I Love... 1966

By Nathan Cooke

Doctor Who spanned this whole year you know, from News Year's Day to the New Year's Eve, but no one watching the TARDIS materialisation in Trafalgar Square to first foot 1966 could possibly foresee what would be welcoming them at the end of the year.

1966 was make or break for Doctor Who, in more ways than one. Behind the scenes would see a coup designed to rid the series of its star, a coup that was apparently foiled by a clerical error.

We started the year midway through the epic Daleks' Masterplan, a hugely important serial that had already given us the very first death of a companion, and would continue to shock until the end. This serial would have even bigger fallout though, that would ultimately lead to a whole new direction for the series.

John Wiles started his producership on the series with Masterplan on the books. Wiles was a visionary of a producer, one who could see a whole new landscape with which to play, however hampered by a three month storyline that he felt had been foisted upon him by the outgoing producer (and one which had been directly requested by the Director General himself), John Wiles' innovations would be very short lived before he moved on to new pastures.

The Massacre of St. Bartholemew's Eve is the first of Wiles' true vision for the series. A serial that fully exploited its four act structure. A serial which played with the audiences (and companion Steven's) expectations of a typical story. A serial which pulled no punches and gave us what is possibly the greatest historical the series ever produced - it's even got Andre Morell in it! Grim and horrific (how many other stories could end an episode with a very dead 'Doctor' abandoned in a gutter) it hits home hard, the only concession to the fact that it is Doctor Who is the eventual end and introduction to new companion Dodo Chaplet.

The Ark followed, giving Barry Newberry (arguably the best designer to have worked on the series) chance to design the future instead of the past. Although not the most esoteric of stories, it did actually play with the format of time travel, something that had hitherto been neglected.

The Celestial Toymaker was up next, another change from the norm. This was to have been (if Wiles had had is way) Hartnell's final serial. It is a very sad thought to imagine that a man who had given his all for the series could be dropped in such a calculated manner, but this was how it was to be. His contract was up and the Doctor was rendered invisible. In but a couple of weeks time he was to return to visibility - with a different face - but Hartnell's contract was renewed, and Billy himself made those final moves in the trilogic game.

By this time Wiles' had left having stuck out his initial contract feeling hampered by the programmes constraints. Wiles was an ideas man, possibly ahead of his time, but he was replaced by a no nonsense producer who was more interested in his audience than ideas, Innes Lloyd.

Lloyd was probably the first "big" producer on the series, the first to have a proven track record. He was undoubtedly very good at controlling the programme, but also he was the very first producer to state what Doctor Who should not be as opposed to what it could.

Having got Donald Cotton's superb Wild West skit The Gunfighters out of the way, Lloyd and his new script editor, Gerry Davis, would begin retooling the series, pulling it back from Wiles' grand vision into a much more real format that would appeal to the mid sixties viewer.

The War Machines was the first of this new brand of Doctor Who. A story that had been proposed by a real scientist no less, Doctor Kit Pedlar, who struck up a strong relationship with Davis and who saw the series as a mouthpiece for voicing his own concerns about the march of science (they would develop this idea further with their own series Doomwatch some years later). The end of this story about world domination via the internet from the top of the Post Office Tower would give us a whole new TARDIS crew, the very modern Ben and Polly, who would take us into a whole new series (in more ways than one).

Doctor Who was off air for just seven weeks in 1966. It returned in the September of that year with remarkably traditional fayre concerning pirates and smuggling on the Cornish coast, but this was just the spoonful of sugar...

The Tenth Planet hit the screens in October, after this the series would never be the same again. Dr Kit Pedlar introduced us to mankind's future, a blank, emotionless race, the Cybermen. They were meant to be a warning about unchecked medical and scientific advances, they were accepted as a new monster, a rival to the Daleks. William Hartnell, after surviving one attempt to unseat him as the Doctor, finally accepted that his time had come. On the 29th October, 1966 Patrick Troughton became Doctor Who.

Fireworks celebrated the first full Troughton tale as The Power of the Daleks debuted on 5th November. Doctor Who's first Script Editor returned to the fold to recraft the series, and in doing so demonstrated an understanding of the Daleks that had previously evaded their own creator Terry Nation. Six weeks of plotting and exterminating soon eased Troughton into the role, and by December the new Doctor, Ben and Polly were the accepted team.

Doctor Who finished 1966 with the third episode of The Highlanders on 31st December. As Ben plunged into the freezing Moray Firth, we could cast our minds back over the 46 episodes that had been broadcast that year, and contemplate how far we had come.

Two Doctors, six companions, and a whole new production team. Doctor Who did a lot in 1966, didn't it?