Francois Devine had just accused me of scraping the very b-o-t-t-o-m of the telehistorical barrel and I wasn’t going to have it. My repost needed to be as savage as his accusation had been.

“No – YOU will have to waste your time writing about Knight of Temperus” I said wittily. He glared at me.

“No – YOU will HAVE to waste your time writing about Knight of Temperus” he replied. I couldn’t tell if he was emphasising an extra word to give extra weight to his argument or merely parroting me in a childish voice.

“No – YOU WILL HAVE TO WASTE your time WRITING about Knight of TEMPERUS” I told him, covering both wickets by emphasising even more words and using an even more childish voice.

“No…” he began before taking a deep breath in to let himself rip, “YOU WILL HAVE TO WASTE YOUR TIME WRITING ABOUT KNIGHT of TEM…PERUS”.

The addition of a pause in the final word was especially irritating. I made a note of the technique before rebutting his argument.

“What a stupid fool YOU are” I said witheringly.

“What’s all this racket?” asked an orderly as he trundled his trolley in to our room. He was there to refresh our water glasses, dish out little plastic pots of pills for us to take and take our orders for luncheon. I asked for my usual small ham sandwich, Melba pointed to the Nutrishake™ as it was the only item that would fit through his straw and Francois Devine simply said “Yes.”

“My colleague” he continued by way of answering the functionary’s question, “is about to embark on a new career writing monographs about the upcoming Independent Television channel’s series of pretend Doctor Who” he explained.

“I am not” I said angrily. “I think you’ll find that I will be luxuriating in original 1960s paperwork not seen by anyone sensible since the day they were given to Lola Whitecastle or she stole them, while you will be writing bland papers about things that happened that same week and which the proles on the internet already know about because they were there at the same time, peering through holes in the same fences as you. You will become the Lizo Mzimba of fake Doctor Who but without the credentials.”

He was incandescent with rage and was unable to speak for a moment. This gave the functionary chance to step in as though he was a valued part of the conversation.

“What are you talking about? What’s fake Doctor Who?”

“What’s fake Doctor Who?” I asked incredulously.

“What’s FAKE Doctor Who?” added Francois Devine, taking us down a familiar path. But there was no time for bickering – we had a prole to laugh at.

We roared at the poor functionary’s ignorance. Even Melba tried to roar from within his plaster balaclava. He’d never quiet mastered the art of deriding laughter of the sort we experienced telehistorians regularly use to highlight the mistakes of others but to his credit he managed a muffled guffaw that even on its own would’ve made the functionary regret having revealed his lack of basic knowledge to the rest of the group.

The functionary blushed and made to leave but I quickly called him back. Mocking the less intelligent is all fine and well but it is rare that we experts are asked a question by a member of the public and it is our duty to be the visible and accessible face of learning and knowledge within our field. That’s how Brian C-o-x got a professorship and I was determined to do something similar for telehistory. I drew the line at sitting on a dusty shelf and pointing at filing cabinets but I was quite prepared to answer the occasional question from an ordinary person and enrich their lives a little. Or a lot, it largely depends how charismatic I’m feeling on any given day.

“By fake Doctor Who we mean the ITV series Knight of Temperus which is currently in production and which has absolutely no value whatsoever.”

“How is it fake Doctor Who?” asked the functionary.

“Do you recall the McClory case?” I enquired.


“Oh. It was the legal judgement which lead to the fake James Bond film ‘Never Say Never Again’. McClory claimed part ownership of James Bond having worked on a film script with Fleming some years earlier. We telehistorians regard motion pictures as having no value what so ever as they are such ephemeral things which only generate fascinating technical documentation for a few short months and then they shut down and go away to be replaced by something similar but a bit longer and a bit louder and much more expensive. But when the Witherspoon case was launched we had to get up to speed on it quickly.”

“Some of us more quickly than others” boasted Francois Devine.

“You know our dial-up internet connection can only load one page at a time” I snapped. “Just because you happened to click on Wikip... a primary source a second before I did doesn’t mean you were au fait with the facts and the rest of us trailed in your wake. Though Melba was indeed ignorant until the following afternoon when we shamed him into doing some basic research after a ribbing at the biweekly telehistorians coffee and macaroon morning at Mrs Minton’s teashop in Bendaton square.”

“Be that as it may…” he said, leaving a deliberate pause which we each interpreted in our own way so we were both silently happy, “the Witherspoon case was a dark day in television history. Arthur Witherspoon was a member of the BBC’s script department and was assigned to different shows to help with their development and early scripts. He had various meeting with the writer of the very first proper Doctor Who story and was involved in many of the discussions which formulated the programme as it came to be. I won’t go into more detail as my book ‘Bunny Webber – A Life in Memos” covers this period in intense detail and was described by the editor of Doctor Who Magazine as ‘a book that only Francois Devine could’ve written’. Sadly he didn’t actually put that in the magazine but it was a busy month and they chose to give the last three inches of review space to some comic or other in which they no doubt had a financial interest. But no matter – the material is there should you wish to buy a copy or request one from your local library.”

“After that commercial interruption – something viewers of fake Doctor Who will have to get used to…” I said wittily. “Witherspoon’s estate decided to take the BBC to court following the programme’s revival in 2005. They wanted a share of the profits as they believed Witherspoon had contributed significantly to the format of Doctor Who and his work entitled him to a partial copyright. It emerged that some fool in HR had allowed Witherspoon’s BBC staff contract to expire earlier in the year and he had been working on a handshake agreement until drawing his pension in early 1964. A judge of doubtful intellect agreed with them but rather than ordering the BBC to pay them money she decided that Witherspoon’s estate was entitled to sell the rights to a fake Doctor Who to the highest bidder. In this case Independent Television.”

“The judge specified that fake Doctor Who could only include elements that were there in the first four episodes of Doctor Who to which he contributed in an uncredited capacity and those four scripts are the limit of the Doctor Who universe for this absurd little venture.”

“No Daleks” I continued, “No Time Lords, no Master, no K9, no regeneration, no jelly babies, no nothing that was done during the following forty nine years and eleven months of proper Doctor Who and its licenced spinoffs. They can’t even use the name Doctor Who, hence Knight of Temperus, but they can call their main characters the Doctor, Wright, Chesterton and Foreman. But not Forman as that was a typographical error in a later story.”

“It sounds good” said the functionary. “What’s it called again?”

“Knight of Temperus” we scoffed.

“Ace. I’ll Sky Plus it.”

“Do what to it?” I asked. He ignored me and adjusted Francois Devine’s arms again before leaving us.

I took my next pill and shuddered. Partly from the coldness of the water (my last glass was nicely at room temperature – I do wish people would leave things alone) and partly at the idea of being stuck writing about fake Doctor Who. The rich seam of Doctor Who was slowly but surely drying up and if I wanted to remain at the cutting edge of telehistorical research I needed something new. It had to be Lola Whitecastle and Adventures into Space. Anything else just didn’t bear thinking about.