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 #144)
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.
So far, we’ve covered the era’s of the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors,, and now we’re onto the Sixth Doctor, as played by Colin Baker.
I’ve limited myself to five adjustments per era (aside from a special entry on The Five Doctors anniversary special), and so well do the same here, but because of the circumstances of his era, they will be a bit more far-reaching.
What are they?
More subdued design from the get-go
One of the most obvious difficulties with the Sixth Doctor’s era was overwhelmingly gaudy design, starting with the Doctor himself. His painfully loud costume had an unpleasantly clownish look and created an unnecessary hurdle to warming up to the character. And the design choices were not limited to the Doctor himself—it was like the whole show around him had to turn up the volume to keep up.
Later depictions of the Sixth Doctor created other variants to his look which might have worked better from the start.
A Crossover with Blake’s 7
Blake’s 7 was a popular science fiction TV show that ran in the late 1970’s, which has a lot of connections with Doctor Who. A crossover episode with Doctor Who would have been quite the treat. I’m actually working (slowly) on a fairly elaborate version of this for my “Non-existent Crossovers” series, but we could include a more streamlined version of our time-meddling.
I’d get rid of Season Twenty-Two’s Timelash and replace it with an episode that visited the Blake’s 7 continuity and offered some sort of sequel to its finale episode. Paul Darrow (Avon—eventually the most important character in Blake’s 7) was in Timelash, so he was already around. Jacqueline Pearce (the villainous Servalan on Blake’s 7) was in The Two Doctors from the same season, so we’d just recast her character from there and move her over to our new episode. If we can just add Michael Keating (Vila) and Peter Tuddenham (the voice of Orac), both of whom have appeared in Doctor Who before, and we’ll have quite the solid set up for a cool Blake’s 7 story.
No 18-month retooling
And now we get into the more significant changes that we will make. In real life, thanks to an unsympathetic management at the BBC, Doctor Who was put on an 18 month hiatus after the conclusion of the 22nd Season. As a result, Season 23 started in September 1986, rather than the more traditional January, and the season was severely shortened.
(This is a little bit complicated—but the season went from 13 episodes to 14, but the episodes themselves were reduced back to their more traditional 25 minute runtimes, rather than the double length that they had become for that previous year).
For our time meddling, we’re going to eliminate all those changes, except we will still go back to 25 minute episodes, just for simplicity’s sake.
What this means is that season 23 will for the show’s traditional length—26 episodes of 25 minutes each. This would usually translate to 6 or 7 serials, but we’ll still use the back of the season to give us Trial of a Time Lord. But I’d save the last three episodes or so afterwards for a short story in which the Doctor meets Mel for the first time from her point of view.
Revamp Trial of a Time Lord
The real life Trial of a Time Lord was the 14 episode overarching story which was the result of the 18month hiatus / forced retooling of the series mentioned above. It was really three linked stories which depicted evidence being presented when the Time Lords put the on trial for interfering with history, and then a two-part conclusion wrapping up the story.
Though a nifty idea, by all accounts the production was quite challenging and the end result was narratively confused and muddled. Some in our revised version, we would
• Deal with the confusing “unreliable narrator” element to the stories, especially in the second lot of episodes in which there were certain scenes where nobody—including the writers, producers, actors or audience—knew what was really going on.
• Clean up Peri’s ultimate fate. In the original, she appeared to meet quite a grisly end where she had her brain replaced by the villains and then had her death engineered by the time Lords. The Doctor is shocked but assumes there is something more going on, and that Peri died for some other unknown reason. But later, we find out she didn’t really die, but went off to a marriage that’s not really set up at all by anything else in the story. There doesn’t seem to be any sneaky reason for Peri’s death—real or fake. So I’d make sure there was a reason. I’d probably give-in and give her a happy ending, but I’d make sure it was motivated and that the lie the Doctor is told also has narrative justification.
• Solidify the overarching plot. As it is, it seems that vague secrets were stolen from the Time Lord matrix by vague thieves, causing the Time Lords to illegally move the earth a bit, and then to use the Doctor’s trial to try to cover it up. There are some neat ideas there but they aren’t developed at all satisfactorily, so I’d make sure that’s in place as well.
• Give the events of the climax greater emotional resonance. At the end, we hear things like the fact that the High Council of the Time Lords has been deposed—but it’s all off-camera, and thus feels very disconnected to the plot.
• Having Mel leave with the Doctor at the end is confusing, since she’s supposed to be from the Doctor’s future. So I’d have the Time Lords drop her off again and then have the Doctor head off to his fated meeting with her (see above).
No Firing of Colin Baker
In real life, after Trial of a Time Lord, Colin Baker was fired by the BBC. He was asked to come back for one story so he could regenerate, but refused. He counter-offered to come back for the full season, and then to regenerate at the end, but the BBC refused. I’d actually like to have Baker continue in the role for another three seasons or so, but doing that will probably create ripples to the time stream that are just a bit too large. So we’ll settle for the idea that the BBC accepted Baker’s counter-offer, and that he will appear for one more full season.
I don’t have any real requirements for this season other than that it be epic, and it should build to a regeneration story in which the Doctor has a final battle with the Valeyard.
This means that Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor gets bumped back a year, but that should be okay, since there was a quite a gap before the series continued.
And that concludes my temporal meddling this time around! What mischief will I get up to next??