The Golden Years – 1973-1983

Doctor Who – The Golden Years
1973 – 1983

By Alan

1973 saw the show on the cusp of significant change. Its 10th anniversary had seen the first reunion of all the Doctors, albeit hampered slightly by Hartnell’s illness. It would however establish a fun adversarial relationship between the incarnations that would follow in subsequent meeetings. The story would also see one of the final pieces put in place for a shift back to the show’s original format, as the Time Lords lifted the Doctor’s exile, leaving him free to wander once more.

However the show would not immediately embrace it, allowing the Doctor to travel, while still retaining his ties to the UNIT family. However the final shift in the show was around the corner. With the sad death of Roger Delgado, and Katy Manning leaving the show, the pieces were also in play for another regular to leave as Mike Yates would betray the team and later attempt to come to terms with his actions. With so much change in the air, it was perhaps no surprise that Jon Pertwee would signal his desire to leave the show. But coming off of what would be one of the most popular and stand out runs in the show’s history, the production team couldn’t possibly realise that a show-defining run would be just around the corner.
Casting the then virtually unknown Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor alongside returning companion Sarah Jane Smith, the production team would put together one of the most popular pairings in the show’s history. With his iconic long scarf a happy accident, Tom would become the popular image of Doctor Who, arguably up until a certain Mr Tennant donned his trainers.

With a new Doctor in place and a new production team coming in, the show returned very much to basics, with the first season seeing the Fourth Doctor head off into the stars once more, and combat several popular returning enemies including the classic Genesis of the Daleks that introduced the villainous Davros, who would return to blight the Doctor throughout the rest of the show. With producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes running the show, a darker more gothic feel would help to define the Fourth Doctor’s era and is still held up as one of the finest runs in the show to date.

Tom Baker’s lengthy run on the show would also allow the difference in production team to highlight different aspects of his Doctor. From the gothic era of Hinchcliffe and Holmes, we’d have another attempt at a season long storyline with the Key to Time. An experiment we’d see replicated less successfully in the 6th Doctor’s time. The eccentricity and comedy would then be cranked to maximum in the Douglas Adams giving us the sublime City of Death.

With Douglas Adams exiting the show, it was all change as Doctor Who reached the 1980s. There would be a new incoming script editor, Christopher Bidmead, and a new producer in the form of John Nathan-Turner who would stay in the position until the show was taken off the air. Their pairing brought another new take to the show, with JNT determined to shake up the show, and being very aware of branding and merchandising, Tom’s outfit went from something put together, to an obviously designed costume. New credits, and a radical new version of the opening theme saw in the fourth Doctor’s final season, which with Christopher Bidmead’s script editing saw a desire to focus on more science fiction concepts. This would remain into the Fifth Doctor’s first season, which saw the Doctor himself radically altered.

Now played by Peter Davison, the Doctor was now a younger, more vulnerable figure in what seemed a deliberate contrast to Tom Baker’s authoritative portrayal. It was perhaps a gamble at the time, casting an actor already well known for All Creatures Great and Small, however Peter’s formidable acting talents saw him mining a new area of the Doctor’s personality, a take commonly referred to as being an old man, trapped in the body of a young man. A portrayal that would be echoed years later by one Matt Smith.

With the new Doctor firmly in place, the show continued to change, being controversially moved from its traditional Saturday teatime slot, to twice a week on week nights. The casting of the new Doctor also brought with it problems with the TARDIS team, which had grown considerably over Tom’s final story, and the production team now found themselves juggling 3 companions alongside the new youthful Doctor. A format that perhaps worked when the Doctor was played by an older actor, especially given Hartnell’s wavering health at the time, however now quickly showed problems as scripts had to find things for all the characters to do (even if it was “be ill” for an entire story). This would lead to a story containing two of the biggest shocks in some time for the viewing audiences, as Earthshock would not only reintroduce the Cybermen, not seen in many years, but also kill off Adric in dramatic style.

As the TARDIS team slimmed down, the role of the companion was subjected to a twist, as Nyssa left the show, to be replaced by Turlough, a not-entirely willing agent of the Black Guardian sent to kill the Doctor. His attempts and deal with the Black Guardian would form the basis for another loose trilogy in for the show. However as the dust settled, the stage was set for another meeting of the Doctor with his past selves…

Updated: June 14, 2014 — 9:55 pm

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