Doctor Who at the BBC

Presented by: Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen
BBC Radio Collection
RRP 13.99
ISBN 0 563 53087 1
Available now

Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen take us on a journey through the archives to uncover the history of Doctor Who on BBC radio and television...

This double CD release is a curious beast. The first disc contains the complete 56-minute radio documentary 30 Years, presented by Nicholas Courtney, which commemorated Doctor Who's last big anniversary in 1993. The second disc is an altogether more eclectic affair, in which Elisabeth Sladen introduces a number of clips from a variety of radio programmes.

30 Years contains interviews with a number of Who contributors, including five Doctors, six companions, producers Verity Lambert, Barry Letts and John Nathan-Turner, Dalek creator Terry Nation, and William Hartnell's granddaughter Jessica Carney. As with many documentaries on the subject, less time is spent on the 1980s seasons than on the '60s and '70s eras. In fairness, though, 30 Years devotes the largest part of its running time to the early days of the Hartnell era, and thereafter spends progressively less time describing each successive Doctor's tenure.

Disc two includes further interviews from shows such as Today (in which Terry Nation repeats his story about the Georgian State Dancers from the first disc), Morning Sou'West (which covers the recording of The Sontaran Experiment) and The Ed Stewart Show (broadcast from the 1983 Longleat convention). We also hear sketches from the comedy series Hello Cheeky, Week Ending, The Skivers and Dead Ringers - the latter two examples are easily the funniest. Clips from the drama programmes Exploration Earth and The Paradise of Death are also included.

I can see the logic of presenting only brief clips from these dramas, because they are already commercially available in their entirety. However, I find it a shame that I couldn't hear more than an excerpt from Blue Veils & Golden Sands, the 2002 dramatisation of the life of Delia Derbyshire, the musician who arranged the original version of the Doctor Who signature tune. The same goes for the 1985 documentary The Enthusiasts, which deals with fandom. More complete programmes would have made the second disc less bitty. Hopefully Blue Veils and The Enthusiasts will turn up as DVD extras some day, just as Whatever Happened to Susan did on The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

Like I said, Doctor Who at the BBC is a curious beast, but it is nonetheless a welcome addition to the BBC's celebrations of Who's 40th anniversary.

Richard McGinlay

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