The Wayback Machine: The forgotten small-screen adventure of Doctor Strange!
Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios producer and president, has said that Doctor Strange will be part of their Phase 3 plans, and Stan (The Man) Lee has added to the speculation himself in talking about the former Sorcerer Supreme.
With that in mind, let’s board the hovering Wayback Machine and head back to my college days in what one of my journalism profs used to call the “Something Seventies” as we see, for the unknowing … there already is a Doctor Strange movie, albeit made for TV.
All my nerdy friends that watched Battlestar Galactica with me and accompanied me to the Star Wars films crammed into my dorm room and around my little set with its rabbit ears antennae headed for Lexingtonin anticipation of Doc’s film.
Not all of them knew who the wizard of Lee and Steve Ditko’s creation was, but their appetites were whetted by my description.
And while the movie was more akin to Luke/Obi-Wan rather than Stephen/Ancient One, we kinda dug it!
In the 1978 TV offering, written and directed by Philip DeGuere as a pilot for a possible series ala The Incredible Hulk or Spider-Man, a young woman named Clea Lake (save the ughs) becomes a pawn of the sorceress Morgan le Fay. The primary defender of our world against threats of a magical nature, the Sorcerer Supreme, is presently a man named Thomas Lindmer.
Lindmer (Ancient One deluxe) and his pupil and friend, Wong, contact a psychiatrist named Stephen Strange who is the heir to his father's potential to become Lindmer's disciple and the next Sorcerer Supreme. Strange (a believable Peter Hooten with ‘70s big hair and ‘stache) bears his father's magical ring as a sign of this, and he has already sensed something wrong, but does not recognize the importance of these feelings of apprehension.
Lindmer must convince Strange of the reality of the mystical world wherein the battle between good and evil is played out on a magical level, all unbeknownst to the mundane world, to save Clea and thwart Morgan's plans.
The story doesn’t sound like much, but for a character still considered low down on the Marvel totem pole even then, we Strange fans were glad to see the doc on TV. There was even a neat section of animation aside from the Jedi magic with David Hooks voicing The Nameless One, whose bidding Morgan was doing on Earth.
Some of us liked it; I loved it. Never heard anything more from it.
In the January 1985 issue of Comics Feature magazine, Lee recounted largely positive experiences working on Doctor Strange, especially compared with the other live-action Marvel Comics adaptations under the publisher's development deal with CBS and Universal in the late 1970s:
“Just as with the Hulk, Lee had few problems with the TV movie adaptation done of Dr. Strange. ‘I probably had the most input into that one. I’ve become good friends with the writer/producer Phil DeGuere. I was pleased with Dr. Strange and The Incredible Hulk. I think that Dr. Strange would have done much better than it did in the ratings except it aired opposite Roots. Those are the only experiences I’ve had with live action television. Dr. Strange and The Incredible Hulk were fine, Captain America was a bit of a disappointment and Spider-Man was a total nightmare.’”
I tend to agree with The Man.