In 1974 Tom Baker took over the role of The Doctor from Jon Pertwee. In his first story he was introduced to a new companion – Harry Sullivan, played by Ian Marter. The two formed a close friendship whilst working on the show and during down time kicked around the idea for a story of a creature called Scratchman – a Devil-like being who loved chaos and an island terrorised by scarecrows. There was little interest from the BBC so Baker came up with the idea of saving the British Film Industry, which was on its knees in the 70’s.
Following Marter’s departure from Dr Who in 1975 Baker and Marter were put in touch with director James Hill (of Born Free fame). During the summer of 1975 Baker and Marter worked furiously on a script. By early 1976 an agreement with James Hill Productions Ltd had been reached to develop Doctor Who meets Scratchman with an eye on filming as soon as a window appeared in Baker’s schedule of making of Doctor Who on TV.
It was planned that the first half of Scratchman would be filmed mostly in Scotland, with the second half in Lanzarote. Vincent Price was being lined up for the role of Scratchman. Funding remained an issue and with the success of films produced in Britain such as Star Wars and Alien there was dwindling interest in a low-budget film such as Scratchman and the film never got made.
The script was forgotten about until 2006 when a copy was found in the estate of recently deceased producer John Nathan Turner. He had no financial interest in the film but as producer of Doctor Who during the latter days of the rights agreement with James Hill Productions Ltd, he had been theoretically responsible for making any comments on the production of the film, on behalf of the BBC.
Scratchman the novel was published in 2019. Baker is credited as the author but the novel was ghost-written by James Goss, with Baker acting as a consultant.
Scratchman Book Review
Scratchman is two books in one – The Long Night and Scratchman.
The Long Night is what I would describe as a classic Dr Who story. It is written in the first person (as The Doctor) and the interaction between the main characters, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry are identical to the broadcast TV show in the same period.
The Doctor and his companions land on a remote Scottish island and slowly realise that things are not as they should be. I won’t spoil the story for those who wish to read the book for themselves but the pattern follows most Dr Who stories – the companions and The Doctor find themselves in increasing trouble, get separated and finally come together to defeat the enemy.
At the conclusion of The Long Night a new foe is revealed, one who has orchestrated the events.
In Scratchman The Doctor and his companions prepare to confront their new enemy and get themselves into increasing levels of danger before finally achieving victory.
Books 1 and 2 are themselves set in the context of The Doctor being brought before the Time Lords on trial once again for the crime of interfering in universal affairs. He uses the events of books 1 and 2 to demonstrate why he was forced to step in and save The Earth in order to prove himself innocent of the crimes he is on trial for. This idea is not new. The 1986 Dr Who TV story Trial of a Timelord uses much the same concept, with The Doctor using past and future adventures to prove himself innocent.
It’s a great shame that Scratchman never made it to the small or large screens. I think they could very easily have been made, even without the advances in technology to bring more realistic effects we are used to today.
If you consider Dr Who to be something for children only, Scratchman isn’t for you. If, however, you want a book which encapsulates all that Dr Who was during the Tom Baker era and two stories written at a time well before woke and diversity started to spoil everything good about the world, I can thoroughly recommend you obtain a copy and read it. It’s very easy going and enjoyable.
- The role of Harry Sullivan was originally created when Jon Pertwee decided to leave the role of The Doctor. At that time there was an expectation he would be replaced by an older gentleman, meaning Harry would be there to take on the more physical scenes. As it happens, Tom Baker was by far the youngest actor to play The Doctor and Harry’s character was therefore largely unnecessary as originally planned and he was written out after only one season. Ian Marter’s last appearance as Harry was in the 1975 story The Android Invasion, where he played a robot version of himself
- Following his departure from Dr Who, Ian Marter wrote several novelisations of Dr Who TV stories for Target Books and created what was one of the first original Dr Who related novels to be released, Harry Sullivan’s War
- Ian Marter died suddenly from a diabetic heart attack at the young age of 42
© Reggie 2022