It’s Red Nose Day in the UK. The bi-annual telethon raising money with Comic Relief for projects in the UK and abroad. A chance for all sorts of comedy ‘special’ versions of TV shows, sketches, celebrity tomfoolery and attention grabbing hijinks.
And twenty years ago, just three years after the aborted Paul McGann Doctor Who special from FOX and the BBC, we got a very special one-off return to Doctor Who. Which in many ways would inspire what was to come another six years later, and arguably everything since.
Doctor Who: The Curse Of Fatal Death was a four-part sketch spread over the night, written by BBC sitcom writing star Steven Moffat, with Press Gang, Coupling and Joking Apart under his belt. It starred Rowan Atkinson as The Doctor, reunited Moffat with Julia Sawalha as The Companion, and dragged in Jonathan Pryce as The Master. It mocked the low budget special effects but in a loving fashion, gave us plenty of Doctors as a regeneration sequence continued, and even gave us our first female Doctor Who, played by Joanna Lumley.
It also included a number of plotlines and gags that Moffat would reuse years later when writing Doctor Who for real. The Bill-and-ted-style time travel fight with the Master, a romantic relationship between the Doctor and his Companion, the idea of living the long way round and even questions about why there were chairs on a Dalek ship, all popped up a decade or two later. And he has his Doctor use the line “Look after the universe for me, I’ve put a lot of work into it” – which also turned up towards the end of his run… as well as “never cruel and never cowardly”… and even the Master having “aetheric beam locators”. And all those sewers to escape the Daleks is right from The Witch’s Familiar.
Catch up below.