I remember reading an interview a few years - mid-90s at a guess - in which someone, possibly Mark Gatiss, said he was sure that Doctor Who would return one day because there'd soon come a point where people in strategic positions all over the higher echelons of the BBC (or media generally) would be Doctor Who fans.
It struck me as a thrilling prospect - and one that made a lot of sense. You only have to look at the people who worked on the New Adventures and follow a few of their career paths to see how true that prediction turned out to be.
I thought I'd see how true it was and found that Doctor Who creeps into various different areas of UK media - almost as if someone had interfered with their personal time lines 40-odd years ago and ensured they were in the right places at the right time...
Writing and production staff with direct involvement in new series
Russell T Davies
Actors with direct involvement in new series
All have been published or commissioned for TV/audio scripts outisde of Doctor Who, as far as I can tell
Miscellaneous actors and writers with some (possibly tangential) involvement in new series or spin-off media
The Airzone Solution was, if you were a Who-starved fan in the early 90s, probably the most exciting thing that happened in fandom since that leotard picture of Nicola Bryant emerged.
Featuring four ex-Doctors and a host of other Doctor Who talents it's fairly explicitly a rip-off of Edge of Darkness down to its plot, themes and even incidental music. The pre-occupations of the narrative are easily identifiable from the period, namely environmental collapse and corporate/governmental conspiracies.
Peter Davison plays investigative journalist Al Dunbar; Colin Baker is star weatherman Arnie Davies; Sylvester McCoy is nervous eco-warrior Anthony Stanwick and Jon Pertwee plays journalistic legend Oliver Trethewey.
It is rather peculiar mix and it's hard to imagine anyone who's not a fan taking a huge interest. Nevertheless there's a lot of good stuff here. Colin Baker is particularly good in another opportunity to show how good he can be and the other leads are solid and throw themselves into it; Nicola Bryant is a million miles away from whingey Peri.
There's a nice cameo from Michael Wisher and a very good turn from Alan Cumming as Mandelsonian spook. Look out too, if you dare, for a sex scene between Nicola and Colin, one of the worst bits of acting ever from Gary Russell and Bill Baggs managing to assemble four Doctors together on the programme's 30th anniversary – something the BBC notoriously failed to do to any real extent.
The music by Alistair Lock and some directorial flourishes from Baggs also catch the eye but unfortunately the production is undermined by some of the amateurish moments in the script, plot, direction and general production. There are no howlers but the overall impression is of something decidedly fannish.
Further, the production values don't stand up at all. The sound is particularly poor; the lighting, while better, doesn't always look right either and the quality of the picture typical of early 90s videotaped dramas.
Nevertheless, with the prospect of new Doctor Who as remote as ever – this being a time when it seemed Who might be gone for good – the Airzone Solution was a welcome addition to a Who-less world.
I suspect that BBV – Baggs' production company – envisaged potential sales to an ITV franchise, or a commission to base a similar series with a larger budget, but it never came to pass.
Still, along with Shakedown, Downtime, and other series such as The Stranger and Auton, this is a fascinating curio from Doctor Who's dark days. The BBC offered up the risible Dimensions In Time in 1993 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of what is now its flagship show. Idiots.
Watch The Airzone Solution here: