Doctor Who – All the Years – 1988

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.


1988 was the 25th anniversary year for Doctor Who, and the second season of Sylvester McCoy‘s Seventh Doctor. Sophie Aldred continued on as the companion Ace. The whole season was again 14 episodes long, and ran late in the year.

Starting in January, however, Doctor Who remained present through various means, including Doctor Who Magazine, which published #’s 133-144–it seems that there were no Winter or Summer specials this time around. But there was the normal comic content, by the likes of writers Simon Furman, Mike Collins, Grant Morrison, John Freeman and Dan Abnett, plus artists Kev Hopgood, Geoff Senior, John Ridgway, Bryan Hitch, John Higgins, Lee Sullivan, Dave Hine and Tim Perkins. Stories featured the Seventh Doctor (naturally) generally traveling alone, although he is briefly seen with Frobisher (in a story that was just ending at the beginning of the year), as well as Olla, his very short-lasting replacement.

One story, entitled Planet of the Dead (of course unrelated to the David Tennant-led special of 2009) featured shape-shifters who impersonate the Doctor’s dead companions such as Katarina, Sara Kingdom, Adric, Jamie (who died in a comic story) and Peri (whom the shapeshifters are actually wrong about her death, which becomes a plot point). Later, they become the Doctor’s previous incarnations as well.

Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett continued their humorous comic contribution to the magazine as well, with the last installment of the semi-regular series The History Tour, and the regular short Doctor Who? series. The History Tour featured the Sixth Doctor and Peri, while Doctor Who? featured the Seventh Doctor (usually) as well as characters like Ace, Mel, the Second Doctor, the Third Doctor, Daleks, Susan, Jo Grant, Jamie, Steven Taylor and Sara Kingdom, plus multiple potential Eighth Doctors who were auditioning for a role in a movie, and Batman, of all people, who was going for the same role.

Doctor Who Magazine #137 started the publication’s habit of including a random quote on the first page. In this case, it was “If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds, and watch them wheel in another sky — would that satisfy you?” This is a line said by the Doctor in the show’s second ever episode, The Cave of Skulls.

As I mentioned there were no Summer or Winter specials from Doctor Who Magazine that year, but there was 25th Anniversary Special that came out in November. In addition to its articles, it featured a Seventh Doctor short story and a humorous comic story by Quinn & Howett called Ever Wonder What Happened at…the Auditions for the Seven Doctors?

That comic featured a brief appearance by a book that was really published in 1988–It’s Bigger On the Inside!, which was an activity book that included a lot of comic material by Quinn and Howett. Notably was a straightforward story called Nostalgia Corner which brought back the First Doctor along with grandchildren John and Gillian from the days of the old TV Comics series. Lots of other comics in the book featured various funny looks at the behind-the-scenes of making the show, and one had K9 chasing a robot cat up a tree.

1988 also featured the regular crop of Target novelizations of the TV adventures. In this case, the books published included Doctor Who – Terror of the Vervoids and Doctor WhoThe Ultimate Foe (based on episodes 9-12 and 13-14, respectively of Trial of a Time Lord) as well as Doctor Who – Time and the Rani, all by Pip & Jane Baker; Doctor Who – The Time Meddler, Doctor Who – The Underwater Menace, and Doctor Who – The Edge of Destruction, all by Nigel Robinson; Doctor Who – The Mysterious Planet (based on the first our episodes of Trial of a Time Lord) and Doctor Who – The Wheel in Space, both by Terrance Dicks; Doctor Who – Vengeance on Varos by Philip Martin; and Doctor WhoThe Rescue by Ian Marter. It was the last novelization for the series that Marter had completed prior to his death in 1986.

Target also re-released some of their novelizations in a two-for-one format under a banner called Doctor Who Classics–this year’s offerings included The Dalek Invasion of Earth / The Crusaders; The Myth Makers / The Gunfighters; and The Dominators / The Krotons.

Other books published that year included the first installment of a new series from Titan Books called Doctor Who: The Scripts, which initially published transcripts of episodes, and later transitioned to actual camera scripts. The first one (and only one released in 1988) was The Tribe of Gum, based on the first four episodes of the series, usually referred to as An Unearthly Child.

Reference books published in 1988 included Encyclopedia of the Worlds of Doctor Who: E-K by David Sanders was published in hardcover, and later the same year in paperback (A-D also came out in paperback in 1988).

Also, there was Doctor Who: 25 Glorious Years by Peter Haining. This was a big hardcover volume which was published by BBC books as the official 25th anniversary book for the series. The year also so the previously released Doctor Who: The Early Years by Jeremy Bentham come out in paperback.

David Banks wrote Doctor Who: Cybermen which was a detailed look at the Cybermen from both a real-world and fictional in-universe perspective. Banks was the actor who became best known playing various Cyberleaders in Doctor Who in the 1980’s, starting with Earthshock.

And then right at the end of the year the similar-in-concept The Official Doctor Who & the Daleks Book came out, written by John Peel and Terry Nation. Amongst other things, it included a plot summary for Terry Nation’s unproduced Dalek spinoff, entitled The Destroyers.

Other bits and pieces from the year included the release of both the audio play Slipback (with Colin Baker) and the audio version of Genesis of the Daleks on cassette tape. I had the tape for Genesis of the Daleks–it’s how I originally became familiar with that story!

And then in November that year the World of Doctor Who exhibition opened in London, as part of something called 3001 Space Adventure which featured a space shuttle simulator ride. The props at the exhibition included many items from the now-completed Doctor Who USA Tour. It wasn’t massively successful and closed at the end of the following year.

And that was it for Doctor Who for the year…except of course for the TV show itself!

Season 25 was 14 episodes long, and as mentioned starred Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred. John Nathan-Turner was back as producer, along with Andrew Cartmel as script editor. It was made up of four stories which were 4, 3, 3, and 4 episodes long, respectively.

The first story was Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovitch, which kicked off on October 5th. It had a daft title but was perhaps the best story the show produced in the last five seasons of the show.

This is the story that really introduced the character qualities that the Seventh Doctor and Ace are best known for: the Doctor’s aggressive manipulation of events, and Ace’s moody anger that lurks beneath her adventuresome spirit.

Remembrance of the Daleks wasn’t the official “25th anniversary” story for series but it may as well have been–it took place in the same time and place as the An Unearthly Child from 1963, and of course featured the Daleks and (briefly) Davros, played for the last time on TV by Terry Molloy. It also included the apparent destruction of Skaro, the Daleks’ homeworld, and a little gag where apparently the TV show Doctor Who is about to be broadcast, just before the scene cuts away. The story also introduces three new characters–Group Captain Gilmore, Professor Rachel Jensen and Professor Allison Williams–who went on to have their own series of audio dramas by Big Finish, entitled Counter-Measures.

Remembrance of the Daleks contains the first real hints at what is generally known as the “Cartmel Masterplan”, a general vision for the show developed by script editor Andrew Cartmel and others which had the goal of adding fresh mystery to the series by bringing in new elements into the Doctor’s backstory.

The second story of the season was The Happiness Patrol, by Graeme Curry, a surreal and satirical look at the politics of Margaret Thatcher. The story included one of the show’s strangest monsters–a sadistic robot made of sweets, called the Kandyman.

The third story was Silver Nemesis, which did function as the 25th anniversary story. It was by Kevin Clarke, and involved the return of the Cybermen. The Cartmel masterplan kicked into higher gear here with all sorts of stuff that the Doctor had a semi-omniscient role in everything that were going on. Clarke apparently pitched the story to John Nathan-Turner and Andrew Cartmel as something like, “The Doctor is God.” They apparently replied by saying that Clarke could do it, but he couldn’t say it.

The actual celebratory aspects of the story were pretty slight–limited it seems to the title, the presence of the Cybermen, the use of November 23, 1963 as a story date, and some uncredited cameo appearances by Nicholas Courtney and various behind-the-scenes personnel.

Finally, the season ended with The Greatest Show in the Galaxy by Stephen Wyatt, the seasons only returning writer (he also wrote Paradise Towers the year before).

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy took place in a cosmic circus and also included some surreal and satirical elements (a character called Whizz Kid is generally looked at a parody of the show’s fandom, for instance) and deepened the sense of mystery around the Doctor by revealing he was involved in an ongoing battle with ancient beings known as the Gods of Ragnarok.

The year concluded with Part 3 of this story on December 28th (the final episode of the season wasn’t aired until 1989.)

On the whole, from my perspective the season was pretty good. It wasn’t perfect (Silver Nemesis in particular is a bit of a dud), but it was a long ways better than Season 24, doing tremendous work course-correcting from the weaknesses of that first Seventh Doctor year. The character work with Ace in particular helped to make her, arguably, the best developed companion of the entire classic era.

In terms of other major events which took place in 1988, the year saw the birth two regular or semi-regular actors from the series…

Mandip Gill, who went on to play the Thirteenth Doctor’s most long-serving companion, Yasmin Khan. She was born on January 5th.

Catrin Stewart, who recurringly played Jenny Flint alongside the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, was born on January 29th.

And finally, writer Terence Dudley, who had written several stories for the Fifth Doctor (Four to Doomsday, Black Orchid, and The King’s Demons) as well as the pilot (and only episode) of K9 and Company, died on Christmas Day, December 25th, of that year.

Onward to 1989 (coming soon!)

One thought on “Doctor Who – All the Years – 1988

  1. The Happiness Patrol would probably be my fondest memory from Doctor Who’s 25th for how Sylvester McCoy had most significantly moralized the 7th Doctor without any of his grand manipulations that were prevalent in most of his era. Because here the 7th Doctor had such valid ethics with talking down two men with guns and his final speech for how self-defeating Helen A’s absolute happiness would ultimately be. Truly great moments for one of the simplest corners for Doctor Who in the late 80.

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