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What Could Have Been / Doctor Who

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Concept art for the Series 5 TARDIS interior.

The Doctor Who elements that never were. See also the show's unfinished episode page.

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    The Doctors who never were 

    Other characters/casting 

    Other revival concepts and miscellaneous projects 
  • There were pitches to bring back the series in the early '90s, including one from Terry Nation and Gerry Davis.
  • At one point in the '90s, Canadian animation studio Nelvana proposed a Doctor Who animated series, which never got beyond the concept art stage. It would apparently have featured a Doctor who dressed like Tom Baker's version but bore a heavy facial resemblance to Christopher Lloyd.
  • The Dark Dimension was a proposed 30th anniversary special that would have featured Tom Baker with Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy in smaller roles. It took place in a "dark dimension" timeline in which Tom Baker's Doctor never regenerated. It certainly had potential with such ideas as these floated:
    • The Expanded Universe character Bernice Summerfield serving as the companion.
    • The alien villain not only stopping Four's regeneration but becoming the prime minister of England in a ploy to Take Over the World. Now doesn't that last part sound familiar...
    • It didn't happen when it turned out BBC Enterprises (the Beeb's merchandising arm) had no idea how to actually make a TV series, and had neglected such fiddly details as "budgeting" and "checking the actors were interested".
  • Throughout the early 1990s there was a project for a Doctor Who cinema film by independent producers Peter Litten, George Dugdale and John Humphreys, with their company going through various names but best known to fans as "Daltenreys". Successive writers who worked on the script were Mark Ezra (writer of Slaughter High), Johnny Byrne (writer of a number of early-1980s Who stories), and Denny Martin Flinn (best known as co-writer of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country). The scripts had varying levels of reliance on Who continuity, but all had heavy Space Opera overtones, with Byrne's draft in particular having a surprising amount of Family-Unfriendly Violence. Various actors were "linked" with the film in press statements, but the only one confirmed as having been signed for the part was long-time Scream Queen Caroline Munro (who happened to be married to Dugdale) as The Dragon. After the BBC took back the rights to make the McGann TVM, Daltenreys unsuccessfully sued them for compensation.
  • In 1997 there were plans for a crossover novel with Judge Dredd but it was scrapped due to the lack of success of the film. Eventually the book was published as the Sixth Doctor Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel Burning Heart, in which the Dredd characters and elements were given different names and terminology but were still extremely recognisable.
  • During The '80s and The '90s there were many attempts to adapt the show for American audiences. One TV series idea would have featured Bill Cosby in the role, while a pitch for a movie included the Doctor being played by Michael Jackson (coincidentally, Bill Cosby would've been the next pick for the role if Jackson wasn't available). At some point, even Jim Carrey was considered.
  • Russell T. Davies reportedly submitted a pitch for a low-budget revival of the show as early as 1998/99. This would have featured a group of kids in an everyday suburb befriending a crazy old man (or woman) who claimed that they used to travel in space and time, and discovering that they weren't so crazy after all. The parallels to The Sarah Jane Adventures have not gone unnoticed with fans.
  • Part of the reason why it took until 2005 for the series to be relaunched was the BBC's cinema arm BBC Films claiming priority and trying to get a movie made in the late-1990s/early-2000s. None of their attempts got to the point of a script being drafted or casting being settled, but among individuals reported at different times to have been approached or to have approached the BBC themselves were Ed Solomon (writer of the Bill & Ted films and the first Men in Black film) and Paul W.S. Anderson.
  • Among the alternative pitches made for the 2005 relaunch were Dan Freedman's fantasy retelling (to have continued from the web series "Death Comes to Time"), Matthew Graham's Gothic-styled pitch, and Mark Gatiss' reboot, which would have made the Doctor the audience surrogate character instead of his companions. Only the Freedman and Gatiss proposals ever got as far as written form; Graham's was an informal discussion without any specific proposals.
    • Robert Shearman reported another proposal where the Doctor would have been like Peter Cushing's Dr Who, a human who'd built the TARDIS in his back garden, with other sources reporting it apparently came from some of the team behind BBC drama Born and Bred.
  • Mal Young, who was Controller of Continuing Drama Series at the time the relaunch was commissioned, suggests that absent Russell T Davies, the series would have returned eventually, but the setup would have been bringing in a team of writers who had a producer to oversee them, in line with other BBC dramas of the period, rather than having a showrunner.

    Spin-Off Concepts 
  • William Hartnell had an idea for a spinoff called The Son of Doctor Who, in which he would also play the Doctor's evil son. Nothing ever came of this, but the overall concept might have branched off into the characters of the Meddling Monk and, later, the Master; Hartnell would get to play an evil lookalike as the Abbot of Amboise in "The Massacre."
  • During the early part of Tom Baker's era on the show, he and Ian Marter wrote a speculative script for a feature film called Doctor Who Meets Scratchman, which would have been a surreal tale of the Fourth Doctor, Sarah and Harry fighting a reality-warping entity calling itself "Harry Scratch" who was strongly implied to be Satan himself and who Baker imagined being played by Vincent Price. There was an unfortunate situation when Baker talked about this in a radio interview and semi-seriously suggested that the budget be crowdfunded by fans — a number of fans sent money in to Baker or the BBC, which had to be returned when BBC lawyers explained that this would be seriously illegal under the rules at the time for soliciting financial investments for a commercial venture. The script was eventually novelised by Baker and James Goss in 2019.
  • Main/Amicus' Milton Subotsky planned a third film, but not a Dalek film, but a mid-80s TV-adjacent film, Doctor Who's Greatest Adventure, an adaptation of Guy N. Smith's Night of the Crabs with a new Doctor aiding an older incarnation (intended to be played by Jon Pertwee) in stopping a giant crab invasion of Scotland.
  • Jago and Litefoot's double act from Season 14's "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" was so well-received that a spinoff focused on them was seriously considered at the time. Big Finish Doctor Who eventually realized it in audio form, which quickly became one of their most popular and critically acclaimed ranges.
  • According to RTD, we got The Sarah Jane Adventures because BBC executives were pressuring him to do a children-oriented spin-off about the Doctor as a child inventing sonic screwdrivers, which he, like everyone who was actually familiar with the show, thought was a terrible idea.
  • Regarding suggestions/assumptions that the Paternoster Gang's heavy presence in Series 7B and Series 8 opener "Deep Breath" was deliberately seeding a spinoff for them, while they warranted lots of Expanded Universe material in short stories, novels, Doctor Who Magazine comics, and especially Doctor Who Adventures long after "Deep Breath", an actual show never materialized (although Big Finish began an audio series in 2019). Supposedly this is because Steven Moffat owns the rights to the characters as a trio as opposed to individuals. Moffat himself had proposed a spin-off earlier, but possibly only for the sake of the terrible joke title for a series about a Victorian lesbian reptile woman: Tipping the Scales.
  • Rose Tyler was originally supposed to get a holiday special entitled "Rose Tyler: Earth Defence". It was scrapped when the producers decided that it would ruin Rose's touching farewell in the main series.

  • The whole show! Doctor Who was originally conceived as a series which would avoid clichés like bug-eyed monsters. Then along came the Daleks. And the Daleks' creator Terry Nation had created the Daleks to avoid the image of an actor in a suit, which Doctor Who would eventually do many times.
    • The earliest pitch for the story, by CE Webber, was called The Troubleshooters, conceived at least partially as the BBC's answer to The Avengers, which was then one of the most popular series on commercial television, and envisioned a group of scientific consultants in the near future who solved unusual cases, with a moral dimension to each story. The three main characters were envisioned as a "handsome young man hero", a "handsome well-dressed heroine, aged about 30" and a "maturer man, 35-40, with some character twist". Sydney Newman (who had co-created the aforementioned Avengers) insisted on a change because he felt that the show wouldn't be accessible to children if all of the characters were experts, adding what became Susan Foreman. The other three characters would, of course, become Ian, Barbara and the Doctor.
  • Russell T Davies expressed interest in utilizing the Raston Warrior Robot from "The Five Doctors", but nothing ever came of it.
  • Disney considered buying Doctor Who in the late '80s and early '90s, and was even considering opening up a "walk-through" TARDIS in Disneyland if they did.
  • At one point RTD was planning on talking to his opposite numbers in the USA who were behind the Star Trek franchise about doing some type of crossover or charity special, but the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise put an end to it, although the legal and logistical concerns made it a long shot to begin with. This concept was eventually realized in an IDW comic book miniseries.
  • Nigel Kneale was once asked to write for the series, but he declined.
  • Dennis Potter also considered writing for the show.
  • This website has details of most of the unmade episodes.
  • American horror writer Joe Hill submitted a few ideas to the show (he'd gotten help from Neil Gaiman), but received a rejection on the grounds that Doctor Who has never been written by Americans, and that "even if one did, it wouldn't be him".[2]