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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This is a biography of John Nathan-Turner, producer of Doctor Who from 1979 until 1989. With detailed research and interviews with many of those who knew him, this book builds up a picture of a gregarious man who epitomised the "life of the party" but found the aftermath harder to deal with. As with all good biographies, the character that emerges is complex and contradictory but also was clearly deeply loved by many.

It it must be emphasised that this is an adult book, not a Doctor Who book suitable for children, and one that does not hesitate from turning over stones that undoubtedly some may think were better left as they were. It pulls no punches and confronts issues with the health and lifestyle of the subject in a reasoned manner, but one clearly not afraid of creating a scandal or two itself. The world of Doctor Who fandom is laid bare in a way not previously seen and it doesn't benefit from the experience.

Occasionally the style and constant quotation from interviewees does grate a little, and at one point I found myself wishing that the writer had adopted an authorial voice separate from the need to recount his own experiences. But these considerations are minor, and there's no denying that this book is both a riveting page-turner and masterful at bringing to life a character who would have loved the staring role that this book affords him. The final chapters are very moving, and this biography should deservedly find an audience beyond those interested in the world of theatre, TV and fandom it describes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 June 2013
Pleased that this was not merely a mix of scandal and Doctor Who regurgitated information. A lot of the Doctor Who stuff was told from a new slant and I couldn't help thinking JNT was his own enemy though not his WORST enemy. Also felt he was maligned and a fair part of criticism of his Who tenure can be heavily shared with the script editors as can the good stuff,
I was interested in his life before and after Doctor Who and it was sad he ended up as he did. I was interested to hear what went on at the BBC - breaking up TV Centre has its pluses I think, too cosy by half - but not shocked particularly.
A well put together biography which will probably be judged by it's OTT title for good or ill in much the same way it's subject was judged by the public image he projected - for good or ill.
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on 12 October 2015
This was one of the best books I've read for re-creating the culture at the BBC and for showing a different and more human story of what was going on behind-the-scenes. I recommend reading this book with 'Script Doctor' by Andrew Cartmel to give more information on the Sylvester McCoy era of Doctor Who and other behind-the-scenes stories.

As already stated this isn't really about Doctor Who, it is about the life of a BBC producer and it is very interesting.

Richard Marson has produced a really good journalistic investigation and gained interviews with people that we haven't really heard from in public before - Jonathan Powell and J N-T's colleagues in the Drama Department.

Marson has also written from the perspective of a media professional, so we get more of an insight into the politics of the BBC of the time. I think this book gives us some of the most detailed accounts from BBC Executives of why the series was cancelled, brought back and finally cancelled again.

J N-T's life is very interesting and I guess in any biography there will be personal stuff going on that the said individual wouldn't choose to include in their autobiography. Marson has put together a very honest and detailed portrait and it is for others - who knew J N-T - to judge if it is fair. The writer does in fact put this point to friends and gets their answers.

One of the best media biographies I've read and up there with Steve Rider's 'My Chequered Career' and Will Wyatt's 'Life in the Fun Factory' - both of which have similar levels of behind-the-scenes details of the world of TV production from the 80s and 90s.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2013
There's not much I can say about this fascinating biography that hasn't already been said in lots of other reviews. It's a book for DOCTOR WHO fans, but it's not about DOCTOR WHO.

Whether you loved, hated or were indifferent to John Nathan Turner's long tenure as producer of the programme - and few people fell into the last category - there will be something here to interest you. Inevitably, newspapers seized on the "sex scandal" aspects of the book, but I put these in inverted commas as there really wasn't any scandal. Having said that, people who knew nothing about JNT may raise an eyebrow at some things in the book. Those who had heard rumours will find the clarification and debunking of many stories both revealing and highly readable.

The book doesn't seek either to lionise or demonise JNT, but presents a fair, well balanced and thoroughly researched account of what, in the end, was a tragic life.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 10 June 2013
Could this be one of the best television biographies ever written? I think possibly so. John Nathan-Turner was the producer of Dr Who throughout the turbulent 1980s, as the programme hit the high notes of Peter Davison's first year or so and then slowly limped to a death painful for all concerned. For years JN-T has shouldered the blame, but now at last another version of the truth can be told.

Ah, but if you're not a fan, what then? Is there anything here for you? Well, yes. All it takes to find this fascinating is a love of people, their flaws, their flair and an interest in television and particularly the massive cluster of badly-run amateur nonsense that was the BBC in the 1980s.

All the faces are there- Johnathon Powell (widely quoted, doing himself no favours) Michael Grade (as obnoxious as you'd expect), Peter Cregeen, the fans- Ian Levine, Gary Leigh, all of them praising or slating the man as the situation demands. There are chapters of knuckle-biting horror, as we follow a vulnerable tv producer on the slide to alcoholism and death, utterly shocking sexual stories that only shock us utterly because we live in a different age now and such things are frowned upon, all coming together into a sprawling document of JN-T's life.

It's well-written, gossipy at times, but maintains a decent, fair, distance that never paints the man as the monster others have claimed. Well, not really. The book eventually settles for showing us a picture of one of the most incredible, fascinating, complicated, vulnerable, predatory, monstrous, sweetest, most fabulous, loyal, demanding characters in television history. John Nathan-Turner's life did not have a happy ending- there's no valediction at the end, and he didn't live to see Dr Who back on the tv and loved. All the story lacks is a decent ending, as the one it has is so massively unfair to all concerned.

If JN-T had not existed, someone would have had to invent him- his character, as depicted here, was so larger than life, this book will have you roaring with laughter and swearing at the page, slapping your forehead and screaming "you IDIOT!" , while wincing at his evident self-destruction- all the while thanking him for giving us all that he did. And, of course, being grateful your paths never crossed in real life.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 10 June 2013
JN-T remains a divisive person in Doctor Who fandom and this book provides a gripping insight into why. You can almost smell the Dunhills and vodka wafting off the page with the rise and fall of the larger than life producer. The book is not without its faults as Mason has occasional lapses of subjectivity and the chronology jumps all over the place, but the comments that Russell T Davies makes about how JN-T was treated and how the show was allowed to decline by the BBC is cover the cover price alone.
I could barely put the book down, and it's a must for anyone not just interested in "classic" Doctor Who but how British TV was made in the last century. Highly recommended.
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on 10 April 2015
A wonderful read - for someone on the periphery of organised fandom in the 80s this summoned up such nostalgia. JNT's life & work are handled sensitively, brutally honestly and with great affection. Treat yourself, you won't regret it!
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on 1 November 2015
Read this from cover-to-cover in next to no time. An insightful, well written book.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2013
Firstly, a brilliant book. I suppose, from everything fans learnt and heard about JNT during his tenure, not much came as a complete surprise. But what did strike a cord was probably the more human side of the man we loved to hate; looking after sick parents etc.

Yes, there were a lot of revelations and incidents that might shock or just turn the stomach of fans, but it does become much clearer of how much an influence Gary Downie was. In retrospect, Downie comes off as a rather malign influence at that.

If you've not read it yet I would recommend this as one of the essential reads of behind the scenes 80's WHO.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2013
I have to say I found this book unputdownable and read the whole thing in one sitting. I dont often read biographies, but the rise and fall of such a larger than life person was a riveting read that has in stages had me, laughing (at the absurd things he got up to), pained (at the awful judgement he showed at times), saddened (at the way he seems to have alientated people he cared for), appalled (at the terrible way the BBC treated him), and crying (at the sad and premature way his life ended)in turn.

A book well worth a read.
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