Doctor Who Season 27 was already in the planning stages when the show was axed in 1989. But what, exactly, would it have been like?
It’s fair to say that when the final episode of ‘Survival’ was broadcast in the late 80s, few people knew that this would be the last Doctor Who for several years. The Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy was gearing up for another series alongside his companion Ace, and the script editor Andrew Cartmel was already collecting story ideas for Doctor Who Season 27.
Alas, those ideas never reached the scripting stage. The producer John Nathan-Turner had sensed that Doctor Who‘s days were numbered, and advised his script editor to start looking for other work. Because of this, much of the early work on Doctor Who Season 27 never progressed beyond the planning stage.
There were some certainties, however. Sylvester McCoy had expressed an interest in moving on, and it’s likely that his Doctor would have departed at the end of the series. His companion Ace also planned for Doctor Who Season 27 to be her last, and would have left the TARDIS mid-series.
But initially, it looked as if Ben Aaronovitch would handle the opening story. He’d already penned 1989’s ‘Battlefield,’ and his earlier adventure ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ had been well-received, and indeed is now considered a classic. As such, Aaronovitch was a natural choice to kick off Doctor Who Season 27, and his initial idea – entitled ‘Earth Aid’ – would have been something of a political thriller, with the Seventh Doctor and Ace encountering a race of warrior insects known as the Metatraxi. ‘Earth Aid’ was to explore the politics of food aid, and would have seen the Seventh Doctor constructing Stonehenge in order to beam a message into space.
And although Aaronovitch never got round to writing his Doctor Who Season 27 opener, he did have a first scene in mind. Ace would have been seen at the helm of a Star Trek-style super-vessel, before sneaking off into her cabin to find the Seventh Doctor lying in wait. “This isn’t going to work,” she’d tell him.
However, Aaronovitch never got round to deciding what “this” would actually be.
The following story in Doctor Who Season 27 would have seen the departure of Ace in an adventure called ‘Ice Time,’ featuring the Time Lord’s old enemies the Ice Warriors. Ace would have left the TARDIS at the end of the serial to join the Prydonian Academy on Gallifrey – a position that the Seventh Doctor had, apparently, been slowly preparing her for.
In addition, the story would have seen the introduction of a new recurring character in the form of Sam Tollinger, who would transpire to be the father of the Doctor’s future companion. Sam was intended to be something of an underground hippie, in-keeping with the theme of the adventure; ‘Ice Time’ would have revolved around the hippie culture of 60s London, with strange biker gangs wearing Ice Warrior helmets that were capable of mind control.
The next story on the Doctor Who Season 27 roster was called ‘Crime of the Century,’ and would again have been written by Ben Aaronovitch. It would have carried straight on from ‘Ice Time’ and would have featured Sam Tollinger summoning the Doctor back to Earth due to trouble back at his manor, which would later have served as the Doctor’s home base.
In ‘Crime of the Century,’ the viewers would have been introduced to a new character in the form of cat burglar Kate Tollinger, who would have sneaked into her dad’s mansion in the opening episode in order to crack open a safe. Inside, however, she would find the Seventh Doctor waiting for her, who would simply ask, “What kept you?” And whilst Aaronovitch had no idea where the story would go next, it would have finished with Kate joining the TARDIS team, and travelling with the Doctor for the remainder of Doctor Who Season 27.
Beyond that, Cartmel’s plans were less clear. A number of stories were being considered, including one which featured the Cybermen and the London Blitz. (This idea would later be novelised as ‘Illegal Alien’ by Mike Tucker and Robert Perry.)
Another idea was ‘Alixion’ by Robin Mukherjee, which would have revolved around a race of giant beetles. Then there was ‘Night Thoughts’ by Edward Young – an Agatha Christie-esque story about a group of people trapped in a remote house in the depths of winter, with a murderer in their midst.
And whilst it’s a shame that these Doctor Who Season 27 ideas never came to fruition, many of them have been adapted by Big Finish – even the aforementioned ‘Night Thoughts’ by Edward Young. Of course, they’re not quite as they would have appeared on TV; the Seventh Doctor’s regeneration no longer occurs (as it had already been depicted in the TV movie) and the casting is somewhat different. For instance, the actor Julia Sawalha had been a strong contender for the role of cat burglar Kate, and had already been summoned for an audition before the Doctor Who production offices closed down.
But fans did still get to experience the further adventures of the Seventh Doctor with the Virgin publications in the early 90s, and they were treated to a brand new Doctor in 1996 when a co-production deal between Fox, Universal and the BBC made a feature length special possible.
And the rest, as they, is history.
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