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When 'Doctor Who' Got Animated

As the longest-running sci-fi show in the world, Doctor Who has packed a lot into its nearly sixty years of existence. Predating both Star Trek and Star Wars, the timelord in the blue police box is a towering icon of science-fiction, and an even bigger part of the British cultural landscape. Along with James Bond, Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes, The Doctor is one of the best known characters in the UK, and one of the country's biggest cultural exports- especially since its 2005 revival.  Newly released on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital formats The Faceless Ones is a serial from the classic incarnation of the show that has been brought back to life through animation.

In the early days of British television, long before home video formats, it was treated as cheap and disposable. As such, film was routinely reused or disposed of and many thousands of hours of TV has been lost in the ether. Several series of classic Doctor Who have suffered this fate, including The Faceless Ones, of which only episodes one and three (of six) survive. However, through fan efforts complete audio from the original series exist. BBC Studios have commissioned animated recreations of the missing episodes using the original soundtrack. The animators have done their best to try and recreate the look of the original series, and it even has the option to watch in black and white.

This is the fourth 'lost' Dr Who story to be revived through animation, starting with The Power Of The Daleks back in 2016. The success of this endeavour led to releases for partially missing series Shada, The Macra Terror and eventually this latest release. But these were not the Doctor's first brush with animation. For that, we must go back in time...

Doctor Who: The Animated Series That Never Was

Doctor Who originally ran between 1963 and 1989, when declining ratings led to the BBC to axe the show. But just when it seemed the Doc had finally run out of lives, the Beeb hatched a plan to regenerate the series as an animated show. In 1990, the corporation approached Canadian animation studio Nelvana to produce the series.  The studio began work developing the series, with concept art produced by Ted Bastian. It featured an original incarnation of the Doctor, as well as new takes on his iconic foes like The Master, Daleks and Cybermen. His companion was a girl from Earth (whose design owes more than a touch to Ripley from the Aliens franchise).

Four episodes were scripted and storyboarded. The BBC then pulled out of the deal in favour of a UK based studio that had offered to produce the show on a much lower budget. Ultimately though, the series never materialised, so it's only through the concept art that we can see what might have been.

Scream of the Shalka

Later in the Doctor's wilderness years, the series finally got the animated treatment. During the early years of the BBC's digital output, they had commissioned Doctor Who webcasts that featured limited animation, but Scream Of The Shalka was the first fully animated Doctor Who story. Made in 2003 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast of the show, it featured six 15-minute episodes released weekly via the official Doctor Who website.

It featured a new incarnation of the Doctor voiced by (and modelled on) Richard E Grant. Oscar-nominated actress Sophie Okonedo voiced his companion and Derek Jacobi voiced the Doctor's nemesis The Master- a role he would go on to reprise (briefly) in the revived show in 2007.

In a nice piece of foreshadowing, future Doctor David Tennant had an uncredited cameo in the series as a caretaker. The website is still accessible, although it may be geoblocked- and you'll need to enable to Flash to check it out. Otherwise, it's available on DVD.

The Infinite Quest

The next time the Doctor got animated, Tennant had the keys to the Tardis himself. The 2007 CG animated story featured Tennant's 10th Doctor and companion Martha (Freema Agyeman) coming up against a villainous alien named Balthazar (voiced by Anthony Head). The story was told through three and a half minute episodes, originally broadcast as part of the CBBC companion series Totally Doctor Who. The episodes were later combined into a single episode that ran the length of a standard Who episode.


Later in Tennant's tenure in the Tardis, he voiced a second CG animated adventure. Dreamland sees the Doctor caught up in the infamous Roswell incident. His companions for the adventure are original characters Jimmy and Cassie, not featured in the live-action series. Cassie is voiced by Georgia Tennant, David's real-life wife, and daughter of fifth Doctor Peter Davidson.  The series was originally released in 2009 via the BBC's interactive red button, as six episodes (six minutes each, with a double-length first episode). The serial was later edited into a single story and broadcast on BBC Two. 

Video Games and VR

Over the course of the series animated versions of multiple Doctors have appeared in video game form. Starting from The First Adventure in 1983. The revived show has been accompanied by a mix of games from simple browser games and apps to full console games like The Eternity Clock, featuring a digital version of Matt Smith's 11th Doctor. Recently, the Doctor has ventured into new territory with virtual reality.  The Edge of Time is a full VR game for PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive that lets you encounter Daleks, Weeping Angels and more.  There's also Enter The Tardis: The Runaway, a 13-minute VR experience on YouTube featuring an animated version of the first female Doctor, Jodie Whitaker.

Fan Animations

Of course, you don't run for as long as Doctor Who has without developing a dedicated fanbase. And the Doctor Who diehards (Whovians) are more dedicated than most. Even if roughly of them seem to hate the current version of the show at any one time. Among the fandom, there are always talented creators such as fan-artists, musicians, writers and of course- fan animation is a thing too. There's a lot out there, from parodies to loving tributes and recreations. 

In our humble opinion, the fan animations don't get better than this. Made in the style of Gravity Falls, the amazing Irish artist Stephen Byrne creates a what if... intro for an animated version starring Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor.

Despite constant rumours to the contrary (mainly from those still salty they cast a woman in the role) the show is in rude health. With the sixtieth anniversary a few years away, it's not going anywhere anytime soon. And we doubt we've seen the franchise's last brush with animation. Only time (and space) will tell.