For many people, their first glimpse behind the scenes of Doctor Who came in the print versions of this book by Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks. The first edition appeared in the Jon Pertwee era in 1972, with a second, significantly revised and updated version published in 1976 after Tom Baker had taken on the role.
BBC Audio have now expanded their library of Target adaptations with this new release which brings most of the content from both editions together, read by performers with longstanding connections to the series: Dan Starkey, Geoffrey Beevers, Jon Culshaw, Katy Manning, Louise Jameson, and Maureen O’Brien. It’s an ingenious idea which will surely have been welcomed by fans with fond memories of the original.
We must first address the cover, however, which I have to report presents issues. The most glaring one has to be that the Chris Achilleos illustration deployed, whilst wonderful, is from a different book altogether – the first edition of the similarly excellent The Doctor Who Monster Book from 1975. BBC Audio have traditionally shown a good insight into what their customers want from Doctor Who releases, so it seems odd they should make a deliberate howler like this. A new image, or perhaps some combination of those used on the two print editions, would surely have been preferable. Then there’s the clumsy way the lettering has been shunted off to the left and right of the logo, in a move which will surely bring graphic designers out in nightmarish cold sweats.
So beyond the cover, what can listeners expect from the content? There are summaries of the origins of the programme and the creation of the TARDIS and the Daleks, told with the kind of clarity and straightforward style that has always been the hallmark of Doctor Who novelisations. The writers know they are writing for a young audience and tell their tale with admirable pace and economy, whilst never talking down to the reader.
A highlight for me was the first edition’s use of ‘evidence’ from the Doctor’s trial to recount his adventures, which used the brilliant technique of presenting them in the form of court transcripts, retrieved from dusty Time Lord archives. Later, there are reports from the Brigadier to his superiors in Geneva for the UNIT-centric stories (“I took normal military action, set explosive charges in the caves, and totally destroyed the enemy. Instead of thanking me, the Doctor seemed quite displeased.”). All of this is accompanied by the kind of atmospheric music used in the Target novelisation audios.
The vast majority of this audio’s likely purchasers will already know the detail of Doctor Who’s origins and the history of the show’s adventures, of course, but that’s not the point. A large part of the appeal will be nostalgia for the print editions which were hugely influential in setting a pattern followed by non-fiction books ever since. There was so much less behind the scenes information available in the 1970s, and there will be many people listening to this release who first found out what terms like Producer and Script Editor meant, as well as what names such as Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert achieved, in the pages of The Making of Doctor Who.
It’s an audiobook that probably benefits from being listened to in small chunks rather than in one go, but the short chapter lengths and constantly changing narrators help ensure it never becomes monotonous.
All in all, it’s a tribute to the enduring legacy of Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks that a book they wrote over 50 years ago should be given a new release in a different format now. Dicks lived long enough for him to have a sense of what he meant to generations of readers but one can only guess what Hulke, who died in 1979, would have made of it.
The Making of Doctor Who audiobook is a welcome release in this very special anniversary year for the programme. But let’s please have a change of cover for the second edition, eh?