Behind the Blue Door, a new film which threatens to blow the lid on the most sordid behind the scenes secrets of long-running popular BBC science fiction series Dr Who is causing consternation amongst fans who claim to have seen leaked copies of the script. “It’s an absolute travesty! A piece of opportunistic sensationalism clearly designed to cash in on the programme’s fiftieth anniversary! There’s no way that William Hartnell or any of the other Doctors would have behaved in the ways portrayed in this script!” says Dick Cropnell of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society (DWAS). “ Except Tom Baker, perhaps – he did make all those claims about what he got up to with female Dr Who groupies in his autobiography, so you never know.” Fans like Cropnell have found the script’s portrayal of first Doctor William Hartnell’s alleged views on race particularly controversial. “They have a drunken William Hartnell hurling an empty whisky bottle at an actor he accuses of being Jewish on the basis he has a big nose, before directing a stream of anti-Semitic invective at the unfortunate man!” he exclaims. “Later on, they show him attending an Enoch Powell rally, enthusiastically applauding his anti-immigration rhetoric!” The fan cites a later scene as being even more offensive: “The scene where Hartnell tries to persuade producer Verity Lambert to commission a script in which the earth is invaded by dark-skinned aliens intent on stealing light-skinned earth women and abusing the benefits system is pure fiction!”
It isn’t just the first Doctor whose reputation is dragged through the mud by the film script. “It simply isn’t true that the BBC were forced to replace Patrick Troughton with Jon Pertwee after Troughton had suffered a near fatal heart attack during a cocaine-fuelled sex orgy at an infamous Soho brothel!” protests Cropnell. “ Those scenes are completely fabricated!” In another, particularly lurid ,scene, the newly cast second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, walks into a rehearsal of his predecessor’s last story, ‘The Tenth Planet’, in blackface, sending the notoriously Hartnell into a fit of apoplexy with the words ‘Where are all the white women at?’. However Behind the Blue Door’s producer, Dirk Tengler – who hopes to have his direct-to-DVD movie out before the BBC’s own An Adventure in Time and Space film about the show’s early days is screened – maintains that the scene is based on a real incident. “When they were first trying to decide on the ‘look’ of the new Doctor, someone suggested he be played blacked up, as the captain of a windjammer,” he says. “When they tried it out, Troughton, a notorious practical joker, decided that it would be hilarious to wind up his predecessor by pretending to be a real black man – everyone knew that Bill Hartnell refused point blank to act with what he called ‘darkies’. He once had a chair a negro actor had supposedly sat on burned!”
Jake Tifter, editor of Renegade, the official magazine of the Alternative Doctor Who Appreciation Society (ADWAS), who is acting as a consultant for the production takes a different view from Cropnell and DWAS, arguing that the film presents a perfectly legitimate interpretation of Dr Who‘s history. “Ever since the Jimmy Savile scandal broke, the public have had an insatiable appetite for stories about the dark side of entertainment in the sixties and seventies,” he says. “The programme was a big part of this era and it is natural that people will be curious about what indiscretions went on behind the scenes. We know that from the Savile business that sexual harassment was rampant at the BBC at the time – it stands to reason that it must have been happening around Dr Who too! Damn it, we know from that new book about John Nathan-Turner that it was going on during the eighties! People were getting bummed left right and centre!” Tifter admits that many incidents portrayed in the film have been exaggerated or extrapolated from rumours, but maintains this is simply ‘dramatic licence’ designed to highlight the issues involved. “Look, we’re not making a documentary,” he says. “This is entertainment! Nobody wants to see a film where William Hartnell is portrayed as a gent of a certain age who might have held views on race which would now be considered outdated, to say the least, but were normal at the time – they want to hear about how the first Doctor, despite preaching all that universal brotherhood crap – was actually a raving racist!” “Dr Who is a fantasy series and people want to know about the fantasy behind the fantasy!”
The film’s eccentric casting has also raised eyebrows, with Dirk Tengler claiming that Richard E Grant in a silver wig was to play Jon Pertwee, whilst Tom Baker was to be portrayed by Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch in a great coat and curly wig. “In a piece of novelty casting, David Tennant is to play both his father-in-law, fifth Doctor Peter Davison, and himself as the tenth Doctor!” the producer claims. “We’re trying to secure the services of Peter Capaldi as seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy. I know critics will say he’s too tall, but he is Scottish and is really good at playing sweary characters on TV. People just don’t realise how sweary McCoy was behind the scenes – he regularly turned the air blue!” Many fans are aghast at the casting of John Barrowman, not as Captain Jack, but as both the Brigadier and the second Doctor’s long-running companion Jamie MacCrimmon. “John’s always wanted to wear a kilt on screen – he’s got great legs!” says Tengler. “As for the Brigadier – well he’s an iconic figure and, allegedly, John never could resist a man in uniform! Not to mention that moustache!” The sections of the film covering the eighties and nineties will apparently focus more on the antics of then producer John Nathan-Turner, rather than the actors playing the Doctor and his companions. Dirk Tengler denies that this is because Nathan-Turner, like the first three Doctors, is dead and can’t sue for libel. “We’ve included that business about Tom Baker being bitten by a dog in an illegal dog fight at his local pub,” he points out. “Apparently it was a regular Saturday night thing for Tom to strip naked after a few pints and fight dogs for money.” Tengler later contacted us to confirm that, following legal advice, this scene had been cut from the script.
Despite the outrage amongst fans it has generated, doubts have been cast as to whether the film will actually be made. None of the actors linked to the film have confirmed their participation. Indeed, the agents of several of them have denied even being contacted by the production company. Dirk Tengler has also conceded that, due to copyright issues, many of Dr Who’s most iconic elements can’t be portrayed in his film. “Obviously, as the production hasn’t been sanctioned by the BBC, we can’t use the trademarked monsters, so, sadly, we’ve had to leave out stuff like Jon Pertwee’s notorious antics with a stolen Dalek, and producer John Nathan-Turner’s all male monster sex parties, where everyone dressed up as Cybermen, Silurians and the like, using costumes ‘borrowed’ from the BBC! Nevertheless, we think we’ve got enough good old fashioned scandal in the script to keep fans entertained!” Tengler has refused to comment on recent newspaper allegations that the film is actually part of a complex tax evasion scheme.