Women in absolute world domination. Buckingham palace renamed as Barbara Castle. The Union Jack now become the Union Jill. Latex-clad female stormtroopers that would have had even Helmut Newton penning a stiff missive to Points Of View? Could such material ever have formed a story arc in the Patrick Troughton era of Doctor Who?
Yet the role-reversing story of female totalitarianism was apparently set to go before the cameras until a wiser head at the BBC thought better of it just before exterior photography was to begin in 1969. Participating in a DVD commentary on The Invasion, ex-assistant Fraser Hines once said that the Who story The Krotons was a last-minute replacement for the gender-twisting tale of a matriarchal totalitarian state that kept men in subservience and enforced its will fascist-style.
The unused script floated around the BBC for years before being picked up for use as a ‘classic serial’ in the 1979 season of The Two Ronnies.
All the traditional Doctor Who pieces are in place – (male) rebels living under an oppressive regime seek to cause a major strike against their oppressors, at the heart of whom is the arch-enemy and Prime Minister/overlord, played in the Two Ronnies serial by Diana Dors. With Margaret Thatcher gearing up for her first run at office, this may even have had a frisson of contemporary commentary that was pretty rare for Messrs. Corbett and Barker. However, TWTT as envisaged for Two Ronnies was fundamentally an excuse to laugh at men in dresses and ogle at girls in tight stormtrooper outfits, and in all truth it is pretty unlikely that the female stormtroopers in the Troughton-era version – had it been made – would have looked quite as provocative.
More likely it was the prospect of grappling with the emergent feminist consciousness that gave the BBC cold feet. If there was some point to be made about sexual inequality, it was hard to see how six episodes leading to the overthrow of a female society – and one put in a very negative light – was really going to help matters. To boot, for all that the science-fiction remit had given Doctor Who scope to empower its female characters, they were still screaming and saying ‘Watch out, Doctor!’ – and would continue to do so for many years. Therefore the Beeb may not have wished to enter that particular debate on such a weak footing.
Nonetheless, the pre-Ronnies script would certainly be a fascinating cultural artifact for post-feminist Who fans, among whom there is a smattering of debate on the matter. One fan self-named ‘The Space Hopper Of Rasilon’ has even included this ‘lost’ Doctor Who story in his spoof Who novelisation book covers, which you can find at modlounge.tripod.com/covers3.html.