Saturday, 13 December 2014

The ITV Doctor Who Christmas Special 1973

It's not a widely known fact that ITV attempted to poach 'Doctor Who' from the BBC back in the early seventies. 

The independent television channel had a long history of doing this with stars like Tony Hancock and Benny Hill and would famously drag Morecambe and Wise to the channel in the 80s with false promises of movie deals and bigger budgets. 

The 'Doctor Who' poach was a mess from the start. Hastily done in the autumn of 1973, ITV quickly commissioned a variety special for Christmas which was recorded in front of a live canned laughter machine that November. 

In the show, Jon Pertwee performed his hit single 'Who is the Doctor?' as a duet with Noele Gordon - there to plug her 'Crossroads Christmas Sing-a-Long' LP whilst comedian Bernard Manning played a somewhat coarse (and possibly drunk) Santa Claus. 

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Benny Hill's Jackie Wright and Bob Todd were Santa's Time Elves who got into hilarious japes (sic) with some reindeer and a wrapping paper machine that worried the RSPCA whilst Katy Manning performed 'Age of Aquarius' with 'The Jo Jo's' who looked suspiciously like 'The Ladybirds' dressed in silver spandex.

'Doctor Who' hastily returned back to the BBC - its tail between its legs the following January and all was forgiven - just...

Like the later 'Star Wars Holiday Special', the show has never been re-screened and VHS copies of it have become much sought-after by the curious and the naive. It remains a forgotten sully on the world of TV's favourite Time Lord. 

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