The Netflix series The Crown, has been the viewing of choice in the house in recent evenings. Watching successive episodes, the Duke of Edinburgh seemed familiar. Only when the credits appeared at the end of one episode did the reason for the familiarity become clear – the Duke of Edinburgh was being played by Matt Smith, more famous as the eleventh incarnation of Doctor Who.
The BBC science fiction series Doctor Who pre-dated Matt Smith by two decades, it had helped shaped the culture of those who grew up in England a generation before Smith’s birth. Episodes of Doctor Who were a major event in the week. Screened on BBC television at teatime on a Saturday, it drew an audience of millions. There were only two television channels and no schoolboy would have contemplated the television being turned to ITV while the figure of the Doctor was on the screen of the black and white set. Doctor Who would be watched, even if it inspired terror, the Daleks were never nearly as frightening as the Cybermen. Doctor Who was not nearly as sophisticated as it was to become in its more recent series, a schoolboy could generally guess what would happen next. The plots were much simpler. The Doctor’s life would frequently be hanging in the balance as the episode drew to a close and the theme music began. Of course, every viewer knew that no matter how parlous the situation, the Doctor would live to continue his journeys through time and space and would continue his opposition to evil, wherever and whenever it might be encountered.
Of course, the BBC would be unlikely to accept a Doctor Who storyline involving the Royal Family, but, if they did, Matt Smith might play both the Doctor and the Duke of Edinburgh. The plot could be intriguing, the Doctor could travel backward and forward resolving problems – the 1936 abdication could be avoided, Princess Margaret and Group Captain Peter Townsend could be allowed a chance of happiness, Charles and Diana could be reconciled. History would be entirely different if one had a Time Lord on hand to correct all the mistakes of the past.
One episode of Doctor Who ruled out the possibility of Matt Smith being the Doctor and the Duke of Edinburgh. The Laws of Time had been revised to outlaw the altering of history after one time Lord had gone back in time to make a minor change and, as a consequence, an entire civilization had disappeared from history. Not only would corrections upset the Laws of Time, an entire Netflix series would disappear.