In 1985 the production of ‘Doctor Who’ was suspended for a year and rumours were circulating that the long running show would be cancelled. In response to this news songwriters and Whovian’s Ian Levine, who had also acted as a continuity adviser for the show, and Fiachra Trench, who had co-written the theme for the ‘K-9 & Company’ pilot, wrote a song in protest.
They made the decision to make it a charity single to aid Cancer Research. Much like the previous years Band Aid single they decide to ask a number of singers, who in this case were known Whovian’s, to participate. For a while things looked positive as both Holly Johnson and Elton John had seemingly agreed to sing on the single. Unfortunately their enthusiasm soon waned and the singles producers were left with the dregs of the 80’s pop scene with members of Dollar and Bucks Fizz taking part. They also managed to get the London cast of the musical ‘Starlight Express’ for the choir. Strangely the Moody Blues Justin Hayward and John Lodge both appeared, even after finding out the other big name artists had pulled out. Also playing keyboards was a young Hans Zimmer; the future Oscar winning composer was in the early days of his career.
Levine and Trench also secured members of the shows cast to perform. The then current ‘Doctor’ Colin Baker sings a few solo lines as does Nicolas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) and Anthony Ainley (the Master). Nicola Bryant who played companion ‘Peri Brown’ is seen in amongst the choir.
‘Doctor in Distress’ was released in March 1985. A video was created, but received little to no airtime. The single was also ignored by all radio stations. With only the shows hardcore fan base buying the single in failed to chart.
The song was all but forgotten until 2008 when the video was added as an extra to the DVD release of the Baker era story ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’. In a documentary on the same disc Ian Levine admits the whole concept was conceived by his friend Gary Downie whilst he was drunk.
It has since become one of those videos Whovian’s search for on You Tube and only watch once. Cheesy, kitsch and awkwardly funny are the kindest things I can say about the song, which is one of the only things I’d be happy for a ‘Dalek’ to exterminate.