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Doctor Who - The Handbook:
The Fifth Doctor

By Howe, Stammers & Walker

Book review by Jon Preddle

I look forward to reading a new volume in this series around this time each year, and with this book we are half way through the series of seven. After the brilliant First Doctor Handbook, I found the Fifth a bit of a let down. I guess I was hoping for a continuation of the Production Diary, which really appealed to the fact-o-phile in me.

This Handbook follows the same format as the others, with chapters on Peter Davison - in quotes, the Stories, Who Fax, Rewriting The Myth etc. One thing I didn't like were the incredibly long story synopses. In the past these have been very brief. The majority of readers know the stories inside out, so I feel this level of detail unnecessary.

Each of the Handbooks has looked at a different aspect of producing Doctor Who; for the Fourth Doctor it was locations; the Sixth was the role of the companion, and the First was the wonderful Production Diary. For the Fifth the authors examine the function of the script editor, in this case Christopher H Bidmead, Antony Root and Eric Saward, who speak about their individual contributions to the Fifth Doctor's era The Bidmead and Root quotes are from interviews appearing elsewhere but the Saward stuff is new. Bidmead is one man whose work on the show has never really been examined properly. I am sure there is much more about his time on the show to be discussed.

This chapter features an interesting table, which sets out the unused storylines that had been commissioned between 1980 and 1983 - Soldar and the Plastoids indeed! I would like to see similar tables and a Production Diary in the next three Handbooks please!

The selected story for the Script to Screen treatment is The Five Doctors. This reads very much like an Archive from Doctor Who Magazine, and it was nice to at last read the storyline for Robert Holmes' attempt at the anniversary story. The Cybermen were there, but what happened to Sutekh who it has been reported was the villain of the piece?

I did notice several errors, but these are more typographical than factual: the Peter Davison interview in DWM 214-216 was 1994 not 1995; the running time for The Awakening repeat can't be right, and the last two pages of the book have been printed in reverse order.

The final verdict? An informative read, which will certainly appeal to those who like behind-the-scenes analysis of Doctor Who. The next Handbook covers the Pertwee years. I wonder what surprises the authors will spring on us in December 1996...

This item appeared in TSV 46 (January 1996).