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 #317)
In 1985, Doctor Who mixed things up a bit. For the first time, episode lengths were changed from roughly 25 to roughly 45 minutes, with the number of episodes cut in half as a result. So, 13 episodes aired all together, covering six serials. Like the last few years, the season started early in the year, with the first episode being broadcast on January 5, meaning that the show had moved back to its traditional night of Saturday.
Aside from this, most elements of the show remained the same. Colin Baker once again played the Sixth Doctor, alongside Nicola Bryant as his companion Peri Brown. John Nathan-Turner continued to produce the program and Eric Saward remained on as Script Editor.
The first story was Attack of the Cybermen by Paula Moore–a pseudonym for some combination of Eric Saward, Paula Woolsey and Ian Levine. It began the season’s habit of drawing upon extensive amounts of the show’s history as it presented its new adventures.
Specifically, it involves direct references to the events of both The Tenth Planet and The Tomb of the Cybermen, features the Doctor playing around with the TARDIS’s chameleon circuit, brings the Doctor back to Totter’s Lane (from An Unearthly Child), and included the return of both the Cyber-Controller (played by Michael Kilgarriff) and Lytton (Maurice Colbourn).
Next up was Vengeance on Varos by Phillip Martin. This two part adventure introduced a new antagonist, Sil, an unethical businessman from the Mentor species. Played by Nabil Shaban, the character would prove popular enough to return to the show in the following year.
The guest cast also included a young Jason Connery (son of Sean) shortly before he appeared as the second iteration of the title character on Robin of Sherwood. Vengeance on Varos is somewhat notorious as an example of a story which was excessively violent, according to those who were complaining about that sort of thing at the time.
The Mark of the Rani was the following story, written by Pip & Jane Baker. This two-parter brought the Doctor and Peri to earth’s past, to the 19th century, and like the previous adventure introduced a new recurring adversary.
In this case, it was the Rani, another renegade Time-Lord played by Kate O’Mara. Anthony Ainley also made a return appearance as the Master.
Actually, Anthony Ainley had turned up as the Master on TV a bit earlier that year. On January 3rd that year, Colin Baker, sort of playing the Sixth Doctor, and Nicola Bryant were appearing on something called Saturday Superstore, answering questions that were phoned in from the audience. Suddenly, the Master calls, surprising the Doctor as he’d apparently died the previous season in Planet of Fire. The Master challenges the Doctor to an ultimate duel, teasing at his appearance, one supposes, in the forthcoming season.
Anyway, you can watch the whole thing here:
After The Mark of the Rani, we got the season’s only three-parter, a simply titled story called The Two Doctors. Patrick Troughton was back, reprising his role of the Second Doctor for the third (and final) time since he left the show back in 1969, but this time accompanied by Frazer Hines as Jamie.
Also in the guest cast was Jacqueline Pearce, famous for playing Servalan on Blake’s 7, here appearing as another villain. Oh, and the Sontarans were back as well. The whole thing was cobbled together by legendary writer Robert Holmes, but in general does not stand out as one of his best efforts. It had been hoped that the story would be shot in part in the United States, but when this proved prohibitive, it wound up in Spain in stead.
During the airing of this story, there was another little Doctor Who adventure that appeared on TV, a sketch on an episode of Jim’ll Fix It.
It was called A Fix with the Sontarans, and was written by Eric Saward. In it, the Sixth Doctor accidentally transports former companion Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding) aboard the TARDIS, along with young fan Gareth Jenkins. The trio then proceed to defeat the Sontarans.
The next story was Timelash by Glen McCoy, in which the Doctor meets a young H.G. Wells and takes him on an adventure which is clearly supposed to inspire The Time Machine. The story didn’t feature any particular returning elements form the series, but it did posit itself as a sequel to an unseen adventure with the Third Doctor and Jo Grant.
The cast included Paul Darrow, also famous from Blake’s 7 (he played Avon, the most popular character). The presence of two major players from that popular series makes me say this is the perfect place for a cross-over to have taken place, as I imagined here.
The last story of the season was Revelation of the Daleks by Eric Saward.
The Daleks were back, of course, as well as Davros played again by Terry Molloy (who had also appeared as a human being earlier in th eyear in Attack of the Cybermen). Alexie Sayle from The Young Ones was in the cast as a DJ who managed to kill a couple of Daleks with concentrated sound blasts before being exterminated himself.
The second and last part of this serial aired on March 30th.
Doctor Who Magazine published issues #97 – 108, plus the regular Summer and Winter specials. Comic content was written by Steve Parkhouse and Alan McKenzie, and drawn by John Ridgeway, and featured the Sixth Doctor with Frobisher the shape changing alien (most commonly in the form of a penguin) and Peri Brown. Stories also featured appearances by Dr. Isaac Asimoff, Astrolabus, a new character Abel Gantz, and a new enemy called the Skeletoids. The Summer Special also reprinted Fourth Doctor and K9 stories from early issues of the magazine.
Issue #106 featured the results of a contest to write lyrics for the Doctor Who theme song–one of the winners was future showrunner Chris Chibnall!
Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett continued their run of Doctor Who? three panel gag strips, featuring this year appearances by various Doctors (Sixth, First, Third, Peter Cushing’s movie Doctor, and, oddly enough, Doctors in alternate scenarios who were portrayed by Oliver Reed, Sylvester Stallone and Ronald Reagon!). We had the second appearance of the recurring characters Gaz and his friend–two Daleks who commiserate over experiences with the Daleks while sharing a beer. Also appearing were Peri, Cybermen, Daleks, Susan, the Brigadier, and John Nathan-Turner, and the Master.
Quinn and Howett also produced other comic material for the magazine–What if Doctor Who Was Produced By… which featured several different alternate scenarios for what the series might have been like. Also, the first instalment of The History Tour, in which the Sixth Doctor and Peri take an irreverent look at earth history. The first one, In the Beginning, was published in issue #108.
In the world of novelizations, there were eight titles this year: Doctor Who – Planet of Fire by Peter Grimwade, Doctor Who – Marco Polo by John Lucarotti, Doctor Who – The Awakening by Eric Pringle, Doctor Who – The Myth Makers by Donald Cotton, Doctor Who – The Invasion by Ian Marter, Doctor Who – The Two Doctors by Robert Holmes, and both Doctor Who – The Mind of Evil and Doctor Who – The Krotons by Terrance Dicks.
However, there were lots of other Doctor Who books. First off, hardcover versions of the previously published Doctor Who Quiz Book of Space and Doctor Who Quiz Book of Science, both by Michael Holt and both with the word “quiz” dropped from the title were published, aimed at libraries. Michael Holt also wrote Doctor Who Puzzle Book which featured the Sixth Doctor, Peri and K9.
Meanwhile, Target books re-published The Doctor Who Monster Book by Terrance Dicks (around ten years after it had originally come out) and The Third Doctor Who Quiz Book by Nigel Robinson.
W.H. Allen released The Doctor Who Cookbook by Gary Downie (with recipes contributed by other members of the show’s cast and crew) and The Doctor Who Illustrated A to Z.
World Publishers released the very last of their regular annuals this year, entitled Doctor Who Annual 1986, which featured a series of short stories about the Sixth Doctor and Peri, two of which featured the Master. Interestingly, the Master of these stories was neither Anthony Ainley nor Roger Delgado, but a “generic” Master who hasn’t appeared elsewhere.
Also coming out this year was Timeview, which boasted “the Complete Doctor Who Illustrations of Frank Bellamy”. It was written by the notable artist’s son, David Bellamy.
And finally, in the world of books, producer John Nathan-Turner himself wrote The TARDIS Inside Out, offering his own reminisces about the series and the six actors who played the lead role. The book featured illustrations by Andrew Skilleter, who had also been a big part of getting the above Frank Bellamy book created.
A couple of Doctor Who video games came out that year: Doctor Who and the Warlord (a text-based adventure game) and Doctor Who and the Mines of Terror, a platform game which features the Sixth Doctor fighting the Master, while being helped by his companion, a sophisticated robot cat called Splinx.
In February of 1985, an event took place which permanently marked Doctor Who: the BBC announced they were suspending production on the series. This was later modified to an 18 month hiatus, which today seems like not a big deal but back in 1985 was huuuuge. This led to fan and record producer Ian Levine initiating a charity song Doctor in Distress as a way of creating pressure for the show to continue. Amongst the participants were Nicola Bryant, Nicholas Courtney, Anthony Ainley and Colin Baker. It was, by all accounts, a dismal failure on every level.
But you can judge the artistic aspects of it yourself in this uploaded video:
Later that year, some of the sadness about the long gap until the show’s return may have been mitigated by a six-part audio drama that was released on BBC Radio in July and August. The drama was written by Eric Saward and starred Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant in their usual roles. The cast also included Valentine Dyall (famous as the Black Guardian and Deep Thought in some versions of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and Jon Glover (who had also appeared on TV in Hitchhiker’s as a management consultant).
At some point in the year, there was a short Doctor Who-themed skit on a show called The Saturday Night Picture Show, entitled Space Invaders. Doctor Who parodies and skits had been around for almost as long as the program itself, but this one was notable I suppose because Colin Baker himself appeared in it.
And then the last big broadcast event of the year happened on November 22, when a whole bunch of Doctor Who actors turned up for a special appearance on the annual Children in Need special. Participants included Doctors Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison and Colin Baker, as well as companion actors Carole Ann Ford, Maureen O’Brien, Peter Purves, Adrienne Hill, Michael Craze, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney, John Levene, Richard Franklin, Elisabeth Sladen, Louise Jameson, Ian Marter, Matthew Waterhouse, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson, and Nicola Bryant. The group presented a couple of checks from different bodies for the charity, and Troughton and Pertwee especially engaged in some mock-bickering, all presumably in good fun.
Like many of these other things, you can see it on Youtube here:
As far as births and deaths of Doctor Who personalities go, the most notable one was Valentine Dyall, who died on June 24th (only a short time after Slipback was recorded).
1985 was a big year! What was in store for the program next?