Features Doctor Who

Published on December 29th, 2013 | by Alex Skerratt

The 50th Anniversary – in a Parallel Universe!

It’s a dystopian parallel world in which no time traveller ever wants to find themselves – Celebrity Wrestling is ITV’s flagship show, every piece of 1960s television is no longer missing but destroyed, the end, and Doctor Who never returned in 2005. Yes, the 50th anniversary celebrations have been starved of Eccleston’s northern soul, Tennant’s sand shoes, Matt Smith’s bow tie and John Hurt’s gravelly tones. The Ood are still languishing in the back of Russell T’s brain, and the Moff is having to content himself with the comedic briefness of The Curse of Fatal Death.

It’s hard to imagine what the 50th anniversary would have looked like had the series not returned in 2005, although I think the 40th anniversary ‘shindig’ gave us a chilling glimpse into this hellish alternate reality (The Dark Dimension, if you will…).

For a start, there would have been no ‘new Who‘ to speak of. Not in any acceptable sense. If , in 2013, Aunty Beeb were still refusing to commit to a brand new series of adventures, then I really think it would be goodnight, Vienetta. There’s no way they’d have funded a special 50th anniversary episode, unless the Dimensions in Time team were gagging for another slice of the action. My best guess is that Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy would have been wheeled out on The One Show to perform a specially-written skit by Paul Cornell, with the Plasmatons and a rather wobbly-looking Dalek invading the BBC parking lot. And we fans, like gluttons for punishment, would have swarmed the Twittersphere to debate its canonicity, before speculating whether this was an indication of a new series from the BBC.

The main television presence would have been in the form of piecemeal shows such as Doctor Who Mastermind and Strictly Come Doctor Who Dancing featuring Nicholas Briggs and Ian Levine, with Bonnie Langford presenting. There would have been a few Dalek-shaped idents on BBC Three, just so the BBC could show that it ‘cared’ about its cultural heritage, although, in reality, we fans would have been weeping into our Loose Cannon DVDs.

Doctor Who: The Web of Fear

And despite the fact that every black and white episode is missing in this terrifying alternate reality I’ve created, I still think Philip Morris would have achieved the impossible by recovering The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear. Although there would have been no press conferences, no global conspiracies – just a small exclusive in the Christmas edition of the Radio Times, with a couple of grainy clips on the official Doctor Who website.

On the plus side, I think Big Finish would have been really flying the flag for the show, and we starved Whovians would have been able to enjoy their 50th anniversary audios such as The Light at the End whilst gradually coming to the realisation that this is the only form of ‘new Who‘ we were ever likely to get. And given the increasing popularity of YouTube, fans would have created special cartoon versions of these episodes using the Big Finish soundtracks, with animation that would make Scream of the Shalka look like James Cameron’s Avatar.

So thank goodness Doctor Who returned in 2005! We’re incredibly lucky. I know it’s frustrating with the curtailed episode counts and split seasons and missing episode politics but, really, we’ve never had it so good. The alternative is so much worse, and doesn’t bear thinking about – a universe where the laws of physics have been devised by the mind of a mad man! No thank you.

Let’s raise a glass to the BBC and the good Doctor, and be ever-thankful that Peter Capaldi is on his way, and that Gallifrey Falls No More.

To be continued…

…in November 2063!

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About the Author

likes William Hartnell, whisky, being creative, debating canonicity, The Gunfighters, The Keys of Marinus and City of Death. He has a strong dislike of cold quiche, corporate PowerPoint presentations and lanyards, but loves terrible puns. He's currently employed by a mute teddy bear with black ears.




18 Responses to The 50th Anniversary – in a Parallel Universe!

  1. Solonor says:

    Russell T. Davies is the greatest man in the history of Earth.


    • As wonderful a writer as he is (especially in the creation of archetypes through minimal dialogue), I think this is perhaps overstating things just a *tiny* bit…

      • francis cave says:

        He certainly knows how to play at the heart strings!

        I even found myself getting a bit teary eyed at the end of the Christmas Episode of Old Jack’s Boat.

        I still think an episode co written between RTD and the Moff would be something wonderous. One plays with the heart, the other with the mind.


        • Old Jack’s Boat is grand, isn’t it?

          • francis cave says:

            Yes and ironically I enjoy watching it more than my daughter!

            God bless Bernard Cribbins and may he live to 150!

          • Geoff says:

            I watched The End of Time last week with my son who then told my wife very seriously that the cool Doctor Who with spikey hair had to change because he had to rescue Ol Jack from being poisoned by “the red”. We’ve got Daleks! 2150AD recorded too…not sure what he’ll make of Young Jack…

      • Mark Lenton says:

        Nah he’s absolutely Right. Goo ol’ Russell The Davies :-)

  2. Tony Sobol says:

    To be honest, I think even Alex’s ‘nightmare scenario’ is wildly optimistic! if there’d been no televisual DW in 17 years, the BBC just wouldn’t have done much at all. Maybe a half hour “talking heads” clipshow on Watch, and that would be it.

    • Simon Magellan says:

      One of the reasons the BBC marked the 40th, even in the limited way they did, was because there was a new series in the offing. If there hadn’t been, I doubt they’d even have bothered then.

  3. Christine says:

    We would perhaps have more fanfic and fanproductions…but the fandom, obsessive and loyal as it is, would hardly get any new input from young people. A recipe for eventually dying out I suppose. While we get a rather big influx today. Not maybe all as diehard as part of the classic fans can be, but with a lot of potential. Thank you RTD for making it happen and PM for continuing!

    • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

      Patrick Moore? Peter Mandelson? Paul Merton? The Prime Minister? Sorry, you’ve lost me with the PM reference. But a big thank you to Steven Moffat too ;)

  4. Gillian Who says:

    seems more real than what actually happened…. maybe im just cynical

  5. Geoff says:

    I can imagine that scenario easily because like many of us I’m from that generation where Doctor Who began as unfashionable, then descended into a subject of ridicule and finally didn’t even exist anymore. I still find myself amazed that this programme I have always loved is now one of the jewels in the crown of tv entertainment. There’s so many people to thank for this not least Chris Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith but I think the main credit has to go to the two men who have formed the creative vision and actually cast those great actors: Mr Davies and Mr Moffat.

    • Simon Magellan says:

      Indeed. Very well said.

  6. John says:

    And coming from an new fan from America, I thank god it came back , because if it hadn’t I would have missed out on one hell of a show!!

  7. John Miller says:

    Er, there WAS a new Doctor…Richard E. Grant. Scream of the Shalka was the official continuation of the show. The Ninth Doctor would continue his adventures in webcasts, novels, comics and short stories. By 2013, there may have been a canon Tenth Doctor.

    The 50th anniversary would never have had the hysteria of this year, but there would have remained a loyal, devoted fanbase, Maybe rather than Smith, Tennant and Hurt, it would have been Grant, Mcgann and whoever the Tenth Doctor would be. And stories like Love and Monsters, Fear Her and Cyberwoman would never have existed.

  8. rickjlundeen says:

    Yeah, one cannot forget Scream of the Shalka because that DID represent the visual end of the Doctor who world at that point. AND since he would just be doing voice-overs, I can easily see them doing at least 10 years of short, animated seasons with Grant staying on as the 9th Doctor. No typecasting worries there. I think the 50th anniversary would have looked a bit like this:

    Big Finish and the animation team from Shalka would probably have united to produce “The Nine Doctors” for the big event and feature the voices of all the surviving Doctors as they did with “The Light at the End..”. The difference being that it might have been a longer and animated. Also, I’m guessing we’d still get the Gatiss docudrama as well, “An Adventure in Time and Space” and finally, we would get the big press conference and celebrate the return of the missing Troughton Episodes as well.

    • John Miller says:

      I doubt REG would have done a full decade as The Doctor, but a few years at least. Then there would be a Tenth Doctor, maybe an Eleventh by the 50th anniversary.

      What I intensely dislike is the idea that Doctor Who didn’t exist before March 2005. There was a large and loyal fanbase, as well as numerous new adventures in webcasts, audios, novels, novellas, short stories, comics. Doctor Who didn’t have the same level of fandom as it does today, but it was certainly there, and some of the very best Doctor Who stories were told at that time. Had there never been a “Rose”, Doctor Who would still have existed today, only it would look different.

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