The story of the unmade third Doctor Who movie

Dr Who And The Daleks
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There have only been two theatrically released Doctor Who films thus far, but various iterations of a third very nearly got to the screen. So whatever happened to the third Doctor Who movie?

Dr Who And The Daleks and Daleks: Invasion Earth: 2150AD hold a special place in the hearts of many a Doctor Who fan. To this day, they are the only theatrically released feature films based on the series, despite many attempts to mount film productions since (and despite cinematic showings of special episodes in recent times).

Amongst the attempts to get a movie going, one of the more intriguing saw fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker actually co-writing a story for a film in the 1970s – Doctor Who Meets Scratchman – with the late Ian Marter, who played companion Harry Sullivan. The film was never made, but Baker did eventually co-write the story as a novel, Scratchman, with James Goss in 2019.

Dr Who And The Daleks – the first of the films that did actually make it to the screen – was, to all intents and purposes, a cash in on the frenzy sweeping the nation at the time, known colloquially as Dalekmania. Since the first plunger appeared at the climax to episode one of The Daleks in 1963, the popularity of the mechanoid mutants exploded, with merchandise, advertisements, comics, soap, anything they could think of to squeeze a few more pennies out of fans.

Dr Who And The Daleks

The one thing they hadn’t achieved, though, was to see the creatures in colour. This was the tantalizing prospect that writer and producer Milton Subotsky, along with co-producer Max Rosenberg, hoped would cause fans to flock to cinemas.

Popular horror actor Peter Cushing was cast against type as Dr Who (note the spelling for the film versions!), with Roberta Tovey and Jennie Linden as his granddaughters Susan and Barbara, along with entertainer Roy Castle as Ian. The big screen remake of the original serial was a huge success and a follow up was quickly filmed, unsurprisingly based on the following serial The Dalek Invasion Of Earth.

Utilizing a higher budget with more location filming and, for the time, state of the art special effects, Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD also boasts a wonderful performance from the great and much missed Bernard Cribbins.

A follow up seemed almost inevitable. After all, there was the perfect third serial, The Chase, which seemed tailor made for the big screen, focusing as it did on The Daleks chasing the TARDIS through various locations in time and space – from the Mary Celeste to the top of the Empire State Building.

However, the box office of the second film wasn’t quite high enough. With the spiralling costs of producing so many Dalek casings for filming, it seemed physically impossible to mount a third picture.

For years, it was assumed that the third film got no further than the initial planning stages, with the story sketched out from The Chase. However, in 2022, Subotsky’s son unearthed files from his father’s collection that revealed planning went a lot further. He found a document dated December 1964 that laid out an agreement between the BBC, Dalek creator Terry Nation and AARU Productions Ltd.

As reported by the Radio Times, there was an option for a third movie. He explained that “there was a further agreement that was entered into, to give the rights to make a third movie, which of course was never done. It was on the same terms as the original films, so my feeling is… the option lapsed”.

Daleks Invasion Earth 2150

Some 15 years after Invasion Earth: 2150AD, Subotsky wrote a screenplay on spec for a third film with a completely original story.

Called Doctor Who’s Greatest Adventure, the film would have seen Cushing’s Doctor team up with a younger Doctor to fight an army of mutant crabs. Yep, really.

The script was repurposed from a horror entitled Night Of The Crabs, and while multi Doctor stories are common for anniversaries of the television series, it has never been done on the big screen.

Whether anything will be done with the script remains to be seen. Audio producer Big Finish Productions is notorious for making unmade scripts into full cast audio dramas, so rights permitting that could be a way forward.

While another Doctor Who film was made in 1996, which introduced Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, it was made for television as an American co-production, a pilot for a series that never got off the ground. A documentary about the film will be released in the UK next month.

With Doctor Who growing in popularity since Russell T Davies rebooted the series in 2005, fans have been clamouring for another cinema outing. While not made for the big screen, Steven Moffat’s 50th anniversary multi Doctor spectacular Day Of The Doctor was broadcast in cinemas worldwide in 2013.

Whether we ever see another cinema release for Doctor Who remains to be seen, but Doctor Who remains popular, and with the 60th anniversary celebrations taking place in 2023, a new film finally seems to be within the realms of possibility.

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