1988 was the year that Doctor Who celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary, though in the circumstances ‘celebrated’ might have been pushing it a bit. As far as BBC management were concerned, it was an inconvenient irrelevance that they were only having to make to save face in public though in private they were scheduling it against Coronation Street and keeping their fingers crossed that it would just go away without anyone noticing. In the eyes of the general public – not remotely influenced by the fact that it was scheduled against Coronation Street, honest – they hadn’t even realised they were still making it but they used to like it when it was Tom Conti and his megagalactic scarf and a traffic warden tried to give a parking ticket to a Dalek or something. As for Doctor Who fans, they leapt to its defence by declaring it was a ‘pantomime embarrassment’ and not like they would make it if someone would just get around to installing them on the production team despite their having no experience of programme making whatsoever but frankly it’s about time that they were given a chance for the BBC’s own good and while they were at it how come Doctor Who was commissioned in 1963 without anyone checking with them first unimaginable power unlimited rice pudding et cetera et cetera.
Behind the scenes, however, it was quite a different set of stories; and in front of the scenes, too, as quite a lot of viewers committed and casual alike just got on with watching Doctor Who and appreciating whatever few anniversary tie-in cash-ins were released without making a song and dance about it, but you can read much more about that here. While they didn’t quite manage to send it hurtling back towards shore at a sufficient rate of knots to prevent Doctor Who from being cancelled the following year, there is no disputing – no matter how loudly anyone with entrenched ideas about pantomime embarrassments or, well, illegally parked Daleks might scoff at the thought – that the production team had succeeded in turning the ship around, and arguably the biggest and best celebration of twenty five years of Doctor Who was its strongest collective set of television stories since so long ago that nobody could agree on when even at the time. Yes, I know The Kandyman was in it. He’s a good villain. Stop arguing.
Part of the power behind this Alec Gilroy-overshadowed renaissance was the introduction of fresh and keen creative minds – surprisingly not including any of the fans who believed that having seen The Armageddon Factor once qualified them to run an entire television series – such as a new roster of musicians who combined a childhood love of Doctor Who with cutting-edge digital technology and forward-thinking ideas. In Doctor Who Chronicles: 1988, you can find a feature by me on Mark Ayres, Dominic Glynn and Keff McCulloch and their contributions to the twenty fifth anniversary series, taking in such behind-the-synths details as the original vetoed idea for the Silver Nemesis soundtrack, Courtney Pine’s attempts at time travel, which real-life chartbound hip-hop sounds had an influence on a story about creepy clowns made in a BBC car park, and what was really going on with that harmonica. If all that wasn’t enough, there’s also a look at a certain trio of fifties doo-wop hitmakers who bizarrely kept finding their way into late eighties Doctor Who…
You can get Doctor Who Chronicles: 1988 from all good newsagents or directly from Doctor Who Magazine‘s online store here.
© Tim Worthington.
Please don’t copy this only with more italics and exclamation marks.