July 6th, 2007

doctor who

July Books 5) The Making of Doctor Who

5) The Making of Doctor Who, by Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks

Way way back in the mists of childhood, wwhyte and I got hold of the second edition of this book, which was tremendously informative about Doctor Who up to, I think, The Hand of Fear, but was particularly important for me as it was the first book I had read which was about sf; it was possible, I realised, to think and write more deeply about sf as well as just reading it.

This is the first edition, which states on the first page, "Doctor Who has now been running over eight years, which makes it one of the most successful shows on British television." I think I got it at WorldCon. It is very much aimed at a younger audience; quite a long chapter, for instance, on how a television programme is actually made, what the director does, etc. Collapse )

One section which was completely changed in the second edition was the re-telling of the Doctor's televised adventures as a continuous narrative, presented as memoranda from the files of the Time Lords and of UNIT. (The second edition simply presented each story separately in a list, as all serious Doctor Who reference books have done since.) This section is preceded by the indictment and initial defence for the Doctor at the end of The War Games, revealing also the Doctor's "real name".

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Anyway, certainly superseded in usefulness by pretty much every work of reference on Doctor Who published since, but very nice to have.

Honest to Doctor Who

The last few pages of The Making of Doctor Who deserve their own separate post: for some reason, it was felt necessary or appropriate to include a short essay by "the Rev John D Beckwith, AKC, Chaplain to the Bishop of Edmonton" about the relationship of Doctor Who in particular and sf in general with Christianity in particular and religion in general. It is a rather bizarre piece of writing; I do wonder why Dicks and Hulke (or their editor) felt it should be in the book. Anyway, I am posting it beneath the cut; make up your own minds.

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July Books 6) The Mind of Mr Soames

6) The Mind of Mr Soames, by Charles Eric Maine

I bought this on a sudden impulse in August last year at a second-hand book stall outside the National Theatre in London, because I had read a reference in, I think, Kim Newman's book on Doctor Who, saying that the BBC admired the writing of (among others) Charles Eric Maine and considered his work as a possible model for the proposed new sf series back in 1963. I had never heard of Maine, and grabbed this paperback to enlighten myself.

When I finally got around to looking at it last night, I almost tossed it aside; the eponymous Mr Soames has the mind of a baby, despite being much older, and that is uncomfortably close to my own family situation.

However, I decided to mock rather than mourn. Mr Soames is thirty years old, but has been in a coma since birth; the scientists who are the viewpoint characters bring him to life, and we're then suddenly in a sexually repressed late 1950's version of Frankenstein, as the created man wreaks havoc on his environment and his creators.

Some of it reminded me of the Rocky Horror Picture Show ("Oh, Rocky! That's no way to behave on your first day out!"). Some of it reminded me of a terrible novel of about the same era which I read twenty years ago, about the inevitable breakdown of English society which would result as soon as there is a film on general release in which the act of sexual intercourse is depicted. (Can anyone identify that novel?)

Of course, it's not just Frankenstein; in this era you have to compare with Flowers for Algernon, which takes a similar scenario and does it much, much better. I can see the cultural connection between Maine and early Doctor Who; I'm just glad it never became a close link.