"Scratchman" Dr Who Magazine -- Article Reprint Fifty-Two

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Article Reprint Fifty-Two -- "Scratchman" -- Dr Who Magazine February 28, 2007

ARTICLE TEASER:

THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE "SCRATCHMAN" MOVIE

DWM finally uncovers the truth behind one of Doctor Who's greatest mysteries - an unmade feature film written by the Doctor himself ...

Words by Andrew Pixley Illustrations by Brian Williamson

"Shall I tell you about it? Would you like to hear the story of it?"

Enthusiastic cheers of delight rang around the room as Ian Marter responded to a question about, "Doctor Who Meets Scratchman," the movie outline he and his co-star Tom Baker had nurtured for five years.

The place: the Who I convention in Los Angeles. The date: 1 March 1980.

And from then on, the unrealised project was relegated to the appendices and footnotes of Doctor Who's history.

Since the first public announcement of the project 30 years ago, all that has been available to us are tantalising fragments, bits and pieces which only offer a fraction of the whole story. Those involved have sadly passed on or lost documentation of the mooted movie, so until a complete script surfaced last year in the extensive paperwork owned by the late producer John-Nathan-Turner we only had whispers and memories.

Since the notion grew out of the mid-1970s "gothic horror" era of the show and featured the fourth Doctor's encounter with the devil himself in the form of Scratchmen, did this mean British cinemagoers missed out on something dark and dangerous, or then again, did the involvement of walking scarecrows drag it more inot the sphere of Children's Film Foundation fantasy?

The story of Scratchman began at the BBC Rehearsal Rooms in Acton around late 1974. Tom Baker and Ian Marter had joined Doctor Who - to play the fourth Doctor and Harry Sullivan respectively - that April. Quickly they formed a strong bond with Elisabeth Sladen, then completing her first year as journalist Sarah Jane Smith.

"THE PRODUCTION OFFICE HATED IT, BUT I THOUGHT IT WAS MARVELLOUS!" Tom Baker

The regular trio spend much time discussing their characters as the new Doctor's adventures unfolded that autumn, as yet unseen by viewers of BBC1. In particular, they wanted a working dynamic between the Doctor, Harry and Sarah which allowed for humour, but not at the expense of the time travellers' believability. Lines were rewritten, bits of business added by consent ... but not enough to quench the creative thirst of the cast.

"This is the authentic 'true story' version," Marter told his American audience in 1980. "Some point early on when we were doing the show, there were times when even Tom wasn't needed so in rehearsals, so he and I used to sometimes go and do The Times crossword puzzle. We never used to complete more than about three clues because we could never do it. And one day we were doing this and Tom suddenly said, 'I'm fed up with this. Why don't we write a story to do on the series? And he had a lovely idea for one, and we talked about it and we just scribbled half a page of notes about the story - a sort of very rough outline. And we showed it - in a vague sort of way - to the scriot department, but they were, as always, very busy with the season they had already planned. They didn't really have time to take a good look at it, and we didn't get very much feedback from that."

As Baker later commented more forthrightly, "The production office saw it and hated it, but I thought it was marvellous." As Baker later recalled of the outline in the 1986 DWM Winter Special, "Ian Marter devised the story with me... The plot involved this malignant creature call the Scratchman - which is a name for the Devil - who loved causing trouble, revelling in chaos and destruction of all kinds and on all scales. It involved scarecrows coming to life; it was very frightening but had a lot of humour as well." Years later, he described the adventure as "basically a horror story about some scarecrows who came to life and began to terrorise a small community."

Exactly how detailed the notion was at this point we may never know. Presumably the narrative was offered to script editor Robert Holmes who would have been frantically editing Terror of the Zygons, conducting extensive rewrites on "Pyramids of Mars, and worrying that scripts for Planet of Evil, were late.

As Marter recalled, it is quite possible that the submission got little more than a cursory glance rather than being rejected for stylistic reasons. But rejection by the BBC didn't end the project. Tom suddenly said one day, 'Why don't we actually try and write a movie?'," recalled Marter. "There were two movies made in the 1960s with Peter Cushing playing the Doctor, and he said 'Why don't we do one where the Doctor is actually played by the actor who is playing the Doctor on TV at the time?' - which would make more sense really. So we developed the story that Tom had already done. It was Tom's original idea absolutely, but he and I then started to work on it. And it was very much a kind of thing that we did in our spare time in rehearsals. We weren't going all out to write a movie, we were just sort of writing a bit when we had some time. And then it seemed to be actually developing very well, so we got together with a director and he helped us with it and developed it a little further. We sort of wrote a rough screenplay for it, but it wasn't in any sense a final script - it was just a very extended scenario really. And we then set about the very difficult business of getting money to make the thing. And we didn't succeed."

"WE TRIED TO KEEP THE STORYLINE TIGHT - OUTLAWING CHEAP DEVICES WHEREVER POSSIBLE." Ian Marter

********************************************************************************************

Doctor Who Meets Scratchman

Screenplay by James Hill
from an original story by Tom Baker and IanMarter
Synopsis by Marcus Hearn

********************************************************************************************

The Space Records Bureau:
behind a door marked 'Time. Lords' two Americans are studying the files. The cynical Griffin and his younger colleague Potts are engrossed in a section labelled 'Dr. Who'.

"No recorded date of birth," says Potts, reading out loud. "First reported seen in 1189... could be much earlier... Two hearts! Have all these Space Lords got two hearts?"

"Most of 'em," replies Griffin.

Potts continues, telling Griffin that the Doctor was seen at the War of the Roses, the execution of Charles I and the Battle of Gettysburg.

"Hey!" exclaims Potts. "I didn't know he found the Loch Ness Monster! And he licked the Marpeds! When's he back?"

"Today..." says Griffin, closing the file. The cover shows a portrait of the Doctor, as if stamped by a computer. Potts gazes at the picture. "Funny-looking guy, isn't he...?"

London Airport, the present day:

A crowd of teenagers, dignitaries and perspiring policemen struggle to maintain order. Beyond the runway, on the other side of a low hedge, the TARDIS materialises, tottering lopsidedly on a small dip in the ground. The door opens and the Doctor pokes his head outside.

Seeing the spectacle in the distance he quickly goes back inside. "What a mob out here," he says. "I didn't come back 18 light years for this sort of thing."

The Doctor examines the central controls fthe TARDIS, telling Sarah and Harry that they're all heading for the peace and quiet of Scotland in 1924.

As he sets the co-ordinates he absent-mindedly hums 'Yes, We Have No Bananas'.

The monitor screen behind the Doctor shows Concorde touching down at the airport. Soon afterwards a garishly-dressed pop star emerges onto a red carpet, followed by his glittery, sequinned retinue, The Doctor is oblivious to the fact that the welcoming party was actually for someone else, but Sarah and Harry find it hilarious. They join the Doctor in singing 'Yes, We Have No Bananas' as the TARDIS dematerialises.

The TARDIS reappears on a windswept Scottish mull. A shepherd dressed in tartan is tending his sheep as the police box appears out of thin air. He scurries away as the Doctor, Sarah and Harry step out onto the heather. In the distance the Doctor sees the ideal spot for a picnic, singing'Yes, We Have No Bananas' he leads the way, clutching a voluminous carpet bag. A shivering Sarah and Harry trail behind.

They flop down on a beach and lay a check table-cloth on the sand. As Sarah lays out a tea service and Harry lights a stove. the Doctor produces a battered old bat and ball from the bag. He suggests a game of cricket, wins the toss and goes in to bat. Sarah spits, rubs the ball on her trousers and delivers a demon bowl which overshoots its target.

The Doctor, Sarah and Harry split up to search for the ball.

The Doctor tramps through a nearby field, his eyes scanning the tall grass. He pauses momentarily as he becomes aware of a strange sound in the distance – the faint noise of bones cracking...

He stops in front of an unusually well?dressed scarecrow in the middle of the field.

"Well held, sir!" says the disbelieving Doctor,retrieving the ball from the scarecrow's hand.

The sound of a boiling kettle brings them back to the picnic area, but they return to discover that it has been wrecked. There are heavy tyre-marks in the sand, and almost everything is broken. In the distance, a tractor and trailer drive away at speed.

The Doctor, Sarah and Harry find an ancient motorbike and sidecar and pursue the tractor to a black barn in a deserted farmyard. Cautiously, and in total silence, the trio approach the barn. As they get nearer, they start to hear the now-familiar echoing sound of cracking bones. Through the gloom inside the barn they see a ladder, and climb upstairs to explore the dark loft. Peering through the crack in the floor, the Doctor, Sarah and Harry glimpse an almost unbelievable scene. In the room beneath them is a bacchanalia of scarecrows with turnip-heads in black ancient toppers, scarecrows in ragged cloaks with no heads at all, scarecrows with dresses, and scarecrows of twigs and sacks... All of them are ripping open sacks of fertiliser, throwing it into the air and rubbing it into their old torn clothes.

The Doctor, Sarah and Harry watch, utterly mesmerised by the bizarre scene, and Harry whispers that the fertiliser seems to bring these creatures to life. The Doctor agrees, adding that the fertiliser appears to be animating the scarecrows' garments. rather than their bodies.

Pursued by scarecrows, the Doctor and his friends get back onto the motorbike and sidecar. They whizz away, the Doctor's scarf waving in the breeze like a flag.

They follow the moorland road until they reach an eerily deserted village. Inside the post office, which doubles as the village store and greengrocer, fresh produce lies in baskets, seemingly untouched.

"It must be ingestation," says the Doctor as they return to the empty high street. "Not to the scarecrows but to the clothes... Organic metamorphosis... but why so aggressive? So destructive...? Very odd..."

The Doctor decides that moths are the solution to the problem. An incredulous Harry looks at Sarah as the Doctor explains that they will need a large number of moths, which they will have to breed using rapid cell multiplication. Once the moth larvae have eaten the scarecrows' clothes, they'll be able to find out what's behind all this.

The Doctor strides down the street, stopping outside the village hall. A poster advertises a bring-and-buy sale inside. Inside the hall they find sacks of second-hand clothes. The Doctor tells Sarah and Harry to scour the clothes for as many moth larvae as they can and to leave the rest to him. He turns his attention to the electrical bric-a-brac on the tables.

The trio work into the night, using two oil lamps to illuminate the room. Sarah scoops the last of the larvae into a small box held by Harry. The Doctor, meanwhile, has been busy creating a sprawling contraption that requires some essential ingredients. The Doctor sends Harry to the post office to fetch some glucose and sugar. He then tells Sarah to start sewing some ragged pieces of canvas together.

Outside it is dusk, but it is still possible to discern the shape of a long shadow as it sweeps over the ground. It is accompanied by a low, threatening rasp...

High above the village in the night sky, are star pulsates brighter than all the others. This star is the Sky Plateau –the home of the mysterious shadow creature. On the Plateau, a curious meeting is in progress. Rows of Cybors, metallic robots with the rough shape of humans, stand motionless facing the speaker...

TO BE CONTINUED ... at the Official Tom Baker Website here:

http://www.tom-baker.co.uk/

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