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Doctor Who: Regeneration

Doctor Who: RegenerationBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: 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

Doctor Who: New Audio Adventures – The Inside Story

Doctor Who: The New Audio Adventures - The Inside StoryBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: 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

Doctor Who – The Seventh Doctor Handbook

Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor HandbookBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: 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

Doctor Who: The Sixth Doctor Handbook

Doctor Who: The Sixth Doctor HandbookBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: 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

Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Handbook

Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor HandbookBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: 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

Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Handbook

Doctor Who: The Third Doctor HandbookBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: 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

Doctor Who: The Second Doctor Handbook

Doctor Who: The Second Doctor HandbookBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: 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

Doctor Who: The First Doctor Handbook

Doctor Who: The First Doctor HandbookBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: Television pioneer Sydney Newman joined the BBC in 1962, creating numerous projects, including a children’s science fiction serial about an eccentric, time-traveling professor. The show was expected to last all of several weeks, despite the amount of effort put into its concept, but thanks to the efforts of producers, writers, special effects technicians, a talented cast, and a dedicated young producer (one of the first women to hold that title in the U.K.), Doctor Who thrived – and its legend continues nearly four decades later. This is the story of the era of the show during which William Hartnell, the original actor, played the part, as well as the story of the months of development leading up to the show’s final concept.

Review: The Howe-Stammers-Walker Handbook series is, hands-down, the best-researched history of Doctor Who ever put on paper – it’s just a pity that one has to track down seven books, at least a couple of which are now out of print, to complete the series! Continue reading

Doctor Who: The Fifth Doctor Handbook

Doctor Who: The Fifth Doctor HandbookBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: Using both new and archival interview material and their own analysis, author David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker analyze the three-year reign of Peter Davison as TV’s fifth Doctor Who, a time of upheaval for the show’s schedule, its traditions, and its behind-the-scenes crew.

Review: This volume of the Handbook was one of the last to be released in that series, and maybe it’s easy to see why. The books on the first, second and sixth Doctors dished some interesting dirt about the show’s production team and offstage drama, but by comparison, Peter Davison’s time on the show – as popular as it was – was nearly uneventful by comparison. Some would say the same of Davison’s portrayal, but interestingly enough, the man himself addresses that in interviews here, pointing out that everyone involved with the series was so nervous about how to follow up on Tom Baker’s reign, the decision was taken from the top down to write and portray the Doctor in an almost non-committal, non-character-specific way. That decision alone, and certainly not any lack of acting muscle on Davison’s part (who had already won over the public during his stint on All Creatures Great And Small by this time), is to blame for this era of the show, and its leading man, being labeled by many in hindsight as “bland.” Continue reading

Doctor Who: Killing Ground

Doctor Who: Killing GroundOrder this bookStory: This review was written after a long hiatus from Doctor Who books, and a journey through misery, so go easy on me.

The sixth Doctor decides to take his geeky teen companion, Grant Markham, on a tragical history tour of his past by bringinhg the child back to his homeworld of Agora. This was a mistake.

The book begins with the Doctor imprisoned, and after three weeks of torture, his morale is quite low. You see, Agora isn’t your normal Earth colony world. It is also a Cyber-breeding ground. The Cybermen have been coming to Agora every 3 years to pick up 500 new “recruits” who are then “converted” and added to the Cyber-army. So the “overseers” of this operation have been warned about the Doctor by the Cybermen, and given instructions to be implemented should the Time Lord show up. And show up he does. So now he’s in prison, awaiting the arrrival of this planet’s true masters, and they’ll take it from there.

Review: So here are my stock questions: will the Cybermen prevail? Will the Doctor prevail? Will Grant Markham be able to use Cyber-technology to clear up his acne? And lastly, but most importantly, did I like it? Yes. This was a good book. The sixth Doctor is in his prime. He is so sure of his beliefs and his actions, even though they risk alienating (is there anyone more alien than the Doctor?) himself from the Agorans, and Grant. Continue reading