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The Doctor Who Chronicles: Season Two

By David Brunt & Andrew Pixley

Book review by Jon Preddle

For me, any written work that is accredited to Andrew Pixley will always be something to look forward to. And with the Chronicles, Andrew and David certainly deliver. Anyone who enjoys reading the Archives in DWM should find the Chronicles of equal interest.

The format of the Chronicles is essentially a Season-per-volume guide with a highly detailed, scene-by-scene synopsis of each episode, foot-noted with descriptions of how the screened version differs from the original outlines, drafts, rehearsal and camera scripts. Short of them reprinting the scripts in full (which I would love to have!), these books are I feel the closest we will get to ever having an ultimate Doctor Who reference work.

The first two volumes, Season One and Six, are sadly no longer in print. The third and latest volume, Season Two, has the added bonus of the full synopsis for Planet of Giants presented in its original four-part format, with italics indicating which scenes were removed when parts 3 and 4 were edited together. Not all of these ‘lost’ scenes made it into Terrance Dicks' novelisation, so it's good to finally know the original story. And I found myself agreeing with the BBC's decision to amalgamate the final episodes; Giants would have been rather boring otherwise. (Should the BBC ever find the cut footage lying in its archives somewhere, I hope somebody burns it!)

The footnotes generally take up one column of text, however one particular writer tallies up a full page of notes per episode. Given the number of changes his scripts went through before reaching a filmable state, I guess Terry Nation was far too ambitious with his storylines, over-estimating the abilities and resources of the BBC at the time! It is interesting to see that many of the ideas that were removed from his scripts for The Chase eventually ended up in The Daleks' Master Plan.

Each episode is illustrated with telesnaps or very clear screen grabs. There are also small box-out descriptions of how the story title, writer credits, and Next Episode captions appear on screen. I do question the necessity of including these for the episodes that still exist, since they could just show the relevant screen-grabs instead.

The short appendices at the back of the book list commissioning dates and working titles, and a handful of background notes. Anyone who has read the production diary in Doctor Who The Handbook The First Doctor will recognise most of this material. I should point out that the Chronicles do not cover indepth behind the scenes information. That is, for the time being, the sole domain of the DWM Archives.

Pixley and Brunt had originally intended to just chronicle the black and white seasons, but they have now bowed to pressure from their readership to cover the later seasons. While it will take several years to complete the entire series, I look forward to one day having the full 26-volume set on my shelf. [5/5]

Jon adds: Sadly, only the volumes covering the first six seasons were published.

This item appeared in TSV 59 (January 2000).