"Where Are We Going This Time": The Golden Age of Science Fiction

What should happen with the season summary updates?

  • Continue as is (might delay other updates)

    Votes: 6 75.0%
  • Release them later, as supplementary material

    Votes: 2 25.0%
  • Cut out the OTL bits, only say what you've changed (might only be a temporary solution)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Stop them completely

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
  • Poll closed .


Monthly Donor
Greetings all!

I'm excited to share with you all this, my first timeline. I've been reading other people's for quite some time now, and decided that it was finally my turn to put my thoughts out on a page. So first, let me answer some questions that you may have.

"What is this actually going to be?"

It's a look at an alternate pop culture from 1983-ish onwards, though nothing much happens until 1985. While it will be focussed on the genre of Science Fiction, you can expect the ramifications to be wide, leading to a quite different pop culture today, though that's a while off.

"This is just another Doctor Who timeline isn't it?"

Yes and no. Most of the early stuff will be focussed on it, but it should be quite different to most other Who timelines on this here website. Once we hit 1987, which should be relatively quick, the scope will begin to expand quickly.

"Oh boy, another timeline that will be updated for a few weeks then die..."

That's not strictly speaking a question, but yeah, there is that chance. I have most of the Doctor Who stuff planned to the modern day, and pretty much everything else until 2000. I'll do my absolute best to keep this alive, but ultimately my degree needs to take precedence. I will alert you if it looks like it might be a while between updates for any reason.

"What can we expect from this?"

I'll be the first to admit that as this is my first timeline, things may well be a bit rusty. But I'm hoping that this will be a fun look at what might have been (though I'll admit that the major POD is pretty implausible). I don't think that many of my cast choices will be too surprising, and there will be some familiar faces. All that said, what I want is to make an entertaining timeline above all else.

So, hopefully that has answered some of your questions, though if you have more, I'd be happy to answer them.

Also, please enjoy this wonderful rendition of the Doctor Who theme by Dalekium, commissioned for this very timeline.

So, without tarrying any longer, here comes the first story post...
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Part I: "Where Are We Going This Time" (1983-1987)


Monthly Donor
Part I: "Where Are We Going This Time"

“Grade had made it no secret that he disliked Doctor Who. At first, when we heard about what was going to happen after Season 21, we all thought it was the end. Looking back, that was clearly the intention. But now, I think must be seen, by the fans at least, as the greatest form of irony in that by trying to kill Doctor Who, he only made it bigger, and ushered in this Golden Age of Science Fiction.”​

- John Nathan-Turner, speaking on The Late Show With David Letterman in 2005. [1]

“It really was a perfect storm for the films to be made at that point. I had been a fan of the show for a few years at this point, so I was sad to hear of its cancellation. But when the film rights were being sold, I knew I had struck gold. Understandably, the big companies were less than keen. It was just some British show that had been cancelled! How successful could that ever be? No, they preferred to make their own IPs. Of course, if they had known at the time how big it would be, they would have been fighting tooth and nail for the rights, but then, of course, the end product would have been unrecognisable.”​

- Steven Spielberg on making the Amblin Doctor Who films, taken from An Adventure in Space and Time, a documentary created for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who

“People often ask me what it was like to be at the very front of the start of the ‘Golden Age of Sci-Fi’, and I tell them that I don’t know. I didn’t know that that was what it was at the time. The show was big, but we had no idea at the time the roads we were paving.”​

- Patrick Stewart on his role as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation

“The continued presence of people making versions of the Amblin films in their pop-culture timelines, while not inherently bad, is, I think, one of the worst cases of confirmation biases in all of allohistory. I think that you really need to see just how unlikely it all was, the show getting cancelled, Spielberg leasing the rights from the BBC, and them Zemeckis and Gale coming to him with that script. Not to mention the casting!”​

- allohistory.com user GallifreyHands on a thread “What are your biggest pet peeves in allohistory?” [2][3]

[1] He lives longer, and will be a major player in the early stuff.
[2] Yes, this is me in this timeline. This opinion really has no equivalent IOTL, and this isn't a dig at anyone or anything, though I'm aware that that makes it sound exactly like a dig. I love all of you here.
[3] Allohistory is the commonly accepted name for alternate history ITTL, and it's slightly less niche.

Supplemental: See if you can guess what the POD is from the title and this update. I don't have a reward, but I'll tell you if you've got it right.
Have you read @DValdron's timeline about Doctor Who? That had an interesting take on Doctor Who...

BTW, the PoD is Grade's canceling Doctor Who earlier than IOTL (maybe Colin Baker turns it down for whatever reason--BTW, Grade can forget about being knighted ITTL (1)) and Spielberg's becoming interested in Doctor Who...

(1) BTW, Grade is the only BBC controller not to be knighted by the Queen IOTL, in large part (it's believed) because the Queen is a fan of Doctor Who...


Monthly Donor
Have you read @DValdron's timeline about Doctor Who? That had an interesting take on Doctor Who...

BTW, the PoD is Grade's canceling Doctor Who earlier than IOTL (maybe Colin Baker turns it down for whatever reason--BTW, Grade can forget about being knighted ITTL (1)) and Spielberg's becoming interested in Doctor Who...

(1) BTW, Grade is the only BBC controller not to be knighted by the Queen IOTL, in large part (it's believed) because the Queen is a fan of Doctor Who...

Man, I was hoping that it would take more than that. You pretty much got it in one, though there is some big stuff that is a bit more... unlikely, and thus harder to figure out. Most of this will be in the next update which will be either tonight or tomorrow morning. I hadn't read that timeline, though a quick skim has got me hooked.

I'm trying to avoid stepping on anybody's toes too much, though some of my castings are the same as other people's.
This looks interesting and I wish you luck, just going to mention some names of creators/actors/musicians who could be useful for your timeline:

William Gibson

Bruce Sterling

James Cameron

Kathryn Bigelow

Michael Ironside

David Cronenberg

Steve De Jarnett

Chris Boucher

Kyle MacLachlan

Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert

Hans Zimmer
Chapter I: The End of Classic Who


Monthly Donor
Part I, Chapter I: "Making the Grade"

“A lot of younger fans ask me if I would have stayed on if I had known the success that Doctor Who would go on to have. My answer is that it is precisely because I left that the show got so big. I think I left at the right time, and I continue to enjoy the show in its modern incarnation, as many of my fellow Doctor actors do. I was never asked to be star in the films because I had already left. It was only because of the BBC's intervention that I was even in them at all.”​

- Peter Davison on leaving Doctor Who

Peter Davison had announced his intention to leave Doctor Who following the 21st season. The reason surprised no-one. Davison was acting on the advice of Patrick Troughton, with whom he was working, leaving after three seasons to avoid being typecast. This would become one of the most notable instances of the so-called "Troughton Rule" [1]. With the twentieth season airing, that put a large time constraint on finding a new actor to play the part.

John Nathan-Turner, the head writer at the time, had his choice set out clearly in his mind. The man he wanted was Colin Baker, most notable for his part in drama series The Brothers. Baker had appeared on the show already, as Maxil, a character that would return in the special that they were filming, The Five Doctors [2]. The role was offered to Baker without an audtion, though he declined due to commintments to appear in the upcoming BBC television adaptation of Swallows and Amazons [3]. Many have joked that if he had been able to take the role, he would have gained it by "shooting the imcumbent".

With the first choice of Nathan-Turner out of the question, it suddenly became abundantly clear to the production team that none of them had any idea as to who they wanted to be the next Doctor. It would take almost four months before the shortlist was compiled [4], and the team was quickly running out of time to find a replacement before Season 21 would need to be filmed.

The shortlist was comprised of five actors. Dermot Crowley, Andrew Sachs, Dawn French, Joanna Lumley and Frances de la Tour [5]. Notably, it seemed that the BBC was open to the idea of the Doctor becoming female. All five were offered the role, and all five declined, for varying reasons.

By this time, the stories had been selected for Peter Davison's final season, though an out was needed if an actor to play the Doctor could not be signed in time. As a result, the story The Twin Dilemma was moved before the now finale The Caves of Androzani. The Twin Dilemma would require some rather extensive rewrites, as it had originally been conceived as the introduction to the new Doctor. Instead, the erratic behaivour on the Doctor's part was written off as interference in the time vortex, which resulted in them landing where they did.

Higher up, Michael Grade was rather enjoying the panic that was setting in to the Doctor Who production team. With no new Doctor, the future was looking increasingly ambiguous, especially with the declining ratings. This was an opportunity that he could not pass up.

The writers had come up with a plan, to fatally injure the Doctor in the last episode, but have him regenerate at the very start of the next season. This would allow time for a new actor to be found to replace the Doctor, though it may result in a delayed Season 22. To allow for the character of Peri Brown to be potentially written out, after she was cured, the Doctor would deposit her back on Earth, promising to return, before collapsing in the TARDIS as it departed, leaving the Doctor's fate uncertain.

But the writer's fears of a delayed season were soon to be worsened. Grade had what he had always wanted. A reason to cancel Doctor Who. Well, technically, he wasn’t cancelling it, but rather putting it on an “indefinite hiatus”. But the damage was done, and it looked like Doctor Who was to be no more.

Help, however, would come from an unlikely source… [6]

[1] This is an actual thing, and refers to the tendency of people playing the Doctor to leave after three seasons. This rule won't always be followed strictly here, but it will be common enough for it to be a good average.
[2] Maxil was supposed to appear in this story, but Baker had scheduling conflicts. I've just removed them here, so he's in The Five Doctors as intended, which acts as another nail in the coffin for him as the Doctor.
[3] Colin Baker was in this, though it was produced as two TV movies. I've had them made as a TV series, so Baker doesn't have the time to be the Doctor.
[4] Yeah, this is a bit implausible, though planning for S21 and finishing The Five Doctors would obviously take precedence. Baker was the only choice at the time, so his not taking the role would throw a spanner in the works.
[5] All five of these people were considered for the role of the Seventh Doctor. Most of them were established by this point, but I just don't see any of them in the role.
[6] Things are about to get really big, and I'm sorry in advance for the franchise that I sort of kill with this move.
[6] Things are about to get really big, and I'm sorry in advance for the franchise that I sort of kill with this move

Given the mentions of Spielberg and Zemeckis and 1985 being an important date I suspect that Back to Future is being taken behind the sheds and shot. Which should be interesting, also Amblin should have more money and resources than the BBC ever had so it should be interesting what they come up with.


Monthly Donor
Given the mentions of Spielberg and Zemeckis and 1985 being an important date I suspect that Back to Future is being taken behind the sheds and shot. Which should be interesting, also Amblin should have more money and resources than the BBC ever had so it should be interesting what they come up with.

Indeed, Back to the Future will live on though, albeit in a slightly different form. The title of the timeline is actually taken from the song "Back in Time" that was comissioned for the film. But yeah, Doctor Who is going stateside, and while it will mainly be funded by American companies from here on out, the BBC will still have a good deal of executive control.
Chapter II: The Start of the Amblin Era


Monthly Donor
Part I, Chapter II: "Amblin On"

“When he put the rights out there, we were almost certain that it was just for show. Nobody would buy them, and even still, getting a film produced was something else entirely. So, when Steven Spielberg of all people expresses serious interest, you start to wonder if everything is over after all...”​

- John Nathan-Turner on the Amblin Films, taken from An Adventure in Space and Time

Grade was no idiot. He had spent two years in the US, two good years. He knew that if there was any market for Doctor Who in Britain, there was an even bigger one waiting state-side. Sure, it may not have the same fanbase as it did in the UK yet, but one could be established. In his opinion, the best way to establish it as a franchise in the US would be to get an American company to produce a film adaptation. [1]

In early 1984, the rights to produce Doctor Who films and television shows were offered to various companies. There was little interest from the major companies, such as Paramount or CBS. Some smaller studios had expressed some interest, though it was clear that many of these would not be able to produce a film.

Grade actually had little interest in seeing Doctor Who survive, though he saw that it could bring in some money for the BBC to use on other projects. On the recommendation of the old production team, the actual rights to the characters would not be sold, only the rights to produce media featuring them. So if a film or television series was successful, it could be quite beneficial for the BBC.

For a couple of months it seemed as if there would be no takers for the rights, but soon, big changes would be coming.

“I called up Robert (Zemeckis), and asked him if he still had that script for the time travel movie he was trying to get off the ground. He said ‘Yeah’ so I told him ‘I might have just found the golden opportunity to actually get that produced’.”​

- Steven Spielberg, taken from An Adventure in Space and Time. [2]

Steven Spielberg had been a fan of Doctor Who for a few years by this point. Few networks in the US syndicated it, but enough for it to have a small following. Shortly after he saw that the rights to produce Doctor Who media were for sale, he had purchased them for his production company, Amblin Entertainment.

Robert Zemeckis had worked with Spielberg in the past, though their joint ventures had had relatively little success. Since then though, both had had much more luck, with Spielberg becoming a well-respected producer, and Zemeckis having directed Romancing the Stone.

That being said, he and Bob Gale had a script that they were having difficulty in selling to the major film studios. When Spielberg called him up, he was quick to take up the offer to actually get his film produced, albeit with some fairly large changes from what he had originally planned. Story-wise, the film would remain practically identical, though there would be major character changes. In addition, someone would be sent from the BBC to ensure that the script was in keeping with the canon of the TV show thus far, and to act as an advisor. Zemeckis disliked this on paper, but he soon found that the man they had sent, ex-showrunner John Nathan-Turner, had very few issues, only making minor changes here and there. [3]

At the time, in the UK, Season 21 of Doctor Who was airing. When it had become clear that this would be the last season for the foreseeable future, it was decided that all of the companions would be written out, even the newest one, Peri Brown, though the option of her return in the future would be left open. However, with Zemeckis and Gale's script being approved by the BBC, it seemed as though Doctor
was going in a new direction, and was headed for a sort of "soft reboot". [4]

At the end of the final story, The Caves of Androzani, the Doctor cures Peri, and returns her to Earth, promising that he will be back for her. The Doctor then leaves, on his own in the TARDIS, and begins to regenerate…

Production of the film Doctor Who: Back to the Future began in May 1984, and was originally planned for a May 1985 release. Very quickly, the majority of the casting would be done, although both of the main characters would later be recast.

To many fans, it had seemed that and end had come to Doctor Who with the conclusion of Season 21. The announcement of the film continuation was met with jubilation by most, though some fans were none too pleased to see their beloved franchise in the hands of Americans. Some felt that the franchise should be kept British, while others simply decided to reserve judgement until they had seen the film.

And so Doctor Who moved to the US...

[1] While he didn't make this move IOTL, there were proposals along those lines. Personally, I think that the market is a little more open to it at this point, especially with the TV series going out on a high compared to how it did for us.
[2] Spielberg is actually a fan IOTL, though when he started watching I'm not entirely sure. I think I've read somewhere that he wanted to do a film in the 90s, though I can't verify this.
[3] Yeah, so as many of you have guessed, this is what Back to the Future becomes. It's adapted into a companion focussed story, and is ultimately not too far gone from what we got. Further films however, will be much changed.
[4] By "soft reboot", I mean that the Doctor in the film is the Sixth Doctor, but references to the TV show are few and far between, so as to not alienate the new audience. Think of how the new TNG was with the events of TOS, not dependent, but occasional references and familiar faces.


Monthly Donor
I've got the next update all written, but I might not get it up today, as I am moving back to university. I'll do my best, but I don't really want to put the final touches on sleep deprived. I'm going to try and make these updates daily from this point on, but with exams coming up, I might not be able to stick to that schedule. As I've said before, the degree takes precedence.
I'm looking forward to what happens next, also it's okay for University to take priority over this place it's more important after all.


Monthly Donor
I'm rested up now, so I'm just going to put the finishing touches on the next update, and get working on the one after. Thank you all for being understanding with my University situation. Classes start again tomorrow, and I've got exams over the next couple of weeks, but after that, updates should be a bit more frequent.
Chapter III: Casting the Amblin Era


Monthly Donor
Part I, Chapter III: "Great Scott!"

“As a producer, I was really looking forward to getting Back to the Future done and released. I thought it would be a success, everything had gone well on our end, barring the two casting issues, which worked themselves out in the end. As a fan though, man, I was dreading it. What if it flopped? I couldn’t let myself be known as the man who killed Doctor Who. But by the same token, I couldn’t just have this chance and not take it.”
- Steven Spielberg on the production of Doctor Who: Back to the Future

With the television series now over, the hungry eyes of the fans turned to America, in anticipation of the promised film to come in just a year.

For Zemeckis, things were going very well. While some major character changes had been required, for example, turning Emmett Brown into the Sixth Doctor, the story had been left pretty much intact. Spielberg and the man who had been sent by the BBC did note that the story wasn’t overly in line with what had come before, but they enjoyed it, and ultimately, that was what mattered to Zemeckis. [1]

By August 1984, the majority of casting had been done, now they just had to film the thing. But soon two spanners would be thrown in the works.

For the part of the Sixth Doctor, the team had wanted John Lithgow. The Americans insisted on having some well known people as the leads, so as to bring in a wider audience. Lithgow was well known enough to the American audiences, and he fit in with the grandfatherly attributes that came with the Doctor.

But such things were not meant to be. When contacted, Lithgow expressed interest, and had been ready to sign on when a scheduling conflict became apparent. Zemeckis later noted that "had we known what would happen with the character of Marty, we probably would have make things work out with John Lithgow".

Lithgow, while the first choice, had not been the only option. Feelers had been sent out to Star Trek veteran Christopher Lloyd early on, though he declined the role. However, upon being shown the script, Lloyd signed on to play the Sixth Doctor. [2]

But it was not just the role of the Doctor that there was difficulty in casting. The role of the companion Martin “Marty” McFly was intended to go to Michael J Fox, but his Family Ties commitments meant that he was unable to accept the role.

As a result, the producers had cast Eric Stoltz in the role instead. They had chosen him based on his performance in Mask, which had not actually been released yet. However, it soon became clear that he would not work in the role, something that Stoltz actually agreed with. And so it was, that four weeks after being cast, Stoltz left the role.

The producers were left with no viable person for the role, so they took a chance. Fox's co-star, Meredith Baxter, returned to Family Ties following her maternity leave. As a result, they believed that the producers of that show would be more open to letting Fox film Back to the Future. They were correct, though the actual deal would require some negotiation. [3]

Eventually, a deal was reached, Fox would film Family Ties in the morning, and Doctor Who in the evening. Given the packed day that this would give Fox, the pressure was on Zemeckis and Gale to film Fox’s scenes quickly.

It had taken until late January 1985 to get the deal finished, and it quickly became apparent to the producers that the May release date was no longer possible. In order to deal with this, the release was pushed back to July 3rd. While this would mean that it faced slightly stiffer competition from other large films at the time, it would prevent the film having to be rushed through post-production.

As Doctor Who had not yet made much of a name for itself abroad, it was decided that it would be marketed as more of a stand-alone film, especially as the story was separate from anything that came prior. However, the BBC did insist that continuity be kept, and that this was a continuation, not a reboot. Therefore, many of the executives at the BBC recommended that Peter Davison be invited back to film a regeneration scene, so that the change from the Fifth to Sixth Doctors was shown, to give closure for fans who were still wondering about the Fifth Doctor’s fate, and lending more legitimacy to Lloyd's portrayal. [4]

Davison agreed to film the scene, and his regeneration was one of the final scenes filmed. He and Lloyd actually had very little interaction on set, though he passed on the advice given to him by Troughton, simply urging “Don’t stay too long”. [5]

All of the movie had been filmed by the end of April of 1985, and soon, post-production began. For most involved with the film, their work was now done, and the wait for release began... [6]

[1] I'll be the first to admit that the story of Back to the Future doesn't exactly lend itself to being a Doctor Who story. However, I think that a straight Doctor Who story won't sell well in the US at this point, so Zemeckis and Gale's script isn't changed much beyond the characters.
[2] There's a lot of "in spite of a nail" in this chapter. Lithgow was wanted for Emmett Brown, but was unavailable. What happens with Christopher Lloyd here is pterry mich what happened to him IOTL.
[3] This is more "in spite of a nail". The two actors so completely nailed their parts that I wanted them to stay.
[4] I toyed with the idea of just rebooting, but decided against it, to prevent conflicting canons.
[5] Davison passing on the advice of Troughton. Lloyd will follow a variation of the Troughton rule, and the franchise will change again when he leaves.
[6] Next update will include a synopsis of the film, and a look into where the studio will go after this film. It will be accompanied by a profile of the Sixth Doctor.
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Christopher Lloyd as the Doctor should work quite well actually, he would certainly be able to balance the drama and comedy that the character needs to succeed.

I wonder if we'll get a female or black 7th or 8th Doctor, I doubt Steven Spielberg would have any problems with having someone like that cast.

Also I could see Micheal Ironside being cast as the Master or a similar baddy.


Monthly Donor
Christopher Lloyd as the Doctor should work quite well actually, he would certainly be able to balance the drama and comedy that the character needs to succeed.

I wonder if we'll get a female or black 7th or 8th Doctor, I doubt Steven Spielberg would have any problems with having someone like that cast.

Also I could see Micheal Ironside being cast as the Master or a similar baddy.

I shan't give too much away. I've got all but the most recent Doctor cast, and I won't spoil it by giving you their number, but it's not 13. Casting will be a little more diverse than OTL, I'll give you that much. For me, being able to balance the drama and comedy was a big part of selecting the actor or actress for the role.