I’m back, well sort of, from now on I’ll be posting one glorious article a week. The sheer number of new subscriptions I’ve received in the past few months, along with how healthy my reader numbers are, have shown me that I’m probably not finished with this yet; or any time soon. “But why only one article a week?” I imagine you crying out. Well I’m short of time these days. At the moment I have a novel to rewrite, a webcomic to update (hopefully more regularly), two video blogs which I am still trying to develop, as well as learn the skills I need to make them happen…oh and I am in the middle of the second worst migraine cluster of my life. Two months, and so far no let up! Go me!
Anyway, on with the show.
So last week (while huddled in a dark room while I tried to ignore how my brains felt like they had decided to leave my body through every pore in my head) I was trying to cheer myself up by rewatching the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who. How awesome was John Hurt as The Warrior Doctor by the way? So at the end of the episode we have that wonderful moment when all 13 Doctors, including a picturesque shot of Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows, fly to the rescue of a well and truly boned Gallifrey. It’s an amazing moment, 50 years in the making, a flawless piece of science fiction television; but something felt off to me. A question became embedded in my mind.
Shouldn’t there be 14 of them?
Baker 2…unfortunately check.
Eccleston…ears and all-check.
Smith…yup there he is.
Oh and here’s William Hurt.
And hey look at those eyebrows controlling Mr. Capaldi.
So yeah 13…Where’s Peter Cushing?!
“What?!” I imagine you crying in Karen Gillian’s velvety voice.
You see in 1965 and again in 1966 Peter Cushing played The Doctor in a pair of full length feature films. I remember these two films more clearly from my childhood than anything else “Who”. So clearly in fact that when I would finally see the television version of the Doctor Cushing was playing I would find myself rather put off at first. But only at first.
Cushing was recreating the part played by William Hartnell. The older, somewhat bumbling, rambling, wise, but often foolish first Doctor. The first of the two movies was in fact a direct retelling of the very first Dalek adventure. And to my eyes it was a very good retelling. I can, and have, watched both versions back to back, and despite the differences between the two versions find myself equally satisfied by both.
The second movie was Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150AD. This one was based loosely on the 10th Who adventure “The Dalek Invasion of Earth.”
Visually they’re pretty ordinary science fiction movies of the 60’s. The special effects are…not all that special. The music is okay. The acting, with the exception of Cushing himself, is passable. But the story’s make up for all that by the simple fact that they are genuinely interesting. In other words it’s classic Doctor Who through, and through.
And yet, these movies are largely ignored by Who fans.
Well I’m a Who fan. Sylvester McCoy is my Doctor. Ace is my companion. I was there when he broke the curse of Fenric, when he recovered the Silver Nemesis. I saw as she was carefully moulded in to something more than merely another human companion; a future Time Lord? The first Human Time Lord? We’ll never know, their stories were cut off mid-stream, before they could become a cultural touchstone like Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen.
That’s how I see those two Cushing movies. An attempt to create a Doctor for the big screen, a companion piece to the television series. An alternative universe of adventures. A failed great experiment. But does that mean that his Who should be ignored, then forgotten?
Cushing, to my eyes at least, sparkled as The Doctor. Different, but still equal to the great William Hartnell. A Doctor equal to all those who followed, more than an equal to Colin Baker…seriously does anyone like his version?
So here I am, left wondering, if the Cushing version had cracked America would we have a vast sea of Who movies to rival Bond, or Godzilla?
What if he has been so taken with the character to have supplanted Troughton? Would we ever have had the whistle playing jester version?
Is there any way that the movies can be seen as canon? Another universe, like Y-Space? Or Roses alternative happy ever after Earth?
Regardless the Who fandom do themselves, and the franchise they so love a disservice by ignoring the Cushing movies. And perhaps it’s time for a rediscovery of them, and to imagine a different Who that might have been.