Over the past couple of months I have been honored and humbled to bring to the Tor community a rundown of what I consider to be the most essential stories of Classic Doctor Who (choices not greeted with universal approbation, it must be said—but what is, nowadays?). In these pages I’ve treated with the works of the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors, as well as visited with the short-lived Eighth (amongst some other special presentations), and so one might at last think my task complete. But, no!
There can never be too much discussion of Doctor Who, and so now it is my very great pleasure to move onto that most essential element of any popular science fiction show: its parodies.
Parody, homage, spoof, satire—call it what you will, one of the highest compliments that can be paid to any piece of pop culture is for someone to take the time to point out its foibles, falsities and frailty, all in the name of humorous tribute (perhaps with the exception of anything riffed by Mystery Science Theater 3000). From Galaxy Quest to Spaceballs to Bored of the Rings to pretty much every edition of MAD Magazine, the wish to laugh at our favorite things is bizarrely endemic to our natures, and in Doctor Who there is much that we love but also find incomprehensible—and therefore, in the right hands, becomes hilarious.
Here, a list of the most amusing Classic Who parodies out there, and no, the occasional random Fourth Doctor sight gag on The Simpsons or Family Guy doesn’t count—though those are funny. But funnier (and given here in chronological order), are:
1. THE TARDIS AT POOH CORNER by Peter David
(circa 1983; posted online 2002)
He may be best known to you as the author of, among other things, excellent film and TV adaptations, countless comics, modern Arthurian legend, humorous vampire lit, boundlessly clever dystopian fantasy, or even as the greatest Star Trek tie-in novelist of all time (Imzadi!), but did you know that Peter David also wrote a mash-up of Winnie the Pooh and Doctor Who? And frankly, that is all the encouragement you should need to go and read it immediately.
FUNNY! The Genesis of the Heffalumps! And so very much more.
Read it here.
2. “DOCTORIN’ THE TARDIS” by The Timelords
(1988; US Reissue: 1991)
Never has a sampled record done so much for so many as did “Doctorin’ the Tardis” [sic], a collision of so many songs that even its title is a rip-off. (Of “Doctorin’ the House” by Coldcut, a sample-heavy track released earlier the same year.) Combining the addictive bass line of Gary Glitter’s 70s nonsense anthem “Rock and Roll (Part 2)” with the Doctor Who theme, as well as taking riffs from Sweet and Steve Walsh and giving us lyrics the likes of “Doctor Who… hey! Doctor Who” and “Exterminate!”, all packaged inside a video clip featuring the worst homemade Daleks outside your kindergartener’s art project… well, if there’s a better novelty single ever, I have yet to hear it. (Okay, sure, “Star Trekkin’” is a close second.)
Experience it anew here:
FUNNY! “We are the superior beings!” claim the Daleks, while looking like they’re about to fall apart at any second. So just like on the show, then!
3. Whatever Happened to Susan Foreman?
In the fifth of his eleven radio plays speculating on the futures of assorted fictional characters, writer and broadcaster Adrian Mourby asked (and answered) this titular question in highly entertaining, if not necessarily true-to-canon, form, giving us an interview with a middle-aged Susan who has added nation-wide infamy, reform school and being Commissioner for Education to her adventures post-TARDIS. Last replayed on BBC Radio in 2010, this can yet be found on the DVD release of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, as well as on the CD Doctor Who at the BBC, Volume 3, and it is well worth searching out. (As is the rest of the “Whatever Happened To…?” series, especially for the potential future of The Famous Five’s George… and also that of Postman Pat.)
FUNNY! After the Daleks have conquered Earth in 2164: “Of course, we joined the freedom fighters because that’s the kind of person my grandfather is. Given a choice, he’ll always join the freedom fighters. Usually, they’re better looking.” Truth!
4. DOCTOR WHO AND THE CURSE OF FATAL DEATH
This Comic Relief charity special, aired in four parts during the 1999 UK Red Nose Day telethon, features Blackadder’s Rowan Atkinson as the Ninth Doctor and Press Gang’s Julia Sawalha as his companion as they confront the Master (Jonathan Pryce) on an abandoned alien world and make our heads hurt with their time travel shenanigans. Written by current New Who exec Steven Moffatt—in the first of his Doctor Who work to hit the screen—it is an entertaining skit full of (admittedly) broad humor and several incarnations of the Doctor that we wouldn’t have minded seeing, actually—not to mention one that we do see, in the 2003 animated web series Scream of the Shalka. Not sure how it all works? I’ll explain later.
FUNNY! The Master is upgraded with a suction cup hand by his new allies, the Daleks—but is at a loss when asked what, exactly, it’s for. Exactly!
Watch it here:
5. Do You Have a License to Save This Planet?
BBV is a now-defunct UK production company whose stock in trade was making direct-to-video productions utilizing sundry Who alums in stories featuring assorted Who races. How could they do this? Because certain of the show’s creations, like the Sontarans, remained the property of their respective creators, as did certain characters—which is how Third Doctor companion Liz Shaw (Caroline Johns) managed to get a spin-off series. In Do You Have a License to Save This Planet?, BBV takes a poke at the show it loves, as well as its own onscreen-fanfic ways, setting the Chiropodist, aka the Foot Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) against the aforementioned Sontarans, the Autons and the very Cybermen-like Cyberons in a bid to save himself from the depredations of the Licensed Reality Corporation
FUNNY! A guy points out to the Foot Doctor that the viewers have no idea what is going on, and what our hero needs is a “basic expository tool”—“Someone stupid, but with initiative… I do a nice line in ‘What is it?’s, I’ve got a gross of ‘What do you mean?’s, half a ream of ‘I don’t understand’s and an ankle twister.” Ha! (And the Foot Doctor isn’t a Time Lord, he’s a “Chrono Duke.” Double ha!)
Watch it here:
BONUS! (In that it’s a parody of both Classic and New Who, but who’s really counting?)
6. Untitled Web Series About a Space Traveller Who Can Also Travel Through Time
It all started with NBC’s Community (as so many cool things do). Pop culture maven Abed (Danny Pudi) is left reeling by the long hiatus of his beloved Cougar Town, and so to help him out of his funk, friend Britta (Gillian Jacobs) introduces him to cult long-running British sci-fi show, Inspector Spacetime, about a time travelling alien who has a telephone booth-shaped ship and who rights galactic wrongs with the aid of his trusty “constables.” On the show, the latest incarnation of the Inspector is played by character actor Travis Richey, who suggested a spin-off web series; when NBC turned this down, Richey used Kickstarter to fund his own, now renamed to avoid legal action. In the series, the Inspector (Richey) travels in his BOOTH (Bio Organic Omnidirectional Time Helix) and comes up against that most fearsome of evil geniuses, Boyish the Extraodinary (Eric Loya). With Season 2 soon to air, featuring Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager), now is an excellent time to touch base with the space traveller who can also travel through time in this incredibly aptly-untitled series.
FUNNY! “Second New Old Earth 7,” in the year three thousand million, looks just like our Earth, for which there is purportedly a very simple explanation… that we never hear. Of course!
Watch Season 1 here:
Know of any other Who parodies that you think should have made the cut? I’d love to hear about them. And my thanks to all who have travelled with me throughout the decades of Essential Classic Who… it’s been a blast!
Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.