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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > The Essential Doctor Who 15: Relative Dimensions > SAME DIFFERENCE


Isn’t one universe enough for Doctor Who? Or are there stories that can only be told with parallel Earths and alternative dimensions?

The central premise of Doctor Who is that it can tell stories set anywhere in time and space. Past, future, present-day, Earth, other worlds; it can go anywhere in the universe. So why does it also need to tell stories that take place in other universes? Part of the original idea for Doctor Who was that there would occasionally be ‘sideways’ stories, stories set not in the past or future but giving another perspective on the here and now. This idea was phased out, with Planet of Giants (1964) being the only example to reach the screen, but for a while another ‘sideways’ story was in development.

Malcolm Hulke’s The Hidden Planet would have seen the Doctor and his companions arrive on a planet that they think initially is Earth but which turns out to be a ‘tenth planet’ on the opposite side of the sun. As Hulke recalled when interviewed for the fanzine Gallifrey in 1977: “They find little things that are different…I think the TARDIS landed in a field and Susan noticed a four-leaf clover, and they see that they are all four-leaf clovers. And little things like that mysteriously happen, like birds flying backwards or they had double wings.”

From what little we know about it, the cancellation of The Hidden Planet was probably no great loss; the idea of a ‘counter Earth’ was not very original even by the early 60s, while its central conceit of a planet ruled by women was also something of a cliché. However, as the first attempt at a ‘parallel Earth’ story it anticipated elements that appeared in later stories: the notion of a twin Earth with its own race of humans appeared in The Tenth Planet (1966), while the idea of ‘our’ Earth but with a different regime features in both Inferno (1970) and Rise of the Cybermen/ The Age of Steel (2006).

So what actually constitutes a ‘parallel world’ or ‘parallel universe’ story? Well, to begin with, there are stories set on worlds where history diverged from our own. With Inferno, the original intention was for the alternative Britain to be explicitly ‘Nazi-ish’ (see page 28), suggesting a world where the Axis powers won World War II. Though the Nazi motif was toned down in the story as broadcast, this remains as good an explanation as any, as we’re told that Britain became a republic ruled by a dictator in the early 1940s, where dissidents are sent to labour camps and the royal family have all been executed.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Doctor Who’s creators envisaged a series that would go forwards, backwards and sideways in time. The Doctor’s trips to parallel universes and alternative dimensions have provided the show with some of its best-loved adventures – from its black-and-white beginnings to the latest episodes, starring Jodie Whittaker. Uncover the background to these memorable journeys and explore the greatest stories beyond the television series in this lavish publication, which is packed full of exclusive features and rare images.