Do You Have A Licence To Save This Planet?

Do You Have A Licence To Save This Planet?

This is a fan-made production whose storyline may be invalidated by later official studio productions.

Story: A crisis looms in time and/or space, and Rassilon tries to summon the greatest Time Lord in history. But he’s busy, so the universe will have to settle for a “chrono-duke” known as the Foot Doctor, who travels through space and/or time in a vehicle that looks like a washing machine. (Understandably, he gets a lot of dirty socks thrown at him.) He arrives on Earth, which is teeming with an invasion force of Cyberons. And an invasion force of Sontarans. And an invasion force of Autons. And probably worse. But the Foot Doctor has an ace up his sleeve – no, not that ace.

written by Paul Ebbs & Gareth Preston
directed by Bill Baggs
music by Mike Neilson and Steve Johnson

Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Foot Doctor), Mark Donovan (The Salesman), Nigel Fairs (Geoff / The Licensor), Jo Castleton (Gloria), Nigel Peever (Rassilon), Gareth Preston (Delivery Man / Cyberon), Rupert Booth (Sontaran / Auton), Philip T. Robinson (Auton / Cyberon), Paul Griggs (Auton / Cyberon), Paul Ebbs (Cyberon voice), Steve Johnson (Cyberon voice)

Notes: Despite poking much fun at the unlicensed equivalents of the Doctor and the Cybermen, many of the Doctor Who baddies who appear here are licensed, and their creators are credited: the Sontarans and Autons (both created by Robert Holmes), and the Krynoid (created by Robert Banks Stewart).

Review: It’s funny watching Do You Have A Licence To Save This Planet? in retrospect. The whole message of this half-hour send-up of the Doctor Who format – such as it was in the 1980s – and its many easily-pounced-upon foibles is simple: Doctor Who fans don’t need the BBC anymore. Arguably, they don’t even need to license anything from the BBC anymore to make fan films.

Oh, how times have changed.

Do You Have A Licence To Save This Planet?To be fair, BBV isn’t just mocking the BBC – it’s also mocking BBV. The not-so-licensed Cyberons – BBV’s copyright-dodging answer to the Cybermen (all they’re really missing is the jug-handle ears) – are front and center, and are ripe for the comedic picking, continual voice-modulated utterances of “Excellent!” and all. Helping the whole thing move along is Sylvester McCoy, in full-on silly mode; past Doctors have been more than adept at comedy, but this is a broad farce almost on a vaudevillian level. Short of the late, great Jon Pertwee, the only ex-Doctor who could’ve pulled this off is McCoy. High marks also go to the next-door neighbors – and to some surprisingly good special effects, including a passable CGI TARDIS interior.

It’s all terribly silly, but Do You Have A Licence To Save This Planet? must be viewed with its original context in mind: it was the post-McGann-movie 1990s. The BBC had brought Doctor Who back and then dropped the ball again, effectively leaving the property where it had been in the pre-McGann-movie early ’90s: in the hands of fan novelists, fan filmmakers, and fan comic artists. There are even tongue-in-cheek acknowledgements in the dialogue that the Doctor Who format simply wouldn’t work anymore in prime time.

Again, how times – and Time Lords – have changed. And not just because real, proper Doctor Who returned to TV in 2005, either: by the time this video was released (2001), several of Bill Baggs’ former cohorts broke ranks to do properly licensed Doctor Who for Big Finish’s audio range, something that Baggs was shut out of because he had irritated the BBC for several years with his own audio productions which were “Doctor Who in everything but name”; in that sense, Baggs may be flipping the bird to his old buddies here too.

This is definitely an in-joke for the fans, but it isn’t so obscure that others won’t enjoy it. It’s amazing how cheeky the whole thing is in thumbing its nose at the BBC… which probably explains why it continues to languish in out-of-print VHS obscurity now.