Before Pudsey Bear even existed, Doctor Who specials have a long relationship with Children in Need. long-form special Two full years before Pudsey was chosen as the charity’s official mascot, The Five Doctors made their UK television debut at the 1983 Children in Need telethon.
In addition to a 1999 Comic Relief special written by none other than Steven Moffat, Doctor Who has a long history of supporting BBC charities, and in the three decades after The Five Doctors, there have been six additional Children in Need specials.
They range from 2007’s exquisite Time Crash, which was sublime to the absurd. And by truly outrageous, we mean magnificently absurd
Some Doctor Who fans have never fully recovered from the 1993 Dimensions in Time special, which consisted of two mini-episodes. The first mini-episode aired on Children in Need, and the second on Noel’s House Party, a Saturday night nightmare from the 1990s.
It was partly because it was actually intended to be a celebration of Doctor Who‘s 30th anniversary, so the somewhat hurried atmosphere and odd decision to hold it in EastEnders Albert Square turned some people off. This was especially true given that they managed to persuade five original Doctors to participate (from Pertwee to McCoy), in addition to beloved companions Mel, Ace, and Sarah Jane Smith.
Furthermore, it is understandable that some fans were a little miffed given that Dimensions in Time took the place of the intended 30th-anniversary plan, which was a canceled feature-length episode titled The Dark Dimension.
However, Dimensions in Time is a true 1990s thrill if you let go, try not to take it too seriously, and embrace the novelty of seeing so many iconic Doctor Who characters come together for a good cause.
For starters, everyone in the audience had to don laughably cheap and ineffective 3D glasses in order to watch it, presumably solely so you might get the horrible feeling that William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton’s disembodied heads were flying directly at your face in the opening scene.
The EastEnders cast may not have been a standout feature when it first debuted, but it is now a fantastic watch for fans of nostalgia thanks to cameos by well-known actors like Pat and Frank Butcher, Sharon Watts, Ian Beale, and even the Mitchell brothers.
Additionally, in a time-traveling sort of manner, we now have the advantage of hindsight, so when John Pertwee and Mel find themselves in Albert Square in 2013.
the show’s projections for what life would be like in 20 years are amusingly off. In 2013, as depicted in Dimensions in Time, everyone is covered in flares, all-over sunscreen is required, trains resemble rocket ships, and Pauline Fowler, who is 20 years older than us, has suffered such severe treatment from the passage of time that it appears as though she has been dug up.
an elderly Pauline also makes the ominous declaration, “I wish my Arthur were still alive,” even though her adored husband wouldn’t be taken out until 1996, three years later. Kathy Beale, though, seems uncannily correct (and a bit rich considering she d infamously smashed him over the head with a frying pan just two months earlier).
Additionally, this was the first time viewers could call in and cast a vote for a Doctor Who episode, as the graphics, which were extremely reminiscent of clipart from the 1990s, revealed. Fans were invited to vote on who would aid the Doctors in part two of Dimensions in Time: Mandy Salter, the Eastenders teen tearaway, or Big Ron, the stall attendant.
You may now view a low-quality version of the Big Ron cut that was never aired (you just need to watch the first 65 seconds; the rest of the episode is the same), even if Mandy’s victory was an anticlimactic five-second change to the episode:
Additionally, there are outtakes:
The most recent Doctor Who special for Children in Need, a one-minute Eddie Redmayne and Peter Capaldi clip titled Looking for Pudsey, aired six years ago.
It’s about time we had another light-hearted Doctor Who exclusive to look forward to as Children in Need has only recently included previews of upcoming episodes (plus a superfan visiting the TARDIS with Jodie Whittaker, and this lockdown message). When seen through rose-tinted (preferably not 3D) lenses, they only get better with time, as a 2022 viewing of Dimensions in Time demonstrates.
The odds are in favor because the 60th Anniversary specials are slated to air in November 2023, the same month that Children in Need typically airs.