6 March 2017

The Doctor Who Monster Book

Published in 1975 and penned by Terrance Dicks, `The Doctor Who Monster Book` was in essence a boiled down version of the `The Making of Doctor Who` with all the Making part removed. It’s got lots of photos, some awkward graphic design and a text that tends to repeat things that Doctor Who fans would surely know. The main attraction of the book was a glorious colour poster of the cover which certainly earned a place on my wall and no doubt many others. The poster – reproduced on the cover- was another excellent Chris Achellios job even though he doesn’t appear to be mentioned in the credits! Luckily he etched his surname under the Dalek just in case! It’s also devoid of his trademark fizzling static but even so there’s something about his art which makes it as good as photos. The book retailed for the realtively princely sum of £1.75 and was designed by Brian Boyle A.R.C.A. Whatever that qualification may be it still doesn’t excuse the lines emanating from a Wirrn on page 57!!

The book is basically what is says it is; a guide to the monsters from the series though it begins with a feature called `Who is the Doctor?` in which Terrance takes us through the familiar journey which he enlivens with some descriptive words. So the first Doctor is “a little stiff and crotchety but still spry, vigorous and alert”. This absolutely mirrors the very first story which I happened to watch fairly recently.  We are told about the “fantastically advanced” Tardis (note lower case spelling) and the first regeneration. Then we meet the second Doctor “a strange, elusive character, gentle and wayward with a whimsical charm.” The narrative takes us to `The War Games` before we encounter the “tall, lean and elegant” Third Doctor and let’s not forget that “shock of white hair.” With the fourth Doctor only just arrived he gets a little space at the end in which Terrance cops out by saying he’ll be a bit like each of the others so presumably this was written before Tom Baker’s performance had been seen. 

The introduction is illustrated by some excellent visuals including the cover of the `Daleks` book and a well placed photo of Patrick Troughton playing the recorder. However Jon P wielding the sonic screwdriver is accompanied by a series of lines emanating from the device. It’s not the last time we’ll encounter these lines is it Mr Boyle?

So to The Monsters. For a fan in the mid 1970s the cornucopia of photos that ensue would be something very special and do convey the threat of the series’ aliens showing them in the best light. For a 2017 reader they are perhaps overly familiar but some still impress. For the Daleks section their sojourn across Westminster Bridge is stripped across the page; later there’s a very effective mix of art and photos as the cover of the `Day of the Daleks` novel is sat next to stills of Tom and a Dalek plus the third Doctor and Bellal. This use of Target book covers interspersed with photos continues throughout the book adding a flair even if it is also of course promoting the books. Target being the published by the way! 

In the accompanying text Terrance makes the Daleks’ story sound like a harrowing war film with talk of “unbearably hideous creatures” and “ruthless killers”. This is the clear advantage of having someone like this writing the text; it really livens it up. Like their rivals, the Cybermen are also introduced by way of an iconic image; in this case it’s their `Invasion` walk down the steps of St Paul’s while the Ice Warriors have the classic novel cover of Varga and a screaming Victoria. There’s plenty of Peladon pix too and then we work our way through much briefer descriptions of Autons, Silurians, Sea Devils and Sontarans. Possibly due to its more recent broadcast Field Major Styre is called Steyr here.

After this we come to A Mixed Bag of Monsters which are the ones who never came back starting with the Zarbi who of course always look better in other media than they did on the actual television production. Case in point here as the double page spread they occupy is mostly filled with a photo that actually looks great. Terrance ably manages to truncate Bill Strutton’s detailed plot into six lines! The Sensorites look very bothered by the wavy lines that Mr Boyle has placed behind their photo but the Mechanoids pic actually captures one of them firing their weapon. The layout though makes it look like it could float.

It really is the mixed bag we were promised with an emphasis on those aliens that look more photographically interesting even if the big photo/little photo Axon page chooses to have the gold humanoid form as the larger one meaning its stick on eyes are rather obvious. Meanwhile on a page called the Miming Robot it is the alien Guardian that dominates and looking mighty creepy too.

Azal resembles Freddie Mercury and where would the 1970s be without a full page photo of a Gellguard. 

Eventually we arrive at page 57 in which Mr Boyle, clearly upset at not being allowed to cover every page with his lines, goes line crazy with the offending marks spilling across to bother the Giant Robot. I think the design is meant to reflect the text which talks of “telepathic ant like creatures” but I’m not sure the Wirrn were telepathic were they? You can’t really go wrong with Zygons though and their double page has them giving the fourth Doctor a facial massage next to Broton looking as if he’s about to run on as a substitute in the Cup Final. Terrance informs us that the Skarasen survived to “live happily” on in Loch Ness.

On the back cover you can send for five other posters including the third Doctor tussling with Lynx and an artwork featuring two jiving Cybermen. In all the Doctor Who Monster Book is an of –its- time gem that may no longer blow us away with its photo selection but is proof of the series’ growing popularity and it’s increasing commercial value. Just try to ignore those lines though!

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