Everybody knows Marvel is releasing a Dr. Strange movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch next month, but did you know there was a Dr. Strange movie for television way back in 1978? It’s true.
Peter Hooten starred as Dr. Strange, looking more than a little like Gabe Kaplan in the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter. Also, Hooten’s costume was more than a little goofy looking, at one point sporting a giant star and at another showing ancient Egyptian iconography, but it was the 1970s, so what could you expect? Just don’t get me started on that faux silky cape.
Originally appearing on CBS from 8 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, September 6, 1978, the TV movie served as a pilot for a show which never appeared. Keep in mind this was during the height of fame for The Incredible Hulk show and The Amazing Spider-Man TV series, with two Captain America made-for-TV movies coming in 1979, so there were high expectations for Dr. Strange.
Unfortunately, despite Stan Lee acting as a consultant, the Dr. Strange pilot did not get picked up for a regular television series.
The plot for the show was rather complicated and rambling, sometimes making little sense, but again, this was the ’70s. To keep it short, the evil enchantress Morgan LeFey (played by Jessica Walters) seeks to gain ultimate power by slaying the Sorcerer Supreme, Thomas Lindmer, or his apprentice. LeFey possesses one Clea Lake into making an attempt on Lindmer’s life, but the sorcerer pulls through. Meanwhile, Clea is put under the care of a psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Strange. Strange investigates Clea’s case and eventually stumbles upon the fact that he is the apprentice to the Sorcerer Supreme though his memory has been wiped in order to protect him. The plot is more complex than that, much more, but I would prefer not to give anything away in case you, the reader, manages to find a copy of this TV movie on VHS or DVD, or maybe you can find it online somewhere.
I will warn, however, that you won’t find a lot of magical goings-on in the show. Much of the screen time is filled with Dr. Strange actually performing his tasks as a doctor within a hospital, though here and there a little odd magic makes an appearance.
Despite the goofiness, the TV version of Dr. Strange does have a certain campy charm to it. It’s filled with the expected 1970s overacting and dramatic moments loaded with gangly music, but that in itself can be quite charming, at least from a nostalgic point of view if not from an it’s-so-bad-it’s-good point of view. Whatever your own opinion, this TV movie does still have its own small following to this day.
Blast from the Past: Dr. Strange TV Movie
And by the way, yes, the show was known as Dr. Strange, not Doctor Strange. Stay Nerdy!