The BBC has responded robustly to suggestions that recent Doctor Who Christmas special Twice Upon a Time could have been guilty of copyright infringement when it created new character, Captain Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart, played by Mark Gatiss.
Captain Lethbridge-Stewart is introduced in the episode, penned by now departed showrunner Steven Moffat, as a relative of well-loved classic Who character Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, otherwise known as the Brig, and was later revealed by Gatiss to be the character’s grandfather.
But a report in the Mirror suggests that the new character could flaunt rules on intellectual property, and that the estate of Mervyn Haisman – the writer who co-created the Brigadier with Henry Lincoln for 1968 Doctor Who serial The Web of Fear – is “considering legal action”.
Andy Frankham-Allen, creative director of the Haisman Estate, seems to have simply been stating the facts of copyright law when he reportedly told the paper: “Characters are considered creative works and are protected by copyright law. As such, we reserve the right to determine what is officially part of our intellectual property.
“If derivative works are created without our permission, then we will determine if/how they fit into our IP [intellectual property]. We reserve the right to accept or reject any additions to our intellectual properties.”
And a BBC spokesperson responded in no uncertain terms, confirming to RadioTimes.com: “This claim is without foundation. There has been no breach of copyright.”
Frankham-Allen, meanwhile, has since confirmed on Twitter – in response to a question about the Lethbridge-Stewart lineage – that the Haisman Estate and the BBC have agreed an amicable, and non-financial, solution to the issue.
“A solution was achieved, following TUAT [Twice Upon a Time], that maintains the integrity of both concepts… One that didn’t involved any legal action, or the threat of such, or any exchange of money.”
In short, any Doctor Who fans worrying about the integrity of the Lethbridge-Stewart line should worry no more. The Captain is part of the canon.