Home : Archive : TSV 41-50 : TSV 46 : Review

The Doctors - 30 Years of Time Travel and Beyond

Video review by Jon Preddle

Adrian Rigelsford's book The Doctors - 30 Years of Time Travel was hailed by many as a definitive account of the making of Doctor Who, while others slammed it as being a complete fabrication of lies by a hack writer. MasterVision's video purports to be based on this book, but how do you make a video from a non-fiction work? Even after viewing the tape I was still asking myself that question. There is little in common between the book and the tape other than the title and as such The Doctors video is a big disappointment.

For starters the direction is very sloppy, with microphone booms regularly popping into view, and in some cases the intrusive background noises were more interesting than what the interviewee was saying! One would have expected better from Bill Baggs, director of the Stranger stories.

The tape is simply a series of interviews. Only four of the Doctors appear but each era is represented. For the First Doctor we have Shaun Sutton, who was one of the key people at the BBC who helped shape Doctor Who in its formative years. What he has to say is of interest but it is clear from some of the errors he makes that his memory has cheated him. For some reason Sutton is teamed with actors Brian Blessed and Don Henderson, neither of whom had anything to do with the Hartnell era. Blessed, an old friend of Rigelsford, at least mentions his appearance on the show but Henderson simply 'hmmms' and nods, adding nothing at all.

Wendy Padbury and Sally Faulkner, back at the factory where they filmed The Invasion, talk about Patrick Troughton, while Caroline John joins the ubiquitous Nicholas Courtney for the Third Doctor era. There is a brief appearance by Pertwee himself (looking more and more like he's over 100!) where he opines that Doctor Who has had its dash and shouldn't come back.

The best part of the tape is the Philip Hinchcliffe interview representing the Tom Baker era. He gives clear answers to the questions asked, and as a result of this I am rather looking forward to his forthcoming book (written with Adrian Rigelsford) about his time producing Doctor Who. Likewise, John Nathan-Turner also gives brave insight into what went wrong during his tenure. In all of his previous interviews JNT has never been this frank or forward, and from what he says it appears he has finally accepted the title of 'the Man who killed Doctor Who'. This, together with his ongoing series of articles for DWM, will certainly change the opinion many fans have of the man. The most irritating part of the tape is the Peter Davison interview, in which he says that Doctor Who is 'crap'. And why can't he leave his sunglasses alone?

This is a tape with many faults. The only true bonus is the special footage. As this is a non-BBC production the tape doesn't have any clips from the series. Instead the interviews are 'illustrated' by rare photographs and home movie footage, in which we see for the first time behind the scenes on Shada (with Tom Baker smoking!), The Daemons, The Smugglers and The Abominable Snowmen. One little niggle is that the footage appears during interviews with people who had absolutely no connection with the sequence being shown.

I got the so-called 'exclusive to DWM Readers' extended version of the tape, but the only extra content was a repeat of the home footage but without the intrusion of the interviews. Early promotions for the tape previewed scenes that had been recorded for the tape, so where then are the shots at the BBC props warehouse?

Bad points aside, the tape has a few points of interest to offer but it is the sort of thing that can only be viewed a couple of times before it becomes stale.

This item appeared in TSV 46 (January 1996).