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Book Review

Book Cover

The Barry Newbery Signature Collection (Paperback)


Author: Barry Newbery
Telos Publishing
RRP: £24.99
ISBN: 978 1 84583 074 8
Available 12 October 2012

Barry Newbery was the first set designer to work on the transmitted series of Doctor Who, and he is also one of the longest serving. He has designed adventures set around the world, from the Wild West, via Europe and the Middle East, to Dynastic China; and across the ages, from Man’s first fumblings with fire to the demise of the Earth billions of years in the future. This book presents an extensive selection from Barry’s personal collection of photographs of his designs - many published for the very first time - with insight into his ideas, influences and accomplishments in his own words. See Ancient Egypt, Renaissance Italy, volcanic Tigus, distant Karn and more exotic locations come to life through Barry’s meticulous and inventive designs...

This book unites photographs, drawings and recollections by Doctor Who designer Barry Newbery. The images come from Newbery’s own collection. The text, with the exception of an introduction by Stephen James Walker, is lifted from previously published interviews with the designer.

During its first couple of seasons, Doctor Who had two main production designers: Raymond P Cusick and Barry Newbery. Coincidentally, Cusick often ended up with the alien planet stories, while Newbery tackled tales set in Earth’s past. This suited both designers’ interests very well. Newbery’s text recalls his fascination with researching and re-creating the architectural style of various historical periods, such as 15th-century Mexico in The Aztecs and 12th-century Palestine in The Crusade. He also recounts how the studio lighting did not always show his work to best effect, such as the desert scenes in Marco Polo not being bright enough.

He also worked on present-day and futuristic stories, such as The Ark, The Dominators and Doctor Who and the Silurians, but roughly two-thirds of this volume deals with historical designs. The book is structured in terms of Earth history, starting with the Stone Age (for 100,000 BC - also known as An Unearthly Child and The Tribe of Gum) and ending with the 57th Segment of Time (for The Ark).

Newbery’s work featured in stories spanning the reigns of the first five Doctors across 21 years. Unfortunately, the eras of two of those Doctors, Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison, barely get a look-in, aside from a few drawings, as the designer either did not take or did not retain photographs from the making of Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Awakening. I suppose screen captures or images from other sources could have been used to represent these, but doing so might have caused copyright difficulties (usually there is a distinct lack of images in Telos books, but the use of photographs taken by the designer circumvents this) and it would have strayed from the remit of this book, which is to focus on Newbery’s work through his own words and pictures.

Many of the images have never been printed before, and the photographs relating to missing episodes - the whole of Marco Polo, half of The Crusade and several episodes of The Daleks’ Master Plan - are particularly welcome.

On its website, Telos Publishing describes this book as “a beautifully designed and presented, lavish, full colour, coffee-table book”. I would question the use of the term “full colour”, since the majority of the photographs were taken in black and white - though there are several colour images, including some lovely shots from Marco Polo. Personally, I wouldn’t use the phrase “coffee-table book” either, as the 23 x 16cm format is somewhat on the small side. A landscape approach has been taken, presumably because many of the images are in that orientation, but a larger-format book would have been even more welcome.

However, I have no beef at all with the phrase “beautifully designed and presented”. Paul Smith has done a marvellous job of putting the book together and of restoring these vintage images. Special mention must be made of his cover design, which seamlessly blends one of Newbery’s original design sketches for The Aztecs with a photograph of the finished set.

The book is rather expensive, at £24.99 for the paperback (or £39.99 for the hardback edition), but if you can afford it, it is well worth admiring the fruits of Newbery’s inventive labours. I would welcome a similar volume on Cusick’s work.


Richard McGinlay

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