Follow TV Tropes


Troubled Production / Doctor Who

Go To

Doctor Who, in its decades of existence, has had a fair number of episodes with production issues.


  • The very first episode, Part One of ""An Unearthly Child", had to be re-recorded, after the initial recording was beset by numerous technical and production errors, including a light problem causing William Russell (Ian Chesterton)'s face to be hidden in shadow, Ian falling over in the scrapyard and dropping his torch, a camera running into a piece of scenery in the scrapyard, the doors to the TARDIS set falling open when they weren't supposed to, and the studio ceiling being visible in the TARDIS set. The episode also incurred the displeasure of Sydney Newman for its overly harsh characterisation of the Doctor. He described it as "the worst piece of work I've seen in a long time." Ironically, the full version of the unaired initial recording still exists in the BBC archives, even as 97 episodes that were actually transmitted have been lost.
  • Advertisement:
  • Episode One of the next serial, "The Daleks", also had to be re-recorded, due to audio interference that led to the instructions from the director to a production assisstant being picked up by the studio microphones and audible on the taped episode. The re-recording occured between the taping of Episodes Three and Four, and the cliffhanger reprise of the start of Episode Two comes from the initial, unaired recording.
  • "The Reign of Terror": The main director, Henric Hirsch, had a mental breakdown during the shoot due partially to the punishing shooting schedule and the mutual dislike between himself and William Hartnell, and ended up in the hospital. Another director had to be drafted in at short notice to finish the fourth episode, allowing Hirsch time to recover and return for the rest of the story, but no surviving members of the cast or crew are able to remember who it was. John Gorrie is the man usually credited with it and he doesn't remember doing it. The alternate theory is that the episode was effectively co-directed by producer Verity Lambert and assistant director Timothy Combe. For the record, the actual episode does not credit a director.
  • Advertisement:
  • "The Web Planet"'s demanding nature took its toll on the production. The first episode required a 16-minute overrun, brought about by a variety of flubbed lines, missed cues, equipment problems, and troubles with the Zarbi costumes, one of which broke and had to be repaired. The start of recording on the third was delayed when it was found that some of the sets had not been delivered to the studio, and the Carsenome floor had not been painted. Lighting and camera problems continued to plague the increasingly frazzled cast, and this time taping went 37 minutes behind schedule. One of the Zarbi operators, his vision impaired by his costume, ran right into the camera. So rushed was the recording, however, that this blooper was retained in the finished episode. (So stressful was the shoot, and for so ridiculous a story from the cast and crew's perspective, that fans like to try to spot the moment where Ian's actor, William Russell, finally got fed up with the programme once and for all and resolved to tender his notice.)
  • Advertisement:
  • Season 3 was the first instance of production issues stretching across most, if not all of the season. The show's original producer, Verity Lambert stood down at the start of the season and was replaced by John Wiles, which rapidly turned into a case of Tyrant Takes the Helm when he fired Maureen O'Brien early in the season for complaining about the way Vicki was being written. This not only immediately turned William Hartnell and Peter Purves against Wiles, it caused issues that stretched across the entire season, as initial replacement Katerina proved not to be a workable character, then her replacement, Sara Kingdom was limited to one story due to Jean Marsh not wanting to commit to the series full-time, and then her replacement, Dodo, proved extremely unpopular with the viewers. Not long afterwards, the BBC executives foisted a mammoth twelve-part story, "The Daleks' Master Plan" on the production team, and actually getting it made proved extremely stressful for both Wiles and script editor Donald Tosh, with Hartnell's relationship with the two further deteriorating over their insistence on making the show Darker and Edgier. Eventually, Wiles decided to fire Hartnell himself, and when firmly told by the BBC that wasn't an option, gave them a "he goes or I go" ultimatum... resulting in the BBC firing Wiles without a second thought, and also leading to Tosh quitting in protest. New producer Innes Lloyd and script editor Gerry Davis were left with the task of picking up the wreckage left behind, and despite getting things back on track, they found that Wiles had been right about one thing and that Hartnell's health really wasn't up to the task of working on the show any more. Fortunately, between Hartnell himself becoming cognisant of this fact, Lloyd and Davis handling the situation much more delicately than Wiles had, and the BBC management now being aware how just unwell Hartnell was, all agreed that Hartnell would leave at the start of the next season, with Patrick Troughton taking over the title role.
  • "The Celestial Toymaker" was the studio-bound cheap serial after "The Ark" went over-budget. And it still had problems:
    • Most of the difficulties stemmed from the fact that it arose at a time of transition in the production office. Though commissioned by the team of producer John Wiles and script editor Donald Tosh, it was ultimately completed by the new team of Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis. The two sides simply had very different ideas about how the story should proceed.
    • All four episodes were in fact written three different times. Brian Hayles had delivered all four original scripts, likely in late 1965. Tosh and Wiles had immediately seen that the scripts could not be practically realised, and thus Tosh rewrote them entirely. By the time he was finished, though, he was no longer script editor. Davis, his replacement, now had to deal with the fact that Tosh had inserted the use of the title characters from a play called George and Margaret by Gerald Savory without obtaining permission. Since Savory was now Head of Serials, and had the power to veto scripts, he quickly rejected Tosh's approach.
    • Davis, therefore, had to tackle the scripts again. These rewrites got Savory's approval, but the old production team were left wondering what had happened to their scripts. Tosh opined that Davis' approach was "much lighter, more pantomime" than his own. The results were no more pleasing to John Wiles, who wrote a memo to Savory after he had technically left the production office. In it, he claimed that the central battle of wills between the Doctor and the Toymaker had been downplayed to the benefit of new elements involving a more childish confrontation between the companions and the Toymaker's creations. Ultimately, Wiles would have liked to have seen the entire production halted, since its commissioning producer and script editor had gone — and with them, the original, more adult intent of the story.
    • However, the story's problems weren't over even after Davis's script had been recorded. After the transmission of "The Dancing Floor", The BBC had to field charges from the estate of Charles Hamilton that the character of Cyril was in fact meant to be Billy Bunter. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that actor Peter Stephens had ad-libbed the line "My friends call me Billy" during recording. Thus the BBC were forced to take a step never taken before or since: they had to have a special continuity announcement at the end of "The Final Test" which declared that the character of Cyril was not meant to be Billy Bunter, but merely a character like him.
  • The DVD release of "The Underwater Menace" was also a troubled production. Episode 3, then the only existing episode, was released as part of the Lost in Time boxset in 2004. After Episode 2 was discovered in 2011, pressure was on to release it on DVD too. The two missing episodes were originally slated to be animated (as other stories' missing episodes had been), but this was cancelled after the animation company went bust, and the DVD was cancelled too. Then, in October 2015, the story was finally released with extremely basic tele-snap reconstructions of the missing episodes, which were significantly worse than both previous official efforts and popular fan-made ones.
  • Season 5 had serious problems with the scripts thanks to some poor production decisions. Producer Peter Bryant and script editor Victor Pemberton had developed a habit of sinking lots of time, effort and money into various script ideas and then abandoning them halfway through, forcing various last-ditch efforts. Much got hastily reordered and even shoved back a season ("The Dominators" had been planned for Season 5 but was such a disaster it was edited down into five episodes and shoved into Season 6), which upset Patrick Troughton as it meant the material was under-rehearsed, eventually striking up a deal with the producers that for Season 6 he (and the rest of the cast) would only work on one story at a time. In order to churn out competent entertainment quickly, the producers decided to focus on Strictly Formula Base Under Siege plots using recycled monsters, which Troughton found boring and repetitive, and at the beginning of Season 6 he announced his intention to quit the role — just after these problems had been extinguished, too.
  • The ending of Season 6 was a fiasco due to multiple scripts falling through after production had started, and replacements being hurriedly written as well as extended with tons of padding. "The War Games", the grand finale of the season, was written in mere weeks to take up the space of a six-parter and a four-parter that fell through. Several more stories had to be heavily rewritten — Patrick Troughton was going to quit at the end of the season, and lead companion Frazer Hines at first announced he would be going mid-season but later decided to quit at the end of the season with Troughton. This vacillation was bad enough to kill at least one story at the last minute — "The Prison in Space" was commissioned as a comedy serial that wrote out Jamie and when Hines announced that he was staying, the serial had to be rewritten to include him. The production team and director hated the script for various reasons (it was an outrageously sexist Mars-and-Venus Gender Contrast comedy set in a dystopian matriarchy and included setpieces like Jamie disguising himself as a woman and, later, spanking Zoe to break her out of Straw Feminist brainwashing) and requested changes, and when the writer announced he was sick of rewriting the script, the producer decided to cut his losses and commissioned "The Krotons" as a rush replacement.
  • "Spearhead from Space" was derailed when the video camera operators went on strike, leading producer Derrick Sherwin to make the whole thing on film instead. This made the whole thing very expensive, which was bad enough even before Sherwin and Peter Bryant were suddenly sent to rescue a disastrous German TV production mid-shoot. Barry Letts took over at the last minute, got it done, and got handed the producer job for the Jon Pertwee era as a result. (The film production unwittingly meant the serial could be released in HD in the distant future, which no other classic serial can ever be due to quirks of the usual Video Inside, Film Outside production.)
  • "Inferno": Director Douglas Camfield had to withdraw from production after suffering a heart attack, leaving Barry Letts to finish the job. Fortunately, Camfield's preparations were so meticulous he merely followed Camfield's plans. Then Jon Pertwee accidentally injured stuntman Alan Chuntz when he ran over his leg while filming the chase sequence. Pertwee felt so awful about the accident that he became ill himself, which threatened to disrupt filming.
  • "The Mind of Evil" ran seriously overbudget, to the point that director Timothy Combe (who had worked on the show before) was not invited back for another story. It also required a re-shoot at Dover Castle as one of the film negatives got damaged to the point it could not be used and there hadn't been time to shoot close-ups. With no actors available, several production staff had to step in as extras.
  • "Day Of The Daleks" saw the Daleks return to the show for the first time in five years. The production team only discovered shortly before filming was due to start that the BBC could only possessed three Dalek props that were still in working order. The final episode was due to feature an asasult from a large Dalek army against a house, which proved incredibly difficult to realise with the limited props available. Forty years later, the BBC decided to fix these problems by staging a re-shoot.
  • "The Three Doctors": The proposed scripts had to be hastily rewritten after it was discovered just how physically and mentally fragile William Hartnell was. (Some people claim that it was his wife Heather who eventually had to break the news to the production team behind his back.) As a result, the First Doctor became "trapped in a time eddy", allowing his role to be confined to film inserts done in a separate studio session, with Hartnell sitting in a chair and reading his lines from an autocue. Extra weight then fell on Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee, who did not get on well during recording, as Troughton's tendency to improvise whenever he thought that he could improve on the script made Pertwee uncomfortable. This had knock-on effects ten years later during the making of "The Five Doctors", with Terrance Dicks deliberately writing the script so that the Second and Third Doctors would not meet until everybody came together at the climax, which ended up disappointing both Troughton and Pertwee, who had become more friendly in the intervening years through doing fan conventions.
  • "The Sontaran Experiment": Filming on Dartmoor was hampered by nonstop rain, and the crew had to drag heavy cameras around, thanks to a short-lived decision to switch the show to all-video production instead of the Video Inside, Film Outside style that was then prevalent for BBC productions — video cameras were still bulkier than their film counterparts at this point, and it wouldn't be for over a decade later, in Colin Baker's second season in the title role, that they were finally able to make the switch permanently. On top of that, Tom Baker, in the second story he actually filmed, broke his collarbone, which required him to be doubled for the Doctor's fight with Styre (the production notes on the BBC DVD release comment that the director initially feared Baker had broken his neck). On that note, the heavy Sontaran costume exasperated Kevin Lindsay's heart condition, requiring him to be doubled for the fight as well (he died shortly afterwards).
  • "Revenge of the Cybermen" suffered from a long string of bad luck attributed by the director to witchcraft. When scouting the ancient cave system of Wookey Hole — a place associated by the locals with bad luck and supposedly the grave of an ancient witch — for its suitability for location shoots, the director's wife found some Iron Age arrowheads and decided to take them home, unwittingly calling an ancient curse on the production team. First, the team encountered a strange individual in potholing gear who had apparently wandered into set, of whom the staff had no knowledge, which the director began to believe was the ghost of an Irish potholer who had died in the cave three years earlier. The boats used in the cave scenes repeatedly broke down; one production team member had to be replaced due to an attack of claustrophobia, and another was taken seriously ill. On a day when staff disobeyed instructions not to touch the "Witch" formation (said to be the petrified body of the witch), Elisabeth Sladen nearly died — her boat went haywire and she had to dive overboard to keep herself from smashing into the cavern wall, where a stuntman had to pull her out to save her from drowning, and who later fell ill. An electrician broke his leg when a ladder collapsed under him, and the pyrotechnician found nothing would light or work correctly. The director took the arrowheads from his wife and reburied them, after which production ran smoothly. (A more mundane explanation is available: there was less oxygen so far underground, and the production team stayed significantly longer than usual, depleting it more than the average visitors, which would inevitably create an accident-prone atmosphere. The trouble with the boats has been attributed to the company that provided them not being fully briefed on the circumstances in which they would be used.)
  • "The Brain of Morbius" was largely the result of two writers having a falling out. Terrance Dicks submitted a story concerning a robot building a new body for a Time Lord war criminal currently stuck as a disembodied brain, but the serial got stuck as the Bottle Episode of the season, so to save money the script editor Robert Holmes rewrote it from the ground up to replace the robot with a human character. This enraged Dicks, who felt the rewrite opened up massive plot holes — he saw the story as a Turned Against Their Masters scenario about a robot that cannot understand beauty building a new body for his master, while a human who would be able to understand Morbius would rather be in a better body — and was also upset about how Holmes' rewrite turned the story into more of a Hammer Horror pastiche than science fiction. Eventually Dicks realised he'd lost the argument and suggested Holmes replace his name on the script with "some bland pseudonym", so Holmes passive-aggressively credited the story to "Robin Bland" (which Dicks thought was hilarious, breaking the ice between the two).
  • Season 15: Philip Hinchcliffe had been sacked as producer due to Moral Guardians, and in revenge he boosted the budgets for the final two serials of Season 14, meaning that incoming producer Graham Williams was money-starved just at the time a crippling UK recession and industrial strikes hit — and for an encore, Williams' own inexperience when it came to producing and budgeting a sci-fi series caused him to blow much of the season's budget on the first story to be produced, "The Invisible Enemy", crippling the rest of the season (and leading to a memorable occasion where the budget was so low they couldn't even afford sets — "Underworld" just used (poorly executed) CSO to put the actors into Miniature Effects). The companion character Leela was originally intended to be added for only three stories in Season 14 but was kept around as a regular due to the incoming team's desire to cause as little upset as possible with everything else going wrong. Executive Meddling forced the writers to remove all of the horror from the scripts of what had at the time been a Gothic Horror show — jokes were used to plug the gaps, but with varying degrees of success. Robert Holmes quit halfway through the season due to a combination of money problems and burnout. The stories were hastily re-edited to insert a toyetic Robot Dog Kid-Appeal Character added by executive mandate and shown out of order, spoiling the character development going on. Tom Baker's mental health, which had begun failing him in Season 14, tanked — he loathed both companion characters, wanted to be the sole star, and started threatening to quit in order to Wag the Director into letting him do whatever he wanted while also bullying his co-star Louise Jameson due to his dislike of the character she played, who quit after this series due to his treatment of her. Despite all this, the fandom opinion of Season 15 is that it's So Okay, It's Average — two bad stories, one okayish story, and three good ones (including two all-time classics).
    • That season's finale, "The Invasion of Time". Firstly the original writer gave the production team a set of scripts that would have been impossible to realize on a film budget, resulting in the producer and script editor having to come up with a totally new storyline in just a few days. Then the UK's economy imploded due to the Winter of Discontent, rendering the British Pound nearly worthless and leaving No Budget for the serial. On top of all that, virtually every department of the BBC went on strike at the same time, resulting in a hasty studio session filmed with sets left over from "The Deadly Assassin", followed by location filming at anywhere which would let them shoot, just so that they could get everything in the can. Not to mention the producer didn't believe that Louise Jameson really wanted to leave, so they delayed writing in her exit in the belief she would change her mind, and had to add a hastily written romance with Andred when they realised too late she wouldn't.
  • Season 17 essentially had the problems of Season 15 turned Up to Eleven. Season 16 hadn't been entirely trouble-free, not least because Graham Williams was sidelined for most of the season due to health problems, but things were held together by production manager John Nathan-Turner on the filming side and script editor Anthony Read in the production office. However, Read quit at the end of the season, along with both Romana's actress Mary Tamm and K9's voice actor John Leeson. The companion losses weren't too damaging, as new Romana actress Lalla Ward proved way more popular than her predecessor, and David Brierly was a capable enough replacement for Leeson. Read's replacement with Douglas Adams proved far more damaging; whereas Read did a lot to hold the production team and cast together, Adams was more interested in goofing around — including going on a pub crawl in Paris with the director of "Destiny of the Daleks" during the filming of "City of Death" — and rewriting scripts to incorporate his off-beat brand of humour. Combined with Tom Baker acting up more than ever (now with even his tempestuous offscreen love life bleeding into production notes) and the budget problems and labour disputes returning (in the latter case managing to totally derail production of the season finale, "Shada"), both Williams and Adams unsurprisingly decided to call it quits at the end of the season. Seasons 16-17 were also the victim of Executive Meddling, with BBC bosses first saying that it couldn't be horrific because of the Moral Guardians, and then that Adams needed to tone down the comedy. And if Doctor Who can't be scary or funny, there's not much left.
    • Even among the chaos of Season 17, "Nightmare of Eden" stands out for having one of the most troubled, disastrous shoots in the show's entire run. Already suffering the usual behind-the-scenes issues, things went further south with the hiring of ageing director Alan Bromly. Not only did Bromly not get along with Baker, Ward, or Brierly at all, he insisted on using outdated shooting schedules and production techniques, making things even harder for the crew. Baker frequently refused to follow instructions and constantly picked fights with Bromly, and later on in the shoot, when it became obvious that literally no-one on the crew supported him in his arguments with the lead actor, Bromly quit, leaving Graham Williams to direct the remainder of the episode, and visual effects designer Colin Mapson to oversee editing and post-production. On the last day of filming, one of the production assistants had t-shirts reading "I survived the Nightmare of Eden!" printed up for the rest of the crew.
  • "The Leisure Hive": Tom Baker and Lalla Ward's tumultuous off-screen relationship was at a nadir, causing the mood on set to be distinctly chilly. Director Lovett Bickford's management of the shoot caused it to go so badly over budget that John Nathan-Turner was severely reprimanded by his superiors. Bickford would never work on the series again.
  • "Warriors' Gate": In addition to the difficulties surrounding the script, virtually every phase of the production was problematic.
    • Tom Baker was particularly tetchy due both to his ongoing illness during the seasons and the departure of his then-lover, Lalla Ward, from the series. It didn't help that Baker and Ward were barely on speaking terms during the shoot, with the trivia subtitles saying that Ward mostly kept to herself crocheting in a corner when she wasn't needed for a shot, and that there was only one scene in the entire four-part serial where the two make eye contact note . Both he and Ward were deeply displeased with their characterisations in the initial script — which was one of the reasons Paul Joyce became so heavily involved in the re-write. He couldn't get his stars to perform unless their script concerns were directly addressed.
    • Meanwhile, Paul Joyce had little experience directing for television, and had considerable disagreements with John Nathan-Turner and lighting director John Dixon.note  Ultimately, only about half of the production was directed by Joyce, with most of the final half being tackled by credited production assistant, Graeme Harper.
    • Also, the production was hit by a strike of the BBC carpenters, which further delayed matters.
    • And, as if the production needed MORE problems, the Privateer bridge set was briefly condemned as unsafe by inspectors in the middle of the production block using it until a compromise was made that limited the number of people who could be up on its upper level at any one time.
  • "Terminus": The production was fraught with technical difficulties, including problems with costumes, delays due to electrical problems, and a mis-built set. The result was that some scenes had to be recorded on improperly-lit sets, production ran seriously late, and several scenes were taped hastily, much to Peter Davison's frustration.
    • An industrial dispute between the BBC and the electricians' union, resulted in a major reorganisation of shooting schedules. As a result, the crew had to work against the clock to complete the story.
    • Miscommunication with Rod Vass of freelance props firm Imagineering led him to believe that the Vanir armour he was asked to fabricate would be purely decorative. He was therefore shocked to learn upon delivery that they would be required for combat. The costumes proved to be extremely noisy when involved in vigorous activity, and costly refurbishing was required to address the problem.
    • Because the first episode underran, Eric Saward asked Stephen Gallagher to provide two new one-minute scenes. Unfortunately, Gallagher misinterpreted the request and instead extended several existing scenes to fill out two minutes' worth of material. Consequently, Gallagher's amendments were discarded.
    • The first day of filming was plagued with problems. A power failure resulted in a two-hour delay. When the crew was finally ready to go, Mary Ridge discovered that one set had been erected off its marks, incurring a further stoppage. Then, John Nathan-Turner was forced to call a halt to the recording of scenes involving the interior of the TARDIS console because the correct circuity was missing. This meant that Ridge had to record sequences on other sets which were not yet properly lit. Later, it was learned that neither of the drone robot props had been tested before being brought into the studio, and indeed only one of them was found to work correctly. Despite all of these disruptions, Ridge was able to complete almost all of the scenes set within the TARDIS and the adjoining liner corridor.
    • Many scenes were rushed through with only one take and little to no rehearsal, as Ridge had never once exceeded her allotted shooting schedule in her career, and had no intention of losing that record. Which, unfortunately, she did anyway after the various other problems proved too much for to recover from, forcing the team to schedule another couple of days of filming the following week... right after Sarah Sutton's farewell party.
  • "Enlightenment":
    • Janet Fielding struggled with the low cut ball-gown she wore during filming, as it threatened to expose her breasts on a number of occasions. At one point, Peter Davison concluded a line with the ad-lib, "Oh, and Tegan, put your boobs back in!" whereupon Fielding realised that she had accidentally exposed herself.
    • Mark Strickson was injured while filming the scene of Turlough throwing himself overboard, when the Kirby wire he was suspended from broke, leaving him only able to walk with difficulty for several weeks.
    • The electricians union the EEPTU, had begun strike action which disrupted the filming of a number of BBC productions and potentially meaning the final three serials of the season would have to be abandoned. The electricians dispute was settled, but it had badly affected the series recording schedule. The crew were able to shoot the following serial "The King's Demons" on schedule, meaning that there was only one recording block left for the part-completed "Enlightenment" and the planned season finale, "The Return". With some filming already completed, and its importance in concluding the Black Guardian story-arc, it was decided that "Enlightenment" should take precedence and so it had its second production block moved to January 1983, while "The Return" was abandoned.
    • Due to the delays, the serial only finished filming around a month before its transmission date, meaning that composer Malcolm Clarke only received the first episode for scoring a week before broadcast, having to rely on musical cues he had recorded weeks earlier without having seen any footage.
  • "Warriors of the Deep": Margaret Thatcher announced an election and all the studio space was given to the coverage, meaning this serial lost two weeks of valuable production time, and thus most scenes were shot in one take and much of it was not even rehearsed. There were many rewrites, partially to Bowdlerise/remove political subtext that might influence the election, and partially due to Ian Levine, a meddling Promoted Fanboy obsessed with preventing Series Continuity Errors.note  The Myrka costume was completed only half an hour before filming and the paint and glue on it weren't dry — it visibly smears on the sets as it staggers around, the actors inside the costume being light-headed from the fumes — so the director had begged to be allowed to ditch it. Peter Davison had No Stunt Double and got tossed into an ice-cold pool of water (after being assured that it was warm) because the BBC didn't have the budget to afford warm water. Byrne wanted the base to be dark and the sets had been built with that in mind, but BBC studio engineers insisted on lighting it as if it was on the surface of the Sun, in line with regulations intended for chat shows. In the end, this story deeply stained Doctor Who's reputation, and BBC execs used the Fight Scene Failure of the Myrka sequence as grounds to cancel the show.
  • "Frontios" has a sad air hanging over its production, with the deaths of two people involved before going before the cameras. Production designer Barrie Robbins killed himself after having done much of the preparation work and was replaced by David Buckingham. The role of Range was originally given to Peter Arne, but he was murdered in his own home. The crime remains unsolved; although the prime suspect (a student Arne was in a relationship with) was later found dead in the Thames, it's not clear what the motive was. William Lucas was cast to replace him. In addition, the Tractator costumes proved overly constrictive and badly ventilated, requiring rewrites for the former and air to be pumped in during recording breaks for the latter.
  • "The Caves of Androzani" was one of several eighties stories affected by strike action at the BBC (in this case, by the scenery shifters). It lost one of its studio sessions, and one of the sessions for the following serial, "The Twin Dilemma", had to be reassigned to it (which might have resulted in the cancellation of "Dilemma", although in the event John Nathan-Turner was able to secure an extra slot for that story on the grounds that it was important as the new Doctor's first full story; however, it also contributed to the poor working climate that resulted in "Dilemma" being recklessly rushed out the door).
  • "The Twin Dilemma": Anthony Steven's progress on the scripts was very slow, and he began offering the production team fantastical excuses such as his typewriter exploding. He eventually fell ill, leaving script editor Eric Saward to heavily restructure the scripts, which director Peter Moffatt felt had serious logistical and storytelling problems. Although the serial eventually made it into the studio, one of the studio sessions for the previous story, "The Caves of Androzani", was cancelled due to strike action by scenery movers, and one of this story's studio sessions had to be given over to it instead. The story might have been cancelled or held over to the following season in a revised form, but John Nathan-Turner was able to secure a fresh studio slot, arguing to his superiors about the importance of a new Doctor's debut.
  • The latter stages of Season 22 had a troubled time thanks to some location filming mishaps:
    • During production of "The Mark of the Rani", the cast and crew were stuck with the issue of having to film the story mostly on-location during inconsistently rainy weather. As the story entailed one part to be in clear weather and the other in the rain, this resulted in the team having to constantly shift back and forth between areas in order to get everything filmed properly. One such scene in the clear weather portion involved the Doctor being tied to a pole in the forest by his hands and feet, and because it took a long time to set up (due to Colin Baker needing a special rigging to keep his back supported while tied up), it wasn't easy to shift from that scene to a rainy one on the fly. As fate would have it, rain started coming in exactly as they were filming that scene, and the crew were in such a rush to get to the other location that they left Baker stranded in the woods, tied to the pole, for around half an hour. Baker later related the story in the DVD Commentary for the serial. In addition, Nicola Bryant injured her neck while sleeping. As a result, she would have to wear a brace for the remainder of the shoot— except while the cameras were actually rolling— and was in some discomfort.
    • The location filming for "The Two Doctors" was plagued by numerous small problems, including high heat that caused make-up to melt, a three-day delay to replace Patrick Troughton and Jacqueline Pearce's wigs (which had somehow got lost in shipping), Carmen Gómez' refusal to wear a costume designed for her, and a local stunt man (the truck driver) who refused to perform his stunt as it had been choreographed. Pearce also says that she was a last-minute replacement for another, unspecified actress who had to drop out of the production. John Nathan-Turner was informed that a filmed scene with Oscar and Anita in the olive grove was ruined by a scratch on the negative, so James Saxon and Gómez, who had already returned to England, had to be quickly brought back to Spain at considerable expense, only for it to then turn out that the reported scratch was virtually invisible and the original footage was perfectly fine.note  There was also a major spat between director Peter Moffat and Nathan-Turner, which resulted in the latter deciding not to hire Moffat for the show again. The upshot of the multiple problems with the location filming was that Nathan-Turner either decided to not film outside the UK again or was ordered by BBC executives not to do so (reports vary), although it ended up being academic due to the latter seasons not having big enough budgets to permit international shoots.
    • As a result of the money eaten up by these two serials, Nathan-Turner ordered script editor Eric Saward to put a script named "Timelash" into production next, as it could be done on a low budget. Saward objected to this, as he had wanted to move it back to the following year due to the writer's glaringly obvious inexperience, but Nathan-Turner overruled him. Making things worse, Saward didn't have much time to mentor the writer, as he himself was busy writing "Revelation of the Daleks", and further budget cuts to "Timelash" ended up resulting in an infamously cheap, poorly-regarded story. Then, just to really stick the knife in, the BBC told the production team that they were pulling the plug on the show, as they felt it had gone too far off the rails...
  • The "Trial of a Time Lord" arc: Producer John Nathan-Turner and script editor Eric Saward were desperately trying to keep the show on the television after it had been Un-Cancelled, seeing the 14-part serial as their "trial" to prove to executives trying to kill the show that it still had value. They also both loathed each other, and their mutual egotism caused them to purposefully derail each other's ideas out of spite. Robert Holmes was scheduled to write a two-part conclusion to the arc, but died with only one of the two episodes completed. Saward took up the writing of the final episode himself, using Holmes' storyline, but Nathan-Turner got cold feet about the planned Cliffhanger ending, as he felt it would give BBC executives the excuse they were looking for to cancel the show outright. Saward was furious at this, and immediately quit the show, taking his version of Part Fourteen with him. Nathan-Turner had to temporarily take over as script editor himself and bring in Pip and Jane Baker to write a replacement episode, without telling them any of what the original conclusion contained (as legal reasons made this impossible). The result was a complete Gainax Ending, and the show went through several soft reboots in the final three seasons that followed. (It could have been even worse; Saward also attempted to withdraw permission to use Holmes' version of Part Thirteen, as he had already performed rewrites on it, but was informed this was work he had done in-house for the BBC in his role as script editor and he could not legally stop the production office from using it.)
    • The second segment of the arc, "Mindwarp", is never clear about exactly how much of it is real, as it is being played as evidence in the Doctor's trial but the story has been tampered with. Colin Baker tried to find out exactly what was meant to be going on — had the Doctor's mind been fried by the titular machine? Was he only pretending to have been fried by the machine whilst looking for a way to put things right? Was the story just distorted to put the Doctor in the worst possible light, or was it even a complete fabrication? Baker could not get a straight answer out of the director, script editor or producer, and was left to guess at exactly what the writer's intention had been.
  • "Time and the Rani": Considering how late in the day most of the key production staffers and even Sylvester McCoy himself were brought in, this was somewhat inevitable. It also didn't help that Andrew Cartmel, who wasn't even brought in as script editor until after the story had already been commissioned, didn't get along at all with writers Pip and Jane Baker, who repeatedly told him that as a novice with no prior TV experience he had no business trying to advise them on anything other than what was or wasn't feasible on the show's budget — which was actually the thing he was least qualified to advise them on — and didn't even always take his advice on that front. In particular, they refused to remove a scripted scene where King Solomon is abducted in the midst of the argument over who is the rightful mother of a baby just as his guard prepares to split it in two with an axe so as to give one half to each "mother"; the Bakers refused to back down on this until John Nathan-Turner pointed out that if neither he nor Cartmel were familiar with that parable, odds were most viewers at home wouldn't be either.
  • "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy":
    • After the location filming had been completed, the studio sessions were cancelled because of asbestos contamination. At first it was thought that the serial would have to be abandoned, but eventually it was found possible to erect a tent in the car park at Elstree Studios and film there. (It was actually very fortuitous that they were working on this particular serial because the tents made this arrangement possible. With any other story around that time they might have had to simply throw out the location footage, but John Nathan-Turner was desperate to avoid another "Shada" debacle and arranged the makeshift solution. Indeed, it has often been remarked that what they ended up with looked better than the original intention would have done, because they actually were in a tent rather than a mock-up of one in a studio.)
    • While filming a scene where the Chief Clown leans into a cage to talk to Captain Cook, the vertically-sliding cage door accidentally slammed down on actor Ian Reddington's head, causing him to break two teeth. And they were so far behind schedule due to the asbestos situation that he decided to carry on filming for the rest of the day before seeking help. According to Reddington, as he was led off set, he heard one of the wire operators say to the other, "I told you that would happen".


  • The first shoot of the 2005 revival series was a very troubled affair. The full details have never been made public, but by all accounts the director set about making himself unpopular, and after the first week of shooting they managed to be three weeks behind schedule. Christopher Eccleston has since implied in interviews that tensions on-set were among the reasons he decided to quit the show after the first series. He returned to film and theatre and speaks fondly of his fans from the show, but did not participate in any of the events or episodes in the run-up to the show's 50th anniversary in 2013. In 2020 Big Finish announced an audio production featuring Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor, his first return to the role. Eccleston said in interviews he was glad to return to the role without "BBC producers" involved.
  • In a less tense version of this, Russell T Davies had never managed a sci-fi series before, and didn't really know how to properly budget it. This led him to blow the majority of the first series' budget on its second episode, "The End of the World". While the rest of Series 1 did struggle a little because of it — the settings and sets are noticeably limited — the show was already a guaranteed success from the revival's initial episode and remains fondly remembered today despite this.
  • Budget problems were a thing that followed into series two, which is what resulted in "Fear Her" happening. "Fear Her", incidentally, was a result of lessons Davies learned from shooting on the first series. The eleventh episode of that season was supposed to be a completely different story written by Paul Abbott that had to be dropped without much time to replace it due to budget and scheduling constraints, forcing Davies to step in and hastily assemble "Boom Town". Because of this potentially disastrous production, the series two production team felt that they should probably have some backup scripts if an episode fell through and something needed to be shot quickly and for cheap in its place. "Fear Her" was supposed to be a 1920s period piece written by Stephen Fry. Not much has ever really been revealed about the story itself, but Fry's presence at the first table reads makes clear that when the series began shooting, his story was still supposed to be going ahead. However it soon turned out that his script was too expensive to make, and so "Fear Her", written by Life on Mars (2006) showrunner Matthew Graham, was put into production in that shooting block instead. Its role as a backup script, and need to shoot on a limited budget, explains why the action is largely confined to a single street. In addition, Davies asked Graham to make it something more for children, rather than for adults and older fans, since it would be the last episode before the much darker series finale. Given all this, it's not surprising that it fell flat for the older audiences. Davies, David Tennant, and episode director Euros Lyn have all admitted that the episode could have been a lot better had it not been for the lack of budget and rushed writing and filming schedules.note  Fry's script, in the meanwhile, slipped to series three (retooled for Martha instead of Rose), and was then abandoned altogether.
  • The "Daleks in Manhattan" and "Evolution of the Daleks" two-parter suffered from Russell T. Davies being busy working on the pilot for The Sarah Jane Adventures and therefore not having much time to advise writer Helen Raynor, who had worked as script editor for the first two seasons of the revival, but whose only actual prior scriptwriting experience had been on the Torchwood episode "Ghost Machine". On top of that, the BBC ended up being unable to find anyone willing to fund an actual location shoot in New York City, resulting in the location being recreated purely via Stock Footage, CGI, and California Doubling. However, the real kicker came when the story received an underwhelming reception, leading to Raynor being abused online by sexist trolls, and the production office reportedly even receiving death threats aimed at both Raynor and Davies. Though Raynor remained with the franchise until the end of Davies' tenure as executive producer, the experience reportedly put her off any ideas of becoming a showrunner in her own right (the BBC had supposedly earmarked Raynor as a potential successor to Davies had Steven Moffat proved unavailable).
  • "Planet of the Dead" was made when the new production team was being trained by the old one. Due to location shooting in Dubai and David Tennant only having a small gap in his schedule in which to film, the team only had six days to shoot, with production taking place unusually close to broadcast. Unfortunately the double-decker bus prop on which the story relied got heavily damaged while transporting to Dubai. Russell T Davies decided to Throw It In! and added lines in the script addressing the damage to the bus, but couldn't do a lot about the sandstorm that prevented shooting for several precious days!
  • The Steven Moffat era had multiple problems getting the TARDIS set(s) to work. The original intention was for a large console room and they planned for other rooms in the same style, like a laboratory and a kitchen, but construction went massively overbudget and several questionable design decisions were made that led to parts of the set being actively dangerous to operate. This is why you rarely see the Time Rotor in motion during Series 5 — merely running it was a huge risk that chanced blowing a very expensive handblown glass prop. For Series 6, the set was heavily revised to make repairs easier (most of the wall panels and lighting housing were changed out) but had many of the same problems. It was so bad that Series 7 had to build a new TARDIS interior from scratch with No Budget, focusing on practicality of shooting... and then that had to be revised heavily for Series 8 owing to the changeover from the Eleventh Doctor to the Twelfth. So the Moffat tenure started out with a set that was designed to last for at least three years, and ended up having to build a new set each year for four years!
  • "Let's Kill Hitler": Steven Moffat was overseeing six episodes of Doctor Who, making three film-length episodes of Sherlock and writing The Adventures of Tintin, and was stretched too thin and overworked. When filming was due to commence on "Let's Kill Hitler", Moffat's only option was to hand the actors his first draft and hope for the best. Most of the problems people have with the episode (ignoring people who feel They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot due to Hitler being window-dressing despite that being the point of the episode, or who simply hate the arc it was in or Moffat's writing in general) are things like lazy filler jokes ("She's trying to kill me... plus, she's a woman!") and the lack of anything addressing the brutal finale of the last series, which likely would have been fixed had Moffat had more time to write it.
  • "The Power of Three": To say guest star Steven Berkoff was difficult to work with was putting it mildly. He repeatedly went against the wishes of the director, in some cases just plain refusing to do what he was told, deliberately ruined takes (sometimes by reading his lines as badly as possible), and had several temper tantrums. Virtually all the footage they shot featuring Berkoff was unusable, and the ending as broadcast is all they could cobble together from the few scraps they were able to salvage, plus some pick-ups filmed later on with just Matt, Karen and Arthur (as well as some shots of Berkoff which were allegedly taken from when the camera was left running between takes, because even the filmed footage of Berkoff walking across the floor could not be used) — it was not originally the intention for Berkoff's character to be a hologram, or for the plot to effectively be resolved entirely by the sonic screwdriver, but that was all they were able to do with what they had.
  • The Monks Trilogy (Series 10), a mid-season 3-part storyline, suffered a truly sad case of this. Steven Moffat's mother took deathly ill as he was working on the scripts for "Extremis" and "The Pyramid at the End of the World". While he managed to get "Extremis" into shooting shape, with only days left before filming was to start on the two episodes and no hope of pushing back production to later, the exhausted Moffat was not able to revise "Pyramid"'s script with co-writer Peter Harness; Moffat typed up the final draft of "Pyramid" at his mother's hospital bedside. She ultimately succumbed to her illness.
    • As with "Let's Kill Hitler", this personal stress shows in the finished product's Idiot Plot and its Cliffhanger that hinges on the villains suddenly disregarding the rules they laid down earlier. While Moffat did not write the conclusion "The Lie of the Land" (Toby Whithouse handled that), it was shot in the following production block and it's hard not to see its shortcomings (Third Act Stupidity on the part of the villains, a bizarre tonal shift during an extremely dramatic standoff, some out-of-character behaviour for the Doctor such as a regeneration fake-out, a sentimental climax involving Bill's mother, a lot of recycled plot beats, etc.) as things that might have been ironed out had Moffat not been enduring bereavement at the time.
  • "The Tsuranga Conundrum" was hit with a pre-production snag when Tim Price, who created the Pting and was part of the Series 11 writers' room, proved to be unable to write the episode. With no replacement script, showrunner Chris Chibnall was forced to write the finished script himself despite having five other scripts to write and a series to manage. This resulted in an episode that was tepidly received by viewers as dull and uneventful. Whether Price's version of the script would have been better will probably never be known, although curiously enough he is still credited with the creation of the Pting.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: