Doctor Who – 1979 – All the Years

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 #247)


Whereas 1978 was a bit of “slow growth year” for Doctor Who in terms of foraging into new areas of media, 1979 seems to make up for it, with a number of interesting developments.

Of course, it all starts on TV. The first episode of the year was The Power of Kroll episode 3, which aired on January 6th. The four-parter by Robert Holmes finished off the following week, concluding the efforts of the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Mary Tamm) to locate the 5th segment of the Key to Time.

There was one more story for Season 16, which was the six-part tale The Armageddon Factor by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. K9 (voiced by John Leeson) was back for the tale (having been absent during the previous story due to its swamp-location.

The Armageddon Factor featured as one of its guest stars Lalla Ward as the Princess Astra, who turned out to be the final segment of the Key to Time disguised as a human. The season-long story concluded with a brief confrontation between the Doctor and the Black Guardian (Valentine Dyall), a character who had been hinted at but was making his first appearance here. He would return to the show many year’s later.

The Armageddon Factor concluded on February 24th, and turned out to be Mary Tamm’s last episode of the series. She apparently decided against returning during the production of this serial, and for whatever reason, no departure scene was created until the following season, with Tamm no longer involved. The Armageddon Factor was also the last story that Anthony Read served as script editor for, although producer Graham Willams continued in the role for another season.

Also, if one pokes around on the internet, one can find special gag scene called variously Doug Who? or Merry Christmas Doctor Who which was filmed during this episode.

It was only intended for BBC staff viewing, but involves Baker, Tamm and Leeson as their characters and depicts the Doctor and Romana as apparently kissing each other (though it is discreet).

As this was going on, TV Comic was still publishing Doctor Who comics, but the series was winding down. Old Third Doctor stories continued to be redrawn with the Fourth Doctor until mid-May. At that point, Doctor Who was no longer published in TV Comic. This led to the both June and August as the first months listed on the source I’m looking at with no Doctor Who related products being released since November 1963.

The Doctor did make a couple of prose-story appearances in TV Comic Annual 1979, including one with a fill-in companion called Miss Young, whose appearance here was a one-off except for the fact that many years later other writers brought the character back briefly.

The Doctor Who Annual 1980 was published in September 1979, and featured the usual array of puzzles, features, and prose and comic stories featuring the Fourth Doctor, the first Romana, and the second K9.

In the world of novels, Target published six new novelizations of stories, all but one of which were written by the stalwart Terrance Dicks: Doctor Who and the Hand of Fear, Doctor Who and the Invisible Enemy, Doctor Who and the Robots of Death, Doctor Who and the Image of the Fendahl, and Doctor Who and the Destiny of the Daleks. Ian Marter contributed one book: Doctor Who and the Ribos Operation.

Destiny of the Daleks was also the first Doctor Who novel to have a cover illustrated by Andrew Skilleter, who went on to do lots of Doctor Who covers and artwork.

Dicks also wrote the Junior Doctor Who and the Giant Robot, a revision aimed at younger readers of Dicks’ own novelization of Robot.

During the same year, American publisher Pinnacle books offered American versions of a bunch of Target’s titles, including novelizations of Day of the Daleks, Colony in Space, Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Genesis of the Daleks, Terror of the Zygons, Revenge of the Cybermen, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and The Masque of Mandragora.

Other publications that year included The Adventures of K9 and Other Mechanical Creatures, a 96 page trade paperback style reference book written by Terrance Dicks all about K9 from his first appearance up to The Armageddon Factor.

Also, there was Terry Nation’s Dalek Special, a 96 page book which combined reference material about the Daleks (edited by Terrance Dicks) and a six changer novella called Daleks: Secret Invasion which featured a group of earth children foiling a Dalek plot. It was written by Terry Nation and marks the first non-adapted fiction published by Target, and the only work by Nation for the publishing imprint. However, it’s also been claimed that this story wasn’t originally written for the book, but rather for the London Evening News.

And speaking of Daleks, a specially edited version of Genesis of the Daleks was released on LP, with audio from the television show supplemented by narration by Tom Baker (which amusingly introduced the story with the Doctor stepping off the TARDIS, even though it’s clear later that he has not arrived by TARDIS).

Season 17 of the series began on September, with the return of the Daleks to television for the first time since 1975. The story was Destiny of the Daleks, and ended up being the last story that Terry Nation ever wrote for Doctor Who. It featured the return of Davros, now played by David Gooderson. K9 appears largely unvoiced, because of having contracted some form of laryngitis, but delivers a cough which is voiced by Roy Skelton (who was the main Dalek voices for the episode).

More significantly, previous guest star Lalla Ward was hired to take over the role of Romana, whose change of appearance was explained with a brief and flippantly silly regeneration sequence. She stayed with the show until the middle of the next season, and somewhere along the way started a romantic relationship with Tom Baker.

This was reflected in a series of four advertisements for Prime Computers which featured Tom Baker and Lalla Ward in character as the Doctor and Romana. They only aired in Australia, but were licensed by the BBC. In one of them, the computer being advertised told the Doctor to marry Romana.

Returning to season 17, the next story was another four-parter–City of Death, by “David Agnew” (in reality a pseudonym for Douglas Adams and Graham Williams working off a story idea by David Fisher. The story involved the Doctor, Romana and K9 (now voiced by David Brierley) going to Paris. This involved the first ever overseas location shooting for the show, and resulted in one of the series’ most popular serials. The guest cast included Julian Glover, Catherine Schell, Tom Chadbon, and in a very funny pair of cameos, John Cleese and Eleanor Bron as two pretentious art enthusiasts who mistake the TARDIS for an exhibit in the Louvre.

This was followed by The Creature from the Pit by David Fisher, a smaller scale story which is now one of the series’ least well regarded tales. It was the last story to include long-term stunt man and extra Terry Walsh, and the last story directed by Christopher Barry, who had been working on the series since the first season.

After that came Nightmare of Eden by Bob Baker (his only Doctor Who story without Dave Martin). Nightmare of Eden was by all accounts an extremely difficult shoot, with director Alan Bromly actually quitting mid-production. Graham Williams had to take over direction, and it was later said that the experience led Williams to deciding his time with the show was coming to an end.

The last story of the season was the first two episodes of The Horns of Nimon by former script editor Anthony Read. The story was inspired by the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Part two of the story aired on December 29th, with the last two episodes of the story finishing off in the following year.

There was supposed to be one more story after The Horns of Nimon, and that was Douglas Adam’s Shada. The six part adventure had begun filming in October 1979, but a strike in November delayed the production and eventually led to its complete cancellation.

However, it’s not the last we’ll hear of Shada–it’s a story that will keep coming up in the subsequent decades of the shows history.

One of the most significant non-television developments in the world of Doctor Who kicked off on October 11 with the publication of the first issue of Doctor Who Weekly, a magazine devoted to the show which has since become the world’s longest running publication devoted to a television program. The first twelve issues came out in 1979.

The magazine in general was a combination of articles, fiction stories and comics. The comics were by noted talents such as John Wagner, Pat Mills, Steve Moore, Steve Dillon, David Lloyd, and Dave Gibbons. The stories featured the Fourth Doctor, generally traveling alone. There were also stories which didn’t feature the Doctor at all (or only included him as a narrator) but which starred the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Sontarans, the Time Lord, and K9.

The Doctor also introduced a series called Tales from the TARDIS which were actually reprints of material from the publisher’s Marvel Classic Comics adapting famous literary science fiction tales. The first 11 issues of Doctor Who Weekly covered War of the Worlds, while the last one kicked off The Invisible Man.

The first four issues of the magazine came with a gift of free transfers which could be used to decorate full page art spreads by Dave Gibbons which were in the first issue, and which tied into some of the issue’s short stories.

There was also a comic story in Issue 2 called Dr. Who and the Turgids which featured the Fourth Doctor with Romana, which was intended as an advertisement for a real-life TARDIS-themed radio called a TARDIS-tuner. Oddly, the Romana in the strip looked like neither Mary Tamm nor Lalla Ward, and didn’t appear to be a Time Lord.

Issue 10 of the magazine included a fan-letter from future companion Matthew Waterhouse!

Finally, we have a quick look at notable people connected to Doctor Who who were born or died this year, and we find that Peter Butterworth (the Meddling Monk) passed away on January 16, and amongst those who were born was Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones) on March 20th.

One thought on “Doctor Who – 1979 – All the Years

  1. Remember a quote from Lalla’s Romana in 1979: “If it’s possible to get into the situation, theoretically it should be possible to get out of it.” helped me out of a jam on a bus ride home. That’s now even more one of my favorite memories from the classic Doctor Who’s probably might lighthearted year on TV.

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