As we reach the end of the original Season 23, we come face to face with The Children Of January.
Michael Feeney Callan had enjoyed a versatile career in writing for radio, film and print as well as television - highlights include his contributions to RTE Radio's Treasure House series of dramatisations of the lives of eminent scientists & artists, from Johannes Kepler to HG Wells, whom the Sixth Doctor had of course met for himself in Timelash. Following the success of The Burke Enigma, a crime series which its author claimed was ''influenced by the film noir I loved as a kid, and by Robert Altman's filming style'', he moved to the BBC where he served as story editor on Shoestring while also writing for The Professionals over on ITV! Two Frederick Forsyth adaptations followed in the form of Privilege & A Careful Man - a third, 1987's The Negotiator, in collaboration with Anthony Shaffer, never made it into development. Much like his proposed Doctor Who story from two years previous...........
At the centre of it all was a new breed of enemy:
"I created a race of runaway proto-humanoids called the Z'ros, sort of ‘human bees', of which I still have the fondest nightmares."
Perhaps the closest point of comparison here would be the Vespiform as faced by the Tenth Doctor in The Unicorn & The Wasp, or even further back the Menoptera/Zarbi he'd encountered on The Web Planet as a younger man.
As Feeney Callan told Den Of Geek:
"I wrote a two-parter called The Children of January. I loved my episode, which was delivered late in 1985."But it seems he actually agreed with the decision to put the programme on hiatus!
"In the middle Eighties I think [the BBC] were right [to cancel the show]."In view of that we might well now move on to consider just why the Doctor was stopped in his tracks..........
The decision to put Doctor Who on hold generated much coverage, with producer John Nathan-Turner going on record as saying:
"I don’t think it’s ever been said that it was taken off for 18 months because it was too violent. I think the real reason was that they needed a certain amount of money by cancelling many programmes – ‘Doctor Who’ was one of them – to establish daytime television on the BBC, and it was an attempt to suddenly demand this money because the BBC wished to pull forward their launch date because the independent companies were pulling forward theirs.Of course we know now that talk of a period of gardening leave could have been on the cards following Revelation Of The Daleks. But the decision to postpone the start of Season 23 was taken by Michael Grade as early as February 1985, & it would now begin in September of the following year. According to A Brief History Of Time Travel, Grade & Jonathan Powell, the BBC's Head Of Drama, had some reservations based on the previous season.
So there was a sudden and dramatic attempt to get this money by cancelling a lot of shows, and this was always the reason, or certainly the reason I was always given, as to why it was rested. As for Colin’s contribution, I actually think he got a tremendously raw deal, in that he did one season, then there was the hiatus, then we came back and there were only fourteen episodes and they were in a different format, and then the decision was made to move forward with a new Doctor. So Colin never got a chance to get his teeth into the part."
"Grade and Head of Drama Jonathan Powell had determined that Season Twenty-Two's experiment with forty-five-minute episodes had been a failure, despite Nathan-Turner and Eric Saward's contention that it was simply taking them time to come to grip with the format. Consequently, all the scripts in progress would have to be modified for the more traditional twenty-five minute length. Also, Grade had indicated he felt Doctor Who had become too violent, and wanted this element replaced with more humour."Not surprisingly given that the jury was out on the series as a whole, the series of standalone adventures was scrapped, and a new arc intended to reflect the sense of a programme on trial. Looking back given the history between Colin Baker & Grade it's entirely plausible that his big final speech was actually directed at him and the other BBC bigwigs!
Not that he didn't have support, as the Cambridge News rightly pointed out:
"The resulting public outcry – “Dr Who axed in BBC plot” screamed The Sun’s front page – took the Corporation, and BBC1’s notoriously Who-phobic controller, Michael Grade, by surprise, forcing them to backtrack and bring the show back 18 months later, albeit with a slashed budget and a reduced episode count.Ultimately it came to pass that the series would return, though a new man would be at the controls of the TARDIS following probably the worst possible last words for the one who'd hand over the key...
The relaunch proved a dismal flop, and Grade ordered the producer to sack Baker – a perverse decision, given he was about the only good thing in it at the time – bringing a messy end to a most turbulent period of Doctor Who’s near 50-year-history."
"Carrot juice, carrot juice, carrot juice..."But all those left smarting by the fact his end was hardly fit and proper can rejoice, for Big Finish have announced an attempt to put that right with their own The Last Adventure- Baker taking it all in his stride:
"Because I never actually filmed a regeneration, and left poor Sylvester floundering around in my empty clothing with a blond wig on, I have resolutely maintained the lie that I am still the Doctor and all the rest are imposters because I never regenerated!"Consider also Gary Russell's Past Doctor Adventure Spiral Scratch, far more heroic an end than a simple fall off an exercise bike. Carrot juice be damned...........