On our world, the unprecedented success of The Beatles in the 1960's was a siren call to other London lads to join up with bands and set sail for American shores in what would later be called the British Invasion. However, what if instead of staying with the Beatles, George Harrison had tried out for the lead role in a new science fiction show called Doctor Who? How might have history changed? Today, I present to you The Secret History of Earth Who!
1963 - 1966: Whomania
Doctor Who first aired in 1963, but the show was in development early in 1962 under the dramatic helm of Sydney Newman. While trying to decide who should play the lead in the show, Newman was fascinated by the obsession his female assistant had for an English pub band and their hit song "Love Me Do." After asking a few questions about the band, he arrived at sensational way to launch his new series: Why not cast one of the lads in the band as the Doctor? Newman reached out to Beatles manager Brian Epstein and they both decided that George Harrison would make the best candidate. After a successful screen test, contracts were signed and George left the band to become the BBC's first doctor.
Newman's strategy proved successful and Doctor Who became an astounding hit, especially among teenage girls who soon began forming Doctor Who clubs all across the UK. This led to many other television production companies starting up science fiction shows starring gaunt British boys. Almost overnight, English pubs were all filled with throngs of screaming girls crowded around black and white tellys watching alien creatures and rocket ships. However, after 3 years as the lead, Harrison decided to leave the show so that he could marry one of his co-stars, a companion by the name of Marianne Faithfull.
1966 - 1969: The Power of the Davies
In search of a replacement, Newman chose the star of the BBC horror anthology series You Really Got Me for the lead: Ray Davies.
1970 - 1974: Doctor Who Are You?
With the departure of Ray and Dave Davies, Newman cast about among the numerous science fiction shows now dominating the BBC. After some deliberation, he picked Roger Daltrey, an actor from the show Keith's Moon.
1974 - 1981: Who Lotta Love
While he lasted longer than prior actors in the role, both Daltrey and Townsend eventually left to become part of an American science fiction comic book adaptation, Tommy Tomorrow. As before, Newman found a replacement on another BBC series The Zeppelin of Space, a charismatic actor by the name of Robert Plant.
With his shoulder length mane of curly hair, producers were originally concerned about how this incarnation would be received. However, Plant's dramatic flair and austere persona soon won audiences over. As time would go on, he would remain in the role longer than any actor before and is to this day the actor most most often associate with the show.
It was only in 1981, after the sudden departure of series regular Johnny Bonham, that Plant finally stepped down. This time Newman sought the talents of an actor who was making himself famous on the series The Space Police.
1982 - 1984: Can't Stand Losing Who
Going by the lone appellation of Sting, this newest actor to play Doctor Who reflected many of the changes that were going on in the sci-fi scene at the time.
Gone was the flower power idealism of the previous decade. Sci-fi was now filled with more somber and sardonic themes with many shows set in post-apocalyptic worlds. This was the era that led to such movies as Logan's Runaways, Escape from The New York Dolls and Dawn of the Deadheads. And while Sting did bring a stately elegance to the role of the Doctor, he didn't stay long preferring to take a role in the movie production of Dune. This turned out to be a great move, as that movie became a mega blockbuster. The success of Dune led to many sequels and silenced many critics who had declared the sci-fi genre dead when Star Wars had bomb a few years earlier.
1984 - 1986: Diary of a Time Lord
To replace Sting, Newman selected the well known stage performer from Birmingham by the name of Oswald Osbourne. (He would later shorten his name to Ozzy on the advice of his manager Sharon.)
Ozzy would eventually leave the series to appear in the sequel of Mad Max, an American sci-fi film starring a blonde haired Hollywood sensation named Randall Rhodes. So popular was Randall that the sequel put his name front and center: The Rhodes Warrior.
1987 - 1989: Who You Remember?
The final actor to play the Doctor during this span was Phil Collins, who was introduced to the UK in the episode: The Secret Police Box's Other Ball.
Collins actually got his start in acting on Doctor Who many years ago in a brief part on the Genesis of the Daleks episodes. He often said he owed his success to Genesis. He would later leave the series to reprise his guest star role as "Phil the Shill" in the American sci fi show: Martian Vice.
After that, there was a period of cooling down for the franchise until Russell Davies (no relation to Ray) brought the show back in 2005. I may cover that period in another post. Only Time Lords will tell.