Doctor Who – All The Years is a quick examination of what was happening in the world of Doctor Who over all its years of existence. I’m not attempting to create a thorough history–just brief look back at the real-life timeline of my favorite TV show. Go back to the beginning and read about 1963 here.
(Daily Doctor Who #51)
1969 was a significant year for Doctor Who–it was the first year since the show had been on the air that a new season did not debut. It saw instead the end the 6th season, and then contained the longest hiatus that the show had had thus far.
The first episode of the year was The Krotons part two, which aired on January 4th. It continued for a total of 25 episodes, finishing The Krotons and including the whole of The Seeds of Death, The Space Pirates and The War Games. The War Games episode 10 finished the season on June 21. (Incidentally, episode 8 came out on June 7, exactly one year before I was born).
The Seeds of Death, by Brian Hayles, is actually the first Second Doctor story that I ever saw (back when there were only five fully existing such takes). It brought the Ice Warriors back (they’d debuted the previous season in a story also by Hayles) making them the show’s fourth recurring monster.
The Space Pirates is by Robert Holmes (who also wrote The Krotons), and is the only story of the year that is not fully intact in the BBC archives. You can still watch episode two, but that’s it. Behind the scenes, it was the first episode of the show that was produced after the series’ production was permanently moved from Lime Grove Studios to the BBC Television Centre. I don’t know much about these facilities but by all accounts this represents a big upgrade for the production team.
That production team included a young John Nathan-Turner for the first time, working uncredited as a floor assistant. It also included Derrick Sherwin, who stepped in as Script Editor for Terrance Dicks for some reason (maybe he was busy writing The War Games), and it was the last story produced by Peter Bryant.
Apparently, episode four was the first time the show employed what’s called “double banking”–where more than one episode is produced at the same time. The regular cast–Patrick Troughton (the Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon) and Wendy Padbury (Zoe Heriot)–were all away filming location shots for The War Games while the regular studio session produced The Space Pirates part 6 without them. All of their segments had been pre-filmed and were played back and re-recorded live as necessary.
Finally, the season concluded with the the ten part The War Games. Derrick Sherwin took over as producer for the show at this point, and Terrance Dicks returned to being the Script Editor (even though he and Malcolm Hulke had written the story).
The story was hugely significant story from a narrative point of view, in that it introduced the Time Lords to the series, and was the first significant exploration of the Doctor’s backstory.
The entire regular cast left the show at that point–I was surprised to realize that this was the first time that any regular actor left the show at the end of a season–something which is now very common. And to date, it’s the only story to feature the regeneration of a current Doctor which did not include some sort of appearance by the new actor taking over the role. After The War Games was finished, Doctor Who went off the air until early in the following year–the longest gap by far in the show’s history to that point.
Doctor Who in comics continued uninterrupted, however. The TV Comic series ran throughout the year, featuring the Second Doctor traveling with Jamie (initially) and then by himself. The Cybermen and the Quarks both appeared, and strangely, the Doctor often was depicted as being a very public figure on earth. It’s speculated online that this could be seen as part of the reason why both the Doctor and the Time Lords felt the Doctor’s appearance needed to change before starting his exile.
Interestingly, in comics that were published after The War Games aired, the Doctor is depicted at being exiled to earth, but still not regenerated, and staying at a fancy hotel in London! The final comic story of the year was The Night Walkers, published in November, and it showed the Time Lords catching up with the Doctor (via living scarecrows!) and enforcing the rest of his sentence. As such, it is actually the first time (and the only time, until recently if one counts Big Finish) that a Doctor’s main regeneration was depicted somewhere other than on TV.
After this story ended, TV Comics’ Doctor Who strip went onto hiatus for a couple of months, until the Third Doctor had debuted on TV in 1970.
The year also saw the publication of Doctor Who Annual 1970, which featured a number of prose and comic stories featuring the Second Doctor, along with Jamie and Zoe. TV Comic also published both an Annual and a Holiday issue, which each featured a couple of comic stories. The Holiday issue’s stories did not have any companions, and included an appearance by a Cyberman.
The Annual brought back John and Gillian for its two stories (the Doctor’s grandchildren who had been his original comic companions). One of those stories also had the Cybermen, and also included reference to the Trods, an alien race who had appeared now and again in the comics for the previous several years.
And so 1969 ended, with the least amount of Doctor Who material that had been produced since the show debuted in 1963 (but still a lot more TV material than we often get nowadays).