From The Sunday Telegraph online (and a fuller article than actually appeared in the paper). I'm gonna paste the whole piece, just in case they start charging to access pages in the future!
How Doctor Who nearly became the Time Lady
The creator of Doctor Who urged the BBC to give the character a sex change in a desperate bid to prevent the series from being cancelled, it can be revealed.
By Marc Horne
Published: 8:00AM BST 10 Oct 2010
Sydney Newman devised Doctor Who when he was head of BBC drama in the 1960s Photo: BBC
His appearance and personality may have changed dramatically over the decades he has spent travelling through time and space, but Doctor Who has always remained resolutely male.
However, it has emerged that the show's creator urged the BBC to give the character a sex change in a desperate bid to prevent the series from being cancelled.
Sydney Newman, who devised the long-running science-fiction show when he was head of BBC drama in the 1960s, was asked to help after the show suffered a slump in ratings in the 1980s and was taken off air temporarily.
He told Michael Grade, then the controller of BBC One, that the ailing series could only be saved by regenerating the Time Lord into a Time Lady.
Mr Newman criticised the direction the show had taken, but insisted that it could be revived by turning the lead character into a heroine.
Had the advice been accepted, actresses who could have been considered for the role include Frances de la Tour, Joanna Lumley and Dawn French.
Instead, the BBC played safe and replaced the incumbent Doctor, Colin Baker, with another male actor – Sylvester McCoy, a little-known children's entertainer.
The show's decline continued until 1989 when it was pulled from the schedules, not to be revived for another 16 years.
Now, almost a quarter of a century later, Mr Newman's surprising intervention has finally been made public in a new documentary about the Doctor Who's darkest days.
In a written pitch dated Oct 6, 1986, the Canadian-born television executive delivered a scathing verdict on the show's populist, dumbed-down drift and called on Mr Grade to "engage the concerns, fears and curiosity" of young viewers.
He implored: "Don't you agree that this is considerably more worthy of the BBC than Doctor Who's presently largely socially valueless, escapist schlock!"
Mr Newman urged the controller to temporarily reintroduce Patrick Troughton, a former Time Lord, to steady the TARDIS and pave the way for the most radical change in the show's 23-year history.
He wrote: "At a later stage Doctor Who should be metamorphosed into a woman.
"This requires some considerable thought – mainly because I want to avoid a flashy, Hollywood Wonder Women because this kind of heroine with no flaws is a bore.
"Given more time than I have now, I can create such a character."
He called for the female time traveller to be accompanied by a trumpet playing schoolgirl in "John Lennon-type spectacles" and her graffiti-spraying "yobbo" elder brother.
Mr Newman added: "Should you accept these ideas the fee I would accept would be in the form of my being taken on and paid to be its executive director to ensure the concept is properly executed."
He also requested his name be added to the programme's closing titles.
However, Grade spurned the advice of the veteran, who died in 1997, and choose instead to replace Baker with McCoy. The move failed to reverse the show's diminishing ratings and the original series was quietly axed.
Doctor Who was relaunched in 2005 by Russell T Davies, who has expressed sympathy for the idea of a Time Lady taking centre stage and even nominated Catherine Zeta-Jones as a future contender.
Ed Stradling, who directed the documentary for the BBC, was astonished by the contents of the letter, which had been unearthed by a researcher in the BBC archives.
He said: "Sydney Newman, it seems, was quite serious about the idea of having the Doctor regenerate into a woman. There is nothing to suggest he was being tongue-in-cheek.
"Newman's suggestions would have certainly have been considered, but they were never taken on board. He was a hugely respected and influential figure in British drama, which makes it all the more surprising that his suggestions were just so off-the-wall."
As head of drama at the BBC in the early 1960s, Mr Newman found himself looking for a Saturday teatime series to bridge the gap between Grandstand and Juke Box Jury.
He proposed an educational children's science fiction series entitled Doctor Who, which went on to become a huge hit after the first series was broadcast in 1963.
Mr Newman went on to introduce "angry young men" like Dennis Potter, Jeremy Sandford and Ken Loach to the BBC, and was posthumously hailed as one of the 50 most influential people in TV history by Broadcast magazine.
His role as "father of Doctor Who", alongside producer Verity Lambert, was recognised in the 2007 episode Human Nature when David Tennant, the then-inhabitant of the TARDIS, refers to his parents "Sydney and Verity".
The documentary, entitled The Last Chance Saloon, is included in the newly-released DVD of the Sylvester McCoy-era adventure Time and the Rani.
Toby Hadoke, the comedian whose one-man show Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf received rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, said that Doctor Who fans in the 1980s frequently speculated on which actresses might be suitable to play the show's central role.
He said: "I know Frances de la Tour was mentioned, along with the American sitcom actress Elaine Stritch. Latterly, Dawn French and Joanna Lumley were two names that were talked about.
"Personally, I feel that Frances de la Tour has a sort of Doctor-ish quality about her."
The UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology yesterday called on the BBC to finally realise Mr Newman's vision and ensure that the current Doctor, Matt Smith, is succeeded by a woman.
Jane Butcher, the centre's assistant director, said: "Having a high-profile TV character such as Doctor Who being played by a female would raise the profile of women in science and would help convince young women that they can make an important contribution, both as scientists and as leaders."
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