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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 537 > THEATRE OF WAR


Thirty years on from the Doctor Who stage play The Ultimate Adventure, we reveal that the production began life with a very different story…

By 1988, producer Mark Furness had capitalised on several film and television brandings to lure audiences back to the theatre, including the saucy movie sequel The Further Confessions of a Window Cleaner, the Thames sitcom adaptation George and Mildred, both staged in 1977, and in 1986 a version of BBC1’s wartime romp ‘Allo ‘Allo! Also running London’s Wimbledon Theatre, Furness was now seeking another established small-screen show suitable for live staging. He selected Doctor Who, then celebrating its silver anniversary.

“A West End impresario wanted to do a play,” recalls Andrew Cartmel, who at the time was working on his second season of the television series as script editor. “When he approached the Doctor Who office, producer John Nathan-Turner very kindly passed it onto me. It was standard procedure that the script editor would get the first bite. I immediately made an extremely good decision – which was to involve Ben.”

Ben is Ben Aaronovitch, who had written the 1988 television story Remembrance of the Daleks. Over 30 years later, Ben and Andrew are still close friends and colleagues, having collaborated on numerous projects – notably graphic novels derived from Ben’s successful Rivers of London books. What sort of brief did the production company offer? “They just said, ‘Go off and write the play,’” says Andrew. “We wanted to know about things like budgetary constraints, sets, how much we could do. They said, ‘Don’t worry about that. Just write without that in mind. Be ambitious, don’t set any limits on yourself. Write what you want to write, and we’ll try to make it happen.’ Which was very freeing.”

The budding playwrights set to work. “I remember most of it taking place in my old Doctor Who office at Union House, Shepherd’s Bush, sitting in front my stone age computer and word processor,” says Andrew.

Andrew Cartmel on the set of The Greatest show in the Galaxy in 1988.
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DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE 537 REVEALS THE REMAKE OF MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN! This issue also includes: • What does it takes to become a Stenza warrior? Actor Samuel Oatley explains. • An interview with the man behind the new version of Mission to the Unknown. • Colin Baker and the cast of The Ultimate Adventure look back on the Doctor Who stage play. • Backstage with Colin Baker at Leeds' Grand Theatre in 1989. • War World – an in-depth look at the script originally intended for the 1989 stage production. • Cyber Leader David Banks dips into the TARDIS tin. • Tributes to the king of Doctor Who extras Pat Gorman and visual effects designer Richard Gregory. • Former script editor Andrew Cartmel remembers Happiness Patrol writer Graeme Curry. • A preview of this year’s Record Store Day releases. • Part Three of Herald of Madness, a new comic strip adventure featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends. • How to dress like the First Doctor – along with his friends and foes. • Does the 1996 TV movie impress the Time Team? • The Blogs of Doom, audio reviews, previews, news, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!