The History of Popular Television in the UK
A series of articles which involve painstaking research, reconstruction and review.
Television as it happened – a document of the history of this once popular medium.
# 32: ‘DOCTOR WHO’
An Adventure in Time and Space
Doctor Who was invented by Verity Lambert in 1947 to replace a much-loved Saturday night sitcom called ‘Sykes’ which featured ‘Korky’ - an infuriating and unfunny policeman - who ruined every episode by being in it.
Famously she came up with the idea of an eccentric professor who would fly around the universe in a cupboard solving mysteries, when she was accidentally locked in a cupboard herself!
Whilst stumbling around in this cupboard, putting her feet in tin buckets, falling over mops and avoiding bleach (it was a cleaner’s cupboard), she decided that there wasn’t enough room in there to swing a cat.
It was now that she invented her protagonist: ‘Professor Clean’ and his sidekick, a robot cat called ‘Feel 9’, who would be useful in a scrape which involved mice or any other hordes of alien rodent invaders from Mars.
Verity wasted no time at all and filmed the first episode herself. She cast much loved veteran comedy actor Sid James as 'Clean'.
To her disappointment, however, the whole idea was scrapped almost immediately after the first episode aired. Literally dozens of letters of complaint were sent to Barry Took on ‘Points of View’ bemoaning the waste of licence fee payers’ money and demanding ‘Reality’ shows involving members of the public in airports.
Undeterred by failure, Verity did not let the grass grow under her feet and pitched the idea for a second ‘pilot’. This she titled ‘Practitioner Poo’. The second episode revolved around a ‘down on his luck’ futuristic stool doctor from Dudley who examined excrement for a living inside his gigantic box which he had invented to shield the stench of poo poo from the rest of the nation.
Alas this was not taken to the hearts of the viewing public either and was dubbed ‘shit’ which was accurate if a little unfair.
But the seeds were sewn and, with a little imagination, the ‘Practitioner’ became a ‘Doctor’ and the gigantic box became the TARDIS. This time the show was a runaway success and history, as they say, was made.
Many stories were aired that became firm favourites and are still remembered fondly today:
SPUDLEKS INVADE EARTH! (6 Episodes) by Terry Prodpluck: The Spudleks, a race of hostile robots, invade Earth and plan to pilot it around the cosmos with a gigantic motor.
MOONSHITTER! (4 Episodes) By Gerry Fudclotter: The Doctor lands on the Moon and discovers some hostile aliens called ‘Moonians’ plotting to attach a gigantic motor to the moon and pilot it around the cosmos for a bit until they get bored.
And of course:
‘THE INFINITY ROOMS’ (3 Episodes) by Norman Boilbugger: The Doctor lands on earth and discovers a plot to evict millions of council tenants from their homes by charging them extra if they have too many bedrooms.