Reviewed: Doctor Who – The Complete History Issue 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 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.
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.
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.
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.