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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > The Essential Doctor Who: Adventures in Space > THE BRITISH INVASION OF SPACE


For a nation that didn’t even compete in the original Space Race, the United Kingdom has played a surprisingly prominent role in mankind’s conquest of the stars. At least it has in the fictional universe of Doctor Who…
A ruined spaceship in The Powerful Enemy, the first episode of The Rescue (1964).

Crash-landed and smashed up on the planet Dido, the spaceship’s had its wings sheared off. But the markings on those wings can be easily discerned at a distance: UK, 201… and a familiar ensign in red, white and blue. “Can you see on the side?” exclaims time-travelling London schoolteacher Ian Chesterton (William Russell) to his colleague, Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill). “A flag! It’s from home!”

Not ‘home’ as in Earth, of course. ‘Home’ as in Great Britain; the United Kingdom. Which still endures, here at the fag end of the twenty-fifth century – according to this scene in the first episode of The Rescue (1965). So how and when did the British make this giant leap into space – not just for all mankind, like moonwalking Neil Armstrong, but for Queen and Country, too?

In the Doctor Who timeline, Britons first transcended the Earth’s atmosphere during the Second World War – when three RAF Spitfires, each encased in a gravity bubble drawn from Edwin Bracewell’s electronic mind, scrambled into space to attack a Dalek ship that was lighting up London for the Luftwaffe’s benefit (as seen in Victory of the Daleks, 2010). ‘Jubilee’ and ‘Flintlock’ perished during the course of their super-terrestrial sortie, but Group Captain ‘Danny Boy’ (voiced, uncredited, by Mark Gatiss) endured – and much later took part in the Doctor’s assault on Demon’s Run (in A Good Man Goes to War, 2011).

Danny took his nickname from a popular tune of 1913, of course – ‘Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling…’ – but it’s worth pointing out that a ‘Danny’ would also become the greatest British space hero of the immediate post-war period. The cosmos-crossing adventures of Colonel Daniel MacGregor Dare, the ‘Pilot of the Future’, began in the pages of Eagle comic in April 1950. They depicted a world of 45 years hence, with the British at the forefront of the Interplanet (sic) Space Fleet – a ‘Royal Space Force’, in essence. Had the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) not straight away removed Bracewell’s tech from that Spitfire – or reconsidered removing it, as Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice) requested – then the British might have retained the secret of gravity bubbles and hypersonic flight. Surely, then, the British would have won the war in 20 hours, like Churchill had said… then reunited the planet, and brought Dan Dare’s world into being.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

“Space: the final frontier. Final, because it wants to kill us...” The TARDIS doesn’t just travel through time – stories set in space have been an essential part of Doctor Who for six decades. The inhospitable void between the stars has served as the backdrop to epic space operas and nerve-racking thrillers, while harbouring some of the most dangerous adversaries the Doctor has ever encountered. This lavish publication navigates a revealing course through the space lanes of Doctor Who, with exclusive interviews, rare images, and guides to some of the most memorable episodes.