Doctor Who – All the Years – 1989

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.


1989 is a notable year in the history of Doctor Who, because, of course, it was the year that new episodes of the original series last aired. And so for most of us at the time, it was effectively the end of the show.

That season came out according to the schedule that had been established in recent years, with fourteen 25 minute episodes coming out in the latter part of the year. Both Sylvester McCoy (the 7th Doctor) and Sophie Aldred (Ace) were back, along with producer John Nathan-Turner and Script Editor Andrew Cartmel.

However, those episodes didn’t kick off until September. The year’s Doctor Who material actually began on January 4th, with the debut of the closing episode of Season Twenty-Five, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy part 4.

Then, as people dug in their heels for the long wait until Season 26, they had to satisfy themselves with ancillary material, such as that year’s crop of Doctor Who novelizations, which for the first time in basically forever did not include a story by Terrance Dicks. They did include Doctor Who – Delta and the Bannerman (by Malcolm Kohll), Doctor Who – The War Machines (by Ian Stuart Black), Doctor Who – Dragonfire (by Ian Briggs), Doctor Who – Attack of the Cybermen (by Eric Saward), Doctor Who – Mindwarp (by Philip Martin, based on episodes 5-8 of Trial of a Time Lord), Doctor Who – The Chase (by John Peel), Doctor Who – The Ultimate Evil (by Wally K. Daly, based on the last two episodes of Trial of a Time Lord), Doctor Who – Silver Nemesis (by Kevin Clarke), and finally Doctor Who – The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (by Stephen Wyatt), which sort of brings the year around full circle.

Also, as part of the novelization range, but done a bit differently were Doctor Who – Mission to the Unknown and Doctor Who – The Mutation of Time, which were both written by John Peel and adapted the First Doctor epic story The Daleks’ Masterplan (as well as its prologue Doctor-less episode, Mission to the Unknown).

The year also saw the publication of Doctor Who – The Nightmare Fair (by former producer Graham Williams), which was actually based on an unproduced script for a story from Season 23, which was scrapped when all the plans for that season were changed due to the show being put on hiatus for 18 months, and the season morphing instead into The Trial of a Time Lord.

As usual, the year also saw the publication of other books, although compared to other years it was not so exciting. Several volumes of Doctor Who: The Scripts were released (The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Daleks), and some of Target’s older novelizations were reprinted in a 2-in-1 format called Doctor Who Classics. Two of Peter Hainings hardcover reference books were released in paperback–The Doctor Who File and Doctor Who – The Time Traveller’s Guide. And Jean-Marc Lofficier’s two volume The Doctor Who Programme Guide was expanded, updated and reissued as a single volume.

Doctor Who Magazine continued its monthly publishing schedule, with #’s 145-156 coming out through the year, plus the Doctor Who Magazine Tenth Anniversary Special.

The magazine continued to feature its classic comics content, which during this year were written by Richard Alan (aka Richard Starkings), John Carnell, Alan Grant, Steve Alan (aka John Tomlinson) and Paul Cornell, with art by Douglas Braithwaite, Dave Elliot, Andy Lanning, John Higgins, Kev Hopgood, Martin Griffiths, Cam Smith, Lee Sullivan, Gerry Dolan and Rex Ward. The stories featured the Seventh Doctor, generally travelling alone, and facing enemies including the Monk, the Daleks. The year also featured appearances by Dalek-hunter Absalom Daak, and also introduced the Sleaze Brothers, who later went on to appear in their own six-issue, non-Doctor Who related series from Epic Comics (an imprint of Marvel).

Issue #151 of Doctor Who Magazine also featured a Seventh Doctor short story by Dan Abnett (with illustrations by Gerry Dolan) called The Infinity Season. The short gag strip Doctor Who? by Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett also continued through the year, with appearances by various Doctors, companions, guest characters and monsters throughout (including, for example, Doctors 1, 2 & 7, the Daleks, the Great Intelligence, the Master, the Cybermen, the Brigadier, the Hand of Fear, Kandyman, Shockeye, Susan, Jamie, the Yeti, and more.

In the world of Doctor Who comics, the year also saw the publication of Doctor Who: Voyager, a graphic novel collection of some Doctor Who Magazine comic stories from the 80s, featuring the Sixth Doctor and Frobisher.

Marvel also published 12 issues of The Incredible Hulk presents which included, amongst other things, original black & white Seventh Doctor comic strips. The Seventh Doctor again traveled in alone in stories by John Freeman, Dan Abnett, John Tomlinson, Simon Furman, Simon Jowett, Mike Collins, and Tim Robins, with art by Geoff Senior, John Ridgeway, Art Wetherell, Dave Harwood, Cam Smith, Andy Wildman, John Marshall, and Stephen Baskerville. There weren’t any companions or recurring enemies in these strips, but there was an appearance by the Foreign Hazard Duty, a sort of futuristic UNIT that had appeared originally in a strip in Doctor Who Magazine that started the previous year.

The 26th season of the show started properly on September 6th, with the first episode of the four-part Battlefield, by Ben Aaronovitch. The story featured a return appearance by Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, returning to the show after making his last guest appearance in 1983.

The Doctor’s roadster Bessie also made a reappearance, as did actress Jean Marsh, who had appeared a couple of times with the First Doctor way back in the 60s, including as debatable companion Sara Kingdom in The Daleks’ Masterplan. UNIT came back as well, with a new commanding officer, Brigadier Winifred Bambera (Angela Bruce) making her debut. Bambera never appeared on TV again but the character has featured a decent amount in spinoff media.

Battlefield introduces the idea that the Doctor will at some point in his life take on the identity of Merlin, at least in a parallel dimension. In numerous ways, the story implies that the Doctor is being influenced and guided by himself from the future, which is certainly a novel idea.

After Battlefield, the show gave us the three-part Ghost Light by Marc Platt. This is a story that involved an alien attempting to catalogue all life on earth, but becoming frustrated because of evolution. It touched on Ace’s past, and generally has a good reputation, though on my single viewing of it I found it confusing and unsatisfying.

Writer Ian Briggs contributed the next story: The Curse of Fenric, which was a four-parter. This tale went even further with developing Ace, forcing her to come to terms with her hatred of her mother and her idolization of the Doctor. The story also served as the conclusion of a story-arc that had been going on since Ace had been introduced in Season Twenty-Four.

Here, we find out that pretty much the entirety of the Seventh Doctor’s incarnation, and especially the events of Dragonfire and Silver Nemesis, have been orchestrated by the ancient evil Fenric, especially including Ace’s presence with the Doctor. It was the first time that Doctor Who had offered this level of inter-connectivity between stories that appeared otherwise to be independent of each other.

The season ended with the three part Survival, a three-part story by Rona Munro. The tale again delved into the background of Ace, making her by far the most developed classic-era companion. It also featured Anthony Ainley as the Master in his last television appearance as the character.

Before this story was completed the word came that Doctor Who was not coming back the following season, and so at the last minute a little speech was written by Andrew Cartmel and recorded as a voice-over by Sylvester McCoy, as a send-off to the series: “There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea’s asleep and the rivers dream, people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea’s getting cold! Come on, Ace — we’ve got work to do!”

And with those words, classic Doctor Who came to an end. The last episode of Survival aired on December 6th, and thus the so-called Wilderness Years began on December 7th.

There were a few other interesting tidbits related to Doctor Who throughout the year. The World of Doctor Who Exhibition closed in London after a bit more than a year open. A company called Silver Fist Productions released a cassette called The Ultimate Interview: Colin Baker talks to David Banks. I don’t know anything about it, but I assume it’s what it says on the tin. Metro Music International also released an EP called Doctor Who – Variations on a Theme, which featured four different versions of the series’ title music.

Three of the themes had been created for conventions over the years, while the other one was original. The themes were by BBC staff composers–Mark Ayers, Keff McCulloch, and Dominic Glynn–who had all done incidental music for the series. (McCulloch and Glynn had also arranged versions of the main theme that had actually been used on the series proper). The album was released in several different formats, including–strangely enough–a square CD (which apparently did not work very well in most machines).

And finally, 1989 saw the passing of Gerald Flood (the voice of Kamelion, and also Prince John) on April 12, when he was nearly 62 years old.

And that closes off our look back at 1989. I’ve been looking forward to getting to this point in our review–to seeing how the franchise developed after the series proper ended. It’ll be interesting to take a look at this as we move on to 1990.


One thought on “Doctor Who – All the Years – 1989

  1. When I finally realized at the time that 1989 would be the last year for the classic Doctor Who, I was quite surprised. I remember the rumors that it might be picked up again a couple years later with a new actor named David Burton. Instead I got to finally see some of the first episodes of the Hartnell era in re-runs, and had then ordered a few of the Wilderness Years videos starting with The Airzone Solution. It was a difficult process getting used to not having new Doctor Who on TV, even though it was an amazing time for new SF shows like the new Star Treks, Red Dwarf, Quantum Leap, Babylon 5 and The X-Files. 1989 would always remind us how any attempt afterwards to revive Doctor Who would be a daunting task. Thank you, Ben, for all your Doctor Who: All The Years articles.

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