Erin Wilhelm writes for Bleeding Cool…
The premier of new Doctor Who episodes in 2005 introduced a whole new audience, especially in America, to the Whoniverse. Naturally, this generated a renewed interest in classic Doctor Who episodes, only for new fans to discover that there are more than 97 episodes for which no recordings can be found, mostly from the era of the first and second Doctors.
The BBC and Britbox have teamed up to try and bring as many Classic Who stories to fans as possible. Britbox is a new streaming service with both classic and current BBC shows. Billed as having “the best in British television” it also boasts the most complete collection of Classic Who episodes, offering fans all episodes available to date.
To celebrate, Britbox brought Peter Davison (the Fifth Doctor), Colin Baker (the Sixth Doctor), and Sophie Aldred (Ace) to SDCC to discuss the history, and future, of Doctor Who in a panel moderated by Nerdist’s Kyle Anderson. The panelists were sincere, funny, and seemed to still really enjoy being involved with Doctor Who.
Diversity, or the lack thereof, in the casting of the show came up multiple times throughout the panel. When Anderson asked the panelists their thoughts on Jodie Whittaker being cast as the 13th Doctor, the general consensus was that fans always push back against a change in Doctor, no matter who is cast, and that it was about time there was a female doctor. Colin Baker went further saying, “I have four daughters, I want them to have a doctor they can aspire to.”
This led Sophie Aldred to discuss how her character, Ace, was really the precursor to the modern female companion. Before she was cast as Ace, the women of Doctor Who would “just run around quarries and twist their ankles…and scream.” In fact, until she read the script and saw that her character was, in fact, not just a damsel in distress, Aldred worried that she would not be a good fit for the show.
During Q&A, a fan asked about racial and ethnic diversity in the Doctor role, and how they may have cast a woman, but it was a white woman. Colin Baker again gave an impassioned answer that racial diversity in the Doctor role “should have happened ages ago,” characterizing the previous casting of the role of the Doctor as “timid.” However, Baker expressed hope that now that a female Doctor had been cast, the show would be more willing to take casting risks in the future.
Moving on to Classic Who discussion, Daleks came up as a common thread in the tenure of all three Doctor Who alums on the panel. Peter Davison volunteered that one of his favorite memories of playing the Doctor what when he pushed a Dalek out of an open window and it crashed to the ground (in Resurrection of the Daleks). However, all three actors made it clear that working with the Daleks in the days before robotic props was an arduous task. The Daleks had to be moved manually or by remote control, often getting stuck on the smallest piece of dirt on the floor. Additionally, they were slow, with Baker stating that one of the hardest things to do as an actor was to pretend to run from a Dalek, because you had time to “stop and take a [cigarette] break.”
And if you, like many Doctor Who fans, are wondering where to start watching classic Doctor Who episodes, the panel has advice for you. Colin Baker suggests that you start all the way at the beginning. However, Davison suggested two of his favorite episodes, Earthshock and The Caves of Androzani. Aldred’s choice would be The Remembrance of the Daleks, her first story as a companion, as well as The Curse of Fenric.
Finally, Britbox showcased some of the hard work it has been doing to bring classic Doctor Who to the masses. In September Britbox will premier a number of the lost episodes that have not been seen in years, and for which only the audio has been re-discovered. For these specific episodes BritBox has reconstructed them by pairing dialogue with telesnaps and still photography. BritBox showed clips from one of these newly available episodes, “The Wheel in Space,” from the Second Doctor story. The effect of the still visuals with the show’s original audio makes you feel like you are watching a science fiction slide show.
So, for those of you who will be in Doctor Who withdrawal until the Christmas special, Britbox now offers you a chance to travel back in time with the earliest Doctors and catch up on classic Doctor Who.