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The Doctor's Affect

By Steve Cambden

Book review by Paul Scoones

Doctor Who fan Steve Cambden was just 16 years old and determined to get behind the scenes of his favourite show, when he first stepped on to the studio floor of Destiny of the Daleks in July 1978. Through a mixture of persistence and good fortune, Steve quickly graduated from being a studio visitor to an assistant to K9 operator Nigel Brackley during Seasons 17 and 18. Steve was K9's assistant operator for Nightmare of Eden, The Horns of Nimon, Shada, State of Decay, Meglos and Full Circle. His memories of working on these stories form the majority of this enjoyable book, supplemented with his associated memories and experiences, and interviews with several special effects colleagues.

Aided by the detailed diaries he kept of his exploits, Cambden has produced a narrative that is so detailed and vivid that the reader will feel transported back to 1979 and 1980 and actually witnessing the events behind the scenes on Doctor Who for themselves. Cambden was there when Alan Bromly infamously quit during the recording of Nightmare of Eden; he was on location for Shada and was present at the studios when the cast and crew learned that the production had been shut down due to strike action.

Cambden's Doctor Who experiences form the majority of the narrative, but the book is not just about his time as assistant K9 operator. It is also an autobiography of his formative experiences in the world of film and television. In between seasons 17 and 18, Cambden worked at Pinewood studios, where he witnessed work on Superman 2 and then landed a short-lived and much-hated job on the Sean Connery SF film Outland.

The Doctor's Affect is a fan publication with no ISBN and not available through bookstores, however it is impossible to think of it of a fanzine. It is the same size and length as a BBC or Virgin Doctor Who novel, professionally printed with paperback binding and a colour photographic cover. It is a shame that it was not picked up for publication by one of the regular Doctor Who publishers, but as Cambden points out near the end of his book, he tried them all with a frustrating lack of success. The penultimate chapter, in which he describes his various approaches and rebuffs by Doctor Who book and magazine publishers alike, is an eye-opener and should perhaps be viewed as a cautionary tale for anyone else with aspirations to get a book like this published.

Although he only worked on the show for a brief time, Cambden offers a deeply insightful glimpse into the behind the scenes world of Doctor Who, and as such his work deserves greater exposure than only being available through a few UK specialty stores. It's a must-read for anyone who has ever dreamed about getting to work on Doctor Who: read this book and you'll know have a fairly good understanding of what it would feel like to have done just that. [4/5]

This item appeared in TSV 59 (January 2000).