Monday, 23 April 2012


As the longest-serving producer, John Nathan-Turner's contribution to Doctor Who was both enduring and controversial. he took over from Graham Williams
Am i coordinated with my office?

With new script editor Christopher Bidmead, he put together a series of intentionally scientific stories  and this was leading to some confusing stories for season 18 Bidmead was good at his job but his stories were heavy and made no sense and certainly not much fun
JNT  as soon as he took over for the  18th season had  a new title sequence,new picture of Tom as he bore little resemblence to his 1974 title picture and new version of the legendary theme tune. The Radiophonic Workshop was tasked with providing the new theme and incidental music at the expense of composer Dudley Simpson. its the 80s synthesisers were new and groovy (this was probably the best version of it during JNT's time) and a cool neon logo, a classic still today and used on merchandise and branding some great minds at work

And a new Police Box prop, back to basics design, full of Met box details and now lightweight and Fiberglas the doctors ride looked good, and in 1983 a new console room and bang up to date fiberglass console all hi tech keyboards and monitors looking like a zx spectrem and a atari with BBC computers had a love child
These changes were a instant hit and the fresh new look secured viewers considering the previous year S17  it is hard to see how you could go wrong

The Doctor's costume became more designed and uniform and the start of the ???? question marks appearing tho at this time subtle and on the collar by June Hudson (for tom baker a dark maroon piece big opperatic and suiting the 4th drs personality)
and later as a motif on a horrific item of knitwear worn by the Seventh Doctor. although the off the peg uniform costume continued with a cricket outfit and the ? returned in bright red on the collar but heck it was not as bad as Collin Bakers eventual clown costume
A idea disliked by Barry Letts and Fans felt the question marks undermined the whole concept of the character and the show ,JNT dictateing costumes ,remembering this is a man whos asthetic taste was Hawaiian shirts, in the UK !  
  keen to use  foreign locales, JNT era saw the show film in Amsterdam, Lanzarote and Seville, though exactly what each location actually added to the respective stories is questionable.Seville being a main case in point ,besides free Holliday
JNT was a master showman and advertiser he new how to sell he was very effective at generating publicity for the series by news  conferences or by threatening to remove or change a traditional element of it.such as l getting rid of  K9 ,the sonic screwdriver (He felt this prop had been a plot device to long and was used as a lazy way out for writers ) ,changing the TARDIS from a Police Box (he did this for one story attack of the Cybermen)  announcing the next Doctor could be a woman etc
with many years experience with the BBC and working on all creatures great and small where he met Peter Davison and new he met the new Doctor (a picture can be found on is office wall prior to Tom saying he wanted to leave )
He was also good at generating overseas interest securing the interest in America and generating viewers on the PBS stations there with frequent appearances of himself and other cast members as well as in Australia in over seas sales of the program
he actively cultivated ties with the fan base his door was open to fans .
he took the program from cult to popular culture ,relavent modern and new ideas

Unlike many of his fellow producers, JNT wasn't a great storyteller preferring to rely on his instinct to decide what would work within the format.a instinct that did not always work for the show, and knowledge of the BBC the 19th season, transmitted around 7pm on weeknights (in another break from tradition), 
saw a rather overcrowded TARDIS.3 companions eased the transition from Baker to Davison ,apparently . Killing off (the increasingly annoying) Adric (How Mathew Waterhouse even got a job is suspect at best ) the secret return of the Cybermen (in possibly there best design )  after a 7 year absence  
The successful return of the Master  in Tom Bakers last episodes and now played by Anthony Ainly in a performance more camp than scary ,and fun and amusementwas the order of the day he enjoyed his job killing tormenting the Dr amassing and plotting , it was a good return for the Doctors Arch Nemesis killing off the 4th Doctor was a definitive positive start
so far it was a refreshing change and who was new and set for the new decade Davidson was a inspired choice to follow Baker a total contrast and a good actor 
So Doctor Who now had a 20 year celebration had sweeping changes and a very good script editor in Eric Saward who wrote some very good stories as well and the program had good stories in The Visitation the Awakening seeing a return to historical sci fi (something unique and which Who excels at partly because the BBC do period drama like no one else) a good Dalek story  ,a couple of good Master story's and Peter getting a good companion in Turlogh and of course the stunningly brilliant Caves of Androzani Directing the serial was Graeme Harper, a real specialist in taut, action thrillers, who gave the show an exhilarating shot in the arm. hindsight suggests JNT should perhaps have left at this point. Had he done so, he would have been seen as having taken Who in a fresh direction after Tom  with a credible Doctor and some interesting stories, albeit ones that were a little too serious for their own good.and what a brilliant story on which to depart...Not bad  This success would unfortunately lead to an over-reliance on continuity and returning monsters.something JNT did a lot of self indulgence

  1984, Pete leaves , many reasons realising had no control or say ,the production values ,gimmicky American companion, 
Colin Baker in and Doctor Who embarked on a painful time. 
It wasn't that Baker was miscast, more that the abrasive, unsympathetic characterisation that he was persuaded to adopt, alongside a remarkably tasteless bad costume a costume even Andrew Loydd Webber would've looked at and said "Dude that's a bit over the top.", did him no favours.and he admitted to being willing in this for some unknown and as yet unexplained reason ,Collin is a larger than life man and a great fun guy so why he would do this not even God knows , and did i mention hes notable for  an outfit that gave clowns nightmares ?.
Tho slightly redeemed 20 years later when RTD in 2005 made the Doctor look like a street thug in leather jacket and t shirt, do we ever learn ?

If like all other Actors allowed to use his own personality for the Doctor things could of been different he was even told how to act and what to wear (He wanted something dark austere )  it was a shame as in one season JNT  undid everything good he had done  since 1980
 and this is a season of  a  few  notes, we got the brilliant Rani character and a good story for her (although why was the Master in it ?) we had a good Dalek story again directed by Graham Harper and a OK Cyberman story, but sadly that's all that's going for it, the 6th Doctor has on telly 3 stories 4 at a push with Vengance on Varos  something had gone realy wrong, with the unlikeable Doctor a whining companion  (Another companion wasted in Peri eye candy and nothing else)  there constant bickering the program was not likable and a death knell had sounded

There is other indulgences such as having the character of the Cybercontroller back for Attack of the Cybermen this could of been a brilliant idea with a lot of possibilities and been good for the BBC merchandising the show etc, now remembering he is in a full helmet and mask unseen so any big actor would do,no he got Kilgraff the original controller from the 68 who was considerably overweight and made the controller look frankly ridiculous and wasting a good opportunity and turning it forever more into a joke ,and on it went 
Oddly Collins Dr worked best in the comics (Better stories) when mainly in black and white (the colourist probably saw the BBC stills and photos and resigned on the spot )
JNT was out of control now it was his show as was described the Walt Disney of his own little universe and he was making very bad decisions, tho i don't once question his love for the program he worked on and for even after it was cancelled
In February 1985, new BBC1 Controller Michael Grade cancelled the show for eighteen months. 

But there was also another ruthless and arbitrary aspect to Grade's agenda. Downie describes Grade as an arrogant man and accuses him of playing politics with Doctor Who. Placing the show against Coronation Street following Colin's departure eventually killed it in a ratings sense. Why did he do it? Downie explains:
He had fallen out with ITV and was determined to hit their viewing figures hard. And Doctor Who did that. Their viewing figures took a dive. Michael Grade used Doctor Who to get back at ITV... The reason he picks on Doctor Who is that it gives him 'street cred'. It gets him in the news, it's controversial - Gary Downie  (quoted in Doctor Who Magazine #338, January 7 2004, Marvel Comics, p.15).

Violent and gaudy, Season 22's sudden steep decline in ratings from 8.9 million for the opening episode of Attack Of The Cybermen to just over 6 million for The Two Doctors making the general public switch over to The A Team!...and this man HATED Doctor Who with a passion he was on record for saying it before he even got the job so he had all the excuse he needed handed him on a big silver plate 
Fan's protested and it came back ,JNT had  the idea of the series being on trial which it was for real, and Trial Of A Timelord, the shows longest-ever story, was born ,yup longer than any Hartnell story or even season long Key to Time .JNT Had the idea ! did no one go er hmmmmm lets talk 

 curious to know what was head of seriels and drama doing at this point ??, you know JNTs boss

I'm sure that Jonathan Powell (then Head of Series and Serials) hated the show. He was always very hostile to us at playbacks. Very indifferent, whether the show was good or bad. It seemed he'd really decided that he didn't like us. I think it was entirely his decision. I don't think that Michael Grade (then BBC1 Controller) cared one way or the other. - Eric Saward  (quoted in The Handbook: The Sixth Doctor by Howe-Stammers-Walker, 1993, p. 205).
a season long story including the villain being a future version of the Doctor trying to steal his own remaining lives (already done in Fifth Dr story Madwyn Undead )so he could live longer despite the fact that doing so would kill him long before he could live to steal them (grandfather paradox) , and for the Doctor leaving at the end with a woman he hadn't actually met yet (im not going to begin on how bad Bonnie Langford was),Peri's exit was best forgotten or choose your own was she killed? left with some bloke she just met?,the  Dr didn't care either way  ,and several stories being obviously separate to the main story yet included in the narrative ,got all that?, ? , no one else does either and if possible his costumes got worse as Collins waistline got bigger
 (this surprising i know) marked the end of both Colin Baker and Eric Saward's time on the show. Saward haven  fallen out with JNTs decisions casting in Collin the costume etc so wasn't doing much this season anyway.  
odd that Collin is fired and JNT was forced to stay but wanted to go ,if grade  wanted to improve the production values he could have given them the resources to do it,.to to me all smacks of a personal vendetta
Also remember the institution BBC was at this time especially by those in there big offices on the top floor , Wogan and Eldorado is what the cigar smoking public schoolboy empty suited etonian , has decreed we the license paying public want so Wogan and Eldorado is what they'll get. Champagne all round,."rather" "seven of the best Jenkins topping day wot"

With Colin Baker so angry at being the scapegoat he refused to return to the program even for the regeneration (he fell off his exercise bike and hit his head) and rightly so,

enter Dr 7 Sylvester McCoy 1987
. the BBC for reasons known only to Satan, decided to slash the none existent budget even further , refused to let JNT leave and then in a bright moment of inspiration  put it up against the most watched program and soap opera Coronation Street (the BBC hierarchy wanted it dead and gone like all sci fi at the time)
do the list award winning expensive to buy American Sci Fi ,Star Trek next generation ,X files were i remember being in grave yard slot at 7 pm on BBC2 Red Dwarf  BBC2 9 pm , Dr Who re runs 30th anniversary BBC 2 9pm
McCoy was a good choice,naturaly eccentric first ne since Tom  he was a variety Actor not a traditional actor so was limited in his range and had a lot to struggle against ,a more sensible costume (in TVM shown how good his costume could of been) but JNT insisted once again on ? on the jumper and covered him in them instead of one or 2 on a shirt why? leave costume to actor and costume department
not even Alec Guinness could do much with what he was given in his first season 
with the first overly funny slap stick first season was a reaction to the violence from Collins time aparently, but this was cringe worthy stuff only person who could act was McCoy it was akin to watching a school play,

JNT was at this point using all his Theatre and Pantomime skills on the show which he did a lot of Pantomimes with stars from who,hmmmm possible reason for Bonnie Langford ? nah... and it was showing he was the Producer it was his show ,and it was his way or no way he refused to have older veteran writers return to the show unless talked into he was famous for falling out with directors writers and actors
the guest cast list was a veritable Y list of who's who from Saturday TV light entertainment, (much like his future successor Russel T Davis, RTD hmmm similarity) and it was doing nothing to help the program at all and the effort put into this could of been better spent 

BUT in came a new script editor Andrew Cartmal the man with a plan young student guy with young minds fresh thinking and some of the best stories to happen in a long time, Remembrance of the Daleks arguably the best Dalek story since Genesis of the Daleks  Phyco Clown Circus, good historical romps akin to Pete's Curse of Fenric easily the best McCoy story ,in Battlefield a good UNIT story likes of which not seen since Pertwees hey day ,
Alas the conflict was evident in style a conflict of interest between a group of over serious 20ish youths who want to turn the programme into something Literary and Postmodern Just Like Frank Miller Did With The Dark Knight Returns, and a not-serious-enough 40ish theatrical producer, who wants to turn the programme into a Visit England brochure and light entertainment spectacle 
but with the budget gone the show was cheap tacky gaudy and about as professional and convincing looking as a pantomime horse
Shame with 7th Dr and Ace being a successful and popular paring since 4th Doctor and Sarah ,and Sylv really getting into the part and making the Dr dark moody mysterious and interesting again , Who was getting watchable again
Sadly there was no one left to watch after JNT and the BBC mismanagement of the show, Doctor Who  was put on indefinite hiatus in 1989 a sad end

who killed Who?, the BBC,  JNT?,.......... JNT  era was not unlike any other ,just a era, no worse than Graham Williams era he made massive mistakes that drove nails in the coffin no doubt,
He made it from being new and fresh to stale and over reliant on its own past to frankly grim depressing and not a enjoyable fun or even remotely entertaining show ,from Pete's last year through to McCoy ,reason Dr7 first season was so slapstick  , a reaction to the grim tone of last 4 years but gone to far the other way
He was to much micro managing  doing everything and achieving nothing why was the producer directing making decisions on acting and choosing costumes dictating stories etc why is the producer always sat next to the Director dictating shots and what actors and everyone should do ? i partly understand why but what was he doing constantly in USA at conventions etc especially during the recording making period when the producer is needed ?
why wasn't he sat in his office producing ?  ,
he was obsessed with the media and stunt casting to secure headlines even if the casting choice was a really really really bad one, or even companion choice ! 
He became arrogant in his belief in his being not only right but only way

Brighton resident JN-T revelled in end-of-the-pier entertainment; he had a thirst for camp and panto, a sensibility that occasionally enhanced, sometimes damaged, a production. 

there you have it in a nutshell 

but the BBC did not like sci fi and wanted the program gone, Grade kept trying to get rid of it
Starved to death in the end,a shadow of itself

The BBC going off some interviews, seem to have just run out of ideas and steam in general ,nobody new what to do with it,the  possible reason for keeping JNT as producer? certainly seems no one wanted anything to do with it let alone take it on and work on it, it was treading water it was seen as a embarrassment it certainly lost its quality by the 6th Dr era
I find it funny to watch old 60s episodes like "Invasion" "the Time Meddler"  and see a really good quality story in every respect acting the story the fx everything a good quality story and then think that it was no wear near this good later on in the 80s it was cheap quick, kind of like comparing a mass produced product to a handmade one,you think of the epic nature of the 70s story's and how there on a bigger stage broader canvas so to speak ,this is not to say the 60s 70s who didn't have its turkey's it really did ,I'm talking generally , so i certainly see the drop and decline in production but there was still gems right to the end

it was certainly sinking  6 million then 4 its ratings had declined even fans cant bear to watch it, it was to be fare,lost its way was charmless it was old  and did need fresh thinking new ideas which no one wanted to do.
So you have to look at it sympathetically and remember it is a cheese fest ,but for a few good reasons, also remember the era that its made in the 80s the huge changes at the BBC and the good that did come from it,
eventually,the show was star it was a icon a legend ,and came back with new ideas new show

modern who  success wouldn't be possible without this era of Doctor Who and the brilliant minds that worked on it
First time it was taken to a contemporary present day settings and drama , change of  focus, companion was integral part to the lead in the story Tegan back to earth her time in fifth Dr story's a story revolving family members for first time (something new Who would take to far)  and then about the malevolent Turlough, to Ace story's and season 26,first time a Young Actor as the lead
also the story's revolved around the new darker lonely approach to the doctor, the merchandise ,new bubble baths jigsaws money boxes infamous Sevans1/6 scale model kits etc,books first time expanded into fact books  reference ones and behind scenes making offs, the technical manual all you need to know about the gadgets of who ,the paintings from Andrew skiliter etc,  the toy range with Dapol first time a toy  range of figures to the series were made available sadly coming in at the end in 1988 , the publicity the overseas popularity ,Home Video market etc all new paving the way for new who
And jnt didn't stop, doing nostalgia videos like the years videos shada ,charity skits in the 90s etc and working on events in places like longleat,when he was under no obligation
So i think bit of both but BBC wanted rid and they made sure it was killed off  
it went full circle young people took charge and  wanted it back looked upon it with fondness remembered it well but BBC wordwide had the rights but eventualy it came back to BBC 

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