Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

November Books 14) Doctor Who: The Prison In Space, by Dick Sharples (ed. Richard Bignell)

This is a beautifully produced edition of one of the most notorious lost Doctor Who stories, a Second Doctor adventure scheduled for Season 6, which had reached the point of casting and costume design before the production team pulled the plug on it. There are a number of other known lost stories out there, many produced by Big Finish in the last couple of years, but I think only two other published scripts, both from the very first season - Anthony Coburn's "The Masters of Luxor" (a rather dull robot tale) and Moris Farhi's "Farewell, Great Macedon", about the death of Alexander the Great (accompanied by a single-episode story about an alien dying for love of Barbara, "The Yellow Arc of Fragrance"), which is much better.

Big Finish did an audio version of "The Prison In Space" a year or so ago, and I noted then that it is an absolutely terrible story, and we are very fortunate that it did not survive to blight the history of Who. The Doctor and pals land on a world (which seems to be a future Earth, though I don't think this is anywhere stipulated) which is ruled by women; the Doctor and Jamie are imprisoned in the eponymous space prison, but manage to lead a successful revolt which overthrows female rule; Zoe meanwhile has been brainwashed into feminism, but is cured by a vigorous spanking from Jamie. Little more need be said.

Despite the awfulness of the story, fans of the Troughton era will be very well rewarded by getting the book. We get both Sharples' original outline of the story and his near-final script, which shows some interesting aspects of the production process. We also get some in-depth analysis of how such a dreadful project came so close to being executed, and a review of the script by the former 'Time Team' of DWM. On top of that, we get two versions of Brian Hayles' outline of another lost story, Lords Of The Red Planet (an Ice Warrior story which slightly misfired and which Hayles the replaced with The Seeds of Death), and finally a chronology of what was going on story-wise and cast-wise in the Doctor Who production office between January 1968 and mid-1969, which goes some way to explaining the numerous misfires of Season 6, and indeed makes one glad that things were not in fact worse.

(I'm not sure I can bear to go back to the Big Finish audio, but it seemed to me that the script here was slightly funnier than Simon Guerrier's adaptation. Maybe it's just that my appalled reaction to the basic concept has slightly worn off and I can see the humour more clearly.)

Anyway, well done to Richard Bignell and Nothing at the End of the Lane for making a surprisingly silken purse of this pig's ear.
Tags: bookblog 2011, doctor who, doctor who: 02

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