Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Doctor Who: The Lost Prequel (1953)

Ask a Doctor Who fan when the character of the Doctor first appeared and they'll tell you November 1963, in the very first episode of Doctor Who entitled An Unearthly Child. They'll tell you that the Doctor's race, The Time Lords, weren't named until 1969 in an adventure entitled The War Games, and his home planet of Gallifrey didn't get a namecheck until 1973's The Time Warrior. What many fans don't know however is that the Doctor and many other aspects of his myth, such as the TARDIS, the Time Lords, Gallifrey, and his archenemy, the Master, were established way back in 1953 in a lost and forgotten TV serial known as Genesis of the Doctor.



In the summer of 1953 the BBC scored big viewing figures and favourable reviews with their six part science fiction serial, The Quatermass Experiment. The success of Quatermass left the BBC brimming with confidence and eager for another hit. As a result they rushed another sci-fi script into production hoping to strike gold once again, this time during the Christmas period. The script was entitled Genesis of the Doctor. Willam Hartnell and Roger Delgado were cast as the two leads and Rudolph Cartier, fresh from completing Quatermass, was brought in to direct.

Genesis of the Doctor proved to be a disaster for the BBC. The ambition of the script exceeded the grasp of the BBC effects department. The difficulties in realising the serial's alien worlds were exacerbated by the fact that the serial was transmitted live every week. Soap operatics in space were considered too lowbrow for the critics who had championed Quatermass, and parents and teachers showered the BBC with complaints about the anti-authoritarian message of the serial. 

The BBC were so stung by the reaction to Genesis of the Doctor that it took another ten years for them to revive the concept. In 1963 Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert reworked the idea into an educational teatime drama for family audiences. William Hartnell agreed to step back into the role and the rest is history. It should be noted however, that despite the success of Doctor Who (as it came to be known) there was still a stigma attached to Genesis of the Doctor at the BBC. As a result the serial was never mentioned by anyone associated with Doctor Who, and it was several more years before the script for Genesis was mined for further ideas, such as The Master (Delgado agreed to reprise his role in 1971), Gallifrey, and the Time Lords.

Due to the extremely negative reaction of the British public to Genesis of the Doctor the master tapes were immediately destroyed. Only a poster, a photograph, and a few tele-snaps remain. Not one copy of the script has survived to this day and even the identity of the scriptwriter has been lost to time. Despite this a rough plot outline has been assembled from the memories of viewers and those involved in the production. 

Over six weekly half hour episodes, viewers saw the story of Theta Sigma and Koschei, two young men from an alien world. (Theta Sigma and Koschei are implied to be nicknames and their true names are never revealed). Gallifrey was their planet, home of the Time Lords, a race of beings sworn to observe and protect the order of time but never to interfere. Theta and Koschei were free spirits and yearned to break free of the repressive society of the Time Lords. They are convinced that their destiny awaits "out there in the stars." In episode one, The Dreamers, Theta and Koschei skip classes at the Time Lord Academy in order to wander the hillsides of Gallifrey and plan their escape. The episode ends with the pair stealing a time machine, or TARDIS in order to explore time and space. 



In episode two, The Runaways, Theta and Koschei arrive in the East End of Edwardian London where they are embroiled in a bare knuckle boxing tournament and meet a young girl named Violet Tyler. They both instantly fall in love with her and invite her to accompany them on their travels. Episode 3, The Bard sees the trio visit William Shakespeare. The two friends attempt to outdo each other, performing love sonnets for Violet while Shakespeare is seen slyly taking notes. 

Episode 4, The Alien World, sees them visit the planet Mondas, where the inhabitants have recently begun to "upgrade" their body parts with robotic replacements.  Episode 4 ends with Violet being seriously wounded, and episode 5, Edge of Doom takes place entirely in the TARDIS as Theta and Koschei argue and debate over the best way to save Violet's life. Koschei wants to keep travelling in the hope of finding somewhere to treat her wounds, whereas Theta believes the only way to save her life is to return to Gallifrey and sacrifice their freedom.



In episode six, The Doctor, Theta fights his old friend for control of the TARDIS and manages to return them to Gallifrey. He is able to save Violet's life, however the Time Lords capture them and return Violet to Earth with no memory of her journeys in the TARDIS. Koschei blames Theta for the loss of their freedom and for the fact that they will never see Violet again. He ends their friendship and vows revenge. Theta is shown returning to his studies and eventually settling down with a family. He has taken to wearing clothes in the style of Earth in the Edwardian era. It is implied that this is in honour of Violet. Saving Violet's life has had a profound effect on Theta and he has began to refer to himself as The Doctor. The serial ends with The Doctor telling his young granddaughter that their destiny awaits "out there in the stars."


Note: This is complete make believe and is not meant to take anything away from Sydney Newman, Verity Lambert, Waris Hussein, Anthony Coburn, CE Webber, and David Whitaker, and their role in the creation of Doctor Who.

4 comments:

  1. Hello Michael.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, nice to meet you but my name's Paul.

      Delete
  2. Great post, I had no idea that Genesis of the Doctor was a project that never came to be back in the day.

    I saw the BBC special in which Hartnell plays the actor that first played Doctor Who, and I really enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It wasn't really, it's basically just me writing fanfic, but hope you enjoyed it all the same. Thanks for the comment.

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