Malcolm Hulke worked on a number of classic ‘Doctor Who’ stories, including ‘The War Games’ and ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’. Here, he talks about political messages, job lot purchases of spaceship models, and his first script for the series, ‘The Hidden Planet’, which was never made.
“The Hidden Planet was about a planet which is the same size as Earth, but on the other side of the sun, and therefore we have never seen it. The Doctor goes to the planet and for obvious reasons the TARDIS crew think they are on Earth. But they find things are different. They landed in a field and Susan noticed a four-leaf clover, and then they see they are all four leaf clovers. And then other mysterious things happen like birds flying backwards or having double wings, and things of that sort.
“For ‘The War Games’, we got an important instruction, to find a way of changing Patrick Troughton’s appearance but to leave it open as Jon Pertwee hadn’t been cast. We then came up with the idea of the Time Lords – a very complicated way of doing things, really, I suppose, but it gave us a good few scenes about the Doctor’s trial and his sentence into exile – that was another thing. Stories on Earth got higher ratings, so they wanted him exiled to Earth for some reason or other, and left it to us to work it out. I think it was quite an interesting job. It was the sort of story you could stretch, although I think the ratings fell off a bit towards the end.
“With ‘Frontier in Space’, the BBC said to me ‘We’ve just had a whole load of models of space ships from a Lew Grade show on ITV. We can paint ’em up different colours, can you write a story which will use them?’ It was obvious that with that amount of hardware, there has to be conflict because without conflict you’ve got no drama and this leads your thinking, fairly naturally, to wondering what was ‘Frontier in Space’ all about? A kind of ‘Star Wars’ – you’ve got two sides and who are they? Why are they at war? And the idea came of two great empies with an imaginary frontier drawn across them, across which their spaceships weren’t supposed to travel, but of course they did and that’s what gave us a story.
“There are only so many ideas, and all the writer can do is keep re-shuffling them like a pack of cards and keep dealing them out in a different way. In the case of ‘Frontier in Space’, what made it different was that there was a third party which was manoeuvering the Ogrons to make the two sides antagonistic towards each other. That, incidentally, is a very political idea, really. The two sides as far as I was concerned were the Soviet Union and America, and somebody else trying to tickle them up and get them at war with each other when they were quite capable of living in peace.
“Looking at my last serial, ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’, that was very political. Oh, and I was told that the special effects department had found that if we liked, they could show monsters wandering around contemporary London by various forms of trickery, so could I think up some reason why dinosaurs were in contemporary London? I decide what I wanted to do, and came up with a lovely idea of ‘The Golden Age’ with all these people behind it who just didn’t fit in. There were lots of rather sad people always living in the past, and who wanted to turn back the clock. I think they were totally wrong in their thinking, but I liked the story – it’s easily my favourite – because I felt that it was the way a lot of people feel, left out of left behind by things changing.
“But sometimes people with altruistic views can overlook the main issue – that was really the message behind that one. But remember what politics referes to: it refers to ‘the relationships between groups of people’. It doesn’t necessarily mean Left or Right, Labour or Conservative, it’s the relationships of groups of people so really all ‘Doctor Who’ stories are political. Even thought the other people look like reptiles, they’re still people. I’d say it’s a very political show. In my stories, the ‘baddies’ aren’t really bad becuase they’re doing what they think is right. I find it hard to imagine anyone as totally bad or totally inimical, and there’s a great amount of… well, although I say it myself, philosophy and politics in my science fiction, and ‘Doctor Who’ in particular is a great opportunity to get across a point of view. And the point of view that I have is that, let’s say a maggot, that’s just about to eat someone alive, is not necessarily a bad maggot – that’s the way he is, just maggoty!”
There was a peculiar relationship between the Master and the Doctor… you see the Doctor was the only person like him, at the time, in the whole universe, a renegade Time Lord and in a funny sort of way they were partners in crime.”