'Doctor Who' movie plans almost stopped show's hit revival

·TV Reporter
·2-min read
Christopher Eccleston in a promotional still for Doctor Who. (BBC)
Christopher Eccleston starred in the 'Doctor Who' revival. (BBC)

Doctor Who's hit revival almost never happened because BBC One was blocked from making the TV series by a rival movie, being made by...the BBC.

The sci-fi series following the Time Lord was brought back to TV 16 years ago and has been one of BBC One's greatest triumphs, but the broadcaster almost scuppered its own chances of success because of a row over the rights to the show.

Read more: Pearl Mackie wants the next Time Lord to be non-binary

According to the Radio Times, new book The Long Game by Paul Hayes follows the struggle to revive Doctor Who between 1996 and 2003 and uncovers the tussle between then-BBC One Controller Lorraine Heggessey and BBC Worldwide, who owned the rights.

Heggessey said: "They said that we could not have it on TV because they were going to make a movie, and therefore we couldn’t put it on BBC One. Which I was pretty fed up about, and ranted and raved for a bit but didn’t really get anywhere."

Jodie Whittaker is heading into her final season as the Doctor. (BBC)
Jodie Whittaker is heading into her final season as the Doctor. (BBC)

She explained that the back and forth went on for a year until she decided to call their bluff as a film still wasn't in production and she had not managed to find a suitable Saturday night replacement show.

Heggessey told BBC Worldwide that she was going to go ahead with the reboot anyway, and a modern classic was soon in the pipeline.

She said: "It would only happen in the BBC, wouldn’t it? BBC Worldwide wouldn’t let BBC TV produce it! But eventually, we just bust through that."

Peter Capaldi is one of the actors to have starred in the revival's lead role. (BBC)
Peter Capaldi is one of the actors to have starred in the revival's lead role. (BBC)

Also in the book, Heggessey's right-hand woman Helen O’Rahilly, a Doctor Who superfan, tells how she managed to convince her boss to remake the show with the help of a toy Dalek.

Read more: Doctor Who social media channels go blank ahead of season 13 launch

Explaining that she used to keep the Dalek on her desk and press a button that said "exterminate" constantly when Heggessey was around, she said it eventually wore her down.

O'Rahilly said: "Eventually, she just came out of her office and went, ‘Right! That’s it! I’m not putting up with this anymore! Go and organise a meeting. Let’s find out who has the rights. We’re going to do this!’"

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