Sunday, November 17, 2013

Doctor Who: 1997

After episode 696 (Doctor Who)
31 August 1997
<< back to 1996

Unexpected Spiders on UK Gold
via the Who Gold site
If there was no new Doctor Who on telly for much of the 1990s, there was at least a chance to catch up on old Doctor Who via satellite channel UK Gold. For more than 10 years, it showed a complete story every Sunday morning - and I had a kind friend who would tape them for me. As a result, I saw the majority of Doctor Who from the 60s and 70s for the first time via UK Gold.

The Who Gold site is full of clips and information about that wondrous time, but one particular Sunday morning in 1997 gives an insight into the way the channel was run:
"In the early hours of Sunday 31st August 1997, Princess Diana was tragically killed in a car crash in Paris. On that morning, UK Gold were scheduled to broadcast The Armageddon Factor, the final story of The Key To Time season which featured Princess Astra (played by Lalla Ward) in scenes of great peril."
So, instead of a story in which a space princess is in peril (but isn't in a car chase and doesn't die), UK Gold showed Jon Pertwee's final adventure Planet of Spiders (with a 25-minute chase and the Doctor dying at the end). The story was broadcast with a caption telling viewers to turn over, and anyone who'd been following the Key to Time season for the previous five weeks had to wait more than two years to find out how it ended. (The commercial VHS of the story, released in June 1995, was no longer available to buy.)

Who Gold also boasts an interview with continuity announcer Glen Allen:
"I remember that day very well. Only that week’s editor (four editors were responsible for a week each per month) and I went into work. You got Planet of the Spiders purely and simply because that was the only six-parter we had left in the library. I remember lying on the floor checking under all the shelves in case we had anything else. In retrospect I'm not sure people would have been that offended about a fictional princess in an old sci-fi show.

We had to view every show that was going out that day to make sure it was safe. Two comedies had to go. One was a Jasper Carrott episode that had him talking about fast cars and 'Who wants to go at 100 miles an hour anyway, apart from Princess Anne' ... CUT. The other was an episode of Alas Smith & Jones which had Griff sat in the middle of a crushed car shouting 'Vorsprung Durch Technique'... CUT. Thinking back it was rather bizarre. I was just the voice of the channel, and suddenly I'm viewing and editing programmes and actually choosing what went on air!"
(Glen also has his own website.)

Next episode: 1998

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