diamond geezer

 Wednesday, November 19, 2003

An A-Z of Who (k-o)

K is for K9: One of the Doctor's best-loved companions was a small robot dog with a sophisticated sensory device disguised as a long pointy nose. Imagine a Sinclair ZX81 on wheels, maybe a ZX81/C5 hybrid. Poor old K9 couldn't climb stairs, rather like a Dalek, so if there was ever a story set in a swamp or a liftless building he had to stay in the Tardis for the duration. K9 accompanied the Doctor for four years, alongside a Leela and a couple of Romanas, until he left to star in his own spin-off TV show with the lovely Sarah-Jane Smith. Alas, the opening credits to K9 and Company were utterly cringeworthy and the devil-worship-in-an-English-village plotline not much better, so the series was put down, along with the dog.

L is for London Locations: Ever wanted to know where those on-location Doctor Who episodes were filmed? Here's a site that can tell you. See the Cybermen walk down those famous steps below St Paul's Cathedral. Step back into Victorian Docklands, home to the Talons of Weng Chiang. Beware, because there are Daleks everywhere, be it at Butler's Wharf, 76 Totters Lane or the cemetery where my great grandfather is buried. Ponder how on earth they managed to climb the Albert Memorial. And revisit the last ever Doctor Who story, inappropriately called 'Survival', set in the urban jungle of Perivale. Dangerous place, London.

M is for Master: Ahh, the evil arch-enemy of the Doctor, probably ever since they were at school together on Gallifrey flicking pellets at one other. The Master first appeared alongside Jon Pertwee in 1971 in that infamous killer shop-dummies story which I think is the very first episode I can ever remember. He was played by East End actor Roger Delgado, the very personification of calculated nastiness, until his untimely death in a car crash two years later. Another Londoner, Anthony Ainley, brought the Master back to life in 1981, cunningly anagrammatically disguised as Consul Tremas. Altogether the Master has appeared in 20 Doctor Who stories (that's more than the Daleks) plus the TV movie (where the Daleks would probably have been a better bet).

N is for No more: In the end, the Doctor's greatest enemy turned out not to be the Daleks nor the Cybermen nor the Master, but BBC1 controller Michael Grade. He put the show on ice for an extended break in 1985, then literally put Colin Baker on trial to see if ratings improved. They didn't. Nowadays ratings of 4 or 5 million look fairly reasonable, but at the time they just weren't enough. Scheduling the show against Coronation Street didn't help matters and eventually in 1989, after 26 seasons, Michael brought the final curtain down on the TV series. The Who-niverse has reappeared occasionally since, for that TV movie for example, some stories for radio, and for 'Dimensions in Time', a desperately misguided Children In Need '3-D special' where various Doctors wandered round Albert Square meeting the cast of EastEnders past present and future. Bang out of order.

O is for Other Doctors: There may have been only eight proper Doctor Whos, but a surprising number of other people have played the role in a semi-official capacity. Peter Cushing reprised William Hartnell's role in 1966 in a couple of classic and oft-repeated Dalek films, and Richard Hurndall played the late Mr Hartnell in the Five Doctors 20th anniversary special. And then there was the 1999 Comic Relief special, 'The Curse of Fatal Death', in which the Doctor was played (rather well) by Rowan Atkinson and also, in the space of a couple of minutes, by Richard E Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Joanna Lumley. A female Doctor? Absolutely fabulous.

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