Bookmark and Share An Unearthly Series - The Origins of a TV Legend

11/23/2012 04:00:00 am - Reported by Chuck Foster

One Year Before

The fifth in our occasional series marking the 50th anniversary of events leading to the creation of a true TV legend.

The story so far. In the summer of 1962, the BBC commissioned a report into identifying specific science-fiction stories suitable for adapting for television.

The report started events that would lead to the transmission of the first episode of Doctor Who on Saturday 23rd November 1963, exactly 49 years ago today. Today we examine the TV schedule of 50 years ago.

Exactly one year before Doctor Who started, the BBC was showing Captain Pugwash, the John Ryan cartoon series following the adventures of Captain Horatio Pugwash as he sailed the high seas in The Black Pig, assisted by trusty cabin boy Tom, and pirates Willy, Barnabas and Master Mate. The character had first been seen in the comic The Eagle in 1950, before appearing as a strip in Radio Times. He came to television in 1957, with the voices provided by Peter Hawkins.

Other highlights of the day included a Sid James comedy, the latest in the American series Dr Kildare, starring Richard Chamberlain, and a look at the work of the French actress, singer, screenwriter and director Jeanne Moreau, who had recently been seen in the film Jules and Jim.

Saturday evening saw The Lone Ranger being transmitted in what would become the Doctor Who slot. The episode shown was the final one in the fourth series of the American show. Starring Clayton Moore, it first aired in the States in 1957.

Home-grown entertainment came in the form of Mr Pastry's Pet Shop. Mr Pastry was a bumbling old man with a walrus moustache, who had adventures, partly slapstick, partly comic-dance, with two young friends. He was played by Richard Hearne, who would later be considered for the role of the Fourth Doctor.

Later in the evening, viewers could see the police drama Dixon of Dock Green and highlights from Bertram Mills Circus. Another American series, the Western Laramie, provided the main drama of the evening, with the 1946 psychological thriller The Spiral Staircase taking viewers up to the late news.

The late evening saw the debut of a new satirical series, That Was The Week That Was. Devised, produced and directed by Ned Sherrin and presented by David Frost, the programme - whose theme music was composed by Ron Grainer - would go on to be one of the most influential BBC series of the early Sixties, redefining the relationship between television and the political world. It was also a show that had a particular date with television history ahead of it a year later, when possibly its most famous edition - a shortened, non-satirical tribute to the assassinated US President John F Kennedy - was broadcast on the night of Saturday 23rd November 1963.

On consecutive Thursdays between 8th November and 29th November 1962, the sci-fi serial The Monsters was broadcast by the BBC. Based on a Panorama documentary concerning the Loch Ness Monster, the drama - written by Evelyn Frazer and Vincent Tilsley - centred on a zoologist on honeymoon searching for a similar creature and stumbling upon a bigger mystery to do with humanity's survival. The four 45-to-50-minute episodes were directed by Mervyn Pinfield and the cast included Philip Madoc, Clifford Cox, George Pravda, Clive Morton, Clifford Earl, and Norman Mitchell. The music was by Humphrey Searle, and Bernard Wilkie was one half of the team behind the special effects.

BBC TV's schedule for 23rd and 24th November 1962:

BBC: FRIDAY 23rd November 1962

  • 9.40am - 11.55am: Schools Programming
  • 1pm (Welsh transmitters): Newyddion (Welsh-language news programme)
  • 1.05pm - Heddiw
  • 1.25pm - News
  • 1.30pm - Let's Imagine: Living Under the Sea
  • 2.05pm - Pioneers of Social Change: Number 9 - Lloyd George
  • 2.25pm - Interval
  • 2.30pm - Watch With Mother
  • Closedown...
  • 5pm - Tales of the Riverbank
  • 5.10pm - Captain Pugwash
  • 5.25pm - What's New?
  • 5.50pm - News
  • 6pm - View
  • 6.50pm - Tonight
  • Trevor Philpott reports from Belgium on the problem of language. Part of the country speaks Flemish, the other French, leading to deep divisions, culminating in riots. The Government's solution is a language frontier. Plus, if you're looking for a change of menu this weekend, then maybe Louise Davies has an idea for you. Paella.
  • 7.29pm - Headline News
  • 7.30pm - Adventure: First Look at Africa
  • Series of films taken by world travellers & explorers. The story of an expedition into the regions of Uganda, virtually unknown to man, by a party of English & African students. Narrated by David Parry.
  • 8pm - Dr Kildare
  • 8.50pm - Citizen James: The Jury
  • Comedy series starring Sid James, featuring Sydney Tafler, Walter Hudd and Derek Nimmo.
  • 9.15pm - News
  • Including reports on four British engineers killed in the Hungarian airliner crash in Paris and the murder of George Brinham, a member of the Labour National Executive who was killed in his flat by a 16-year-old boy.
  • 9.25pm - Wednesday's Child, play
  • 10.30pm - Film Profile: Jeanne Moreau
  • Derek Prouse talks to French actress Jeanne Moreau about her career.
  • 11pm - News
  • 11.10pm - Weather: Road Works Report

BBC: SATURDAY 24th November 1962

  • 12.10pm (Welsh transmitters) - Telewele
  • 12.35pm - Newyddion
  • 12.40pm - Public Service announcements
  • 12.45pm - Grandstand
  • including racing from Newbury, Ice skating, Championship Snooker from Birmingham, Rugby League: Hull v Wigan and Sports Results and News Service
  • 5pm - The Lone Ranger: One Nation Indivisible
  • Two brothers working their way west after they lose their farm because of the war encounter the Lone Ranger and learn about what a future can be if they can let go of the past
  • 5.25pm - Mr Pastry's Pet Shop: 2, A Very Dark Horse
  • 5.50pm - News
  • 5.53pm - Today's Sport
  • 6pm - Juke Box Jury
  • 6.30pm Dixon of Dock Green: A Home of One's Own.
    Police drama starring Jack Warner
  • 7.15pm - Bertram Mills Circus
  • 8pm - Laramie
  • 8.45pm - Film: The Spiral Staircase
  • A serial killer is targeting women with 'afflictions'; one night during a thunderstorm, mute Helen feels menaced. Starring Dorothy McGuire, George Brent and Ethel Barrymore.
  • 10.05pm - News, Weather
  • In America, enquiries have begun into the crash of the United Airlines Viscount in Maryland and seven-year-old Carl Connor, who was partially blind and deaf, was reunited with his grandmother after spending a night on Dartmoor. In Perth, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games were opened by the Duke of Edinburgh.
  • 10.15pm - Saturday Sport
  • In the FA Cup there were no shocks, with Hinckley scoring two goals against Queen's Park Rangers' seven.
  • 10.50pm - That Was The Week That Was
  • New topical satire programme presented by David Frost - with Kenneth Cope, David Kernan, Roy Kinnear, Millicent Martin, Lance Percival, and Willie Rushton.

The BBC faced competition for viewers from its commercial rival, ITV, which had been launched under the auspices of the now-defunct Independent Television Authority (created by The Television Act of 1954) to break the corporation's TV monopoly.

The first ITV station to launch was Associated-Rediffusion on 22nd September 1955, serving the London area. By 14th September 1962, with the start of WWN (the transmission name of Teledu Cymru for Wales West and North), the UK and Channel Islands were covered by the regional ITV network, with separate franchises for weekdays and weekends.

Each service sought to reflect its regional identity by having its own programmes in opt-out slots, as well as what it thought viewers would like to see from programmes made outside the region (eg, on Friday 23rd November between 5.25pm and 5.55pm, viewers in the Southern and Associated-Rediffusion areas were watching the antics of Yogi Bear while their counterparts in the Midlands were enjoying the exploits of Supercar on ATV, those in south Wales and the west of England were being entertained on TWW by The Adventures of Robin Hood (co-starring John Arnatt), people in the Anglia region had Mr Ed, Granada was showing The Terrific Adventures of the Terrible Ten, while Westward was airing National Velvet, etc), so to give a full picture of what was being aired when on ITV across the network on each day would result in a list far too long and - at times - irrelevant for the purposes of this feature.

Instead, here, as far as research allows, is what would have been seen by viewers tuning into their ITV channel on both days:

ITV: FRIDAY 23rd November 1962

  • 12.45pm - 2.35pm: Very few ITV stations broadcasting, but ATV had Thought For The Day at 12.45pm, followed by Lunch Box between 12.47pm and 1.25pm, while Anglia began at 1.35pm by covering the Central Norfolk by-election, and both Granada and TWW started schools broadcasting at 1pm
  • 2.35pm - 3.41pm: For Schools
  • 4.45pm - Small Time (Willum's Tea Party) Some ITV stations only
  • 5pm - Street of Adventure, presented by Hugh Moran
  • 5.25pm - Opt-outs (see above)
  • 5.55pm - News
  • 6.05pm - Regional News
  • 6.10pm - 7pm: Opt-outs (including, at different times, Day By Day, Out Of Town, Close-Up, Top O' The Shop, Midland Profile, Arena, People And Places, The Jim Backus Show, and Westward Diary)
  • 7pm - Take Your Pick, presented by Michael Miles
  • 7.30pm - Emergency Ward 10
  • 8pm - 9pm: Opt-outs (including, at different times, I'm Dickens . . . He's Fenster, starring Marty Ingles and John Astin, Bonanza, The Dave King Show, Comedy Hour, and Police Five)
  • 9pm - News
  • 9.15pm - Television Playhouse: The Road To Anywhere, with Sam Kydd and Betty Baskcomb
  • 10.15pm - midnight: Opt-outs (including, at different times, The Verdict Is Yours: Regina vs Hoskins, The Sword In The Web - The Munition Factory, Adventures In Paradise, Now You're Talking, White Hunter, Tightrope, and The Unsleeping Sword)

Some stations had closed before midnight after the weather forecast or the epilogue, but shortly after midnight, following the weather forecast on Southern, the ITV network had closed down for the day.

ITV: SATURDAY 24th November 1962

  • 1.15pm - News
  • 1.20pm - 5pm: Sport and results
  • 5pm - 5.15pm: Opt-outs (including It's A Model World, introduced by Charles Oates, Bugs Bunny, The Wizard of Oz, and Meet Foo Foo)
  • 5.15pm - City Beneath The Sea (Episode 2 - Escape To Aegiria)
  • 5.45pm - News
  • 5.50pm - Thank Your Lucky Stars, introduced by Brian Matthew (except Anglia, which had the weather followed by The Flintstones and Popeye)
  • 6.30pm - 8.25pm: Opt-outs (including Cheyenne, Bonanza, Man of the World, and Surfside)
  • 8.25pm - Bruce's Show, hosted by Bruce Forsyth, starring Frank Ifield and Bill Howes
  • 9pm - News
  • 9.10pm - 10.05pm: Opt-outs (including 87th Precinct, Ben Casey, and Hawaiian Eye)
  • 10.05pm - The Avengers, starring Patrick Macnee in The Sell-Out, with Frank Gatliff and Arthur Hewlett. (The series had been created by Sydney Newman.)
  • 11pm - 11.50pm: Opt-outs (including, at different times, On The Braden Beat, ABC At Large, Broadway Goes Latin, Hennesey, and The Sword In The Web)
  • 11.50pm: News and, on most stations, weather (all but TWW, which showed The Sword In The Web at 11.05pm, followed by the weather)
  • 11.55pm - Epilogue (only some stations; weather forecast on Southern; Faith For Life on Westward)

On Saturday 24th November 1962, The Times ran a feature in its Notes On Broadcasting section, headlined Viewers Begin To Make Themselves Felt, in which its "Special Correspondent" said that "by general consent" the current season's television had "been one of the most disastrous in terms of quality since the Independent Television Authority came into operation."

Reference was made to The Pilkington Committee report on broadcasting, published in June 1962 at a cost of £45,450. Among a number of things, the inquiry had criticised ITV's "triviality" and backed T S Eliot's evidence statement to the committee that "Those who aim to give the public what the public wants begin by underestimating the public taste; they end by debauching it".

The author of the feature bemoaned the fact that "after the summer doldrums, the unveiling of the autumn schedule with a blare of publicity trumpets brought only weaker and worse." They noted that the best of the American shows had been replaced by "feeble American derivatives or even feebler British substitutes", citing 87th Precinct, which took over from Naked City on ITV, as an example. Withering criticism was also levelled at The Saint and Ghost Squad, both of which were labelled "ineffectual".

On the positive side, it was noted that viewers' response had been so bad that the ITV companies were being forced to rethink things, an example being Associated-Rediffusion's sitcom It's A Living, starring Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss, being deemed so bad it was unceremoniously dumped after four episodes when it should have enjoyed a 13-week run. There was also reportedly such a negative reaction to ATV's Ghost Squad "that it suddenly disappeared for a week or two and re-emerged with some bland recasting . . . and a much livelier approach to scripting and direction."

Similarly, the Granada sitcom Bulldog Breed (starring Peter Butterworth and Geoffrey Palmer) disappeared from the schedules after six weeks, one week before it was supposed to end, while another Granada series, The Verdict Is Yours, which dramatised real trials, had started with a Monday evening peak-time slot but got ignominiously bumped by Rawhide to post-10pm on Fridays.

However, the BBC wasn't "in any position to congratulate itself", said the writer, noting that the corporation was relying on "tried and true favourites" for major audience pulling power but that these were starting to become "increasingly faded and routine", with Z-Cars and Maigret both being singled out as guilty parties.

What this all meant, believed the writer, was not necessarily that bad TV was driving out good but that TV companies were beginning to adopt "a far less cavalier attitude to viewers' wishes" than had previously been the case, since in the past unpopular programmes had been allowed to "limp along" and stay the course but now "programmes which have gone are precisely those which the higher-browed critics would agree were not worth preserving."

Next EpisodeA Newman at the BBC
Marcus, John Bowman, Paul Hayes, and Chuck Foster
SOURCES: The Times; Evening News (Portsmouth)

Epilogue: the television of today

The two-channel television viewers of 1962 would be overwhelmed at the multitude of ways to watch a multitude of programmes across a multitude of channels that exist half a century later; but, perhaps, they would be less surprised at the mix of shows that are still broadcast on the main two channels from their time: 1962 had Doctor Kildare, 2012 has Casualty, likewise Dixon of Dock Green/Midsomer Murders, That Was The Week That Was/Have I Got News For You, and - well into his fifth decade on television - all-round performer Bruce Forsyth still occupies a prime-time Saturday evening slot! (Two other long-lived shows of note are Coronation Street which commenced in 1960, and The Sky At Night which launched in 1957 and is still presented by Sir Patrick Moore.)


BBC1: FRIDAY 23rd November 2012

  • 6.00am - Breakfast
  • 9.15am - Neighbourhood Blues
  • 10.00am - Homes Under The Hammer
  • 11.00am - Watchdog Daily
  • 11.45am - Cash in the Attic
  • 12.15pm - Bargain Hunt
  • 1.00pm - BBC News
  • 1.30pm - Regional News programmes
  • 1.45pm - Doctors
  • 2.15pm - Escape to the Country
  • 3.00pm - BBC News
  • 3.05-5:15pm CBBC
  • 5.15pm - Pointless
  • 6.00pm - BBC News
  • 6.30pm - Regional News programmes
  • 7.00pm - The One Show
  • 7.30pm - Nigel Slater's Dish of the Day
  • 8.00pm - EastEnders
  • 8.30pm - Outnumbered
  • 9.00pm - Have I Got News For You
  • 9.30pm - Me and Mrs Jones
  • 10.00pm - BBC News
  • 10.35pm - The Graham Norton Show
  • 11.20pm - The National Lottery Draws
  • 11.30pm - Live at the Apollo
  • Midnight - EastEnders (omnibus)

ITV1: FRIDAY 23rd November 2012

  • 6.00am - Daybreak
  • 8.30am - Lorraine
  • 9.25am - The Jeremy Kyle Show
  • 10.30am - This Morning
  • 12.30pm - Loose Women
  • 1.30pm - ITV News
  • 2.00pm - Crime Stories
  • 3.00pm - Dickinson's Real Deal
  • 4.00pm - Midsomer Murders
  • 5.00pm - The Chase
  • 6.00pm - Regional news programmes
  • 6.30pm - ITV News
  • 7.00pm - Emmerdale
  • 7.30pm - Coronation Street
  • 8.00pm - Island Hospital
  • 8.30pm - Coronation Street
  • 9.00pm - I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here
  • 10.30pm - ITV News
  • 11.10pm - Accepted

BBC1: SATURDAY 24th November 2012

  • 6.00am - Breakfast
  • 10.00am - Saturday Kitchen Live
  • 11.30am - Baking Made Easy
  • Midday - BBC News
  • 12.15pm - Football Focus
  • 1.00pm - Bargain Hunt
  • 2.00pm - Escape to the Country
  • 3.00pm - Formula One Live: Brazilian Grand Prix - Qualifying
  • 5.30pm - BBC News
  • 5.50pm - Pointless Celebrities
  • 6.40pm - Strictly Come Dancing
  • 8.00pm - Merlin
  • 8.45pm - National Lottery Draws
  • 8.55pm - Casualty
  • 9.45pm - Live at the Apollo
  • 10.15pm - BBC News
  • 10.30pm - Match of the Day
  • 11.50pm - The Football League Show

ITV1: SATURDAY 24th November 2012

  • 6.00am-9.25am - CITV
  • 9.25am - News
  • 9.30am - The Jeremy Kyle Show USA
  • 11.15am - Murder, She Wrote
  • 12.20pm - All Star Family Fortunes
  • 1.05pm - ITV News
  • 1.10pm - Holiday Home Sweet Home
  • 3.10pm - The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
  • 5.20pm - Regional News programmes
  • 5.30pm - ITV News
  • 5.45pm - The Golden Rules of TV
  • 6.15pm - New You've Been Framed
  • 6.45pm - Take Me Out
  • 8.00pm - The X Factor
  • 9.45pm - I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here
  • 10.45pm - ITV News
  • 11.00pm - Paul McCartney - Live Kisses
  • Midnight - The Cube