55-and-a-half amazing(ish) facts about Doctor Who

Paul Kirkley presents 55 or so facts about the series you probably didn’t know

11. Big bang theory

While filming the Second Doctor’s final story, The War Games, Patrick Troughton and co-stars Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury were unhappy with being told to stand close to a detonation without knowing how big the resulting bang was going to be. The visual effects designer duly sent his explosives expert over to assure them everything would be fine – which might have been more convincing if he hadn’t had a badly scarred face and two missing fingers. Troughton insisted on seeing the explosion for himself and, as the charge was blown, a huge boulder came flying out of the ground and landed exactly where the actors had been standing a moment ago. Although, to be fair, they were all leaving anyway.

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12. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

During the Second World War, Jon Pertwee was posted to Naval Intelligence, where he took orders from Ian Fleming and refreshments from able seaman, tea boy and future Prime Minister Jim Callaghan. The way Pertwee told it, being a spy was very much like Fleming would go on to describe it in his James Bond novels, complete with compasses hidden in brass buttons, tobacco pipes that fired a .22 bullet and secret maps in cotton handkerchiefs that only showed up when you urinated on them. He also had regular meetings with Winston Churchill, after which he would collect the PM’s cigar butts and sell them to the Americans.


13. You haven’t been watching…

In 1968, a prior commitment forced Jon Pertwee (6’ 3”) to turn down the lead role of Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army. Luckily, they were able to replace him with the virtually identical Arthur Lowe (5’ 6”).


14. Musa-cal genius

Carey Blyton, who wrote the score for several 70s Doctor Who adventures, was the nephew of Enid, and the creator of baffling fruit/sleepwear hybrid Bananas in Pyjamas.


15. Fifty Shades of No Way

When the BBC’s Head of Serials heard that actress Susan Jameson had been cast as Morgan, the fascistic mining boss in 1971’s Colony in Space, he hit the roof, telling the director: “A sadistic female with a whip striding about the place in kinky boots murdering people? In Doctor Who?” The role eventually went to Tony Caunter; Jameson was paid in full (but had to give the boots back).


16. Bang out of order

The BBC’s visual effects team were delighted when, following the explosive climax to The Daemons (1971), a viewer wrote to Radio Times to protest about an entire village church being blown up in the name of TV drama.


 17. Retail UNIT

Between seasons of Doctor Who, Nicholas Courtney – aka stiff upper-lipped UNIT boss Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart – took a job in a military memorabilia shop to make ends meet. Let’s hope he at least pulled rank over the tea rota.


18. Little green man

Director Lennie Mayne was so appalled by the unfortunate phallic appearance of one-eyed “hermaphrodite hexapod” Alpha Centauri in The Curse of Peladon (1972), he ordered a cloak to be added in a bid to protect what little modesty could be salvaged. The creature later popped up – so to speak – on The Black and White Minstrel Show, performing Walking Down The Road. True story.


19. Is that a plunger in your pocket…?

Shortly after leaving Doctor Who, Katy Manning – who played ditzy Jo Grant – posed naked with a Dalek for the magazine Girl Illustrated. Fans’ eyes were out on stalks (“Welcome to my world,” said the Dalek).

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20. ’Ullo Jon, got a new motor?

Gadget-loving Jon Pertwee was so keen to get the futuristic, manta ray-like ‘Whomobile’ into the show, he paid for it himself. Fully taxed and roadworthy, the actor took great delight in driving it to locations, with a mortified Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith) in the passenger seat.