Wednesday 19 August 2015

Doctor Who - The Vault


Doctor Who - The Vault:
Treasures From The First 50 Years
by Marcus Hearn 
BBC Books
ISBN: 978-1-84-990581-7

Doctor Who - The Vault: Treasures From The First 50 Years is one of those clever books about a subject which manages to smartly side-step the problems inherent in work about a passionately followed phenomenon that can cause so much friction between fans and leave everyone smiling. Marcus Hearn offers up a coffee table book which is not in any way a thorough reference volume of the first fifty years of this much loved programme but, more, a fond recollection and celebration of our favourite timelord.

It’s all about the pictures, in this volume, which are less about capturing the actual show and more about remembering the wealth of memorabilia which has been generated over the decades. Although it has a good amount of text and with a chapter split for every year of the timelord’s presence on screen during those 50 years, it’s by no means a detailed account of either the making of the show or an in depth look at the fictional universe portrayed in the series... it’s more of a quick description of what was going down in any particular year and about the striking illustrations provided in this generous tome... which up until a couple of weeks ago was still only a fiver on Amazon... although I still saw a stallholder charging £25 for it at the recent London Film and Comic Con (reviewed here).

As I went through this book, I found a wealth of things which I used to have as a kid and which brought back a lot of memories for me by association. There are things which I still have to this day... such as the stand up cards free with Weetabix, the Jo Grant badge I got from a packet of Sugar Smacks, the Radio Times Ten Year Anniversary Special celebration of the show (still one of my favourite bits of merchandise which I remember reading cover to cover on a long train journey as a kid) and that old standard, The Doctor Who Monster Book. There are also things which I regret letting go of at some point, like the series of Jon Pertwee jigsaw puzzles and various well read Target books over the years... but it just made me appreciate how much this show gave me in the past and is still, to some extent, giving to me now.

As I wandered through pictures of old Iron-On Transfers and Dalek Bubble Bath which I remembered from my youth, I was also pleased to actually learn the odd thing or two in the text... such as John Nathan-Turner’s increasing lack of interest in the show as the years took their toll and his attitude towards the fans... something I never realised when I used to watch his version of the series in the 1970s and 1980s. It was a nice surprise, too, to see the odd photo or play bill from a stage show I saw in the 1970s called Doctor Who and The Seven Keys To Doomsday which starred former Troughton companion Wendy Padbury and Trevor Martin as the good Doctor himself. To this day I’d remembered almost nothing about the show other than the Daleks were in it and that it was very loud. I’d completely forgotten about the other robot monsters in it until I saw a photo and I was quite moved as the writer described the opening regeneration sequence and the two companions in the show running out from the audience to help The Doctor as he regenerated into Trevor Martin. Now I’ve read about it I can actually remember that bit and also being completely alarmed and seeking the advice of my parents as these two audience members started kicking up a fuss and running up on stage to become part of the play itself... wonderful stuff.

There are also some glaring omissions in this book which, for a show primarily for a family audience rather than specifically a children's programme, fails to mention Pertwee companion Katy Manning’s nude appearance in a photoshoot with the Daleks for an 'adult magazine'... something I believe she did while still appearing in the show. I can understand why the publishers felt best to leave the photos themselves out of a book which they know will also have a large child audience... but they could at least have given this important piece of Doctor Who memorabilia a mention. Oh well, the pictures and details are usually easy to get hold of on the internet, I guess. And it was small price to pay considering the amount of annuals, games and other things from my childhood I was constantly reminded of as I worked my way through, some of which I might otherwise have forgotten now I’m left with a brain that keeps dumping huge amounts of information haphazardly as the years drift on by.

My one big regret about this volume is that there weren’t enough illustrations of the amount of stuff available at the time. I kept thinking to myself... well yeah, that’s one of the 'x amount' but where are the pictures of all the others in that range. It’s an immensely enjoyable, fun book to read through, no doubt about it, and Marcus Hearn has done a wonderful job on this one. That being said, it really does highlight the need for a modern, up to date book on the full range of collectibles available over the years which have been generated, officially or (more interestingly) unofficially, by the show... that’s a book I would buy in an instant. But, as it stands, while this book will certainly appeal to a lot of young ‘uns who weren’t around when this stuff was originally being produced, I think it’s probably safe to say that it’s definitely the adult readers who will get the most out of this precious tome. Certainly a book I’m proud to have on my shelf and something which will definitely be 'dipped into' time and time again. A great addition to any Doctor Who fan’s library.

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