Richard E. Grant played the Ninth Doctor in a short-lived animated series, before vanishing from Doctor Who history. But did you know that he once returned in an officially-licensed sequel?
For those of you who don’t know, Doctor Who made an official comeback in 2003 with an online adventure titled ‘Scream of the Shalka,’ written by Paul Cornell. Starring Richard E. Grant, this animated story featured a brand new Ninth Doctor and – prior to the show’s return in 2005 – was considered to be canon.
Indeed, the plan had been for Grant’s Doctor to take off on a fully-fledged series of cartoon adventures. At the time, it was thought that all future Doctor Who episodes would take this form, with few people believing that a true TV return would ever happen.
But of course it did, and Grant’s Ninth Doctor was stopped in his tracks. ‘Scream of the Shalka’ turned out to be his only outing as the eponymous Time Lord, and he was quietly forgotten about when Doctor Who blasted back onto our screens in 2005.
Today, his version of the Ninth Doctor is seen as something of a parallel universe alternative – official, but not belonging to the main Doctor Who canon. A bit like Peter Cushing’s Doctor from the Dalek movies. Writer Cavan Scott describes him as “a wounded, haunted figure who travelled with his former enemy, now nothing more than intellect stored inside an android body.” (He’s referring to the robot version of the Master, who now lives on board the TARDIS.)
But it’s curious to think what would have happened to the Ninth Doctor had Russell T Davies not revived the show. And we are given a slight insight in the form of an obscure short story titled ‘The Feast of the Stone.’ Originally published in April 2004, this Doctor Who adventure was written by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright and was published by BBC Online on a special website devoted to cult vampires.
In the story, the Ninth Doctor and his companion Alison encounter a psychic vampire that feeds off memories. And as if this wasn’t bad enough, the Doctor has the android Master to contend with. The vampire quickly latches onto its thoughts, and uses the Master’s evil memories to feed itself and grow stronger.
And as obscure as this Ninth Doctor story sounds, it does actually have an important place in Doctor Who history. For a start, it is the first officially-licensed piece of Doctor Who literature to be published online (discounting ebook versions of earlier publications.) The BBC wouldn’t continue this tradition until 2007, when it released an online prologue to the Tenth Doctor adventure ’42,’ written by Joseph Lidster.
Today, of course, there is a plethora of online stories, much of it landing during the pandemic of 2020 when Doctor Who writers emerged in full force to write supplementary material to some of their scripts.
But ‘The Feast of the Stone’ is also significant in that it is the only story outside of ‘Scream of the Shalka’ to feature Grant’s Ninth Doctor, Alison Cheney and the android Master. Furthermore, it’s fascinating to see the latter being used as a plot device; certainly, an android version of the Master creates story possibilities that, as yet, haven’t been explored in the world of Who.
So what did the future hold for the Ninth Doctor and his team? Quite a lot, by the sound of it. Writing in his blog, Cavan Scott explains: “More animated adventures were due to be made, but plans were scuppered with the announcement that Doctor Who was returning to TV.” He adds: “The ‘Shalka’ Doctor headed off into the vortex although a lot of the ideas seemed to make it through to the revived show – the emotionally bruised Doctor, mobile phones linked to the TARDIS, and Jacobi playing the Master. Even Sophie Okonedo turned up again in ‘The Beast Below.'”
Looking back on the story, Scott says that it’s a “funny little thing” – but, at the time, he and Mark Wright were excited to be at the beginning of an exciting new era for Doctor Who. Moreover, Scott mentions that the new series had its own bible, which laid out the Ninth Doctor’s backstory and the reasons for his somewhat haunted persona – reasons that would have been explained as the series progressed. “I must dig that bible out again,” says Scott. “It’s here somewhere…”
Sadly, it’s unlikely that this alternate Ninth Doctor will ever have a full resurgence. But never say never. At the moment, we have a completely unexplored timeline for a largely unknown Doctor. It may not spawn a series of Big Finish box sets, but it could lead to some interesting fan-produced projects, possibly along the lines of the recently-announced Eighth Doctor annual. Which would be very exciting to see.
In the meantime, you can read the archived version of ‘The Feast of the Stone’ here. Enjoy!
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