hunchbacked dragon-like bipeds. They lurch across the screen, swaying and hunchbacked. Zippers and fastenings betray the costume. The camera zooms in on one toothy face as the monster opens its mouth and roars. The monsters lurch off with computers and pieces of equipment, walking into the ocean.

    Back at the ruins of the lab, people are tidying up the wreckage. The camera dwells on a red phone booth, located incongruously in a corner. A man steps out - tall, blonde, balding, with a white suit and an open necked red shirt. He surveys the chaos, as two teen age girls step out behind him. "This looks like a job for..." he announced, and then turns directly to the camera and winks "...you know who!"

    ROLL TITLES - THE NEW DOCTOR WHO! - Disco style musical theme, with visual fireworks.

    The Doctor is confronted by security. He advises that he and his companions, Heart and Diamond, are here to investigate the break ins. The security guard arrests them but takes him to the heads of the research center, the Director, Supervisor and Security Chief. The Security Chief accuses him of working for the invaders. The Doctor points out that he’s not a giant lizard, but he does have experience dealing with them. . With the intersession of Heart, they decide to cooperate.

    The Security Chief argues that since giant lizards are impossible, the attackers are clearly criminals or terrorists who have disguised themselves as monsters. The Doctor mocks this, suggesting aliens or prehistoric reptilian survivals are more likely. A cleaning woman interrupts that the village has a long history of reptile men, abducting people and stealing objects and artifacts of all sorts. The Director is dismissive, but the Doctor is very interested.

    The Doctor goes to the site of the raid and begins by searching the wreckage, trying to determine what the reptile men were stealing. The Doctor determines that it appears to be specialized high energy components.

    Heart advises that they are alone. While the Doctor searches, Diamond starts to ask what the creatures look like - he provides a description, including glowing eyes and a hunchback, which the Doctor claims is not accurate. Diamond accepts this. A moment later, the Doctor asks why. Diamond replies that there’s one standing behind them.

    The monster chases the Doctor and his friends around the lab, until finally they set a trap for it. The monster is injured but vanishes before their eyes. After it has departed, the Doctor finds the creatures, which he pronounces as clearly the helmet of a costume. It really is a man in a monster suit. But why couldn’t Heart detect it? And how did it vanish? There are mysteries to solve. The Doctor produces a deerstalker, looking directly at the camera.

    Cut away to a shot of a fog filled interior. The man in the lizard costume, minus the head, hands an electronic object over to essentially green glowing pseudopods/tentacles. The thing, mostly unseen, chortles with glee. This is just what it needed. Soon, its great machine will be complete.
    A viewscreen opens up. The Doctor is holding the lizard helmet and discussing it. The thing expresses surprise. Whoever these creatures are, they are dangerous. They must be destroyed!
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2014
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  6. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009

    Principle studio shooting took place between June 9 and June 25, 1991, and was fraught with difficulties.

    One of the biggest hurdles was that the Tardis console prop, despite being the first major commission of the project simply was not ready. Due to mistaken information, the console had initially been built with five sides, and Levine insisted that it be scrapped and rebuilt. The console was a working prop, overdesigned with a lit, pistoning rotor, and a number of separate moving or illuminated components. There were continual malfunctions, the first electrical motors used were simply too noisy, power cables were required for the console, but then the camera had to shoot to avoid them, and the actors tended to trip on them.

    The original plan was for the console to be the central prop, and the Tardis walls to be painted flats that could be taken up and down as required. That way, studio space could be maximized - instead of having a dedicated set, the Tardis room could be set up or put aside, and the space could be used for other sets as needed. As it turned out, a the carpenters and designers, coming from a theatre background, made the flats white and reflective - they were far too bright for television. This error wasn’t discovered until the actual time of shooting and almost half a days footage ended up unuseable. The set had to be taken apart, the flats repainted.

    As a result, the secondary sets were built and ended up occupying most of the studio and studio time. Scenes in the Tardis were rescheduled and eventually abandoned, with some of these scenes being rewritten to other locations. In the end, the ‘crown jewel’ of the New Who never made it into the pilot. The producers had to be satisfied with taking a series of production photos as part of their package.

    The second major disaster to befall the production were the Reptile-men. Three Reptile-men and a Reptile-King costume had been contracted out to a third party. The costumes arrived late, and the Reptile-men costumes in particular were of such poor quality that they were unuseable. Levine had a screaming row with the costume makers, accusing them of work that wouldn’t pass a fancy dress ball. More scenes were rescheduled or rewritten in hopes of buying time to salvage the production.

    Eventually, Bernard and Burton hit on a solution. Since the costumes were not convincing as genuine Reptile-men, why try and convince at all? Why not have the costumes be a disguise worn by regular humans as part of the plot. This was a workable solution, but required substantial revisions to the script, including re-shooting some scenes.

    More complications came with the performances. David Burton was a competent but idiosyncratic performer, given to ad libbing. This tendency to go off script increasingly irritated both Levine and Bernard. The larger problem, however, was a largely theatrically trained or untrained cast, unfamiliar with the requirements of television production. In particular, the Lannister twins had never appeared in a professional production of any sort, and often had difficulty even hitting their marks.

    In the meantime, tensions rose between Paul Bernard, the director, and Ian Levine, producer. On two occasions, Bernard became fed up with Levine’s interference and had him removed from the set. On another occasion, Levine threw a tantrum and threatened to pull the funding, shutting down the entire production for much of an afternoon, until he could be talked down. Levine was also upset by parts of Burton’s performance, leading to at least one screaming match. Levine remarked that Burton ‘might not have Baker’s charisma, but he certainly had his ego.’

    These tensions at the production level almost certainly had effects on the crew, who had their own tensions. Most of the crew had been friends of Levine or Bernard, recruited on the strength of their relationship, inevitably, there was some taking sides. Many of them were inexperienced with television, coming from a theatrical or sometimes a concert background. Apart from friendship, some were intrigued by the project, others hoped to break into television, some just needed the work.

    The frustrations of the project were more than many had signed on for. One distressing complication was that this was a non-union shoot. Many of the crew were violating their collective agreements. It was one thing to work for next to nothing it was another to imperil your career. Many of the crew preferred to work under pseodonyms.

    A running issue was pay. Levine was the principal funder, but his funds weren’t unlimited, most members of the crew and cast were asked to work for reduced scale or deferred wages. However, Burton as principal casts member, and a some key, experienced crew members were paid salary. As errors accumulated and the project went over time and over budget, there was a steady stream of replacements and departures which produced their own complications.

    The ultimate result, of course were an endless series of compromises and script adjustments, and the extension of the studio shoot by a full six days.
    In contrast, the location shooting went remarkably shooting. All of the scenes planned for the rocky bay at St. Austen in Cornwall were completed in a day, the Beaconsfield shoot were completed in another day.

    Two days were spent at the Chiselhurst caves. Despite the difficulties of the shoot, the only complication was that the scene of the Reptile men rising from the water to surround the Doctor and his companions in their boat had to be dispensed. Instead, the replacement shot was of the Reptile men, starting up to their waists in water and wading up to shore.

    Post-production running from July 10 to September 18, had its own issues. Bernard supervised the edit, and again, there were clashes between Bernard and Levine. The relationship broke down and was patched up again several times. Levine personally supervised the sound mix and did the musical score himself, which was well within his technical skill set, and that went well.

    The principal post-production problems were with visual effects. The scenes with the Reptile-King were removed, and there was a brief re-shot with an improvised amoeboid monster, which was then composited in. Bernard arranged to borrow the BBC’s chromakey facilities. However, the compositing effects intended to visually represent the Twins powers proved to be extremely difficult and were eventually dropped.

    Nevertheless, by the end of September, they had come through all the disasters, the fights, the lurching rewrites, revisions, adjustments and amendments. Levine and Bernard had achieved their goal - a two part pilot, which they hoped demonstrated the technical proficiency and competence that, together with scripts, storyboards, a portfolio of photographs and and might convince the BBC to license a Doctor Who serial.

    They were dreaming in technicolour, of course.
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  7. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009

    The Doctor, his companions, and the security chief are investigating a break in at an electronics shop. Although there were no witnesses, the Doctor finds a webbed footprint, as if from a large reptile. He wonders out loud why they would bother dressing up as giant lizards if there weren’t going to be any witnesses. Heart says that she cannot pick up any psychic traces. Diamond wonders if they were robots. Robots disguised as humans disguised as lizards? The Doctor laughs. The security chief thinks the whole thing is crazy. ‘Who knows?’ says the Doctor, and winks at the camera.

    ROLL TITLES - THE NEW DOCTOR WHO... Disco musical theme with visual fireworks.

    They track the webbed footprints to the middle of the street, where they vanish. The Security Chief says that they obviously got on a truck and departed. The Doctor points out that there’s no tire tracks. A helicopter? No landing signs. Having ruled out the possible, the only solution is the impossible, they must have teleported. Struck by an inspiration, the Doctor says ‘to the library.’

    At the library, the Doctor dances around a huge map of the countryside sticking pins in, while Diamond and Heart, going through binders of old newspapers call out the times and dates of Reptile-man sitings. The Security Chief mocks them. But the Doctor explains that teleportation is unreliable over long range. Short trips only. And it takes a lot of power - the reptile men aren’t carrying a power source with them, so they must be projected and received from a central location. So by mapping out the sightings, we can narrow down the source.

    The Security Chief is frankly skeptical, if men could teleport, why would they do it so pointlessly. Not men, the Doctor says, some of the sightings go back 200 years.

    They proceed to a rocky bay. The Doctor is carrying an instrument. He says that the teleport residues are strongest here. Looking around, he finds a cave, leading his companions within.

    Inside the cave, on the shore of an underground lake, they encounter a reptile man. The Security Chief fights and overpowers him. They remove his helmet, and underneath it a metallic skullcap, a mind control device. Removing it, Heart announces she can hear his thoughts, he is human. The man begs them to take him away.

    But it’s too late. An army of fishmen rise from the waters around the cave shore and converge upon them, capturing them.

    They are taken into a lair filled with junk, bits and pieces of television sets, stereo equipment, electronic and mechanical parts, all assembled into a machine. There are shots of Reptile-men labouring everywhere. The Doctor commands Diamond to act now. Projecting beams of telekinetic force, Diamond disables the Reptile men.

    Freed, the Doctor examines the great machine the Reptile-men are building. He pronounces it not a bomb, but a beacon. A flashlight to light up the universe and project a beam of pure energy between the stars. The backwash of the beam would be incredibly destructive enough to sterilize a large area.

    Suddenly, they are bathed in paralyzing green light. An unearthly voice announces that the Doctor is correct. It is a rescue beacon, and it is almost ready. The alien, revealed as a monstrously large amoeboid creature, has been trapped on Earth for an immense span of time. Once before, long ago, he tried to send a beacon home, but it must have malfunctioned while he waited in stasis for rescue.

    The Doctor realizes why the humans are disguised as Reptiles. Because the alien still thinks dinosaurs are the dominant race on Earth. This was seventy million years ago. When the beacon malfunctioned, it destroyed the dinosaurs, and its going to happen again...

    The alien says that some minor damage to one small planet is of no consequence, he must return to his people, the Corranians. The Doctor tells him that the Corranians are extinct, that they died more than eighty million years ago. He is the last. The last beacon did not malfunction, there was no one left to rescue him. The alien violently rejects this and proceeds to power up the beacon.

    The Doctor orders Heart to mind link with the alien, to show it the human race that he’s going to destroy. While the alien is distracted, its control falters. The enslaved humans throw off their controls. The Doctor breaks free and disables the machine. The alien is captured.

    With his slaves gone, and his plans in ruin, the alien admits defeat and announces its ready to join its people in extinction. The Doctor, however, tells the alien that he is a time traveller, and can return the alien to his proper time and people.

    Afterwards - Diamond asks why they are remaining on this planet since their work is done. The Doctor says that Earth is special, and that there is much more to be done here. He smiles into the camera.
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  8. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009
    Review - SFX Magazine, October/November, 1991.

    Welcome to the ‘New Doctor Who!’ bombastic title and all. The two part pilot - ‘The Monsters of Ness’ represents Millenium’s bid to re-launch the BBC series as an out of house (outhouse?) Production. If so, perhaps instead of a red phone booth, they should have gone with a port-a-loo.

    So how does the New Doctor Stack up? Something old - It harkens back to the classic series, as well as to the Tomorrow People, Saphire and Steel and even Scooby Doo, this feels like some nostalgic version of a 70's era Who that never happened. Something new - precious little here, although the plot twists offer some unexpected curves. Something borrowed - Would be Tom Baker, Paul Burton’s borrowed his charisma, but Burton dials it up past eleven, shamelessly mugging for the camera, cracking wise and breaking the fourth wall. Something blue - that would be the acting, particularly Jenny and Judy Lannister, a lot of the cast acts on the level of a high school play.

    What does the future hold? Probably not much. It’s not terribly likely that the BBC will take Millenium up on its offer. Which might be too bad. Despite flat direction, clumsy pacing and a pronounced lack of ambition, this relatively lighthearted bit of fluff is sort of engaging in a retro sort of way. You can't help but enjoy the tosh costumes, cardboard sets, wooden performances and a Doctor with the joie de vivre of a vaudeville comic.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2014
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  9. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009
    But before they went to the BBC, Millenium Productions had one more ace up its sleeve. The 'Vienna Project'.

    Inspired by a magazine article he had read about how, in January, 1913, Sigmund Freud, Franz Ferdinand, Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky, had all lived within a few miles of each other in Vienna, Paul Burton suggested that this would be a terrific foundation for an episode.

    The producers took him up on it, and in August, Bernard and Burton took a two week trip to Vienna, as a working holiday to do location scouting and shooting, using a bolex, a small camera which could take three minutes of 16 mm footage. While in Vienna, Bernard hired a local theatrical troupe to play the characters, and Burton improvised a slapstick cafe scene with them. The performances were largely unscripted, unrehearsed and on the fly. A single camera and boom mike were used.

    This was edited together with the location footage, and titles were added to produce a 9 minute short called "The New Doctor meets Joe and Adoph" formatted as an old 1930's era comedy short and included with the promotion package. The BBC had never seen anything like it...

    [Footnote: In some versions of Burton's story, he refers to shooting in Vienna or a trip to Vienna, along with the location shooting at Chiselhurst caves, St. Austen's and the warehouse in Kensington. I've chosen to interpret or extrapolate Vienna as a side project, a teaser, rather than part of the Monsters of Ness production.']
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2014
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  10. Orville_third Banned

    Mar 3, 2009
    Piedmont Socialist Republic
    The story was a bit slapdash- but had some unique moments, like the Doctor returning the alien and the aliens NOT being reptile men. It does have some promise.
    I wonder- do they plan to show this in the USA?
  11. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009
    Hmmm. What an odd question. Why would you ask?
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2014
  12. Meadow but see, when Meadow does that, Monthly Donor

    Apr 8, 2010
    Because he's American, I guess.

    I'm enjoying this, it's probably the most left-field idea for TL we've had in this forum in a very long time. You capture the shit campiness that would have been rife in an early 90s Who if it were produced by someone with the budget of a soft porn studio.
  13. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009

    From: Peter Creegan, Program Director
    To: Johnathan Powell, Controller
    Date: January 18, 1992
    Re: The Millenium pilot.

    Seems to be the usual rubbish, certainly no worse than we’ve seen from Doctor Who the last few years, though it seems to be made more efficiently. That in itself is hardly a recommendation to buy in. The short subject, on the other hand, falls just short of brilliant and suggests that there may be potential here. The star, Paul Burton, is quite good in a hugger-mugger ‘wink at the audience’ sort of way, but is otherwise an unknown. The only person in Millenium that we’ve got any history with is Paul Bernard, he’s done some directing in the past, the word is he’s credible. His backers are largely unknown to us, but most emphatically do not include John Nathan-Turner, which is a plus. Even with all that, I might be inclined to pass it by, but the proposal does seem to line up with Birt’s ideas. Given his recent ascendence, this isn’t something to overlook. So, subject to BBC Enterprises weighing in, we might consider finding a time slot for it, and see how things turn out."

    Largely unknown to Bernard and Levine at Millenium productions, the winds of change were beginning to sweep through the BBC as the organization struggled to deal with the impact of the Margaret Thatcher years. Thatcher and her Conservatives viewed the BBC with considerable hostility, considering it both a haven for left wingers and a bloated, inefficient bureaucracy.

    Between 1982 and 1987, Alasdair Gordon Milne was Director-General of the BBC, and directly beneath him was Michael Grade, as Controller of BBC1.

    Michael Grade, the BBC1 Controller, had done a great deal of damage to the program during his tenure, from 1984 to 1987. Grade had a personal grudge against Colin Baker, he was sleeping with Baker’s wife as Baker’s marriage broke down. He also loathed Bakers’ theatrical style. After Baker’s first season, he put the series on a hiatus, a sort of backdoor cancellation, that was finally reversed after 18 months. He’d meddled with the scheduling, moving it to a difficult time slot against Coronation Street. He’d shifted the show from 24 half hour episodes, to 12 hour long episodes. After the hiatus, he’d moved the show back to half hours, but kept it at 12 episodes. Unwilling to support the show in any way, it was starved of funds. Finally, in 1986, he fired Colin Baker. After Grade's departure in 1987, the show would limp on for another few years, but it was mortally wounded.

    At the top levels, however there were far reaching changes in 1987, that extended beyond the departure of Michael Grade. Alasdair Gordon Milne had been forced out as Director-General of the BBC, a position he’d held since 1982. He was replaced with Michael Checkland, a cautious accountant, as Director General, and John Birt, a tory stalwart, as Assistant-Director General. Birt’s initial remit as Assistant Director-General , and Thatcherite hit man, was to manage News and Current Affairs.

    Initially, this had very little impact on entertainment programming and day to day productions in other areas like drama. Checkland was principally an accountant and a cautious fellow. He was about managing effectively, and not the fire breather that the Conservatives really wanted.

    When Grade moved on in 1987, replaced by Johnathan Powell as Controller. It wasn't especially a political appointment, and BBC policies continued.

    But things didn’t get better for Doctor Who. Powell despised Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner. By that time, the series was mortally wounded and limping along, there was no one else but John Nathan-Turner. The series would receive no assistance.

    Instead, it limped along until Peter Cregeen was appointed Head of Series in 1989. At the time, there was a general feeling at the BBC that the series needed a "rest", Science Fiction was not in vogue with BBC staff, and the ratings had dropped steadily. One of the earliest decisions of his tenure was to cancel Doctor Who, although he’d promised fans that the series would return, albeit after a longer wait than usual.

    There were no plans to bring the series back, certainly not with John Nathan-Turner at the helm.

    For the next two years, 1989 to 1991, it was business as usual at the BBC, mostly. John Birt was the Thacherites choice, however, and in July of 1991, he had been named ‘Director-General Designate’ - ie, Checkland’s successor and replacement. He devised, with Michael Checkland, an internal market system, which which encouraged producers to choose between BBC suppliers and the outside market for their facilities. His reforms and management style were unpopular among staff.

    But it was also clear that he had the backing of Thatcher and her government. Some forms of privatization and outsourcing were inevitable.

    It’s not clear how much either Levine or Bernard or their associates understood of internal BBC politics. Certainly Thatcherite ideas around outsourcing were floating around, and there was a lot of talk about licensing out BBC productions, or hiring outside productions. The Millenium project, when it was presented in late 1991 and early 1992, following John Birt’s designation came at the right time. A proposal so clearly in line with Thatcher’s and Birt’s program could not be dismissed out of hand.

    By 1992, both Powell and Cregeen were nearing the end of their tenures. Both would be gone by 1993, and Allan Yentob would take over as BBC1 Controller. Through 1992, Powell and Cregeen were essentially lame ducks, preoccupied with other projects, notably the development of Powell’s new soap opera ‘Eldorado.’

    This project had the benefit of washing the despised John Nathan-Turner away completely, it would placate the small but vocal constituency for the show, display obeisance to the values and imperatives of the new order that Birt was bringing in, would not be an excessive drain on resources, and would leave Powell and Cregeen free to work on the projects that they actually wanted to do. So why not? After a few months of consideration, Millenium’s Doctor Who was approved, if not embraced.

    Last edited: Oct 14, 2014
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  14. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009
    Nothing wrong with that. The question just caught me off guard.

    Thank you for making yourself known. I appreciate the feedback.

    Your description is very apt 'shit campiness on a soft porn budget.'

    I've been an observer or a participant in a few independent productions, and I've had a first hand view of the clashes, the compromises, and the occasional utter arbitrariness that often causes these projects to succeed or fail.

    My Cushing Doctor explored the devolution to children's fare that the Amicus company took in the 70's. The Nelvana Doctor was about Saturday morning cartoons. I guess this is my Indy Doctor, born of ambition, unrealistic dreams, contradictory impulses and it won't end well.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2014
  15. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009
    By the time approval in principle came, in late January, 1992, none of the Millenium principals were speaking to each other.

    The final phases of the project had been accompanied by acrimonius disputes and seething resentment, particularly from Ian Levine. The truth was that while they’d managed to complete a pilot and a short, there was a general feeling of disappointment, of expectations not being met, and of directions clashing. The early enthusiasm had faded away, leaving cold bitterness.

    But ambition makes friends out of the bitterest enemies, or at least gets them to set aside their differences. Ian Levine was suddenly faced with the prospect of realizing his personal dream and of recovering some of the not inconsiderable funds he had sunk into the project. Even if Bernard and Burton had deeply disappointed him, he could put that aside.

    There were further hurdles. Approval was still only in principal, the BBC was offering a nine episode contract, but these would be subject to further negotiations on fees, licenses, and contingent on the approval of BBC Enterprises.

    BBC Enterprises was the marketing and licensing arm of the BBC, and Doctor Who was far and away its most valuable product. Indeed, the revenues earned from marketing and merchandising Doctor Who had actually exceeded the costs of making the program. The cancellation of the series in 1989 had triggered a minor crisis within BBC Enterprises - their cash cow was drying up. But there was a back up plan. If the series was dead... Well, why not take it up to the next level.
    Back in 1986, when the television series was originally in danger of cancellation, the Daltenreys Group, consisting of Peter Litten, John Humphries and George Dugdale, also known as ‘Coast to Coast’ had purchased the rights to a big screen motion picture version of Doctor Who. The proposed feature film was budgeted for thirty million dollars, scripts were developed and the Daltenreys spent several years looking for funding in Hollywood.

    The first script was commissioned for 1986, thereafter, the project morphed continually, new producers, new scripts, new partners, with the movie always just another meeting away. With the series cancelled in 1989, the Daltenreys project was front and center for BBC Enterprises. And it was precarious, being perpetually one meeting away from success also meant that anything, any obstacle, any bit of bad press, could mean failure.

    So BBC Enterprises were of seriously mixed minds as to whether the Millenium Doctor Who series would hurt or help them. On the one hand, a new television series offered some merchandising potential. But the Doctor Who backlog of 26 seasons was already huge, it wasn’t lacking for product. On the other hand, the Millenium series, produced outside of the BBC had the potential to tarnish the brand and worst of all, might derail the Daltenrays project. With no actual Doctor Who being made, BBC Enterprises had to straddle two possible projects going in very different directions.

    The existence of the Daltenreys project, and its struggles, made negotiations difficult. In order to avoid conflicts, the BBC placed numerous restrictions and compromises on the license.

    ‘Doctor Who’ was reserved for the Daltenreys feature film. The principal character would be called ‘Doctor’ but the series could not be called ‘Doctor Who’, and the name could not be used in the series or listed in the credits. The series was renamed ‘The New Doctor.’

    The blue police box could not be used, nor could the name Tardis, again, reserved for the Daltenreys project. But the red British phone booth was accepted as a substitute. The Millenium design of the Tardis console was accepted. The theme music could not be used, nor could any version of the opening credits. No other properties owned by the BBC were licensed, there could be no references to Time Lords, Gallifrey or other elements of the Doctors continuity and in particular, the Master, the Daleks and the Cybermen were explicitly excluded.

    There was a small loophole that apart from the explicit exclusions the restrictions applied only to BBC owned properties. Properties which belonged to the creators or writers might be obtained through separate license.

    Ultimately, what the Millenium group obtained was a nine episode broadcast license to a character named ‘The Doctor’ who travelled through time and space in a phone booth, excluded most of the key elements that had accreted around Doctor Who, and had only a residual right license collateral properties.

    The nine episodes specified in the contract would consist of:
    * The Monsters of Ness - a two part serial, already completed, with additional edits and post-production.
    * Vienna 1913 - a two part serial, with a completed outline of a story involving the Doctor, Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky and Freud.
    * Murder in Space - a three part serial where, the Doctor would attempt to solve a murder in an alien society.
    * Volcano - a two part serial where the Doctor would stop a mad scientist from blowing up the world.
    * The Pirates of Penance - a two part serial featuring alien buccaneers, set either in the 23 or the 17 centuries.

    This of course was subject to various conditions. A half dozen other outlines were submitted as back ups, and the Millenium group reserved the right to revise their stories and schedules, reducing 'Murder in Space' to two parts for instance, or adding another serial.

    After bitter negotiations, it was agreed that BBC Enterprises would retain story approval, but not script approval, to ensure no conflicts with Daltenreys project.

    The production fees were another subject of intense negotiation. Ultimately, Millenium agreed to less than it wanted, and Levine had to roll over the payments into the upcoming productions, rather than recover his investment in the pilot immediately.

    Critically, the Millenium’s license was restricted to the British Isles. The production could not be sold or licensed abroad without the express consent of BBC Enterprises. There was no undertaking that such consent could not be unreasonably withheld.

    On February 28, 1992, the contracts were signed. On March 6, it was announced to the world that "The New Doctor" was coming to British television. Ian Levine, Paul Bernard, David Burton and Barry Letts, who had been brought into the project, attended their first press conference.

    [Footnote: More detail on the Daltenreys projects can be found in 'The Nth Doctor' Virgin, 20013, by Jean Marc & Randy Lofficier.]
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2014
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  16. The Chimera Virus Resident Kook

    Feb 22, 2013
    Inner Time
    Oh good god, this can only end oddly. Heh, but I admire your gumption in trying to take on the Famous Fraud, as I call him! Eagerly looking forward to more.
  17. Orville_third Banned

    Mar 3, 2009
    Piedmont Socialist Republic
    And because OTL the movie was funded in part by Fox TV (!) and the revival was partly funded by the CBC. (The book on the movie does go into a bit on the Daltenreys project.)
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2014
  18. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009
    "I don’t think we really expected the BBC to say ‘yes’ to us. We’d hoped, yes, we’d had high hopes. But that was in September. The winter came, the holidays came and went. I’d basically written it off, and then one day, Paul (Bernard) calls up and says ‘we’re in!’ I thought about going out for a round, but then I remembered the row we’d had over the car, so I just sat tight." David Burton, The Lost Doctor: A Memoir, Chesapeake Press, 2005.

    The Press conference which announced the New Doctor series to the world was March 6, 1992. The New Doctor would run half hour episodes, through four serials, from July 6, 1992, through August 31, 1992. One serial was already in the can, the next well underway.

    David Burton made his first official appearance as the New Doctor, with Ian Levine and Paul Bernard as the producers. Joining the group was Barry Letts had been brought on board as a showrunner, anticipating the challenges of producing seven episodes in only three or four months.

    Letts association with Doctor Who extended all the way back to directing Patrick Troughton and Enemy of the World. Early in the Pertwee era, he had come on board as a Producer, starting with the Silurians. He continued producing, up to Tom Baker’s first serial, Robot. Thereafter, he’d returned as Executive Producer for Baker’s final year, assisting John Nathan Turner. Letts and Bernard’s association went back to Bernard’s directing work under Letts.

    At the Press Conference, all was smiles. Ian Levine was on top of the world, having finally realized his dream. Bernard and Letts were optimistic about the chance to write their own chapters in television history. David Burton enjoyed the chance to preen and strut publicly as the Doctor.
    Levine promised a whole new era in British television.

    Although the BBC had only licensed the one season, Levine expressed confidence that the show would be a hit, with many more seasons. In fact, Levine revealed that they were already planning a multi-season story arc that would make the Key to Time or Trial of a Time Lord seem like a flash in the pan. This was news to the others.

    At times, Levine overreached himself. He took time out to mildly disparage John Nathan-Turner, and the recent Doctors that had followed on Tom Baker. In response to questions, he was expansive, and while he didn’t so much as say that his show would feature a return of classic Who monsters, he hinted strongly at it.

    These comments were received with misgivings in some quarters. John Nathan-Turner was reported to be furious, and there was an incident where Sylvester McCoy publicly swore at Ian Levine at a restaurant. BBC Enterprises was concerned enough by certain remark they wrote to Millenium to remind them of the terms of their agreement.

    But by and large, the mood was one of jubilant optimism.

    "Looking back, I don’t think any of us, except maybe Barry, really understood what we were getting ourselves into."
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  19. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009
    Film and especially television are the most bureaucratic of the art forms.

    To produce a single movie or a television episode is a massive undertaking, it involves recruiting dozens of people for every aspect of the production ranging from make up artists, carpenters and painters, electricians, lighting people, camera and camera assistants, boom operators, sound recorders, actors, and directors, lab processors, editors, sound mixers, folley artists, most of whom are operating delicate, complex and expensive equipment.

    Film production involves lists, and lists, and more lists, budgets, schedules, flow charts, timetables, there are people involved in the process, quite a lot of them, called Producers, whose job is simply to break down the multitude of tasks and times and dates and make sure it all comes together.

    And that’s the tip of the iceberg. Now imagine that instead of one movie or television episode, you had a whole chain of them - nine or thirteen, all to be aired in succession in weekly installments. So that you had to accomplish this miraculous task of organization not once, but a half a dozen or dozen times in a row.

    Imagine these half a dozen or dozen episodes to be unruly children, getting in each others way, jealous of time, money, studio space, production resources and constantly stealing it from each other. Imagine the chaos of trying to keep them all straight, to have sets constantly building and torn down, thousands of pages of script sorted out.

    Then imagine doing it all on a deadline, only a few months or weeks away.
    The team of Levine, Bernard, Burton and now Letts had gotten what they wanted. Now they just had to make it happen, and less than four months to get it all done in.

    Doing ‘Monsters of Ness’ had taken a year and a half from discussions to final product, at least six months from the start of actual production to delivery, and that was only two epsisodes.

    Now all they needed to do was seven more, three and a half times as much television, in about two thirds of that time.
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  20. NCW8 Being Analogue in a Digital World Donor

    Feb 9, 2011
    This is an interesting premise for the Doctor. I can't see it ending well.

    I thought Doctor Who was put in a time slot against ITV's Coronation Street rather than the BBC's East Enders.