If I was an unscrupulous Time Lord with the ability to travel through the fourth dimension and to try to affect changes that I thought would make things better, there’s probably a bunch of stuff I’d do with my favorite TV series, Doctor Who. Like many-a-fan (I assume), I’ve thought of these things from time to time, and I now I’m going to list them over a series of posts.
(Daily Doctor Who #135)
Some ground rules are that I cannot introduce any temporal anomalies in my adjustments to the show—I need to keep my manipulations subtle, for fear of alerting some higher power or meddling do-gooder to my activities. So I won’t be mixing up actors from different time periods, or bringing in futuristic special effects technology, or doing a bunch of stuff in one era that has massive implications on future eras.
As with the First Doctor, I find my wish-list of changes for Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor (1966-1969) to fairly minimal. Again, I think this is because the older the series is, the more I’m likely to look at it through the lens of what it was in its time period, rather than what I wish it were instead. The Second Doctor’s era was always old for me—I didn’t come into the viewing the show until much later, so I always looked at it as sort of a series of historical documents.
Still, there are a few things I’d do…
No Missing Episodes
This is exactly the same as my first point with the First Doctor, but it is worth repeating as it’s fully relevant here. I would make sure the BBC doesn’t ditch its archives of Doctor Who episodes, including pretty much all of the Second Doctor stories. Many of those stories have been recovered in various forms over the years, but I think all of the original video tapes of those adventures are gone. To this day, there are 53 Second Doctor episodes that are missing over fourteenstories. It’s kind of the Holy Grail amongst Doctor Who aficionados to one day have complete versions of The Evil of the Daleks, The Abominable Snowman, and so on.
The Return of the Meddling Monk
Peter Butterworth was still alive and active until 1979, so I’m thinking there is no big reason why he couldn’t have made a third appearance in Doctor Who as his Time Lord character, the Meddling Monk (after which this series of posts are named). It would have been fun to see Patrick Troughton face him, and maybe we could introduce a few guarded hints about the Time-Lords, without spoiling all the reveals that were coming at the end of the era with The War Games.
I’m thinking that this could have taken the place of The Underwater Menace, right after the last true historical story of the era, The Highlanders. Maybe The Moonbase could have been bumped up one slot, and our new story could have come after it so it didn’t look like we were getting two historicals in a row.
A Slightly Better Departure for Ben & Polly
I have never seen the full animated restoration of The Faceless Ones, so I don’t know how the story flows exactly, but I’m thinking there must have been a way to do a bit more justice to the characters of Ben & Polly (Michael Craze & Anneke Wills) as they left the series. As it is, they are only featured in the first two episodes of the serial, before running on in the middle of the finale (Episode Six) to announce that it turns out to be the same day that they originally left, so they are going to say goodbye and get on with their lives.
It’s only a bit better than First Doctor companion Dodo Chaplet (ironically, a character that Ben & Polly themselves displaced), who didn’t even appear in her farewell. But still, it’s pretty poor and could have been a more meaningful moment.
A Finale for the Great Intelligence
The Great Intelligence was a monster that was invented by writers Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, appearing in the stories The Abominable Snowman and The Web of Fear, facing down the Doctor alongside its servants, the robotic and murderous Yeti. This particular conflict between good and evil was never resolved, however (at least not until Series Seven of the modern series, in 2012-2013!) as apparently there was a falling out between the writers and the BBC due to merchandising rights of another of their creations, the Quarks (from The Dominators). As a result, any potential third Great Intelligence / Yeti story never happened, which is a shame. Recurring enemies are an unfortunate rarity in Doctor Who (as opposed to recurring monsters, which are plentiful), so this would have been nice. And there’s no reason this would have to be written in a way as to sabotage Steven Moffat’s work with the same characters all those decades later.
When would this story have been positioned? I’d say make it four episodes long and put it just before The War Games, right toward the end of the Second Doctor’s era. Maybe for symmetry, it could be set sometime a few decades in the future (as The Abominable Snowman is the past and The Web of Fear is basically the present).
Make The War Games shorter
And then, going hand-in-hand with the above idea, I’d shrink The War Games from ten episodes to six. The War Games is a good tale and it’s monumentally important to Doctor Who mythology thanks to its introductions of the Time Lords proper, but at ten episodes long it does drag. There is no reason why the adventure could not benefit from a good trimming—allowing us to have a very tight six-parter, rather than a slightly flabby ten-parter.
And of course, those four lost episodes would then go to the Great Intelligence story mentioned above!
And that concludes my temporal meddling this time around! What mischief will I get up to next??