I vaguely recall hearing about this abortive project shortly before Doctor Who returned in 2005, but never knew that the pilot had ever made it past the executive boardroom. Filmed at around the same time, it's a tiny snapshot of what Paul McGann might have looked like as The Doctor, had the BBC decided to bring him back rather than starting off fresh with Christopher Eccleston.

Fables of Forgotten Things was pitched as a melancholy Autumnal family drama, in the same vein as Box of Delights, The Phoenix and the Carpet, Chocky, and yes... Doctor Who. The plan was to produce a series of 6 x 25 minute episodes, and while the BBC eventually passed on the idea, the project was quickly picked up by an independent company called Zenith Entertainment, who unfortunately went into receivership shortly thereafter, tying up both the show and the previously filmed pilot in legal red tape for several years, until it eventually reverted back to the creators in 2008.

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The 15 minute pilot was shot for practically nothing, and so moodily lit, that it's often hard to see the actors at all. The plot is somewhat jumbled, and would have likely been framed more clearly had it gone to full series, but seems to involve The Doctor Clarance as a custodian of forgotten memories, responsible for leaving those little items— a shoe, a penny, a faded photograph, in just the right place to make people remember again. Quite why this involves hiding under people's beds with a box full of spiders or hanging out with a young runaway is never explained, but it's eccentric and British, and that's what counts.

In some ways, the disjointed nature of the storytelling, and the way the baddie just sort of pops up and is a very Doctor Who style baddie, reminds me of the old ultra-low budget Colin Baker BBV videos circulated in the early 90's when a certain popular show about a mysterious time traveler and his female companion was off the air, but the BBC were still highly protective of their IP rights. (Although thankfully not filmed in a gravel quarry, and with significantly better acting all around.)

EDIT: Here's a link to a much better print on Vimeo:

Or, if you prefer Youtube (part 1):

...and part 2:

Also, I love that McGann is essentially wearing the 10th Doctor's outfit throughout this entire thing. Considering that this video has been around for a while, I'm a bit surprised that no enterprising fans with a copy of Final Cut Pro have inserted a sonic screwdriver and a few shots of the TARDIS in the background. Cut out a few lines here and there, and you've very nearly got yourself a (somewhat confusing) pre-Time War minisode.

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