November 23 is a special date to millions of cult television fans across the globe.
On this date 55 years ago, Doctor Who was first broadcast to the British public, and now it’s a huge hit across the world. And some of the key contributors who have ensured its enduring popularity over the years have been Scots.
Here’s 10 Scottish Doctor Who facts you possibly never knew.
A Scotsman, Donald Wilson, was one of the people who worked on the original concept of Doctor Who. Born in Dunblane, he was part of a team which led to the creation of Doctor Who. Canadian Sydney Newman arrived at the BBC in 1962 as the head of drama, and appointed Wilson as the head of serials, from which he oversaw the creation and development of Doctor Who. A pilot episode was recorded, but Wilson was one of the team who ordered it to be remounted with subtle changes made. Wilson went on to produce the BBC’s adaptation of The Forsyte Saga in 1967. He lated worked for Anglia Television before retiring, living in Gloucestershire until he died in March 2002, aged 91.
In 1966, the TARDIS brought Second Doctor Patrick Troughton and his friends Ben and Polly to Culloden, in the aftermath of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s failed campaign. There, they met Jamie McCrimmon, played by Frazer Hines (who’s half-Scottish, on his mother’s side). Hines stayed by Troughton’s side until the actor left the part in 1969. He went on to star in Emmerdale Farm (later Emmerdale) as Joe Sugden, and regularly returns to play Jamie on audio for Big Finish Productions, in which he does his uncanny impression of Troughton, who died in 1987. Sadly, few of Hines’ adventures remain complete in the BBC archives, but some very brief clips from his first story, The Highlanders, still survive.
What could be more Scottish than the Doctor fighting the Loch Ness Monster? Tom Baker’s Doctor encountered it in Terror of the Zygons, in which it was revealed to be an alien Skarasen, which was the pet of the alien Zygons, a shapechanging race whose craft has crashed into Loch Ness many years previously, and their leader, Broton, was posing as the Duke of Forgill. The Skarasen swam up the River Thames, before the Doctor foiled the dastardly alien plan, and it returned to the loch. The story came from the imagination of Scots writer Robert Banks Stewart, who later created Shoestring and Bergerac.
In 1985, the TARDIS made a brief return in Scotland, when it brought Sixth Doctor Colin Baker – whose family hailed from Glasgow – to the shores of Loch Ness in the story Timelash. There, he met a young gentleman named Herbert, and transported him by accident in his time machine to the planet Karfel, where he saw an interplanetary war, met a woman named Vena, and encountered the monstrous Morlocks. The Doctor later discovered that his new friend was one Herbert George Wells.
Sylvester McCoy became the Seventh Doctor in September in 1987, and appeared as his predecessor as well as himself, during the regeneration scene. Colin Baker’s contract had been ended by the BBC and not renewed, so McCoy – from Dunoon – donned a blonde curly wig for the transformation scene. McCoy had three years as the Doctor on TV, before returning in 1996 in a television movie, which saw him regenerated into his old friend Paul McGann, who became the Eighth Doctor. McCoy continues to play the Doctor to this day for Big Finish Productions, in a series of audio adventures, with old and new friends.
David Tennant became the second Scottish Doctor in 2005, succeeding Christopher Eccleston in the part. The Paisley man had been a life-long fan of Doctor Who, having appeared as several other characters in audio productions, including playing another Time Lord in the story Exile. His first season on the show, alongside Billie Piper, saw him appear in Tooth and Claw, which allowed him to use his natural Scots accent, as he played the Doctor with a Cockney twang the rest of the time. Tooth and Claw saw the Doctor foil a plot to infect Queen Victoria with a werewolf virus, on a visit to Scotland.
David Tennant is the only actor to have played two incarnations of the Doctor. When a Time Lord dies, they regenerate into a new body. However, Tennant’s Doctor happened to have a spare hand (yes, really… go with us!), and he siphoned the regeneration energy into it after being shot by a Dalek. Tennant’s Doctor kept his face, but used up one of the 13 regenerations permitted by the Time Lords. The spare hand later grew into another Tenth Doctor (yes, really…). Tennant is playing the Doctor again for Big Finish, with his old TV companions Catherine Tate and Billie Piper.
John Barrowman is currently starring on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, but he burst onto the scene in 2005 as Captain Jack Harkness. Despite the American accent, Barrowman was brought up in Glasgow’s Mount Vernon, before his father’s job took him to the States. A star of the musical theatre scene, Captain Jack accompanied Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor, before being left behind as he regenerated. Jack returned to Earth in the present day, to join the team at Torchwood, in a spin-off show, based in Cardiff, where they foiled alien menaces looking to take over the world. He has since reprised the character on audio for Big Finish, who have produced the continuation of the Torhchwood TV show, which ended after four series.
Glaswegian Peter Capaldi became the Twelfth Doctor in 2013, succeeding Matt Smith. Capaldi had previously appeared alongside Tennant in The Fires of Vulcan. It was a dream come true for the actor, who had been a fan of the show since the 1970s. Capaldi is the only Doctor Who to have won an Oscar, for his Best Live Action Short Film for his work writing and directing Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life in 1995. Capaldi played the Doctor from 2013 until Christmas 2017.
Doctor Who has a huge expanded universe of stories, beyond the TV series, with literally hundreds of original stories in book and audio form. Some of these have been set in Scotland, including Masters of Earth by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright, which saw the Daleks invade Earth, and the Sixth Doctor foiled them in the north of Scotland. A Doctor Who novel, Empire of Death, saw the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, meet Queen Victoria near New Lanark. It was written by David Bishop, who lives in Biggar.