21/11/2018

Radio Times 1973 Doctor Who Special


In the Seventies select BBC programmes would merit a Radio Times Special, a separate glossy magazine going into the production in far more detail than the weekly listings magazine was able. Mostly these were for historical dramas like the BBC’s 1972 adaptation of War and Peace. In 1973 to celebrate its tenth anniversary Doctor Who was awarded such a Special and it definitely lived up to its name. Covering the entire history of the show it was, for fans, a wonderful gift in those pre Internet, pre Doctor Who Magazine times. Older fans would be able to wallow in the nostalgia of the early days while younger ones would be seeing information and photos about Sixties Doctor Who for the very first time. The previous year’s excellent Making of Doctor Who had listed story titles but for some fans their first knowledge of what those old stories were actually about came from the Special.

What the magazine also does is show the care and attention the BBC gave it’s programmes back then. The 1973 Special comes complete with a specially shot iconic gatefold cover image featuring Jon Pertwee’s Doctor in heroic red, blue and crimson on the front. Facing him on the back cover are a Sea Devil, a Cyberman and a Dalek plus a couple of smaller Daleks in the distance. It is an interesting choice for many reasons not least because the big Dalek is only half visible and pride of place goes to the Sea Devil. They really liked the Sea Devils in the 70s as the Making Of book also had them sharing the cover with the third Doctor. The setting for this photo is an alien planet with a surface that looks like a lumpy pancake. The whole thing is like an album cover. It is such a great picture that the editors avoid covering it in text, instead restricting that to the bottom right hand corner of the cover. It describes Doctor Who as “BBC1’s great adventure series”. The cover price is 30p!

Opening it up in 1973 was astonishing because the inside cover contains small frames of the title sequence. And not just any title sequence but the re-jigged third Doctor one that we had not yet seen! In terms of colouring and style this is my favourite ever Doctor Who title sequence and ended up only being used for the 1974 season. Spread across the best part of two pages it looks gorgeous.

Over the next page the classic `Three Doctors` photo is reproduced ahead of brief interviews with each of the actors. I’m not sure when the William Hartnell one was done as he sounds chatty and lucid whereas by 1973 was apparently ailing. Perhaps they got him on a good day. He says he always knew the series would be a great success, mentions the letters he’d receive asking him to solve complex questions and how the role was “a test for any actor”. His favourite memory of the show is an off screen fete he opened in costume. “I’ll never forget the moment we arrived. The children just converged on the car cheering and shouting, their faces all lit up. I knew then just how much Doctor Who really meant to them.”

Patrick Troughton tells how he was very reluctant to play the role to the point where the idea of him doing it as “a windjammer Captain” was seriously mooted. Thankfully for everyone he went for “the cosmic hobo” based on Charlie Chaplin.  The Yeti were his favourites and he speaks fondly of his co-stars. “Doctor Who was a jolly fellow and I just bubbled along,” he says. Current incumbent Jon Pertwee is depicted as very much the Seventies star interviewed in a hammock by a swimming pool at his vila in Ibiza. The interview includes another preview- this time of the Whomobile car – while he too talks of the process of selecting a way to play the role. He talks of having fun in the studio –“my main concern is to make people feel at home”. He finds the Daleks “boring” (he’s going to love the story later in the magazine!) and the Draconians are his favourite. Of the series he says, “Its got to be scary” because he reckons children like to be scared.