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Professor Eric Laithwaite was nearly Doctor Who’s first scientific adviser, but the series helped him inspire a new generation of scientists…
Professor Eric Laithwaite provides inspiration for a young audience in his 1966 Christmas lecture.

At 3.00pm on Tuesday 27 December 1966, in the Faraday Theatre of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, Eric Laithwaite, professor of heavy electrical engineering at Imperial College London, began the first of six televised Christmas lectures. He hoped to convey the excitement “to be had from trying experiments and even from speculating on what might be.” To make this appealing to a general audience, including children, he referred to another TV programme aimed at the whole family: “Now I know you all like doing this, because you enjoy watching science-fiction programmes and the exploits of people like Doctor Who and the time travellers. Such excitement is all around you, all day, every day – if you choose to look for it.”

Laithwaite also made the connection to Doctor Who in a preview of the lectures published in the listings magazine Radio Times the previous week: “When we make quite new machines, our experience is very limited and we are immediately plunged into a scientific adventure no less exciting than those characters of science fiction such as Dr Who and his friends.”

But he didn’t reveal – in his lecture or in Radio Times – that when the BBC first approached him about presenting these lectures, he’d also been sought out by the production team of Doctor Who as a potential scientific adviser. Nor did he mention that he’d written a script in which the Daleks had been challenged by an extraordinary threat…

A year before, at the end of 1965, a new producer and story editor joined Doctor Who. The former, Innes Lloyd, had recently started directing drama after 12 years in the BBC’s Outside Broadcasts unit, producing coverage of state events such as the funeral of Winston Churchill and sport fixtures such as tennis at Wimbledon. He didn’t want to produce Doctor Who but, given no choice, soon discovered, as he put it, a “fascination” for the series and began to tailor it to his own tastes.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Issue includes: • An exclusive preview of the animated Macra Terror • Anneke Wills and Frazer Hines recall the making of the original Macra Terror • A lost Dalek story from 1966 – and the previously untold story of its celebrated writer • A tribute to 1960s Doctor Who producer Innes Lloyd • An interview with Mark Troughton about his famous father • Writer Stephen Gallagher tells DWM about his new take on the 1981 story Warriors' Gate • The second part of an exclusive interview with Season 18’s script editor Christopher H Bidmead • How did the Doctor become such a rebel? DWM investigates how the series changed during the 1960s... • Part Two of Herald of Madness, a new comic strip adventure featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends • Cosplayers recreate the Fourth Doctor's Season 18 style • The Fact of Fiction delves into the 2007 story Gridlock • Our verdict on Tom Baker's Doctor Who novel Scratchman and the Season 18 Blu-ray box set • The Blogs of Doom, audio reviews, previews, news, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!