BooksDoctor Who

Doctor Who: The Vault by Marcus Hearne (book review).

I didn’t establish contact with BBC Books when “Doctor Who: The Vault” initially released, and only recently managed to acquire a copy of this 2013 publication. Interestingly, unlike other Vault books released around that time, this one does not contain pouches or additional materials to explore; everything is laid out in plain sight. Contrary to expectations, nothing is larger on the inside.

In his introduction, Steven Moffat suggests that “Doctor Who” exists in a reality devoid of a “Doctor Who” TV series. However, this contradicts a 1963 episode, “Remembrance Of The Daleks,” where Ace exits a house just as a familiar theme song plays for an impending TV show. It could, of course, be a medical programme.

Given the extensive content covered in the book, I surmise that most “Who” fans procured a copy upon release, so I will highlight some familiar aspects and provoke some nostalgia.

A featured interchangeable mini-Dalek, which I distinctly remember and still possess, was exclusively available at Woolworths in the early 1960s. It’s surprising how rarely it’s discussed in merchandise reviews. Similarly, it’s disappointing that the solid plastic Menoptera or the related badge sold at Woolworths isn’t showcased.

It’s fascinating to observe costume parts that appear superior to the photographs that captured them. The creators likely designed these costumes considering the limitations of the 625 line TVs of the time. This might explain some of the special effects shortcomings in comparison to other contemporary shows.

My familiarity with early “Doctor Who” and its merchandise extends to owning some of the items. Back then, children bought toys for enjoyment, not preservation, which probably explains why my early Palitoy Dalek toy didn’t survive. Interestingly, its mechanism was similar to J. Rosenthal’s Thunderbird 5. Had anyone considered preserving a Dalek toy, it would have been a novelty.

Reflecting on the variety of merchandise, I was struck by the notion that just as every fan identifies with a specific Doctor, the same applies to merchandise. Not that we necessarily outgrow our interest in buying merchandise, but it’s common to feel that newer items fail to live up to the nostalgic charm of the early material. Given the sparse imagery in recent “Doctor Who” Annuals, my point seems valid. However, due to the sheer volume of merchandise, selection is inevitable.

Remembering scriptwriter Robert Holmes through this book reminds us why he penned so many quintessential “Doctor Who” scripts, despite his preference for non-SF narratives.

It’s intriguing that later Doctors concentrate on varying aspects of the show, suggesting that the author might be too immersed in current events or assumes readers possess a comprehensive understanding of the series.

As the subtitle suggests, “Treasures From The First 50 Years,” this book does not exclusively focus on the series, but offers an annual breakdown of TV events. It comprises props, costumes, designs, news clippings, and a multitude of photographs, both behind and in front of the camera. For seasoned fans, it’s a nostalgic journey, while younger readers receive a historical overview. Considering it’s been a decade since its release and we’ve witnessed three more regenerations, we can hope for an updated version in the future.

GF Willmetts

July 2023

(pub: BBC Books, 2013. 320 page illustrated index large squarish hardback. Price: varies. ISBN: 978-1-84-990581-7)

check out website: www.randomhouse.co.uk


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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