Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Origins (are not the only fruit*)

Origins (are not the only fruit*)

The Complete And Utter History Of Dr WHO? (Part Two)

Dr 'Who' is often thought of as a quintessential British series, but in truth that's quite a long way from the truth. Although the actual details are lost in the midsts of Time, and sadly no paperwork survives for the first 16 years of the show, it appears that Sidney 'Proctor' Neman, (who had previously worked in Canada Water chairing committees designing horses and camels) had a dream whereby he imagined an old man with long white hairs and a strange young/old capacious pocket frozen in a block of ice what had been exiled to Earth in the 49th century.

Neman sat up in bed, reached for a calming packet of nuts and that very same night applied to join the BBC as Head Of Dramatic Science Fictions. Fortunately, Auntie Beeb (as she is sometimes called) had at that point never actually produced any drama and certainly not of a science fictional nature! Neman was accepted at once, and after serving a 10-year apprenticeship, was allowed to write a Pilot Episode, as they was generally called. This Pilot Episode (sometimes referred to as That Pilot Episode) was allocated a budget of £2,000,000 which doesn't sound much, and it being 1966 was, of course, worth even less. It being pre-decimation, you see!

Luckily, the BBC Special Effects Shop had just opened (under its head John Kline, also played by Morris Coalborne) and they was ready, willing and sometimes able to construct amazing futuristic cities at just 70% more than the going rate. This was known as Producer's (or Hobson's - named after the character in 'The Moon's Base' which followed some years later) Choice.

To cut a long story short, Neman filmed this Pilot Episode (sometimes known by its working title 'Behind The Sun') and viewed it the next day in a restaurant, much to the annoyance of the other diners. Unhappy with what he saw, Neman fired himself and instead appointed Verily Lampwick, Dan Tinker-Tailor (a soldier), Melvyn Penfold (a small cartoon hampster that starred in Stewart McGooghan's popular serial 'Dangerous Man'), 'Low Fat' Trex Trucker, C-'Of'-E Webster-Bunny and Earnest Maximal as the new producer.

This new team made some changes to Neman's format and insisted that this time they be allowed to hire some actors rather than Neman's approach of using sock puppets and doing all the voices himself in an old man's shed.

The re-vamped Pilot Episode (now entitled 'Beside The Sun', which I am sure you will agree is a vast improvement!) saw some important decisions being made that would affect the show in ways yet uncertain.

William Hartley-Hare was cast to play that mysterious traveller in Time and Tide known only as Doctor Who (also known as Dr. Who, The Doctor and Son Of Dr. Who). Hartley-Hare was an experienced actor of stage and scream who enjoyed the variety that the roll of Doctor WHO offered. In later interviews, he was to mention that he'd hoped his era of DOCTOR wHO would involve Dr Who possibly working as a Sergeant in a special branch of the Army that dealt with The Odd and The Unexplained (two popular partwork magazines circa 1980), but this was not to be.

Also cast at this time were Rog 'Blake' Camfield as The Tooters Lane Policeman, who was intended to accompany The Doctor Who on his adventures, but sadly Camfield got distracted by a stray cat during his opening scene and he never actually entered the TARDIST at the end of the episode, as were intended. Somewhat irritated at his missed importunity, Camfield would spend the next dozen or so years lurking in the background in various BBC studios in a variety of hats and wigs, hoping to get noticed. He may be glimpsed during such stories as DOCTOR WHO AND THE MASSACRE OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW'S EVENING and the lone surviving episode of DOCTOR WHO AND THE DOCTOR WHO AND THE SILURIANS, gurning shamelessly.

The first episode of 'Doc'tor Who was watched by four million peoples. A modest little audience for a modest little show. The next story, however, would introduce a monster that would return time and tide again!

Next Episode:

"Oh, look, Ganatus, they've found a Magneton under some bushes!"

*Well, obviously not! There's also apples, grapes and persimmons.

(By Andrew Trowbridge)

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