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The Doctors

By Adrian Rigelsford

Book review by Jon Preddle

When I first heard about this book I had misgivings, since The Sixties, The Seventies and the Doctor Handbooks by the Howe-Stammers-Walker team had practically covered everything there was to know about the making of Doctor Who, and Adrian Rigelsford's previous Doctor Who nonfiction effort was the dreadful Monsters, so the prospect of another 'factual book' from the same author gave me visions of the return of Peter Haining!

The 192 hardcover (ghastly jacket, by the way!) has a similar content to the Sixties/Seventies; the making of each season of Doctor Who is covered in detail, with working titles and filming dates, plus details on unmade stories. There is also much information that doesn't appear in the Sixties or Seventies in particular new revelations about the origins of Doctor Who.

Each season is supported by short quotes from producers, writers and directors. The Doctors contains new interviews conducted by Rigelsford himself several years ago when he was researching a book on unmade Doctor Who scripts which the BBC subsequently vetoed. It was while working on The Dark Dimension that Rigelsford found a new source of unpublished interview material; a journalist who had been on the Doctor Who sets in the 1960s to speak with various people connected to the series. So for the first time we can read the words of Brian Hayles, Malcolm Hulke, Donald Baverstock, Don Houghton amongst others who have, to my knowledge, never been directly interviewed about their work on Doctor Who before. It did strike me as odd that Malcolm Hulke discusses the inspirations for one of his stories, The Green Death, when it had been previously understood that Barry Letts and Robert Sloman were the authors. Mind you, Hulke did later novelise the story... [Jon notes: in later years much scandal has arisen as to the authenticity of these interviews; were they real or did Rigelsford make them up?]

The last few chapters were interesting for covering ground yet to be examined by Howe-Stammers-Walker. The only problem is that these eras are over far too quickly. It took 20 pages to cover the Troughton era, but the Davison stories are zipped by in only 8 pages. It appears that there has been some heavy editing within these last sections: Season 18 is conspicuous by its total absence, and a whole section, presumably on Frontios and Resurrection of the Daleks, has simply vanished, giving the impression that The Awakening was filmed on Butler's Wharf and featured the Daleks! I understand that Rigelsford is not at fault here, but if the editors found it necessary to cut material then they should have got rid of the superfluous episode guide that fills the final 42 pages. I'd rather read about the troublesome Season 18 and more on Davison's time on the show than wade through yet another episode listing.

Another minus against the book is the layout which is quite unappealing, with the horrid 'negative' image of the Doctor's face on every page, and there are far too many typographical errors, and some photos are mis-captioned, such as the one of Mr Sin from The Talons of Weng-Chiang claiming to be from Image of the Fendahl!

But enough of the negative points. Since The Doctors is not officially sanctioned by the BBC (which is why the words 'Doctor Who' don't appear on the cover) illustrations for the book could not be provided by the BBC's photo archives. Instead, Rigelsford has managed to obtain never before published behind-the-scenes shots from his interview subjects and from other private sources. It is these photographic treasures alone that make the book a worthwhile purchase. One of my favourites is that from Destiny of the Daleks showing Daleks displaying never-before-revealed walking appendages!

The Sixties and The Seventies still get my vote as the best books on the subject, but The Doctors is still a worthy addition to the ever-growing library of non-fiction Doctor Who.*

* JON: This opinion is dependent on the authenticity of the 'original' interviews and BBC documentation presented.

This item appeared in TSV 43 (March 1995).