In 1989, Doctor Who was off the airwaves. The BBC never formally canceled the program and even stated on a few occasions that they wished to revamp it for a new era, but it’s only return in the 20th C was the TV Movie starring Paul McGann.
In 2003 an animated project written by Paul Cornell and starring Richard E Grant as a not un-vampiric-looking Doctor called Scream of the Shalka was transmitted on line as a flash animated cartoon. Told in four installments, the story was weird, wild and humorous but somehow lacking a certain quality. Perhaps it was all thye subtle changes such as Sir Derek Jacobi as a robotic version of the Master living in the TARDIS or a mobile phone replacing the sonic screwdriver as a magical get-out-of-danger device… but it failed to fully grab fans and remains a somewhat strange piece of Who history.
However, Meredith Burdett of Kasterborous.com blogged today about a previous proposal that would have, like the Leakely scripts attached to the aborted Paul McGann series, utilize the legacy of Who, re-interpreted for a modern audience. Designed by cartoonist I. N. J. Culbard (of the excellent Sherlock Holmes series of graphic novels and a stunning adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward), the new Doctor was something of a mash-up of the old and new.
Based loosely on actor Stuart Townsend, this version of the Doctor had a darker look and a mysterious past.
I had a season outline and a small handfull of story ideas. The pilot was a two parter; the second episode (featuring Sea Devils attaching 1960’s Brighton) was engineered in such a way that it could also work as a stand alone episode. Animated shows are often subject to non-sequential scheduling so have to work as stand alone episodes because the scheduling may monkey around with the order. I decided to build that into the format as this was a show about Time travel after all. I used that to tell story arcs that could be told in any order, so, the show’s structure had a selling point as far as a scheduler was concerned (which was part of the appeal for doing it in the first place).
The rules were a little different. This Doctor had regenerated along with the Master into one body (in much the same manner as the Fourth Doctor merged with The Watcher to become the Fifth Doctor). Sacrilege, I know, but, that was pretty much it; a pitch that never got pitched, consigned to a file marked “fanboy frivolity”.
While I enjoy Culbard’s style, I’m not exactly in love with the look of his take on the Doctor (no offense, I hope). That said, the general pitch of telling stories out of order and starting off with the Sea Devils is a grand one. Culbard is obviously a fan of the program and when he pitched this to the Beeb he was told that the property was not open to development in any form. I find it very interesting that this incarnation was a fusion of the Master and the Doctor, something that (rumor has it) Barry Letts had intended for the end of Jon Pertwee’s run on the program.
Of course, there was a previous attempt at a Doctor Who cartoon… that thankfully never made it.
I hope that the revival of this design will generate interest from IDW in approaching Culbard for a comic book version of the Doctor as I really enjoy his artwork. It has plenty of character and depth that could suit a classic Doctor Who adventure quite well.
(Note: Culbard’s art will be gracing an upcoming monthly series from the DC Comics imprint Vertigo with Dan Abnett The New Deadwardians. More info here)