We all know the huge contribution made to Doctor Who by its writers. But what if others had joined their ranks? What might they have made of it?
Here, then, are three rewrites of Doctor Who – call it a festive treat, if you will – from the hands of William McGonagall (1825-1902), generally regarded as the worst poet in the world; the translators of the Authorised Version of the Bible (1611), also known as the King James Version; and sixties kitchen-sink playwright, Harold Pinter (1947- 2008).
Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth
By William Topaz McGonagall
’Twas in the Year of our Lord two thousand one hundred and sixty-four
That the Daleks did invade the Earth to steal its magnetic core.
They trundled down to Bedfordshire for to that core to bore;
Even though they knew full well that this did break the intergalactic law.
Aye, through the ruin of a city stalked the ruin of a man;
The headgear that he sported resembled a tin can.
He looked a lot like Noah who ran the Ark in Space –
This tragic specimen so sadly demoted from the ranks of the human race.
Ah woe! He drowned himself under the Bridge at Hammersmith
Near where the Tardis landed; the Doctor was not Matt Smith
But proud old Bill – striped jumpered Susan was his kith –
With bonnie Barbara and mighty Chesterton of renowned sixties myth.
Quoth Doctor Who, ‘Decay! Decay! No noise is here! Dear me!
Avoid that girder, child, lest it should fall – tee hee!’
For poor lass Susan, her legs were trapped: the girder, it had got ’em;
The silly girl! What she needed was a jolly good smacked bottom.
A Dalek did emerge forsooth, from out the River Thames,
And Bill he goes to meet it, with many coughs and hems;
‘Obey us our die!’ yon Dalek cries (one of its dialogue gems)
As Doctor Who and Chesterton were captured; the Dalek glared at them through its swivelling eyestick’s lens.
Now in the saucer the Daleks the Doctor try to robotise –
No hands had they, only feelers, and they told many lies.
‘No please what are you doing?’ says the Doctor with frequent sighs.
‘Take off his coat!’ the evil Dalek saucer commander cries.
Much later on, the valiant ones they came to Bedfordshire;
A little house with ladies in made Jennie and Barbara to fear:
The ladies betrayed the lassies to the Daleks and were given oranges but no beer;
The Sylther hunts for humans down among the mining gear.
Victory! The Doctor kills the Daleks and sets off a volcano
A huge inferno burns them all (‘Exterminate!’ their horrid credo).
But Susan’s heart is snared by David: she thinks he has a halo;
She must leave her Grandpapa and the Tardis later on that very day. O!
‘Go forward in all your beliefs,’ the Doctor says, on the Tardis loudspeaker system,
‘Goodbye, my dear, goodbye; my words I pray you: list ’em.’
The Tardis goes (cross-fading now from a photographic caption)
But the Doctor and Ian and Barbara will soon meet Vicki for more exciting adventure and action!
’Twas in the year twenty-one fifty A.D.
That Dr Who did land on Earth, the Daleks for to see.
This time, no Ian or Barbara had he got
But his niece Louise and a policeman who looked like a young Wilfred Mott.
This Dr Who, he was an inventor from good old London town;
He was a moustached scientist who read The Eagle of renown.
He – (That’s enough. -Ed.)
The Book of Darren
1 Now the people of the Kaleds were a mighty nation, and they dwelt in the land of Darren.
2 And all the host of the Kaleds did make war upon the people of the Thals and smote them, unto the ninth and tenth generations, even for a thousand years.
3 And the men of war of the host of the Kaleds were scattered and consumed and only a remnant was left.
4 Likewise the men of war of the host of the Thals were scattered and consumed and only a remnant was left.
5 Now the old men of the race of the Kaleds came together and did seek counsel.
6 For they said, What are we to do? For there are few of us and we fear the Thals, lest they break down our protective firmament and breach the walls of our strong city.
7 And behold, there was among the people of the Kaleds a mighty man of valour,
8 And this man was learned and knew stuff, and he knew all the numbers of the stars and the host thereof, and had made for the people of the Kaleds divers machines of war, and he was old and advanced in years.
9 And this man was lame and he rode all day in a chariot; neither did he depart from his chariot at night, yea not even to go to the loo.
10 And the name of this man was Davros.
11 And Davros did cry aloud and spake unto the people of the Kaleds with a loud voice, saying, Behold, I shall fashion unto you a mighty engine, a chariot for our children, that none shall be able to withstand or resist.
12 And I shall name it unto you and it shall be called a Mark Three Travel Machine.
13 And the image of the likeness of the machine shall be thus:
14 The height of the machine shall be five feet, and the top of it shall be domed, even like unto the dome of the firmament of the heavens;
15 And out of the front thereof shall protrude three sticks;
16 With one of these sticks shall it see, with one shall it destroy,
17 And one will be like unto a sink-plunger, yea, even as the sink plunger with which the people of the Kaleds unblock their faulty plumbing.
And the walls of the machine shall be adorned with balls, like unto the balls that this great people of the Kaleds so sadly lack.
And it shall be unto you a mobile life-support system for you and your descendants.
18 And the people of the Kaleds did rejoice and did cry aloud with one mighty voice and they cried, Yea, O Davros, live for ever! Verily thou hast come up with the answer yet again. Jolly good show. A splendid wheeze.
(Continued for the next six episodes.)
An Unearthly Child
by Harold Pinter
Scene: filthy London junkyard on a cold November night in the early sixties.
CHESTERTON, a tramp, sits on a box, smoking. He has a strong, working-class London accent. A dirty, dishevelled woman in her mid-thirties, WRIGHT, is behind him. She stands still, watching Chesterton warily, intimidated by his presence. When she speaks, it is in a high-pitched whine.
CHESTERTON looks round the junkyard in disgust.
Bloody disgustin’, this place is. A tip. [Pause.] A sh*t-hole. [Pause.]
Look at all this cr@p, eh? Cr@p, that’s what it is. A load of cr@p. Who’d buy this junk? Look at it. [Savagely, to WRIGHT:] I said bloody look at it!
Yeh. It’s ’orrible.
Too right it is. Bloody makes me want to spew. [Pause. He drags on his fag.] That I. M. Foreman. B@stard. Thinks he can make a mint out of selling old sh*t. Bloody con-artist. [Pause.] Yeah. [Pause.]
So where’s this girl, eh? This girl, you said. Susan. Suuuu- Zann. Come in here. Hidin’. Nice little thing, you said. Said you were looking after her and she wandered off. So where is she, then? Where is she, eh? Can’t see nothing for all this cr@p.
She might be in there. [Indicates Police Box, centre.]
CHESTERTON [turns. He contemplates the Police Box while drawing on his fag. After a moment]:
Yeah. She might, an’ all.
[He hurls his fag end into the darkness and stands up. He wanders over to the Police Box and tries the door.]
Locked. Stupid bloody thing.
[He kicks the door, half-heartedly. Wright watches, nervously. They are interrupted by a sound of retching, off.]
Could be ’er.
Don’t be stupid. That’s not her. [As the door to the junkyard opens:] Get down, for Christ’s sake.
They hide behind some boxes.
Enter OLD GEEZER. He is dirty and dishevelled, wearing filthy old clothes. He coughs and splutters and wanders over to the Police Box, producing a key. As he fits it into the lock, we hear a girl’s voice from inside.
GIRL [a shrill, coarse, cockney bark]:
That you, Grandad?
[OLD GEEZER turns, alarmed by the sound of WRIGHT’s voice. He is frozen to the spot and stares at WRIGHT and CHESTERTON as they emerge from their cover.]
What you doing here?
What’m I doing here? That’s a good one, that is. Yeah. What am I doing here. What are you doin’ here, mate, come to that? Eh? Comin’ in here, coughing like you got TB. Stupid old sod. We’ll catch something, you coughing like that.
We was lookin’ for this girl.
Yeah. That’s right. We was looking for this girl and she come in here. Come in here, right into all this cr@p. Couldn’t see her for all the bloody broken-down old sh*t you got lying about everywhere. So where is she, mate, eh? Eh?
OLD GEEZER says nothing. Stares at them.
And we ’eard her voice. Come from in there, it did.
Yeah. That’s right. Her voice. Coming from that knackered old police box. You got her in there, mate? Got here in there, all locked up? Locked up in there? You disgust me, you do. Locking up girls in your bloody box.
She ain’t in there. It’s too little. Nobody could fit in there.
Nobody could fit in there, could they? Nobody could fit in there, in your knackered old police box? That’s a load of cr@p, that is. If nobody could fit in there, how do the rozzers get into them bloody boxes to make their bloody tea, eh? And it should be on the bloody street, anyway. Where’d you get it? Nick it, did you?
Reckon we should go and get the rozzers now.
Yeah. That’s a good idea, that is. We’ll go and get the rozzers, mate, and they’ll beat some bloody sense into you. You hear? Get some bloody answers from you, you coughing old git, standing there like that, all innocent.
OLD GEEZER wanders over to a rubbish old painting and looks at it.
Never seen that before. Got to clean it up. Got to sell it. Make some money. Yeah. [To CHESTERTON:] It ain’t nothing to do with me, sonny. You get out of here. Get out, now.
We ain’t going nowhere. We’ll stay here. Stay here, right among all your cr@p. Yeah. We ain’t going nowhere ’cos we got no answers. So where’s the girl, eh? Where’ve you put her? She in there? Is she?
Get stuffed. [He turns away.]
I can’t take no more of this. I can’t. He’s got her in there. Let’s go get the rozzers.
Yeah. You’re right. Do you hear, mate? We’re going to get the rozzers.
Go on, then.
Too right, we’ll go on. And you’re coming with us, mate. Coming with us right now.
Fat chance. I’m stopping.
Oh, are you?
Yeah. There’s only one way in and out of here. I’m stopping. When you come back, I’m still going to be here. When you come back with the rozzers.
Well, mate. Alright. You do that. We’re going to get the rozzers this second, see? Come on, you dozy cow, let’s shift.
GIRL [voice, coming from police box] :
What you doin’ out there, you silly old sod?
OLD GEEZER [alarmed]:
Shut that bleedin’ door!
The door to the police box has opened. WRIGHT goes through…