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The Fourth Doctor sends a warning to his other incarnations Dimensions In Time

Working Title: The Dimensions Of Time.

Starring: Jon Pertwee (The Third Doctor), Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), Peter Davison (The Fifth Doctor), Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor), Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor), Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Caroline John (Liz Shaw), Richard Franklin (Captain Yates), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Louise Jameson (Leela), John Leeson (Voice of K-9), Lalla Ward (The Second Romana), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Bonnie Langford (Mel Bush), Sophie Aldred (Ace).

The Rani kidnaps the First and Second Doctors and places the other Doctors and their companions in a time loop in Albert Square, bouncing back and forth between 1973, 1993 and 2013 and changing identities each time. The Rani is assembling a vast intergalactic menagerie, with which she seeks to harness the power of a time tunnel and control galactic evolution. The final ingredient needed is a human -- and one of the Doctor's companions will be her next victim.

Partway through the transmission of Doctor Who's twenty-sixth season in 1989, it had become apparent that -- as in 1985 -- there would be an extended break before the programme's next televised season. Unlike 1985, however, no timeline was offered for Doctor Who's return. With the series on an indefinite hiatus, the production office was soon shut down for the first time since it opened in 1963.

A number of possible adventures being set up for Season Twenty-Seven and beyond were lost as a result. Strong possibilities for the next year included a script from Robin Mukherjee called Alixion; a Ben Aaronovitch adventure involving Samurai-like insectoid aliens called the Metatraxi, who had been created for Aaronovitch and script editor Andrew Cartmel's rejected script for the Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure stage play; and one of two offerings from Marc Platt, one involving the Ice Warriors terraforming Mars and the other (and apparently more likely candidate) set in the 1960s and introducing a gangland boss who would ally himself with the Doctor and become a recurring character. Sophie Aldred's contract would have expired after the first eight episodes of the season, and Ace would have likely been written out in Platt's story, the idea being that the Doctor would enroll her at the Prydonian Academy on Gallifrey. The idea being touted for the new companion was that she would be the daughter of the Doctor's new criminal ally; she would be born in Platt's Sixties story and the next adventure would be set in the present day (circa 1990) where the grown-up girl (now gifted with a variety of footpad-type skills, such as safecraking) would meet the Doctor again.

Sylvester McCoy's contract to play the Doctor also ended with Season Twenty-Seven, although it is possible the actor might have eventually agreed to a further extension, as he had for Season Twenty-Six. Although producer John Nathan-Turner was adamant that he not return for a tenth season at the helm of Doctor Who, it seems inevitable that his BBC superiors would ultimately force him to do exactly that, as they had been doing since the mid-Eighties. Less clear in Cartmel's status; had he not returned as Doctor Who's script editor, it appears that both Aaronovitch and Platt were under consideration to replace him. Cartmel also had a variety of other stories in the pipeline for future seasons, although certainly some (if not all) would have eventually been rejected. These included Night Thoughts, a horror pastiche from Ed Young; Illegal Alien, a Cyberman adventure set in the Forties written by Robert Perry and visual effects designer Mike Tucker, put together after an earlier submission was turned down by Cartmel (Illegal Alien was eventually turned into a novel for BBC Books); a World War I idea from Tony Etchells; a tribute to the works of horror master HP Lovecraft called Avatar by David A McIntee; and a Predator-style adventure, Hostage by Neil Penswick (elements of which made their way into his novel The Pit, one of Virgin Publishing's New Adventures).

Around the start of the Nineties, a tremendous push was underway at the BBC toward autonomous companies handling much of the Corporation's production workload. Within months, the BBC's traditional response when it came to questions about Doctor Who was to indicate that the Corporation was seeking an independent company with which to coproduce the series. Rumours swirled as to the identity of those making bids to secure the rights to Doctor Who; these included a joint proposal by Terry Nation (creator of the Daleks) and Gerry Davis (former Doctor Who script editor and cocreator of the Cybermen), as well as one from ex-producer Derrick Sherwin.

Meanwhile, Philip Segal, a British expatriate working in Hollywood as a director of television development at Columbia Pictures, had contacted the BBC in July 1989 to inquire about the possibility of Columbia making new episodes of Doctor Who for broadcast in North America. The BBC was interested only in a deal whereby they would retain equal input on the direction of future Doctor Who (as opposed to relinquishing near full creative control to Columbia, as Segal had envisioned), and by the end of October, it appeared that nothing would come of Segal's inquiries.

However, on December 4th, Segal -- who had recently been promoted to Manager of Drama Development at Columbia -- was contacted by Felica Arden. Arden was a producer on the Doctor Who feature film which, since 1987, had been in production by the Daltenreys group of George Dugdale, Peter Litten and John Humphreys (which, at various stages, was also known as Coast to Coast and Green Light, and was latterly associated with Lumiere Pictures). Segal and Daltenreys began discussing a deal whereby the Daltenreys motion picture would serve as a television pilot in North America (but remain a theatrical venture in the rest of the world), leading into a new ongoing series. Columbia President Scott Sieglar was interested in this proposal, although the network attached, CBS, was less optimistic. In response, at the end of January 1990, the BBC asked Verity Lambert -- Doctor Who's first producer and now head of the well-regarded Cinema Verity production company -- to act as the BBC's representative in the discussions. (As a result, the popular misconception arose that Lambert herself was interested in coproducing Doctor Who.) Shortly thereafter, however, Segal left Columbia to become Director of Current Programming at another US network, ABC. Without his involvement, the Doctor Who deal essentially died.

In the meantime, Doctor Who had essentially vanished from terrestrial television in the United Kingdom. The lone exception came in May 1990 when Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred reprised their roles as the Doctor and Ace, alongside John Leeson as the voice of K-9, for the BBC2 educational series Search Out Science. In this episode, called The Ultimate Challenge, the Doctor posed as a game show host with Ace and K-9 amongst the contestants, with the theme of the show being astronomy-related questions. The episode debuted on November 21st, 1990 -- the closest Doctor Who came to receiving a twenty-seventh anniversary celebration. The following year, the BBC apparently came close to negotiating a deal for an animated version of Doctor Who, although this ultimately fell through and little more is known about the proposal. Fans looking for new, ongoing adventures of the Seventh Doctor and Ace had to turn to Virgin Publishing, whose bimonthly New Adventures series debuted with John Peel's Timewyrm: Genesys in June 1991. The range proved so successful that releases became monthly beginning in October 1992.

Some months earlier, Segal had left ABC Television to join Steven Spielberg's production company, Amblin Entertainment. Soon, Segal was once again in contact with the BBC about Doctor Who, and Spielberg's involvement -- albeit in name only -- provided additional impetus to the discussions. In June 1992, Segal met with Max Headroom producer Peter Wagg, who was similarly eager to be involved in making new Doctor Who. Negotiations dragged out into 1993, by which time the matter had become bogged down in the hands of legal representatives who were trying to sort out the complexities of the coproduction arrangement.

Meanwhile, in late 1992, BBC Video producers David Jackson and Penny Mills had decided to take advantage of Doctor Who's forthcoming thirtieth anniversary by releasing a new direct-to-video story. Adrian Rigelsford and Joanna McCaul were commissioned to write Lost In The Dark Dimension (subsequently shortened to simply The Dark Dimension) which would feature all five surviving Doctors, as well as the Brigadier and Ace (now referred to by her full name of Dorothy McShane), trying to stop the evil Professor Hawkspur from corrupting the Doctor's own timeline. Appearances by a variety of classic monsters would have been included, and Rigelsford and McCaul even included a character named Summerfield, intended as a reference to new companion Bernice Summerfield, created for the New Adventures novels.

BBC Enterprises, the commercial arm of the BBC under the umbrella of which BBC Video fell, formally unveiled The Dark Dimension in June 1993. With director Graeme Harper (who had helmed The Caves Of Androzani and Revelation Of The Daleks) on board, preproduction work began at a furious pace to have The Dark Dimension ready for a November release. Negotiations were underway with Brian Blessed to play Hawkspur, and Tom Baker had already agreed to return as the Fourth Doctor. Nathan-Turner was offered an advisory position, but declined; he was concerned that the script was too ambitious for the budget allocated by BBC Enterprises, and felt more than a little insulted that his own proposal for a direct-to-video story, pitched some time earlier, had been summarily dismissed by BBC Video.

Quickly, though, major problems arose: the other Doctors -- McCoy, Colin Baker, Peter Davison and Jon Pertwee -- were concerned that they barely had any screentime whatsoever, most of the adventure being given over to the Fourth Doctor. And even though the script was subsequently rewritten in an effort to allay the actors' concerns, it was also becoming evident that Nathan-Turner's budgetary fears were not far off the mark. Furthermore, Segal had been sent a copy of the script and had indicated to BBC Enterprises his concern that -- should The Dark Dimension turn out badly -- it could have serious repercussions for the negotiations with Amblin. As a result, on July 9th, it was announced that The Dark Dimension had been cancelled.

The thirtieth anniversary would not go uncelebrated, however. There was a BBC2 television documentary entitled 30 Years In The TARDIS, a Radio 2 documentary called Doctor Who: 30 Years, plus the five-part Radio 4 adventure The Paradise Of Death (featuring Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen and Nicholas Courtney as the Third Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith and the Brigadier, in a story written by former producer Barry Letts). Meanwhile, Nathan-Turner had been contacted by Nick Handel of the annual Children In Need charity telethon about making a short Doctor Who story for the event. Nathan-Turner initially declined the invitation, but subsequently changed his mind on the advice of his agent, who thought it would be appropriate for Nathan-Turner to bid Doctor Who a proper farewell.

Handel's original vision of the project was as a single, brief sketch featuring as many Doctors, companions and monsters as possible. It would be made using a new 3-D process which could be viewed normally, in addition to "three-dimensionally" via a special pair of glasses. Subsequently, entertainer Noel Edmonds also became interested in the project, and so it was decided to make two seven-minute "episodes", with the second being broadcast as part of Edmonds' Noel's House Party programme. (Later, Edmonds would ask that this episode be shortened by about two minutes.) It was also decided to make the special a crossover with the BBC's popular soap opera EastEnders, featuring several characters and locations from that programme in addition to all the Doctor Who elements. To aid him in writing the scripts, Nathan-Turner sought out the services of David Mansell, believing that the relatively inexperienced writer would find it easier to adapt to the constantly shifting demands of the project, which would have to change constantly to suit the schedules of the many performers involved. The adventure concocted by Nathan-Turner and Mansell was originally titled The Dimensions Of Time, and later modified slightly to Dimensions In Time.

Given the celebratory nature of Dimensions In Time, Nathan-Turner wanted to include all the Doctors in some fashion, despite the fact that the First and Second Doctors, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, were deceased. The concept of having them appear as disembodied heads floating about the Rani's TARDIS console room (to indicate they have already been imprisoned) was devised. However, because of the 3-D nature of the broadcast, old stills of the actors could not be used, because these would appear two-dimensional. Instead, Nathan-Turner asked model makers Sue Moore and Steven Mansfield to fashion busts of the two actors.

With Stuart McDonald directing, the team spent one day in the studio, on September 21st. This was followed by two days on the EastEnders lot at Elstree Studios, and then one day at locations around Greenwich. One major difficulty which had to be overcome was the fact that the TARDIS console room set no longer existed, having been destroyed following Season Twenty-Five (although the console itself survived). It was originally thought that a combination of a model set and Colour Separation Overlay could be used, but the 3-D technique (which required the camera to be constantly moving) made this virtually impossible. Instead, it was decided to use a replica recently constructed by Dominitemporal Services for the annual Panopticon Doctor Who convention. Several of the monster costumes were also provided by fans, who made walk-on appearances in the finished programme (some of them as the monsters themselves).

Nathan-Turner wanted a rearranged version of the Doctor Who theme music for the special, and originally approached the Pet Shop Boys, who declined. The band Erasure subsequently agreed to the job, but unfortunately their offer came too late. Instead, fans Mike Fillis and Adrian Pack secured the assignment after giving Nathan-Turner a demo tape of their work during recording. Dimensions In Time aired on November 26th and 27th, to tremendous viewing figures. The ending of episode one gave viewers the chance to vote for which of two EastEnders character should rescue the Doctor; Mandy (17,172 votes) was the favourite over Big Ron (12,704 votes). Dimensions In Time also secured the Radio Times cover for that week, the first time Doctor Who appeared on the front of Radio Times since the twentieth-anniversary special, The Five Doctors.

Original Transmission Details
Episode Date Time Duration Viewers Audience App.
1 26th November 1993 8.08pm 7'34" 13.8m (15th) ---
2 27th November 1993 7.23pm 5'27" 13.6m (10th) ---

Principal Crew
Producer John Nathan-Turner
Writers John Nathan-Turner
David Mansell (as David Rodan)
Director Stuart McDonald
Costume Ken Trew

Principal Guest Cast: Letitia Dean (Sharon Watts), Shobu Kapoor (Gita Kapoor), Ross Kemp (Grant Mitchell), Steve McFadden (Phil Mitchell), Kate O'Mara (The Rani), Mike Reid (Frank Butcher), Wendy Richards (Pauline Fowler), Nicola Stapleton (Mandy), Pam St Clement (Pat Butcher), Gillian Taylforth (Kathy Beale), Deepak Verma (Sanjay Kapoor), Sam West (Cyrian).

Novelisation: None.

Video Release: None.

Rankings: 160th (30.63%, DWM 1997 Annual Survey).


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