In the fall of 1989, much was made of the cancellation by the BBC of the classic science fiction television show Doctor Who. Buffeted by both governmental budget cuts aggravated by the rejection of an increase in British television license fees and an understanding that the show appeared cheesy and dated compared to theatrical and television imports from the United States, the BBC finally pulled the plug, much to the dismay of fans, cast, and production staff. Officially, aside from a television movie produced by the BBC and Universal Pictures in 1996, the show was gone until its revival in 2005. The real story, as in the case of the best conspiracy theories, was so much stranger.
A sudden benefactor appeared that allowed the show to continue. Immediately, issues with senior BBC executives threatened the whole project, mostly involving licensing and product marketing. Yes, the show would continue, with the basic concepts intact: an eccentric older man in a vehicle containing considerably more detritus than would appear from the outside, a cast of equally iconoclastic travel companions, weekly adventures stretching the limits of audience credulity, and regular life lessons for a wide and diverse audience. The catches, though, were that the title character could not be presented as an alien from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kastaborous, the vehicle no longer had the ability to travel to any point in time and space, the companions couldn’t be TOO bizarre, and the multitude of existential threats facing our cohort had to remain strictly terrestrial. No Daleks, no Cybermen, no Silurians: purely local content. The revived show turned out to be incredibly successful, and only ended when the BBC decided to bring back the “authentic” product under showrunner Russell T. Davies.
The entire look of the show changed, but the new producers hoped one day to remove the subterfuge. To that end, a cast and crew sworn to secrecy shot a demo pilot, using the new props and locations, which they then hid deep within the new production network’s archives. This way, no matter what, at least one copy would exist of their hard work, even if they were all fired immediately afterward. The work done was exceptional, including the cover story, and only vague rumors escaped of the alternate pilot in 2011. The only obvious hint was that the benefactor remained as an “in association with” credit in the 2005 revival, as an acknowledgement of everything it had done to keep Doctor Who from being cancelled forever.
That, my friends, is how the show moved to Canada. One day, that demo pilot will be discovered by a dedicated archivist at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and fan heads will explode.
Dimensions (diameter/height): 18″ x 24″ hexagon (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm)
Plant: Nepenthes “Bill Bailey”
Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, recycled plastic, found items.
Shirt Price: $250US