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Classic Who - The Hinchcliffe Years

By Adrian Rigelsford

Book review by Jon Preddle

It seems that the market is slowly becoming swamped by books about the making of Doctor Who. This latest effort from Boxtree examines an era of the programme already extensively covered in Howe-Stammers-Walker's The Seventies and so one wouldn't be wrong in thinking there couldn't be anything new to say about the Tom Baker years. However, it is clear that there is still much to be added to the Doctor Who production story that even The Seventies and, to a degree, Marvel's Archives series, have yet to cover. This new book helps to address the balance.

Despite Hinchcliffe's name in the title, the book is, in effect, the memoirs of not one but two men, the other being Robert Holmes, who was Hinchcliffe's script editor. (The book should have been entitled 'The Gothic Years', a term affectionately used by fans to describe this popular period in Doctor Who's history.) The book is basically a look at the making of Seasons Twelve, Thirteen and Fourteen, with Hinchcliffe and Holmes providing comments along the way. (The Holmes material comes from an unpublished interview conducted by Rigelsford a year before Holmes's death, while Hinchcliffe was interrogated specifically for the book). In preparation, Hinchcliffe viewed his 16 stories (some for the first time in the twenty years since they were made!), and also perused old production documents with a view to triggering lost memories. As a result of this many hitherto unknown facts emerge, such as the dying Master being the original identity of the villain in The Talons of Weng-Chiang (an idea that is quite obvious in hindsight!) We also learn the truth behind the 'faces' in The Brain of Morbius!

Hinchcliffe discusses his relationship with Tom Baker, which clearly shows a mutual respect, and he also reveals for the first time that he only knew he was being taken off the show when Graham Williams walked into his office one day to say he was taking over! In the final chapter Hinchcliffe discusses some of the plans he and Holmes had for the upcoming Season 16, all of which were dropped when Williams took over. Throughout the book we are also given brief summaries of some of the stories that were commissioned but never made. Two of these are given extended synopses in the book's appendix.

The book is illustrated with, to use a well-used phrase, many photos that have never been published before. Many were taken (by Hinchcliffe?) on location or during rehearsals and show actors out of costume and cameras being set up. These are the types of photos I like seeing, as they help to illustrate exactly what goes on behind the scenes during the making of a programme like Doctor Who. A bog-standard shot of a Voc robot is boring; I'd rather see one with an actor standing in full costume but without his robot mask any day!

Rigelsford has more books of a similar theme in the pipeline; if they are of this standard they will be worth looking forward to. I think that Boxtree could be onto a winner here.

This item appeared in TSV 48 (August 1996).