If there is one area that fascinates scholars of Doctor Who history, it is the stories that never made it to the screen.
‘The Nightmare Fair’ and other casualties of the cancelled Season 23 are among the most famous, more so ‘Shada’ given it did get as far as being partially filmed.
The list of ‘what if’s actually stretches as far back as the show’s beginnings, as Macolm Hulke would testify.
A significant number of aborted or radically reshaped scripts involve our old friends, the Daleks. And we are not just talking about stories that did not make it altogether. There were those commissioned as Dalek tales that ended up going out without them, or original storylines eventually served up with added Dalek…
Daleks and Cybermen (1967)
Following the success of ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’, the BBC wanted to close Season 5 with a serial that brought Cybermen and Daleks together. Terry Nation was approached, possibly to even co-write it with Kit Pedler. But he vetoed the proposal, probably on the grounds he had already withdrawn his creations from Doctor Who to launch them in their own series. ‘The Wheel in Space’ was commissioned instead.
Although never more than an idea, it is worth mentioning if only to confirm the classic series did consider a Cybermen/Dalek team up, before Russell T Davies eventually realised it in 2006’s finale.
The Daleks in London (1972)
With the proposed Dalek TV series never made, producer Barry Letts was given the go ahead to bring them back into the fold and Robert Sloman wrote a six-part adventure to close Season 9.
Set in contemporary London, Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks felt there were too many similarities to ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’, the film version of which had recently aired on BBC TV. Letts also decided it would be better to have them open the new season with a bang, which led to…
‘Day of the Daleks’ (1972)
The script originally earmarked to open Season 9 was Louis Marks’ ‘The Time Warriors’, a pre-Terminator storyline in which rebel guerrillas from a future totalitarian society travel back to contemporary England to change the course of history.
Marks was then persuaded that the dictatorship could be a puppet government actually ruled by Daleks, and a long awaited comeback was born.
A Dalek Proposal (1975)
By Season 12, Terry Nation had his feet firmly back under the desk with a gentleman’s agreement that he should provide a Dalek story every year. When his submission for Tom Baker’s debut year was received, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks called the writer to a meeting, during which they went through the breakdown and pointed out all the ideas already used in previous Dalek tales, which Nation seemingly had not consciously realised.
Then Letts remarked he had never seen a tale outlining “the genesis of the Daleks.” The rest is history.
‘The Android Invasion’ (1976)
It has often been thought that Nation originally penned this as his annual Dalek offering, only to be asked to remove them and come up with a new foe. However, it seems that Phillip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes – weary of the squawking pepper pots – persuaded Nation at a very early stage to give them a rest.
That is not to say he may have originally conceived the plot to create human replicants as a Dalek machination before assigning it to the Kraals. Eric Saward certainly re-explored the idea for ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ (1984).
‘War Game’ (1984)
Newcomer writer Eric Pringle submitted a four-part Dalek story for Season 21 which Saward thought showed promise but for two things. Firstly, he felt the concept did not carry enough legs to support four episodes and instructed Pringle to cut down to two.
Secondly, the holdover of ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ from the previous season meant there was no room for another Dalek outing, and Pringle was obliged to remove them altogether. The result was ‘The Awakening’, which was good enough with the Malus as chief foe. Or perhaps Saward decided two Dalek stories by two Erics was just too much.
‘Conquest of the Daleks’ (1985)
As Peter Davison’s Dalek baptism was held back until his final season, it was decided Colin Baker’s should be as soon as possible. Another newcomer, Glen McCoy, was entrusted with the task and devised a tale in which Davros – having survived and escaped his apparent demise in ‘Resurrection…’ – is now ruling the society of Karfel with a small number of loyal Daleks while secretly conducting experiments to evolve new ones.
Saward then decided to pen his own Dalek adventure for the season finale, exploring a similar idea. But rather than shelve McCoy’s script entirely, the writer was persuaded to re-submit it without Nation’s creations. Thus Davros became Borad and the Daleks his robot servants. You get the picture.
Absence of the Daleks (2005)
That is how Robert Shearman’s Dalek debut for the rebooted series became known when permission from the Nation estate to use them stalled for a while.
RTD had an alternative version of the script prepared featuring a creature within a sphere like body, an idea he later adapted into the Toclafane in 2007’s ‘The Sound of Drums’ and ‘Last of the Time Lords’.
It was a huge sigh of relief that the Terry Nation estate did relent or, who knows, RTD may have been tempted to use the Slitheen as the villains of the season’s closing episodes. “Bad Wiff” followed by “The Farting of the Ways”, anybody?
Written by Barry McCann.