Did you know Tom Baker wrote a Doctor Who movie?

Photo credit: BBC Worldwide
Photo credit: BBC Worldwide

From Digital Spy

Tom Baker, the man perhaps most associated with the role of Doctor Who has been in the headlines today with the fantastic news that he's returned to the long-running BBC science-fiction show.

The Fourth Doctor actor has reprised his role for the new Doctor Who release, 'Shada', which sees an unfinished story from the 1970s completed with hand-drawn animation. It's available on DVD and Blu-ray next month.

But did you know that Tom once wrote a Doctor Who film, that was within months of being made?

Here's everything you need to know about the aborted "scary, but funny" big-screen adventure for the Time Lord...

Doctor Who Meets Scratchman

The story itself would see the Fourth Doctor, as played by Baker, take a trip to Scotland with companions Sarah Jane and Harry Sullivan, played by their television actors Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter respectively. There, horrifying scarecrows came to life and terrorised a small community, Cybors, who were definitely not Cybermen *cough*, appeared, as did the Daleks, leading to climactic giant pinball confrontation and cricket showdown.

Yup, it's bonkers.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Doctor Who Meets Scratchman began life in 1974, just as Tom Baker started his still unbeaten reign as the Gallifreyan. During breaks in rehearsals for Doctor Who, he and co-star Marter decided they themselves would pen an adventure for the Time Lord and his companions.

Once they'd scribbled their ideas down, the pair took the synopsis to the programme's makers.

According to Baker, the BBC hated it.

But the men would not be deterred.

If BBC One wouldn't take Scratchman, then perhaps cinemas would, influenced by the success of the '60s Dalek movies, starring screen legend Peter Cushing as "Dr. Who".

Marter, pictured below, once stated that the big-screen transition was all Tom's idea, as was the story itself.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Within a year, director James Hill, an Oscar-winning documentarian also known for the film Born Free and '60s TV shows The Saint and The Avengers, became involved and the trio completed a script after a holiday to Italy together.

The gang took Scratchman to BBC Enterprises (now known as BBC Worldwide) and pitched their Doctor Who movie. The commercial arm of the UK institution were very keen and began to draw up various contracts, setting production to start in 1977 (this was the first point where Baker would have time off from filming Who on television).

Emboldened by their script, the story's denouement was left open-ended with a possible return for the malignant enemy in a sequel.

Scotland and Lanzarote were pencilled in for the shoot, with the latter doubling as a volcanic wasteland (the location has since been used by the show in 1984's 'Planet of Fire' and 2014's 'Kill The Moon') and popular horror actor Vincent Price (pictured below) was attached to play the titular villain.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Although Sladen and Marter had left the television show by this point, all that was needed was the financing. And this is where the story of Doctor Who Meets Scratchman began to fall off the rails.

Half-a-million pounds were needed to make the movie (in the same year, Star Wars cost around $7 million) and one of the team hit upon an ingenious idea way ahead of its time.


Tom Baker invented crowdfunding.

Speaking to The Sun in 1977, Baker said, "So maybe Doctor Who fans might like to invest a few quid and become shareholders? The budget is around £500,000, which means fans gambling a fiver each."

The actor received an incredible 8,000 contributions but, tragically, had to return all payments as no company had been established to enable such payments.

Despite an injection of £250,000 from the National Film Finance Corporation, interest from Universal in the US and now with '60s icon Twiggy attached, the team couldn't find enough money to begin production.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

BBC Enterprises had issued a one-year option on the film. Time had run out for to Baker, Marter and Hill. Scratchman was scratched.

Director Hill returned to television somewhat ironically (given its scarecrow-based antics) with Worzel Gummidge, starring Tom Baker's Doctor Who predecessor Jon Pertwee, and Tom would go on to make two more series of Doctor Who before bowing out in 1981.

Baker continues to thrill Whovians by playing the much-loved role in audio adventures for Big Finish Productions and in the aforementioned 'Shada'.

Though Doctor Who Meets Scratchman didn't get made, perhaps there's still a future for the project on audio or, perhaps like 'Shada', as an animated feature.

As Baker himself would say, who knows...?

Doctor Who: Shada, starring Tom Baker, is available on DVD and bluray from Dec 4.

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