In Fiction: The Doctor is fiddling with the TARDIS’ Space/Time Visualiser, which, as Vicki explains, works because “… anything that ever happens, anywhere in the universe, is recorded in light neutrons.” Fancy! Ian tunes in to Abraham Lincoln, Barbara watches Shakespeare in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, and Vicki watches The Beatles singing Ticket to Ride on Top of the Pops!
Interestingly, the Doctor complains that Babs has turned off his “favourite” Beatle – and from who’s on screen at the time, he seems to prefer John Lennon!
In Fact: the original ruse, allegedly initiated by The Beatles’ own desire to appear in Doctor Who, had been to dress the band (or 4 similarly-styled actors) as old men, performing 50 years into the future at a Beatles reunion concert. Their manager vetoed this idea, so an arrangement was made to include footage of their performance of Ticket to Ride at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith on 10/04/65 – just 20 days before the Doctor Who episode was recorded.
”They were so hot at the time, you couldn’t avoid The Beatles," writer Terry Nation later told Doctor Who Magazine. "I remember with great pride that the commercial channel was running The Beatles when they were at their peak, at the same time as that Doctor Who episode with the Daleks – and Doctor Who got the ratings! I was pretty pleased with that.” (DWM 145)
This is now the only surviving footage of this performance; the Top of the Pops episode it was originally shot for (tx: 15/04/65), and all later editions which appear to have repeated the footage (tx’s: 29/04/65, 06/05/65 and 25/12/65), were later destroyed and are no longer in the BBC archives.
The 1989 Target novelisation of the episode may have offered the original reunion-concert version of the scene, if not for a boulder-sized problem. “In my novelisation, I generally retain Terry's version of events,” writer John Peel told DWM in January 1989, “but here I was forced to use the televised version - not because of the costs, but because, sadly, Beatle John Lennon is no longer alive to perform at the hypothetical concert.” (DWM 144)
By featuring music from the biggest pop group in the charts, this episode of Doctor Who became the first to forge a link with genuine popular culture. The very first episode – An Unearthly Child (tx: 23/11/63) – saw Susan dancing to “John Smith and the Common Men”, but the music played was merely a non-commercial, copyright-free ‘stock’ track. Terry Nation’s script for The Executioners began a series of attempts to place the characters of Doctor Who firmly in the real world.
Ticket to Ride - The Beatles