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Return to the lost season of Doctor Who

June 28, 2015

bakerI recently received a comment on my two year old article of what the 23rd season of Doctor Who would have looked like had the series not been put on hiatus by the BBC. The comment, which appears at the end of the article provides a link which takes you to a Digital Spy post by Ian Levine. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Levine he is a British DJ and huge Doctor Who fan and was a bit of a consultant to the series around the time that it was put on hiatus back in 1985. The person who posted the comment prefaced it by saying that my original article had been debunked which I feel is quite the overstatement as much of what I posted was surprisingly accurate according to Mr. Levine’s statement. I use the word surprisingly here because, as Ian says in his article, there was and has been a huge amount of misinformation surrounding this lost season. My original article was the result of years of research on the season. Let me explain what I mean by years of research here. I started actively following Doctor Who, like most people my age, in the middle of Tom Baker’s run as the Doctor. As a result, I got the “privelege” of experiencing the events surrounding the 23rd season fiasco in real time. My “years of research” involves pretty much reading every article on the hiatus as they have appeared over the years. While this doesn’t sound like much there was, as Mr. Levine states, a lot of contradictory information which I ultimately had to sift through to write my article and while I did get most of it right, according to him, there are a few points that I didn’t that I wanted to follow-up with here. These have to do with the two stories Yellow Fever and How to Cure it/The Singapore Incident and Gallifrey, the latter of which was replaced on my list by The Children of January for reasons I will go into below.

The easy one is Yellow Fever (and How to Cure it). I totally believe Mr. Levine that the extended name was a joke on the part of script write Robert Holmes. At this point I can not honestly remember where I picked up the alternate title The Singapore Incident from but, like I write in the original article, given the chaos surrounding television production either title could have ended up being the broadcast title. I also buy into Mr. Levine’s statement about the Rani not being in the script. I had always been a little skeptical about the number of villains in this story because, at the time, you generally didn’t have that amount of villain loading in a Doctor Who story arc. I kind of went along with it because the Master had previously appeared with the Rani (Mark of the Rani) and the Autons (Terror of the Autons) but, those were two stories seperated by a lot of time and Doctors. I guess there was also some wishful thinking on my part and the perspective that both being renegade Timelords sort of had it make sense and, of course, just about every article I read at the time and since had pretty much said this was the case. Even with all of this the more rational part of my mind ultimately finds Mr. Levine’s Rani-less version far more believable.

Gallifrey gets a lot more complex. The reason I dropped it from my list in lieu of The Children of January is that I had long ago decided it was probably never close to happening given the shear volume of contradictory information surrounding the story. For example, I had read somewhere that the story was originally outlined by Robert Holmes but was being finished by Eric Saward due to health issues on the part of Mr. Holmes which now seems unlikely given that Mr. Holmes did ultimately write the final two episodes of The Trial of a Timelord one year later. From what Mr. Levine said, it is obvious to me now that the bad blood invoked by the disagreement over the story between Mr. Saward and John Nathan Turner probably contributed to a lack of real information getting out and, additionally, any that did being extremely colored by emotion. I had heard the bit about the story outline being given to Pip and Jane Baker to complete so at least that much seems to be true. In any case, given Mr. Levine’s credentials combined with the fact he pretty much confirmed everything else in my initial article, I’m more than willing to accept his perspective on the events regarding this story arc. Of course, my desire for Gallifrey to have been an actual script based upon my meager understanding of the story line might be affecting my judgement as well. The end result is that I am now replacing The Children of January on my original list with Gallifrey.

Now I want to get to what, to me, is the single most important part of Ian Levine’s article. He mentions in his post that he has full on reconstructions of all of the lost stories for season 23. Given that we only have access to four of the stories at the moment (The Nightmare Fair, The Ultimate Evil, and Mission to Magnus as novels and The Hollows of Time as an audio play) it would be wonderful if Mr. Levine’s reconstructions were to somehow be made available to Doctor Who fandom. This could take the form of the reconstructions being given to authors to produce novelizations for the three stories not previously published as such. Of course, it would be nice if the three previous novelizations where reprinted as well. Mr. Levine’s comment that The Hollows of Time is also noticably different from the Big Finish audio drama version would make me very interested in seeing his version which would further justify a novelization of that story. However, the one I would be especially interested in seeing/reading is Gallifrey for which precious little story data is publicly available and, what little I have seen implies some major changes to the direction of the series. Again, this is all a lot of wishful thinking on my part but, maybe some day.

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