Oct 162019
 

The Palace of Westminster, the medieval royal palace used as the home of the British parliament, was largely destroyed by fire on this date in 1834. The blaze was caused by the burning of small wooden tally sticks which had been used as part of the accounting procedures of the Exchequer until 1826. The sticks were disposed of carelessly in the two furnaces under the House of Lords, which caused a chimney fire in the two flues that ran under the floor of the Lords’ chamber and up through the walls.

The Palace of Westminster originally dates from the early 11th century when Canute the Great built his royal residence on the north side of the River Thames. Successive kings added to the complex: Edward the Confessor built Westminster Abbey; William the Conqueror began building a new palace; his son, William Rufus, continued the process, which included Westminster Hall, started in 1097; Henry III built new buildings for the Exchequer—the taxation and revenue gathering department of the country—in 1270 and the Court of Common Pleas, along with the Court of King’s Bench and Court of Chancery. By 1245 there was a King’s throne  in the palace, which signified that the building was at the center of English royal administration. In 1295 Westminster was the venue for the Model Parliament, the first English representative assembly, summoned by Edward I; during his reign he called sixteen parliaments, which sat either in the Painted Chamber or the White Chamber. By 1332 the barons (representing the titled classes) and burgesses and citizens (representing the commons) began to meet separately, and by 1377 the two bodies were entirely detached. In 1512 a fire destroyed part of the royal palace complex and Henry VIII moved the royal residence to the nearby Palace of Whitehall, although Westminster still retained its status as a royal palace. In 1547 Henry’s son, Edward VI, provided St Stephen’s Chapel for the Commons to use as their debating chamber. The House of Lords met in the medieval hall of the Queen’s Chamber, before moving to the Lesser Hall in 1801. Over the three centuries from 1547 the palace was enlarged and altered, becoming a warren of wooden passages and stairways.

By 1834 the palace complex had been further developed. The potential dangers of the building were apparent to some, as no fire stops or party walls were present in the building to slow the progress of a fire. In the late 18th century a committee of MPs predicted that there would be a disaster if the palace caught fire. This was followed by a 1789 report from fourteen architects warning against the possibility of fire in the palace. Architect Sir John Soane again warned of the dangers in 1828, when he wrote that “the want of security from fire, the narrow, gloomy and unhealthy passages, and the insufficiency of the accommodations in this building are important objections which call loudly for revision and speedy amendment.” His report was again ignored.

Since medieval times the Exchequer had used tally sticks, pieces of carved, notched wood, normally willow, as part of their accounting procedures. The parliamentary historian Caroline Shenton has described the tally sticks as “roughly as long as the span of an index finger and thumb”. These sticks were split in two so that the two sides to an agreement had a record of the situation. Once the purpose of each tally had come to an end, they were routinely destroyed. By the end of the 18th century the usefulness of the tally system had likewise come to an end, and a 1782 Act of Parliament stated that all records should be on paper, not tallies. The Act also abolished sinecure positions in the Exchequer, but a clause in the act ensured it could only take effect once the remaining sinecure-holders had died or retired. The final sinecure-holder died in 1826 and the act came into force, although it took until 1834 for the antiquated procedures to be replaced. Charles Dickens, in a speech to the Administrative Reform Association, described the retention of the tallies for so long as an “obstinate adherence to an obsolete custom”; he also mocked the bureaucratic steps needed to implement change from wood to paper. He said that “all the red tape in the country grew redder at the bare mention of this bold and original conception.” By the time the replacement process had finished there were two cartloads of old tally sticks awaiting disposal.

In October 1834 Richard Weobley, the Clerk of Works, received instructions from Treasury officials to clear the old tally sticks while parliament was adjourned. He decided against giving the sticks away to parliamentary staff to use as firewood, and instead opted to burn them in the two heating furnaces of the House of Lords, directly below the peers’ chambers. Dickens later mocked the decision, commenting that “the sticks were housed in Westminster, and it would naturally occur to any intelligent person that nothing could be easier than to allow them to be carried away for fire-wood by the miserable people who lived in that neighbourhood. However, they never had been useful, and official routine required that they should never be, and so the order went out that they were to be privately and confidentially burnt.” The furnaces had been designed to burn coal—which gives off a high heat with little flame—and not wood, which burns with a high flame. The flues of the furnaces ran up the walls of the basement in which they were housed, under the floors of the Lords’ chamber, then up through the walls and out through the chimneys.

The process of destroying the tally sticks began at dawn on 16th October and continued throughout the day; two Irish laborers, Joshua Cross and Patrick Furlong, were assigned the task. Weobley checked in on the men throughout the day, claiming subsequently that, on his visits, both furnace doors were open, which allowed the two laborers to watch the flames, while the piles of sticks in both furnaces were only ever four inches (ten cm) high. Another witness to the events, Richard Reynolds, the firelighter in the Lords, later reported that he had seen Cross and Furlong throwing handfuls of tallies onto the fire—an accusation they both denied.

Those tending the furnaces were unaware that the heat from the fires had melted the copper lining of the flues and started a chimney fire. With the doors of the furnaces open, more oxygen was drawn into the furnaces, which ensured the fire burned more fiercely, and the flames driven farther up the flues than they should have been. The flues had been weakened over time by having footholds cut in them by the child chimney sweeps. Although these footholds would have been repaired as the child exited on finishing the cleaning, the fabric of the chimney was still weakened by the action. In October 1834 the chimneys had not yet had their annual sweep, and a considerable amount of clinker had built up inside the flues.

A strong smell of burning was present in the Lords’ chambers during the afternoon of 16th October, and at 4:00 pm two gentlemen tourists visiting to see the Armada tapestries that hung there were unable to view them properly because of the thick smoke. As they approached Black Rod’s box in the corner of the room, they felt heat from the floor coming through their boots. Shortly after 4:00 pm Cross and Furlong finished work, put the last few sticks into the furnaces—closing the doors as they did so—and left to go to the nearby Star and Garter public house.

Shortly after 5:00 pm, heat and sparks from a flue ignited the woodwork above. The first flames were spotted at 6:00 pm, under the door of the House of Lords, by the wife of one of the doorkeepers; she entered the chamber to see Black Rod’s box alight, and flames burning the curtains and wood panels, and raised the alarm. For 25 minutes the staff inside the palace initially panicked and then tried to deal with the blaze, but they did not call for assistance, or alert staff at the House of Commons, at the other end of the palace complex.

At 6:30 pm there was a flashover, a giant ball of flame that The Manchester Guardian reported “burst forth in the centre of the House of Lords, … and burnt with such fury that in less than half an hour, the whole interior … presented … one entire mass of fire.” The explosion, and the resultant burning roof, lit up the skyline, and could be seen by the royal family in Windsor Castle, 20 miles (32 km) away. Alerted by the flames, help arrived from nearby parish fire engines; as there were only two hand-pump engines on the scene, they were of limited use. They were joined at 6:45 pm by 100 soldiers from the Grenadier Guards, some of whom helped the police in forming a large square in front of the palace to keep the growing crowd back from the firefighters; some of the soldiers assisted the firemen in pumping the water supply from the engines.

The London Fire Engine Establishment (LFEE)—an organization run by several insurance companies in the absence of a publicly run brigade—was alerted at about 7:00 pm, by which time the fire had spread from the House of Lords. The head of the LFEE, James Braidwood, brought with him 12 engines and 64 firemen, even though the Palace of Westminster was a collection of uninsured government buildings, and therefore fell outside the protection of the LFEE. Some of the firefighters ran their hoses down to the Thames. The river was at low tide and it meant a poor supply of water for the engines on the river side of the building.

By the time Braidwood and his men had arrived on the scene, the House of Lords had been destroyed. A strong south-westerly breeze had fanned the flames along the wood-paneled and narrow corridors into St Stephen’s Chapel. Shortly after his arrival the roof of the chapel collapsed; the resultant noise was so loud that the watching crowds thought there had been a Gunpowder Plot-style explosion. According to The Manchester Guardian, “By half-past seven o’clock the engines were brought to play upon the building both from the river and the land side, but the flames had by this time acquired such a predominance that the quantity of water thrown upon them produced no visible effect.” Braidwood saw it was too late to save most of the palace, so elected to focus his efforts on saving Westminster Hall, and he had his firemen cut away the part of the roof that connected the hall to the already burning Speaker’s House, and then soak the hall’s roof to prevent it catching fire. In doing so he saved the medieval structure at the expense of those parts of the complex already ablaze.

The glow from the burning, and the news spreading quickly round London, ensured that crowds continued to turn up in increasing numbers to watch the spectacle. Among them was a reporter for The Times, who noticed that there were “vast gangs of the light-fingered gentry in attendance, who doubtless reaped a rich harvest, and [who] did not fail to commit several desperate outrages”. The crowds were so thick that they blocked Westminster Bridge in their attempts to get a good view, and many took to the river in whatever craft they could find or hire in order to watch better. A crowd of thousands congregated in Parliament Square to witness the spectacle, including the Prime Minister—Lord Melbourne—and many of his cabinet. Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish philosopher, was one of those present that night, and he later recalled that:

The crowd was quiet, rather pleased than otherwise; whew’d and whistled when the breeze came as if to encourage it: “there’s a flare-up (what we call shine) for the House o’ Lords.”—”A judgment for the Poor-Law Bill!”—”There go their hacts” (acts)! Such exclamations seemed to be the prevailing ones. A man sorry I did not anywhere see.

This view was doubted by Sir John Hobhouse, the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests, who oversaw the upkeep of royal buildings, including the Palace of Westminster. He wrote that “the crowd behaved very well; only one man was taken up for huzzaing when the flames increased. … on the whole, it was impossible for any large assemblage of people to behave better.”

Many of the MPs and peers present, including Lord Palmerston, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, helped break down doors to rescue books and other treasures, aided by passers-by; the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms had to break into a burning room to save the parliamentary mace. At 9:00 pm three Guards regiments arrived on the scene. Although the troops assisted in crowd control, their arrival was also a reaction of the authorities to fears of a possible insurrection, for which the destruction of parliament could have signaled the first step. The three European revolutions of 1830— French, Belgian and Polish —were still of concern, as were the unrest from the Captain Swing riots, and the recent passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834, which altered the relief provided by the workhouse system.

At around 1:30 am the tide had risen enough to allow the LFEE’s floating fire engine to arrive on the scene. Braidwood had called for the engine five hours previously, but the low tide had hampered its progress from its downriver mooring at Rotherhithe. Once it arrived it was effective in bringing under control the fire that had taken hold in the Speaker’s House. Braidwood regarded Westminster Hall as safe from destruction by 1:45 am, partly because of the actions of the floating fire engine, but also because a change in the direction of the wind kept the flames away from the Hall. Once the crowd realized that the hall was safe they began to disperse, and had left by around 3:00 am, by which time the fire near the Hall was nearly out, although it continued to burn towards the south of the complex. The firemen remained in place until about 5:00 am, when they had extinguished the last remaining flames and the police and soldiers had been replaced by new shifts.

I have written posts about the old parliament here http://www.bookofdaystales.com/house-of-commons/ and the new building here http://www.bookofdaystales.com/big-ben/ with suitable recipes. They would work for today also but in addition I have chosen a recipe for a dessert known as Westminster Fool, which seems like a suitable name for a dish celebrating the destruction of a great Westminster monument through multiple acts of sheer folly.  If you are familiar with historic English cooking, you will know that a fool is a precursor of trifle, made mostly of custard and fruit with a bread filler.  Here’s Hannah Glasse’s recipe from her 1747 compendium, The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy.

A Westminster Fool

Take a penny-loaf, cut it in thin slices, wet them with sack, lay them in the bottom of a dish, take a quart of cream, beat up six eggs, two spoonfuls of rose-water, a blade of mace, some grated nutmeg, sweeten to your taste. Put all into a sauce-pan, and keep stirring all the time over a slow fire for fear of curdling. When it begins to be thick, pour it into a dish over the bread, stand it till it is cold, and serve it up.

Feb 262016
 

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On this date in 1936 German Chancellor Adolf Hitler unveiled the “people’s car,” later called the Volkswagen. It is often erroneously stated that Hitler designed the car: he did not. Sometimes it is also stated that he sketched the design on a napkin. If so, he was certainly copying designs that were already being offered. The ethos, and history, of the Volkswagen beetle is fascinating, going from the pride of the Third Reich to the quintessential hippiemobile in less than 30 years.

In the early 1930s, the German auto industry was still largely turning out luxury models, and the average German could rarely afford anything more than a motorcycle. As a result, only one German out of 50 owned a car. Seeking a potential new market, some car makers began independent “peoples’ car” projects – the Mercedes 170H, Adler AutoBahn, Steyr 55, and Hanomag 1.3L, among others.

Mercedes-Benz 170H

Mercedes-Benz 170H

The trend was not new; Béla Barényi is credited with having conceived the basic design in the mid-1920s. Josef Ganz developed the Standard Superior (going as far as advertising it as the “German Volkswagen”). In Germany the company Hanomag mass-produced the 2/10 PS “Komissbrot”, a small, cheap rear-engine car, from 1925 to 1928. Also, in Czechoslovakia, the Hans Ledwinka designed Tatra T77, a very popular car amongst the German elite, was becoming smaller and more affordable at each revision.

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Ferdinand Porsche, a well-known designer of high-end vehicles and race cars, had been trying for years to get a manufacturer interested in a small car suitable for a family. He felt the small cars at the time were just stripped down big cars. Instead he built a car he called the “Volksauto” from the ground up in 1933, using many of the ideas floating around at the time and several of his own, putting together a car with an air-cooled rear engine, torsion bar suspension, and a “beetle” shape, the front hood rounded for better aerodynamics (necessary because it had a small engine). His design became the VW Beetle.

In 1932, with many of the above projects still in development or early stages of production, Adolf Hitler got involved, ordering the production of a basic vehicle capable of transporting two adults and three children at 100 km/h (62 mph). The “People’s Car” would be available to citizens of the Third Reich through a savings plan at 990 Reichsmark (€ 3826.35 today)—about the price of a small motorcycle (the average income being around 32RM a week).

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Despite heavy lobbying in favor of the existing projects, it soon became apparent that private industry could not turn out a car for only 990RM. Thus, Hitler chose to sponsor an all-new, state-owned factory using Ferdinand Porsche’s design (with some of Hitler’s design constraints, including an air-cooled engine so nothing could freeze). The intention was that ordinary Germans would buy the car by means of a savings scheme (“Fünf Mark die Woche musst du sparen, willst du im eigenen Wagen fahren” – “Five marks a week you must put aside, if you want to drive your own car”), which around 336,000 people eventually paid into. However, the entire project was financially unsound.

Prototypes of the car called the “KdF-Wagen” (German: Kraft durch Freude – “strength through joy”), appeared from 1938 onwards (the first cars had been produced in Stuttgart). The car already had its distinctive round shape and air-cooled, flat-four, rear-mounted engine. VW Type 82E

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Erwin Komenda, the longstanding Auto Union chief designer, part of Ferdinand Porsche’s hand-picked team, developed the car body of the prototype, which was recognizably the Beetle known today. It was one of the first cars designed with the aid of a wind tunnel—a method used for German aircraft design since the early 1920s. The car designs were put through rigorous tests, and achieved a record-breaking million miles of testing before being deemed finished.

The building of the new factory started 26 May 1938 in the new town of KdF-Stadt (modern-day Wolfsburg), which had been purpose-built for the factory workers. This factory had produced only a handful of cars by the time war started in 1939. None was actually delivered to any holder of the completed saving stamp books, though one Type 1 Cabriolet was presented to Hitler on 20 April 1944 (his 55th birthday).

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War changed production to military vehicles—the Type 82 Kübelwagen (“Bucket car”) utility vehicle (VW’s most common wartime model), and the amphibious Schwimmwagen—manufactured for German forces. As was common with much of the production in Nazi Germany during the war, slave labor was used in the Volkswagen plant, for example from Arbeitsdorf concentration camp. The company would admit in 1998 that it used 15,000 slaves during the war effort. German historians estimate that 80% of Volkswagen’s wartime workforce was slave labor. Many of the slaves were reported to have been supplied from the concentration camps upon request from plant managers. A lawsuit was filed in 1998 by survivors for restitution for the forced labor.

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The company owes its post-war existence largely to one man, British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst, REME. In April 1945, KdF-Stadt, and its heavily bombed factory were captured by U.S. forces, and subsequently handed over to the British, within whose occupation zone the town and factory fell. The factories were placed under the control of Oldham-born Hirst. At first, the plan was to use the factory for military vehicle maintenance, and possibly dismantle and ship it to Britain. Since it had been used for military production, and had been in Hirst’s words, a “political animal” rather than a commercial enterprise—technically making it liable for destruction under the terms of the Potsdam Agreement—the equipment could be salvaged as war reparations. (Allied dismantling policy changed in late 1946 to mid-1947, though heavy industry continued to be dismantled until 1951.) Hirst painted one of the factory’s cars green and demonstrated it to British Army headquarters. Short of light transport, in September 1945 the British Army was persuaded to place a vital order for 20,000. The first few hundred cars went to personnel from the occupying forces, and to the German Post Office.

Some British Service personnel were allowed to take their Beetles back to the United Kingdom when they were demobilized, and one of the very first Beetles brought back in that way (UK registration number JLT 420) is still owned by Peter Colborne-Baber, the son of the original proprietor of the UK’s first official Volkswagen Importer, Colborne Garages of Ripley, Surrey.

The post-war industrial plans for Germany set out rules that governed which industries Germany was allowed to retain. These rules set German car production at a maximum of 10% of 1936 car production. By 1946, the factory produced 1,000 cars a month—a remarkable feat considering it was still in disrepair. Owing to roof and window damage, production had to stop when it rained, and the company had to barter new vehicles for steel for production.

People's Car

The car and its town changed their Second World War-era names to “Volkswagen” and “Wolfsburg” respectively, and production increased. It was still unclear what was to become of the factory. It was offered to representatives from the U.S., Australian, British, and French motor industries. Famously, all rejected it. After an inspection of the plant, Sir William Rootes, head of the British Rootes Group, told Hirst the project would fail within two years, and that the car “…is quite unattractive to the average motorcar buyer, is too ugly and too noisy … If you think you’re going to build cars in this place, you’re a bloody fool, young man.” The official report said “To build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise.” In an ironic twist of fate, Volkswagen manufactured a locally built version of Rootes’s Hillman Avenger in Argentina in the 1980s, long after Rootes had gone bankrupt at the hands of Chrysler in 1978—the Beetle outliving the Avenger by over 30 years.

Ford representatives were equally critical. In March 1948, the British offered the Volkswagen company to Ford, free of charge. Henry Ford II, the son of Edsel Ford, traveled to West Germany for discussions. Heinz Nordhoff was also present, and Ernest Breech, chairman of the board for Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford II looked to Ernest Breech for his opinion, and Breech said, “Mr. Ford, I don’t think what we’re being offered here is worth a dime!” Ford passed on the offer, leaving Volkswagen to rebuild itself under Nordhoff’s leadership.

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As we now know, Volkswagen did rebuild itself. The Volkswagen Group is now a German multinational automotive manufacturing company headquartered in Wolfsburg. It designs, manufactures and distributes passenger and commercial vehicles, motorcycles, engines, and turbomachinery and offers related services including financing, leasing and fleet management. In 2012, it produced the second-largest number of motor vehicles of any company in the world, behind Toyota and ahead of General Motors. It has maintained the largest market share in Europe for over two decades. As of 2013, it ranked ninth in the Fortune Global 500 list of the world’s largest companies. In 2014, it reached production output of 10.14 million vehicles. Volkswagen Group sells passenger cars under the Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Audi, Porsche, SEAT, Škoda and Volkswagen marques; motorcycles under the Ducati brand; and commercial vehicles under the MAN, Scania, Neoplan and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles marques.

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Lower Saxony, where Wolfsburg is located is famous for a number of dishes including Hochzeitssuppe (literally: “wedding soup”). It is a clear soup based on chicken broth, filled with small meatballs (Fleischklößchen), asparagus heads, noodles and savory egg custard garnish (Eierstich). Various versions of hochzeitssuppe are now eaten throughout Germany by the bride and groom and guests, traditionally after the wedding ceremony, and it is usually served as the starter on the menu at the wedding reception.

Preparing the soup is a bit of a rigmarole. All of the ingredients should be prepared separately, not in the broth, and kept warm before serving. To serve the soup, arrange the warm ingredients in bowls, and then pour hot broth over them, then garnish. This method guarantees that every guest has a fair mix of all the ingredients. Here’s the basics with proportions for about 8 servings.

Hochzeitssuppe

Begin with a rich, clarified chicken broth, brought to a simmer.

You can use a number of vegetables if you wish, but white asparagus and carrots are traditional. Cut them into small pieces and simmer until al dente. Keep warm.

Take equal quantities of spicy German sausage meat, such as Thüringer Mett, and ground beef, and mix it thoroughly with a beaten egg and some breadcrumbs. Roll the mix into small meatballs, and poach them gently in water or stock (not the soup stock). Keep warm.

You can make the eierstich, egg custard, in several ways. Beat together 1 cup of milk or cream, 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks, plus a dash of freshly ground nutmeg and salt. Don’t be so vigorous that a froth forms. Pour the mix into sealable plastic pouches, close them tightly, and place in boiling water for 10 minutes, or until the custard is firm. Unseal the pouches and cut the custard into small pieces. I have little decorative cutters for this job. Keep warm.

If you like you can also cook some flat egg noodles.

Serve the soup in wide bowls. Arrange the vegetables, meatballs, custard, and noodles (if used), in individual bowls, pour over the hot broth, garnish with chopped chives or parsley, and serve.

Nov 232013
 

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On this date in 1963 Doctor Who was broadcast on BBC television for the first time, so today is the 50th anniversary.  Big day for Whovians worldwide. Doctor Who is a British science-fiction television program produced by the BBC. The program depicts the adventures of a Time Lord—a time-traveling humanoid alien known as the Doctor. He explores the universe in his TARDIS (acronym: Time and Relative Dimension in Space), a sentient time-travelling space ship. Its exterior appears as a blue British police box, which was a common sight in Britain in 1963 when the series first aired. The interior, however, is huge, and is always a shock when new people enter it for the first time. It was supposed to be a chameleon, blending in wherever it went (hence a police box on earth 1963). But a technical hitch prevented it from transforming when it left earth after the initial serial, and it has been, outwardly, a police box ever since – icon of Doctor Who. Along with a succession of companions, the Doctor faces a variety of foes while working to save civilizations, help ordinary people, and right wrongs.

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The show has received recognition as one of Britain’s finest television programs, winning the 2006 British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series and five consecutive (2005–2010) awards at the National Television Awards during Russell T Davies’s tenure as executive producer. In 2011, Matt Smith became the first Doctor to be nominated for a BAFTA Television Award for Best Actor. In 2013, the Peabody Awards honored Doctor Who with an Institutional Peabody “for evolving with technology and the times like nothing else in the known television universe.” The program is listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-running science fiction television show in the world, and as the most successful science fiction series of all time—based on its overall broadcast ratings, DVD and book sales, and iTunes traffic. During its original run, it was recognized for its imaginative stories, creative low-budget special effects, and pioneering use of electronic music (originally produced by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop).

This takes me back:

I was 12 when the first episode aired and was an instant fan.  The electronic music and effects, now so tame and dated, were enthralling in 1963. When I went to college I lost interest, but got back involved when the new sets of series began. My son was a teenager when they first aired and we would watch together – perfect father/son moments.  Then he went off to college and infected his dorm mates. Now he is a bigger fan than I am.  He has bought me DVD sets of the original series, though, for birthdays, and I still very much enjoy them. Another era.

Here is the beginning of the first episode. Full episodes of all surviving series are easily found online.

Doctor Who first appeared on BBC television at 17:16:20 GMT on 23 November 1963, following discussions and plans that had been in progress for a year. The Head of Drama, Canadian Sydney Newman, was mainly responsible for developing the program, with the first format document for the series being written by Newman along with the Head of the Script Department (later Head of Serials) Donald Wilson and staff writer C. E. Webber. Writer Anthony Coburn, David Whitaker, a story editor, and initial producer Verity Lambert also heavily contributed to the development of the series. The program was originally intended to appeal to a family audience as an educational program using time travel as a means to explore scientific ideas and famous moments in history. On 31 July 1963 Whitaker commissioned Terry Nation to write a story under the title “The Mutants.” As originally written, the Daleks and Thals were the victims of an alien neutron bomb attack but Nation later dropped the aliens and made the Daleks the aggressors. When the script was presented to Newman and Wilson it was immediately rejected since the program was not permitted to contain any “bug-eyed monsters.” The first serial had been completed and the BBC believed it was crucial that the next one be a success, however, The Mutants was the only script ready to go so the show had little choice but to use it. According to producer Verity Lambert; “We didn’t have a lot of choice — we only had the Dalek serial to go … We had a bit of a crisis of confidence because Donald [Wilson] was so adamant that we shouldn’t make it. Had we had anything else ready we would have made that.” Nation’s script became the second Doctor Who serial – “The Daleks” (aka “The Mutants”). The serial introduced the aliens that would become the series’ most popular and most enduring monsters, and was responsible for the BBC’s first merchandising boom.

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The BBC drama department’s Serials division produced the program for 26 seasons, broadcast on BBC 1. Falling viewing numbers, a decline in the public perception of the show and a less-prominent transmission slot saw production suspended in 1989 by Jonathan Powell, Controller of BBC 1. Although (as series co-star Sophie Aldred reported in the documentary Doctor Who: More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS) it was effectively, if not formally, cancelled with the decision not to commission a planned 27th series of the show for transmission in 1990, the BBC repeatedly affirmed that the series would return.

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While in-house production had ceased, the BBC hoped to find an independent production company to relaunch the show. Philip Segal, a British expatriate who worked for Columbia Pictures’ television arm in the United States, had approached the BBC about such a venture as early as July 1989, while the 26th series was still in production. Segal’s negotiations eventually led to a Doctor Who television film, broadcast on the Fox Network in 1996 as a co-production between Fox, Universal Pictures, the BBC and BBC Worldwide. Although the film was successful in the UK (with 9.1 million viewers), it was less so in the United States and did not lead to a series.

Licensed media such as novels and audio plays provided new stories, but as a television program Doctor Who remained dormant until 2003. In September of that year, BBC Television announced the in-house production of a new series after several years of attempts by BBC Worldwide to find backing for a feature film version. The executive producers of the new incarnation of the series were writer Russell T Davies and BBC Cymru Wales Head of Drama Julie Gardner. It has been sold to many other countries worldwide.

DOCTOR WHO

Doctor Who finally returned with the episode “Rose” on BBC One on 26 March 2005. There have since been a number of series that continue to the present, and Christmas Day specials every year since 2005. No full series was filmed in 2009, although four additional specials starring David Tennant were made. In 2010, Steven Moffat replaced Davies as head writer and executive producer.

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The 2005 version of Doctor Who is a direct continuation of the 1963–1989 series, as is the 1996 telefilm. This differs from other series relaunches that have been reimaginings  (for example, Battlestar Galactica and Bionic Woman) or series taking place in the same universe as the original but in a different period and with different characters (for example, Star Trek: The Next Generation and spin-offs).

Dr Who The Five Doctors

As a Time Lord, the Doctor has the ability to regenerate his body when near death. This notion was introduced into the storyline as a way of continuing the series when the writers were faced with the departure of lead actor William Hartnell in 1966. It has continued to be a major element of the series, allowing for the recasting of the lead actor when the need arises, and in turn allows for redesigning the feel of the show to maintain variety and interest. The serials “The Deadly Assassin” and “Mawdryn Undead” and the 1996 TV film have established that a Time Lord can regenerate 12 times, for a total of 13 incarnations. The BBC Series 4 FAQ suggests that now the Time Lord social order has been destroyed, the Doctor may be able to regenerate indefinitely: “Now that his people are gone, who knows? Time Lords used to have 13 lives.” “Death of the Doctor,” a 2010 story of the spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, has the Doctor claiming that he can regenerate 507 times, but episode writer Russell T Davies later indicated that this was intended as a joke, not to be taken seriously. However, with the twelfth incarnation of the Doctor coming up in 2014, you will likely see some hints in the series that the thirteenth incarnation will not be the last.

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The Doctor has gone through the regeneration process and its resulting after-effects on ten occasions, with each of his incarnations having their own quirks and abilities but otherwise sharing the consciousness, memories, experience and basic personality of the previous incarnations.  Below are listed the actors who have played the Doctor, with links to Wikipedia articles on each of the Doctors and the actors.

The Doctor

Portrayed by

Tenure

First Doctor William Hartnell 1963–1966
Second Doctor Patrick Troughton 1966–1969
Third Doctor Jon Pertwee 1970–1974
Fourth Doctor Tom Baker 1974–1981
Fifth Doctor Peter Davison 1981–1984
Sixth Doctor Colin Baker 1984–1986
Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy 1987–1989, 1996
Eighth Doctor Paul McGann 1996, 2013
Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston 2005
Tenth Doctor David Tennant 2005–2010
Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith 2010–present

The BBC has announced that Matt Smith is to leave the show after the 2013 Christmas special, to be replaced by Peter Capaldi.

Whovians sometimes have themed parties when they gather to watch Doctor Who.  There is cookbook to help.

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Some of the treats are food versions of well known objects from the show such as the TARDIS and the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver.  One of two are inspired by the Doctor’s tastes.  The fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, was addicted to jelly beans, for example.

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But no Doctor Who party would be complete without fish fingers (fish sticks) and custard.  When the eleventh doctor, Matt Smith, appeared after regenerating he is hungry so he asks a young Amy Pond to cook him something.  He hates everything until he settles on fish fingers and custard. Here is the priceless scene:

Fish fingers and custard.

I have never been moved to eat this dish, but my son has. He told me it wasn’t horrible, but he would not want to eat it too often.  I am going to give you three general ways to approach this dish for your next Doctor Who party.

Method 1.

The most obvious. Do what Matt Smith does. Grab some fish fingers and custard.  Cook the fish fingers and put the custard in a bowl and dip away.

Method 2.

Make a savory dish of fish fingers with saffron flavored white sauce as the custard.  Prepare the fish fingers in the usual way.  Prepare the “custard” by melting 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet and adding 1 tbsp of flour and whisking over medium heat to make a roux.  Do not brown.  Slowly add ½ cup of fish stock, whisking all the time.  Add ½ cup of cream or whole milk and whisk as it heats through. Add ¼ tsp of powdered saffron (or a few threads).  Stir until the sauce is evenly colored. Put the “custard” in a bowl and dip away.

Method 3.

Make a dessert dish using cake for the fish.  Cut white pound cake into sticks resembling fish fingers. Roll them in beaten egg and then in panko (or breadcrumbs) to coat on all sides.  Shallow fry in vegetable oil, turning to brown on all sides. Put regular custard in a bowl and dip away.

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