Doctor Who: The Series You’ll Never See

Doctor Who: A Draconian

Image © BBC

Would you like to start your weekend by reading an utterly insane and ridiculously expensive proposal I came up with to revamp Doctor Who, that I actually had the temerity to send to the BBC in 1993 – which included elements of Marvel UK Who comic strip continuity and a healthy slice of some of TV Doctor Who‘s greatest storylines? No? Well hard luck, because I’m going to post them anyway. And the BBC’s reply.

Back in 1993, after I’d left Marvel UK, my time as a would-be freelance writer was often one of frenetic pitching and idea mashing. I came up with several Doctor Who ideas – hardly a surprise, given my time as editor of Doctor Who Magazine – but for some reason just couldn’t dig up the courage to actually send any of my ideas to Gary Russell and company, who back then were working on some Doctor Who audio adventures. (Whatever happened to that idea?).

But for some strange and utterly bizarre reason, I did think that without any experience of working in TV whatsoever, with no track record of script writing, let alone producing, there was nothing wrong with pitching an idea for a revamp of Doctor Who to the Controller of BBC, Alan Yentob.

At the time, perhaps I was buoyed up in interest in my writing abilities from other television types. During my time as editor of DWM, Keith Barnfather of Reeltime Pictures (now Time Travel TV​), and Kevin Jon Davies and I had worked up what we thought was a decent proposal for an animated Dalek series. Nicholas Briggs was even at the one an only development meeting, although I’m not sure he really knew what we were cooking up between us. (I’ve got a photo of him at it, somewhere).

Taking advantage of a trip to a Chicago for Visions 90, I pitched the idea direct to Terry Nation – but as I recall, although he was enthusiastic (after all, he’d tried to do the same thing himself, albeit as a live action show), it was scuppered by his agent who took umbrage at us talking to the Daleks creator direct. (I’ve still got the outline and Terry’s notes, although not in his hand).

Having also offered story notes on BBC Enterprises’ Dark Dimensions project – a never made Doctor Who anniversary show co-written by Adrian Rigelsford, and writing a number of other TV pitches, including ideas for a never-produced psychic teenager show called Mentors, perhaps I simply got ideas above my station and decided to pitch a new Doctor Who show to the BBC.

After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained, hmm?

So here, for your weekend enjoyment, is my pitch to the BBC which I post here without comment, other than to be amazed at my belief that the corporation would even consider commissioning such an expensive concept. The aspiration of youth!

Draconians from “Doctor Who: Frontier in Space”. Image: BBC

Draconians from “Doctor Who: Frontier in Space”. Image: BBC

As I mentioned above, Doctor Who comic fans may recognise some elements of the pitch from Marvel’s strips, such as the inclusion of the Foreign Hazard Duty, a “future UNIT” conceived by Dan Abnett. Since the BBC owned Doctor Who, I saw no issue with using them.

Some Doctor Who fans may also be interested in the BBC’s response, which sheds, apparently, some new comment on the reason Dark Dimension did not get made. I hope it’s of interest. Roll on the fan art!

Doctor Who 1993 Series Pitch by John Freeman Doctor Who 1993 Series Pitch by John Freeman Doctor Who 1993 Series Pitch by John Freeman Doctor Who 1993 Series Pitch by John Freeman Doctor Who 1993 Series Pitch by John Freeman: BBC Reply 1 Doctor Who 1993 Series Pitch by John Freeman: BBC Reply 2

UPDATE, 1st May 2019: Renewed discussion of this outline on Twitter prompted Andrew Sewell of B7 Media (Dan Dare Audio Adventures, Dilation) to tease fans with a mention of a Who pitch he put together back in 1990, with All American Television; while Big Finish producer and Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs, commenting on the reply to the pitch from the BBC, notes “the most hilarious thing is that they state all the former cast members ‘have expressed their support’ for the proposed special… when they had actually refused to do it!”

Weetabix Draconian Figure

Weetabix Draconian Figure

My thanks to artist Jon Edwards, who commented “Obviously the last surviving timelord idea has now been used, but that’s an exciting outline… I really like the concept – the idea of The Doctor on the run from an enemy so formidable is very intriguing. The low-key brush-off from BBC was mildly amusing, but such a shame… could you not adapt the idea for a Dr Who comic?”

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2 replies

  1. It’s quite interesting that some commentators on this post have compared this outline to the planned The Last of the Time Lord movie, which was in production between 1987 and 1994 (More info here on on TVNZ and here on Warped Factor). I’d like to point out that back in 1993, there was absolutely no information on that film’s plot in circulation and what is known of Keeper of Traken script writer Johnny Byrne’s script and the script by Denny Martin Flinn, the script co-writer of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country makes it clear neither treatment features any of the elements of my pitch to the BBC. However, stripping down and revising Time Lord history isn’t a new idea – Robert Holmes did it first in The Deadly Assassin, making the race much more fallible than they appeared in The Three Doctors. I’m looking forward to seeing the fan art Niki from Big Finish Sketches is hoping for!


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