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The Brilliant Book of Doctor Who 2011

The Brilliant Book of Doctor Who 2011Order this bookStory: A mashup of fiction, behind-the-scenes fact and a treasure trove of photos, the Brilliant Book covers Matt Smith’s first season as the Doctor. Profiles of the show’s stars and creative staff include looks at the production of the 2010 season and glimpses into the history of the show. The Dream Lord put in an appearance to drop vaguely spoilery hints about the 2011 season, but those hints are wedged in between lots of misleading red herrings and other total fabrications.

Review: When I was a kid and Doctor Who was on the cusp of being in vogue in America in the 1980s, Doctor Who books usually shared many qualities – they were nifty hardbacks with nice cover art, they had gobs of information about the show’s past that you were unlikely to find anywhere else in the days before the web and the commercial availability of every complete story in existence, and they also usually happened to be compiled by the late Peter Haining (I hesitate to use the word “written” because Haining made an art form out of collating essays and other content that was written by others). Not unlike the show that inspired it, Haining’s books were wordy and progressed at a very leisurely pace (even for non-fiction), and contained lots of exlamation points!

By contrast, “Doctor Who: The Brilliant Book 2010” changes topics, typographical/layout styles and authors every few pages – a sort of printed representation of the breakneck pace at which the Doctor’s adventures unfold in the modern series. Continue reading

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 2

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 2Order this bookStory: Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner (1980-1990) relates the story of his tenure as the longest-serving producer of the series, virtually guiding it through the entirety of the 1980s until the BBC quietly cancelled it. In this volumes, he takes listeners, episode-by-episode, through his work on the show, starting halfway through 1986’s Trial Of A Time Lord, and then covering the tumultous unseating of leading man Colin Baker, the casting of his successor Sylvester McCoy, and the making of McCoy’s three seasons as the Doctor. Nathan-Turner’s continuing association with Doctor Who, even after the show was no longer being made, is covered, as are his thoughts on the show’s future (a few years before Russell T. Davies’ new series was announced) and some of its more vocal fans.

Review: A bit closer to what I was hoping to hear from The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, the second volume of the former Doctor Who producer’s audio memoirs still comes in for a landing wide of the mark. Like the first volume, this one concentrates too much on story-by-story anecdotes in a way that doesn’t pause for breath and doesn’t allow for a more elaborate exploration of JN-T’s opinions of any particular event. Continue reading

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 1

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 1Order this bookStory: Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner (1980-1990) relates the story of his tenure as the longest-serving producer of the series, virtually guiding it through the entirety of the 1980s until the BBC quietly cancelled it. In this volumes, he takes listeners,episode-by-episode, through his work on the show, starting as a studio floor assistant in the Patrick Troughton story The Space Pirates, through his work as production unit manager, through his rise to the position of producer at the end of Tom Baker’s reign. At the end of the second disc, “JN-T” discusses the 1985 cancellation/hiatus crisis and the beginning of production on The Trial Of A Time Lord.

Review: I’ve had both 2-CD volumes of the late John Nathan-Turner’s memoirs sitting on the shelf for some time, but they sat there until a recent listen to fellow Doctor Who producer Barry Letts’ memoirs spurred me to listen, contrast and compare. As with the two wildly different epochs of Doctor Who itself, trying to compare the two showrunners’ memoirs is an exercise involving apples and oranges. Continue reading

Who And Me

Who And MeOrder this bookStory: Doctor Who producer Barry Letts (1923-2009) narrates the story of his own beginnings in TV and theater, from second-string actor to writer to producer of one of the BBC’s most popular series during its first seasons in color starring Jon Pertwee. This first volume, featuring Letts reading his own memoirs, covers his early career, his first Doctor Who directing gig (Enemy Of The World starring Patrick Troughton) and his eventual ascension to the chief creative mind behind the series. Jon Pertwee’s first two seasons are covered in depth, including many remembrances of Pertwee himself and his co-stars, the introduction of Roger Delgado as the Master, and more.

Review: I had Who And Me sitting on the shelf for a long time before former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts died in October 2009, but I just hadn’t listened to it; Letts has already been interviewed, and has written up anecdotes about his time working on Doctor Who, and has done enough DVD commentaries…I wasn’t sure there was anything new to tell. Who And Me proved otherwise. Continue reading

On The Outside, It Looked Like An Old-Fashioned Police Box

Story: Presenter Mark Gatiss revisits a now-bygone era of Doctor Who appreciation – in the pre-video, pre-DVD days when Target’s compact, economically-worded novelizations of past television stories were all that younger fans had to rely on for knowledge of the show’s early years, and got a great many young people hooked on reading into the deal. Interviewed guests include Terrance Dicks (writer of the majority of Target’s Doctor Who books), frequent cover artist Chris Achilleos, Philip Hinchcliffe, Russell T. Davies and Anneke Wills.

Review: An affectionate overview of the origins of the Target Books Doctor Who novelizations of the 1970s and ’80s, On The Outside, It Looked Like An Old-Fashioned Police Box is a good “introductory essay” to the phenomenon that has now sadly faded into a specific period: to the modern generation of Doctor Who fandom, Target’s novelizations, seldom exceeding (or even approaching) 200 pages, are more likely to be something younger fans have read about than read first-hand. Continue reading

Doctor Who: Made Of Steel

Doctor Who: Made Of SteelOrder this bookStory: Martha’s journeys with the Doctor are exciting, but she wants to drop in and check on her friends at the hospital where she worked before stepping into the TARDIS. When the Doctor and Martha arrive, they find they’re not the only otherworldly visitors around – Cybermen appear out of thin air and attempt to kidnap them, but the attempt fails. But the Army also wants to talk to the Doctor – Cybermen have been on the move, stealing electronic gear from retail stores and military supply depots alike. The Doctor realizes that these are Cybermen that must have been constructed from local material during the invasion of Canary Wharf, so, untouched by “voidstuff,” they wouldn’t have been sucked back into the Void. When Martha is abducted by the Cybermen, the Doctor – with military backup – goes on the offensive.

Review: There’s something about a Doctor Who story written by Terrance Dicks that fits like a comfortable old shoe. As the script editor of the series during the Pertwee years, Dicks had the unique opportunity to become the chief writer – by default – of the Doctor Who novelizations in the 1980s, writing prose versions of dozens of the TV stories that didn’t have much more of a page count than this. So in that respect, “Made Of Steel” is back to Target Books basics. Continue reading

Doctor Who: A Celebration

Doctor Who: A CelebrationBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: In the first major published retrospective work on the BBC’s science fiction series Doctor Who, writer and editor Peter Haining assembles a history of the show and a variety of essays from its stars and makers, past and (as of the 20th anniversary of the show’s 1963 premiere) present. Fan archivist Jeremy Bentham turns in a large portion of the book almost uncredited, giving a critical and historical rundown of every adventure to date.

Review: The first of Peter Haining’s many books about Doctor Who, “A Celebration” has the benefit, even in hindsight, of being the first such tome, and to someone who had, in 1983, just a working knowledge of the show, this book was a revelation, unearthing a vast wealth of knowledge and photographic material to my young eyes. I grumble about how Haining made a career out of these books, reorganizing the same information over and over again until the later books became a case study of diminishing returns, but “A Celebration” is a fine piece of work on its own. Continue reading

Doctor Who: The Key To Time

Doctor Who: The Key To TimeBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: 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

Doctor Who: The Eighties

Doctor Who: The EightiesBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: 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

Doctor Who: 25 Glorious Years

Doctor Who: 25 Glorious YearsBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: 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