The BBC destroyed or wiped many episodes of Doctor Who in the 1960s and 70s for various reasons including saving space, leaving a huge gap in the series’ archives. In an attempt to recover the missing episodes, which mostly consist of First Doctor and Second Doctor appearances, the BBC and fans of the series continue requesting copies to be returned.
When the first series of Doctor Who was being filmed, BBC execs were apparently so concerned about piracy that they code-named the tapes ‘Torchwood’ to protect them from being stolen in transit. The name was then an obvious choice for the later spin-off series.
5. Bill Nighy and Benedict Cumberbatch both turned down the role of The Doctor
Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock Holmes in the series Sherlock co-created by Doctor Who head writer Steven Moffat, was offered the role of The Doctor following David Tennant’s tenure. He turned it down due to the high-profile that comes with being part of such an enormous franchise, saying, “I didn’t really like the whole package – being on school lunch boxes.”
7. The creator of Doctor Who wanted a female Doctor
When the original series was struggling with ratings in the 1980s, the show’s creator, Sydney Newman, wrote a letter to BBC One Controller Michael Grade, admonishing the state of the show. He called for a temporary return of Patrick Troughton, who played the Second Doctor, before metamorphosing The Doctor into a female incarnation – a Time Lady.
After sending the script for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy pilot radio programme to the Doctor Who producers, Douglas Adams was hired to write the episode “The Pirate Planet.” He went on to become script editor and write two more episodes, “City of Death” and “Shada”.
Unfortunately, “Shada” was being filmed when the BBC production team went on strike, ultimately leaving it unfinished and unusable. Earlier this year, a novelized version of the script was published by author Gareth Roberts. Parts of the episode have also been used in the 20th anniversary episode of the series, “The Five Doctors” and Adams’ own novel, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
9. The Daleks were inspired by the Nazis
After growing up during WWII, the Daleks’ creator, Terry Nation, originally based the aliens on the Nazis, citing them as “the unhearing, unthinking, blanked-out face of authority that will destroy you because it wants to destroy you.” In fact, they were so similar that Donald Wilson, Head of BBC Serial Dramas, said the first Dalek-based script was “absolutely terrible”.
The episodes written by Nation carry more salient Nazi undertones, most notably in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” and “Genesis of the Daleks,” which include allusions to the Nazis in the straight-armed, heel-clicking salute of the Daleks, mentions of taking over the world and destruction of the human race as ‘the Final Solution,’ the explanation that the Daleks were bred for racial purity, and the clear Nazi references in the uniforms worn by the Daleks’ ancestors, the Kaleds.
10. The Whomobile was added at the request of the Third Doctor
Jon Pertwee, the actor who played the Third Doctor, privately commissioned the futuristic vehicle that later came to be known as the Whomobile. When Pertwee convinced Doctor Who‘s producers to include the vehicle in the show, it was hastily added into the episode “Invasion of the Dinosaurs,” with a motor-boat windscreen added to make it roadworthy, since it was not fully completed at the time of filming.
In Pertwee’s last episode as the Third Doctor, “Planet of the Spiders,” the car was used once again, this time in its complete form. Pertwee retained ownership of the vehicle after he left the series, naming it the Whomobile during press interviews (without the consent of the show’s producers, who apparently had a rule about not making plays on the show’s name).
Although he later ridiculed the ‘wonderful cunning of Catholicism,’ Tom Baker, who played the Fourth Doctor, was ‘intensely Catholic’ but said he joined a monastery when he was 15 as a way of getting out of Liverpool. Although he says it was ‘annihilatingly boring,’ Baker stuck it out in the monastery for five years before moving on to the Royal Army Medical Corps, where he became interested in acting.
12. The Fourth Doctor’s iconic scarf was created by accident
When costume designer James Acheson provided more than enough wool for the bohemian-style scarf required for Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, the knitter, Begonia Pope, misunderstood his instructions and knitted all the wool she was given. Baker liked the overly-long scarf, and went on to wear it for the show anyway.
According to The Economist, the idea of hiding behind the sofa while watching Doctor Who is as British as Bovril and tea-time. The phrase apparently originated from the number of scared children hiding behind furniture during the most frightening scenes of the show, as they were unwilling to miss the programme altogether. The Telegraph later labelled the phrase as a common cliche, thanks to the series.
14. Deep Roy is the only Doctor Who actor to also appear in both Star Trek and Star Wars
17. The Doctor’s regeneration was introduced to overcome the First Doctor’s ailing health
William Hartnell played the First Doctor until 1966 when Patrick Troughton took over. When it became apparent that Hartnell’s health was failing, story editor Gerry Davis and producer Innes Lloyd came up with the idea of regeneration to enable them to replace Hartnell with a new actor and continue the series.
According to internal memos published by the BBC, the process of regeneration was modeled on a bad LSD trip, making it a ‘horrifying experience.’
18. Sylvester McCoy played both the Sixth and Seventh Doctors in his first scene
Due to Colin Baker’s frustration at the way he was treated (having been blamed for low ratings and fired from the show as a result, among other things), he refused to return to the show for his regeneration scene. McCoy, who took over as the Seventh Doctor, was left to stand in for Baker instead. The scene is often lambasted by fans, and io9 named it one of the 12 worst deaths in science fiction history.
Know a good fact that we missed? Let us know in the comments.
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Belle has spent the past four years as a freelance writer and social media consultant. She has written for The Next Web, Desktop Magazine and Social Media Examiner.
Belle now spends her days wielding a pencil as Attendly's Head of Content.