A Doctor, an elderly man with white hair, takes his two companions is his amazing shuttle made from alien materials to travel from 1906 Normandy, France to Mars where they encounter an alien race. That’s not the plot of a Doctor Who episode. It’s the story of Doctor Omega, a sci-fi novel by Arnould Galopin that was published in France back in 1906. 57 years before Doctor Who debuted on the BBC. The cover for the book can be seen above. So has BBC TV show just been a ripoff this whole time?
To be fair, since Doctor Who has been around for over 50 years there has been plenty of time for the accusation of theft to be levied against it and no on ever has. And once you take a closer look at Doctor Omega, you realize it has significant differences from Doctor Who and a lot more in common with H.G. Welles’ science fiction from the turn of the century.
The story of Doctor Omega is narrated by one of the two companions. Omega has built a projectile-shaped ship called The Cosmos. It’s made out of an otherwordly material called stellite which protects it from time and space and travels through the aether. The men travel to Mars and meet several warring species, eventually escaping with one and coming back to Earth. They do not travel in time. Omega is not an alien. So there are significant differences.
Still, the similarities in terms of an older man with younger companions travelling through space? Well, they may not be unique to Doctor Omega but they are also elements of Doctor Who. Sydney Newman, who created the TV show was originally from Canada, born in 1917. It’s perhaps not far-fetched to imagine he read Doctor Omega as a younger man, where many Canadians are fluent in both English and French.
However, it’s well-documented that Newman was only monolingual. His inability to speak French led to a problem when he worked at a TV station in Quebec. There were multiple people who developed Doctor Who, of course, but Newman created the central premise and it seems very unlikely he knew about Doctor Omega. Instead, it is most likely that the similarities are purely coincidence and both stories are based in humankind’s fascination with exploration.