Origins of “Doctor Who” revealed in new Sydney Newman memoirs

Sydney Newman: The Man Who Thought Outside the Box

Exactly where did the idea of Doctor Who come from and how much of the show was the idea of Canadian film and TV producer Sydney Newman?

That’s just one of the subjects tackled in The Man Who Thought Outside the Box, Sydney Newman’s memoirs, written by Ryan Danes and due to be published to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday, on 22nd April 2017.

In 1952, the new book notes how, for example Billy Budd was a stage play for the newly formed CBLT in Toronto, overseen by Newman. A newly-graduated William Shatner was its star, who went on to train as a classical actor before exploring the universe in the U.S.S. Enterprise in Star Trek.

He was to work with Sydney again, on a show that inspired him to formulate Doctor Who, almost a decade later… but was that show? Exactly where did the idea of “Dr. Who” – as the series was referred to in its early days – come from?

“Sydney Newman was never given an on-screen credit at the end of episodes of Doctor Who acknowledging him as the show’s creator,” notes Ryan, who has researched Newman’s involvement in the show extensively. “He once wrote to the Director-General of the BBC Alastair Milne to ask for one but he was refused.”

It was Newman and television writer and playwright Cecil “Bunny” Webber who first drafted an outline for the show in 1963, but how much of those early ideas came from the veteran producer, Ryan tells us, is revealed “in his own words in the book.

“It’s a must for all Doctor Who fans, and it is an honour that some of the finest people and agencies have given me exclusive access to information about Sydney, so I could produce the book,” says Ryan. “It’s a book that just had to be written!”

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The Man Who Thought Outside the Box is available to order now from

There is also background on the origins of Doctor Who on the BBC web site here

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.

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