In the fall of 1967, America (the U.S.A.) made one of several failed attempts to create their own successful version of ‘Doctor Who’. Unlike the Paul McGann TV Movie, this attempt from the 60s never actually made it to air.
Actor William ‘Bill’ Shatner ‘Shat’ (probably best known for his work on ‘TekWar’) was, the producers claim, their first and only choice for the lead role. In actual fact, I understand they approached John Wayne first, who turned them down flat and chased the producers from his property wielding a large whip (a gift from Director John Ford). They kept this information from Shatner as they believed he would throw one of his legendary crying fits if he discovered the truth. Two years previously, Shatner had almost wept all the moisture from his body after a minor disagreement over a parking spot.
Above is rare publicity shot of Shatner in character. Just as Matt Smith had ‘Geronimo’, and Tennant ‘Allonsy’, Shatner’s Doctor also had a catchphrase: ‘Eat fist, Commie!’
Although faithful to it’s source material in many ways, there were potentially controversial deviations. Rather than the TARDIS appearing in its familiar Police Box shape for example, Shatner’s Doctor traveled in a yellow New York Taxi-Cab, as producers said it was ‘more relatable in Ohio’. Although the Taxi-Cab couldn’t travel through time, it was marginally bigger on the inside, especially the glove box, into which Shatner at one point in the pilot crawls inside of to hide from some passing aliens.
The finished pilot was not looked upon favourably by the network, who decided to shelve the show, stating: ‘This is nothing like The Munsters!’ The pilot’s producers found this point difficult to argue with. In a last ditch attempt to change the networks mind, the producers re-tooled the pilot, teaming Shatner’s Doctor up with a sassy Go-Go dancer named ‘Go-Go’, and changing the title to ‘Doctor Who: Spy Mission America’ in hope of cashing in on some of the ‘In Like Flint’ Spy-mania; but even this failed to turn things around.
The finished pilot pretty much disappeared from view, becoming something a a myth among Who Nerds, many believing that any copies had long since been destroyed. I thought the same, until last week when I was contacted by a private collector of classic TV. I have yet to see the pilot itself, beyond a few pictures, but since forwarding my source in Hollywood several hundred pounds and my bank details, he has assured me that he is in the process of sending a copy to me by FEDEX. I look forward to sharing a new post with you in which I critique this lost treasure!