Pass out the black armbands… The dvd range is, sob, dead! At least, that’s if you believe Steve Roberts, Restoration Team member and omnirumour ripperupper.
A couple of days ago the news hit the net, Underwater Menace was up for pre-order on amazon! Awesome, right? There was nothing listed as far as episodes one and four that are currently missing from the BBC archive. Would they be animated like we all thought and hoped? Or were they to be cheap reconstructions that would do nothing but anger fans who are sure there are more missing episodes to come? Certainly the original episodes 1 and 4 weren’t to be included. At least, they wouldn’t tell us yet even if that were to be the case. So the debate started back up on the forums, facebook groups and the amazon comments. It was an exciting step forward, progress that could be tangibly seen at last.
And then Steve Roberts had to rain on the happy parade with this comment on facebook
Well], we’re the team that remasters the episodes for DVD release and even we don’t have a clue what’s going on with TUM now. From where we’re standing, it’s looking like the range is dead.”
So what are we to believe? If the BBC has cancelled the release of The Underwater Menace, and are not even attempting to do something with The Crusade then we as fans are being severely mistreated. I don’t think it’s entitlement to want something that you were told you were going to get. I don’t think it’s entitlement to be bitter and angry and incredibly disappointed if the BBC couldn’t get those last two dvd’s out for us and instead just arbitrarily declare the range dead.
But if we have learned anything from the ongoing omnirumour saga, it’s to take nothing at face value. I won’t be writing my eulogy on the dvd range just yet. Instead I am living in hope that maybe more episodes have been discovered and that we will see them someday.
A while ago we got an intriguing photo tweeted by the man himself, Phillip Morris. It showed him standing in front of a broadcaster in Sierra Leone. Well, I guess that wasn’t the only photo that he took while he was there. He tweeted this earlier today:
A couple of days ago now it was the anniversary of Jon Pertwee’s death. 18 years since the third Doctor passed on from this universe to the next. And recently I listened to a podcast, and then read a thread on a forum, where it seemed open season on Pertwee and his era. So I wanted to take a chance to tell the world that there are plenty of Pertwee fans out there who to this day love the five years he gave us, and umpteen appearances he made after he left the role.
I mean heck, the guy actually appeared in a fan-made film trying to explain the transition from Second to Third Doctors! The ‘showman’ never failed to come back when asked, and he never stopped giving back to the fans. And for fans that take their fandom as seriously as us Doctor Who fans, that deserves great kudos.
Criticisms rage about his era that Pertwee was too ‘establishment’, his stories were too formulaic to ‘Bob Baker and Dave Martin were crap’. Hmmm. What can I say? I have a few friends for whom Pertwee is the ultimate Doctor, for me it is Troughton. But one of the reasons I love Troughton so much is the way he worked with Pertwee in The Three and Five Doctors. When I started to watch Doctor Who regularly, it was the 80s and Pertwee had an almost full series of repeats shown at 6.30pm. He and his era sucked me properly into the show, after I’d seen one Colin Baker episode and read a few of the Target books.
Spearhead drew me in, Ambassadors pulled me along and Inferno was a great big hook and I have never looked back. I even like most Bob Baker and Dave Martin stories, and I think ‘The Mutants’ is the most underrated Doctor Who story there is, bar ‘The Gunfighters’. This writing team was responsible for some of the most different and creative stories from the Pertwee and Tom Baker eras. ‘The Mutants’ may feature a couple of bad performances, but at the same time directly attacks British colonialism. And the Third Doctor is NOT on the side of the Overlords – he still sticks up for the underdog, the downtrodden, those treated unfairly. The Claws of Axos is an amazing amalgamation of ideas and visuals, and I will always LOVE ‘The Three Doctors’ despite its shortcomings.
Pertwee IS establishment quite often, but always expresses rage and dismay at bureaucracy and pen pushers. Some have said that his Doctor wasn’t ‘nice’, but I never got that. The way he worked with Katy Manning showed a very soft and caring side to the Doctor. He was a man who was flamboyant, yet completely and utterly dependable. As a young kid, whatever the Doctor and Co were facing, you knew the Third Doctor would win out. And as for the rapport with Delgado, the way the two worked together – we have never and will never see better Doctor/Adversary matchup. That is clear.
Say what you like, Pertwee is not my favourite of all, but will always be one of my favourite Doctors. He has magic, a soft side, he was dynamic, funny at times, deadly serious at others. And in the early years right through to today, no Doctor has delivered speeches quite so well. See – ‘The Mind of Evil’, ‘The Time Monster’ and ‘Planet of the Spiders’. So, grab some cheese and a bottle of the finest wine you can find in Style’s cellar and drink a toast to Jon Pertwee. I salute you sir!
Greetings! Here’s what you may have missed over the past week if you didn’t spend every waking moment online searching for Doctor Who news and opinion… Remember, to stay up to date, follow @troughtonsmydoc and get the news as it happens!
On the topic of missing episodes, Andrew looked at the latter half of season three, from The Feast of Stephen right through to the War Machines.
Well, I think that’s about it for this past week! We also started #FanProducedFriday in which we highlight fan productions to bring more viewers/listeners to worthy causes. If you have a project you would like mentioned, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet that hashtag at us with a link to your project!
We had reached one of the most controversial episodes that remains missing, The Feast Of Steven!
This special episode, perhaps the least likely to turn up as as far as we know it was never telerecorded, also features William Hartnell breaking the ‘fourth-wall’ when he addresses the audience directly to wish them a happy Christmas. This goes to show the extent of the restrictions to how the show was made back in the day that they didn’t have the money or time to simply edit it out. I thought it was a rather endearing twist to the episode myself, and remember looking for it in the novelisation back when I was a kid!
The Daleks’ Masterplan then continues on after this one episode interruption, moving toward its dramatic conclusion. Dennis Spooner writes the last five episodes and reintroduces the brilliant Peter Butterworth as the Meddling Monk. Once his part is done, the final two episodes turn very serious again as Sara Kingdom dies in one of the most dramatic deaths in Who-history. What must have been difficult at the time for the production team, Jean Marsh is aged to death in front of the UK audiences eyes. Just UK eyes though, the 12-part serial, offered as only 11 with ‘The Feast of Steven’ not included for overseas sale, is the one Doctor Who story (along with ‘Mission to the Unknown’, its prequel) not to be bought or screened outside the UK. The Australian censors felt it required too many cuts to be suitable for the audience and so the preview tapes were never more than that. It remains the least likely group of episodes to turn up, yet we do have three of the twelve which have been found since the 80s (and whispers of as many as four more having possibly been found).
After The Daleks’ Masterplan, we get a very brief idea of what Wiles and Tosh wanted to do with the show. VERY brief. The first move was to cut back the length of the stories. Seasons three and four bear this legacy. Notice that only Dalek stories in these two seasons are more than four parts, with only one exception, The Faceless Ones in season four.
The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve follows on the heels of the massive Dalek story, and is possibly the most mysterious of all stories. No telesnaps, about 3 or 4 pictures, it is regarded as somewhat of a classic and is one of the stories I most want to see returned. It is written by John Lucarotti, or at least credited to him. Lucarotti was responsible for two historical stories in season one, Marco Polo and The Aztecs, two stories of a decidedly serious nature, and highly regarded for the time. I feel sure The Massacre is in fact the best of his three, however, is it really his?
Donald Tosh rewrote the story extensively, and apparently Lucarotti was not happy with the finished product, believing it strayed too far from his original concept. Lucarotti had wanted to write a story set around the Viking invasions, but Tosh quite rightly had pointed out that they had already been there (The Time Meddler). The result was a story about a less well-known part of history, ending in a shocking massacre which gave the story its title.
One of the reasons for the massive rewrite was William Hartnell. He needed a holiday, and I think Tosh wanted to limit his involvement in the story because he was experiencing failing health and becoming increasingly harder to work with. In fact, Hartnell and Wiles had huge issues at the time and never got on.
People are interested to see Hartnell as ‘The Abbott’ in this story – he played dual roles in The Massacre, something that hadn’t been tried before. The Doctor and the Abbot never meet, in fact the Doctor only appears in the first and fourth parts, and the Abbot in the third episode, with a very brief appearance at the end of episode one. Episode Two only has a short scene featuring Hartnell as the Abbot, this was the episode he was absent from.
In fact, the Abbot doesn’t feature that much in the story at all, so Hartnell gets a good break, and you’d have to think that historical were easier on him anyways, as he wouldn’t need to remember as much technical jargon as the science fiction based tales. Having said that, the Doctor returns as a bit of a tour-de-force in the final instalment, ‘Bell of Doom’. He insists on leaving Paris promptly to Steven and refuses to take Ann Chaplet with them. Steven gets very angry when the TARDIS materialises and goes off in a huff. William Hartnell then delivers a speech that is both beautifully written and delivered. It might just be his finest moment playing the Doctor.
The choice to introduce the new companion in a fleeting scene in episode four however is somewhat mystifying. The idea that Ann Chaplet, a character Steven tries to help in The Massacre, is an ancestor of Dodo Chaplet is used as an excuse for welcoming the first of two companions to be called Dorothy (Dorothea) as a crew-member makes little sense. She wanders into the TARDIS after she’s just witnessed an accident to get help. Before she knows where she is the TARDIS has taken often. She then forgets in an instant the accident, tells the Doctor she has no parents and seems perfectly fine with going off for adventures. It comes across as extremely rushed and last minute.
Dodo is the new companion, with little to no back-story and the rushed introduction. Jackie Lane played the part, perhaps the most elusive of Doctor Who actors since. She does not appear in any of the extras on the DVDs, although she did record a ‘myth makers’ video back in the 1990s. In this way she is something of an enigma. Apparently she remembers very little about her time on the programme, but is not ‘anti-Doctor Who’. Her leaving would be handled poorly off screen, and even worse on.
The Ark would be her first proper story, a story we can still enjoy today. Watching it as a story in the middle of a plethora of missing episodes, you could be forgiven for thinking she’d been around for a while. It’s been documented that her accent started off as being ‘regional’, and then was toned down to be more generic. These were production directives, not choices made by Jackie Lane. It’s a fair start for a new companion – she nearly wipes out the human race with a cold in her first full story!
Although there are some major issues with The Ark, the costumes and the Monoids principally, it has a grand sort of vision and the production team did well with sets and creating a jungle in space. Unfortunately the Monoids didn’t look all that good, and in the second half of the story they turned into typical monsters with corny lines and a ‘security kitchen’ (who doesn’t love the security kitchen though, that is surely pure gold!). We were getting an idea though of the Wiles and Tosh direction. Sadly, this is it for them.
John Wiles had had enough of the series, and especially William Hartnell. He and Tosh had wanted to change the actor, which they planned to do during ‘The Celestial Toymaker’, but a new producer had already moved in, in the shape of Innes Lloyd. With him he brought in Gerry Davis who replaced Donald Tosh who decided to leave after he realised that Lloyd’s ideas for the series were very different to his.
The Celestial Toymaker is a story which was written three times. Firstly by Brian Hayles, then re-written by Donald Tosh, and finally by Gerry Davis. Allowing Hartnell a few more weeks holiday, episodes 2 and 3 only feature his voice (pre-recorded) and a hand. It’s a somewhat odd story, of which only the fourth episode exists today. It’s perhaps the least interesting of the four, consisting of a lot of dice-rolling, but Michael Gough is fantastic in it.
Move on next to the last script commissioned by Wiles and Tosh, the much-maligned The Gunfighters. Donald Cotton’s second script may cop a lot of flack, and they certainly played that darned song far too often, but I think this is a wonderful piece of television. The design utilised a very small space especially well, there are some great performances especially from William Hartnell, and more than anything, it’s just a lot of fun. Despite beliefs to the contrary, it did not garner the lowest ratings for the time, and despite a few dodgy accents, it stands out as one of my favourites, if not my favourite, Hartnell adventure. I fear its reputation as a dud preceded it being available for general consumption and fans had already judged it to be a turkey without giving it a chance.
Innes Lloyd was busy at the time shaping the series and decided the historicals would have to go. We would only get two-more before Black Orchid in 1982, and they would both follow a different model from Cotton’s humerous take on the show. The emphasis would be on adventure which would drive The Highlanders and especially The Smugglers.
Lloyd wanted to make his mark on the show. He continued the policy that Wiles had installed of keeping adventures to four episodes though, for the most part to the near-end of season four. He wanted to shake up the cast, and in the space of a few adventures the entire main cast would leave and be replaced, including William Hartnell.
The first to go was Peter Purves, in The Savages. The story, by Ian Stuart Black, is another completely missing tale set on a world in the far future. Interestingly, it is a very thought-provoking story (it could be argued that most of the stories Lloyd oversaw were not aiming to get the audience thinking that much) with strong anti-slavery themes, exploring class and exploitation. Peter Purves didn’t particularly want to leave, but his contract was the first to expire. At least his exit was pretty decent, unlike Dodo’s. The Savages would also see individual episode titles abandoned in favour of a story title with the episodes numbered, the format that would survive until Doctor Who was taken off-air in 1989.
The War Machines, also penned by Ian Stuart Black, is often held up as the first example of a ‘UNIT-style’ story. Returned in full (bar a few cuts) in the 1980s from Nigeria, we can at least see this story today. Poor Dodo gets hypnotised by WOTAN and sent to ‘the country’ before the end of the second episode, never to return to even say ‘goodbye’ to the Doctor. Anneke Wills and Michael Craze are introduced as Polly and Ben, the new kids in the TARDIS. We have a modern-day setting, which we haven’t really seen since Planet of Giants, a story where the Doctor, Ian, Susan and Barbara didn’t interact with another character.
They seem to have been experimenting with this story, and to be honest it’s not all very convincing. The use of ‘Doctor Who’ instead of Doctor will infuriate fans for the next forty-seven years for example! Innes Lloyd was looking for something to replace the Daleks, but the War Machines’ design (which is all one could expect on that budget) would fall far short of capturing anyone’s imagination. But it is a story which deals with a fear of computers, before it’s time perhaps. Unlike The Savages though, there was a lack of a ‘deeper’ message. It’s a straight forward adventure, rather fun at times and clunky at others, especially dialogue. Polly is portrayed as a hip, ‘swinging sixties’ girl, and we even have scenes set in a night club (the hottest night spot in town). You kind of feel that Dodo doesn’t belong there, and then the Doctor turns up at the club too!
And that was how season three finished up. Season Four would see a greater change as Hartnell would be convinced to leave the programme and would be replaced by Patrick Troughton. The Cybermen would be a feature of the next season, making their debut and soon racking up a second appearance. The Daleks also would get two stories, the second intended as their final story. We would see two new companions go as Michael Craze would get the similar sort of treatment that Jackie Lane had received.
Season Three is regarded as a season where the show waned. The ratings did fall in the third season, especially for the historical stories, but actually I think some of the best 60’s Who comes from the third season. The programme is in a state of flux, changing, evolving, finding a way to survive, and new tales to tell. Season Four would see things settle, the ratings improve, and a model for Season 5 be developed. The injection of a new lead actor in the role of the Doctor would provide the ratings lift the show needed. The exciting times were not about to end.
Welcome to another wonderful Monday morning. Just in case you were out enjoying the real world and missed some of our amazing stories last week, here’s a recap for you. Don’t forget to follow @troughtonsmydoc to get the news as it’s happening!
There’s been a development in the German bluray release of Adventures in Space and Time. It had a release date and special features announced.
TMID decided to start its own twitter hashtag to promote some fan initiatives involving Doctor Who. If you have something you want us to talk about, just tweet that hashtag to @troughtonsmydoc and we will take a look!
And here’s one more fan project, the Time Run, from @thymerun. This is a video that features footage of David Tennant running set to different songs. Today marks it’s launch, so be sure to check it out!
Last, but far from least, Al Miller brought us another Podcastrovalva, ‘Traveling the Vortex’
So, after everything that has been said this month regarding Underwater Menace we get an article today from Doctor Who Magazine in which every party that might have their fingers in any missing episode pie strongly denies having ownership of any more missing episodes. Toward the bottom of the article they briefly mention UWM stating that it will be out later this year with the missing episodes reconstructed using production stills.
This is the first in a series of articles looking at the seasons most devastated by missing episodes.
Most Doctor Who fans know about the missing episodes, I would hope. 97 episodes are missing from the archives of Doctor Who, spaced out over the first 6 years when the show was shot on black and white video tape and then transferred to 16mm film for overseas sale. October saw the announcement of 9 of the then 106 missing episodes returned in the form of four episodes from ‘The Web of Fear’ and five episodes from ‘The Enemy of the World’, both classic season five stories.
When we look at what years are most represented, we can see that season one is missing 9 episodes, season two 2 episodes and season six 7 episodes. This means that 79 episodes come from seasons 3-5, and those are the seasons these articles are going to be about. Why? Because I think they come from a really interesting time in Who history, and frankly not so much is known about them. Less episodes means less DVD releases, which in turn means less interviews and knowledge about this crucial time in Doctor Who history.
Over these three years we see firstly the first and second changes in producership, the first change in lead actor, the phasing out of historical adventures, two actors playing companions left out to dry (if not four), constant changing of the format and much more. It’s a fascinating time – perhaps the most interesting in the first 26 years. It’s a time I crave more and more knowledge of. No one wants the missing episode rumours to come true more than I do, but we are in a holding pattern right now, waiting for a possible second announcement of more finds, and it seems the perfect opportunity to examine the era and see what it is all about.
Today, I write about the third season of Doctor Who. Verity Lambert and Dennis Spooner left the show after ‘The Time Meddler’, a pseudo-historical and the first story which saw the Doctor with a different team than the show had started with – Vicki (Maureen O’Brien) and Steven Taylor (Peter Purves). I for one liked Vicki, I felt her character was much better for the show than Susan who had, in my opinion, cried and screamed her way through most of her episodes. Vicki had more of a spark, was more mischievous and didn’t scream nearly as much. Steven Taylor presented immediately as a strong and physical male companion.
John Wiles and Donald Tosh were the incoming producer and script editor respectively. They came in with some stories already commissioned and planned – principally ‘Galaxy Four’ and ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan’, and considering the size of the second story, they would have to wait a long time before they could really start to shape the show with their own ideas.
One thing is clear – they were not fans of the longer stories. If you see the illuminating interview on ‘The Gunfighters’ DVD, Tosh clearly considered ‘The Daleks Masterplan’ was a hindrance to them moving the series in the direction they wanted to.
Not to mention they had a lot of issues just getting Nation’s scripts in for the first six episodes, which he delivered very late before he was flying off to the States. ‘Galaxy Four’ didn’t thrill them that much either, a story that Peter Purves’ considers one of his least favourite.
Thought completely lost bar a six minute clip from episode one, an episode was returned (Episode 3: ‘Airlock’) late in 2011. In fact it was a surprisingly interesting episode. There’s a great sense of play with the Chumblies, and Maureen O’Brien gives a particularly good performance. The reconstruction produced by Loose Canon is an amazing job considering there were no telesnaps from this story, but it felt a very slow, uneventful tale. The new reconstruction on ‘The Aztecs’ DVD, albeit a cut-down one, moves a lot faster thanks to the returned episode.
Then there was ‘Mission to the Unknown’, there are at least two animated versions out there on Youtube today, but we have no telesnaps nor existing footage from this one-episode Doctor-less story. Again an idea struck on by Verity Lambert before she vacated the producer’s chair, this was almost a 25-minute trailer for ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan’. It was a good way to give William Hartnell a break too, instead of having the Doctor disappear mid-story for an episode. Once we hit the following story, Wiles and Tosh are starting to have an influence on what we see.
Donald Cotton wrote two wonderful season 3 scripts in my opinion, both with a healthy dose of comedy and the tongue in cheek, and with fairly brutal endings. The first was ‘The Myth Makers’. Who better to come up of the idea of the Trojan Horse than the Doctor? There’s a lot of wit in this script, some great by-play between the Doctor and Odysseus, and a very bloody ending. Somewhere in the midst of everything, Vicki falls in love and decides to stay in ancient Troy.
The first departure of the era, and Maureen O’Brien was written out without her knowing it or indeed wanting it, which did not endear Tosh or Wiles to the lead actor in William Hartnell at all. In fact, watching the reconstruction, Vicki’s decision to stay in Troy could probably have been handled a lot better on screen too, let alone off screen where she basically found out by reading the script.
Unfortunately all we have are a few publicity photos and some 8mm off air footage shot by a guy aiming his camera at his TV screen. I’ve often felt this was a bit of a ‘forgotten’ tale, it’s not one many fans talk about. I think if it were to turn up, however, people would find this to be a pretty cracking and enjoyable tale. It also has a couple of the best individual episode titles of all. ‘Horse of Destruction’ is rather good, but it is certainly trumped with ‘Small Prophet, Quick Return’.
What followed Vicki’s departure was a complete debacle. Adrienne Hill was cast as Katarina, a hand-maiden in Troy it appears hastily written into episode four, ‘The Horse of Destruction’, to be the new companion. I haven’t the foggiest idea why. She lasts five episodes including her first and becomes the first Doctor Who companion to die in the show, as she opens an airlock when being mauled by a desperate criminal in Episode Four of ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan’ – ‘The Traitors’.
Tosh says that they quickly realised she wouldn’t have worked as a companion because she came from too far back in human history and the Doctor would have had to explain everything to her. I’m not sure exactly how quickly they realised, but they sure killed her off pretty quickly and I wonder if she was originally planned to (and written into) subsequent episodes of the story and then taken out by Donald Tosh. Sara Kingdom (Jean Marsh) acts as a sort of companion for the remainder of the story, but is such a stark contrast to Katarina it seems impossible that it was the same part with a bit of tweaking.
These sort of changes indicate exactly how close to transmission decisions were made and script received. Wiles and Tosh now found themselves embroiled in the 12 part behemoth they never wanted, and they also realise that episode 7 is going to fall on Christmas Day. ‘The Feast of Steven’ was written by Nation (strangely episode 6 was written by Dennis Spooner, who would go on to complete the serial) and features a decidedly comic turn as the plot is sidelined for a week so that those who miss the Christmas episode wouldn’t have a problem following the storyline.
Just like ‘The Feast of Steven’ broke the ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan’ into two parts, it does the same with my discussion of season 3. That’s where we will pick up next time.
What do Marco Polo, Robespierre, Nero, Richard the Lionheart, Catherine de Medici, Wyatt Earp, George Stevenson, H.G. Wells, Charles Dickens, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Churchill, Van Gogh, Nixon, Captain Avery, Nefertiti and Hitler have in common?
The answer is, they’ve all met a mad man in a box. They’re soon to be joined in series 8, it seems, by Jack the Ripper, by Robin Hood, and Mark Gatiss has even teased the possibility of Jane Austen….
Doctor Who does love its meetings with historical figures, especially since 2005, when the “celebrity historical” became the vogue. It’s a headline-grabbing approach, probably done best in Vincent and the Doctor, which used Van Gogh’s synesthesia as a major plot point, and his presence as a USP. It does make sense to have a historical with a recognisable figure, as opposed to having unknown characters against the backdrop of historic events, but only really when it drives the story. For example, Hitler didn’t have a great deal to do with Let’s Kill Hitler, but you couldn’t have The Unicorn and the Wasp without Agatha Christie.
The thing is though….they’re running out of historical figures to use. Explorers, crusaders, Emperors, playwrights, inventors, gunslingers…..the list of famous figures from history has been ticked off, and many of those left might prove too controversial or divisive. I can’t see them doing Richard III somehow.
Hitler’s arguably the most famous or infamous person to have ever appeared in Doctor Who, but really he’s used as an eye-catching title and strapline for an episode about River Song. This is another of Steven Moffat’s wrongfooting titles, and a plot element that’s swept out of the way quickly, he’s quite literally thrown in a cupboard. On the other hand, it would be much harder to sell something like The Visitation these days, where you have rats and the great fire of London as the backdrop, but a made up character like Richard Mace at the forefront. This is why, despite lavish location work, stories like The Fires of Pompeii and A Town Called Mercy have to work a bit harder….the public do like their celebrities, and there’s no-one ‘famous’ in them, and they take place in locations that are either long lost to a volcanic eruption or in the case of Mercy, made up. In the case of Pompeii, the Doctor and Donna at loggerheads over whether to save the doomed inhabitants is the effective crux of the story. Mercy also deals with a moral dilemma, but if, say, Russell T. Davies had written it, I dare say he’d probably have made it more relatable and set it in Tombstone.
The thought of a Robin Hood episode strikes me as a good bit of fun. That Ripper-in-Fog thing has been done as far back as Talons of Weng-Chiang, and I’m pretty sure Vastra had just eaten the Ripper when introduced in A Good Man Goes to War, so we’d just have to see where Moffat goes with that notion.
The notion of Jane Austen…..just…why, really? It’s mostly been literary figures and royals or world leaders these last few years. The use of Agatha Christie in a Whodunnit, or Dickens in a ghost story is a good use of theme and character. I’m not so sure about Churchill. The use of Nixon in Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon works because of the setting and all the secret agent-y stuff with Canton and the White House. Jane Austen is a famous author of 18th century romantic fiction. I may not be a fan of Austen, but I can’t see it working. There’s no reason, dramatically or Who-ishly to do Austen, apart from a lack of other ideas for famous authors to do.
Perhaps the answer is in recent history. The 20th century is the dawn of real global celebrity, it’s full of untapped potential famous figures. It’s notable that the series has mostly swerved the 60s and 70s since the revival, especially the 70s. Hide could really have been set at any time in history, barring the oscilloscopes and tank tops. Victorian times have dominated, and the period from 1938 to the blitz. It’s perhaps time to do what Moffat and Gatiss must surely have already discussed at some point, and go meet Conan-Doyle. Maybe head to the 60s and meet the Beatles, or Martin Luther King. Do something underwater and creepy with Jacques Cousteau. Go daring and dark in the 13th century and expose Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General as a sinister alien. Just don’t do Sense-Sphere and Sensibility please.