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Exclusive Interview: David Banks, the ‘Greenpeace’ Doctor Who from The Ultimate Adventure

There are some incarnations of the Doctor whose lives have taken place primarily away from our television screens, and we know more about some than others.

The eight faces that appeared as stills in 1976’s The Brain of Morbius while the Fourth Doctor has a mental duel with Morbius were implied in-episode to be previous incarnations of the Doctor due to them being shown alongside the four faces he had lived through on television, but the production crew of the time admitted they were included as an in-joke. They could have even been the past faces of Morbius were it not for showrunner Chris Chibnall deciding to make these faces part of his plotline for Series 12 as he potentially rewrote the show’s history.

Chibnall instead could’ve used the faces of actors who have actually played the Doctor to remind viewers there are other incarnations who’ve had adventures away from the small screen, such as those of the Unbound universe explored by Big Finish, the frequently appearing Curator, Richard E Grant’s ‘Shalka’ Doctor, and the five who appeared in The Curse of Fatal Death.

And then the one who fans got to see in-person as the Doctor: the ‘Greenpeace’ Doctor.

In 1989, before the 26th and final season of Doctor Who aired on television, there was a new adventure that took place on the stage called The Ultimate Adventure. It initially marked a return of the Third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee. But when he fell ill, a new actor needed to take over the role and for two performances, we got an all-new incarnation played by David Banks.

This Doctor fought the Daleks and the Cybermen, had a companion from 18th Century France, and the most contemporary outfit that any incarnation has ever worn — a Greenpeace t-shirt, a beige coat, and trousers and an adventurous hat. But also an outfit that has proven the hardest to source for cosplaying purposes.

“Very, very memorable,” recalls Banks of his brief stint as the Doctor, after the DWC asks him about the origins of his outfit in a panel at Bedford Who Charity Con. “And also Terry [Molloy, who plays Davros], you saw that, you may have forgotten it now, but you brought your daughter I think. You were there. You saw the drama of Jon not being able to say anything at all, and then the curtain coming down and then a new Doctor coming up.”

Banks pauses, then asks the DWC: “Did I hear you say correctly that the t-shirt is on eBay?”

Well, almost. Over many, many years of searching the internet and charity shops for a shirt identical to that worn by the ‘Greenpeace Doctor’, as well as interviewing some fashionistas of the period, this writer only ever found one photo of the garment online and it led to a big surprise. For the dolphin-filled design did not belong to a t-shirt, but to a sleeveless vest being sold on eBay. None of the interviewees could remember a t-shirt featuring that design, and Greenpeace didn’t provide a response to this very important question either.

Had time been rewritten? Had this Doctor actually got his shirt from the future, from a retro-focused fashion period? Surely only the Doctor himself had the answer.

“Right, right,” said Banks after the DWC’s investigations were explained to him. “Because I’ve still got the costume, but the t-shirt fell apart a long time ago. And I was looking for it — the t-shirt, that t-shirt — and I haven’t been able to find it. But for me, that was a very important [t-shirt].

“This is, what, 33 years ago? A long time ago. But Terrance Dicks wrote the play with this growing understanding that we all had that the earth was heading for a disaster. A climate disaster. And this was a strand [explained] in the play.

“Jon Pertwee’s character and costume didn’t really reflect that, and I thought, ‘well if I was going to play the part’ — and I did ask for rehearsals — ‘[I’d need] my own costume’. I was playing the villain in the play itself, Karl [before standing in for Jon].

“I thought ‘this [costume] would have to be the distinguishing feature of the Doctor’. Because every Doctor has a distinguishing feature. So that’s why the Greenpeace t-shirt came into it. And I don’t think I can claim that that’s why I didn’t wear socks, but anyway, it was that kind of free-wheeling, understanding that the earth, that the Doctor came back to so much and loved so much, was in danger and would have to be warned about.

“But I have to say, after 33 years, it seems that the meteorite has already hit. And slowly, slowly, we’re going to have the understanding of how we can deal with the damage. I’m sorry to say.”

It’s true: humanity has a long way to go to fully tackle the climate crisis and unfortunately, we won’t have the Doctor to help us out with the extreme weather, rising sea levels, and the pollution problems of the 21st Century. But it’s great that the Doctor, and the people who play them, can highlight these issues and motivate us into fixing them.

This year’s Bedford Who Charity Con takes place on 6th April 2024; the panel of guests will include two actors who have played the Doctor. And though tickets have now sold out, you can still donate because the money raised from the event goes to good causes including Bedford Foodbank, SMART, and FACES.

Ida Wood

Exclusive Interview: David Banks, the ‘Greenpeace’ Doctor Who from The Ultimate Adventure

by Ida Wood time to read: 4 min
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