Story: Author Peter Haining once again toils away in the Who mines, trying to provide a chronological history of the development, production, and critical and public reaction to the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who.
Review: The second of his sextet of Doctor Who books, “The Key To Time” is also probably Peter Haining’s second best, and it was downhill from there; later books like “The Doctor Who File” and “The Time Travellers’ Guide” were dismal recyclings of what appeared here and in “Doctor Who – A Celebration”. But the beginning of that decline can be seen in “The Key To Time” as well: the emphasis shifts from text to pictures here, and to avoid incurring a huge photo usage fee from the BBC and Equity (the British actors’ union), illustrations from fan artists were sought. Continue reading
Story: This book takes a risk that it might be treading on well-traveled ground, but it succeeds in its unprecedented level of detail. The early 1980s era of Doctor Who has already been analyzed in much detail, though recent revelations – such as the claim that Tom Baker’s voluntary resignation was motivated by disagreements with new producer John Nathan-Turner – have made it possible to conduct newer studies of the show’s final decade as a continuing series.
Review: One thing this book covered which I had not previously read much about was the period from Colin Baker’s exodus through Sylvester McCoy’s era and the end of the BBC’s production of the show. Many of the details of this winding-down portion of Doctor Who’s history are vague, though this book helped to set the record straight, including the very, very intriguing pre-production information for the next season or two which would have carried Doctor Who into the 1990s and toward 30 continuous years on the air. Continue reading
Story: British pop culture journalist Peter Haining – he who has managed to wrangle the compilation of other people’s writings into a career, if not necessarily an art form – interviews the star and producer of Doctor Who during its 1988 silver anniversary year. Profiles of other actors who have played the Doctor (and his companions) are included, as well as brief bios of actors who have played the Doctor in other venues. Haining also glances over the history of science fiction on British television and assesses the Time Lord’s place in the pantheon of SF literary heroes.
Review: After the death of controversial Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner, I reacquainted myself with this book since I recalled it had one of the better interviews with him. And 25 Glorious Years is an interesting volume in other ways as well. Continue reading
Story: Shortly before the end of Doctor Who on BBC-TV in 1989, an up-and-coming Columbia Pictures TV producer named Philip Segal contacted the BBC about obtaining the rights to create an American version of the popular show. As fate would have it, Segal became the BBC’s choice to bring the Doctor’s adventures to the U.S. – but the road between winning that approval and finally getting a singular show on the air (the 1996 movie aired on Fox) would prove to be longer and more convoluted than any adventure ever endured by the Time Lord.
Review: In the fine tradition of the Howe-Stammers-Walker reference works, repsected Doctor Who novelist and journalist Gary Russell teamed up with Doctor Who movie producer Philip Segal, the man who would have liked to revive the series proper in America and did manage to bring the eighth Doctor to the world. The story of the many twists and turns Segal undertook in the process of getting Doctor Who back on the air, even if only for two hours, is almost beyond comprehension when one tries to fathom the sheer bureaucracy involved in a U.S.-British co-production. Continue reading
Story: In 1999, after over two years of petitioning the BBC for the rights, Jason Haigh-Ellery and his cohorts at the largely fan-run audio production outfit Big Finish Productions launched a new series of official and original Doctor Who audio plays. The author chronicles the making of the first fifty Doctor Who audio stories, plus several spinoff releases such as the Dalek Empire and Sarah Jane Smith series, going behind the scenes of the writing process, production, post-production and even fan reaction to individual titles.
Review: It almost seems anticlimactic to think about it now that Doctor Who has made an impressive return to the top of the British television ratings, but a mere six years ago, Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio productions were almost more than the fans ever could have hoped for. And with the recent broadcast of some of the eighth Doctor audio plays starring Paul McGann on BBC Radio 7, things appear to have come full circle: the BBC has more or less branded these plays-on-CD as bona fide Who. Continue reading
Story: In what appears to be the final entry in the excellent Handbook series of Doctor Who non-fiction books, the all-too-brief era of Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor Who is covered in great detail.
Review: I’ve always been a fan of the Handbooks, but I eagerly awaited this particular volume since – as opposed to the earlier years of the show, which have been covered extensively – I have found information on the McCoy era very hard to come by. “Doctor Who: The Eighties”, by the same authors, was an excellent book in that department, as is this one. However, I would’ve liked more information on the planned 27th season of Doctor Who, some of which was covered in “The Eighties”. Continue reading
Story: In only the second volume of the outstanding series of non-fiction Doctor Who Handbooks, the troubled reign of Colin Baker, the sixth actor to play the role of the Doctor, is covered. From the inception of this new take on the character, to the cancellation that aborted an entire season about to enter production (and forced the show’s makers to hastily concoct a new series of stories in its stead), to the untimely termination of Baker’s contract, the tumultuous three-year period is examined, even including a glimpse at some of the plans that were in place had he continued in the role.
Review: Perhaps the single most fascinating volume in the Handbook series, the Sixth Doctor Handbook finally dishes up some long-overdue behind-the-scenes dirt on the most troubled phase of the show’s history. Continue reading
Story: Doctor Who fanzine publishers, interviewers and analysts extraordinare David J. Howe, Stephen James Walker and Mark Stammers kick off an seven-volume examination of the series with this look at Tom Baker’s reign as the longest-serving actor in the role. Baker’s own quotes before, during and after his time in the TARDIS are analyzed to see how he approached the part, and each episode’s production details and evolution are covered. The Brain Of Morbius is selected for a scene-by-scene breakdown, with comments from members of the behind-the-scenes crew forming a DVD-style commentary in print. Finally, the effect of Baker’s reign on the rest of the show’s lifetime are discussed as well.
Review: Tom Baker left an indelible mark on Doctor Who when he bowed out of the role in 1981. Some would say that mark was good, and others might say it’s bad – and some of them are probably confusing the effects of Tom Baker, the actor, with the effects of John Nathan-Turner, the producer who took over the show in Baker’s final season. If you’re looking for a solid analysis of this period of the show’s history, this book is for you. Continue reading
Story: Actor Jon Pertwee’s time in the TARDIS in the BBC’s Doctor Who saw the dawn of a new era for the world’s longest-running science fiction TV series: full color, now sporting new special effects and a more grown-up storytelling approach, and for the first time, the star of the show being elevated to true celebrity status outside of the show itself. And being the showbiz professional that he was, Pertwee was up for every bit of it. His life before, during and after Doctor Who is detailed, along with exhaustive profiles of every episode with extensive behind-the-scenes trivia, and a special piece on the making of Day Of The Daleks.
Review: The Doctor Who documentarian trio shrinks to two authors with the exit of Mark Stammers in this volume, but there’s no less information in “The Third Doctor Handbook” than there is in previous books in the series.
One of the more interesting sections this time around is the “In His Own Words” chapter, culling quotes from Pertwee’s past interviews in the mainstream press and from fan interviews. Much of the book’s most fascinating information is found here, including the fact that a salary dispute was chiefly responsible for the end of Pertwee’s tenure. Continue reading
Story: Actors have had to replace other actors before, both on television and on the stage, but seldom has an attempt been made to change horses mid-stream that rivaled tha audacity of the first changeover of lead actors in Doctor Who. William Hartnell, who had become an unlikely hero to his young audience in three years of battling Daleks and other menaces from outer space and Earth history, was replaced by Patrick Troughton, an actor whom Hartnell regarded highly though the two didn’t look even remotely similar. With Troughton’s wildly different take on the character, and with the show evolving into more of a science fiction adventure series, “The Second Doctor Handbook” has a lot of material to cover. The authors also lavish praise and throw rotten fruit where appropriate in a section of episode-by-episode reviews.
Review: What was going through the minds of Doctor Who’s producers when they cast Patrick Troughton as William Hartnell’s replacement? That’s a big part of what the authors, the three most accomplished documentarians of the BBC’s most popular science fiction series, tackled with this book. And boy,was I surprised at what they revealed here. Long has the official party line been repeated that Hartnell had to retire from his favorite role due to illness, but it seems that Hartnell’s health problems – early symptoms of multiple sclerosis – were only a small part of that decision. Continue reading