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Tenure Without Trial

The further unscreened adventures of the sixth Doctor

By Alden Bates and Peter Adamson

The Scottish have a wonderful saying: ‘If is a big book’. An interest in various contingencies and alternatives is not one limited to Who fandom or any sort of fan culture, but manifests itself every day in every aspect of society. In Who fandom however, such pursuits are almost a subculture in themselves; the various Missing and New Adventures of either recent publishing house are testament to the fan-obsession of ‘What If?’; continuing the adventures of all the Doctors (and their companions) beyond their limited televised life-spans. Perhaps now, in the position we face regarding the show's uncertain future, the habit of looking back to the past and creating ‘alternative realities’ for ourselves has never been more popular, though the result may be unrealistic or somewhat bittersweet (as indicated by reader reaction to DWM's ‘If...’ and ‘7 up’ articles of last year). Whatever the case, televised Doctor Who is for the moment in repose, its presence only felt largely through fan generated spin-offs and events. If may be the most powerful word in the universe, but it would hardly be enough to bring a series back, or put to right past upsets. If is a big book.

It is a past upset that has brought about this article. In recent times, with the infamous production hiatus and sacking of actor Colin Baker now over ten years behind us, some voices in fandom have given rise to the belief that had that actor's time on the show not been so rudely brought to a premature end by BBC politics, the sixth Doctor would be remembered as a more rounded, more agreeable, and more worthy incarnation. The actor once boasted shortly after his appointment that he had every intention of surpassing the ‘other‘ Baker in the length of his reign. It may have happened - we can only guess, but what follows is our model of a possible lengthened Colin Baker Era; one not interrupted by a production rest, nor brought back by a confusing and alienating season-length courtroom saga, nor resolved by a less than convincing regeneration by another actor in the Doctor's role. All of the following stories existed in some form, though one was never intended for television, and the existence of another is refuted by its apparent creators. We have attempted to be as true to the original outlines of the stories as possible, with some alteration along the way where we felt necessary, and we confess that some of Season Twenty-Five is complete fabrication - it was that or give up completely, sorry.

Finally, there are no Bidmead stories in this model, there simply being not enough to create a story from. Credit is due to John Binns' highly inventive Matrix article ‘Trial and Error’ (reprinted in Licence Denied) for some of the links in Season Twenty Five, and to James Margatich for being such a patient sounding board.

Season Twenty-Three

During the screening of season 22, rumours had abounded regarding the possible axing of Doctor Who. First and foremost, many BBC programmes were suffering budget cuts or cancellation due to the BBC's move to daytime TV. Additionally, the addition of a new soap opera called Eastenders to the schedules drew resources away from other shows. This meant that Doctor Who's future was far from certain, and John Nathan-Turner took it upon himself to start some of the rumours himself.

However, the then BBC Controller, Michael Grade issued a press statement announcing: “Doctor Who has been a staple ingredient of BBC schedules for twenty two years now, and we definitely do not want it to stop. There are still planets and times which the good Doctor has not visited, and the BBC will not be resting the show while this situation exists. Doctor Who will be back, you can be sure of that, and it will be just as good as ever.” Despite these comments, the season's appeared to reduced...

Eric Saward was retained as script editor for Season Twenty-Three, which was to comprise 11 episodes of 55 minutes in length. He commissioned scripts by a mixture of old hands and newcomers, one of the most talked about in fan circles being the season opener, by one of the show's ex-producers.

The Nightmare Fair (2 parts)
By Graham Williams

[Sixth Doctor and Peri]

The initial recording for this story took place at Blackpool, as the closing lines of Revelation of the Daleks had suggested. This was inexpensive to achieve, requiring Baker, Bryant and a few other actors, plus director Matthew Robinson and a small camera crew. The rest of the story was filmed in studio. Michael Gough, later to feature in the Batman movies, reprised his role as the Celestial Toymaker from the story to which this was a sequel, and although inevitably older, the fans judged his performance as brilliant, lauding the story as an improvement over season 22. Also notable in this story was the return of the sonic screwdriver, previously destroyed in The Visitation. Script writer Graham Williams had written it in, ignorant of its demise, but Nathan-Turner gave the go-ahead for the screwdriver's return as a nostalgia piece, cautioning writers not to overuse it.

The Ultimate Evil (2 parts)
By Wally K. Daly

One of the criticisms levelled at season 22 was the level of violence it contained. The decision to film this story, Nathan-Turner assured the media, was not made lightly. The fact that it featured the Doctor entering a psychopathic rage on more than one occasion and attempting to kill people, must have raised some doubt in the minds of the fans that Nathan-Turner was leading the program in the right direction. The story itself was seen as mediocre, with Mordant (played by Deep Roy, who had formerly played Mr Sin in The Talons of Weng Chiang) a carbon copy of one of the villains from the previous season. Noted actress Jean Anderson, who had worked on the series The Brothers with Colin Baker, played the scientist Kareelya, and was well received. There were minimal special effects with models being used to achieve the exterior shots of Mordant's base.

Mission to Magnus (2 parts)
By Philip Martin

Given the similarity of the character of Mordant in the previous story to the established returning character, Sil, in this one, it is surprising that the stories were placed back to back in their screening order. This aspect of the production pales when compared to the criticisms levels at its shoddy production. One of the few good points of the story was David Troughton (Patrick's son, who had also previously appeared in The Curse of Peladon) as Anzor, the Doctor's school bully, who it was felt was written out of the story prematurely. Nabil Shaban reprised his role as Sil from author Martin's story in the previous season, and Alan Bennion, who played Ice Lords in the two Peladon stories, appeared as Vedikael. Glynis Barber, an actress who'd previously appeared in Blake's 7, worked well in the role of Rana Zandusia, but ultimately the story was seen as sexist, tired and clichéd. Cheap, corridor-bound and low on special effects, this story rated bottom of DWM polls for the season.

Return of the Autons (3 parts)
By Robert Holmes


This three parter was eagerly awaited in that it was not only written by a well-liked author, but featured the return of some old enemies of his creation, the Autons along with their masters, the Nestene. The story concerned an invasion assisted by the Rani (reprised by Kate O'Mara) who, in true Pip and Jane form, was merely interested in creating and experimenting with new types of plastic for the Nestene intelligence to use. Since location work in Singapore would have been too expensive, production was moved to London's China Town, with strategically placed washing masking any of the more familiar everyday objects. This story was the most well received of the season, though some people were quick to point out the moments where the washing failed to conceal an inaccurate lamppost or two.

Slipback (2 parts)
By Eric Saward

The second to last story of the season was originally to have been The Children of January, by Michael Feeny Callan. This script was discarded as too expensive under the current budget, and was substituted for a script by Eric Saward, a two parter called Slipback. Done extremely cheaply, using barely disguised sets from previous stories and a reused monster costume painted green, this story was referred to as the Timelash of season 23, only just losing out to Mission to Magnus as worst of season.

Controversial were the opening scenes where the Doctor got drunk on screen, humorously attempting to sing ‘On With The Motley’ and then attempting to strangle Peri again. As The Sun said in its banner headline: “Now it's DOCTOR BOOZE! Dotty Doc to get plastered with space drunks” One of the major flaws fans picked on was that it contradicted Terminus, a story which Saward had script edited.

Season Twenty-Four

With its most trying year behind it and its survival guaranteed for the foreseeable future, Doctor Who returned for its Twenty-Fourth season with a return to form, but not at great cost. John Nathan-Turner was successful in ensuring the show's return to its earlier 22 minute, fourteen episode format. With this, the Producer was also eager to improve the look of the programme, and boosted its budget significantly by foregoing the commissioning of new scripts, opting to reuse previous unsuccessful stories which had already been paid for in part. This was much to the chagrin of Script Editor Eric Saward, who took Nathan-Turner's actions as a deep personal insult. Under great protest he began work with some of the recommissioned work aided by Robert Holmes, but after two weeks voiced his intention to leave the programme, citing his reasons as personal integrity and his perceived difficulty working with scripts he himself had already passed over. Holmes encouraged him to back down from confrontation, but ultimately the damage had been done in terms of Saward and Nathan-Turner's working relationship. Fortunately this was not indicated largely in the finished product, which if anything showed the programme to be entering a new stride. It seemed as though the Producer's gamble had paid off.

The Guardians of Prophecy (2 parts)
By Johnny Byrne


Shot both in studio and on location at Wookey Hole, Sussex, Guardians was a sequel to Season Eighteen's The Keeper of Traken, and indeed featured many design elements from the previous story as obvious ‘echoes’. In particular the Art Nouveau trappings, which fitted in with the otherwise medieval look to the story, and the former story's Melkur costume was brought out of storage, with a further two made in a lighter green shade as 'living' forms of the monsters. Fans were treated with further echoes of the fourth Doctor tale with Denis Carey playing the villainous necromancer Malador (his second appearance in the Colin Baker Era), and, at the Producer's whim a certain ‘Susan Troath’ supplied the voice of the ethereal Prophecy. A simple tale seizing on the contemporary popularity of ‘sword and sorcery’ games, Guardians was regarded a promising though modest start to the sixth Doctor's new season.

Strange Matter (3 parts)
by Pip & Jane Baker

Utilising some exterior footage from the location work during Guardians, Strange Matter benefited as a cost-saving exercise by being an in-studio production thereafter. Kate O'Mara returned for the second time as the Rani in a story for which at last she was the lone villain, and the general feeling among the series regulars was of an enjoyable episode to make, with received highlights being Colin Baker's wicked mimicking of his predecessors (following an attack on the TARDIS by the Rani which gives the Doctor temporary amnesia), and O'Mara's own brilliant performance whilst masquerading as Peri. Despite some production hiccups (the monstrous Tetraps were played by dancers in half masks) and a slight story, fans received Strange Matter largely in the spirit in which it was intended, and quickly forgave its ‘OTT’ style as a refreshing break before the season's more heavyweight dramas.

Cat's Cradle (3 parts)
by Marc Platt

Dubbed 'Logopolis meets Warrior's Gate' by some, Cat's Cradle was the ‘wild card’ of Season Twenty-Four, being a story much like 1967's The Mind Robber (the TARDIS is taken apart, with the Doctor and his companion left wandering a strange white wilderness). In fact so many comparisons were made with the previous stories (and Frontios) that aside from those who knew better, popular fan conjecture was that ‘Marc Platt’ was a pseudonym for Christopher H Bidmead. The story was extensively reworked at Nathan-Turner's request, omitting some of the more outlandish aspects of Platt's original script. Fan rumour (based on the original) had it that this story would reveal some new aspect of the Doctor's identity. Who would have though that the result would merely be an explanation of his cat badges (a symbol of his family on Gallifrey), and a talent for communicating with animals, in this case the eponymous grey cat of the title?

The Macros (2 parts)
by Ingrid Pitt & Tony Rudlin

[Sixth Doctor and Peri]

A story not fondly remembered by fans. The Macros attempted, against significant budget cuts, to provide a contemporary version of the then popular ‘Philadelphia Experiment’ modern myth, with the action naturally transferred to England. As in the Jon Pertwee adventure The Sea Devils, the Royal Navy hosted the cast and provided some of the vital battleship footage for the story's location as a sort of promotion exercise. Comic Strip comedian Keith Allen guest starred as the leader of the leather-clad Macromen, invaders from the ‘larger’ dimensions. Unfortunately, the finished result betrayed the underlying feeling that The Macros was really written for another era (specifically that of the third Doctor and UNIT), and the story itself was left wanting. With money having been held back for the season finale, and an overly ambitious script to begin with, The Macros was without a doubt the season's casualty.

Song of the Space Whale (4 parts)
by Pat Mills & John Wagner

For season finale the choice of Song of the Space Whale was an unusual one, given the number of times it had apparently been scheduled for earlier seasons, only to be put aside again quietly. Indeed, Pat Mills was ready to pull his script entirely if it were not for the enthusiasm of Robert Holmes, who chanced to see a working draft in the Doctor Who office whilst visiting John Nathan-Turner. Upon Holmes' insistence, Space Whale was recommissioned, with its original assigned director Ron Jones at the helm, and many of its first comedic aspects retained. This is not to say that Space Whale was a comedy - in fact the story received a strong positive response from many viewers praising its ecological message (at the time the environmental group Greenpeace was in the media following the 'Rainbow Warrior's sabotage by French agents in New Zealand). Praise was also due to Colin Baker's role in the story - unique in that season for being almost entirely ‘action’ based (perhaps reflecting the comic strip background of the writers). Benefiting from a larger budget, the story featured some impressive effects, notably the scenes of the Whales themselves. Nathan Turner was surprised and delighted to see the viewing figures climb during the story, and in fact Space Whale topped the DWAS polls that year, regarded by many as the finest story of the Colin Baker era.

Season Twenty-Five

After the success of Season Twenty-Four, Baker felt he had finally won audience acceptance as the Doctor, but nevertheless felt he would like to leave the series on a high note. In response, Nathan-Turner was able to persuade him to stay for one more season, to which the star acquiesced. Also considering moving on was Nicola Bryant, who was also persuaded to stay for some of the next season, the Producer readily acknowledging her popularity with male fans.

The next year's work was planned some way in advance; this would prove fortuitous, given Robert Holmes' death and Saward's subsequent resignation, which was granted graciously by his superiors. Despite this, both men would make their mark on the anniversary season, which Nathan-Turner was preparing alongside writers Philip Martin and Pip and Jane Baker, the latter of whom he attempted to sign on as replacement Script Editors.

Contrary to fan rumour, Season Twenty-Five would not feature the now traditional reunion story, though it appeared the Daleks would feature, in a story Nathan-Turner was most eager to be kept secret. Nevertheless, a leak from the production office led to some fanzines speculating that the season would open with the Earth's destruction by the Daleks. At this suggestion the Producer maintained a bemused silence, only claiming that shocks were indeed in store for the Doctor and his viewers. With Baker's announcement apparently confirming this and due to be made public, anticipation of the series was at an all-time high.

Wasteland (3 parts)
by Robert Holmes

Holmes' last work came almost as a self-fulfilling prophecy of fan rumour. The Doctor and Peri arrive on a barren, scorched planet far in the future, only to find that it is Earth, and that they are not alone in their discovery. Fans were disappointed then to not see a single Dalek in the story, but were mystified rather by the introduction of several stray elements - namely the characters of Glitz and Dibber, and a subplot involving Andromedan secrets hidden somewhere on the now technologically backward world. In all, Wasteland provided a low-key entry for the new season, bringing up more questions than providing answers, and the genuine surprise that at the end the mystery of Earth's destruction was not resolved was reflected in audience levels. Nevertheless, the story segued strongly into the next episode with the Doctor and Peri tracing the origins of Glitz's weapon to Thoros Beta, only to find a nastier surprise waiting for both of them...

Mindwarp (2 parts)
by Philip Martin

On Thoros Beta, Doctor and Peri are diverted by the sinister experiments of Crozier and the Mentor Lord Kiv, as well as the involvement of their old enemy Sil. After a year's absence of the sinister slug, Philip Martin was invited to write a new story for Sil, bringing in more elements of his own world. This Martin was happy to provide, and the result, Mindwarp, at least succeeded in doing this, with enjoyable performances by both Nabil Shaban and Christopher Ryan. However, rather like Kiv's new body, Mindwarp had a sting in its tail, comprising not only of Peri's disappearance at the hands of Crozier, but the apparently ‘freak time storm’ which stranded the Doctor in his own future, TARDIS-less, and with an unfamiliar new companion who claimed to know him well. Season Twenty-Five was finally living up to its promise of shocks...

Attack from the Mind (2 parts)
by David Halliwell


With no memory of the events leading up to his current situation, the Doctor has to rely on his new companion, Mel, to fill in the gaps - a task not aided by the two opposed races of the planet on which they find themselves. Caught up in the ongoing conflict with the Freds and Penelopeans, the pair find themselves fighting for their lives. This story was rewritten extensively by Eric Saward to focus more on the Doctor relearning his past and, ironically considering Saward's previous scripts, to remove some of the more violent passages. Mel, portrayed by song and dance star Bonnie Langford, was almost an experiment - not only the first companion without an introductory story, but the first to be played by an actress who'd already made a name for herself. At the end of the story, the Doctor echoes the voices of the fans, when he boards the Hyperion III with his new companion: "Normally I would not be quite so alarmed, Mel, but I have no idea where we're going."

Terror of the Vervoids (3 parts)
by Pip and Jane Baker

During the voyage of the Hyperion III, plant-based genetically-engineered creatures hatch from pods and begin killing people. The Doctor and Mel are enlisted to stop them, but there's more going on behind the scenes than was anticipated. Pip and Jane delivered this story well before the deadline, allowing Saward to add a number of changes, including having Mel hack into the Hyperion's computer system, and the additional dialogue linking the story into the season. The appearance of Honor Blackman as Professor Laskey, creator of the Vervoids, continued the season's guest star policy. After the Hyperion's arrival on Paradise Five, the Doctor and Mel slip out unnoticed and assume the disguises of an Earth businessman and hostess.

Paradise Five (2 parts)
by P J Hammond

[Sixth Doctor and Mel]

The desolate world of Paradise and its moons have been transformed into a vast leisure complex for the wealthy, but, as usual, there are dark secrets lurking behind the facade. The writer's background was undoubtedly what inspired the casting of David McCallum and Joanna Lumley as the administrators Gabrial and Lorelei - both were the stars of Hammond's Sapphire and Steel series. The story also included an aerobics scene lead by Mel, which many fans saw as silly, but otherwise the story was well received. The resolution of the story saw Lorelei unmasked as none other than... the Rani.

Gallifrey (4 parts)
by Pip and Jane Baker

Pursuing in a makeshift TARDIS , the Doctor arrives on Gallifrey to assume his rightful title as President Elect. Having done so, he uncovers the plot by the High Council to use Earth to buy themselves time from their real threat - the destroyers of Earth and allies in the Rani's return from exile, the Daleks!

Pip and Jane Baker's Gallifrey provided the real eye opener of the season, making up for viewer disappointment in its first three stories. For fans, there was not only an impressive motion-controlled model sequence showing the TARDIS' arrival on Gallifrey, but later, equally impressive model footage of the Dalek saucer's arrival provided a spectacular climax to episode two. Story-wise, the parallels to The Invasion of Time were obvious (though justified, claimed the Producer), and surprisingly under the Bakers' dialogue and Chris Clough's direction, the whole of Gallifrey was given a new make-over and a bizarrely dynamic and eccentric mood (fan Jeremy Bentham offered continuity details in production). The story was to prove controversial once more with its graphic scenes of extermination and certain manner in which the Doctor's ties with his home were finally broken by the Time Lords' betrayal.

The last scenes of the season were as originally envisaged by Eric Saward, with Mel and a mortally wounded Doctor drifting powerless in space, their reclaimed TARDIS' link now finally severed with the destroyed Eye of Harmony. It was an eleventh hour decision on the part of John Nathan-Turner that 'everything be put to rights', and the series be allowed to survive another regeneration, just like the Doctor. Cleverly re-edited and treated in post-production, the Doctor regenerated once more, unseen for the first time by his audience, with only a surprised smile from Mel to offer any hint of what was to come.

This item appeared in TSV 55 (October 1998).