Roger and I recently completed the Top of the Docs review of all the televised Doctor Who episodes, but did you know that during the early years of the Doctor’s return, there were a number of special releases to fan the flames of fandom? That’s a heck of a phrase, huh? Fan the flames of fandom! Who is doing that now? (That’s a question, not a statement!) These little things were like the extras on the DVD boxed set you just bought; they are not needed to enjoy the content, but they add a layer of pleasure that you didn’t have before.
Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper and Russell T. Davies had brought the show back in style and David Tennant had to pick up from a fantastic season. How would we keep people interested while starting a season with a new Doctor? The creators of the show came up with the idea of little teasers; a prologue, if you will. Each episode of season 2 had a mini-episode, under a minute each, that would offer a taste of what was to come. Missing them did nothing to alter ones enjoyment of the episode but they made us want to see more. To view them, you’d text a code from your phone and be treated to a video to whet the appetite. What were they about? As River might say, spoilers… (for what that’s worth; the longest one is 58 seconds!)
New Earth features an ad for the hospital on New Earth and all the terminal diseases they cure. Nurse Haim takes the viewer on a tour before the screen goes dark and someone screams “help me”. The image snaps back and Haim no longer looks so pleasant!
Tooth and Claw has a meteor fall to earth. 300 years later, a man is attacked and we get our first glimpse of the werewolf.
School Reunion has Mickey hacking a computer system and we get an early hint of the existence of Torchwood. As Mickey calls Rose to say he needs her, the camera shows us a Krillitane as it flexes its wings and screams at the camera.
The Girl in the Fireplace gives us the ion storm that knocks out the Madame de Pompadour. A member of the crew wakes to a shadow standing over her. She screams, the camera focuses on a clock on a mantle before the glass covering shatters.
Rise of the Cybermen shows Mickey watching a newscast about John Lumic and the upgrade project he’s working on as Cybermen storm the streets.
Age of Steel offers us a digital image of the upgrade process before more Cybermen are shown marching.
The Idiots Lantern gives us a glimpse of a family opening their new TV. A view from within shows an elderly woman trying to watch it while bursts of color start to reach out to remove her face. Was this the first victim of The Wire?
The Impossible Planet shows Captain Walker getting the mission to fly out to the titular planet and retrieve the power source that keeps it in orbit around the black hole. As he leaves, his Ood aide turns and says “the Beast shall rise from the pit.”
The Satin Pit shows us another victim of the Beast, with those weird face tattoos and a message that the beast has awoken.
Love and Monsters allows us to hear a snarling, grunting man as he tracks the source of L.I.N.D.A’s website. He’s stalking those who look for the Doctor and he’s too excited to hide his true form from his housekeeper.
Fear Her has an ad for Crime Crackers, an organization looking for missing children. The ad ends and a cupboard bursts open and two red eyes peer out at the viewer.
A reporter is digging too deeply into Torchwood in the tardisode of Army of Ghosts. He is taken away screaming that he knows the truth of the ghosts.
An emergency broadcast is going out with footage of the Cybermen attacking London… before the station itself is taken down by the Daleks. It truly looks like Doomsday!
The quality of these stories vary but that wasn’t what was important. However, it showed that the writers and creators of the show understood what it took to keep the fans interested. I’ve said frequently that the people who are creating the show today were the fans of yesterday. In recent years, we’ve forgotten that if Doctor Who is to continue, we need to be creating tomorrow’s fans, today. Doctor Who once aired for 40+ weeks of the year. Now, we are told we should expect 8 episodes in 2021! But things like the TARDISODES were teasers that kept us interested. I watched all 13 of them to write this article and it didn’t take 15 minutes. You know what that says to me? The effort to create Doctor Who content doesn’t have to be full fledged episodes to keep us happy and keep our favorite Time Lord on the forefront of our minds. Yet, it’s been over a year since a new season of Doctor Who has graced our screens and 6 months since the Christmas special. And do you know how much I can’t wait for it to come back? Sadly… not much. The interest has waned. Oh, I’ll go back to it when it returns, but are we creating the content today to build the fan base of tomorrow? The ones who will use the newest tech to create exciting content? Maybe bring Hartnell and Troughton back to meet Jo Martin’s Doctor? I’ve got to say no, I don’t believe we are. Yet if we don’t start to think about these things, we may find a future devoid of our hero. And that would be hearts-breaking.
Stay tuned for more of these little “extras”. There are a handful worth talking about and for those who didn’t know they existed, I hope that offers you something fun to dig up while we wait for the return of the Doctor. ML