The three Doctor Who-less years on television between Survival in 1989 and Dimensions in Time in 1993 seemed like an eternity, let alone the seven-year gap between the end of the Classic Series and the Movie in 1996, or the sixteen-year gap between Survival and Rose. Any fleeting mention of Doctor Who seemed like something to be excited about, a crumb of hope that our favourite television series hadn’t been entirely forgotten. One such fleeting moment arrived on December 29th 1992, when a Dalek showed up at Christmas.
Before we get ahead of ourselves we need to talk a bit about Mr Bean, for any poor souls who are not aware of this television (and film) phenomenon. In 1990 I watched with mild curiosity when my parents turned on the television for what we assume was a one-off comedy programme starring Rowan Atkinson. He played a hopeless character called Mr Bean, who was placed into a couple of ordinary life situations and messed them up hopelessly: sitting an exam and then going to church. It was a hilarious half-hour of television. Two more episodes followed later the same year, then one in 1991 and three in 1992, the third of which was a Christmas special. Mr Bean was always an occasional treat. Every episode was a “special”, with the 14th and final episode airing in 1995. There were also various short charity episodes and two films, the second of which is completely sublime.
So for Christmas 1992 Mr Bean was placed again into some ordinary situations, but with a Christmas theme: going shopping, getting a Christmas tree, cooking Christmas dinner for his unlucky date, etc. It’s a wonderful episode. Friends lifted a sketch from it wholesale, and did it a lot worse, but that moment in the episode is probably the least funny. The standout moment is when Bean gets to conduct a band playing carols in the street.
But the moment of interest to a Doctor Who fan is where Bean finds a nativity scene in a department store and, behaving like a child as he often does, he plays with the nativity, making up a story of various intruders arriving to disturb the baby’s peace. He uses other toys that are available to hand in the store: soldiers, a helicopter, a dinosaur – the more anachronistic to the nativity the better.
Oh… and a toy Dalek.
And a generation of Doctor Who fans sat forward in their seats. Of course, it was an absurd moment, and not just because a Dalek was invading the nativity. The sad fact was that you just wouldn’t have found a Dalek for sale in a department store in 1992! But it was a lovely little moment, and of course very funny.
For one glorious day in the Wilderness Years of Doctor Who, over 18 million viewers watched a Dalek invasion, at Christmas. Doctor Who hadn’t been forgotten, after all. RP