Doctor Who – 1983 – 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 #294)


1983 was a big year for Doctor Who as it was the 20th anniversary of the program and was honored as such by a special episode of the show. However overall there wasn’t actually that much more content released then say, 1982.

The show’s 20th season began on January 3rd, with the same general schedule as the previous year: two episodes a week, usually on Tuesday and Wednesday (although January 3rd itself was a Monday). The same producer / script editor team continued from the end of the previous year: John Nathan-Turner and Eric Saward.

The first story was called Ark of Infinity by Johnny Byrne and featured another return to Gallifrey, as well as extensive location filming in Amsterdam.

The Doctor was still played by Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton returned as companion Nyssa. Janet Fielding also came back as Tegan Jovanka, starting in the second episode, after appearing to have been written out the previous season. She again became a regular character on the program lasting well into 1984.

Ark of Infinity started a trend that lasted throughout the entire year, which was having old elements from the show return, presumably for the 20th anniversary celebrations. In this cast, it was Omega, the insane Time Lord scientist who had debuted in the 10th anniversary story, The Three Doctors. Ian Collier played the role, replacing Stephen Thorne.

The Time Lord Borusa also reappeared, now elevated to the role of President, and now played by Leonard Sachs (the third actor to play him in as many appearances).

The guest also included Michael Gough, who had previously played the Celestial Toymaker and was soon to be best known for playing Alfred in four Batman films. Paul Jerricho made two appoearances in the year as the Gallifreyan Castellan. Also, Colin Baker made his Doctor Who debut, but not as the Doctor–instead he played Maxil, a Gallifreyan guard commander.

After Ark of Infinity, there was Snakedance (another four part story), by Christopher Bailey. Snakedance brought back the Mara, a disembodied snake-like fear entity that especially haunted Tegan. It had first shown up a year earlier in Kinda. The guest cast for this story included a young Martin Clunes in what was not quite his first television role.

Next up was Mawrdyn Undead, which began a loose trilogy of stories, all four-parters. Mawdryn Undead was written by Peter Grimwade and introduced a new companion character named Turlough, played by Mark Strickson. He was a private school student who was secretly an alien living on earth (for reasons not revealed until the next season), who ends up tasked by the Black Guardian to kill the Doctor. The Black Guardian was a nigh-omnipotent embodiment of chaos who had briefly menaced the Fourth Doctor back in Season Sixteen of the show, in the story arc related to the Key to Time. He was once again played here by Valentine Dyall.

Also featuring significantly in Mawdryn Undead was Nicholas Courtney as two different versions of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, his popular character who had not appeared on the show since Terror of the Zygons in 1975. The story explicitly states that the Brigadier retires from UNIT in 1976, giving rise to the so-called “UNIT dating controversy”–the original UNIT stories often implied that they were taking place in the “near future,” presumably the 1980’s, which this flatly contradicted.

The story concluded with Turlough joining the TARDIS but still under assignment by the Black Guardian, whose involvement the Doctor is unaware of. This state of affairs was taken into Terminus, by Steve Gallagher, which wrote out Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa as a companion by having her remain behind on a space station to help victims of a sort of “space-leprosy.”

Heading into Enlightenment, by Barbara Clegg, Turlough’s story is at the same point: he is being forced to kill by the Black Guardian to kill the Doctor, something he is increasingly unhappy about. Both the Black and White Guardians show up in person this time, with the White Guardian played by Cyril Luckham reprising his role for the first (and only) time since The Ribos Operation from Season 16.

Enlightenment was the first Doctor Who story both written and directed by women (Fiona Cumming was the director) saw a conclusion to the Black Guardian-related trilogy of stories and has Turlough “redeemed” and joining the Doctor properly on his travels.

The last regular story of the season was the two part tale, The King’s Demons by Terence Dudley. Anthony Ainley’s Master was back, with the character he was disguised as credited as “James Stoker” in that week’s Radio Times (an anagram of “Master’s Joke” apparently).

The story introduced, as a new companion apparently, an android character called Kamelion, who had the ability to change his appearance. Gerald Flood played his main disguise in the story (King John), and voiced Kamelion himself.

In reality, Kamelion was a repurposed prop found in a junk yard. Tragically, the prop’s software designer, Mike Power, was killed shortly after the prop was approved for filming, and did not leave behind notes on its operation, which meant that its use was challenging from the outset and its career on the TV show was ignominious at best.

Part two of The King’s Demons aired on March 16th, concluding the regular episodes of the season–22 in all.

Just a bit later, on April 21, actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw was born. Years later, she played Tish Jones, sister of Martha Jones, for four episodes of Series Three of the revived Doctor Who.

Back to 1983, Doctor Who novels continued as usual to be released by Target. Titles released in 1983 included Doctor Who – Time Flight, Doctor Who – Meglos, Doctor Who – Castrovalva, Doctor Who – Four to Doomsday, Doctor Who – Earthshock, Doctor Who – Terminus, Doctor Who – Arc of Infinity, and Doctor Who – The Five Doctors, released almost at the same time as the special aired. John Lydecker (aka Steve Gallagher) wrote Terminus (oddly, without any chapter divisions), Ian Marter wrote Earthshock, Peter Grimwade wrote Time-Flight, and Christopher H. Bidmead wrote Castrovalva.

The rest were written by the ever prolific Terrance Dicks. Also released that year was Doctor Who: Dalek Omnibus, which featured three of Dicks’ Dalek-related novelizations (The Dalek invasion of Earth, Planet of the Daleks, and Day of the Daleks.

Doctor Who Magazine published issues 73-84, as well as their regular Summer and Winter specials. Original comic content featured the Fifth Doctor, and introduced the original-to-comic companion Gus. Ice Warriors and the Meddling Monk showed up, as well as original recurring villain Josiah W. Dogbolter.

Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett continued their three panel Doctor Who? strips in each issue, featuring the Fifth Doctor, with appearances by Tegan, Turlough, the Daleks, the Sontarans and the Menoptera.

Quinn and Howett also produced original a couple of longer stories for the special issues: The Next Twenty Years and An Unearthly Child The Unscreened Edition. The Next Twenty Years featured a glimpse of supposedly future incarnations of the Doctor, including the first female Doctor ever depicted in any medium.

World Distributors released the Doctor Who Annual 1984 in August, including prose with the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough, featuring appearances by the Brigadier and the Master.

in September, W.H. Allen published Doctor Who A Celebration, a coffee table book by Peter Haining. It featured commentary on all the actors to play the Doctor up until that point (including Peter Cushing), on all the companions, on every television adventure, and a lot more. I bought that book in the early days of my own Doctor Who fandom and learned a lot about the show through it. It still sits on my shelf today.

Also coming out in 1983, in September, was The Doctor Who Technical Manual by Mark Harris. I owned that book as well, and was always mystified that the schematic of the TARDIS console didn’t include a dematerialization switch.

In October, Doctor Who the Making of a Television Series had a paperback release, and then Doctor Who The Unfolding Text was published in December. It was written by John Tulloch and Manual Alverado he first major scholarly work published widely about Doctor Who, examining the show and it’s structure in the landscape of television programming.

Sometime in the year, Magnet Books released three Doctor Who-related quiz books: Doctor Who Quiz Book of Science, Doctor Who Quiz Book of Space and Doctor Who Quiz Book of Magic–each of which had little stories that set up their relevant topics quizzes. The stories featured the Fifth Doctor with Tegan and either Turlough or Nyssa. They were written by Michael Holt, along with the Doctor Who Quiz Book of Dinosaurs from 1982.

Doctor Who The First Adventure was published in 1983–the first licensed Doctor Who video game. In it, the Fifth Doctor went through Doctor Who-variations of well known games such as Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Frogger and Battleship.

Finally, the big event of 1983 was the production and broadcast of the 20th anniversary special episode, The Five Doctors, written by Terrance Dicks.

The episode debuted on the actual anniversary, November 23rd, on PBS stations in the United States, and then on November 25th on the BBC (with the novelization being released in between on November 24th, as already mentioned). The story featured many familiar faces, including the then-current Doctor Who cast: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson (though not Kamelion).

Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee reprised their roles as the Second and Third Doctors, with Richard Hurndall filling in for the deceased William Hartnell as the First.

Hartnell was still included via a clip from The Dalek Invasion of the Earth prior to the opening titles, and Tom Baker (who had declined to appear) was included via unused footage from Shada, the untelevised story from Season 17.

Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Nicholas Courtney (the Brigadier) and Anthony Ainley (the Master) all made major appearances, while cameos were included from Frazer Hines (Jamie), Wendy Padbury (Zoe), Richard Franklin (Mike Yates), Caroline John (Liz Shaw), John Leeson (the voice of K9) and Lalla Ward (Romana–from the same footage as Tom Baker). The Daleks and the Cybermen were also involved, including familiar performers John Scott Martin, Roy Skelton and David Banks.

The episode featured a specially remixed closing title theme which mixed the original arrangement of the theme with the shows current one. A new TARDIS console (and new console room) was created for the story, which was then used for the rest of the original series. Paul Jerricho showed up again (and died) as the Castellan. Rassilon, the Time Lord historical figure who has been oft-mentioned was seen for the first time, played by Richard Mathews. The Time Lord Borusa made a fourth and final appearance, portrayed by a fourth actor–Philip Latham.

The story ended with the Doctor being confirmed as the President of the Time Lords, but doing what he can to skirt the responsibility by running away once again in his rickety old TARDIS…


One thought on “Doctor Who – 1983 – All the Years

  1. Thanks, Ben.

    1983 may have been the last great year for classic Doctor Who. The challenges of keeping the best appeals of a franchise going after an anniversary year (in further reflections of both Doctor Who’s 50th and Star Trek’s 30th) are consequently tougher. John Nathan-Turner did his best with all our best memories of the first 20 years of Doctor Who even easier to celebrate, thanks to the invention of home video and starting with Revenge Of The Cybermen.

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