TV Although Silver Nemesis was intended to be the 25th anniversary story for Doctor Who, celebrations began earlier in the season with Remembrance of the Daleks which, with its return to 1963, to Totters Lane and Coal Hill School is arguably the more celebratory of the two.
The acme of that is the announcer on the television in the living room of the boarding house, which at the close of scene is heard to say, “This is BBC television, the time is quarter past five and Saturday viewing continues with an adventure in the new science fiction series Do-“
The shot changes before the walls of this fictional reality entirely breakdown (ignoring previous asides to camera), but the intent is clear. Within an episode of Doctor Who we’re supposed to be nearly watching the broadcast of An Unearthly Child.
On first seeing this, I probably didn’t notice the implication. I was too young and well into my period of Transformers fandom.
On the second occasion, on video later, I was terribly excited because it suggested to me that as in the comics universes of Marvel and DC where superheroes spawned their own comic series dramatising their exploits, the BBC of the Whoniverse produced something similar.
Until it occurred to me that if indeed the BBC was producing a series called Doctor Who in the Doctor’s universe, whenever he turned up subsequently, people should be saying, “The Doctor’s a fiction character off of the television. Who are you really?”
But narrative abhors a vacuum and in the ensuing wilderness years, the Doctor Who universe did indeed get its own version of the series, thanks to Paul Cornell’s Virgin novel No Future with Professor X.
The TARDIS Datacore inevitably gathers together the ensuing references that have appeared in other stories to Professor X, spanning the BBC Books and Big Finish, of this television series which ran from 1963 to 1989 featuring “a mysterious scientist who travelled through time and space inside a TASID, a ship which resembled a pillar box on the outside.”
So perhaps this is the series being announced in Remembrance. Perhaps the announcer’s not about to say Doctor, but something else with that opening syllable. Perhaps.
Unsurprisingly for a franchise that has been rolling on for fifty years it has attracted a number of these internal references designed to comment on its existence, admittedly in the spin-offs.
Dr Who in the Head Games, a fictional version of the character based on the figure who appeared in the TV Comics.
Iris Wildthyme, whose own history runs as one long feminist or camper rewrite of the Doctor’s own (“But that’s me, I did that” as he’s often heard to say in the Eighth Doctor novels).
The One Doctor’s Christopher Biggins shaped imposter.
There’s also Robert Sheerman’s Unbound story, Deadline in which Derek Jacobi plays an old Juliet Bravo writer who has hallucinations about the Doctor and his companions.
But the Remembrance reference is arguably the most potent because it leaves so much unsaid (or at least two syllables), and so much to our imaginations.