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 #225)
1977 continued Tom Baker’s celebrated run with Doctor Who, finishing Season 14 (his third) and starting Season 15 (his fourth). Philip Hinchcliffe continued to produce the show until the end of Season 14, whilst Graham Williams took over for Season 15. Robert Holmes was the script editor for almost the entire year, with Anthony Read taking over with the last story, The Sunmakers (which was written by Holmes).
For the third and last time in the classic era, an episode debuted on January 1–in this case, part one of The Face of Evil by Chris Boucher, who around this time also did significant work on Blake’s 7. This story introduced the show’s new companion, the savage Leela, as played by Louise Jameson. Boucher also wrote the next story, The Robots of Death, and so had the opportunity to strongly cement the character.
After those two four-part adventures, the season concluded with The Talons of Weng-Chiang, one of the show’s most celebrated adventures, written by Robert Holmes. Amongst the guest cast were the popular characters Henry Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot, as played by Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter, who later appeared in their own lengthy run of Big Finish audios. Talons concluded on April 2 of that year.
The same day that each TV episode was released, (but continuing well after the season ended of course), TV Comic continued their Doctor Who comic strip, featuring the Fourth Doctor, first with Sarah Jane Smith (briefly), then on his own, and then eventually with Leela.
And as with previous years there were other comic adventures of the Doctor published as well. The TV Comic Annual 1977 had a story that featured the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane, whilst the TV Comic Holiday Special 1977 included one with the Fourth Doctor on his own. The Doctor Who Winter Special 1977 had a number of Third Doctor stories retrofitted to feature the Fourth Doctor instead. It also had an original short story featuring the Fourth Doctor and Leela.
Meanwhile, Terry Nation’s Dalek Annual 1978 came out in September 1977.
It included three original short stories featuring the Anti-Dalek-Force (who had appeared in previous annuals, alongside regular members Joel Shaw and Reb Shavron), and one reprint from the Dalek feature that was originally published in TV Century 21, written by David Whitaker.
Around the same time, the Doctor Who Annual 1978 was also published, featuring a bunch of short stories and comic stories with the Fourth Doctor, most usually with Sarah Jane Smith.
Target published eleven Doctor Who novelizations that year. Two were by producer Philip Hinchcliffe: Doctor Who and the Seeds of Doom and Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora. And Harry Sullivan actor Ian Marter wrote his first novelization, Doctor Who and the Ark in Space.
But once again, Terrance Dicks was by far the most prolific contributor, authoring eight books: Doctor Who and the Carnival of Monsters, Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth, Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos, Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius, Doctor Who and the Planet of Evil, Doctor Who and the Mutants, Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin, and Doctor Who and the Talons of Weng-Chiang.
Target also released three books in a new educational series, which all came out in November. They were called Doctor Who Discovers: Early Man, Doctor Who Discovers: Prehistorical Animals and Doctor Who Discovers: Space Travel. All featured art of the Fourth Doctor.
So too did the Second Doctor Who Monster Book–“second” as in the second book, not the Second Doctor. This featured text by Terrance Dicks and covered all of the stories in Tom Baker’s first three seasons as the Doctor, as well as each of his companions up to that point.
BBC Two aired as part of its The Lively Arts program a 14 minute documentary called Whose Doctor Who, on April 3rd. This covered the first 14 years of the show and featured interviews with the likes of Philip Hinchcliffe, Robert Holmes, Terrance Dicks and Tom Baker. Interestingly, some of the only known extant footage from the first episode of the First Doctor story Galaxy Four exists thanks to being used in this special.
Season 15 of the series kicked off on September 3, with the four-part Horror of Fang Rock, by Terrance Dicks, another story which is well loved by fans.
It included the only TV appearance so far of the Rutans, the oft-mentioned enemies of the Sontarans, with whom they’ve been at war for endless centuries. They turn out to be blobby shape-shifters. A major television epic featuring the war between these two species is long overdue, I think.
Another four-part story followed this, The Invisible Enemy, by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. This story isn’t nearly as beloved, but it does include on particular contribution to the Doctor Who mythos, which is the introduction of the robotic dog K9, as voiced by John Leeson.
K9 became a companion to the Doctor and one of the series’ most popular characters. He featured in his own failed spin-off show with Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, and later reapepared in the modern series as well as in Sarah Jane’s more successful spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures. He starred in his own show in 2009-2010, which otherwise completely disconnected from Doctor Who.
The Invisible Enemy was followed by The Image of the Fendahl, which became the third and last story that Chris Boucher wrote for the series, and the last that Robert Holmes commissioned as script editor.
Amongt the guest cast was Wanda Ventham, making her second of three appearances in the show–she’s the mother of popular actor Benedict Cumberbatch. K9 made a brief visual appearance but had no dialogue, simply because the story was written before it was known that he was to be an ongoing character on the show.
The year ended with the season’s fourth story, The Sun Makers, which was written by Robert Holmes. Famously, the story was a satire on the British taxation system, and contains many jokes directed at this target. The last part of The Sun Makers aired on December 17th, the end of the year not featuring any particularly notable Doctor Who content aside from a the year’s final issues of TV Comic.
In spite of this, I’d rate it as one of the best years for actual Doctor Who television stories. I haven’t watched them all recently, but my impression is that most of the serials are very good. Only The Invisible Enemy feels like a weak spot in an otherwise strong year.
Finally, in a category I have neglected to look at prior to this, 1977 was also the birth year for actress Ingrid Oliver, who would later become popular as the recurring character Osgood (at least three different versions of said character, actually). She was born on February 25, one day prior to part one of Talons of Weng-Chiang.