The BBC announces, for the first time in the show’s history, that Doctor Who will have a new Doctor, in the form of actor Patrick Troughton. There are hints that the new Doctor will have a “new personality” and be “tougher,” though this concept is not elaborated upon any further. (Indeed, the BBC remains tight-lipped on how two actors with such different appearances could play the same part.) Studio taping of the swan song story for the first Doctor, William Hartnell, begins mere days later.
The 170th episode of Doctor Who airs on the BBC. This story, which launched the series’ fifth season, is the earliest complete Patrick Troughton story in the BBC’s archives. Peter Bryant takes over as the producer of the series with this episode.
After the Congressional budget for the fiscal year of 1971 delivers a major blow to the budget for continued space exploration, NASA cancels Apollo 18 and 19, having already taken Apollo 20 off the schedule to use its Saturn V to launch a space station into Earth orbit. Both lunar landing missions are scrapped purely due to budgetary concerns, rather than to repurpose their hardware for other missions. The Saturn V rockets constructed to send these two missions to the moon become very large, expensive museum pieces. Barring any changes to crew rosters or destination, Apollo 18 would have taken Dick Gordon, Vance Brand and Harrison Schmitt to Copernicus crater, while Apollo 19 would have seen astronauts Fred Haise, William Pogue and Gerald Carr exploring the Hadley Rille, which became Apollo 15’s destination.
ITV airs the sixth episode of Ace Of Wands, starring Michael McKenzie, Tony Selby and Judy Loe. Vernon Dobtcheff guest stars. This episode, like the rest of the series’ first two seasons, is now missing from the archives.
The Soviet Union launches unmanned space probe Luna 18 toward the moon, intended to repeat Luna 16’s feat of gathering and returning a sample of lunar soil to Earth. After spending nearly a week in orbit, Luna 18 descends to the surface, but ground controllers have directed it toward a hazardous mountain region, and contact is lost at the moment the vehicle signals contact with the ground – very likely a sign of a crash landing. No further communication is received from Luna 18, nor is the sample container ever sent back to Earth.
The 480th episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1. This is the first part of a season-long story arc – the first in Doctor Who’s history – involving the search for the Key to Time. This episode introduces Mary Tamm as Romana, a fellow Time Lord, as well as introducing the White Guardian to the Doctor Who mythos. Iain Cuthbertson (Children Of The Stones) and Prentis Hancock (Space: 1999) guest star.
California Pacific Computer releases the computer role playing game game Ultima for the Apple II. Written by Richard “Lord British” Garriott, and developed from the design work in Garriott’s earlier game Akalabeth, this is the beginning of the best-selling Ultima series of RPGs.
The Soviet Union loses contact with the Phobos 1 unmanned Mars probe during its interplanetary flight and is unable to re-establish contact. The cause of the vehicle’s loss is later traced to a typo in a single line of command code uplinked to its computer from the ground; this error changes a routine command to a command to shut down attitude control, leaving Phobos 1 tumbling through space, unable to point its antenna toward Earth. The mission is a complete loss.
American pay cable channel Starz premieres the 40th episode of Russell T. Davies’ science fiction series Torchwood, with a season subtitle of Miracle Day. Bill Pullman (Independence Day) and John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG) guest star.
Terrance Dicks, script editor of Doctor Who from 1968-1974, and writer of many episodes of the show both during and after that time, dies at the age of 84. He first took on Doctor Who script editing duties during the Patrick Troughton years under producer Derrick Sherwin, culminating in taking over as co-writer of an epic ten-part finale for the second Doctor, The War Games, when two other planned scripts fell through on very short notice. In incoming producer Barry Letts and frequent writer Malcolm Hulke, Dicks found a kindred spirits keen to introduce real-world issues into Doctor Who’s storytelling, resulting in what many fans of the original series regard as a golden age for the series. During the break between the 1973 and 1974 seasons, Dicks and Letts collaborated on an original science fiction series, Moonbase 3, which lasted a single season. When Tom Baker took over from Jon Pertwee, Dicks was succeeded by his protege (and frequent Doctor Who writer) Robert Holmes as the script editor, and then wrote numerous stories of his own, including Baker’s debut story, Robot, The Brain Of Morbius, The Horror Of Fang Rock, State Of Decay, and The Five Doctors. After Doctor Who ceased to exist as an active BBC production in the 1990s, Dicks contributed scripts to numerous commercial (but largely fan-made) direct-to-video productions, such as Shakedown, Mindgame, and Mindgame Trilogy. He also wrote for Space: 1999, Big Finish Productions, and the vast majority of Target Books’ voluminous output of Doctor Who novelizations in the 1970s and ’80s, based upon both his own scripts and those of other scriptwriters, which may ironically be the work for which he is ultimately best known.