BBC News: Doctor Who (before the Tardis).
Newly released documents, which reveal the 1960s conception of Doctor Who, show how nervous the BBC was about producing a sci-fi show, writes Tom Geoghegan. The Doctor without his time-travelling police box is difficult to imagine, but its creators initially proposed he journey through space in an invisible machine covered in light-resistant paint. When BBC producers were devising the show in the early 1960s, they thought viewers should see no machine at all, only "a shape of nothingness".
The BBC’s head of drama Sydney Newman, who commissioned the first series, insisted an invisible machine would not work and the doctor’s vehicle should be a strong visual symbol. Wisely, writers also said a transparent, plastic bubble would be "lowgrade". But a seed of the Tardis idea is sown when they suggest using "some common object in the street" like a night-watchman’s shelter.
The reader comments are interesting, people’s memories of their first Doctor Who episodes. My first Doctor was Peter Davison, I saw the regeneration from fourth to fifth Doctor, but my favourite was seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy, because his Doctor was a scheming weasel. Tenth Doctor David Tennant did a sterling job too, but his Doctor is a lot more lovable than McCoy and I liked that McCoy wasn’t someone you could immediately trust.
I remember in the days before my parents had a VCR and when Girl Guides was on Doctor Who night, they recorded the sound on tape, and my sister explained what was going on while we played it back. Happily that didn’t last long and either Doctor Who moved to a different night, or we finally got a VCR. The patrol leader can’t just bunk off because of a good show on TV.
The Tardis, the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Sontarans have been stable elements throughout the series, though the Cybermen have gone through several upgrades to make them more sleek and human-like. But the Doctor is ever-changing.