Reviews | Written by Paul Mount 17/01/2022

THE DOCTORS – THE TOM BAKER YEARS, BEHIND THE SCENES VOL 1

Reeltime Pictures continue the DVD presentation of their massive archive of interviews with Doctor Who alumni (many of them now sadly passed away) with this two-disc set that sets its sights on possibly the most popular and resonant era of the classic series. Tom Baker, the man himself, is sadly absent but this is another eclectic and interesting collection of interviews that covers all the bases – a former producer, writers, character actors and minor supporting actors. As ever with these releases, we’re reminded of a very different time in British TV production, the Golden Age of BBC Television Centre when the Corporation’s output was all in-house and the entire industry had a cosy, inclusive, family atmosphere.

Disc One of this set presents a rare Convention interview with 1970s producer Graham Williams, tasked with taking the ‘adult’ sting out of the series in the wake of repeated criticism by the notorious Mary Whitehouse and her self-appointed coterie of TV watchdogs who felt that the series, in the early Baker years, was becoming far too scary for children. The interview footage is poor quality but Williams, who tragically passed away in 1990 in a shooting accident, presents as a wiry, rather laconic, strong-minded chain-smoker, miles away from the popular fan perception of him as a doormat who allowed  Tom Baker’s larger-than-life comedic tendencies to undermine the show’s more serious dramatic potential. A frail but fascinating David Fisher discusses his life as a TV writer and, most interestingly, Andrew Smith, an eighteen-year-old whose first script, ‘Full Circle’ made its way into the 1980 series of Doctor Who,  talks about how his script was accepted and the process that led to it reaching the screen. On disc two indestructible classic series costume designer June Hudson (she also contributes regularly to the BBC BluRay season boxsets) talks passionately about her work in convention footage (where she is addressed with due deference by the interviewer as “Miss Hudon”) and an off-stage one-on-one interview. More vintage convention footage sees ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ stars Peter Miles, Michael Wisher and Roy Skelton out-shouting each other in Dalek voices and a final segment of recurring feature ‘Flight Through Eternity’ gathers up brief interviews with series guest stars Arthur Cox (who appeared in the 1968 Patrick Troughton serial ‘The Dominators’ and would later go on to appear again in Matt Smith’s debut ‘The Eleventh Hour’), Terence Denville, David Garfield, and David Weston.

It’s another eclectic selection, curated as ever by the affable Nicholas Briggs, and whilst these sets are probably the very dictionary definition of ‘niche content’ they remain an invaluable archive resource chronicling the work of creatives and performers who are no longer with us and are pretty much essential purchases for those with a deeper interest in how a programme like Doctor Who reaches our screens. Long may they continue.

The Doctors: The Tom Baker Years - Behind the Scenes Vol 1 is out now on DVD and available here.