In 1963 Doctor Who was just another television show slowly finding an audience. The writer responsible for writing its first story An Unearthly Child , Anthony Coburn, was initially commissioned to write its second story as well. As fate would have it, Coburn's script entitled The Masters Of Luxor, was to be abandoned in favor of a script by Terry Nation that was to guarantee the still new show's future: The Daleks. Coburn's script was to languish in obscurity for nearly thirty years when Titan Books published the script as part of its Doctor Who The Scripts range in 1992. With that book we can look at the road Doctor Who could have taken.
Coburn's plot is simple enough. Following on the events of An Unearthly Child, the TARDIS crew (the first Doctor, his granddaughter Susan with her teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright) find themselves exploring then trapped in a mysterious city with a seemingly dead TARDIS. The city's only occupants appear to be various robots and a mysterious man known only as The Perfect One. But is the so-called Perfect One all that is name implies? And what about the world outside the city? Across six episodes Coburn sets forth first a mystery, a battle for survival and lastly a desperate race against time.
The characterization of the four lead characters is interesting to note. For the most part, the characterization is dead one to what appeared in the aired stories of the era and one can imagine the actors saying the lines. The first episode is a perfect example of this as each character has moments that just he or she perfectly from Ian's "the projectionist has gone home" line to Barabra's ill-feelings about the city to the Doctor and Susan's curiosity about it. There are moments when the characterization goes astray such as the occasional piece of B-Movie exclamations or Ian's occasional swearing that more then likely would never have made it into a television version of the story. But these seemingly odd moments of characterization shows us just how different Doctor Who could have been in its earliest days.
Another interesting example lies within the script and its religious themes. The religious themes of the story aren't even subtle, they are made explicit at times such as a scene in the final episode where Susan, Ian and Barbara discuss it. It's debatable whether that scene would have survived into a TV version the themes are at the heart of the story. The Perfect One, his wishes and desires, especially with the involvement of the character Tabon in his past is revealed, is the perfect example of this. In this regard the script bares some superficial resemblance to the climax of 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture as a machine seeks its creator (or God as the characters themselves state) and tries to become more like it so it can be something more then what it is. As a result the script at least in terms of this themes, is perhaps more philosophical then many of the stories of the classic series and what result this would have had if had been aired on television is a compelling what if in its own right.
From its plot to its mostly spot on characterization and its religious themes, Masters Of Luxor makes for a fascinating what if from Doctor Who's early days. Considering it was replaced by a story that secured Doctor Who's future by introducing the Daleks, one can't help but wonder what Doctor' Who's future would have been if this story had been made. While this story, even its script form, certainly makes for an intriguing read in its own right perhaps it was better in the long run that this remained unmade.