Doctor Who – 1987 – 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 #356)


Once again the new season of Doctor Who didn’t begin until well into the year. So come January of 1987, fans had to be contented with things like novels, magazines and comics, at least if they wanted anything new to enjoy with the program.

Doctor Who Magazine published issues #121-132, plus one Autumn Special (instead of the usual Summer and Winter specials). Colin Baker made his last cover appearance with #122 before it was generally known that he had been fired from the role, and his last one while he was still the “current” Doctor with #125. His successor, Sylvester McCoy, debuted on the cover of #124, albeit without his regular costume.

He debuts in-costume on the cover of #129, which came out September 10, just after the new season began.

Comic content in the magazine was written by Mike Collins, Jamie Delano, Grant Morrison, and Simon Furman, and drawn by John Ridgeway, and started off with the Sixth Doctor, Peri and Frobisher (an alien shapeshifter stuck in the form of a penguin). One story, The World Shapers (written by Morrison) involves the Doctor meeting up with an aged Jamie McCrimmon, who ends up sacrificing his life before the story is over. It also establishes that the Voord from The Keys of Marinus eventually evolve into the Cybermen of Mondas, with the two worlds actually being the same place. Elements of this are referred to in The Doctor Falls in 2017, but that episode also made it clear that Mondas and Marinus were not the same place.

The Seventh Doctor debuts in the comic section of the magazine in #131, still traveling with Frobisher (and with no reference to a regeneration or Peri’s absence.) The two face off with the Ice Warriors. The same issue also changed the logo of the magazine to match the new logo for the series itself.

Meanwhile, Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett continued to contribute their humorous comic material to the magazine. The three panel gag strip, Doctor Who?, ran in every regular issue, featuring the Sixth (and later) the Seventh Doctors, along with Peri, Mel, Daleks Cybermen, John Nathan-Turner and various other monster, companions and past incarnations of the Doctor.

Quinn and Howett also produced three more installments of The Doctor Who History Tour which featured the Doctor (usually the Sixth, but in one case the Third) giving Peri and irreverent education about earth history. In these chapters–#’s 8 through 10–the visited Regency England and Victorian England, amongst others.

Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett were also the creative forced behind The Doctor Who Fun Book, published in May, which featured puzzles and a bunch of comic stories which were largely humorous in nature–including which posited a completely imagined 40th anniversary special for the series in 2003 (which was in reality still 16 years away).

However, some were more serious, notably The Test of Time, which featured the First Doctor being sent on a couple of tests by a mysterious figure called the Father of Time. One test involves the Doctor and Susan going to Skaro and encountering Daleks prior to the events of An Unearthly Child, although they apparently never know where they are or see the local inhabitants directly. The second test involves the Doctor being taken from the events of The Web Planet and meeting his five next incarnations. It also strongly hinted that the Father of Time was a distant future incarnation of the Doctor himself.

Also throughout the year, Target books continued to release its range of novelizations. The first was actually the paperback edition of Doctor Who – Slipback by Eric Saward, based on his Sixth Doctor radio play from 1985 which had been released in hardcover in 1986. This was followed throughout the year by Doctor Who – Black Orchid (by Terence Dudley), Doctor Who – The Ark (by Paul Erickson), Doctor Who – The Mind Robber (by Peter Ling), Doctor Who – The Faceless Ones (by Terrance Dicks), Doctor Who – The Space Museum (by Glyn Jones), Doctor Who – The Sensorites (by Nigel Robinson), Doctor Who – The Reign of Terror (by Ian Marter and published posthumously as he had died in 1986), Doctor Who – The Romans (by Donald Cotton), Doctor Who – The Ambassadors of Death (also by Terrance Dicks), and Doctor Who – The Macra Terror (by Ian Stuart Black).

Target also re-published the Junior Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius, and the final title in their Companions of Doctor Who series–a novelization of K9 and Company, by Terence Dudley.

In the world of Doctor Who reference books, the year gave us paperback editions of The Doctor Who Illustrated A to Z (from 1985) and The Key to Time: A Year by Year Record (from 1984). More originally, it saw the release of The Time-Traveller’s Guide by Peter Haining which examined time travel both in the show and in literature leading up to the show (ie, from H.G. Welles), plus an examination of Time Lord society and an update of the show’s stories that were covered in the same author’s Doctor Who – A Celebration from 1983.

Later in the year, Target published Build the TARDIS by Mark Harris, which apparently taught you how to build your own TARDIS model without scissors or glue.

Finally, David Saunders wrote Encyclopedia of The Worlds of Doctor Who: A – D, the first volume of a reference book collection, in this case covering planets, races, characters and technology from the show which began with the first our letters of the alphabet (although omitting, apparently, Castrovalva–one assumes as an oversight).

Of course, the highlight of the year was the return of Doctor Who to television with the show’s 24th season, the first starring Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor. Bonnie Langford returned as Melanie, and John Nathan-Turner continued to produce the program, while Andrew Cartmel came on board as script editor.

The new season made use o a new arrangement of the theme, created by Keff McCulloch, and also saw the first use of then-new CGI technology for some of the show’s special effects, as well as a new opening title sequence.

The season debuted on September 7th with part 1 of the four-part Time and the Rani by Pip and Jane Baker. With Colin Baker fired from the show and refusing to return for anything less then a full season, the regeneration was accomplished by means of an off-camera accident that critically injured the Doctor. Sylvester McCoy wore his predecessor’s costume and a wig, and was briefly seen as the Sixth Doctor with some regeneration swirls over his face.

He then went on to spend much of the following story confused and getting his bearings. The story also brought Kate O’Mara back as the immoral and amoral Time Lord scientist, the Rani, and involved kidnapping people from history and making a giant brain.

The next story up was Paradise Towers by Stephen Wyatt, also a four-parter.

The adventure was set in a deadly apartment complex and featured well known comedian Richard Briers (from The Good Life) as the story’s main villain.

This was followed by the three part Delta and the Bannermen, a story that I have never seen in its entirety. Written by Malcolm Kohll, the adventure was set largely in Wales in the late 1950’s and featured a lot of period rock music. The story had a number of famous guest stars, including Ken Dodd and the American actor Stubby Kaye, who I remember from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

The serial almost introduced a new companoin to the show, in the form of Ray, as played by Sara Griffiths, but this was ultimately decided againt.

The last story of the season was Dragonfire by Ian Briggs. This three-part story featured the return of Tony Selby as Sabalom Glitz, a con-man that Mel inexplicably decide to go off with at the end, leaving the Doctor. It’s one of the more baffling decisions that a companion has made in leaving the Doctor.

Most notably however, the show debuted Sophie Aldred as Ace, a time-lost waitress who ends up being the Doctor’s new companion, and indeed became the Seventh Doctor’s signature companion. The oddity of her circumstances is not really dwelt upon here (she’s a modern earth girl who apparently accidentally created a time-storm during a chemistry experiment), but became a plot point in later season.

The season ended after just fourteen episodes (the same as the previous year) on December 7th.

In other news, the Doctor Who USA Tour continued and finished in 1987, with various props having been taken around the United States since 1986. Apparently, Sylvester McCoy put in a personal appearance on the tour in the Minneapolis / St. Paul region.

A short Doctor Who parody played on a show called Victoria Wood – As Seen on TV which featured a monster called Crayola fighting the Doctor as played by Jim Broadbent–some 12 years prior to him playing another comedic non-official Doctor in The Curse of Fatal Death.

And most interestingly of all, Wartime was released from Reeltime Pictures.

This 30 minute film produced and directed by Keith Barnfeather, and was the first ever licensed Doctor Who spinoff video. It starred John Levene as his TV character Benton (now given the first name John) and mainly focused on showing him running around an old country house he had been in as a child, dealing with the ghosts of the past. Michael Wisher (better known as the first Davros) played Benton’s father and Nicholas Briggs (later the voice of the Daleks and a primary creator in Big Finish) was a soldier.

I saw Wartime once, a long time ago, and I didn’t really like it. It’s storytelling was too oblique for me, and it spent more time in an attempt to create “atmosphere” (only vaguely successful) rather than on an actual plot. Various other spinoffs that licensed elements from the series (but not prime elements like the Doctor or the TARDIS) were created over the years, but this was the only to come out while the show itself was still being produced.

In terms of births and deaths of notable Doctor Who people, there are three obvious ones to mention:

Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor, died on March 28th while attending a Doctor Who convention in Georgia.

Pearl Mackie, who played the Twelfth Doctor’s companion Bill Potts, was born on May 29th.

Karen Gillan, famous for Amy Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor, was born on November 28th.

Onward to 1988!

3 thoughts on “Doctor Who – 1987 – All the Years

  1. you wrote “Onward to 1988!” but then there is nothing – I thought you could at least do 1988 & 89

  2. Yes, sorry I need to get back to this. I actually want to keep going during all the wilderness years to see what was going on back during that time.

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