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A Sense of History

Donald Tosh, the last remaining writer and story editor from the William Hartnell era, passed away on 3 December. He applied a meticulous and innovative approach to a role that was a highlight of his career.
Pat Phoenix as Elsie Tanner on the set of Granada’s Coronation Street. Donald Tosh was instrumental in commissioning the series.

I magine this: another universe, another 2017, tantalisingly close to our own. Bill Potts is gone, victim of the Cybermen that infest the Mondasian worldship. Shattered and alone, the Twelfth Doctor stands in the TARDIS, his hearts heavy.

Then he senses another presence in the cool-blue shadows of his ship. A lean figure in ornate, quasi-Chinese robes. The Doctor sighs at the inevitability of the moment. This elemental being has bedevilled him for centuries, tearing away his identity, his very self; remaking him, over and over, in the name of cosmic mischief. The Toymaker’s curse. The endless game of faces.

“Let’s shake this up,” declares the intruder, whose appearance has changed almost as often as the Doctor’s. Her eyes are coldly playful. “A woman’s face, perhaps?”

In our universe Donald Tosh never had the chance to make his greatest contribution to Doctor Who.

As story editor he helped devise a way to dispense with the show’s star, the increasingly fractious William Hartnell. While Tosh respected this “hardened old pro”, Hartnell’s health was failing and he was struggling to memorise his lines. As originally planned, Season 3’s The Celestial Toymaker (1966) would see the Doctor rendered invisible before returning in a whole new body, the role being recast as Hartnell’s contract expired. It was a bold idea, weaponising the story’s whimsical, reality-warping logic to pull off a major coup.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

SACHA DHAWAN ON THE RETURN OF THE MASTER! The latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine has an exclusive, in-depth interview with Sacha Dhawan. Other highlights include: • Exclusive previews of the final four episodes of Series 12. • The latest Production Notes from showrunner Chris Chibnall. • A report from the filming of Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror at the Nu Boyana Film Studios in Bulgaria. • An exclusive interview with Robert Glenister, who played Thomas Edison in Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror. • A tribute to the 1960s writer and story editor Donald Tosh. • Peter Purves shares his memories of Donald Tosh. • The director of Doctor Who and the Silurians, Timothy Combe, looks back on its production. • Remembering the late Doctor Who comic-strip artist Bill Mevin. • Updates on Doctor Who luminaries, past and present, with new feature Time and Space Visualiser. • Public Image looks at how Doctor Who is doing in the TV ratings. • The Fact of Fiction continues its epic exploration of The Daleks’ Master Plan. • The final part of Mistress of Chaos, a new comic-strip adventure featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends. • Reviews of the Series 5 Blu-ray Steelbook and Sophie Aldred’s novel At Childhood’s End. • Big Finish previews and reviews, news, prize-winning competitions, The Blogs of Doom and much more!