Here’s Innes Lloyd, producer of the late Harnell and early Troughton era, talking about the origin of the Cybermen, the decision to replace the first Doctor, and the unpopularity of the purely historical stories.
“The BBC said to me ‘Do you want to produce ‘Doctor Who’?, to which I said ‘No, thank you very much, I came here to be a director, and anyway, I don’t like science-fiction! I discovered the fascination of ‘Doctor Who’, (that) you could actually do with it anything you really wanted to do, and that was fun in drama terms. You could cover an enormously wide horizon – from cowboys to computers.
“It was a challenge to take over something that had been set up and was going so well with Billy Hartnell. Every time you did a show, your horizon had to be wider because you just couldn’t go down the same road as before, otherwise the story would get a bit tedious. I was asked if we were ever under threat by such things as ‘Thunderbirds’ – we probably were, but I used to ignore all that. It seemed to me that we had so many goog things going for us. We had the format. We had the TARDIS, we had the concept of the time travellers, and of the Daleks coming along every now and then. ITV were the ones who had to compete.
“We found that the historical stories weren’t popular! ‘The Highlanders’ was the last one we did, and previous to that we’d run the very badly received cowboy one, ‘The Gunfighters’. The problem, I thought, was that we had too many very good costume dramas on the BBC, especially at that family viewing splot. So we were really stepping into somebody else’s territory. I wanted the kind of adventure stories you could relate to in everyday life, and I was looking for something as an alternative to the Daleks – which is why the Cybermen came about, and later the Yeti.
“The Cybermen hit the nail on the head in their very first adventures, ‘The Tenth Planet’, even though they were not as well costumed as they are now. Gerry Davis, Kit and myself all felt pleased at how that one had gone, so we decided to put them into some other situation, and spend a bit of money making them look more sophisticated. This was the fascination to me of the ‘Doctor Who’ formula, that at first you could tell a story using, say, the Cybermen as symbols of a point of view in a morality play situation.
“By this time, William Harnell was no longer a young man. He’d done it solid for three or more years, and I don’t think even he’d intended stsaying as long as he did. It took a great toll on him: he felt he needed a rest, his wife Heather felt he needed a rest, and we were left to decide whether to carry on or not. As Godfather of the whole thing, it was Sydney Newman’s whole-hearted wish that we should and so, with Shaun Sutton in on it as well, we set about looking for a new Doctor.
“We drew up and whittled down a great list before we got to Patrick Troughton, although in many ways he was an absolutely ideal choice. He had versatility going for him – he was, and is, a distingushed character actor with a great many varied roles behind him. He was always in demand. Most important of all, I think, was that he had a leading actor’s temperament. He was a father figure to the entire company and hence could embrace the whole company and sweep it along with him.
“It’s very difficult to talk about violence on the screen without sounding as though one knows it all. I personally hate blood and gore on television, especially if it can be copied. At the same time, I believe the ‘Doctor Who’ monsters scared grown-ups more than children, even though they were totally unreal. It’s quite odd, but if you hacked a Cyberman’s head off nobody would really identify with it, least of all the children. They were always far more bound-up with the elements of thrill and horror, not knowing the goodie was going to get the baddie, or vice versa.
“I will admit to one mistake, even though it had nothing to do with a monster. In ‘The Faceless Ones’, we had a scene where one of the Doctor’s friends received an injection. After that episode had been on, I received a phone call from a nurse saying did I realise how many children were due to have vaccination injections that Monday. And so I did worry for a time that I might have unduly frightened a lot of youngsters by linking, in their minds, injections with invading monsters. It turned out for the best in the end, as it happened, because I did a bit of phoning around and discovered that a great many children were now quite happy to have injections simply because they’d seen them being done on ‘Doctor Who”.