The BBC have admitted that pressure from the Vatican has forced it to drop a story from it’s forthcoming new Dr Who TV series. “It is a real pity – the story in question was set to become a classic Who serial, combining both the historical and science fiction strands of the show with contemporary social comment,” says producer Dorian Buller of the two part adventure entitled ‘Excommunication of the Daleks’, which featured Pope John Paul II colluding with the Doctor’s arch-enemies to change history and stop the English Reformation. “Unfortunately, bearing in mind the current moral climate, BBC senior management were keen not to further antagonise the Church.” Indeed, only last year the BBC was forced to scrap plans to screen both the animated series Popetown, and gameshow It’s a Sin! (in which contestants had to correctly guess which sin was being confessed to in footage secretly filmed in a confessional box), following protests from Catholics. The corporation subsequently had to endure a storm of criticism from Christian fundamentalists when it broadcast the allegedly blasphemous Jerry Springer – The Opera in January.
In the face of such opposition, it was felt that screening a story in which the Daleks turn to the Pope as their new leader following the death of Davros would be ill-advised. “Personally, I thought it was a perfectly logical plot development for the Daleks to identify John Paul II as a suitable new figurehead – like them, he single-mindedly pursues an extreme philosophy based on highly elitist values which claim his followers as the chosen inheritors of God’s creation! Not only that, but he’s more machine than man these days,” explains Buller, who fought hard to keep the story in the schedules. “What the Daleks can offer him in return for his patronage is the chance to prevent the establishment of the Church of England by using their time travel capability to go back to Tudor England and exterminate King Henry VIII!” The Doctor was to become involved when Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams – who is revealed to an exiled Time Lord in disguise – calls for his help in combating the Pope’s first attempt to destroy the Protestant church. “Initially, he sends the Daleks out to exterminate all sinners – anyone they encounter who refuses to confess and repent their sins is disintegrated. They quickly move on to destroying non-Catholic churches and inevitably end up besieging the Archbishop at St Paul’s Cathedral,” explains Buller. “After the Doctor discovers that the Daleks can be destroyed by concentrating the choir’s hymn singing into a deadly ray, the Pope decides to go back in time and destroy the C of E before it is even started!”
The Vatican apparently learned of the story when a BBC production team attempted to get permission to film a scene in St Peter’s Square, featuring several Daleks wearing cardinal’s hats appearing on the balcony behind the wheelchair-bound Pope, chanting “Excommunicate all sinners!”, and opening fire on the crowd below. “I told them we should film it in the studio, but BBC management wanted our budget justified by seeing some location shooting,” laments Buller. “It really is a shame, we had a great cast lined up: Archbishop Williams was going to play himself, George Wendt from Cheers had agreed to play Henry VIII and that dwarf guy from Austin Powers was set to portray the Pope! We were going to have some amusing comic interludes where Henry VIII chases the Doctor’s assistant, Billie Piper, around and tries to make her his next wife! The climax, where the Doctor, with the aid of Thomas Cromwell, converts several Daleks to Protestantism and sets them against the Papal Daleks, would have been a real belter!” However, there are suspicions that the Vatican’s real objections to Dr Who relate to the programme’s sexual subtext. “I’ve heard that they see the programme as promoting a homosexual lifestyle. You know – liberated single man, dressed in bright colours, in platonic relationship with young women travels around the universe promoting tolerance and understanding of other cultures,” confides Buller. “Obviously, they fear that with Russell T Davies of Queer as Folk fame at the creative helm, the series is going to become overtly gay!”
Indeed, many long-term fans of the series appear to share the Vatican’s fears that the Doctor is set to ‘go gay’, with internet fan site message boards overflowing with rumours that Christopher Ecclestone’s butch, black leather jacket-clad Doctor is designed to appeal to gay men as much as women. Speculation is rife that the new series will feature the long-running drama’s first gay kiss, between the Doctor and the Master (to be played by Rupert Everett), in a story revealing that the Time Lord’s arch-nemesis is actually his jilted gay lover. Jake Tifter, editor of Renegade, the official publication of the Alternative Doctor Who Appreciation Society (ADWAS), believes that the series has always had an overtly gay undertone. “It’s obvious – right from the outset we had this old geezer looking like an ageing queen in his frock coat, using his ‘granddaughter’ as cover to invite young male teachers into his blue ‘box’ for ‘adventures’,” he contends. “The message is hammered home further when we later learn that he had fled the obviously repressive patriarchal and conventionally heterosexual society of Gallifrey!” According to Tifter, the gay aspects of the show were particularly apparent during Jon Pertwee’s tenure in the role. “Some grey-haired old sweetie in frilly shirts and capes flouncing around with a bunch of soldiers? As if that isn’t obvious enough, surely his arch-enemy the Master was a dead giveaway? No straight man could ever have a goatee beard that neatly trimmed! And don’t get me started on the Brigadier’s moustache,” he declares. “Look, if the Doctor isn’t gay, why does the series mainly appeal to sexually confused male adolescents?”
The latest edition of Renegade claims that the series very nearly ‘came out’ as early as 1966, when newly appointed second Doctor Patrick Troughton minced on set wearing a wide-brimmed hat, pink frilly shirt and high heeled boots. “Apparently he misheard then producer Innes Lloyd, and thought he’d said that he wanted the new Doctor to be an intergalactic homo, rather than an intergalactic hobo,” explains Tifter. Professor Bob Mincer, head of the Creative Erotic Writing Department at Balham University (South London’s centre of excellence of for Correspondence Courses), agrees with Tifter’s analysis of the series’ sexual subtext. “All the series’ major monsters represent the culmination of attempts to repress their true sexuality,” he opines, from the saloon bar of a Tooting pub. “Look at the cybermen – significantly there are no cyberwomen – and their lack of genitalia. Clearly, afraid of their homoerotic urges, they have made themselves totally asexual! As for the Daleks, an obvious metaphor for masturbation. Again, they have repressed their true sexual identity and turned to masturbation for sexual stimulation. Is it any wonder that they have become a race of ambulatory knobbly penises which ooze a jism like substance when destroyed, and were created and led by a wizened one-handed old cripple who was clearly a warning against the perils of excessive self-abuse?”
Nevertheless, whatever the truth as to the Vatican’s objections to it, ‘Excommunication of the Daleks’ remains cancelled. “Luckily we’d only shot a couple of scenes,” says Buller. “We’ve replaced it with a far less controversial story involving the Autons infiltrating London’s sex trade – it’ll feature people being attacked by Autons in the shape of blow-up dolls and choked to death by plastic dildos! It’ll be great fun for all the family!”