'Doctor Who' Nearly Got the '80s Feature Film Treatment—With Giant Crab Monsters

Tom Baker could have starred in a very strange 'Doctor Who' movie.
Tom Baker could have starred in a very strange 'Doctor Who' movie. / Evening Standard/GettyImages

Fans of the current Doctor Who revival that began in 2005 may have missed out on two 1960s curiosities that came from the franchise. Two feature films, 1965’s Dr Who and the Daleks and 1966’s awkwardly titled Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD, brought the character to the big screen with Star Wars actor Peter Cushing in the title role.

Who fans have since learned there were plans for a third film. And this time, the Doctor would be battling giant crabs. It’ll all make sense in a moment.

According to Radio Times, a recent British Film Institute screening of the Cushing movies featured the sons of producer Milton Subotsky, Sergei and Dmitri. The two explained that their late father had intentions of doing a third film in the series circa 1980, which was unrelated to the BBC television series (and referred to the Doctor as “Dr. Who”).

The plan was apparently for Subotsky to mount a feature titled Dr Who’s Greatest Adventure, with two Doctors—an older version played by series stars Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker and a younger version—tussling with flesh-eating crabs that emerge from the ocean.

“Many years later, maybe 15 years later, it was clearly still on his mind, because he had prepared a script called Doctor Who's Greatest Adventure which actually was a repurposed script of a horror film entitled King Crab,” Sergei said at the screening. “The original title was even worse, it was Night of the Crabs.”

The premise is slightly off-brand for the Doctor, who often encounters various creatures but rarely receives the full monster-movie treatment. Subotsky preferred this plot because he had bought the rights to a short story titled Night of the Crabs and was eager to adapt it for the screen. Marrying it with Doctor Who could have helped him realize that ambition.

Subotsky was never able to get the crustacean-focused film made, and his two Who projects remain the only entries in the franchise to receive a theatrical release. The Doctor will regenerate with Ncuti Gatwa in the role in time for the franchise’s 60th anniversary in 2023. David Tennant will also be back to reprise the 10th Doctor, which he played from 2005 to 2010.

[h/t Radio Times]