Doctor Who Blog

50 Glorious Years: Episode 17 - 1979

1979 was the end of an era for Doctor Who in almost as many ways as had been the case in 1969. True, the decade didn’t end with a change of Doctor or broadcast colours as had happened in 1969, but, other than two episodes that were broadcast in early 1980, the Graham Williams era finished in 1979, as did Douglas Adams involvement in Doctor Who. The Delia Derbyshire theme arrangement and Dudley Simpson’s incidental music also finished at this time, two staples of the show that had been there since its inception (or near-inception in the case of Dudley Simpson - he’d “only” been there since 1964.

Not all of this was meant to happen this way - all of these elements should have gone well into the end of February 1980 with the broadcast of the six-part adventure Shada, but a BBC staff strike delayed production on the show that the original production dates were cancelled, and the BBC chose to prioritize its resources on getting other programmes back up to speed. It still seems incredible that the BBC would not choose to complete a 6 part partially-filmed story for 17 year old series that was now starting to earn the BBC a ton of cash in North America and was still garnering high ratings at home.  (Technically it got the highest ratings ever in 1979, though that was because another atrike at ITV put the BBC’s only competition off the air for about three months, including two months where new episodes - namely the entirety of Destiny of the Daleks and City of Death) were being broadcast. Nobody knew it at the time but it was in retrospect a sign of things to come in terms of BBC Management of the brand. But despite the incomplete Shada being abandoned during 1979, there were still a fine run of stories that are probably liked by fandom more now than they were at the time. The show was continuing to garner momentun in North America and Tom Baker and Lalla Ward were stars in the UK. Here’s to the end of the very fine and successful decade for Doctor Who that was the 1970’s!

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