Top 5 unmade Doctor Who episodes

On Monday 7th July 2007 The Guardian labeled Russell T Davies as the fifteenth most powerful player in the media industry. Although you have to question the use of the word “player”, many would say that Doctor Who was at the peak of its popularity at this time. With the two spin off shows, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures targeting viewers above and below the average age of a Doctor Who viewer, you could argue that the franchise between 2005-2010 was a TV empire.

Another Doctor Who spin off show that was considered but ultimately dropped was Rose Tyler: Earth Defence. This spin off show was inspired by a conversation between the Tenth Doctor and Rose at the end of Doomsday in which Rose revealed she joined Torchwood on the parallel universe. The series would have followed Rose and her family on the parallel Earth facing alternate versions of aliens from series one and two including Slitheen, Captain Jack Harkness and previous companion Adam Mitchell. Despite the appeal of the program and the fan support it received Russell T Davies cancelled the show before it could be green lighted. His reasoning, and I have to agree with him on this, was that seeing Rose alive and having her own adventures would lessen the impact the audience felt from her departure in Doomsday.

If I don’t mention Rose returned in Series 4 and Day of the Doctor I’ll be crucified. There, I said it.

Since writing my previous article on Lost Doctor Who episodes I thought it would be fun to write about episodes that never made it to the screen. These episodes were cancelled for a variety of reasons, there was no time to develop the scripts, there was problem booking actors or the core idea of the story was just a bit daft. Either way here for my top five unmade Doctor Who episodes.

Disclaimer – Because these episodes were never made information on them is scarce. I will also be focusing on episodes primarily from the rebooted series as that is the era of Doctor Who I am more familiar with.

1 – An untitled 1920’s story to be written by Stephen Fry

In 2005, following the broadcast of the first series of Doctor Who, rumours began that show runner Russell T Davies was considering Stephen Fry as a potential writer for series two. Fry had previously appeared in several Doctor Who audio dramas created by Big Finish Productions and had publicly voiced interest in writing an episode for the TV show. In 2006 The BBC formerly announced Fry as a writer but declined to comment on the episode in question. Fry later explained that his episode had been given the production number 2.11 meaning it was to be the eleventh episode of series two and confirmed that the episode was going to be set in an era that the rebooted show had yet to tred, the 1920’s.

At the series two read through David Tennant, the newly cast Tenth Doctor created a video diary in which Fry could seen in the background which makes it all the more surprising that his episode was dropped. Fry explained that he failed to meet his deadline and Davies kindly gave him another chance by bumping his episode from series two to series three, giving Fry another year to edit his script.

However Fry explained he found it difficult to write the character Martha Jones instead of Rose Tyler. He explained that because he was unfamiliar with Martha (as she had yet to be broadcast) he struggled to alter her dialogue and eventually abandoned his episode. Fry later commented:

“They asked me to do a series and I tried, but I just ran out of time, and so I wrote a pathetic letter of “I’m sorry I can’t do this” to Davies.”

In 2020 Fry appeared in the Doctor Who episode, SpyFall – Part One as the character C, the head of M16 and acted opposite Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor. Sadly, Fry only had a few minutes of screen time before he was killed but he remarked that he enjoyed his time on the show.

Stephen Fry as C opposite the Thirteenth Doctor played by Jodie Whittaker.

2 – A crossover episode with…

In 2008, after the broadcast of The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End, Doctor Who entered a strange state of limbo. The Doctor made sporadic appearances in special episodes placed at strategic points throughout the year. Between these episodes, new series of Torchwood and Sarah Jane Smith Adventures were broadcast so that viewers had something Doctor Who related to watch.

One special that was discussed but eventually dropped was a Doctor Who crossover episode with Harry Potter. Davies pitched a premise to J.K. Rowling who showed interest in the idea. In the episode, an alien creature would attach itself to J.K. Rowling and create a magical reality, bringing creatures from her imagination to life. The Tenth Doctor was to battle his way through these creations on the streets of London to meet Rowling at King’s Cross and defeat the alien in time for Christmas Day.

This wasn’t the only cross over episode that Davies considered. To fill the Easter special in 2009 Davies toyed with the idea of having the TARDIS land on the Starship Enterprise. In this crossover the Doctor would have mediated a conflict between the crew of the Enterprise and the Klingons by shooting all vessels with a neutralising ray, forcing a truce.

Thankfully, Davies came to the realisation that a crossover episode would only serve to cheapen both franchises and all future cross over ideas were scrapped. Rowling’s 2008 Christmas episode was replaced by The Next Doctor and the Star Trek episode was replaced by my favourite Doctor Who episode, The Waters of Mars.

3 – Pride and Prejudice… with Daleks.

In 2014 Paul Cornell, a prolific Doctor Who writer was invited to the series eight pitch session in which episode ideas were debated. Series eight marked the first appearance as Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor and the return of Jenna Coleman as companion Clara Oswald. Cornell pitched an episode that involved Clara being turned into a vampire and attacking The Doctor. Although Showrunner Steven Moffat liked the idea, he suggested that it should be The Doctor who be turned into a vampire while Clara tried to find a way to reverse the process. For reasons unknown this idea came to nothing but it is speculated that because vampires were used in The Vampires of Venice three seasons previously, the show did not want to retread old ground.

Cornell then pitched his second idea. In this episode The Twelfth Doctor would return to The Land of Fiction, a separate dimension in a pocket universe where all creatures from mankind’s imagination roamed free. The Doctor and Clara would find themselves in Pride and Prejudice… along with The Daleks. The idea was vetoed by Moffat on the grounds that they already had a Dalek episode in development (this episode was later revealed to be Into the Dalek). Intrestingly the second, sixth, seventh and eleventh Doctors had all landed in the Land of Fiction and if the Harry Potter and Star Trek cross over did take place, the Land of Fiction may also have also played a role…

4 – The Eighth Doctor’s TV series

The 1996 Doctor Who film is widely panned by fans… and rightly so. What many fans fail to realise however is that the film served two purposes. While it was meant to attract new and old viewers to the dying franchise it also acted as a back door pilot to a new American produced Doctor Who TV show.

Why, on some film posters, is the Master featured more heavily than The Doctor!?

This TV show would have been set in a separate continuity to the classic series, a move which would have no doubt angered many fans. Although The Doctor would still have his TARDIS and a companion he would be searching time and space for his father, Ulysses. It is unclear if Paul McGann would have continued his role of The Doctor and if so, if he would have been referred to as the first Doctor or the eighth but it was confirmed that the Master would have become the main reoccurring villain. While the Daleks would still have a presence in the show they would have taken the form of spider-like creatures. Another big change involved reworking iconic episodes, for example a remake of The Talons of Weng-Chiang would have been set in New York City and a retelling of The Sea Devils was to be set in a Louisiana oil rig.

Due to the poor reception of the film, the TV show was cancelled but many view this as a mercy rather than a disappointment.

5 – The Perfect companion

One of the things I most admire about the Russell T Davies era of Doctor who is that the characters develop and grow throughout the course of the show. Rose Tyler transitions from a school drop out to defender of Earth. Martha Jones begins her journey as a student Doctor only to become the Medical Director for UNIT. Captain Jack Harkness is first seen as a con-man before leading a team of alien experts in Cardiff. Even the Doctor experiences growth. The Ninth Doctor begins his adventures as a war weary soldier and attempts to mask his romantic feelings towards Rose. When he regenerates into the Tenth Doctor he overcomes his survivor’s guilt and becomes more joyful. Studying these facts alone it is easy to assume that Davies had planned these character journeys when he began work on the show.

An unwritten episode intended for episode eleven of series one proves otherwise. Davies asked Paul Abbott for an episode and Abbott delivered a very… interesting premise. Davies elaborated on this in Doctor Who Magazine #360:

“We did ask Paul Abbot, bless him, my lovely old friend, who did say ‘yes’ for about three weeks. There were three glorious weeks when Episode 11 was his. He actually submitted a storyline — I mean, it’s so marvellously inventive — about how Rose had been bred secretly by the Doctor as a psychic experiment to create his perfect companion. I sat there and went, ‘You’ve just ruined my character, thank you very much!’ Ha-ha. But he would have made it brilliant, because he’s the best writer in the world.”

Fans were made aware of a few plot beats of this episode. It would have began with Rose feeling left out after Captain Jack joined the TARDIS crew at the end of The Doctor Dances. To cheer Rose up the Doctor takes them both to Pompeii in 79 AD. During their adventure Jack would discover that The Doctor had been manipulating Rose’s life since her birth and had been moulding her to be his “perfect companion”. The throw away lines in the previous episode, that The Doctor knew Rose had received a red bicycle at Christmas when she was twelve and the references to Volcano day would also have been addressed.

This episode paints the Doctor as an evil character, a manipulative god playing with the lives of mortals on a whim. It robs him any elements of heroism and empathy and casts Rose as nothing more than a naive victim. Although Jack would have become more of a hero during the episode’s run time I firmly believe that this episode would have de-railed the reboot and lead to the show’s second cancelation. Thankfully Paul Abbot was unable to write this unnamed episode due to his commitments to Channel 4 and Davies filled the episode slot with the critically acclaimed Boom Town.

What do you think of this list? Are you glad these episodes were never made or would you have liked to see the end result? Let me know in the comments section or on social media and I’ll see you next time.

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