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The Handbook: The First Doctor

By Howe, Stammers & Walker

Book review by Phillip J Gray

The Handbook series has come quite some way since the first volume and I rather wish that the same format and material could be applied consistently throughout the series. Although the space required would be huge, a recounting of the Tom Baker era in the form of a Production Diary would be an invaluable gem in the non-fiction Doctor Who literature.

The First Doctor Handbook is an excellent guide to the man and the production team which started the Who phenomenon. The quotes from and about Hartnell were very interesting, even if many of them have appeared in other sources, my only other quibble being that I wished other people had been interviewed. While Verity Lambert and the late Jacqueline Hill have not been the most high profile of convention attendees, a comment from them would have rounded the picture, and indeed one from Carole Ann Ford might also have been in order. Nonetheless this section is a useful taster for the Production Diary.

The Production Diary is a detailed look at the making of the programme from its genesis in 1962 until The Tenth Planet. In it one comes across such jewels as Sydney Newman's response to Carole Ann Ford's 'thank-you' letter on leaving the series, senior BBC management's concerns about the close friendship between Verity Lambert and Jacqueline Hill and the nightmare experience behind the production of The Daleks' Master Plan among many items of interest.

The case study on The Ark is also fascinating, and the revelation that Michael Imison was in effect sacked while directing the final episode is revealing about the way the BBC worked, as are the bureaucratic power games elaborated upon in the production diary.

There are a few mistakes. The last two studio recordings dates given for The Keys of Marinus cannot be right (otherwise the story would have been made six months after it was transmitted!) and the transmission dates for The Smugglers appear to be a direct repetition of those for The War Machines.

I also have a problem with the nature of the reviews. Although I enjoy testing my own views against these, I do not find the attribution of comments and marks out of ten to stories which have either missing episodes, or are in some cases completely missing, appropriate. Even if the authors saw these stories as children, have seen telesnaps or heard soundtracks, this is not a basis for reviewing on the same apparent grounds as was used in the other two Handbooks. No indication was given that some stories even had missing episodes. I'm sure that stories such as Marco Polo would be as excellent as the authors suggest, but this is not the point.

This item appeared in TSV 43 (March 1995).