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Doctor Who thing of the day: this is how juicy a drama about the creation of the show could be

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Carole Ann Ford Jacqueline Hill Verity Lambert William Russell William Hartnell
(Verity Lambert, center, with the original cast)

Last month I pointed out that there are rumors swirling around that Mark Gatiss may be writing a TV drama about the creation of Doctor Who. Now, here’s a peek at just how much drama was going on at the BBC in 1963, and what a juicy movie it could make. From io9, from a piece enticingly entitiled “The creators of Doctor Who were a scandal”:

Not only was Doctor Who science fiction, which the old guard at the BBC were highly suspicious of, but it was being created by the wrong sort of people — its originator, Sydney Newman, was a newly hired executive, originally from Canada. And Newman brought in a young production assistant, Verity Lambert, to be the show’s first producer. And a junior director, [Waris] Hussein himself, took on the first four episodes. For the very old-fashioned, homogenized BBC, these people were the wrong sort to be creating a television show, even if Doctor Who had been something they approved of.

Hussein told me, “Women producers in drama did not exist. So [Doctor Who was] already innovative in concept, and [also in] the person who’s going to deal with it.”

Also, at the panel, Hussein and William Russell talked about how the first Doctor, William Hartnell, wasn’t just a cantankerous old man — he was also a very traditional Englishman, who wasn’t used to the idea of women working outside the home. And he didn’t know what to make of Hussein, “an East Indian who spoke posh English,” said Hussein. Thus, Hartnell took a lot of convincing that an Asian man and a young woman were going to be up to their jobs. The first lunch Hussein and Lambert had with Hartnell, he seemed reluctant to take on the role, and they almost gave up. In the end, they decided to have a second lunch with Hartnell, at which it became clear that the actor wanted them to prove their qualifications.

Ooo, and there’s this, in the words of Hussein:

There was this dichotomy between Drama and the Children’s Department. The ladies who ran the Children’s Department were well into their fifties and sixties, and they were rather like those people in The Kiling of Sister George. They were very worried about Verity Lambert, who came in looking absolutely marvelous. She was young, attractive, well-educated — she’d been to all the right schools, she’d been to Roedean, for God’s sake, and spoke with a cultured accent. I remember standing in the bar one night, and hearing this gossip [from the Children's Department women]: “We all know how she got there, and it wasn’t by walking.”

Go read more, and just imagine how fantastic a movie — or even a multipart miniseries — about all this could be.

Thanks to Henry for the heads-up.

(If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)


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