While Doctor Who suffered a twenty year downtime, there were other options for Doctor Who fans. The books, the audio dramas, the comics, and the copyright-skirting unofficial video spinoffs. Because the BBC didn’t actually own many of the component characters that made up the show, due to their byzantine copyright decisions, fans with slightly more money than sense were able to create new films featuring them, often with he cooperation of Doctor Who actors.
Such was the case with one of the best received of these, Downtime, released on VHS in 1995. Made by Doctor Who director Chris Barry and writer Marc Platt, it starred Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, Deborah Watling as Victoria Waterfield, all series regulars, and Jack Watling playing Victoria’s father Professor Edward Travers in a sequel to the Great Intelligence stories, The Abominable Snowmen and The Invasion. So, yes, that meant Yeti as well.
- The legality was never tested too far, though the film was adapted in the Virgin line of Doctor Who books.
It also featured the first appearance of the character Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of the Brigadier, and played by Beverley Cressman rather than Jemma Redgrave. She would be later made canon by the revived Doctor Who series.
We follow The Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney – Doctor Who) and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen – Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures) of UNIT who investigate New World University; a sinister school run by old enemies Victoria Waterfield and Professor Travers. The technology obsessed University holds a gateway to Earth made by classic foe the ‘Great Intelligence’. Fighting alone this time – without their famous time-travelling scientific advisor – The Brigadier and Sarah Jane are hard pressed to decide who is friend or foe as they search for a missing Locus, which binds the Intelligence’s power. The battle is broadened when the Brigadier’s own family is threatened and UNIT faces a powerful new breed of Yeti!
The DVD is available on Amazon, here and released just before Doctor Who‘s 52nd anniversary. Here’s a look at what once was…