Doctor Who in the 1960s

Doctor Who is a British television science fiction series, produced and screened by the BBC on the BBC TV channel from 1963 to 1964, and on BBC 1 (later BBC One) from 1964 to 1989 and since 2005. A one-off television movie, co-produced with Universal Pictures and 20th Century Fox Television, was made in 1996.

1962

  • March: Eric Maschwitz, the Assistant and Adviser to the Controller of Programmes at BBC Television, asked Donald Wilson, the Head of the Script Department, to have his department’s Survey Group prepare a study on the feasibility of the BBC producing a new science fiction television series. The report was delivered the following month, much to the commendation of Wilson, Maschwitz and the BBC’s Assistant Controller of Programmes Donald Baverstock.
  • July: A follow-up report into specific ideas for the format of such a programme was commissioned, and delivered. This report recommended a series dealing with time travel as being an idea particularly worthy of development.
  • December: Canadian-born Sydney Newman arrived at BBC Television as the new Head of Drama. Newman was a science fiction fan who had overseen several such productions in his previous positions at ABC Television and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

1963

  • March: Sydney Newman was made aware by Donald Baverstock – now promoted to Controller of Programmes – of a gap in the schedule on Saturday evenings between the sports showcase Grandstand and the pop music programme Juke Box Jury. Newman decided that a science fiction programme would be perfect to fill the gap, and enthusiastically took up the existing Script Department research, initiating several brainstorming sessions with other BBC staff.
  • April: Unnamed until this time, what would become Doctor Who was simply referred to as The Saturday Serial.
  • May 16: A document, co-prepared by Sydney Newman, was submitted to Donald Baverstock which outlined the concept of a proposed programme called Dr. Who.
  • June: The programme was originally intended to open with a serial entitled The Giants but was scrapped as the technical requirements of the storyline—which involved the leading characters being drastically reduced in size—were beyond the technical capabilities, and the story itself lacked the necessarily impact for an opener.
  • June 25: Auditions were held for the roles of Susan and Barbara.
    • The Doctor’s companion was originally named Bridget or “Biddy”, a 15-year-old girl eager for life. Bridget was renamed Suzan/Suzanne Foreman, later changed to Susan, and became the Doctor’s granddaughter, to avoid any possibility of sexual impropriety implicit in having a young girl travelling with an older man. Anneke Wills (who would go on to play Polly) was considered for the role of Susan. The role was ultimately given to Carole Ann Ford, a 23-year-old who typically played younger roles.
    • Her teachers were Miss Lola McGovern, a 24-year-old timid woman capable of sudden courage, and Cliff, a “physically perfect, strong and courageous” man.  Miss McGovern later became history teacher Miss Canning. When the show’s bible was written, the two teachers were renamed Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. William Russell was chosen to portray Chesterton, being the only actor considered by producer Verity Lambert to do so. Phyllida Law was amongst the candidates for Barbara but Lambert’s friend Jacqueline Hill was eventually chosen.
  • July 19: Originally scheduled to begin recording on July 5, and be aired on July 27, recording of An Unearthly Child was delayed. Recording was rescheduled for July 19 and, if successful, it could be broadcast on August 24. Production was later deferred for a further two weeks while scripts were prepared, and the recording on July 19 was rescheduled as a test session for the dematerialisation effect of the TARDIS.
  • September-October: Waris Hussein was set to direct the serial but some of the pre-filmed inserts for the serial, shot at Ealing Studios were directed by Hussein’s production assistant.
  • September 27: The first version of the opening episode was recorded at Lime Grove Studios, following a week of rehearsals. Initial broadcast put back to November 9, and regular episodes would be made from October 18. The broadcast date was soon pushed back a week to November 16, due to the BBC’s athletics coverage on November 9, and later to November 23.
    • The recording was bedevilled with technical errors, including the doors leading into the TARDIS control room failing to close properly. After viewing the episode, Sydney Newman ordered that it be mounted again. During the weeks between the two tapings, changes were made to costuming, effects, performances, and scripts.
  • October 18: The second attempt at at the opening episode begins, with the following three episodes recorded weekly on October 25, November 1, and November 8.
  • November 23: The first episode was transmitted at 5:16pm. The assassination of John F. Kennedy the previous day overshadowed the launch of a new television series; as a result, the first episode was repeated a week later, on November 30, preceding the second episode.

1964

  • May 8: After using Lime Grove Studios for about six solid months, Doctor Who recorded an episode for the very first time at BBC Television Centre.
  • May 23: Part one of “The Aztecs” was broadcast on BBC 1.
  • May 28: The BBC’s Director of Television, Kenneth Adam, sent a memo to his Controller of Programmes for Television, which soon went down the chain through Sydney Newman, ending up on the desks of producer Verity Lambert and story editor David Whitaker. The concern from on high? His 3½-year-old granddaughter knew that it was “stupid” of the First Doctor and his companions to separate in a dangerous situation, such as they did in last Saturday’s episode. Adam wanted the production team to “exercise more discipline” in the writing so that the programme’s stars don’t act like idiots. Otherwise, he feared that the programme’s longevity will be at risk.

1965

1966

1967

1968

1969

  • April 19: Part one of “The War Games” was broadcast on BBC 1.
  • May 1David Whitaker was commissioned to write The Ambassadors of Death, then known as The Carriers of Death.
  • May 21Jon Pertwee signed his contract for his début season as the Third Doctor.
  • May 27Nicholas Courtney was contracted to return as Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart — this time as part of the regular cast for at least one season.
  • May 31: Part one of “Operation Wurlitzer” was published in TV Comic.
  • June 3Robert Holmes was commissioned by Terrance Dicks to write a full script for the serial then known as Facsimile. The serial was, by mid-September, renamed Spearhead from Space.
  • June 15: Script editor Terrance Dicks commissioned a serial named The Monster — later known as Doctor Who and the Silurians — from Malcolm Hulke.
  • June 17: After being cast in May, Jon Pertwee was introduced to the press as the Third Doctor in a special photo call, accompanied by a Yeti.
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