"Even the BBC's annual fundraising event is getting in on the act with two short pantomime episodes of DOCTOR WHO, which finds the TARDIS landing in Albert Square..."
[BBC Press Release for DOCTOR WHO's 30th anniversary]
This two part charity show received it's initial airing in the UK on 26th and 27th November 1993 amidst Doctor Who's 30th anniversary celebrations. Fandom had already suffered the disappointing loss of Adrian Rigelsford's `Dark Dimension' and the cutting of several scenes from Kevin Davies' documentary `30 Years in the TARDIS'. For many, `Dimensions in Time' was the final insult. In their Doctor Who Handbook range, Howe, Stammers and Walker persistently give the story nothing out of ten, labelling the show a "dreadful travesty". However, as producer, John Nathan-Turner has pointed out, the episodes were only intended as "a jolly romp to celebrate Doctor Who's thirtieth birthday" and the BBC's own press release for Doctor Who's thirtieth anniversary labelled the story as "two short pantomime episodes".
It all began in June 1993, when Children in Need editor Nick Handel approached Nathan-Turner and proposed that he produce an extended sketch featuring all the surviving Doctors (who at that time were Pertwee, Tom Baker, Davison, Colin Baker and McCoy). The sketch would be shot in 3D to fit in with the BBC's planned 3D week. Nathan-Turner was persuaded by his agent to make the show his formal Doctor Who swansong and production began. The "extended sketch" became a two part story; Part One featured in the main Children in Need fundraiser on Friday night, Part Two appeared as part of the British Saturday night Light Entertainment show `Noel's House Party', hosted by British celebrity Noel Edmonds. Nathan-Turner decided to set the show in Albert Square, the setting for the BBC's successful soap opera `EastEnders' and managed to persuade many of the soap's cast to participate. However, the producer didn't have things all his own way; co-writer David Roden talked him out of calling the show `3-Dimensions in Time'.
The 3D effect itself required the wearing of a pair of cardboard glasses with one clear and one polorized lens. This would cause a 3D effect especially in the presence of on-screen motion. These were sold in British stores in the lead up to 3D week with the proceeds going to the charity. Over the weekend of transmission, Nathan-Turner went to a Chicago convention armed with 800 pairs of 3D glasses and screened the story twice with Children in Need's permission. The glasses sold for $5 each, further increasing the charity's coffers.
All did not go entirely according to plan, however. According to contemporary reports, Noel Edmonds requested that Part Two was cut by two minutes. The missing scenes (as detailed in DWB #122) appear in the following script (in red). Plans to have the theme recorded firstly by the Pet Shop Boys and secondly by Erasure also came to nothing. The theme eventually used was recorded by Cybertech (Adrian Pack and Michael Fillis) and was initially handed to Nathan-Turner by Fillis, who was playing one of the Sea Devil extras. It was later released on the eponymously titled CD `Cybertech'.
One further gimmick helped promote the story. In Part Two, Liz Shaw struggles with then EastEnders regular Mandy Salter. In fact, two versions of this scene were recorded and viewers of `Noel's House Party' were given the opportunity to phone in and vote for which of two characters they would like to see tussle with Liz. The other character was called Big Ron and had been played by Ron Tarr in a (practically) non-speaking role since the soap began. The vote was close - 22484 (56%) for Mandy, 17044 (44%) for Big Ron - and raised a further 101,000 pounds for the charity. The show also received a Radio Times cover, Doctor Who's first since `The Five Doctors', ten years earlier.
The story suffered at the hands of the fan press; DWM was not allowed to take photographs during the filming and the fanzine DWB slated the project from the moment it was announced. Proving, perhaps, that fandom and the general public share little in matters of taste, the episodes rated 13.8 and 13.6 million respectively, contrasting with the 4.2 million who watched the `30 Years in the TARDIS' documentary two days later.
1993 was a bitter sweet year for Doctor Who fandom. Perhaps the final word should be left to Sylvester McCoy who, during filming of `Dimensions in Time', stood in the middle of Albert Square and yelled, "I don't understand why those BBC Enterprises people can't get us all together for love nor money, but when JNT makes a few calls, we're all here with our boots blacked - doing it for nothing! There must be something wrong!"
The only on-screen credits were for the writers, but the full list of cast and crew is as follows:
(in order of appearance)
Sarah Jane Smith
CAROLE ANN FORD
PAM ST CLEMENT
Voice of K9
|Theme Music composed by
Assistant Floor Manager
Visual Effects Designer
Click to read the script for:
Introduction by SIMON SIMMONS (firstname.lastname@example.org)