Doctor Who was groundbreaking television when it first launched, and has enjoyed considerable success during its long run, but things haven’t always been plain sailing for The Doctor. Despite having a pop culture icon on their hands, that has proven itself capable of regenerating itself time and time again, the Beeb seem to have little faith in their flagship sci-fi drama.
There has been more than one occasion where the show has been on very shaky footing, with the show nearly being axed a number of times. Honestly, it’s a wonder the show has only actually gotten the chop once.
In this article, we’ll take a journey through sixty years of Who and look at the various reasons the TARDIS doors nearly closed for good…
7. Regenerating The Doctor - 1966
When the show launched in 1963, William Hartnell was not cast as the ‘First Doctor’, he was simply ‘Doctor Who’, and it was intended that he would carry the torch for a considerable time - after all, he was the star of the show, and the general public were besotted with him. You simply couldn’t have Doctor Who without Doctor Who.
What the writers and producers could not have foreseen was Hartnell’s failing health coming into play just a few years later. Hartnell would become easily muddled whilst filming, often flubbing his lines and repeatedly misremembering the name of his companion, Ian Chesterton. After his fellow cast mates and a chunk of the original production crew moved on from the show, he would also often become irritable on set that things weren’t being done in the way they used to be, and the cracks were beginning to bleed through noticeably into his performance.
The BBC had a dilemma. They had a bona-fide hit on their hands, but it was clear that their lead actor could not continue in the role, for both his own good and that of the audience. The cancellation of the show was considered, but, not wanting to lose the devout viewership it bought in, it was instead decided that the Doctor would be recast, with the younger and more energetic Patrick Troughton taking the reins.
It was at this point that the writers conceived one of the most ingenious ideas in the history of television: writing the recasting of the main character into the fabric of the show via the Doctor’s ability to ‘regenerate’ their appearance and personality. They couldn’t have known at the time, but this bright little idea has kept the show fresh and given it the legs that have kept it running to this day.
If you want to learn more about this fascinating era of Doctor Who, as well as how the show came to be, we recommend watching An Adventure In Space And Time, a Mark Gatiss penned drama exploring William Hartnell’s time as the Doctor. Though we warn you, there may be some tears…