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The Nth Doctor

By Jean-Marc Lofficier

Book review by Paul Scoones


Ever since 1993 The Dark Dimension has embodied the unfulfilled promise of a story shrouded in secrecy. Whilst the behind the scenes intrigue is a tale remaining largely untold, the publication of The Nth Doctor brings to light at last the content of the script in the form of a detailed synopsis punctuated with quotes. Passing judgement on the basis of this, I feel that the BBC were probably right (though maybe for the wrong reasons), to pull the plug when they did. Heavily continuity laden, and so convoluted that even the synopsis requires a second reading, Joe Public would have given this outing the thumbs down, and the ratings disaster might have meant that the series ended earlier than 1996. The coverage given to The Dark Dimension represents just one chapter in this fascinating account of what boils down to three distinct efforts to make a Doctor Who production. The other two are the Daltenreys / Green Light / Coast to Coast / Lumiere movie project and the Philip Segal film.

Between 1987 and 1994, numerous rewrites and ultimately a completely fresh script were produced for the Daltenreys project. Former Doctor Who script writer Johnny Byrne wrote and rewrote the same basic story featuring the Doctor's time-spanning battle with the villainous Varnax. Several versions are included in the book, but the version which appeared in DWB a few years back is however omitted. It is however fairly easy to discern where this rewrite fits into the sequence. Byrne's scripts, which superseded one by Mark Ezra (also included), were in turn replaced by Star Trek writer Denny Martin Flinn's attempt, which coincided with the involvement of Lumiere. Flinn's story is delightful, and could have resulted in a film loved by fans - particularly if Pierce Brosnan had taken the lead role, as was planned. The same cannot be said of the earlier versions by Ezra and Byrne.

Skipping the aforementioned Dark Dimension chapter, we arrive at the remaining section of the book, detailing the early attempts to realise Philip Segal's dream of relaunching the series on American network television. Matthew Jacobs' predecessors were John Leekley and Robert DeLaurentis, both of whom produced scripts which went back to basics and started the series afresh with elements borrowed from the original. It is indeed fortunate that these versions were never realised, but the synopses and the extracts from the series bible make very interesting reading, especially considering that it is here that the background concerning the Doctor's Gallifreyan father and human mother, which made it into the televised movie, are first developed.

Jean-Marc Lofficier's embellishments leave a lot to be desired. Each synopsis is extensively footnoted, picking up on every nuance that might (or might not) have some connection to earlier adventures, and worst still, attempts to hammer each story into the continuity framework of the established series. These sections are ridiculous, intrusive and unnecessary. Worse still is Lofficier's alteration of certain elements of the stories - in the case of Flinn's script, the villain was called Mandrake, but recognising a similarity, Lofficier has taken it upon himself to change the character's name to the Master.

The inclusion of interviews with the writers is an added bonus. One can only speculate why Adrian Rigelsford was not interviewed and his place is taken by special effects designer Tony Harding, whose minimal knowledge of The Dark Dimension is painfully evident. Despite the unfortunate flaws, the script synopses are enough to make it indispensable to anyone with an interest in nineties Doctor Who.

This item appeared in TSV 50 (February 1997).