Reviewed: Doctor Who – The Complete History #2

I’ve been watching Day of the Daleks.

It’s no coincidence that this issue of Doctor Who: The Complete History also covers the four-part 1972 serial: reading about all the behind-the-scenes details inspires a rewatch. You notice things you never have before; you understand the context of the tale, both for the narrative and of the production crew; and you learn about how it was all received.

In short, you know why things are the way they are.

In some cases, you understand better why a serial is a fan favourite; in others, you know that it might be a bit naff, but most importantly, that it was always the intention to make the best of what was available.

It’s easy to criticise, and that’s something vital to remember. This partwork makes you realise this more than ever.

However, it’s very difficult to criticise The Complete History. The collection purports to be the definitive guide to the making of Doctor Who, and with this second issue, Volume 17 overall but the first to cover Classic Doctor Who, that’s exactly what you get.

Covering Colony in Space, The Daemons, and Day of the Daleks, this is a good sample of what the Third Doctor era does: something political in outer space (running an errand for the Time Lords), an Earthbound UNIT story, and… well, Daleks. Okay, so Jon Pertwee only faced up to the Daleks in three stories, but all are certainly memorable. These tales might be good examples of the Third Doctor tenure, yet they’re also something special too.

Day of the Daleks is a timey-wimey story, at a time when Doctor Who didn’t typically deal with paradoxes. The Daemons mixes religion with town politics and superstition, often remembered fondly. And then there’s Colony in Space.

Colony-in-Space-3rd-Third-Doctor-Jon-Pertwee

I’ve never been a massive fan of Colony, quite a dull tale told in a dull location across six dull parts. I’m being too harsh, I know, but it’s written by Malcolm Hulke! It should be amazing!

The Doctor and Jo’s adventure on Uxarieus is nothing spectacular. However, after reading The Complete History, I’ve a new appreciation of it. It’ll never become a favourite story, no, but the volume forces you to revisit its minutiae and wrestles you into submission. You’ll admit to one and all: “Oh yeah, actually, that bit was really good.”

Thanks to grey everywhere, Colony seems an uninspired choice for this Doctor’s first foray into space. Reading The Complete History, though, you discover the work director, Michael E. Briant and co. undertook in order to make it as good as it possibly could be.

Indeed, there’s an interesting profile on Briant, as well as further ones on Christopher Barry (director of The Daemons), and Richard Franklin aka Captain Mike Yates. The latter is especially enjoyable.

While I’m not a fan of Colony, I do, for all its faults, enjoy Day of the Daleks. I hadn’t realised the negative reaction to it back in the early 1970s – this volume even notes how one reviewer had complained that Doctor Who was becoming repetitive, despite the Daleks not featuring in the show since 1967’s Evil of the Daleks!

Too much has been said about the lacklustre scene in which three Daleks attack Auderly House – Pertwee was one of its critics, in fact – but it’s not that bad really. Just use some imagination. The crew seemed to face plenty of limitations, notably that only three Daleks could be found from older serials… Well, three and a skirt, later used in Episode Four to show a blown-up Dalek.

Jon Pertwee famously didn’t like the Daleks, but this is surprisingly not touched upon here. Maybe this serial is what tainted his opinion of the Doctor’s greatest enemies. We’ll likely find out more when we come to Planet of the Daleks or Death to the Daleks.

On rewatching Day of the Daleks, it’s satisfying to know, with the benefit of The Complete History, when and where scenes were filmed – surprising too. I was shocked how tight the shooting schedule for studio-bound scenes was: obviously I knew that stories in the 1960s were filmed essentially live, but knowing, for instance, that the final episode (not including location filming) was recorded between 7:30pm and 10pm on Tuesday 19th October 1971 is enlightening.

Day-of-the-Daleks

It’s particularly eye-opening to compare this volume’s Production sections to last issue’s, which focussed on Doctor Who Series 3 (2007).

The Production parts here for all three serials are extensive and truly fascinating; the Pre-Productions are also in-depth. These come at the expense of shorter Post-Production sections, but this isn’t ignorance: it appears that not a great amount of editing was needed because the scripts were so thoroughly pored over before shooting.

Nestled between Colony and Day is, of course, The Daemons, generally considered top-notch Who. The cast certainly has a great time; the serial’s Production entry concludes that it became a favourite of Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney, Richard Franklin, John Levene, and Christopher Barry.

The photos chosen really are superb. This is especially true for The Daemons, where a good mix of screengrabs, behind-the-scenes images, and candid pictures show an accurate portrayal of the mood on location and set. There’s a wonderful photo of Pertwee with Ed Stewart, DJ and host of Tops of the Pops.

Furthermore, covers for the Target novelisations are also presented in the Merchandise sections of each serial – not just the much-loved Chris Achilleos and Andrew Skilleter depictions but also overseas covers. No prizes for guessing which serial is called Doctor Kim – ve Dalek Baskini in Turkey. That serial’s Merchandise section is the most impressive in this volume. Brazil’s Douter Who e a Mudanca da Historia, with chunky Daleks and William Hartnell’s First Doctor shown instead of the Third Doctor, would take the crown for Most Bizarre Target Cover if it weren’t for the gloriously obscure Japanese version.

Actually, it’s Frank Bellamy’s Radio Times illustrations that really stand out in this issue. Some Daemons ones are very well-known, but The Complete History spotlights further masterpieces in pen and ink. You really need to see them.

Colony-in-Space-Frank-Bellamy

Just like Issue One, I learnt plenty from this book, so I’ll just note a few interesting tidbits:

  •  It seemed that Briant was after another little holiday when he suggested Tenerife as a filming location for Colony in Space. Instead, it was filmed in a clay pit in Cornwall…
  • Damaris Hayman borrowed the green cloak to use when playing Miss Hawthorne from her good friend, Dame Margaret Rutherford, best-known to many as Miss Marple!
  • Footage of Auderly House blowing up in the finale of Day of the Daleks was used in a festive 1976 The Morecombe and Wise Show, supposedly an effect of the pair pulling a Christmas cracker.
  • The Dalek serial was released on VHS, Betamax, and the short-lived Laserdisc. I reviewed the DVD in 2011, but never knew about an alternative cover for the Australian release (and what a great cover it was too!).
  • Richard Franklin was involved in the greatly-remembered Milky Bar Kid TV campaigns when he worked on advertising for Nestle.

The Complete History is definitely living up to its premise as a thorough guide to the show; what’s more, it’s an entertaining read, lovingly accompanied with gorgeous images.

Two down; 78 to go. And I can’t wait.

NEXT: DEEP BREATH AND INTO THE DALEK.

Want to subscribe? Head over to the Doctor Who: The Complete History site – and don’t forget about the premium subscription offer too!

(Originally appeared on Kasterborous Oct’15)

  • TimeChaser

    Second issue but 17th volume?? I’m confused! :-/

    I would like to get into this series, as I’m a sucker for good Doctor Who reference/behind-the-scenes stuff, but it sounds like it’s going to be a shelf-breaker, just covering a few stories at a time out of a show that’s been running 50+ years and hundreds of episodes.

    • Philip

      Yeah, so it’s the second issue released but in the collection, it’s volume 17. They’re just not releasing them in order. I guess it is a shelf-breaker, but I collect a few partworks like this and I do find they’re generally worth it.

      • TimeChaser

        Oh, I see. A quick visit to their site cleared it up. Thanks, Philip. 🙂

        I’m hoping international customers can also subscribe to the series. Going to give it a try.

        • Philip

          I’m not sure if you can, to be honest. I was gonna ask them but had forgotten! Let me know what happens!

          • TimeChaser

            I sent an email inquiry a while ago. Waiting for reply. Also it seems you can only subscribe starting at Issue 5. How do I get the first four then? Their site lacks some important information, frankly.

            If they don’t allow international subscribers, I will be very cross. There are millions of Doctor Who fans outside of the UK, and keeping us from being able to enjoy a great product like this is just bizarre. They could make even more money. We’ll give you our money, darnit!!!

          • Mark North

            When they started this project, they probably thought only UK residents would be interested. They probably thought that there would not be enough of a demand to make more copies for outside the UK.. How wrong they are…

          • TimeChaser

            I can only speak for myself, but I’ll go out on a limb and say I would be fairly certain that many other non-UK fans like me would be interested in a book series like this. It would make a great addition to any fan’s library, especially completest super-fans. I dislike when fans outside the UK get ignored when it comes to good product. I may not have been born in Britain (or Ireland as well, in this case) but I have been a fan for thirty years. I think that should count for something.

            OK, time to get off my soapbox. 😛

          • Mark North

            The BBC is the only organization I know who will turn down almost certain profit so they won’t have to make more copies of the product for the non UK market……

          • TimeChaser

            Update time. Unfortunately for me they only deliver within the UK and Ireland.

            I have seen them on Amazon.co.uk, but we’re talking used copies there, which I might consider based on condition, but usually I only purchase used Targets.

            Let’s hope one day this series will become available to the wider world.

          • Philip

            That’s a shame. I know some of the Marvel partworks made their way over to America after some time, so there’s always hope. I’ve seen some on ebay.com too, but again, you get the problem with condition. To be honest, I’ve been having troubles with condition anyway: even subscribing means they’re more often than not damaged in the post and I have to find replacements.

          • TimeChaser

            Always the problem when ordering anything of course. I understand because I order far more stuff than I can find in stores around here: books, movies, music, stuff I can’t get any other way.

  • Dr. Moo

    Colony in Space is nothing special but still entertaining enough.
    The Daemons is overrated but still thoroughly enjoyable and it’s not hard to see where its reputation comes from.
    Day of the Daleks is a masterpiece.

    Overall that’s a good selection of stories in there.

    • TimeChaser

      I’ve always loved The Daemons. It’s a seminal story. The first to use the village-with-old-secrets narrative, with overt alien influence on human culture. From this we get Image of the Fendahl, The Awakening, The Hollow Men, and probably others I can’t recall at the moment.

      • Dr. Moo

        Don’t get me wrong because I really *DO* love it! I’d just never rate it as highly as its reputation has it. It’s definitely in my Top Ten Pertwee stories but only just. I think it needed to be a little shorter, it’s a decent five-parter that drags but could be a really tight four-parter without losing anything.

        • TimeChaser

          Perhaps. At least its not padded out to 6. 😛

          Its all Pertwee’s fault, indulging in his need to be all macho and ride that motorcycle.

  • GG