on 25 June 2013
This is a terrific and well researched labour of love. Plenty of notes with factoids accompany the text. Charles Norton tells the story of the 2 60's Aaru Dalek films and all the other attempts to mount a Dr Who film.
There are no photos or pictures (except for the cover illustration) which may put off some, but the text itself is more than good enough to transcend this.
He kicks off with a detailed look at "Dr Who and The Daleks" and "Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD" covering how the deal between the BEEB and Amicus /Aaru was made, the pre-production and making of, plus publicity and box office. Yes some of this is well trod ground (although not as well trod as you might expect, this being the 1st book to look at their making in detail). Stories of how Peter Cushing got cast, how canny BBC Dalek Operator Robert Jewell got himself more cash as mentor/coach to the newer Dalek operators and so on are not new, however there is a lot that is.
I never knew before who the original director or actor cast as Barbara were or that there was a proper cliff hanger ending in the script up until a very late stage which was not to be played for laughs. There is also detail on the influence British censor had on softening the edges of the original story to allow for a family audience friendly certificate.
He also tells us that contrary to popular belief the movie Daleks are around the same size as their TV counterparts.
The movies that never were are covered in detail too, particularly Tom Baker and Ian Marter's idea "Dr Who Meets Scratchman" and the 1987-1994 saga of Greenlight/Daltenreys/Lumiere's attempts to mount a film. The Daltenreys saga made me more sympathetic than I had been before. Here was a group of people who could never have made the film alone but who finally got together a credible deal at the 11th hour with what was believed their best script, Leonard Nimoy's interest in directing only to have the plug pulled on the basis of a contract breach.
The parties intereviewed believe that the BEEB were desperate to ditch them in support of the deal that led to the Paul McGann film.
Other movies that never were include Douglas Adams' "Dr Who and the Krikkitmen" many ideas from which would feature in his 3rd Hitchhikers book and an attempt by Yeti creators Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln to sell Disney on the idea of an Abominable Snowmen film with the Doctor replaced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger.
For all these and the Aaru films there are detailed storylines to enjoy, I especially recommend the one from Denny Martin Flinn's script for the Lumiere deal.
There is also an aftermath or what happened next for much of these and the Aaru films' one is the best. Concurring with popular opinion the Peter Cushing played Dr Who in all but name in it, there's an honourable mention for At The Earth's Core and also Milton Subotsky's attempts to follow the Dalek films later with a dinosaur based Who film (sadly no storyline exists) are looked at as is Peter Cushing's radio pilot for Dr Who and fan based production Mission of Doom widely acknowleged to have been influenced by the Dalek films.
Some film ideas get only a brief mention as no real work was done e.g. Disney's interest in a film version of Hartnell's Marco Polo and Subotsky's interest in filming either the Keys of Marinus or the Chase.
There's also a look at Dalek films documentary Dalekmania which explains why certain key figures did not get interviewed.
Only the last portion of the book is a little dull which looks at BBC Films interest in Dr Who which never even extended to a script being written. It's just not as interesting as what comes before it.
If you have interest in the Dr Who films that were and were not made, then you will be likely to enjoy this very much.
Where else will you find out what techniscope actually is, and how Boris Karloff nearly got to be Dr Who?
on 30 June 2013
I have read many a Doctor Who Book, both offical and unoffical . I have absored more info that is proably healthy. Charles Norton has proably taken in even more Information in regards Doctor who films (both those that made it to the screen and those that havent) .
All that Information is here. Plots, behind the scenes Fiascos, little details of incident that might otherwise get missed. Everything. Including the Kitchen Sink. This is the definitive Book on the Doctor who at the movie (until the next movie make its to screen and an update is on the way) I only hope Charles Norton is able to do the 2nd edition in 2025 .
With so much research and its collections of facts and figures, with some wonderful writing, and a great eye for detail (see chapters discussing teletext, Films and film makers no one knows where they are or what happened to them or thier movies/scripts)
This book is highly recommended
As Charles Norton states in his introduction, the news in 2011 that Harry Potter director David Yates was developing a Doctor Who film didn't stir a great deal of interest in many Doctor Who fans. This isn't down to any lack of enthusiasm in the idea of a Doctor Who film, it's more to do with the fact that since the mid 1970's there has rarely been a time that a Doctor Who film hasn't been mooted, by various production companies, all of which have failed to make the transaction from the drawing board to the cinema screen.
Now On The Big Screen not only looks at these various failed attempts, but also at the two times when the Doctor (and the real stars of the films - The Daleks) enjoyed their brief moment of cinema fame.
The story of the two Peter Cushing/Dalek movies made in 1965 and 1966 form the first third of the book. Although the story of their production is well known and the bulk of the interview material is from already published sources and therefore quite familiar, there are still some interesting new facts and material unearthed - particularly the comments from John Trevelyan at the BBFC. In order to ensure that the first Dalek film received a U certificate, the film-makers submitted the script to the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) and asked for their opinions about any areas of the script which might prevent the film getting its U certification. Trevelyan's comments and recommendations give a fascinating insight into what was acceptable and what wasn't in mid 1960's British cinema.
The rest of the book concerns itself with the various film projects that never were. An intriguing one was the Tom Baker and Ian Marter scripted "Doctor Who meets Scratchman" which rumbled on from 1974-1980. The state of the British film industry at the time meant that the finance was never really in place to make this happen, which is a shame as a Tom Baker fronted Doctor Who film sounds enticing. The synopsis is an interesting read, as it doesn't really bear much resemblance to the programme at the time, instead it's a much wilder fantasy adventure. With a draft script having been unearthed recently, perhaps one day we might see it published in full.
The most interesting part of the book concerns the proposed film by Coast to Coast/Daltenreys which was in development from 1985 to 1994. The chief movers behind the project have been interviewed for this book, therefore this section gains considerable new insight into the tangled mess that the production became. It's hard not to feel sympathy for the film-makers and backers who poured a considerable amount of money into the film only for the BBC to pull the rights at the last minute.
The three very different scripts, from Mark Ezra, Johnny Byrne and Denny Martin Flinn all make interesting reading. Flinn's was the last, and the one that was about to be put into production, with the likelihood of Leonard Nimoy directing, when the BBC reclaimed the rights. Instead we got the TVM with Paul McGann, which hardly felt like a fair exchange.
The last section looks at the tentative plans by BBC Films between 1998 - 2003 to put the Doctor on the big screen. This never seems to have got much beyond a few people saying it would be a nice idea, and the BBC Films pitch is only really interesting because whilst they held the rights it meant that the Doctor couldn't return to television. And by the early 2000's there was a groundswell of opinion inside the BBC that maybe Doctor Who had a future on the small screen again. So once BBC Films gave up the idea of making a film, the path was clear for the Doctor's return to BBC1 in 2005 and the rest is history.
Now On The Big Screen is a well written and researched book on the difficult relationship between the Doctor and the movies. It's another quality book from Telos.
on 19 July 2013
I have been an avid Doctor Who fan for my entire life (I can remember watching the show when I was five). I've got two book shelves full of Doctor Who books. I think this book is exceptional.
The author has real enthusiasm for the subject and makes it a real page turner. The sections on the Peter Cushing movies and Scratchman are comprehensive, informative and very readable. He turns the story of each production into an informative narrative with information from the files, pulling together of high quality sources and interviews with contributors from both sides of the camera.
Best of all though, there are entire sections in this book about film projects about which I knew nothing. It's rare for me to now read fresh classic, or pre-2005, Doctor Who research. This has book has it. I've not seen anything about the proposed movie of The Abominable Snowmen or most of the BBC Films efforts elsewhere.
The cover is also a really beautiful piece of art that would stand release as a poster (slight pity about the typography that seems too heavy).
The author has written an entertaining and informative book. If the subject is for you, buy it.
on 25 October 2013
You can't fault this book for its full account of the behind the scenes efforts to get a movie made. The story behind the two Peter Cushing films is interesting and will be to any fan. The plot outlines of the films that never got made are also entertaining. Some of the detail about, for example, the negotiations over rights, and changes in personnel etc can get a bit much, but otherwise an interesting read. I found the book sort of peters out at the end , a bit like the vast majority of the attempts to get films made! But if you are a Doctor Who obsessive, or completionist, a must read.