Doctor Who at Newton's laws of television

A Load of Balls

by Matthew Newton

I imagine that you must have been wondering precisely what subject would be covered in an article called "A Load of Balls". However, the balls that I refer to here are spherical coloured objects that currently obsess a large proportion of the population of the United Kingdom. If you're British and you haven't spent the last few years continually watching a pre-recorded video of "The Twin Dilemma" then you may have noticed that there is a national lottery in the UK. This has produced the inevitable hype and exploitative cash-ins, together with many weird and wonderful methods used by people to choose their six numbers, with one particularly entertaining example of this being the gentleman who uses the height, vital statistics and shoe size of Claudia Schiffer. Now this has set me thinking - what sort of numbers could a Doctor Who fan use?

Now the first thing that we should remember in considering an answer to this question is that the lottery numbers lie in the range 1 to 49, so it would obviously not be to one's advantage to choose any outside. This does however preclude a number of obvious numbers that a fan may like to use, such as the number of transmitted episodes of Doctor Who and the number of decent scripts written by Pip and Jane Baker, as they both lie outside the required range, being 696 and 0 respectively.

One nice simple method would be just to choose the numbers of your six favourite seasons. This is certainly straightforward, but other considerations may come into effect - namely the amount that you win if your numbers come up. If your favourite seasons are, for instance, 1,5,7,12,13,14, and these are the numbers that come tumbling out of Camelot's cement mixer on one Saturday night, there is a good chance that there may also be a few other Doctor Who fans out there with the same numbers, reducing you winnings somewhat. Conversely, if you have taste (for instance including the number 24 anywhere in your six numbers) there's a pretty good chance that you might be keeping that jackpot to yourself.

So perhaps a less orthodox approach would seem to be required, perhaps Katy Manning's height, vital statistics and shoe size, should you happen to know them. You could take the transmission dates of three randomly chosen episodes, for instance, 19, 12, 23, 6, 29, 12, representing "Priest of Death", "The Green Death" episode 6 and "The Horns of Nimon" part 2. Or in a similar vein you use the numbers that make up the birthdate of someone born before 1950 and has had some involvement in Doctor Who , perhaps one of the more senior Doctors, writers or prop men.

Another good method would be to try and find six numbers relating to your favourite story. For example, my favourite story is "The Aztecs", so I could choose the following set:

1 The season that the story takes place in.
4 The number of episodes of the story.
15 The century that the story takes place in.
37 The age of John Lucarotti when he wrote the story.
39 The number of times that William Hartnell fluffs his lines during the story.
19 The budget of the story (to the nearest pound).

Alternatively, if you can't think of six numbers to do with your favourite story and don't happen to possess a copy of the forthcoming BBC in-depth reference guide to the height, vital statistics and shoe size of all of the companions, it may be better just to chose six independent Doctor Who related numbers, rather than a set of six Doctor Who related numbers. There are simply hundreds of possibilities...well, if you want to win the lottery I suppose that there's only really 49, but there are hundreds of reasons for choosing them. You could pick the number of a black and white story ("The War Games" was the 50th story), the number of times that a certain actor has appeared in Doctor Who (although Lloyd Lamble's zero here doesn't help much) or perhaps the number of times that you've watched a certain story. Or maybe the number of copies of the pre-recorded video of "The Twin Dilemma" that have been sold worldwide (surely it can't be more than 49?), or perhaps the number of JNT stories that have an old villain or monster in (I think that this one is less than 49 - just). Or you could even count the number of times that I have used the word 'or' in this paragraph.

However, all these are just suggestions. I will now just close with what I see as the ultimate combination of numbers for Doctor Who fans:

2 The number of words in the title of "The Massacre" (although some supposed purists may prefer to use 6).
3 The number of times that you normally have to take a Doctor Who video back to the shops before you get a copy that hasn't got a fault.
8 The number of actors to have played the Doctor. If you ignore Trevor Martin. And Terry Walsh. And Edmund Warwick. And David Banks. And Joe "Mr Piano" Henderson...
17 The number of seasons of Doctor Who that weren't produced by John Nathan-Turner.
28 The number of issues to date of a certain fanzine whose initials are "TT".
42 The number of Tom Baker stories, the age of Sylvester McCoy when he became the Doctor, the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything according to one of Doctor Who writers and script editors, the average number of viewers of Season 26 and the average number of people to die in each episode written by Eric Saward. Is that enough reasons for you?

So there you are. If you do try these numbers, then you'll probably end up watching that awful lottery programme to see how accurate I have been. Assuming of course, that you are currently in Britain. However, I suppose that that is the price you have to pay for wanting to become an instant multi-millionaire. If you use any of the suggestions contained in this article and your numbers do come up, then you will of course remember who gave you such valuable advice..?

Originally published in Think Tank issue 28 (Summer 1995).

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