This is what makes Spearhead from Space frightening. It doesn't play fair. It lulls you into a false sense of security, saving a lot of its chills for long sequences of tension — then turns about and shouts "boo"! You can't relax with it, because it'll slow down, then speed up, then slow down again, all the best to create its scare moments. It's extremely clever.This is the much-delayed second volume of commentary between Shearman and Hadoke; I read and enjoyed the first back in 2011, and look forward now to the third when it comes out. It's now several years since I completed my own rewatch of Old Who, so this was a nice return to that exercise for me, especially since (like the authors) this is the period of the show that I remember most vividly from my own childhood. And there was one surprise - I had forgotten Tom Baker's appearance in character on Animal Magic, which I think I must have missed when it was shown in 1979:
The two don't deviate much from the received wisdom (or my own views) of the high and low points of the show - in particular, the later parts of both Season Nine and Season Fifteen, where they struggle in their mission to say only nice things about each episode. In fact, they are much harsher on The Claws of Axos than I would be. But it's interesting to consider that one of my recurrent complaints about New Who - that the punch of the season finale has often been pulled - was often just as true of Old Who during the Pertwee and Baker years.
The write-ups of each episode, presented as correspondence between Rob Shearman and Toby Hadoke, are very specifically tied to May-August 2009, a period when both writers went on various travels and Hadoke embarked on what turned out to be a short-lived marriage; but the seven-year gap has meant some occasionally poignant endnotes noting the subsequent passing of key figures in the making of the programme (notably Barry Letts).
This is also a milestone in that I have now finished my 50th birthday present books - I read most of them in the month or so after my birthday, but then spent some Amazon tokens in the summer and got another six, of which this was the last. Thanks, everyone!