‘Doctor Who’ Was Almost A Very Different Type Of Show

Everyone knows the story of Doctor Who. An alien travels through time and space with their companions in a ship called the TARDIS. But what if that wasn’t the whole story? 

The original story of Doctor Who is quite different. Though it was always science fiction, the show went through a few regenerations before landing on the winning idea. This is all thanks to a difference of opinion between Sydney Newman, the head of BBC Drama at the time, and CE Webber, a writer hired to come up with ideas for the show. If it wasn’t for their back and forth exchange, Doctor Who would not be what it is today.

‘Doctor Who’ was almost called something different

Peter Capaldi Doctor Who
Peter Capaldi, who played the Twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who | Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

In 1963, Sydney Newman was looking for a show to appeal to both children and adults. He chose a sci-fi show because the genre would be appealing to many and could be entertaining as well as educational. The next step was to hire writers to come up with ideas. CE Webber suggested a show about scientists that solve impossible problems.

Webber called the scientists The Troubleshooters. What was important about his idea was the character concepts he created. One of them became the outline for The Doctor in Doctor Who. The Troubleshooters would have followed three main characters, according to Digital Spy: “the handsome young man hero,” “the handsome well-dressed heroine, aged about 30” and “the maturer man, 35-40, with some character twist.” 

Guessed which one turned into The Doctor yet? 

Clearly it’s the last one. Though the Doctor has also been a handsome young man and is now a handsome — or beautiful — heroine, that’s not how the character started out. The Doctor started out as an eccentric older man.

How did ‘The Troubleshooters’ turn into ‘Doctor Who’?

Newman didn’t like the idea of the main characters all being scientists. He also wanted one of them to be a teenage girl so children could relate to her. This is what led to the character of Susan, The Doctor’s granddaughter.

Newman also suggested that the main character would have no idea who he was. This is how Doctor Who got its name. Although The Doctor’s amnesia did not become a fixture of the character, the name stuck. And fans are likely glad it did.

Webber then wrote a new pitch based on Newman’s ideas. He made the main character an alien from another world who hated scientists and wanted to destroy the future, but Newman didn’t like that idea. Eventually, these two had to come to some sort of compromise.

How did ‘Doctor Who’ become the show it is today?

Most likely Newman and Webber played with the idea until it turned into the show we all know and love. Fans are probably very thankful for Newman since he helped develop the show into what it is today: a story about a Time Lord who stole a TARDIS and ran away from Gallifrey to travel the universe. The Doctor is an iconic figure now, and that is partially due to Newman’s persistence.

You have to wonder, though, if Doctor Who would be the success that it is today if Newman had simply gone with any of Webber’s various original ideas. Scientists can’t regenerate, after all. And one of the key parts of Doctor Who is regeneration and change. An alien bent on destroying the future also sounds a bit extreme, and like it would scare children too much.

We’re all just very lucky that Doctor Who turned into the show it did. Who knows what the world of sci-fi would have done without it — Whovians wouldn’t exist, at least. A world without Doctor Who would be a sad world indeed.