Much like Rose Tyler in 2005, and long before Buffy, Xena, and the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica were lauded for capable female characters [and] progressive story arcs, - Ace became the emotional core of Doctor Who. While more adult connotations were initially vetoed by producer John Nathan-Turner, in companion terms Doctor Who was poised to step closer to the real world. Far from distracting from the character of the Doctor, this actually allowed the Time Lord to be viewed more as an enigma - removed from humanity but forever its champion. While we may never truly identify with the Doctor, here we had arguably the first companion, we all either knew, could be, or could spot on the street.
Disproving the theory that a companion’s main role is to provide exposition, themes of teenage angst, racism, and sexuality all presented themselves in young McShane - a notable first for not only Doctor Who, but all genre TV of that age. Unaware of the significance of their actions, Andrew and his colleagues were formulating and plotting decades ahead of their time, “I only realised how different it was from the standard template years later. At the time, I just knew I liked it.”
John Nathan Turner originally intended to replace the sonic screwdriver with sonic sunglasses after ‘The Visitation’. However, the idea was soon dismissed when even HE thought the idea was too ridiculous.
Honestly, out of all the things JNT has changed so far, this is probably the one that makes the most sense. At least as a temporary solution. Honestly, 2005 was probably the right time to reintroduce the sonic screwdriver. And I kind of like the psychic paper as well because it means we don’t have to waste a whole bunch of time just to get the story going. Although as far as the sonic is concerned right now, Moffat could learn a thing or two from JNT….(cough*Power of Three*cough)
Getting some costume reference together for Drillerfiller then came across this photo of John Nathan-Turner from about 1980/1. I used to write a school fanzine in school. We wrote to him and let us interview him in Shepherd’s Bush, when the BBC were there. People say he was the guy who killed Doctor Who but this was before any homicides. He was an incredibly nice bloke. He entertained two scruffy kids from Anfield – so he was a top man to me.
You know as terrible as 1993's "Dimensions in Time" Doctor Who special is (and if you haven’t seen it you must if only for the camp factor), with the floating plastic heads of Hartnell and Troughton and all the Eastender cameos and the plots that don’t make sense (the idea that they had no time to make something good is jettisoned by something like the “Night of the Doctor” webisode starring Paul McGann which was wonderful and only about 7 minutes), it does have some redeeming value.
In a way it is systematic of John Nathan Turner’s entire decade plus tenure as Who producer. No accident that this debacle is the only Who adventure JNT is actually credited with writing. First we have the BBC meddling and cheapness which was a major factor of the JNT era, with this case being a proposed feature film for the 30th anniversary being reduced to a gimmicky 13 minute “3-D” comic crossover with Eastenders. Then we have JNT’s love of famous name “guest stars” (with the Eastenders in effect), then we have the unnecessary violence, the bad plotting and pacing and the horrible script (basically the Sixth Doctor era writ small).
On the other side we have some interesting ideas here. JNT had a good sense of his Doctors (Six’s costume aside which even Turner admitted was a mistake). Davison, Colin Baker and McCoy were perfectly cast and the personalities given to them fit each respectively. Except perhaps for Adric (though he has fans) and Mel (who could have worked with better writing as Big Finish has shown), even JNT’s companions were well cast.
In Dimensions in Time we have some interesting and potentially great match-ups that could have made entire stories each in itself.
Three with (a noticeably older) Victoria Waterfield.
Three with Sarah Jane post her Fourth Doctor adventures.
Three with Mel (I think this was actually a great combination since Mel was a very Jo Grant-ish character and Pertwee would have given Bonnie Langford something to do for once).
Six with the Brigadier and Susan and ACE (brilliant ideas, all, since Six had a lot of the arrogance of Hartnell and early Pertwee which the Brig and Susan would have identified with and we can only guess how Ace would have handled Six, who was much more bombastic than her “Professor”).
Seven with Leela (in a way they would be perfect together).
Five with Peri and Nyssa (interestingly Nyssa was Davison’s preferred companion and he didn’t like it when JNT wrote her out, while Peri and Five would go on post Dimensions to have several “new” adventures in Big Finish audios).
Romana II (future President of Gallifrey) vs The Rani. Time Lady vs Time Lady! Something we still have never seen in NuWho.
The Rani deciding to mess with the Doctor’s timeline, a great idea for a “good” multi-Doctor story.
The Rani having her own male “companion"in her Tardis, an evil version of the Doctor’s set-up.
All of the the Doctor’s greatest villains taking advantage of his weakness and the twisted time lines to team together to defeat him long before Davies and Moffat tried it.
All in all, such a wasted opportunity. The ideas were there. A lot of the blame of must lay with the BBC I think who have treated the franchise shabbily for decades before they suddenly realized how much money could made off of it.
NEW INTRO?!! WAIT THE JOHN NATHAN TURNER ERA STARTS NOW??!!! I THOUGHT IT STARTS WITH FIVE! WHAT?! I’M NOT READY! ALSO WHY WOULD THEY USE THAT PICTURE OF TOM AS THE FACE IN THE INTRO?!! LITERALLY ANY OTHER PROMO PICTURE OF HIM WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTETR!
I admire John Nathan Turner. In the past couple of years, the more of his era I watch, the more he has became an inspiration and really a hero to me. This sickens me. It really upsets me so much to hear this. I don’t like being the bearer of bad news, but I thought people should know. I’m sorry.
I was thinking about An Adventure in Space and Time this morning, and I was wondering what it would be like had there been a trilogy of these films.
If there was, which other aspects of Who history should get a documentary?
At the minute, I’m thinking…
One about JNT. His time on Doctor Who was a long one, certainly, and also a turbulent one. Whilst it’s not always regarded to be a highlight, I think it’s fair to say that he made a huge contribution to the show. A documentary focusing on his time as producer would have definetly been a great celebration of a large part of Doctor Who’s history.
The other obvious one would be RTD and the revival, because that’s really one of the trinity of big events across the last 50 years - the birth of Doctor Who, the death of Doctor Who, and the rebirth of Doctor Who.
However, I’m also sort of leaning towards a “wilderness years” documentary, focusing on the Paul McGann movie and Big Finish’s work.
Also, I’m just sort of thinking… if these documentaries were made, the only other era of Doctor Who which wouldn’t be represented would be Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, and the earlier part of Tom Baker’s run, which perhaps might be a concern? A documentary about the handover from Derrick Sherwin to Barry Letts might be interesting.
So… any thoughts? Agree, disagree, other suggestions?