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 #157)
As had happened in previous years, Season Eleven of Doctor Who had already begun, in 1973. The first episode of 1974 aired on January 5, and it was the fourth episode of The Time Warrior by Robert Holmes–the first serial of the season which had introduced the Sontarans to the show.
The regular cast for the year was Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor and Elisabeth Sladen as new companion Sarah Jane Smith. The “UNIT family” that had been recurring figures all through the Third Doctor’s era were all back–Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, John Levene as Sgt. Benton, and Richard Franklin as Captain Mike Yates. The Brigadier had a brief appearance in the season opener (which had aired the previous year) and then all three went on to have major roles in two of the stories.
The second serial was the six-part Invasion of the Dinosaurs, by Malcolm Hulke (his last contribution to the show). To keep the dinosaurs a surprise, the first episode was just titled The Invasion, which of course was already the name of a story from Season Six.
The first episode of this serial was one of the last of the series that BBC junked out of their archives. As a result, back when I was first discovering Doctor Who, the story simply skipped that episode all together and began with the Doctor and Sarah Jane being menaced by a dinosaur. Thankfully, the full serial has since been recovered (although the story has always been a bit notorious for its shoddy dinosaur effects).
This is one of the stories to feature UNIT in a prominent role, and as a major twist had Mike Yates betray UNIT and side with the villains (having “lost his way” after his traumatic experiences during Season Ten’s The Green Death).
After that is the four part Death to the Daleks by Dalek-creator Terry Nation.
It’s the last Dalek story for many years to not include the Dalek’s fictional creator Davros. It is the first serial that popular author Robert Holmes began to function on as a Script Editor, shadowing his predecessor Terrance Dicks (who remained credited for the rest of the year).
Then there is the six part The Monster of Peladon, a sequel to Season Nine’s The Curse of Peladon, with the Doctor and Sarah Jane revisiting the medieval-style world.
Ysanne Churchman and Stuart Fell returned as the voice and body of the alien Alpha Centauri, and Alan Bennion once again played an Ice Warrior, albeit a different one than the last story. Like Curse, the adventure was written by Brian Hayles, who had created the Ice Warriors and written all their appearances up to that point.
The season then concluded with the six part Planet of the Spiders by Robert Sloman.
This was the story that introduced the term “regeneration” to the show’s mythology, and also first showed someone other than the Doctor going through that change. It was the last regular appearance of Mike Yates and worked to give the character some redemption. It was also Terrance Dicks’ last story as Script Editor, and of course, it was Jon Pertwee’s final story starring as the Third Doctor, showing him change to Fourth Doctor Tom Baker at the end of the last episode, which aired on June 8, 1974.
Most of these stories are not all that exciting to me, although it’s been a long time since I’ve watched them. I used to really like Planet of the Spiders, especially because I liked UNIT and Mike Yates, but my memory now is that huge amounts of it are spent in lengthy chase scenes seemingly born out of Jon Pertwee’s love of gadgetry, which are high on action but short on story.
Tom Baker’s first episode as the show’s lead character also aired in 1974, all the way on December 28th.
This would be the last story that Barry Letts produced, after five years in the job, and the first for which Robert Holmes was credited as Script Editor.
The year also featured the usual slate of Third Doctor comics in TV Comic. Most of them featured no companions and original menaces, although the Daleks appeared in one where they were apparently lending their technology to help some modern-day criminals rob a bank!
Sarah Jane Smith (as well as the Brigadier) did show up in in comic stories in something called the Doctor Who Holiday Special 1974, released sometime in the year by Polystyle, the same people who published TV Comic. They were also in a short story in a publication called 1974 TV Comic Holiday, while the Doctor appeared alone in one comic story in 1974 Countdown Annual.
In September of that year, World Distributors released Dr. Who Annual 1975 as part of its regular series, including an array of short stories and comic stories in which the Doctor traveled with either Jo Grant or Sarah Jane Smith, with the Brigadier also putting in an appearance.
One of the biggest develops of the year was in the category of Target Books’ novelizations of Doctor Who stories. Three such books had been published years ago (all featuring the First Doctor–or at the time, the only Doctor), but now the franchise began to pursue these in earnest. Seven such books were published throughout the year, all but one featuring the Third Doctor.
Three were written by Terrance Dicks: Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion (based on Spearhead from Space), Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters by Malcolm Hulke (based on Doctor Who and the Silurians), Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks by Terrance Dicks, and Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen (a Second Doctor story).
Three were written by Malcolm Hulke: Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters (based on Doctor Who and the Silurians), Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon (based on Colony in Space), and Doctor Who and the Sea-Devils.
Finally, one book was by Barry Letts: Doctor Who and the Daemons by Barry Letts.
Another notable aspect of Doctor Who that year was the opening of two separate exhibitions about the series in April of that year. On April 12, the Doctor Who Exhibition began in Longleat, and would end up running for nearly 30 years. On April 14, the Doctor Who Exhibition Blackpool began in, you guessed it, Blackpool, and ran for about 11 years, although it reopened for a while in 2005.
Finally, the period of time in between the Third and Fourth Doctors was filled, after a fashion, by an entirely different Fourth Doctor as played by Trevor Martin in the stageplay Doctor and the Daleks in the Seven Keys to Doomsday premiered in London on December 16th. Wendy Padbury, who had previously played Zoe during Seasons Five-Six of the show was in the cast as new companion Jenny, and Simon Jones (Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) was “the Master of Karn”.
The play ran for a bit into 1975, which means that for a brief period, both Trevor Martin and Tom Baker were the “Fourth Doctor.” For completionists, you can hear an audio adaptation of the project that Big Finish produced much later, reviewed here.