A World Without Doctor Who

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Guest contributor Philip Cole ponders the unthinkable.


The TARDIS purred and groaned once more, the shadowy police box pitching down in Totter’s Lane again. Ian and Barbara stepped out and bid Susan farewell. The Doctor, the young girl’s grandfather grumbled his thanks before he returned to his ship with Susan. Within a few seconds the TARDIS had vanished and Ian and Barbara began the walk home.

What if, I ask. What if this had been the ending to An Unearthly Child (remembered only as 100,000 BC), the lone pilot to Doctor Who. A show we love and cherish forgotten over the years, occasionally making an appearance in the form of a retrospective article fondly remembering it. What if there was no first anniversary, let alone a fiftieth anniversary, what if Doctor Who was consigned to oblivion? Wiped by the BBC during the time when they were impetuously tossing rolls of film onto a bonfire, Doctor Who would go on to become something of a myth.

William Hartnell would become less of a household name and more an actor who our older generation only eulogize for his participation in The Army Game and This Sporting Life. Hartnell’s co-star William Russell would only be Sir Lancelot (of The Adventures of Sir Lancelot), not Ian Chesterton, and Jacqueline Hill would just have been a moderately well-known thespian. Moreover Carole Ann Ford wouldn’t be nearly as famous as she is today. Doctor Who did so much for so many people (contrary to Ford’s claims that the show ruined her career) and without it – and I don’t want to overhype the show – I don’t think Britain today would be the same.

The police box outside Earl’s Court underground station would be just that, nothing significant, not the background for someone’s profile photo, just a disused police box. The TARDIS would be a figment of the past and the Doctor – or Dr. Who – simply forgotten. Imagine a world without Doctor Who, just imagine it.

This article wouldn’t exist (I’ll abstain from that timey-wimey area), the comments wouldn’t exist – we would all be worshipping some other show launched by the BBC. Merlin? Atlantis (a particularly chilling thought)? What? We wouldn’t be watching Sherlock because it wouldn’t exist either – in Turn Left fashion, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat may not have met and developed such a bosom friendship – nor would a show like Elementary in America. It’s the ripple effect; drop a stone in the centre of the lake and it’s not just that area that changes, it’s the entire lake. Where would we be today? Would we be the same people? I shiver at the thought.

I fear that my life would be a pale shadow of what it is now if it wasn’t for Doctor Who. Those ‘non-fans’ could contest and say there’d just be a black hole in scheduling (probably filled by some ghastly talent show) but, really, everyone reading this sentence’s lives would change. And probably not for the better.

William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston –  probably not David Tennant – and Matt Smith would not be as famous as they are today. They wouldn’t be the Doctors. That gallant band of men united because of one character we all love would just be a group of separate, completely unconnected actors.

So thank God for Doctor Who.