Three Decades Celebrating Doctor Who

Louis Trapani's picture

Louis Trapani - Posted on 18 June 2015

1985 was a very different time. The year marks the birth of the Gallifreyan Embassy, but let’s take a TARDIS ride back to see what else was going on at the time.

One of the original "banners" for the clubOne of the original "banners" for the club

Speaking of time, it was the year that we discovered the wreak of the RMS Titanic after it was lost in way back in 1912.

Top on the Billboard music charts for the week that the Gallifreyan Embassy was founded was ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ by Tears for Fears. Other music making the charts you may remember from the year was ‘Take On Me’ by A-ha, ‘Money For Nothing’ by Dire Straits, ‘We Built This City’ by Starship, ‘A View to a Kill’ by Duran Duran, and Madonna was ‘Crazy For You.’ That’s just scratching the surface, there was so much more.

‘Out of Africa’ was awarded an Oscar for Best Film for that year. Though you may not had seen it if you were busy going to see other movies that year such as ‘Back to the Future’, ‘Cocoon’, ‘The Jewel of the Nile’, ‘Witness’, ‘The Color Purple’, ‘The Goonies’, ‘Mask’, ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘Brazil’, ‘Pee-wee’s Big Adventure’, ‘Weird Science’, ‘Ladyhawke’, among many others released that year. They sure don’t make movies like they used to anymore.

If you didn’t catch those movies in the theaters, you may had caught them on home video. The first Blockbuster Video rental outlet opened in 1985. Of course that is if you weren’t already watching regular programming on television in the U.S. that year which had ’The Cosby Show’ in the number one slot in terms of viewers, but debuting on TV that year were shows such as ‘Amazing Stories’, ‘EastEnders’, ’The Golden Girls’, ‘Moonlighting’, ‘MacGyver’, ’Star Wars: Droids’, and ’The New Twilight Zone’ to name a few. Though there’s a good bet you may had been too busy watching a British import show on PBS at that time to notice these others.

Speaking of first on television, it was the year that the first ‘Top Ten List’ gag ran on ‘Late Night with David Letterman’. Nick at Night also debuted on Nickelodeon. On the subject of cable TV, you may had been watching the Live Aid concert on MTV that year.

Maybe you were too busy playing Super Mario Brothers to be bothered watching cable TV? Although already available in Japan for a couple of years, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) first came to U.S. shores in 1985. Or you may had been wondering ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?’

Microsoft released Windows 1.0 a year after Apple released the Macintosh with its graphical user interface. The year also saw the first ‘dot com’ domain name. was the first .com top-level domain name registered on the internet. 

If print was more to your liking, you may had been reading Contact by Carl Sagan or The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Or perhaps being amused by the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip series by Bill Watterson all first released that year.

It seems I can go on and on about the year 1985. It was a great year, but not without some negatives such as the death of Rock Hudson from AIDS and Ricky Nelson in an airplane crash (not to mention other notable deaths such as Margaret Hamilton, Yul Brynner, and Orson Welles). There was also the introduction of “New Coke” that year. 

So what about Doctor Who? Colin Baker was the (sixth) Doctor and Nicola Bryant played his companion, Peri Brown. The series was in its 22nd season on BBC One. It was the first full season with Colin Baker as the Doctor starting with Attack of the Cybermen and ending with Revelation of the Daleks. Anthony Ainley was The Master and we saw the return of Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines reprising their characters of the Second Doctor and Jamie McCrimmon respectively in the story The Two Doctors. We also saw the introduction of The Rani played by Kate O’Mara. Paul Darrow, best known for his role as Kerr Avon in Blake’s 7 returned to Doctor Who playing a character named Tekker in the story Timelash.

Once again the series was back on once a week on Saturdays, though the episode lengths were 45 minutes. The annual fundraiser, Children in Need saw Doctor Who make an appearance with a parade of past and current actors from the show including four Doctors.

Unfortunately after this season in 1985, it was announced that Doctor Who would be going on an 18 month hiatus. We had a long wait before we would see new episodes again. In the meantime, at least there were some remarkable dedicated Doctor Who conventions that year such as Whovent ’85 in King of Prussia, PA and TARDIS 22 in Chicago, IL here stateside.

Colin Baker and Jon Pertwee from Whovent'85Colin Baker and Jon Pertwee from Whovent'85

And on June 18th of the year 1985, that day served as the launch of the Gallifreyan Embassy. It was the Gallifreyan Embassy of Long Island serving the Long Island, NY area. Monthly meetings would take place alternating between Nassau and Suffolk counties that make up Long Island. At the time, there were various local Doctor Who fan clubs, but nothing in the L.I. area. Before the interactive website we have today and in-depth podcast that is Doctor Who: Podshock (now celebrating 10 years), the club had a printed newsletter called ‘Ambassadors of Life’ and meetings as well as volunteering on the phones at local PBS stations (mainly for us, it was WLIW) offered an opportunity for fans to interact.

An early WLIW pledge drive volunteering outingAn early WLIW pledge drive volunteering outing

It’s hard to believe that it was all 30 years ago now. Where were you in 1985? What do you remember from that time? What are your prized memories relating to Doctor Who from that year?

Fellow Ambassadors, how about a reunion of some kind? Contact me if you are interested. 

For all of those that have supported the club through the years and kept it going, both long time members and newbies, I say THANK YOU. Or to put in the words of a pop culture meme from 1985 created by Bartle & Jaymes, “Thank you for your support.”

kylemj6977's picture

Louis, I don't think there are words that can describe how important YOU are to Doctor Who fandom.  So, while I am quite certain I could EASILY say more (and probably will at some point in the future), I will simply say....THANK YOU.

Kyle Jones

1985 may have been a good year for the gallafreyan embassy, though 1986 was the year that sticks out to me. Not only was it the year I graduated high school, it was the most memorable year in our quest to reach the stars. In memorial of those who challenged gravity and this planet aboard the Challenger.

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