May 20: This Day in Doctor Who

It’s the 20th of May and today we are taking a random look at what happened in this day in Doctor Who.

(Daily Doctor Who #177)

Now, Doctor Who has been going on long enough that probably on most days, there is something that happened. So it’s not surprising that we find a number of notable things on the 20th of May. Here are a few of the most significant:

1926 – John Lucarotti was born

John Lucarotti was one of the major writing contributors to the series in its earliest days, focusing on writing interesting historical episodes. This includes both Marco Polo and The Azteks from the show’s first season, and The Massacre from the third–15 episodes in total. He also wrote the originally story for The Ark in Space from the Fourth Doctor’s era, although that was substantially changed by Robert Holmes (who got the credit for the story).

In addition, he wrote the novelizations of all three of his historical Doctor Who stories, and a short story for Doctor Who Magazine years later which featured himself possibly meeting the First Doctor.

Amongst his non-Doctor Who credits are six episodes of The Avengers, including one of the Emma Peel ones I’ve been watching, Castle De’ath.

1966 – Mervyn Pinfield Died

Mervyn Pinfield was a technically experienced BBC staff member who served as the Associate Producer of Doctor Who for the first dozen or so stories, and also as a director for all or portions of The Sensorites, Planet of the Giants, and The Space Museum, and a little bit of Galaxy Four.

Before Doctor Who, he had developed an early teleprompter system which he called the piniprompter.

Mervyn Pinfield’s death is one of the earliest of all the major players in the production of early Doctor Who.

1967 – The Evil of the Daleks, Episode 1 aired

At the time, The Evil of the Daleks was intended to be the grand finale of all Dalek stories (since the rights-holder, Terry Nation, was looking at exploiting his creation in America). The first episode of this Second Doctor story aired that day.

Amazingly, also on May 20, Episode 2 of the same story (which introduced Deborah Watling as new companion Victoria Waterfield) was being recorded! I don’t know if this is the sort of schedule they normally worked with back in the day, but it’s amazing to me that an episode was going before the cameras only one week before it was aired!

1972 – The Time Monster, episode 1 aired

The Time Monster is not really anyone’s favorite story, but this Third Doctor adventure was the season-closer for Season 8 of the classic series, and featured the Master and the whole UNIT family. The tale brought the Doctor to Atlantis and helped to cement one of the Doctor Who‘s famous “continuity problems”, in that it was the third depiction / description of the destruction of Atlantis that the series had brought us.

1996 – Jon Pertwee died

Jon Pertwee was, of course, best known for playing the Third Doctor on Doctor Who, starring in the series from 1970 – 1974. He made two “official” or “semi-official” returns to the role on TV, for The Five Doctors in 1983 and the 30th anniversary charity mini-story Dimensions in Time in 1993. He died of a heart attack in the United States on this day, at the age of 76. The BBC Broadcast of the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie aired a week later, and featured a dedication to him.

2006 – The Age of Steel aired

This was the conclusion to a two part story which re-introduced the Cybermen into the Doctor Who universe, as part of David Tennant’s first year in the title role. It’s a pretty significant story, both for that reason and for the way it wrote out Mickey Smith as a companion (he opts to stay behind in a parallel universe to take over his deceased doppleganger’s life), but it’s not what I’d call a particularly good story.

2008 – Steven Moffat is announced the succeed Russell T. Davies as Doctor Who showrunner

In a move that has generated as much discussion as each change of Doctor, in 2008 on this day it was announced that Russell T. Davies was stepping down as the series’ showrunner, and was being replaced by Steven Moffat. Many feel that Doctor Who was never as good again. I feel like it got better, although I loved a lot of Davies’ work, especially during Series 4, which was airing at the time. Indeed, Moffat’s contribution to that season, Silence in the Library, aired less than two weeks after this announcement, and serves as one of Davies’ best productions, as well as a bit of a sneak preview of some of the ideas that Moffat would focus on as he took over.

2017 – Extremis aired

Extremis, by Steven Moffat, was part of Series 10, and can be looked at either as the start of a three-part story, or as a prologue episode to a more cohesive two-parter. Opinions about this vary, but either way it’s an interesting little story in which Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor becomes aware of a sacred religious text which drives everyone who reads it to commit suicide. The solution reveals something shocking about the nature of the universe itself. It’s a gripping episode, arguably better than either of the episodes that followed.

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