The Forgotten Doctor Who Movie With A Star Wars Connection

By Zack Zagranis | Published

Have you ever accidentally called the main character Doctor Who, Dr. Who, only to have a dozen geeks descend upon you, hissing and screeching about how his name is actually “The Doctor?” If you have, then we have some trivia that will vindicate you, and as an added bonus, connect Star Wars to Doctor Who. There is a ’60s feature film titled Dr. Who and the Daleks in which Peter Cushing plays a character named Dr. Who.

Sure, it’s not canon, and nobody remembers it, but the important thing is that in at least one piece of official media, the Doctor does go by Dr. Who. Important is a relative term, but you understand what we mean.

Grand Moff Tarkin Was Dr. Who

What’s even weirder than Star Wars: A New Hope‘s Grand Moff Tarkin playing the good doctor is that he sports a mustache while doing so—the only time in the history of Doctor Who that the character has worn a lip warmer. To our knowledge, the only other time The Doctor has had any sort of facial hair was when John Hurt played The War Doctor with a scraggly goatee. Cushing’s Doctor also has a lush mane of silver hair, which, coupled with the stache, makes him look like the late Alex Trebeck.

Adapting An Early Doctor Who Serial

The movie is an adaptation of one of the earliest Doctor Who serials, “The Daleks.” It features Dr. Who and his three young companions traveling to the planet Skaro to face off against the evil Daleks. The movie is significant for—among other things—being the first time The Doctor’s adventures were filmed in both widescreen and color.

Dr. Who and the Daleks takes more liberties with the Doctor Who mythos than simply calling the main character Dr. Who. In this continuity—always intended to be separate from that of the show—Dr. Who is a human inventor who builds the TARDIS rather than stealing it. Most of the other changes are cosmetic in nature.

Daleks Designed To Be More Menacing

The Daleks were slightly redesigned to appear more menacing, with some wielding a mechanical claw instead of a plunger. Oddly, they kept the whisk/eggbeater—not that it really matters. The only way to make the Daleks look scary would be to redesign them so that they appear less like R2-D2 from Star Wars, carrying a plumber’s tool and wearing a bubble wrap skirt, and more like something worthy of the fearsome reputation the creatures have in the Doctor Who mythos.

Originally, the Daleks in the film were supposed to use flame throwers, but that was seen as too aggressive for the young audience the film was courting, so they were given the exact opposite. Instead, the Daleks in the finished movie have CO2 fire extinguishers that they shoot at their opponents. Why is everyone in the universe afraid of these guys again?

Existed As A Retelling For New Fans

The purpose for the film’s very existence is such an anomaly in 2024 that it won’t make sense to anyone born in the last quarter century. Back in the ’60s, the BBC didn’t re-run episodes, so the only way for fans to experience the first Daleks serial was to go to the theater and watch a feature adaptation of the story. The closest thing nowadays to compare it to would be how an anime will sometimes spawn a movie version that retells the events of one of its most popular arcs.

Received A Sequel

The movie was popular enough to get a follow-up the very next year, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. Despite not making the title this time, Peter Cushing returned for the sequel as the mustached Dr. Who. The sequel, like its predecessor, was a big-screen version of a previous Doctor Who serial, this time adapting “The Dalek Invasion of Earth.”

The Doctor Who Equivalent Of The Star Wars Holiday Special

Neither of the ’60s Doctor Who movies is looked on fondly today. Both are viewed as something akin to the Star Wars Holiday Special of the Doctor Who franchise. Likewise, Peter Cushing’s Doctor is never included on any of the various lists ranking all of the Time Lord‘s incarnations. Still, knowing about their existence gives you a fun bit of trivia to bust out at your next party.

Just make sure that if you mention Dr. Who and the Daleks in front of any Whovians, you say the main character’s name as “Dr. Who” with your whole chest.

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