Doctor Who: The Men Who Fell To Earth

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Christopher Morley spends some time on Earth with Doctor's Three and Nine...


It's pretty much an established fact that the Doctor loves our little planet, even if he doesn't always get on with its people! Casting an eye over the early stages of the Third Doctor's tenure, it becomes apparent that he spent rather a lot of time in this corner of the galaxy! Not by choice, of course- he was an exile, sent here as part of a sentence passed down for breaching the strict non-intervention rules of the Time Lords.



The tattoo he's seen sporting in a shower, actually from Jon Pertwee's Navy days, is revealed to be a brand denoting him as a criminal in the later Seventh Doctor novel Christmas On A Rational Planet.



But prior to that, the Doctor Who production team had been looking at the option of a shift towards more Earth-based adventures, with script editor Terrance Dicks later admitting that the Second Doctor story The Invasion had been something of a dry run for the intended new format.



As he later remembered of the early colour years of the programme::
"Around that time, it all sort of came together. Barry Letts became producer, I took over as script editor, Jon Pertwee became the Doctor, the show went into colour, and the whole thing clicked. We suddenly took off again and started getting really good viewing figures. It was like a renaissance for the show."
Dan Wilson of Metro was similarly full of praise in a 2013 article celebrating the early Third Doctor years.
"When Doctor Who met the 1970s, Jon Pertwee took the mantle of TV’s favourite Time Lord in colour for the first time. With an array of ruffled shirts, billowing capes and glorious velvet jackets, the third Doctor arrived in style.

Rewind. The Time Lords exiled the Doctor to Earth, forced him to regenerate and erased his knowledge of time travel science.So Jon Pertwee’s Doctor was largely earthbound and he teamed up with UNIT (the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce back then) as their special scientific advisor.

The TARDIS wouldn’t work and the Doctor became part of the team defending Earth. His exile brought a new angle to the show, with a regular ensemble cast of recurring UNIT personnel including the much missed Nicholas Courtney as the starchy but lovable Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, alongside Captain Yates (Richard Franklin) and Sergeant Benton (John Levene)."
And there's a surprisingly simple reason why the Doctor spent so much time down here with us humans. Budget! As a cost-saving measure, the last series ended with the Doctor being exiled to Earth, so alien sets would not have to be built. This presented Letts and Dicks with an interesting challenge of how to make the basic two story types of Earth-bound sci-fi (alien invasion and mad scientist plot) fresh and exciting week after week.

Any New-Who fans who recall the culmination of Russell T Davies' long battle to get the Doctor back onto our screens on Saturday teatimes might recall similar grandstanding once it was announced that Christopher Eccleston had been handed the role of the Ninth Doctor! Davies had earlier worked with him on The Second Coming and so proved confident in the abilities of his leading man, saying in a statement issued through the BBC that:
"Christopher was our first choice. His casting raises the bar for all of us. It's going to be a magnificent, epic, entertaining journey, and I can't wait to start."
Having gained the support of Jane Tranter, the Head Of Drama Commissioning...
"We are delighted to have cast an actor of such calibre in one of British television's most iconic roles. It signals our intention to take Doctor Who into the 21st century, as well as retaining its core traditional values - to be surprising, edgy and eccentric."
...work began on Rose, Episode One of Series One.



Time for a spot of backward-thinking. If you recall the Third Doctor's first outing in Spearhead From Space, tumbling from the TARDIS right into the machinations of the Nestene Consciousness/Autons you'll have noted their return alongside the man he would become a good seven incarnations down the line.



Clearly Russell T had been taking a few notes from Season Seven of the Classic period of Who! Right down to the decision to set the majority of stories from that first series firmly on exactly the same Earthly soil which had served Terrance Dicks so well........even inserting a handy guide to the modus operandi of the Autons for first-time viewers.
ROSE: Okay. Start from the beginning. I mean, if we're going to go with the living plastic, and I don't even believe that, but if we do, how did you kill it?
DOCTOR: The thing controlling it projects life into the arm. I cut off the signal, dead.
ROSE: So that's radio control?
DOCTOR: Thought control. Are you all right?
ROSE: Yeah. So, who's controlling it, then?
DOCTOR: Long story.
ROSE: But what's it all for? I mean, shop window dummies, what's that about? Is someone trying to take over Britain's shops?
DOCTOR: No.
ROSE: No.
DOCTOR: It's not a price war. They want to overthrow the human race and destroy you. Do you believe me?
ROSE: No.
DOCTOR: But you're still listening.
ROSE: Really, though, Doctor. Tell me, who are you?
But why did Davies limit his new Doctor's adventures largely to one tiny planet? Writer Phil Ford might be able to help shed some light on that!
"[Series One is] very domestically focused and as a dyed-in-the-wool sci-fi fan I reacted against that to begin with. It wasn’t until we got to Dalek that I started to think, ‘Wow, this IS science fiction’. And then by the end of the season it was full on!

Which is a roundabout way of saying: Russell knew exactly what he was doing. He was slowly dealing in the cards he wanted, so that by the time people realized they were watching a sci-fi show they were hooked."
Not that he was entirely sold on the idea at first, though he was won round.
"Well, I watched it as it was broadcast in 2005 and – I’ve said this to Russell, so it’s fine – I wasn’t one hundred percent there with it. For me it was eighty percent soap to twenty percent science-fiction and that wasn’t what I wanted. Now the thing is: Russell knew exactly what he was doing, which is the genius of the guy. For years and years we’d gotten used to not having any home-grown sci-fi shows, but what we had gotten used to were soaps and urban dramas and Russell used that to reel people in."
Hook, line & sinker! And perfect teatime television too. ''Well, who else is there? I mean you lot, all you do is eat chips, go to bed and watch telly, while all the time underneath you there's a war going on! ''
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