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 #201)
1975 is a funny year in the history of Doctor Who—it is the only year in the history of the show (as far as I know) in which the majority of two seasons of the program aired for the first time. Season 12’s first episode (Robot, part 1) aired in 1974, but the rest of the 19 episodes of the season ran in ’75, starting with Robot part 2 on January 4, and finishing with Revenge of the Cybermen part 4 on May 10th.
But then, for whatever reason, the next season of the show started off later that year, with Terror of the Zygons in September, and then 16 of the 26 episodes airing before the year was out. The last one finished in December, after which there was a break before the season continued in 1976. All told, that makes 35 episodes of Doctor Who that debuted that year, which I’m fairly sure is more than there has ever been since.
As mentioned, the first story was Robot, starting with part 2. The story introduced the new regular cast of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor, Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith and Ian Marter as Dr. Harry Sullivan.
Recurring characters Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) and RSM Benton (John Levene) also appeared, along with UNIT in general. The story was written by Terrance Dicks, who had finished as the series’ Script Editor, and it was the last story produced by outgoing producer Barry Letts. It basically served as a bit of a transition between the Third Doctor’s era to what the Fourth Doctor was going to be like.
The next story was The Ark in Space and was written mostly by Robert Holmes, who had started as the new Script Editor with Robot.
New producer Philip Hinchcliffe officially began his tenure with this story, which ushered in a decidedly more horrific quality to Doctor Who.
The narrative continued directly with the next story, The Sontaran Experiment by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, in which the Doctor and his friends went from Space Station Nerva (the setting of the previous story) to earth to see if it was habitable or not.
This story brought back the Sontarans after they had debuted the previous year. The Sontaran Experiment was the show’s first two-part story since The Rescue in 1965 (and the last one until Black Orchid in 1982).
The Doctor and his friends then got intercepted by the Time Lords on their way back to Nerva and brought into the next story, Genesis of the Daleks by Terry Nation. This historic story introduced (and rewrote) the Daleks’ origins, giving the debut of Davros, the Daleks’ insane creator (played at that point by Michael Wisher).
The scene where the Doctor hesitates over touching two wires together to destroy the Daleks before they are created has become one of the most iconic moments of the whole series.
The Doctor and companions then return to Space Station Nerva but find themselves much earlier in its history and in the midst of the story Revenge of the Cybermen by Gerry Davis, the co-creator of the Cybermen, but largely rewritten by Robert Holmes. This story wasn’t supposed to be the end of the season, but the following tale, Terror of the Zygons got pushed back in order to make it easier for the show to switch schedules and have its seasons begin in the Fall.
Meanwhile, in other media, Doctor Who was continuing. For example, the theatrical production, Doctor Who and the Daleks in Seven Keys to Doomsday had its last performance on January 6th.
Over in comics, the regular Doctor Who series in TV Comic proceeded with the end of the last Third Doctor story before debuting the Fourth Doctor, alongside Sarah Jane, in the 11 part Death Flower, which kicked off on January 11th.
The Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane continued their adventures for the rest of the year, encountering the Daleks twice (Return of the Daleks and The Daleks’ Revenge), an alien race called the Vogans (who had appeared in the comics stories with the Third Doctor) and the Time Lords (the same ones from The Three Doctors). Oddly, the Doctor’s home planet was referred to as “Jewel”, in spite of being established as Gallifrey the previous season.
Outside of that, the Third Doctor appeared one more time in the 1975 TV Comics Annual. Terry Nations’ Dalek Annual 1976 featured a couple of comic stories with the Daleks, as well as a bunch of prose ones. Many of these featured a trio of leaders of the “Anti-Dalek-Force” named Joel Shaw, Mark Seven, and Reb Shavron (who would all continue to appear in such annuals in the future).
The Doctor Who Annual 1976 (released in September 1975) also featured a mixture of prose and comic stories, which featured appearances by the Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane, Harry Sullivan, the Brigadier and Benton. The art at times didn’t match up with the series, with Harry being depicted with fair hair and a mustache!
The Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane and the Brigadier also all showed up in a story in TV Comic Holiday Special 1975.
Targets novelizations of existing Doctor Who adventures also continued. Titles released in 1975 include Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon by Brian Hayles and Doctor Who and the Cybermen (an adaptation of The Moonbase) by Gerry Davis. There were also five novels written by Terrance :Dicks: Doctor Who and the Giant Robot (an adaption of Robot), Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons, Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders and The Three Doctors.
Back on TV, shortly before season 13 of the series kicked off, on August 25, Tom Baker appeared as the Doctor on Disney Time 1975, the latest edition of an annual special where celebrities would introduce new releases and re-releases of projects from Disney. The Doctor thus talked to the audience about new films like Escape to Witch Mountain and The Apple Dumpling Gang before rushing off because of a message supposedly from the Brigadier, and saying he would be back on TV the following Saturday!
His actual return was two Saturdays later, on September 6th with Terror of the Zygons by Robert Banks Stewart (although condensed from six episodes to four by Robert Holmes). This story saw the TARDIS finally get back to earth and Harry Sullivan finishing his regular travels with the Doctor. The Brigadier made his final appearance in the series for many years, and Benton showed up as well. And of course, the story introduced the Zygons, who have made several return appearances in the modern series.
After that was Planet of Evil by Louis Marks, a story loosely inspired by the classic science fiction film Forbidden Planet.
Then came Pyramids of Mars by “Stephen Harris”, which was really just a pseudonym for Lewis Greifer (who wrote the original story) and Robert Holmes (who substantially rewrote it). This story has come to be recognized as one of the high points of the entire series, featuring one of its most celebrated one-time villains, Sutekh the Destroyer.
And finally the year came to an end with The Android Invasion by Terry Nation (one of only two non-Dalek stories he wrote for the series). The adventure also brought back both Harry Sullivan and Benton (as well as UNIT in general, although not the Brigadier). This ended up being the last appearance of both characters on television.
The last episode of this show aired on December 13th, after which the program took a few week break and picked up again after the new year.
The last thing to mention about 1975 is that sometime in the year, Denys Fisher produced a board game called War of the Daleks, in which players take on the role of generic human fighters attempting to destroy a Dalek control centre. An advertisement produced for television included an original Dalek voice-over.
Must be quite the collector’s item now!