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The Executioners aka The Chase: 1 (tx: 22/05/65)

TELEVISION ANNOUNCER: This is BBC1… due to start in just under one minute…
BARBARA: Vicki? What year have you got there?
VICKI: 1965!
DOCTOR: Come on, come on…
IAN: You’ve got a television show!
VICKI: Sssh! Got to watch it…
TELEVISION ANNOUNCER: … here singing their latest number one hit – it’s the fabulous – wait for it – it’s the fabulous – Beatles!

They all scream, and Ian does a wobbly little dance.
Barbara fiddles with the controls, and the screen goes blank.

IAN: Oh, Barbara!
DOCTOR: Now you’ve squashed my favourite Beatle!
IAN: Vicki, I had no idea you knew about The Beatles!
VICKI: Well of course I know about them. I’ve been to their memorial theatre in Liverpool!

There is a stunned silence.

BARBARA: Well, what do you think of them, Vicki?
VICKI: Well they’re marvellous… but I didn’t know they played classical music.
BARBARA: 'Classical music'?!
IAN: Get with it, Barbara, get with it; times change, times change…

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

Cuts: approximately 0’38” of the song is shown, 10 minutes into the episode, with one edit – a cut from the end of the first verse to the final repeat of “my baby don’t care”, and the audience’s applause. Richard Coe (credited on-screen as Television Announcer) provided a fake introduction to the footage.

Releases (prior to broadcast): the original studio recording was released as a 7” single on 9th April 1965 (Parlophone R 5265), making number one in the charts for three weeks from 24th April – 8th May. It was number two when The Executioners was broadcast.

Availability (select releases): The Chase VHS featuring this scene (BBCV5006, available exclusively in The Daleks boxed set (BBCV5005) with Remembrance of the Daleks) has long-since been deleted; this particular performance has never been available on any other format and is not believed to exist. A different live recording – at the Piccadilly Theatre, 26/05/65 – was released on The Beatles: ‘Live at the BBC’ (2CD, Apple PCSP 726) in June 1991. The studio recording is currently available on The Beatles: ‘1’ (CD, Apple UK 29325), released in November 2000.

Replacements: The scene was included in full on the 1993 VHS release of The Chase; however copyright issues may cause future releases of the story to be edited or re-dubbed.