Doctor Who: The Eighties

Doctor Who: The EightiesBuy this book in 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. This interesting chapter details what would have become of Ace, and the creation of the character that would have succeeded her as the Doctor’s companion. There are also tantalizing hints about the stories planned and abandoned when Doctor Who was set aside for eighteen months in 1985 and 1986 due to BBC internal politics.

The book’s incredible depth of detail and wealth of photos leaves but a single flaw in this reader’s mind – an almost complete lack of personality. The breakdowns of the production of each story go into great detail about the locations, the costumes, the makeup, the backgrounds of guest actors, and so forth – but the authors never venture into the realm of opinion. That may spring from a desire to avoid allowing their personal feelings for the episodes to influence the amount of coverage each one is given, but they could have included more notes from the makers of the shows on what they thought of the production and the end result. The omission of this inside information leaves the book feeling unnecessarily clinical, when some of the actors’, writers’ and other people’s opinions could have made the end result quite colorful. The only time personality is allowed to enter the proceedings in an overt manner are in the chapters profiling the various actors to portray the Doctor, and in the chapters examining “lost” seasons of the series, where the authors had to rely on the recollections of those who were in on the production.

Year: 1996
Authors: David J. Howe, Mark Stammers & Stephen James Walker
Publisher: Virgin
Pages: 180