To celebrate the 30th anniversary of its longest-running science- fiction programme, the BBC is planning to show a 90-minute Dr Who special in November, featuring five of the seven actors who have played the doctor. The first two, William Hartnell (1963-66), and Patrick Troughton (1966-69) are now dead.
While the BBC dropped the series in 1989, despite a public outcry from thousands of Dr Who followers, BBC Enterprises has been selling the doctor's adventures around the world ever since. It now estimates the show has an audience of 110 million, with a spin-off industry of mugs, T-shirts, books, chess sets and even a pinball machine.
BBC Enterprises decided that a one-off special to celebrate 30 years of the doctor and his Tardis was a financial winner - whether or not the BBC decided to broadcast it.
'The new programme vindicates our argument all along,' said Steven Wickham, Co-Ordinator of the British Dr Who Appreciation Society.
'We always said that the BBC were making a fortune out of Dr Who around the world so they should be making a new series. We hope the series follows this special.'
The five Time Lords that the BBC are hoping to persuade to appear in the one-off, 90-minute special are Jon Pertwee (1970-74), Tom Baker (1974-81), Peter Davison (1981-83), Colin Baker (1983-86) and Sylvester McCoy (1987-89).
And the philosophical and logical questions raised by getting five of the screen doctors to meet, interact and talk to themselves, are not a major problem according to Marcus Hearn, Assistant Editor of The Dr Who Magazine, a monthly which sells 30,000 copies.
'It's the same doctor but they are all in a different time-stream,' he said. 'This can be engineered by Time Lords, an alien species who have control over time itself and use it for their own purposes.'
In fact, it is not unprecedented - for the 10th anniversary programme in 1973, Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee met up in the storyline and for the 20th anniversary, Davison joined them.
According to Mr Hearn, who has inside knowledge, Tom Baker, who refused to co-operate in 1983 because he wanted to distance himself from the part, is now believed to be in favour of the one-off show.
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