Did you know that Tom Baker was originally going to have his own Doctor Who movie, and that he was one of its writers?
There have been many attempts to produce a Doctor Who movie over the years – some more successful than others. In 1975, the Time Lord had clocked up no fewer than two motion pictures, both of which starred Peter Cushing as an “alternative Doctor” in the 60s Dalek movies. And whilst plans for a third movie based on the TV story ‘The Chase’ had been shelved, the new Doctor Tom Baker was intrigued with the notion of bringing the Time Lord back to the big screen.
And so, apparently, was his companion Harry Sullivan, played by Ian Marter. He and Tom Baker shared the dream of producing a brand new Doctor Who movie, and in 1975 the pair joined forces to pen an epic new adventure. Tentatively titled Doctor Who meets Scratchman – and later Doctor Who and the Big Game – this Doctor Who movie would have seen the Time Lord take on the Devil himself. Plus the Daleks, and a Cyberman or two.
In the adventure, the Fourth Doctor and his companions Sarah and Harry would have encountered a mysterious man calling himself Harry Scratch – a being who was hell bent on sowing chaos and destruction. Over the course of the Doctor Who movie, the team would have battled robots known as Cybors, killer scarecrows, and even the Greek god Pan before descending into a giant pinball table (infested with Daleks) in order to defeat the villainous Scratch.
At one time, the actor Vincent Price was said to be in the running for playing the titular baddie, and whilst Elisabeth Sladen was originally intended to feature as Sarah Jane Smith, she had left the TARDIS team by 1977 when plans were still developing. As such, an alternative role was written with a new companion in mind, who was to be played by the English actor and singer known as Twiggy.
So what happened to this unmade Doctor Who movie? And can we expect it to hit the big screen anytime soon?
It’s unlikely, sadly. But Tom Baker continued to be invested in the film for many years, and worked hard to try and secure funding. At one point, a director in the form of James Hill was attached to the project, and he was to have written a new version of the script based on Baker and Marter’s original.
“There have been two Doctor Who films in the past, both rather poor,” said Baker, speaking in the 1970s. “There are many dangers in transporting a television series onto the big screen… a lot of things that you could get away with on the small screen wouldn’t wash in the cinema.”
And fans were supportive of Tom Baker’s efforts to produce a new Doctor Who movie, even going so far as to donate substantial amounts of money to Baker himself. Alas, funding a project of this magnitude proved too difficult, and the arrival of Star Wars in 1977 seemed to put the final nail in the coffin. Many directors and filmmakers were in awe of the movie’s production values, and couldn’t see how they could realistically compete with it, (unless, of course, LucasFilm had produced Doctor Who Meets Scratchman, which would have been all kinds of awesome…)
Ultimately, the plans for this ambitious new Doctor Who movie were abandoned in the late 70s. And for many years, its scripts remained missing; Doctor Who meets Scratchman was shrouded in a veil of mystery, along with the other great unmade Doctor Who projects such as The Dark Dimension and Doctor Who and the Krikketmen.
But interest in the project continued to simmer, and fans of the audio company Big Finish often cited this ‘lost’ Doctor Who movie as one of the stories they’d most like to be adapted. And Tom Baker acknowledged the interest, stating at the Folkestone Film, TV and Comic Con that Big Finish was looking into producing an audio version following the discovery of the original scripts.
It was a far-cry from the much-anticipated Doctor Who movie, but it was something. And even though Big Finish’s plans didn’t come to fruition, Doctor Who Meets Scratchman was ultimately turned into a hardback novel, which was credited to Tom Baker and ghost written by James Goss. This came out in 2019, and stuck closely to the plans originally laid down by Baker and Marter.
There were, however, some changes – most notably an appearance made by the Thirteenth Doctor herself. Similarly, the First, Second and Third Doctors made cameos in scarecrow form, and the book was rounded off with a ‘Note from Sarah Jane Smith,’ which served as a tribute to the late Elisabeth Sladen.
Moreover, Goss’ novelisation – titled simply Scratchman – proved to be fairly unique in the world of Doctor Who books in that it was all told in the first person, all being recited from the Fourth Doctor‘s perspective. The idea was that the adventure was one, long account made by the Fourth Doctor to the Time Lords – an idea which had been posited by Baker himself.
Speaking in Doctor Who Magazine, Goss said: “At the start of the project I sat down with Tom and a storyline, working through what a revisited version of the Scratchman story would be… We went right back to the original story and built it up from there.
“Tom was very influential in shaping the story. We pitched it to him as “Doctor Who meets The Wicker Man” and he went for that. He came up with the idea of the story being narrated by the Doctor himself, which was thrilling… Tom also suggested the idea of the Doctor telling the story to the Time Lords… The cameos by the first three Doctors were suggested by my editor, Steve Cole.”
Meanwhile, the Doctor Who movie version of Scratchman will remain consigned to our imaginations. But who knows, maybe the adventure will be adapted for TV one day – or perhaps it could form the basis of an animated adventure for the Doctor on Blu-ray?
Stranger things have happened…
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