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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 535 > WHO LIVES, WHO DIES

WHO LIVES, WHO DIES

Season 18’s script editor Christopher H Bidmead tells us about putting the ‘sci’ into sci fi and standing up to the show’s temperamental star…
Chris in the early 1980s, alongside a montage of images from Part Four of Logopolis (1981) showing the final moments of the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker).

THE DWM INTERVIEW

“All the best writers are hacks”, says Christopher H Bidmead. Photo © Marcus Hearn.

“WHEN WE WERE DISCUSSING A REPLACEMENT FOR TOM, I SUGGESTED A COUPLE OF WOMEN TO JOHN.”

“An audience that lacks the imagination to welcome a female Doctor Who is hardly equipped to enjoy anything at all about the show”, journalist, scriptwriter, former actor and occasional smart alec Christopher Hamilton Bidmead once tweeted. But this was no bandwagon-jumping. Chris, it turns out, was campaigning for a female Doctor before the current leading lady, Jodie Whittaker, was even born.

It was 1980, Chris was the show’s script editor, and Tom Baker, having played the Doctor for over six years, had agreed to call it quits. “So when we were discussing a replacement for Tom”, reveals Chris, as we chat over coffee in the living room of his north London home, “I suggested a couple of women to John.” This is John Nathan-Turner, the show’s then-new producer. “And you know what John said? He looked at me quizzically and said, ‘Chris, he’s called the Doctor.’ My jaw fell. I thought, ‘I can’t get anything past this guy.’”

That October, when the BBC announced Baker’s impending departure, the star teased the press that his replacement might be a woman.

Official wisdom has it that this was a publicity stunt, concocted by Baker and Nathan-Turner to generate further column inches. But the truth is, behind the scenes, Chris really was pushing for a woman to take over the part – “I was deadly serious”, he insists – making him, almost certainly, the first-ever member of the Doctor Who production team to try to turn the possibility of a female Doctor into a reality. “I’ve always believed that the casting of the Doctor should be gender-neutral”, he reasons. “Of course it can be a woman. Absolutely.” And one particular woman was at the top of Chris’ list. “I thought my old girlfriend, Helen Mirren, would make a good Doctor.”

Wait, what?! Chris dated Helen Mirren?!

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: • Resolution's director Wayne Yip tells DWM how he brought the 2019 New Year's Day Dalek story to life • An exclusive preview of the 'Doctor Who: The Collection - Season 18' Blu-ray box set - and a look behind Logopolis' new digital makeover • An exclusive interview with Season 18’s script editor Christopher H Bidmead • DWM investigates the story of the 1960s Doctor Who audio recordings which were discovered in a skip at the end of 2018 • A visit to one of the Doctor Who escape rooms which are opening across the UK • An interview with Feifei Ruan, the artist commissioned to create Chinese-inspired Doctor Who artwork for Shanghai Comic Con • Part One of 'Herald of Madness', a brand-new comic strip adventure featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends • The Time Team watches 2006's Love & Monsters and explores what it means to be a Doctor Who fan • The Fact of Fiction delves into the 1980 Fourth Doctor story Full Circle • An in-depth look at how Resolution performed in the ratings • The Blogs of Doom, reviews, previews, news, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!