50 For 50: Celebrating 50 Years Of The Doctor Who Family by Paula Hammond (book review).

Paula Hammond’s book ‘50 For 50: Celebrating 50 Years Of The Doctor Who Family’ is actually a set of 50 interviews with various cast, production and subsidiary people about a certain television show. You’re not going to have all the big names here but you’re going to have a lot of fascinating tales and insights about the programme, the people, conventions and their other activities. With a lot of these mini-interviews, Hammond gets the actors to talk about their lives and careers and that of Angela Bruce and Tony Osoba are of particular interest to read. You also get to understand what it is to be a gaffer from Mark Hutchings, a model-maker from Mike Tucker, a costume designer from Ray Holman and a fight co-ordinator from Kevin McCurdy.


From the story, 10,000 Years BC’, by lead opening baddie actor Jeremy Young about the model/actress who fled because her version of furs and the costume she had to wear wasn’t what she thought she had been hired to model left me chuckling for ages. Discovering that Bernard Lodge, who designed the opening credits for ‘Doctor Who’ also did the explosion of the Nostromo for ‘Alien’ (1979) and some bits for ‘Blade Runner’ (1982) was something I hadn’t been aware of. Let’s start picking our other highlights.

I think one of the bigger surprises is seeing which actors have had multiple parts in ‘Doctor Who’ but the ones I wasn’t keeping count of. With my reviewing the DVDs, something I was less aware of when I was young has become increasingly apparent when seeing stories from over a few decades a lot closer together.

It’s also possible to pick out particular statistics like actors David Graham and Shane Rimmer who, apart from being together in ‘The Gunfighters’, were also stalwarts in the Anderson Century 21 shows stable.

Writer Victor Pembleton explains any acting credit with his name on was more to do with job experience to make him a better writer. I really do hope someone has a chance to look through his garage archive sometime. Deborah Watling’s work before ‘Who’ was still predominately SF and fantasy. Michael Kilgarriff’s description of the problems of being the Cyber Controller and being locked into the suit compared to later versions is fascinating and I agree with him that the loss of the scary letterbox mouth no longer opening was a mistake, especially with the later versions, where you could see the actor’s chin. The interview with writer Bob Baker also looks at his ‘Wallace And Gromit’ material. All too often, people do forget all these people have careers elsewhere, although there is occasional looks at people like the late Michael Craze who didn’t.

I’m glad actor Nigel Plaskitt was included, especially as he is known more visually for a series of cough medicine adverts back in the 70s than the various voices he’s done over the years. I always preferred Sarah Sutton with her curls than her more current straight hair and discovered she likes the latter more.

Lala Ward and Peter Purvis are amongst the actors who don’t really understand the need for an autograph. In many respects, it’s more of a confirmation that you’ve met someone famous. These days, it’s a little too easy to get autographs so, to my eyes, their value is less financial and more to do with saying, ‘I was there and met so-and-so.’

With the 90s and the absence or rather the cancellation of ‘Doctor Who’, Hammond focuses on the people who kept the flame burning during the time before it came back. So if you’re ever wondering how Big Finish started or why Nicholas Briggs seems to have a sinister preference for the Daleks, you’ll see the evidence here.

You can’t help, when reading the various snippets and interviews, wondering when they were made. Some are easier than others, especially when there is reference from the older actors as to what they think of the new ‘Doctor Who’ series, if they’ve been keeping up, to Lis Sladen’s death but I think it would have helped knowing the dates to put things into context. It would also have helped to have seen photos of the various people in their parts and now. Quarter of the way through the book and I know I’ll be googling to remind myself who some of them were.

There is a lot of information in this book. I suspect the hardcore Whovian fans will know a lot of this and for the rest of you, it allows you to get up to speed and find some different questions to ask these various people when you meet them at conventions. I found it amazing how quickly I read and enjoyed this book.

GF Willmetts

(pub: Telos. 240 page small softcover. Price: £15.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84583-092-2)
check out websites: www.telos.co.uk

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