We take a look at some of the great unmade Doctor Who episodes. What are these ‘forgotten’ stories, and why did they never go into production?
Song of the Space Whale
This blog post isn’t going to be an exhaustive list of all the unmade Doctor Who episodes (we’d need a bigger website!) but it will take a look at some of the most ‘famous.’ And one of these is undoubtedly ‘Song of the Space Whale,’ which was originally pitched to the Doctor Who production team in the early 80s.
Initially, the adventure was to star the Fourth Doctor and possibly Romana, but for various reasons it got pushed back and later became a contender for Season 20, when Peter Davison was at the helm. This version of ‘Song of the Space Whale’ would have introduced the character of Vislor Turlough played by Mark Strickson – an accolade which eventually went to ‘Mawdryn Undead.’
Ultimately, ‘Space Whale’ was scripted for Season 22 for the Sixth Doctor and Peri, but sadly never made it to the screen. It was later adapted by Big Finish as ‘The Song of Megaptera‘ in 2009, and saw the Doctor tackle a band of space whale-hunting vagabonds on a vast harvesting ship, with a mysterious creature lurking in its bowels. Another similar adventure was made for TV in 2010, entitled ‘The Beast Below.’
The Final Game
The next of the unmade Doctor Who episodes is ‘The Final Game,’ which would have come at the end of Jon Pertwee’s final season. The story was intended to explore the nature of the Doctor’s relationship with his old enemy the Master, and it could (potentially) have revealed that they were related, or that the Master was a dark, alternate form of the Doctor.
However, ‘The Final Game’ joined the list of unmade Doctor Who episodes when Roger Delgado (who played the Master) was tragically killed in 1973, meaning that the production team was unable to give his character a proper send-off. In the story – which was to be written by Robert Sloman – the Master would have blown himself up in an apparent act of self-sacrifice, saving the Doctor’s life. In the end, of course, this serial was replaced with ‘Planet of the Spiders.’
But unlike some unmade Doctor Who episodes, the concepts from ‘The Final Game’ did endure. For example, the scene in ‘The End of Time Part Two’ where the Master saves the Doctor’s life is an obvious nod to the Pertwee finale. In addition, a fan-made version of ‘The Final Game’ was produced in 2019 by Studio Seven.
Did you know that Stephen Fry wrote one of the unmade Doctor Who episodes? His story was provisionally titled ‘The 1920s’ and was intended for David Tennant’s first season in 2006.
Apparently, it would have revolved around one of the legends of King Arthur, namely the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Of course, being Doctor Who, the whole thing would have turned out to be some alien masterplan, and according to Fry that the TARDIS would have found itself landing on a strange planet.
Alas, the serial proved too costly to make, and it was tentatively pushed back to Series Three and replaced with the considerably cheaper ‘Fear Her.’ It was during this time that Fry had to abandon ‘The 1920s,’ as work commitments meant that he didn’t have time to perform the rewrites. Whether his script will ever make it to screen – or indeed be adapted by Big Finish – remains to be seen.
Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with JK Rowling
The next of our unmade Doctor Who episodes was, as far as anyone can tell, never actually written. In the book ‘The Writer’s Tale,’ Russell T Davies reveals that he had considered writing a Doctor Who Christmas special based around a guest appearance by J.K. Rowling, who penned the Harry Potter series. Apparently, some alien intelligence (or artefact) would have gotten inside her brain and caused her stories to become manifest, meaning that the Doctor and J.K. Rowling had to battle their way through a world of magic and wizardry on Christmas Day.
However, Davies cooled on the idea after he pitched it to David Tennant (the incumbent Doctor) and discovered he wasn’t too keen on it, saying it sounded too much like a spoof. Despite this, the premise was reworked for the 2008 Agatha Christie episode entitled ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp,’ by Gareth Roberts.
Interestingly, this wasn’t the first time J.K. Rowling’s path had crossed with Doctor Who‘s. Russell T Davies had already approached her in 2005 with a view to her writing for the show, and although she was amused by the idea, she sadly didn’t have time to work on a script.
The Red Fort
Not much is known about the last of our unmade Doctor Who episodes. This adventure was originally written (or planned) by Terry Nation, who famously created the Daleks. He was asked to contribute a story to the show’s 1964 season, and this is what he came up with – an adventure for the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan which was set in India during the British Raj (1858 – 1947). As such, it would have been a purely historical story.
And of all the unmade Doctor Who episodes, this is arguably one of the most mysterious. It’s highly likely that Nation never moved beyond the initial pitch, such was the popularity of the Daleks; ‘The Red Fort’ was ultimately replaced with ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth,’ and became nothing more than a footnote in the TARDIS databank.
Of course, as previously mentioned, there are many more unmade Doctor Who episodes. Be sure to check out our other pieces on ‘The Dark Dimension‘ and ‘The Prison in Space‘ and tell us – which of these adventures would you most like to see? Let us know in the comments below.
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