A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1959.

By 1959, viewing had usurped listening in the Radio Times, with television moving to the front of the schedules despite still only occupying a single channel.  The programming still feels relatively experimental, still not sure who the audience is and what they'd like to watch.  But the types of shows aren't all that different to the kinds of programmes which still appear on linear schedules, albeit across a range of BBC stations rather than just the one.

Let's look at an average day.  How about the 5th June 1959.  The morning programmes begin at 10:20 with coverage of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Atlantic Congress which led to the founding of NATO attended by the Queen and Harold Macmillan in Parliament, the "scene in Westminster Hall described by Richard Dimbleby" which would be exactly the kind of programme run simultaneously across BBC One and News, narrated by Hugh Edwards perhaps and presented by Kirsty Young.

The rest of the daytime schedule is filled with a mix of sport coverage and children's programmes, Watch With Mother and "for the schools".  They're perhaps the most optimistic additions to what we have now.  Outside of large events, the likes of tennis and cricket have migrated to pay TV platforms and CBBC now has its own channel.  Most impressive is a schools programme at 14:05, "Look at Films 6: The Western" part of a series which across nine 25 min episodes provide a complete cinema course.

Into the evening, with Toddlers Truce cancelled, prime time begins at 6pm with twenty minutes of news followed by "Gardening Club" an early version of Gardener's World presented by Percy Thrower (pictured), with this episode covering Peonies and Astilbes.  Then it's "Monday to Friday", "magazine programme with the accent on the lighter side of life" which seems to have only run for two weeks in that June and sounds like a precursor to The One Show.

After a news summary, there's an hour of entertainment beginning with the now lost comedy "Frankly Howerd" starring Frankie Howerd and "The Perry Como Show" with Perry Como, the scheduling for which must surely be a response to whatever was on ITV at the time.  Curiously this is then followed by two documentaries which look like they'd later be on BBC Four, "Frontier: The Devil and Doc O'Hara" part of a series about the American West and "Adventure with Hans and Lotte Hass".

Then in roughly the modern drama slot at 9:30, "Hilda Lessways" an adaptation of a trilogy of period novels by Arnold Bennett which told the same story from three different perspectives starring Judi Dench and dramatised by Michael Voysey, the Andrew Davies of the period having also tackled Eliot, Gaskell, Collins, Austen and Dickens (the only TV adaptation of Barnaby Rudge to date which came out in 1960).  

After a news bulletin at 10pm (!), it's "Question Time", sorry, "Who Goes Home?" in which two MPs face a group of their constituents which in the simpler times of the two party system meant Douglas Nairn, M.P., Member (Conservative) for Central Ayrshire and William Ross, M.B.E., M.P., Member (Labour) for Kilmarnock being politely challenged in a tv studio in Glasgow in a discussion chaired by Robert Carvell, later of the Evening Standard.

The evening is capped off with another news summary but not before the only US import of the day, "Tales of Welles Fargo", a western in which a special agent becomes embroiled in cases which often feature real life figures, celebrity historicals if you will, and in this season 2 episode that means Johnny Ringo.  Which is presumably the equivalent of knocking off an episode of Superman & Lois from the iPlayer just before bed.

Whicker's World

"Ahead of a centenary celebration of Alan Whicker at BFI Southbank, we dig into the personal files of the broadcaster whose old-school good manners and hugely popular TV programmes took viewers across the planet and into many remarkable encounters."

"Donated to the BFI by his partner Valerie Kleeman, these letters, passports and photos shed fascinating light on the career of pioneering travel TV presenter and investigative journalist Alan Whicker."
"Sandi Toksvig talks to Stephen Fry and Alan Whicker about their travels."
[BBC Sounds]

"Alan Whicker bounces around the set of 'You Only Live Twice' (1967) in this edition of 'Whicker's World', which takes him not only to Pinewood Studios but also to the film's exotic Japanese locations."
From 1967.  There are also a couple of episodes on the iPlayer.
[BBC Archive]


"These meetings will be broadcast simultaneously by the BBC transmitters covering the Regions concerned.  In London: Derek Hart. The impartial chairmen at meetings called by the BBC for members of the public to question politicians on the issues of the campaign. With them on the platform are candidates to speak on behalf of any party contesting a fifth of the seats in the region. Names of speakers will be announced after nominations have closed."
[BBC Clips][BBC Programme Index]

"An impression of life and opinion in the backstreets of a northern city in the morning from dawn till midday. Filmed in Liverpool, Stockport, Salford and Manchester."
[BBC Rewind]

"Tonight's programme includes:  Carl Ebert at Glyndebourne.  A great producer on his approach to opera, filmed during rehearsals for his production of 'Cosi fan Tutte' by Mozart.  Introduced and edited by Huw Wheldon."
[BBC Clips][BBC Programme Index]


"The creator of much-loved children's TV classics including The Clangers, Bagpuss and Pogles' Wood is discussed by Matthew Sweet and his guests Daniel Postgate, who took over Smallfilms from his father, singer Sandra Kerr, who was the voice of Madeleine in Bagpuss, composer and author Neil Brand, and writer and broadcaster Samira Ahmed."
Noggin The Nog's first transmission was 1959.
[BBC Sounds]


"Television - the ogre that is said to keep citizens at home in the evenings - is the toast of a London public house opened Oct 13 for one of the nation's biggest brewery companies."

"Filming begins at the newly converted BBC Wales television studios in Broadway, Cardiff, formerly Broadway Methodist Chapel."
[BBC Rewind]

"This pamphlet was published by the BBC Caribbean Service around 1959 when total migration to Britain from the Caribbean peaked. Originally a series of radio broadcasts, it was primarily written by Caribbean men who were already living in London – including the novelist Samuel Selvon."
[British Library]


"June 6 marks the fifth anniversary of the first Eurovision exchange of television programmes between 16 television services in 12 European countries."

Extensive website with details of each episode including television reviews, broadcasting errors and lists of the music covered.
[Juke Box Jury]

"Sue MacGregor brings together some of the original team behind The Navy Lark, one of the most popular and longest-running radio sitcoms. Participants include June Whitfield, Leslie Phillips, George Evans, Heather Chesen and Tenniel Evans."
[BBC Sounds]


"The general framework of the BBC's sound broadcasting programmes - Home Service, Light Programmes, Third Programme and Network Three - was maintained during the year, following changes that had been made in the year before."

"The object of this handbook, like that of its predecessors in past years, is to give the reader a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of what the BBC is what it does."
[World Radio History] 

The Truth of Peladon (Peladon)

Audio  Ah Peladon!  One time allegory for the UK flirting with the Common Market now in this new boxed set a thematic soup about the exploitation of a country's wealth while the ruling classes stand idly by and watch it happen, and specifically the effects it has on the local water supply.  As is mentioned in the extras, despite only appearing in two stories on screen, Peladon has evoked a curiosity from fans, I think partly because it has the Doctor visit a planet other than Earth on a couple of occasions and offers window on its generational changes.

It's that idea these four stories exploit as we see Peladon at various points in its history, between the two television stories, then at three other undated points in its future history with River Song, then Sixy and Doctor Number Eigth making gradual then huge inroads in turning the planet from an absolute monarchy towards socialism, with the various Time Lords gradually becoming wary of the Royal chamber and more interested in what's happening on the fringes of Pel society, the parts which largely go undepicted in the Curse and the Monster.

Of the first three stories, The Poison of Peladon is probably the easily consumed due to the stunning decision to give River and Alpha Centuri the on-audio pairing we didn't know we needed but should now be very pleased that we have.  Alpha's a far stronger character here than on screen, and River becomes very protective of her during this hour, rightly correcting others on their pronouns.  The Ordeal of Peladon is perhaps an attempt at what a Peladon series might look like without a Time Lord present and The Death of Peladon shows how far the Doctor has shifted from the man who bowed to royalty on TV.

The Truth of Peladon

But it's the final episode which makes the boxed set essential, with an Eighth Doctor classic by Tim Foley.  The Doctor introduces himself to the seamstress, Arla Decanto, who will be making the cloak for an upcoming coronation, wins her confidence, shatters it, then wins it back using a Dickensian approach of showing the three tiers of Peladon society we've already witnessed in the previous three stories which are also subtly part of her own past, present and potential future.  Meera Syal's multi-layered performance as Decanto also takes us on a journey through the various layers of apathy and self-delusion through which the seamstress has justified her own actions or indeed inactions.

The big narrative swing is that Eighth comes and goes in her story.  We're offered hints of the Time Lord's wider plans along the way, with behaviour not unlike the Scottish manipulator who came before.  He has friends and collaborators but their participation is largely only hinted at.  It's refreshing to "see" what it's like when the Doctor liberates a people from the point of view of someone who's right at the heart of the problem and part of the solution.  This is aided by Jason Watkins as the villainous Peladonian Chancellor, a man fooled into thinking he can gain his planet's independence by inviting another in as an "ally" who just wants to take control.

Placement:  The cover suggests that this story takes place during the “Dark Eyes” era of the Eighth Doctor, but there is no clear gap for it. Since Time Lord Victorious has him in his Time War outfit, I’m placing this just before Echoes of Extinction, assuming that there are other stories in between that explain his change of appearance.

All The Doom's Day stories And Where To Buy Them.

TV  With this being an anniversary year for Doctor Who but without an actual television programme until November, much as they did in 2020, BBC Studios are co-ordinating another multi-merchandising platform storyline.  Doom's Day is somewhat less expansive (and expensive!) than Time Lord Victorious and has a much clearer chronology in that we follow Doom, a single protagonist across a whole day on the trail of the Doctor.

The official website is here and has a few problems.  For one thing, whoever created it ironically doesn't know how the 24 hour clock works, so when faced with a list of times like 1600, 1700, 1800 and 1900 (each is the given start time for a particular adventure from BBC Audio) says that the story "takes place between 1600 and 1900 in Doom's Day" which would mean the final chapter has zero duration (it does this a couple of times).

But there also isn't a simply way of seeing all of the adventures in a simple chronological list so that you can see how all the comics, the novel and various audios slot together.  Find below a simple chronological list so that you can see how all the comics, the novel and various audios slot together.  They've kept this pretty simply in comparison to last time with the various types media clustered together, the DWM comic into Titan comics, BBC Audio into Big Finish (which is where the story ends obviously).

Where possible I've offered to the cheapest options.  The main site links to the BBC Audio story on vinyl (£29.99) but it will be available on a much cheaper CD release (£13) and I've also included the Kindle editions of the Titan comics.  Anything linked to Amazon has an affiliate link too, which should not be taken in any way as the reason for this exercise, at all.  Anyway, congratulations Sooz on all of this.  I'm really looking forward to it.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1958.

By 1958, the BBC was in full swing, with numerous formats which would become the cornerstone of future schedules joining the airwaves.  Blue Peter, Grandstand and Monitor all began in this year along with a variety show who's title and existence are best left in history.  It's also the year when Quatermass and the Pitt was first broadcast (and is available on blu-ray in a version which probably looks better then when it was originally broadcast).  Ewan MacColl and Charles Parker began their series of radio ballads, blending folk tunes with actuality recordings which ran until 1964, the first of which, The Ballad of John Axon is on Spotify.  These must have been extraordinary times for watching television and the problem with the level of choice we have in 2023 is that it lessens the serendipity of stumbling upon something you might not have thought of.  Now on BBC One ...

Blue Peter

"The BBC has always been eager to create shows for children, but at first their programmes were often more preachy than action-packed."
[History Extra]

"Editor Biddy Baxter and presenter Sarah Greene look back on the nautically named iconic kids' show where each episode was a voyage into the unknown."
[The Guardian]

"Paul Jackson continues his exploration of cult TV with Biddy Baxter, who was the show's editor for 27 years, and former presenters Anthea Turner and Diane Louise Jordan."
[BBC Sounds]

"Auction reveals how Tony Hart’s work on another BBC project inspired his galleon for the children’s show."
[The Guardian]

"Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the TV producer and former Blue Peter editor Biddy Baxter."
[BBC Sounds]

"This clip is from the early days of BBC children’s television."
[BBC Archive]

"Blue Peter have some BRAND NEW opening credits, theme tune and Blue Peter logo for 2021! So we thought we'd play you every single opening titles ever from history from when it started in 1958 to present! We wonder which theme tune your favourite is!"

The BBC Archive pages have numerous clips from the show.
[BBC Archive]


"Stars of Stage, Screen, and Radio are invited to join with you in the fun starring Michael Holliday and presenting the big beat of Ted Heath and his Music, Tony Osborne and his Brasshats and The Tito Burns 6.5ers with the Kingpins featuring The Five Dallas Boys, Don Rennie, Don Lang, Claudio Venturelli, Steve Martin, Janice Peters, Dale Greaves. With Jim Dale as your host.
Next week: 'Dig This!' - first of a new series."
[Sean Macreavy][BBC Programme Index]

"Series showing medical practices introduced by Dr Charles Fletcher. This programme looks at Stratton Cottage Hospital and the work of the 11 GPs who run it."
[BBC Rewind]


"Tom Richards, news editor on the launch of television in Wales in 1952, and presenter Michael Aspel, recall the first news broadcast from Wales in 1957."
[BBC Archive]

"BBC Television item trailing the opening of the new regional BBC TV studios in St. Catherine's Close, Norwich."
[East Anglian Film Archive]

"The BBC's Director General Sir Ian Jacob opens the new Southampton studios."
[BBC Rewind]

"Rising on the site of the old White City exhibition, London, is a building that will one day be the most modern television headquarters in Europe."


"Richard Dimbleby introduces V.E.R.A. (Vision Electronic Recording Apparatus), during a live edition of Panorama. Then - thanks to the magic of videotape - he introduces it all over again."
[BBC Archive]

"In a forthcoming experimental BBC radio programme called "Lend Both Your Ears", listeners will get a chance to experience the wonders of stereophonic effects in the comfort of their own homes."
[BBC Archive]

"This article examines the coverage of the visual arts by Monitor, the pioneer arts magazine series broadcast by the BBC between 1958 and 1965. It explores Monitor’s place in the evolution of approaches to visual art on British television and assesses Monitor’s wider impact on the “art support system” (in Margaret Garlake’s phrase) of the late 1950s and 1960s."
[British Art Studies]

"Founded in 1958."
Delia Derbyshire pictured above.  Any other material will feature in the relevant years.
[Sound on Sound]

"Grandstand - in a programme recorded before the London Olympics, Paul traces the origins of the show that for nearly 50 years changed our relationship to sport, brought constant innovation to live TV coverage, and gave us not only David Coleman and Frank Bough but also Des Lynam."
[BBC Sounds]


"The BBC is responsible for providing sound and television services in the United Kingdom, and external broadcasting services on a world scale."

"This handbook is intended to be a concise and reliable guide to the British Broadcasting Corporation. [World Radio History] 

If I Should Die Before I Wake (Classic Doctors, New Monsters: The Stuff of Nightmares)

Audio  Marvellous, just marvellous, as good as an Eighth and Charley has ever been.  John Dorney's script (from a story by Jac Rayner) runs with Big Finish current tagline "for the love of stories" as the cue for a meditation on myths, narrative structure and the connection between dreams and imagination.  The Doctor's reading a series of Greek myths to Charley which she's apparently experiencing in the first person and frustrates him by giving her "character" easy ways to survive.  But there are other random elements in the console room and it slowly becomes apparent that the Dream Crabs from TV's Last Christmas have their claws into one or both of them.

As I said about The End of the Beginning recently, it's incredible that after all these years as soon as Paul and India are interacting with one another again, twenty odd years disappear from both their voices and we're right back in that first exciting week when most of the first series was recorded and the chemistry between them returns.  In the extras, both are clearly delighted to be working together again, albeit in lockdown in bedrooms and cupboards unable to even see each other.  There's an electricity which you just don't get when one or the other isn't present (although to be fair that was the case for large sections of the 8th+Lucie stories and I didn't notice.

Although he's not mentioned, I wonder how much of this was influenced by Lionel Fanthorpe.  Although I knew him best for Fortean TV back in the 90s, my science fiction writing tutor spoke warmly of his many hundreds of novels in which he'd often write an abrupt ending because he'd reached his word count, "one leap and he was free".  That's often how Doctor Who stories end, plenty of build up then a quick squeeze of the sonic screwdriver or whatever.  Fanthorpe also incorporated ancient mythology including Greece into his stories as he crafted a novel based on a cover which had already been selected, kind of like the "shopping lists" which Who writers often have to work from.

It's also a companion piece to Rob Shearman's Scherzo, which was also a two hander and which also featured a fair amount of body horror.  Like that story the Doctor and Charley are trying to escape a place were the laws of time and reality no longer exist but whereas there they had to overcome a fractured friendship, here its their closeness which is almost their undoing.  Although the Doctor becomes increasingly frustrated with Charley's attempts at preserving her own life, for various reasons, its so that she can save him.  In Scherzo, they were forced into working together as their bodies literally began to merge.

Placement: After Solitaire.

Bounty (Earth and Beyond)

Bounty has many firsts.  Beyond the TV Movie and The Eight Doctors, here's his first trip in the TARDIS with Sam Jones, a side step to the Seychelles and an encounter with some alien bounty hunters.  It's also his first original audio adventure nestling alongside two recordings of previously published Short Trips.  It's also the first original story read by Paul McGann, the first time we would have heard him say new dialogue in character (he'd previous read an abridged audiobook of the TV Movie).  This was published so long ago, it was a cassette release.  The version I listened to was from the re-re-release of the MP3-CD anthology Tales from the TARDIS, downloaded from Audible.  Eighth Doctor stories don't get much earlier than this.

Is it a taste of paradise?  Oh God yes.  It's taken me (does maths) twenty-five years to get around to listening to this  (although to be fair I didn't become a fan until a couple of years after its publication date) and it's a nostalgic delight to hear Paul reading a story about Sam Jones, with writer Peter Anghelides (who offers some background on this website) managing to fit in some of Eighth's early signature elements like the way he repeats his new companion's name "Sam, Sam, Sam ...", his purple Volkswagen Beetle, waistcoat business and how he somehow (telepathically?) knows facts about the people he encounters not long after he's encountered them.  How much did he know about where these tales came from?  Did he expect to be reading more or was this a one off?

The story itself is pretty straightforward but that in and of itself is refreshing.  The tendency with Short Trips and Short Trips about the Eighth Doctor in particular is to take a more experimental approach but there's also something to be said for a well executed adventure with a couple of character through lines and an explosive conclusion.  Bounty isn't long, just over half an hour in mp3 duration, but there's enough here to explain how this TARDIS team bonded between The Eight Doctors and Vampire Science, even if the Doctor dropped Sam off at a Greenpeace Rally soon afterwards and spent three years mentally getting his shit together before scooping her up again.

Placement:  Just after The Eight Doctors.

One Fateful Knight (Short Trips: The Quality of Leadership)

Prose  In his introduction, anthology editor Keith R A Candido offers some amazement at the names he's been able to coax into writing their first Doctor Who stories for his book.  One Fateful Knight written by Peter Freaking David, who's writing has touched on almost all of the major and minor franchises across comics and novels, not to mention his own IP.  In his single (so far) entry for the Whoniverse, David (presumably on the assumption it would be his only chance) decides to do nothing less than provide a prequel and sequel to Battlefield, attempting to explain the references to the Doctor being Merlin.

Was he aware of what's come before?  It's been pretty well established via numerous other spin-off sources that the Merlin in Battlefield is a future incarnation of the Doctor, although given the number of different explanations offered elsewhere over the years, having him be both the eighth Doctor and another Monkish renegade pretending to be the eighth Doctor, popping in and out of Arthur's life is as good as any especially since as late as 2021, Jac Raynor wrote a novel in which the Tenth Doctor inherited the mantle.

What does matter is that this is a thrilling entertaining story which packs a lot into its twenty or so pages as the author also offers his own take on what a post regeneration Eighth Doctor would be like - he even refers to still relearning how to fly the TARDIS.    Was this simply so he didn't have to deal with over a decades continuity?  Did he choose to write for the Eight?  Either way. his face offs with "Merlin" and Morgaine are as amusing as they should be and there's plenty of fun to be had seeing how David ties it into the television adventure.  

He's still experiencing ongoing health issues amid the US system, so if you want to contribute, the GoFundMe is here.

Placement:  After all these years this is the last of the Big Finish Short Trips anthologies I've had to catch-up on, so its a wild coincidence that it should be the first chronologically.  Much like Model Train Set and Totem, this is Eighth dealing with some of the more questionable choices of his previous incarnation, so lets drop it just after them.  Onwards to the rest of the audios.

From Little Acorns/Epilogue (Short Trips: The Quality of Leadership)

Prose  The Quality of Leadership's theme is baked into the title, the Time Lord interacts with numerous heads of state in his various incarnations.  From Little Acorns and the Epilogue offer a framing device in which Eighth, having successfully helped the rightful heir to the throne fight off a coup, spends and even recounting these tales in order to offer some insight into successful governance and bolster a new King who is unsure of his experience or talent.  In the epilogue he returns to see how the premiership went and if his guidance helped as we discover that to some extent the Doctor is salving his own conscience having somewhat failed in similar efforts before.  Eighth gets a few rare sonic screwdriver moments in here and after recently reading so many small scale stories recently, it's fun to have something on a more epic scale with higher stakes.

Placement:  As with so many of these Short Trips, early.  But not as early as the other story in this anthology.

The End (Life Sciences)

Prose  As the title suggest, this is supposed to portray the Eighth Doctor sensing the end of his current incarnation and thinking about unfinished business and legacy.  Along with some fellow time travellers, he's set up a kind of waystation out of time in the event horizon of a black hole, where they can meet, exchange ideas and feel a kinship, the Doctor motivated by his estrangement from the other Time Lords.  As you might expect, it does not go well.  Although this was written in 2004, this version of Eighth feels akin to the broken mess who bothered River and Bernice in The Legacy of Time's Lies in Ruins and the "future" version we heard in the Mary Shelley portion of A Company of Friends (if slightly more coherent), the living embodiment of chronological existentialism.

Placement:  This old chronology puts it just before The Night of the Doctor and I can't disagree.

Jonah (Life Sciences).

Prose  Who knows (other than the author) how the Doctor stumbles into stories like this?  Did he just happen to be in the area and stumble upon young Jonah randomly or was he already on the trail of some medical malfeasance?  Either way, this the kind of "low key" adventure about the Doctor taking an "ethical and moral" stand and choosing to save one life over another even though, given that he has access to "all of time and space, everywhere and anywhere, every star that ever was" he could probably find a way to medically save both (justice for Abigail).  Of course, if the Doctor would be breaking some kind of temporal prime directive if he went around curing all diseases,  but at least he'd be living up to his name.  A framing device tries to explain his choice is justified but there's still something inherently unDoctorish about his solution.

Placement:  Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and put it early, in the moments when he's still trying to work what kind of man he is. 

Syntax (Short Trips: Life Sciences)

Prose  Another "with Izzy" exploit from David Bailey and like his later Illumination from Christmas Around The World, he captures this particular Doctor/companion relationship perfectly.  There's a moment when Izzy recounts one of the Doctor's lectures back to him and you can imagine a couple of frames in the comic in which the speech bubble almost crowds out her head.  The story itself, about a sentient pheromone which enslaves the population of a planet would work as a two or three part strip with plenty of scope for outlandish artwork, especially when Izzy is under the influence of the atmosphere.  Unless something changes, this will be last of the stories I'll be reading featuring this most important of characters and I'm really going to miss her adventures.  I'll certainly be having another look at the comics once I'm all caught up with the Eighth Doctor's other adventures.

Placement: Tucked in between TV Action! and Illumination.

DS Al Fine (Time Signature)

Prose  Thematically, the Time Signature anthology seems akin to the Ashildr from the television series, in which one of the Doctor's choices has ramifications which on and on.  Unlike that story, here the Doctor is able to have do-over and large sections of his own personal history are re-established so that a decision he made in good faith doesn't destroy half the universe after all.  Of all Short Trips books, this seems to be one which works best when read cover to cover, which I'm sure you'll be unsurprised to hear, I haven't done (yet).  So not a lot of this story made much sense without a glance at the TDC.  So consider this paragraph a placeholder until I've had a chance to experience the whole story.

Placement: Between Shada and Mary, I guess.

Second Contact (Time Signature)

Prose  To what extent has any Doctor Who story "happened"?  If time can be rewritten and the whole timeline is changes anyway every time a TARDIS lands and someone steps out of the doors, any continuity errors or Time Lord memory lapses across the franchise can be excused because fixed points in time only exist when the Doctor (or whoever) knows or remembers what was supposed to "happen" and his big alien brain can't really keep everything on track.  Thanks to Genesis of the Daleks, the first Doctor's encounters with Davros's creations become malleable to such a degree that some versions of AHistory have to account for there being two different continuities before and after.

Although it appears earlier in the anthology, the events of Second Contact are rewritten by something which happens in a later story, so does that mean the Doctor was never in place to mediate this encounter between the native peoples of a continent and a doomed Viking colony and was there even greater loss of life as a consequence?  The TARDIS Datacore suggests this story happens in an "alternative timeline" but Doctor Who has rarely gone in for that sort of thing.  But its also undeniable that the Doctor shouldn't be in this place because his future self changes his past.  Honestly, Blinovitch would have a fit.

Placement:  Given the mess this has made on the carpet, I'm banishing it to the "almost" section.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1957.

The Toddler's Truce ended in 1957.  This didn't lead to some kind of conflict with children (well, not more than usual), but rather the gap in programming which had been agreed just after the second world war between 6pm and 7pm, the end of CBBC and prime time, enough time to put the little ones to bed.

Except by 1956, franchise holders in the fledgling ITA/ITV service found that it was cutting severely into their advertising profits and so their ability to continue broadcasting.  They saw the BBC's ability to broadcast for as long or short as they like because of the licence fee as unfair competition.  

So petitions were made by Granada, ABC, ATV and Associated-Rediffusion, and the then Postmaster General, Charles Hill agreed, suggesting "it was the responsibility of parents, not the state, to put their children to bed at the right time ..."  

The BBC objected, presumably because it meant they had then to budget to fill the slot with something and refused even to a thirty minute compromise so it took a parliamentary order to force the issue, which they did on Halloween 1956.  It ended on 16 February 1957.

From the off, the BBC filled the weekdays with a news programme, in that case Tonight, and it's stayed pretty much the same ever since.  Saturday's brought the Six-Five Special and although it remained in abeyance on Sundays for at least three years, eventually Songs of Praise was added to the line-up. 

The Sky At Night

Correspondence between Patrick Moore and TV producer Paul Johnstone reveals how the birth of The Sky at Night came about.
[Sky at Night Magazine]

Numerous archive episodes of the programme.
[BBC Archive]

"Patrick Moore: Moon-mapper, xylophonist and eccentric genius. He hates May bugs and loves cats."

The Science Museum holds Sir Patrick's archive, which includes episode scripts for The Sky At Night (although nothing is digitised).  The also have a number of his possessions including a monocle and pipe, photographs of which are here.
[Science Museum Group]


"The famous Lancashire artist speaks informally about his life as the film camera explores his subjects and pictures. He is seen at work on a new painting in his studio.  Commentary by Robert Reid"
[ClarkArtLtd][BBC Programme Index]

"A star-spangled visit to the seaside.  Hylda Baker, She Knows Y'know.  David Whitfield, Cara mia. The Western Brothers, Jolly good show, chaps.  Semprini, Old ones, new ones.  Harry Bailey, A bit of blarney.  The Maple Leaf Four, Singing Canadians.  Your resident stars are:  Reginald Dixon, Mr. Blackpool himself and the Littlewood Songsters.  Introduced by Jack Watson."
[Bramley Productions][BBC Programme Index]

"Panorama reports from Switzerland, where the combination of a mild winter and the virtual disappearance of pests like the spaghetti weevil, has resulted in a bumper spaghetti crop."
[BBC Archive]

"William Forsythe tells the story of life on his farm in Ballynure, where he lives and works with his wife Joyce, and children Wilson, Charles and Muriel. How do they live and how do they like living in the country? This is the way they see their life and their countryside, village, market town and big city in Northern Ireland."
[BBC Rewind]


"Queen Elizabeth went live into millions of living rooms on Christmas afternoon in 1957."
[Town & Country]

"Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 29 May 1957: Sir Arthur fforde, who has been Headmaster of Rugby School since 1948, is to become chairman of the B.B.C. from December 1. His appointment runs until June 30, 1962."
[The Guardian]


"A new television transmitting station has been constructed at Rosemarkie, near Inverness, which should greatly improve reception in the north east of Scotland.  BBC reporter Basil Gibsone visits some Ross and Cromarty residents, to find out if they are planning to get a television set in the wake of this exciting development.  He also speaks with the technician in charge of the new transmitter about the challenges of building and maintaining a transmitter in such a remote location.  Originally broadcast 19 August, 1957."
[BBC Archive]

"An item about the BBC outside broadcast unit which will complete the television link-up that's to bring the Queen's Christmas message to the viewers."
[BBC Rewind]

"Today, a new shape in the form of a television transmitter stretches into the sky beside reminders of the past, a symbol of something undreamed of by those who wondered at the marvels of the original Crystal Palace."
[BBC Rewind]

"Today the BBC opened a new television station in Derry / Londonderry, Northern Ireland."
[BBC Rewind]


Website dedicated to cataloguing the episodes.
[Six-Five Special]

"Interview from a series of BBC radio talks in the early 1950s, including Craig's reminiscences of the artist Mary Fedinand Jacomin and Mr. Brock followed by (00:14:45) a later broadcast of "How I played Shakespeare in Salford."
[Robert S. Cox Special Collections & University Archives Research Center][BBC Programme Index]

"Nicholas Kenyon explores early music at the BBC in the 1950s and 60s."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"On Christmas Day 1957, the BBC made a ground-breaking hour-long live broadcast, transmitting Christmas songs from around the British Isles. Texan folklorist and broadcaster Alan Lomax was the host."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"This is a brief chronology and history of series that presented theatrical adaptations on BBC television from 1957 to 1985, presenting examples of the institutional discourses that surrounded the making and transmission of these programmes."
[Forgotten Television Drama]

"Do any of you lolloping landlubbers want to know how Captain Pugwash was made? Well, coddling catfish! Here's the brave buccaneer himself to take you behind the scenes."
[BBC Archive]

"On the 18th February 1957 the BBC broadcast the first programme of a series that was destined to run to over a thousand episodes, although many people involved in making the programme were far from convinced that they would be able to pull off even the pilot successfully."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"Rory Bremner looks back at 50 years of BBC Radio coverage of British test match cricket."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]


"This article examines attempts by the centralised policy makers of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to overcome a crisis at their radio service consequent to the launch of commercial television in 1955. It looks in particular at the work – the successes, failures and frustrations – of an assistant director, a bureaucrat, who planned to regenerate music policy, especially so in terms of pop and light music, which led to the formation of the numbered station system still in use today: Radios 1 - 4."
[French Journal of British Studies]

"Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North) Mr. Deputy-Speaker, my request to Mr. Speaker for an allocation of time this afternoon arose directly from a Press statement put out by the B.B.C. on 8th April. First of all, I should like very briefly to review the events which led up to that statement."

"During the year 1956-57 the Corporation reviewed its policy in relation to the home sound broadcasting services."

"Broadcasting continues to develop and expand.  The BBC has recently evolved a new pattern for its domestic sound broadcasting services, and its television services - the network of the nation - reaches into early every part of the country."
[World Radio History]

Companion (Short Trips: Christmas Around the World)

A cautionary tale about AI told with the voice of an eleven year old girl in Brazil. Set in 2672 (although it feels like it could be happening much sooner than that), Yarah's gifted a robot dog by her Dad at Christmas programmed to protect his little one.  Inevitably it goes on a rampage while it attempts to follow its instructions and it's up to the Doctor, who drops in towards the end, to fix the situation.  It is not a sophisticated story, but James Moran's writing is rich, amusing and poignant as the Brazilian teen navigates a situation just on the edge of her understanding.

Placement:  Another one for the pre-Dying Days slot. 

Venus (Short Trips: The Solar System)

  If World Distributors had still been publishing Doctor Who annuals in the Eighth Doctor era, this is just the kind of prose story you'd expect to find, probably with illustrations using Stephen McGann and Titanic era Kate Winslet as reference for Eighth and Charley (and later read on audio by Dan Starkey).  While the Time Lord gives the Edwardian Adventuress a science lesson about terrible and toxic surface of Venus, they become aware of a nearby anomaly and decide to investigate.  They land in a forest and meet a group of Golgafrinchan B-Arkers with a single, terrible purpose that should probably have come with a trigger warning.  But once the Doctor's asked sufficient questions to help explain the mystery from their leader and Charley's been suitably horrified, they decide that it's fair enough, no one's being coerced into anything and that he should leave these people be, and the TARDIS team wander off back to their time ship.  The two leads are pretty well characterised and there is some dialogue which India Fisher would probably adore saying but like a lot of these shorts, there's nothing in here which couldn't be told with a different TARDIS crew in exactly the same way.  Perhaps some illustrations might have helped.

Placement:  The incident on the R101 is described as happening some time previously, so lets drop it in the second season of the first run.

Far From Home (Short Trips: Past Tense)

Prose  Some of the themes in Big Finish's anthologies are looser than others.  Past Tense collects short stories which are all set in Earth's past, which is a handy way of putting together disparate ideas from a range of writers.  Alison Lawson's piece has the Doctor follow a distress call to rural Wales in 1928 in the hopes of averting an early Roswell incident.  It's presented mostly from the point of view two local schoolboys and has the atmosphere of an Enid Blyton novel or or a 1980s schools literacy programme (some of the grizzlier material would have almost certainly be granted a section in Scarred For Life) as they encounter numerous male authority figures while they truant from school to help the Time Lord in his mission.

Placement:  Feels like an early "life's champion" tale in the period when he's making up for past mistakes, so let's put it arbitrarily pre-Dying Days.

The End of the Beginning (The Main Range)

Audio  The final end ... of the monthly range.  When these began in 1999, they were Big Finish, some of the original actors in new audio stories released on a monthly basis.  It's where I became a Doctor Who stan and a McGann fan in particular but by 2021 they were beginning to look like an odd one out in a release schedule which elsewhere had largely shifted over to boxed sets, with Fifth, Sixth and Seventh rather stuck taking turns here, still trying to find ways of telling stories within the few gaps left by their television eras.

Bringing the range full circle, The End of the Beginning follows the structure of the first release, with the Eighth Doctor rather than Seventh in the third part of the anthology.  But whereas The Sirens of Time was about trying to be as authentic to the television counterparts as possible, this is about commemorating and enunciating how far the range had developed in the intervening decades, of having taken the licence and created a legacy of stories of a quality which far exceeds their visual precursors.

The Fifth Doctor and Turlough were the stars of Big Finish's second release Phantasmagoria so its fitting that they should return together here after creating their own mini season of about four or five stories across the years.  The Sixth Doctor story highlights how that incarnation has been reimagined in the audios with bold new eras and a range of companions who simply wouldn't have existed on television, Constance and Flip in this case (although Lisa "Flip" Greenwood is absent for health reasons).

The Eighth Doctor's era couldn't be represented by anyone other than Charley, his main range companion and where it all began (on audio).  Presumably recorded around the time of Charlotte Pollard: The Further Adventuress (yes, yes, I'll get to it), I'm in awe at how Paul McGann keeps track of the different tones he and the creators have brought to this same incarnation between the early releases through to the Time War.

We're in Vampire Science territory as the eighth Doctor's stopped off to check in with an undead frenemy from an unseen adventure, a vampire taking the slow way through London who the Time Lord presumably stopped from killing back in the day.  There's another vampire on the loose and together they head off into the metropolis in a bid to stop the fledgling from killing and eating or turning half the population of the city.

Its at the end of all this we discover how this Doctor's story is connected to the others and how he'll meet his other selves in preparations to uncover the final mystery, with a clever reversal, a homage to The Day of the Doctor (surely?) and an explanation as to why the Seventh Doctor's largely been absent (is the cover art supposed to imply that we're finally discovering what one of the visual elements of his title sequence actually is?).

The four Doctors and companions apparently recorded their sections separately, not that you'd know it with a hilarious moment (intentional?  unintentional?) where Charley and Constance are introduced and don't seem to have anything to say to each other, and the Sixth Doctor knows who the former is but can't work out why (which means we're post their travels together).  Does this mean she already recognises him at the start of The Condemned?  That would explain how she's not completely banjaxed by him.

It's all very well written by Robert Valentine, a relative newcomer to Big Finish (the TARDIS Datacore has him listed as being active since 2020) he nevertheless captures the Eighth and Charley's voices perfectly (as he does everyone across the episodes) and although the final solution at the resolution is pretty basic multi-Doctor fare, there are some neat reversals in the run up which take advantage of audio and how one of the audience's senses is of no help whatsoever.

Placement: This feels like late era 8+C, entirely comfortable in each other's presence, the Doctor happy to let Charley wander off into late 90s London on her own, safe in the knowledge that she won't get herself into trouble (even though she undoubtedly will).  It's probably set some time between Embrace the Darkness and The Time of the Daleks; you can imagine this being the next adventure after Living Legend or Solitaire.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1956.

How do programmes survive?  We know that a vast amount of material has been returned to the BBC through off-air recordings but publicly we still don't exactly know everything which is missing, especially in radio (TV Brain covers television very well).  Ideally, there'd be a flag of some description in the BBC Programme Index to the effect so that if someone who was interested in these things stumbled across something which they own or which had been made available online, they could contact someone at the BBC and let them know.

Does the BBC Archive know about the recording of The Quest for Corbett that's on YouTube?  Have they downloaded it themselves or contact the owner of the recording to see if they can make a copy?  Or do they still retain an original copy and so this isn't the only one in existence?  If they knew it was there, why hasn't there been a copyright claim (although there's plenty of stuff in Alphabet's servers for which that question could be asked.

What about the material which is still held on vinyl records produced by the BBC Transcription Service which were used to send material to licensees overseas.  Although they were directed to destroy them after the licensing period ended, the BBC having already wiped their own tapes, looking at eBay and YouTube plenty of them survived.  Are their programmes here the BBC don't have themselves?  Judging by the Discogs page, there were a lot of them.

What does any of this have to do with this project?  The nagging question whether I should be linking to these materials or indeed any programmes which aren't directly about the making of the BBC, the product rather than the production.  My feeling has been that if it's from an "institution", a museum, library or university archive, then yes.  If it's just something someone has uploaded from an off-air recording to YouTube due to its inherent ephemerality, no.

But it still feels like there should be some exceptions and something from the mid-fifties preserved on reel-to-reel tape with a cool story behind it seems like one of them even if its only available for a short time.  It shows that even then, people were trying to find ways of keeping programmes they've enjoyed or have an interest in even though it wasn't the easiest endeavour, which feels in and of itself to be an important part of the BBC history.

Eurovision Begins

"The first ever Eurovision Song Contest took place in Lugano, Switzerland, at the Teatro Kursaal, on 24th of May 1956."
Reaching Eurovision the week after the actual event this year was entirely coincidental.  If it had been on purpose, this would have posted last Monday.

"No complete video footage of the entire contest is known to exist, with the only known footage being clips of the reprise performance of the winning song via newsreel and other recordings. Audio of most of the contest have however survived, missing only part of the interval act, and a large cache of photographs has also been uncovered in recent years. As such, this is one of only two editions of the contest, along with the 1964 contest, to not have video recordings of the full event retained."
[ESC Stuff]

"As Turin hosts the 66th edition, Italy’s 1956 contestant (pictured) recalls taking part in what would be world’s biggest music contest."
[The Guardian]


"The 1956 Suez Crisis caused long-simmering tensions between the BBC and the government to boil over – and, as David Hendy explores in part nine of our 13-part series on the history of the BBC, marked the start of a shift in the relationship between politicians and the public."
[History Extra]

"Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor, continues his series on relations between broadcasters and politicians. In this programme he looks at the bitter clash between the broadcasters and Sir Anthony Eden, Prime Minister (pictured) during the Suez crisis in the autumn of 1956."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"As the world’s oldest national broadcaster, The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is unique in its contribution to British life and its level of international influence."
[French Journal of British Studies]


"An enquiry for radio" by Harold Lang and Kenneth Tynan, first broadcast on the BBC Third Programme on Sunday 15th July 1956 at 10.15pm and repeated the following Thursday at 7.15pm.  Preserved on reel-to-reel tape by Allan Hailstone in Coventry, this is believed to be the only recording still in existence. The interference was caused by his father using a television in an adjacent room."
[Chris Goddard][BBC Programme Index]

"A varied selection of excerpts from the sound-tracks of musical films new and old
Presented by Desmond Carrington."
[Toothy TTP][BBC Programme Index]


"Sir Hugh Carleton Greene was Director-General of the BBC for over nine years. A champion of liberal values, his time in charge is often seen as an embodiment of the 1960s zeitgeist. At the height of his career he lived at 25 Addison Avenue in Holland Park, where he is now commemorated with a blue plaque."
[English Heritage]

We look at the extraordinary career of the inimitable Bob Monkhouse.
[BBC Clips]

"Sean Street delves into the archive of one of the most innovative and controversial BBC radio producers, reviewing Charles Parker’s work from the Radio Ballads to his sacking in 1972."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]


"During the 1956/57 refurbishment of Television Theatre, production moved to the  King’s Theatre, Hammersmith."
[TV Studio History]

"... the studios began to have diminishing success around 1955 and were in financial difficulties.  This coincided with the realisation at the BBC that they had run out of room at Lime Grove to keep the film department working efficiently."
[TV Studio History]

"Visiting Lime Grove, Princess Margaret was received by Sir Ian Jacob and Sir George Barnes. The Princess's visit lasted three hours, during which many artists had the honour of presentation."


"In 1956, Panorama turned the cameras on BBC TV itself, with a focus on a decade’s worth of technological advancements in the medium."
[BBC Archive]


"The BBC's development plan was in full swing during the year 1955-56.  In its Report a year ago, the Corporation described in some detail the accelerated progress which had been made possible during the year 1954-55, following the Postmaster-General's statement of March 1954, in which he announced new arrangements for financing the BBC's services for the following three years."

"The information assembled in this book is intended to give a clear and authoritative picture of recent achievements in broadcasting, and to provide a guide to the policy and workings of the Corporation
[World Radio History] 


Hello again, Cass.  The original four Time War boxes ended on something of a cliffhanger with the return of a version of Alex so there had be a lot more incidents between that and the cracked Doctor who Benny and River meet during Lies in Ruins (from The Legacy of Time).  Since it is a Time War, and history is in flux and with Rakhee Thakrar not returning as Bliss because her career's entering the next stage, why not a pre-meeting with the Eighth Doctor's final almost companion with the added mystery of how they can meet here and again in his future.  It's a variation on the theme of Charley Pollard, although without the companion knowing that the Time Lord will become such a big part of her future and trying to figure out her own solution.

Despite a couple of references in the dialogue we don't really receive an answer and its clear by the end that there are more stories to tell, probably with Cass 2, 3 & 4 in the production pipeline (which is why Big Finish have gone with a new title rather than simple called it The Time War Volume 5) (apart from when they do in the credits at the end of each episode) (I'll update the title of this post if necessary).  Will it be as simple as retconning The Time of the Doctor, so that he knows full well who Emma Campbell-Jones's Cass is even if she doesn't recognise him and he's pretending (which puts a new spin one her rejecting him outright).  Rule One: The Doctor Lies.  When he has to.

Meanwhile, Elsewhere

With very little to work from other than Time of the Doctor and the novelisation of Day of the Doctor (with which this is broadly consistent) Cass is the type of female friend the Eighth Doctor tends to swan through the universe with; independent, capable and well prepared to call him out when he's clearly bullshitting.  But it doesn't feel perfunctory when she's invited onto the TARDIS at the end - she fits right into the time paradox shenanigans.  The theme of the boxset seems to be stories which have resolved themselves before they've begun and I'll admit this took me two listens to really follow what happens and how.  The loquacious Hieronyma Friend feels like she was originally written to be River Song.  Perhaps Alex (Kingston not Campbell) was unavailable.


A never meet your heroes tale with a twist.  Once again, this took me a couple of goes to completely follow the action either because my inevitable cellular decay means I'm slower on the uptake than I used to be or jointless time is difficult to convey on audio where its difficult to have diagrams (or both).  It was a pleasure to go round again though.  The three leads have an easy chemistry especially Emma, and Sonny McGann who in the ten years since his last appearance has become a fine actor and the writers of these stories have really leaned into the enthusiasm for adventure this version of the Doctor's great-grandson has, every now and then even sounding like the younger version of his father who debut in these audios twenty years ago ("TARDIS manual, TARDIS manual ...").

Previously, Next Time

The inevitable Dalek story, although they're used in a much subtler way than in the previous Time War stories and although their plan has the ring of one of those earlier jargon soups, this looks at the effects of the scheme on a more human level, the Doctor faced with an impossible choice morally but not logically, of whether to wipe out an entire civilisation, no doubt foreshadowing the adventures of his successor.  I am slightly confused as to whether the effects of this retcon bomb's are only felt on this planet, the whole Whoniverse (explaining the incongruities in the Doctor's memory in the previous stories) or if there's some larger mystery which is yet to be explored.