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The Sixties

by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker

Book review by Jeff Stone

I have a definite fondness for the Sixties era of Doctor Who so the release of any book detailing this crucial period in the show's history is something of a treat for me. Most of these books however have taken the form of the Peter Haining 'churn 'em out on a whim, sod the accuracy' type, and I was half expecting The Sixties to be little better.

Thankfully, this latest tome just happens to be the single best non-fiction work devoted to Doctor Who ever written, with the possible exception of David Banks' Cybermen. Like Banks, Howe, Stammers and Walker have spent a great deal of care and effort to produce a superior record of a television phenomenon.

I can't really add much to the praise already heaped upon the book by Jon and Graham last issue, other than to say they're dead right! The text is meticulously detailed, relating virtually day-by-day the genesis and first decade of Doctor Who, and is complemented by the most amazing collection of photos and stills ever grouped together in one volume. Each page contains at least one rare gem. Among my favourites are the various wonderfully candid rehearsal shots, the colour snaps of the historical stories (bringing out the visual beauty of the costumes), the still of the refinery interior from Fury from the Deep (far out!) and the on-location photos.

But The Sixties is not just a pretty picture book! The text tells you everything you'd ever want to know about the Sixties and much more. While being highly informative, the authors can get rather pedantic at times (the pontification over story titles, for example), and the sheer volume of data makes it hard to read more than bits at a time without it going in one ear and out the other. More detailed info is provided in the sidebars to each page - it's quite disheartening to see how many directors and producers hated the show!

If the book can be faulted, it would have to be in the fact that there is no real fact file on each story - there is usually just a brief synopsis of the plot. And one rather annoying factor is the way that the various abandoned stories aren't explored - at best the vast majority are dismissed with a "it was not made" comment; infuriating stuff for a 'Forgotten Tales' enthusiast!

The section on adversaries is puzzlingly brief, but I suppose something had to be abbreviated! 'Welcome to the Toyshop' was a joy to read - it's so hard to believe how bananas Britain went over the Daleks!

In short, The Sixties is a wonderful book - a must for fans and telly aficionados alike. Few non-fiction Doctor Who books are worth buying, but this one is because it treats its subject with the seriousness it richly deserves. Here's to The Seventies!

This item appeared in TSV 33 (April 1993).