The Independent reports that the son of the writer of the first Doctor Who episode is claiming that BBC has failed to give his father, Tony Coburn, “the public recognition that should by rights always have been his due” for inventing the Doctor’s iconic time-machine, the TARDIS.
Stef Coburn claims that the BBC has been in breach of copyright since his father’s death in 1977. Coburn has demanded that the corporation either stop using the TARDIS in the show or pay his family for its every use since then. Coburn claims that upon his father’s death, any informal permission his father gave the BBC to use his work expired and the copyright of all of his ideas passed to his widow Joan. Earlier this year Joan passed it on to her son.
He said: “It is by no means my wish to deprive legions of Doctor Who fans (of whom I was never one) of any aspect of their favourite children’s programme. The only ends I wish to accomplish, by whatever lawful means present themselves, involve bringing about the public recognition that should by rights always have been his due, of my father James Anthony Coburn’s seminal contribution to Doctor Who, and proper lawful recompense to his surviving estate.”
The TARDIS’s inspiration, said Coburn, came from a walk on Wimbledon Common, in south-west London, when his father saw two blue police boxes.
The BBC says it is looking into the complaint, but that there have been no challenges to the copyright since it registered it in the 1980s. Mr Coburn says he would have taken action earlier had he owned the rights.
As part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations, the BBC will show a one-off dramatisation of how the programme came to be created, An Adventure in Space and Time. Mr Coburn said he was “extremely angry” that the programme excludes his father.
The BBC said: “The film reflects on myriad issues behind the scenes of the production, and to ensure the strongest narrative possible focuses on the core team of Sydney Newman, Verity Lambert, William Hartnell and Waris Hussein.”