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Six Facts for Whovians

There are many “fact posts” about Doctor Who. Most Googled in recent times are The Mirror’s, Inside TV’s, The Telegraph’s and Attendly’s.

They post the usual fare of “We bet you didn’t know these” facts, which usually fall flat on the “didn’t know” front. Tom Baker’s scarf was created too long by accident, Moffat wrote The Curse of Fatal Death, The Beatles featured in The Chase, Torchwood is an anagram of You-Know-What and, of course, the existence of Big Finish. Almost all of these are well known to hardcore fans of the show, who only need to watch several episodes and listen to a few audio commentaries to learn of them.

So here are six facts for Whovians – the ones you may not have known.

1. The Doctor Who theme has lyrics

And they went something like this:

I cross the void beyond the mind
The empty space that circles time.
I see where others stumble blind
To seek a truth they never find.
Eternal wisdom is my guide
I am… the Doctor.

Yes, the Doctor Who theme had lyrics. And what’s more, they were sung by Jon Pertwee. Written by Rupert Hine, the piece was recorded and released in 1972, when Pertwee was still The Doctor – the year of The Sea Devils and The Time Monster. John Levene, who played Benton from 1968, reportedly sung it as a tribute for the late Jon Pertwee once, replacing the words “I am the Doctor” with “I knew the Doctor.” You can hear Pertwee’s original recording below.

2. Doctor Who was never supposed to be science fiction

…apparently. According to some original handwritten notes on Doctor Who by the show’s father Sydney Newman, Doctor Who was never to be stuck to one genre. “The series is neither fantasy nor space travel nor science fiction,” he wrote. “Our central characters … may find themselves on the shores of Britain when Caesar and his legionnaires landed in 44BC, may find themselves in their own school laboratories but reduced to the size of a pinhead, or on mars, or venus, etc.”

And in a way, it was true, at least for the first four years of Doctor Who. After 1967 when The Highlanders aired, it would be another 15 years until a true historical drama with little influence of science fiction elements aired. It was the one-of-a-kind Black Orchid. To this day that was the last historical episode.

The series did contain many science fiction elements, though. For instance, the first space ship other than the TARDIS appeared in 1964’s The Sensorites, and the first flying saucer appeared shortly after in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. But what separated Doctor Who from other science fiction stories was the sheer diversity of setting, which remains unchanged from Newman’s brief after 50 years on screen.

3. Peter Cushing nearly made a 52-part radio series

CUshing

Peter Cushing, who played The Doctor in the feature films Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., was originally planned to star in a series of 52 Doctor Who audio adventures, starting with the pilot episode in 1966, called Journey Into Time. After the unsuccessful pilot, no more episodes were made, and the pilot was junked. The pilot remains lost along with its fellow canon Doctor Who missing stories.

The main setting for the pilot was the American Civil War, and it introduced another character called Mike. Mike was to feature alongside Susan and The Doctor but without anybody else.

It was eventually rejected by Martin Esslin in a letter that read, “As a typical commercial production for unsophisticated listeners in Australia or even some parts of the United States, it stands up quite well. As a piece of science fiction, however, it strikes me as extremely feeble.”

4. An Unearthly Child was to be Planet of the Giants

Series 1 was originally set to begin with what would eventually become the opening serial for Series 2, Planet of the Giants (though it was originally titled “The Giants”). As per Sydney Newman’s original notes on Doctor Who, the crew were to be reduced in size. The story was felt to be a poor introduction for the characters, so it was pushed back a series. Instead, we got the good introduction but lacking story of An Unearthly Child.

5. Doctor Who directors were hardy

For the most part, directors of Doctor Who were a hardy bunch. The first director, Waris Hussein, was fairly new to the job, having only made three television episodes prior. And John Crockett, director of the 1964 serial The Aztecs, didn’t even own a television. He wWarisas once quoted to say, “Wouldn’t have one of those in the house, old boy” to Derek Ware, the fight arranger for the serial. Such pressure on new directors for Doctor Who once reportedly led Henric Hirsch, The Reign of Terror‘s director, to collapse during filming. And that was all in the first two years of the show.

6. Doctor Who was more expensive than you’d think

TARDIS set cost £4000 to make – the equivalent of over US$85,000 today. What’s more, the cost per episode of Doctor Who was £2300, roughly US$56,000. This may seem feeble by today’s standards, but the production values for early Doctor Who were notoriously low.

It was largely because of the technology available in 1963. Due to the cost of using the necessary equipment, for instance, Doctor Who producers were famously only allowed four physical cuts of studio footage per show – the rest had to be shot in sequence.

Watch this space for more upcoming “Facts for Whovians” posts.

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