Friday, December 5, 2014

Season 6 Overview

From L to R: Patrick Troughton, Wendy Padbury, Hamish Wilson
from The Mind Robber
As Doctor Who headed into its sixth season, it was clear that the production of the series was in trouble, and its future was in doubt. Producer Peter Bryant and Script Editor Derrick Sherwin had for some time  harboured serious concerns about the way the series was produced, believing its punishing schedule of producing around 40 episodes per season was simply no longer tenable. Budgets, always tight on Doctor Who, could no longer stretch to allow for the constant need to create alien worlds and monsters. The schedule had exhausted their leading man, who, after three years, was eager to move on, and viewing figures were slipping. The sixth season would be one of the most tumultuous and chaotic in the history of the series, and would also wind up being one of the most important to its future.

The problems began almost immediately, when Sherwin decided that the opening six-part story, The Dominators by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, had scripting issues. Sherwin elected to compress the story from six parts to five, the result being that Haisman and Lincoln demanded their names be removed and the story credited to a pseudonym. The loss of this sixth part meant that the subsequent serial, The Mind Robber, had to be enlarged from four parts to five. Sherwin provided the script for an opening prologue episode to the story proper. The next serial, The Invasion, was intended to be a six-part story, then was going to be pared down to four before problems with the next planned serial, "The Dreamspinner", led to that story's cancelation and The Invasion being hastily expanded to eight episodes.

At this point, Bryant and Sherwin were effectively sharing the producer's role, while Terrance Dicks become more and more heavily involved as the script editor. Both Bryant and Sherwin were involved in other projects at this time, and their attention was spread thin, which may account for the chaos the dogged this season. Nevertheless, early on in the season they made plans to radically alter the entire format of Doctor Who for the following season. They felt that the format was becoming tired, and that constantly spending their time on alien worlds in the far future was impeding audience identification as well as becoming old hat. Additionally, the impact of these settings on the budgets was becoming too heavy to bear, and they felt that a shorter season of 25-26 episodes would be easier on the production team and cast as well as provide more time to create a stronger series overall.
Terrance Dicks (left) and Derrick Sherwin (right)

So it was decided that for Season Seven, the Doctor would be stranded on Earth in a near-contemporary time, feeling that this solution would breathe new life into the concept, but more importantly, the familiar setting would get costs under control. The Invasion, with the return of Lethbridge-Stewart from The Web of Fear and the introduction of UNIT, would act as a kind of pilot for the new direction the series was about to take.

At this time, Frazer Hines told the production team he would be leaving the series mid-way through the season. His announcement convinced Patrick Troughton that this season would also be his last, and the two actors resolved to leave together. Originally, it was hoped Wendy Padbury would stay on for the next season, but in the end she too decided to depart. For Troughton, three years in a role was simply long enough. He had spent his career as a character actor, playing a wide variety of roles, and he feared being typecast. He was also exhausted. The production scheduled afforded very little time off, and though he had negotiated better working conditions for himself and his cast mates, the production chaos of his final season infuriated him, and he became difficult and short-tempered.

After The Invasion, the next story was intended to be "The Prison in Space", but once again these scripts fell through completely at a very late stage. Luckily, Dicks had been working on a serial with writer Robert Holmes, and it happened to be close enough to ready to move forward early, the results eventually being produced as The Krotons. Brian Hayles then submitted The Seeds of Death, but the scripts were again found to have significant problems, so Dicks heavily re-wrote them.

At this point, Peter Bryant had a bout of ill-health. He had already decided to leave the series after setting up the seventh season, which Derrick Sherwin would produce. But his illness now required Sherwin to step up and take on more responsibility, which meant that Terrance Dicks was now mostly full-time script editor. Now that The Krotons had been moved up to replace "The Prison in Space", the season had another gap in its schedule. Holmes would hastily provide The Space Pirates to fill the hole.

The Second Doctor and a few of his foes.
The final two serials of the season were to be a six-part story called "The Impersonators" written by Malcolm Hulke, and then a four-part story that would serve as Troughton's swan-song, to be written by Sherwin himself. But Hulke's script and Sherwin's script both soon developed problems, and at some stage both were completely abandoned in favour of a massive ten-part serial to be written by Dicks and Hulke entitled The War Games.

Bryant and Sherwin had already put many plans in place for the format and production of the seventh season, not the least of which was their casting of a new Doctor. They eventually settled on Jon Pertwee, an actor known for his skill as a comedic and light cabaret performer, and most famous for the long-running radio show "The Navy Lark." Bryant hired the actor thinking to take the role in a more comedic direction, though Pertwee had other ideas. However, as production began on the first serial of the seventh season, Sherwin was told that he and Bryant were being re-assigned to take over and fix the ailing series Paul Temple. Doctor Who would have a new production team for Season Seven, and even greater changes were in store.

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