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Dr Who
Jul 05, '21

The Herne Bay Connection

We live in Herne Bay and Hythe. I first saw the very first episode An Unearthly Child in November 1963. I was 9. It was so good the BBC repeated it the following week which was unheard of!

I remember the Police Public Call Box which sat in Ramsgate on the corner of the crossroads of Queen Street, King Street, High Street and Harbour Street. I used to pass it every Saturday morning when attending Saturday Morning Pictures at the Odeon.

I was hooked!

Ian Chesterton a leading Character in the plot was a Science Teacher a school.

I identified with his character because of his name, Ian and I eventually became a Science Teacher.

Doctor Who fan in tardis replica plan for Herne Bay

Written: 16 May 2011

A Doctor Who fan is seeking approval for a full-size replica of the tardis to be installed on a Kent seafront.

Local prop-maker Jason Onion said it had been his vision for Herne Bay for 32 years, since he was aged three.

He said it would be in recognition of BBC scriptwriter Anthony Coburn, who lived in the resort and conceived the idea of a police box as a time machine.

Mr Onion said a 9ft (2.7m) blue box would be a good excuse to get "coach-loads of people down to Herne Bay".

I feel that there's a lot going for Herne Bay - there's a lot of rich heritage for this town," he said.

The first four episodes of Doctor Who were written by Mr Coburn in 1963.

'Best programme'

Mr Onion said he was planning other things for the town over the next couple of years in the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.

"I'm donating a full size replica of the 1963 version of the tardis to Children in Need and also to Herne Bay library, so it's all going to be linked up together.

"When fans think of Doctor Who, they are going to think of Herne Bay too.

"It's the best programme in the world ever. It encompasses everything, and it draws everybody in," he said.

Mr Onion said he would be talking to council officials about his plans over the next couple of weeks.

Update: It did not happen!

Anthony Coburn

James Anthony Coburn (10 December 1927 – 28 April 1977) was an Australian television writer and producer, who spent much of his professional career living and working in the United Kingdom. He is best remembered for writing the first Doctor Who story, An Unearthly Child.

Doctor Who

He moved to the UK around 1950, where he joined the staff of BBC Television. While working as a staff writer for the BBC in 1963 and living in Herne Bay, Kent, he became involved in the early development of the science-fiction series Doctor Who.

He liaised closely with the series' first story editor, David Whitaker, on establishing the format and characters of the show, which had been initiated by various BBC drama executives before being handed on to the new production team. It is believed to have been Coburn's idea for the Doctor's travelling companion, Susan, to be his granddaughter, as he was disturbed by the possible sexual connotations of an old man travelling with an unrelated teenager.

Coburn wrote four full serials for the programme, An Unearthly Child, The Robots (also known as The Masters of Luxor) and two other unnamed scripts. Only An Unearthly Child was produced and it was the first ever Doctor Who serial to be made, despite both Coburn and the production team's misgivings about its prehistoric settings. The Robots was continually delayed and put back in production order, and then finally rejected – following this, Coburn severed his links with the show.


Time And Relative Dimensions In Space

Now it’s the twenty-first century, whenever we see a police box – especially a navy blue concrete Met Police 1929 model – we think it’s a time machine. In the 1950s, it was just an anonymous part of the urban landscape. In 1963, when the Doctor Who team picked it as the Doctor’s transport, it was about to move in two directions: the real boxes vanished, while the fictional box went from strength to strength. It’s because there was a Doctor Who fan in my house, not a police communications fan, that my cellar door has been reconstructed to look like one.

The police box went from being a cutting-edge symbol of modernity, to being landfill, in about a generation. Modernity moved fast, then. Because of this, the choice by the BBC of a police box as a timeship turned out to be an inspired one. Its looks tied into the retro feel of later series such as The Prisoner, partly because its neo-Georgian style nodded to Edwardian Britain as well as to Art Nouveau.

Police kiosks had been used in an ad hoc way from the 1890s – in London they were often placed in newly-built suburbs; as a way of ‘showing the flag’ and an excuse not to connect nervous householders directly to nearby police stations. But boxes took off nationally in the 1920s, when Sunderland Police, needing to find cuts in a period of austerity, demonstrated that a system of police boxes could cheaply control the constable and allow many police stations to be sold off.

The classic Met concrete box which we know and love was designed by the force surveyor, Gilbert Trench, and constructed first in wood, then in concrete: the first mass-produced batch cost £43 each. The box system was launched by the Met with a press fanfare that claimed it would help to suppress ‘motor bandits’ – a now largely forgotten crime panic. In fact, boxes were mainly there to save money and make it easier to control constables.

In many cities, a PC didn’t have to report for duty in a station, but could go straight to the box and ‘ring in’ to his control centre at regular intervals. This saved time at the cost of making the constables’ life far more isolated. In nearly all boxes the telephone could also operated by the public through a cubby-hole door, and would connect them with the police switchboard.

Like the TARDIS, some police boxes could also contain a remarkable amount of kit: cupboards, books of orders, gas lights, electric lights, heaters and cookers, fold-out writing desks, sinks, and places to keep your bicycle or your prisoner. But none of it was particularly comfortable: stools were designed for perching on, and heaters were kept underpowered to stop police lingering on their ‘refreshment breaks’. There were no sonic screwdrivers, but some boxes had toolkits, up to a five-ton jack. At least there was never an irritating robot dog which never knew the answer when it was important.

In 1963 the box was a pretty unremarkable piece of street furniture, which William Hartnell could use to blend in when he was in the present. Its status quickly changed. Since the 1930s, police forces had been trying to develop a personal radio which could keep the constable in touch with his control room. WW2 ‘walkie-talkies’ were too heavy to carry round all day, but by the 1960s radios which were increasingly small and light and decreasingly unreliable were coming on to the market. As part of Labour’s ‘White heat’ plan to use technology to solve social problems, Home Secretary Roy Jenkins ordered ten thousand transistorised UHF radios in 1968 . . . and the fate of the police box was sealed.

Much sledgehammering ensued. The last London one – lingering on the Barnet bypass where there were no payphones - was scrapped in 1980. By the time that Tom Baker and K9 were using it, the police box had become as anachronistic as Hartnell’s formal suit and was contributing to the way that the Doctor has been a timeless Time Lord: sometimes in our present, but not of it.

Nowadays the police box is agreeably twee – a few are preserved as local landmarks like old red telephone boxes: much more rare, but about as useful. Some of the larger ones have found a new role as coffee stalls or flower shops. Like the TARDIS, they are travelling from the past to the future, and have surprising things inside them.

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Jul 05, '21
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