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
- Hugh David was the production team's first candidate for the role of the First Doctor before William Hartnell was cast, but was turned down by Verity Lambert for being "too young" at the age of thirty-eight. David would later become a director and helm The Highlanders and Fury From The Deep.
- Geoffrey Bayldon was also offered the part of the First Doctor, but turned down the offer due to the fact that production was scheduled for fifty-two weeks and required him to play an old man. Bayldon would eventually go on to portray Organon in "The Creature From the Pit", and an alternate version of the First Doctor for Big Finish in "Auld Mortality" and "A Storm of Angels".
- Alan Webb, Cyril Cusack, and Leslie French were approached for the role of the First Doctor as well before the casting of Hartnell. French would later go on to play Lady Peinforte's mathematician in Silver Nemesis.
- BRIAN BLESSED, Valentine Dyall, Michael Hordern, Rupert Davies, Patrick Wymark, and Tommy Steele were approached for the part of the Second Doctor before the casting of Patrick Troughton. However, none of them wished to commit to a long-running series. Blessed would eventually go on to portray King Yrcanos in "Mindwarp", while Dyall would play the Black Guardian in "The Armageddon Factor".
- Ron Moody was the first choice for the part of the Third Doctor before Jon Pertwee was cast. However, Moody turned it down due to his reluctance to star in a children's series. Moody later expressed his regret at turning down the offer, and went on to voice the Duke of Wellington in "Other Lives".
- John Le Mesurier and Stratford Johns were approached for the Third Doctor as well before the casting of Pertwee. Le Mesurier turned it down due to commitments to Dad's Army, while Johns declined due to the shows strenuous production schedule. Johns would eventually go on to play Monarch in "Four to Doomsday".
- Graham Crowden was the first choice for the Fourth Doctor before the casting of Tom Baker. However, Crowden turned down the offer as he didn't wish to commit to a long-running series. Crowden would later go on to portray Soldeed in "The Horns of Nimon".
- Richard Griffiths was considered for the part of the Fifth Doctor before Peter Davison was cast. Griffiths was later considered as one of the production team's top candidates to play the Eighth Doctor had the series not been cancelled in 1989.
- Dermot Crowley and David Fielder were the final contenders for the part of the Seventh Doctor before the casting of Sylvester McCoy.
- Tim Curry was the first choice for the Eighth Doctor before Paul McGann was cast. Curry expressed interest in the part as he was keen to take on a character that wasn't a villain, but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts with Muppet Treasure Island.
- Liam Cunningham, Michael Crawford, Billy Connolly, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, and Jonathan Pryce were also considered for the role of the Eighth Doctor. Cunningham would later go on to play Captain Zhukov in Cold War, while Pryce would portray a non-canonical version of the Master in "The Curse of Fatal Death".
- Anthony Head, Tim McInnerny, Robert Lindsay, Nathaniel Parker, Peter Woodward, Tony Slattery, John Sessions, and Mark McGann screen-tested for the part of the Eighth Doctor as well before the casting of McGann. Head would go on to play Mr. Finch in "School Reunion", while McInnerny would portray Halpen in "Planet of the Ood".
- Christopher Eccleston and Peter Capaldi were both offered the chance to audition for the role, but both declined due to believing that they wouldn't actually be cast as the Eighth Doctor. The two actors would eventually play the Ninth and Twelfth Doctors respectively.
- Hugh Grant was originally approached for the part of the Ninth Doctor before the casting of Christopher Eccleston. However, Grant turned it down due to his belief that the revival would not take off. He later expressed his regret at turning down the offer having seen how successful the series turned out. Grant previously portrayed a non-canonical version of the Doctor in "The Curse of Fatal Death".
- Bill Nighy and Alan Cumming were also offered the role of the Ninth Doctor. However, Nighy turned down the offer due to considering the part to be "too much baggage", while Cumming backed out after finding out it would take eight months in Cardiff to film it. Nighy would eventually go on to play Dr. Black in "Vincent and the Doctor", while Cumming would appear as King James VI/I in "The Witchfinders".
- Alan Davies, Eddie Izzard, Richard E. Grant, Anthony Head, and David Suchet were considered for the part of the Ninth Doctor as well before the casting of Eccleston. Grant previously portrayed a non-canonical version of the Doctor in "Scream of the Shalka". Grant, Head, and Suchet would go on to play Dr. Simeon, Mr. Finch, and the Landlord in "The Snowmen", "School Reunion", and Knock Knock respectively.
- Chris Barrie, Eddie Izzard, and David Walliams were considered for the role of the Tenth Doctor before David Tennant was cast. Walliams would go on to portray Gibbis in "The God Complex".
- Chiwetel Ejiofor was approached for the part of the Eleventh Doctor before the casting of Matt Smith. However, Ejiofor turned it down due to scheduling conflicts and contractual disagreements with the BBC.
- Ben Daniels was the second choice for the role of the Twelfth Doctor before Peter Capaldi was cast.
I was approached and asked if it was something I'd be interested in doing. Apparently, usually when it's announced that the Doctor is leaving, the new Doctor's already firmly in place. But a BBC email had apparently been leaked, talking about Matt Smith
's departure or something, so they had to announce it officially much sooner than they'd have liked. So I was asked, and when I eventually managed to peel myself off the ceiling, I said, "Yeah, of course it'd be something I'd be interested in doing," and I was hugely excited by it. I was a huge fan of the show as a kid, like we all were really. My era was Jon Pertwee
into Tom Baker
and then also when it returned, penned thrillingly by the amazing Russell T Davies
with Christopher Eccleston
. To be thrown into that mix as a possibility was fantastic.
- Rafe Spall was offered the role, but was taken out of consideration after disregarding a request to keep his audition a secret and telling everyone he knew.
- There have been multiple cases of actors who would go on to play the Doctor having been in consideration for various guest roles:
- Various proposed companions:
- Jenny the freedom fighter from "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" was considered as a replacement for Susan, which would have changed the tone of the series considerably. They decided to replace Susan with a Suspiciously Similar Substitute.
- Samantha Briggs from "The Faceless Ones" was intended to be a companion, but Pauline Collins turned down the offer to become a regular.
- Ray, the Wrench Wench from "Delta and the Bannermen"; the production team instead chose Ace, who joined in the next serial. Funnily enough, Sophie Aldred auditioned for Ray (she is fully qualified to drive motorbikes) and was asked to reapply for the part of Ace.
- Classy Cat-Burglar Raine would have replaced Ace had the series not been cancelled. Finally given existence by Big Finish, who have made audio versions of some of the cancelled scripts. Julia Sawalha (the Doctor's companion-fiancée from the non-canon Comic Relief story Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death) was considered for the role.
- Nicholas Courtney auditioned for Richard the Lionheart in "The Crusade", but lost out to Julian Glover. Director Douglas Camfield remembered him and in the next season, cast him as Bret Vyon in "The Daleks' Master Plan". He would later play The Brigadier.
- For some time it has been known that Elisabeth Sladen was not the first choice to play Sarah Jane Smith. A different actress was signed up, but it was felt that she wasn't suitable and the part was recast. The actress' identity was revealed in January 2012: April Walker.
- Simon Pegg was originally slated to play Rose's father, Pete Tyler. However, Pegg was unavailable during the filming of "Father's Day", so his role was transferred to that of the Editor, the human villain of "The Long Game".
- "The Idiot's Lantern": Nicholas Hoult auditioned for Tommy Connelly, but he was deemed too young for the role.
- Georgia Moffett asked producers to consider her for the role of Rose Tyler, but they decided she was too young and did not allow her to audition, and the role went to Billie Piper. Moffett instead went on to play Jenny in "The Doctor's Daughter".
- Billie Piper's former husband Chris Evans (not that one) was planned to voice the Beast in "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit".
- Russell T Davies has said that had he seen Freema Agyeman's performance as Adeola Oshodi in "Army of Ghosts" sooner than he actually did, he would have rewritten the story so that she survived, and Adeola would have become the Doctor's new companion. Unfortunately, by the time Davies was able to visit the set and see her, she had already filmed her death scene. The resulting compromise was to instead cast Agyeman as Martha Jones, and write a few lines establishing that Martha is Adeola's identical-looking cousin.
- "Voyage of the Damned":
- David Jason was approached to play the role of Mr. Copper. Sadly, he proved unavailable. He'd probably have been more polite to the poor journalist interviewing the cast than Clive Swift was...
- Dennis Hopper was offered the role of Max Capricorn, but wasn't available.
- Russell T. Davies, Steven Moffat and company originally wanted Sally Sparrow, the heroine of "Blink", to be the Series 4 companion, but her actress Carey Mulligan turned down the offer to become a regular. From there...
- Penny Carter would have been the companion in Series 4 if Catherine Tate had not come back to reprise the role of Donna. Russell T. Davies's book The Writer's Tale details more about Penny: she would have been a journalist in her thirties, from the north of England, with a snobbish mother and amateur astronomer grandfather (later re-worked into the characters of Sylvia Noble and Wilfred Mott). She was to be a love interest for the Doctor and join him after she discovered that her live-in boyfriend was cheating on her. A guest character in "Partners in Crime" was ultimately named Penny Carter in homage to her.
- Russell T Davies has mentioned several times that for characters he's created, he had specific actors in mind for them. One of them was wanting Helen Mirren for Adelaide Brooke in "The Waters of Mars". Lindsay Duncan did an amazing job, but could you imagine having Oscar-winning actors on Doctor Who?
- "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead": Michael Gambon and Ian McKellen were offered the part of Doctor Moon. Gambon would later play Kazran Sardick in "A Christmas Carol", and McKellen would voice the Great Intelligence in "The Snowmen".
- Before Alex Kingston took the role of River Song, Russell T Davies had Kate Winslet in mind.
- "The Next Doctor": Martin Clunes was orignally cast as Jackson Lake but pulled out.
- "The End of Time": Patrick Stewart was offered the role of Rassilon.
- Jenna Coleman was considered for Melody Pond in "Let's Kill Hitler". She would later play Clara Oswald.
- "A Town Called Mercy": We missed having both a Star Wars and a Star Trek actor (who, coincidentally, is also versed in time travel) on screen at the same time... Scott Bakula said at a Star Trek convention that he was approached to play Isaac, and wanted to do the role (he's a fan too...), but schedule conflicts forced him to turn the part down.
- Michelle Gomez could have played Ms. Delphox in "Time Heist", but she couldn't make the audition. As she explained it later, "I was moved to write to Steven [Moffat] saying I was such a huge fan and if in the future if he ever needed someone for a razor-cheek-boned villainess then its me."note This led to her being cast as Missy, the Series 8 Big Bad who went on to be central to the Twelfth Doctor's Myth Arc.
- Had Jenna Coleman left as planned in "Last Christmas", Faye Marsay's character Shona was considered as a possible successor companion for Clara Oswald.
- Ashildr was originally to have been played by Katie Boland, who appeared on Reign, but actor availability and visa issues for working in the United Kingdom (since Boland is Canadian) meant the end of that idea, so the role went to Maisie Williams instead.
- "The Girl Who Died": Brian Blessed was approached to play Odin, but later pulled out due to ill health and was replaced by David Schofield. Funnily enough, this is the second time that Blessed was approached to play Odin but ended up being recast.
Other revival concepts and miscellaneous projects
- 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 2000. 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 were late-1990s/early-2000s attempts by the BBC's cinema arm BBC Films to try to get a movie made. 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 considered 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.
- 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.
- 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".