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The inspiration behind the original concept of Doctor Who is not the most mysterious of territories. Sydney Newman’s teatime television venture was born out of a number of ingredients, the central plank of which being H.G. Wells’ groundbreaking novel The Time Machine (1895), which sees a Victorian inventor breach the fourth dimension and travel into the far flung future.
The cover of H.G Wells'  novel, 'The Time Machine' (1895).

For science-fiction aficionados, Wells’ legacy is well known and stretches far beyond his slim narrative on time travel. Along with that other nineteenth-century visionary, Jules Verne, Wells set out the concepts and ideas which, as the twentieth century unfolded, became a brand new literary genre and gave rise to such writing greats as Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Karl Vonnegut and J.G. Ballard.

Wells’ Victorian innovator may well have been the mainspring for the mysterious Doctor, whose adventures have captivated children and adults alike for nearly half a century, but there happens to be another temporal explorer whose adventures are somewhat less well known, and whose resemblance to the Doctor is really quite remarkable.

It was in 1906 that the French author, Arnould Galopin (1865-1934), brought forth a new science-fiction protagonist by the name of Doctor Omega. Galopin was one of Verne’s successors, and, although both productive and successful in his own time, he has since become something of a footnote in the history of twentieth-century French literature. Fortunately, his enigmatic Doctor Omega has come to a new audience, by way of a translated version of the original novel Le Docteur Oméga, produced by the writer, translator and Doctor Who archivist Jean-Marc Lofficier and his wife, Randy.

The Lofficiers have a long and successful track record in the business of translating and publishing.

Their adaptation of Galopin’s Le Docteur Oméga is no exception. The book presents the remarkable tale of Denis Borel, a French gentleman who, upon moving from the hustle and bustle of Paris to the rural tranquility of Normandy, becomes entangled in the extraordinary doings of the titular character.
The cover of Arnould Galopin's novel, 'Le Docteur Omega' (1906)

Persuaded by the mysterious Doctor Omega to accompany him in his studies, Borel soon finds himself a crewman aboard Doctor Omega’s custom-built ship, the Cosmos, for its maiden voyage into time and space. In no little time the ship and its crew are fetched up upon the eerie landscape of Mars in the long distant past, and face to face with the planet’s curious inhabitants.

In itself, the story is an engaging but by no means complicated affair, and its style owes much to the works of Wells and Verne. But for Doctor Who fans there is a little more to consider. For the similarities between Galopin’s turn-of-the-century scientist-cum-inventor, and Newman’s 1963 protagonist are striking.

First, unlike Wells’ time traveller, Doctor Omega is a stranger – possibly an alien – cut off from his own kind. Second, his people possess the power to travel through time and space through a rare metallic element known as stellite. Third, his brisk manner is not unlike the sometimes irascible nature of William Hartnell’s Doctor, and his appearance – as represented in the original French illustrations by E. Bouard and J.M. Breton – echoes this likeness. Lastly, he constructs an incredible vessel, the Cosmos, which, through the presence of stellite, enables him to travel in time as well as space.

As well as its obvious echoes in the world of Doctor Who, it’s noteworthy that this book is not only translated by the Lofficiers, but also ‘adapted and retold’. This means that the English version has undergone something of a minor makeover, which irons out the occasional piece of tired plotting and emphasises the possible association between Gallifrey’s most famous son and Galopin’s marooned scientist.
The cover of Lofficier's retelling of 'Doctor Omega' (2003).

Of course, the connections listed above are perfectly reasonable coincidences, and given that Galopin was following in the footsteps of Wells, as Newman himself did a little over half a century later, it’s little wonder that a degree of similarity exists between the two.

More, as Jean-Marc Lofficier points out in a recent interview (see Whotopia 21 at, it’s almost certainly the case that when Newman was busy establishing the format for Doctor Who he had never heard of Le Docteur Oméga. Rather, as Lofficier goes on to argue, certain storytelling archetypes exist across history and the apparent link between Doctor Who and Le Docteur Oméga is just another example of this repetition of characters and qualities across time.

That being said, I defy anyone to glance at either of the front covers of the 2003 English editions of Le Docteur Oméga, as published by the Lofficiers’ very own Black Coat Press and not mistake it for a new Target-like novel presenting the adventure of some sort of combination of the good Doctor and the renegade Time Lord Omega – and there’s another debate just waiting to be started!

Lastly, along with their translated version of Le Docteur Oméga, the Lofficier's published in 2011 a further collection of short stories involving Galopin’s anonymous time traveller, entitled Doctor Omega and the Shadowmen. Both books are available from Black Coat Press at

© Copyright Jez Strickley & Doctor Who Online, 2012.
Page Updated: 2/5/2012

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Jez Strickley

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