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 #137)
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.
Unlike the First Doctor and Second Doctor, I find my wish-list of changes for Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor (1970-1974) to be a bit more substantial. I don’t have that many adjustments to individual stories that I’d like. This part of the series—indeed maybe the entire classic series—still feels “old” to me, so I’m not that wrapped up in the idea that a particular story could have just been better if they had only presented a different outcome, etc. So I’m looking at broad strokes—but they are pretty big broad strokes.
So what would I do?
No Missing Episodes
I’ve already mentioned this with the First and Second Doctors, but I’d definitely avoid the BBC junking any of it original copies of its episodes, back before they knew what a lucrative home viewing market there was going to be. Now, unlike his predecessors, we actually have all of the Third Doctor stories intact and able to be watched, but that wasn’t always the case. Back when I started watching the show in the mid 1980’s, we were still missing the first episode of Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and The Mind of Evil only existed in black & white, and so on. Everything has been restored now, but it’s been a bit of work and I’m not sure if what we have is the best possible version of every story that there could be. So I say, let’s just eliminate that problem all together and be done with it.
Bring Back Liz Shaw
Caroline John’s Liz Shaw was the original main “assistant” for the Third Doctor, but after one year the production team apparently decided having another competent scientist working alongside the Doctor was a bit limiting, so she was written out in between seasons and replaced by the even more popular Jo Grant (Katy Manning). Liz’s off-screen departure is not one of Doctor Who’s better ways of writing out a character, but it does seem less egregious than others (see Dodo Chaplet from the First Doctor’s era) simply because the Doctor was permanently stationed on earth at the time the idea of people freely coming in and out of his life made sense.
Nonetheless, it would have been nice to have had another Liz Shaw story that give the character a bit more closure. I say let’s still have her disappear in between seasons, but then bring her back for a featured guest-starring roll in the following year. The obvious story to me is The Claws of Axos, which was an earth-based alien-invasion serial. It seems like the kind of adventure she could have fit well into, and it’s enough stories into the new season to make it feel kind of special.
More First Doctor in The Three Doctors
Now this is tricky, because the only reason the First Doctor didn’t feature more prominently in The Three Doctors was because of William Hartnell’s failing health. Determined not to disappoint fans, he still makes an appearance, but is reduced to being a face on a screen. So the only way to increase his role is to also do something about his physical capacity. But since we are already in the fantasy-based world of time meddling here, we will allow ourselves that.
But to not overdo it, the change will make is to somehow allow Hartnell a full roll in only the last episode (of four) of The Three Doctors. For the first three, he can be trapped in the Time Eddy that we had in the actual story, but for the climax they could figure out a way to help him complete the transfer over, so he could fully participate in things.
That would have been great.
A Tenth Anniversary Special
We often think of The Three Doctors as the series’ tenth anniversary story, but in reality it’s more accurate to think of it as a story celebrating the tenth season of the show. It was the first serial of that tenth season, but it aired in December-January 1972, nearly a year before the actual tenth anniversary on November 23, 1973.
So I think it would have been cool to have had an actual Tenth Anniversary story. It could be a one-off special, akin to The Five Doctors, airing in between Seasons Ten and Eleven. This would put it after Jo Grant had left the show but before Sarah Jane had joined, so the Doctor would have been “companion-less”, unless we got the Brigadier or Benton or those guys involved.
It would not have to have been a multi-Doctor special, which we already that year. Maybe the Third Doctor could have fought the Cybermen, who never had a story during his era.
But my main idea is that the Doctor face another recurring adversary, which goes into my last point…
One More Roger Delgado Master story
Again, we are talking about altering an event that came out of real-life human tragedy, with the untimely death of Roger Delgado in an automobile accident in June of 1973, leading us to never have a proper “conclusion” for the original Master on TV. At that point, Delgado was the only Master, and he appeared in eight serials fighting against the Third Doctor. The last one was season ten’s Frontier in Space. Plans to include him in the eleventh season of course never came to fruition.
Since our rules prevent us from changing something so significant as a real-life person’s death, I’m working around it by suggesting the Tenth Anniversary special (see above) be filmed earlier in 1973, featuring the Third Doctor up against the original Master one last time, bringing their relationship to a conclusion.
Well, not such a conclusion that we interfere with the idea of the Master returning a few years later in The Deadly Assassin, but some measure of closure, anyway.
And that concludes my temporal meddling this time around! What mischief will I get up to next??