WHO 50: 1996:
Doctor Who.

TV One of the less well-known elements of the original broadcast of the TV movie is that outside of the UK, for the so-called “international release”, the opening sequence featured a caption that read “Based on the series originally broadcast on the BBC”.

As the TARDIS Datacore, where I gleaned this spectacular information from explains, this was as a way of observing the typical American production tradition, legal or otherwise, of crediting the original creator of a property, except they didn’t chose Sydney Newman. They could have. He’s often the answer given on game shows and in board games unless they’re being wrong and decide it's Terry Nation. Trivial Pursuit, first edition.

Why did they choose not to? Gene Roddenberry is still credited as Star Trek’s creator even after all these years even as the franchise strayed quite far from his original concept (the later years of DS9). For all the changes which have happened to the classical Marvel Comics characters over the years, they’re still credited as being created by Stan Lee and whichever artist he was working with. Bob Kane created Batman.

But Doctor Who feels unique. As the producers of the TV movie observed even in 1996. anyone who’s written it on an official basis, across media, is a co-creator. It’s a collective creative act.

That’s why when The Guardian offers up Mark Gatiss as co-creator it doesn’t seem that strange (until they corrected themselves about six weeks later judging by the article history). When Matthew Sweet explained on the Today Programme in a discussion about whether the new incarnation could be a woman how the Doctor et al were loomed, a piece of mythology from the Virgin New Adventure novel Lungbarrow, it felt right.

You only have to look at the TV movie’s much derided opening monologue for evidence. Skaro was created by Terry Nation. The Master was created by Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts, his original appearance in Terror of the Autons written by Robert Holmes. Derrick Sherwin, Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks arguably created the Time Lords but Dennis Spooner introduced us to The Meddling Monk the first example of someone else from the Doctor’s race. Gallifrey was first mentioned on screen in The Time Warrior.

On that score you could more legitimately suggest Dicks, Letts, Hulke and Holmes created the mythology of Doctor Who and which underpins most of what we know about the show and particularly the TV movie. Except they didn’t decide the Doctor’s time machine would look like a Police Box. His sonic screwdriver first crops up in Fury from the Deep by Victor Pemberton.

Notice how, when the show returned, Russell T Davies didn’t even attempt to apply some kind of propriety claim to his version of the show. The opening credits are all about the stars, the title of the show, the title of the episode and the given writer for that week as per the classic series. He saw himself as just its latest producer, one of many. Even in the closing credits, it's only usual for the word creator to be utilised when one of the old monsters has been brought back. Kit Pedler’s always there when the Cybermen trundle through.

As with so many things in Doctor Who, there really is no right answer other than “Based on the series originally broadcast on the BBC” because that’s where it all started and started again.

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