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 #149)
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, Fifth and Sixth Doctors, plus a special entry about The Five Doctors. And now we arrive at the Seventh Doctor, as played by Sylvester McCoy.
Mostly, I’ve limited myself to five alterations for each. I’m going to give myself a little more latitude with this one, as after I wrote the first two there was just so much room for more.
So…what are we after?
By the time Doctor Who got to Sylvester McCoy, it had shrunk to fourteen episode seasons, which only gave room for four stories each year. Obviously, that’s a big drop from the six or seven that the show had given the audience for many years. So we’re going to bump up our Sylvester McCoy production to 26 episodes a year again. I like the idea of the 3-episode serials that featured in the McCoy era, so a standard season will include five 4-parters, and two 3-parters.
Doctor Who was cancelled (or quietly cast to drift) after three years of Seventh Doctor episodes, with the last episode aired on December 6, 1989. After that, new Doctor Who didn’t come along until May 1996. So, unlike with other Doctors where more seasons would have big impact on the future of the show, with the Seventh we can add all sorts of years of stories without messing up anything (at least, on TV—obviously, it’s going to impact on all those New Adventure novels that were published at the time, but I’m not going to worry about them.)
With the Sixth Doctor, I’d already snuck in an extra season, so we’re going to assume that prior time meddling holds and that McCoy is beginning his era with Season 25 in 1988. Let’s go ahead and give him…six seasons, so we can get up to the 30th anniversary of the show.
Introduce Ace right away
The Seventh Doctor’s “definitive” companion was Ace, as played by Sophie Aldred. She debuted in the last story of his first season, but I say let’s get her in there immediately. To that end, we’re going to make Sylvester McCoy’s first story Dragonfire, expanded from three episodes to four in order to accommodate the new-Doctor dynamic.
Again, with the Sixth Doctor we’d already expanded things out, so I think by the time that we get to the Seventh either Mel has already moved on or we’re well ready for a change, so whoever is the current companion will leave in this story as Ace is introduced.
Some 25th Anniversary Time Meddling
If the Seventh Doctor begins in 1988, than we’re getting into the 25th anniversary of the show. In real life, this was commemorated with the unimpressive Cyberman outing, Silver Nemesis.
I say we make the celebration a season-long affair, with a variety of stories that show the Doctor interacting with elements his past that display mysterious alterations. This gives us the chance to bring back some classic companions and monsters and to revisit the past while telling new stories.
It all builds up to a big reveal of the season’s big bad: the Meddling Monk (our hero in this series of posts). Obviously, the character would be re-cast, but as a Time Lord, that’s easy.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly what Doctor Who did in a series of New Adventure novels, and maybe in some Big Finish audios as well. In fact, the New Adventure novels were my inspiration for the whole concept.
Individual story ideas could focus on the Land of Fiction (which was the subject of one of the novels), the Silurians taking over the earth in the 1970’s (also one of the novels), the return of the Mara (and Janet Fielding as Tegan) and Crozier’s experiments getting a foothold in the galaxy (from Trial of a Time Lord). The idea is to include one thing from each previous Doctor’s era. The Monk’s appearance (representing the First Doctor’s era) would be in the same story in which the Mandragora Helix (representing the Fourth’s) returns to earth in the 20th century.
The Sontaran-Rutan War
All these extra episodes and seasons gives room for all sorts of neat ideas. One place that Doctor Who has never taken us (on TV) has been into the middle of the Sontaran-Rutan War. We’ve seen a lot of Sontarans over the years (The Time Warrior, and beyond) and a little bit of the Rutans (The Horror of Fang Rock), but never the two together. I think this could be the perfect subject for a six-parter (replacing the two three-part serials that mentioned above), say in Season 27 or so.
The Dark Dimension
When Doctor Who’s 30th anniversary hit in 1993, there was briefly hope that the show would come back for a special episode featuring all the surviving Doctors at that point, but starring in particular Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy. It didn’t come to pass, unfortunately, but we did get Dimensions in Time, which was a bit of an abysmal offering but was still better than nothing, and could be fun if you didn’t try to take it seriously at all.
Well, in our time-altered universe, Doctor Who is still on the air at the age of 30, and there’s no reason The Dark Dimension could not be part of the celebrations, with Tom Baker coming back in a starring role as a Doctor who failed to regenerate and instead grew old and confused, with appearances by Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison and Colin Baker filling out the whole experience.
The Brigadier and Ace were both supposed to appear as well. In our revised universe, Sophie Aldred’s Ace would have long left the show by that point, so her return would have been as special as the Brigadiers.
An Epic Regeneration
In real life, the Seventh Doctor didn’t regenerate until the Eighth Doctor TV movie in 1996, in a serious contender for the drabbest manner possible—he steps out of the TARDIS and gets accidentally shot. In our revised history, we definitely want to change that.
There are a few possibilities for the timing of this. He could regenerate at the end of the 30th season of the show, in late 1993, in a moment of epic awesomeness—if we continue the show right away with the 8th Doctor. Or it could still keep until 1996 (the series quietly going off the air after the 30th anniversary), but just be less bland.
Either way, we want to make it amazing.
And that concludes my temporal meddling this time around! What mischief will I get up to next??