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BOOK
Doctor Who
The Shooting Scripts

Authors: Russell T Davies, Mark Gatiss, Robert Shearman, Paul Cornell and Steven Moffat
BBC Books
RRP: 18.99
ISBN 0 563 48641 4
Available 13 October 2005


This book presents the final shooting scripts for all 13 episodes of the series that launched
Doctor Who into the 21st century. Relive the Doctor's encounters with the creepy Nestenes and the monstrous Slitheen, Rose's disastrous attempt to save her father's life, the apocalyptic showdown with the deadly Daleks, and all the other great moments from the 2005 series...

There was a time, back in the early to mid-1990s, when new episodes of Doctor Who were thin on the ground, that seemingly everything got novelised: every little snippet of new Who drama, from the Jon Pertwee radio serials to the spin-off videos Shakedown and Downtime.

Nowadays there's really too much material out there, primarily in the form of audio dramas, for any company to conceive of novelising the lot. Perhaps more surprisingly, though, there are no plans to adapt the new television series, making these the first episodes not to undergo such a process.

Perhaps the fact that the show now predominantly comprises individual episodes, rather than longer serials, is off-putting to BBC Books' fiction department. (Personally, though, I can see two ways in which the new series could be novelised. Obviously, the two-parters could become one book each. The one-episode stories could be released as novellas, like the young adult X-Files range. Alternatively, they could be grouped thematically. The first three episodes - Rose, The End of the World and The Unquiet Dead - could become a Rose-themed collection, detailing her first encounter with the Doctor and her first trips to the future and the past. Another volume, comprising Dalek, The Long Game and Father's Day, could be entitled Stupid Apes, its theme being the Doctor's continual despair at human selfishness and stupidity, which reaches its climax when, in Father's Day, Rose appears to be just as culpable as Adam. Boom Town could be collected with Bad Wolf and The Parting of the Ways as a volume called Bad Wolf, since it is in Boom Town that Rose and the Doctor first notice the words that have been following them through time, and all three episodes deal with the consequences of the Doctor's previous actions. But I digress...)

Justin Richards, Creative Director of BBC Books' Doctor Who output, has indicated that he sees no need to novelise the new episodes, and that this script book serves the purpose of presenting the show in prose form just as well. He has a point. Though the sentence structures of the stage directions are more concise than you would get in your average novelisation (well, apart from those by Pip and Jane Baker), we are presented with passages that really do communicate what the writer wanted to put on the screen - and, for the most part, what the production team succeeded in showing us. Check out the description of "the valiant TARDIS" at the beginning of The Parting of the Ways or, even better, Rose's joyful dash into the ship at the end of Rose.

The reader is also made party to cost and production considerations. From time to time, you see the writer addressing or questioning a practical concern, such as "(greenscreen the floor)" or, rather amusingly, in The Parting of the Ways: "(can a Beetle have a tow-bracket?)."

The scripts presented here are the versions that where taken into the studio or on location as filming took place. By this stage the scripts had already evolved considerably, but they would change again during the recording and editing processes. You may therefore notice slight differences between these scripts and the episodes that were broadcast and released on DVD, such as the fact that the wheelie bin that swallows Mickey in Rose doesn't burp. However, unlike the script books released by Big Finish, there are no notes to indicate exactly what changes took place.

Even more annoying is the presence of the word "OMITTED", which indicates a scene that was cut after the scene numbers had been finalised. For example, five scenes are omitted from Father's Day between scene 5 (the registry office segment set in 1982) and scene 12 (a TARDIS scene that is described as taking place in 1986). Evidently, some of the action was due to take place in 1986. Wouldn't you like to know what that action would have involved? Well, you won't find out here.

Despite its shortcomings, this is an undeniably attractive and weighty tome. Bound in hardback, its 512 pages are richly illustrated with photographs and screen captures from the series. Each story is prefaced by an idiosyncratic introduction by its author.

I cannot honestly tell you whether these scripts would stand up to being read in their own right, since my reading of them is inevitably coloured by my knowledge of the series. But then again, this book isn't aimed at the uninitiated. If you laughed at the Doctor's witticisms, were thrilled by the return of the Daleks, shed a tear at the end of Father's Day and The Doctor Dances, then chances are that this book will push all those same buttons again.

So maybe we don't need novelisations after all.

Richard McGinlay

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