Doctor Who: Impossible Worlds by Stephen Nicholas and Mike Tucker (book review).

This book, ‘Doctor Who: Impossible Worlds’ by Stephen Nicholas and Mike Tucker, is going to be a dream for all Who fans. For those who want to scratch-build at scale or full-size various aspects of the show, you should have enough information to make it possible. Saying that, I doubt if that was the original intention. If you just want to see how these designs were created from picture to computer to final set or prop, then you will also get some insight into this as well.

If you want to see the pre-production designs before being given physical or digital reality, then you will also be well satisfied. Nicholas and Tucker aren’t hired writers for this book neither as both are involved in the creation process on ‘Doctor Who’ since 2005 for the new run and long before then as well. In fact, although they both reference the earlier designs when ‘Doctor Who’ was filmed in London, this book is primarily here to cover what is filmed in Wales. This book is fundamentally the best book of new ‘Doctor Who’ design that you will ever want to own.


As you might have noticed from other reviews, I love looking at the production process. It doesn’t take anything away from the final version because I can divorce myself from it and just get carried away with the story. If anything, the design process gives you a better opportunity to see something that probably took anything up to a week of variations to create in detail that might just flash by on the screen. Oddly, if it wasn’t done right, then you’d unconsciously think there was something wrong or inconsistent. If you’re contemplating a job in this kind of process, these kinds of books illustrate (sic) the kinds of cross-disciplines you need as the standard to be as good as to succeed. More than ever, I wish such books were around in my childhood.

There was a lot of information I digested from this book and I’m only going to point out a few. I mean, it’s interesting that some of the more recent scaled sets were modelled (sic) to accommodate the remote control commercially bought Dalek toys although both authors don’t remember this was also done for economy reasons using the Palitoy range in the original series and Cushing films. When you consider how the original designs were scratch-built, having something pre-made that way saves a lot of time.

DWIW-Page 222 - 223

A lot has changed between ‘Doctor Who’s first demise and resurrection in 2005, there is a direct link between the look, only just making it more intricate. A change in the budget and costs has made so much more possible but its only as good as the designers and all involved have moved on to greater things since.

Although I doubt it would be possible to include all the creatures that have appeared in the original run, I was surprised what Sil didn’t get a mention, especially as he was one of less humanoid-looking aliens. I have a feeling that many of you will work through your own checklist of aliens that might have deserved a mention, although I suspect there’s going to be a sequel that will no doubt cover this.

DWIW-Page 194 - 195

About the only mistake I spotted was on page 282. I might not watch soaps, but I don’t think the Rovers Return has ever appeared on ‘Eastenders’. To only have one significant error in a book this size is even more remarkable.

Inside the back cover, there is an envelope containing 15 cards of designs, including unique ones for the TARDIS exterior, sonic screwdriver and Dalek. The seal is easily opened although you might have to joggle a blade or sonic screwdriver under the last picture to pull it out.

DWIW-Page 106 -107

Reading this book was a very happy experience and one that I’m sure to have a wander through now and again to marvel at the designs. All these designers over the years have done a fantastic job and you’ll lose none of the magic or science by looking at it. I suspect you’ll probably look harder at the backgrounds and other details while watching the episodes with the knowledge learnt within. Outstanding.

GF Willmetts

September 2015

(pub: BBC Books/Ebury Publishing/Random House. 287 page illustrated large hardback. Price: £35.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84990-966-2)

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