Doctor Who – 1984 – 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 #310)


1984 began in much the same way the previous year did, with a new season airing right at the start of the year (the first episode of season 21 started on January 5th) with the show continuing to air two nights a week–Thursday and Friday. The season lasted 26 episodes (or the equivalent of this, actually…see a few paragraphs down), covering seven serials–six 4-parters and one 2-parter. With changes that were to come, it was the last season of Doctor Who to date to have so many episodes, and the last to air in this format.

Peter Davison was back as the Fifth Doctor, accompanied by Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding) and Turlough (Mark Strickson).

All three actors would be gone from the series by the end of the year. John Nathan-Turner and Eric Saward were both back as producer and script editor as well. here was initially no sign of the robotic Kamelion, who had appeared to join the show at the end of the year, but he would pop up again before the year was out.

The first story was Warriors of the Deep, by Johnny Byrne. This serial saw the return of both the Silurians and the Sea Devils for the first time since the Pertwee era, and also the only time where the two related species appeared together.

The story is infamous for its production difficulties, and generally not well-regarded amongst the cast or the audience. Amongst the guest cast was Hammer horror star Ingrid Pitt, who also hadn’t appeared in Doctor Who since the Pertwee era (The Time Monster, specifically). She and her husband submitted a Doctor Who script a few years later that was never produced, but was turned into a Big Finish audio, called The Macros.

After this was the season’s only two part story, The Awakening by Eric Pringle.

The story involved the Doctor intentionally traveling to visit a companion’s relative for the first time (in this case, Tegan’s grandfather) and was the first to feature a redesigned costume for Peter Davison. It is all together more fondly regarded than its predecessor.

Next up was Frontios, by former script editor Christopher H. Bidmead.

The story introduced a monster called the Tractators that never showed up on TV again, but did reappear in a Big Finish audio based on an unproduced Bidmead script called The Hollows of Time. The Tractators are familiar to Turlough from his home planet, which is the first hint of any sort of backstory for the companion (but not the last).

The next story was Resurrection of the Daleks by current script editor Eric Saward.

In addition to the obvious appearance by the Daleks, Davros was also back, recast with actor Terry Molloy. Also included in the cast was Maurice Colbourne as Lytton, a mercenary villain who actually survives the tale completely unharmed. He would go to appear again the next year. Because of the need for coverage of the Winter Olympics, the intended four-part Resurrection was actually aired as two 45 minute episodes (albeit with credits intended for the odd-numbered episodes).

The story features a lot of deaths (apparently it has a body count of 76, which is high even for Doctor Who), which becomes a plot point when Tegan leaves at the end of the adventure, saying that the violence and death is just too much for her. She has an abrupt although well done departure scene that both she and Davison play well.

After that was Planet of Fire, by Peter Grimwade.

This serial was described by somebody (I forget who) as a series of explanations more than a story–it had to fill in Turlough’s backstory, it had to write out both Turlough and Kamelion (in his first TV appearance since his debut in Season 19) and it had to introduce new companion Peri Brown (as played by Nicola Bryant). It also had to include the Master (Anthony Ainley) and had to be shot in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands! By the time the story is over, Turlough is gone, Kamelion is destroyed, and the Master is apparently dead (the actor’s contract having expired).

This leads into The Caves of Androzani, which was Peter Davison’s final starring role as the Doctor.

The story was by veteran writer Robert Holmes, who had also been script editor during the early days of Tom Baker’s Doctor. The story is highly regarded by fans and remains one of the most popular adventures of the classic era. I have always especially loved Graeme Harper’s energetic direction, and part three’s cliffhanger, where the Doctor is intentionally crashing a spaceship in order to escape capture and get back to his endangered companion, to be one of the series’ best.

In the final sequence, as Peter Davison is regenerating, a special sequence was filmed as a series of hallucinations, featuring Tegan (Janet Fielding), Turlough (Mark Strickson), Kamelion (Gerald Flood), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) and the Master (Anthony Ainley). The sequence concluded with Colin Baker’s debut as the Doctor (although he had appeared in Season 20 as a different character) and included his first lines, which is the first time a new Doctor had been included in this way. In the modern series, this has become standard practice.

The season then concluded with The Twin Dilemma by Anthony Steven, a story which is often listed amongst the least favorite Doctor Who stories ever.

It was Colin Baker’s first starring role as the Doctor, and his jarring and often unpleasant portrayal of the character did not endear him to many fans. The story and the season concluded on March 30th.

Also starting at the beginning of the year, Doctor Who Magazine continued to publish, releasing issues 85-96 in 1984, plus the traditional Summer and Winter specials. The first issue of the year had a reprinted comic story which featured UNIT and the Zygons. After that, original comics returned with the concluding chapters of the last contemporary “Fifth Doctor” story, along with comic enemy Josiah W. Dogbolter and comic book companion Gus.

Starting with issue #88, the comic segment of the magazine started featuring the Sixth Doctor, and introduced another comic-only companion, Frobisher–a shape changing alien who spent most of his time looking like a penguin. Frobisher proved to be one of the more popular comic companions, and continued to appear throughout the year. Much late he also showed up in Big Finish audios. Josiah W. Dogbolter also reappeared, as did Dr. Ivan Asimoff, and another comic-only recurring villain, Astrolabus, was introduced.

Doctor Who Magazine comics that by were by Steve Parkhouse, Steve Dillon, and John Ridgeway.

Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett’s three panel gag strip, Doctor Who? continued through the year, featuring both the Fifth and Sixth Doctors, as well as appearances by Tegan, Peri, Daleks, Davros, Cybermen, Cybermats, Yeti, Sea Devils, Time Lords, and John Nathan-Turner. The last strip of the year featured all six Doctors to that date, plus Peter Cushing’s Dr. Who (showing up for the first time anywhere since Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.

Novelizations continued to be released through the year, including Doctor Who – Mawdryn Undead, Doctor Who – Kinda, Doctor Who – Snakedance, Doctor Who – Enlightenment, Doctor Who – The Dominators, Doctor Who – Warriors of the Deep, Doctor Who – The Azteks, Doctor Who – Inferno, Doctor Who – The Highlanders, and Doctor Who – Frontios.

Terrance Dicks contributed only four of these novels – Kinda, Snakedance, Warriors of the Deep, and Inferno. The others were written by Barbara Clegg (Enlightenment), Peter Grimwade (Mawdryn Undead), Ian Marter (The Dominators), John Lucarotti (The Azteks), Christopher H. Bidmead (Frontios), and Gerry Davis (The Highlanders).

Target also published Doctor Who Brain Teasers and Mind Benders by Adrian Heath, who was only 16 at the time that he wrote it!

W.H. Allen published two notable reference books that year. One was The Key to Time: A Year by Year Record which was an oversized coffee table book by Peter Haining which is a detailed look at the show’s first 21 years.

They also published The Doctor Who Pattern Book, which gave knitting and sewing patters for all sorts of things including the Fourth Doctor’s scarf, Adric’s tunic and star, a Time Lord outfit, a K9 shoulder bag and a cybermat!

Finally, Marvel comics began publishing a Doctor Who comic (after, one presumes, the relative success of Doctor Who’s appearance in Marvel Premier a year earlier. The title reprinted stories from Doctor Who Magazine featuring the Fourth Doctor (and later the Fifth), and eventually ran for 23 issues (the first 3 of which were cover-dated 1984). This was the first and only American Doctor Who comic for some decades to follow.

In the world of Doctor Who births and deaths, 1984 saw the death of director Douglas Camfield on January 27.

Sacha Dhawan, the current-era Master was born on May 1.

And Peter Davison’s daughter, David Tennant’s future wife, and the Doctor’s daughter actress Georgia Moffett was born on December 25th.

Onward to 1985!

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