The Companions

Hardback cover

The idea that eventually became Doctor Who: Companions actually started life at an annual party thrown by Virgin Publishing for their Doctor Who writers. This allowed everyone to meet everyone else and for ideas to get swapped about and developed. I seem to recall that this was the same event that the question of 'how should Ace be written out' was first posed.

I was standing talking to Virgin's editor Peter Darvill-Evans, when Keith Barnfather from Reeltime Pictures, who was attending to record some pieces for a possible video release on Virgin's Doctor Who range, suggested that a book about the companions would be interesting - the fact that he had a large archive of video material featuring these people could have had something to do with it. Mark Stammers, who was also there with us, then chipped in with some ideas, and the whole thing was discussed for five minutes or so, with concepts ranging from getting hold of photographs of all the companions when they were babies to printing as many salacious shots of the artistes - male and female - as we could find.

Over the next couple of weeks, Mark and myself mapped out a proposal for the book, which we called, after much consideration: Doctor Who: Mini-Skirts To Baseball Bats - The Companions. The idea was that we would cover the companions chronologically, interviewing as many as we could, and generally presenting a definitive history of those who have travelled with the Doctor, both from a fictional and factual point of view.

Companions Companions
Paperback cover and unused initial cover idea

We wanted to retain the concept of the book being about the actors and actresses as much as about the characters that they played, so it was important that we got hold of photographs of these people in non-Doctor Who roles as well as from the show. It was these pictures that were the hardest to find and which ultimately cost us the most money to secure reproduction rights.

As the book started to come together, some of the ideas got changed and dropped. One thing that I had wanted to include was a complete list of everyone that had ever been inside the TARDIS' control room, whether they actually made a journey or not. This list had been partially researched with the help of some kindly souls from the internet community on rec.arts.drwho, when we realised that it was not going to fit and therefore had to go.

Another thing that we wanted to do that didn't happen was to use the fly-leaf pages of the book (the sheets on the inside-front and back covers) to present a specially created set of 'morphs' of each companion transforming into the next. These images were all prepared, but, Virgin ultimately felt that they did not want to include them and so they were not. This was, we felt, a shame as they would have lifted the book slightly and made it look more impressive when you opened the covers.

The unused endpaper designs. The crosses on some of the faces were indicating images which needed to be re-done.

A last minute addition was the final chapter which looked at the Doctor's companions in other media (the films, books, comic strips etc). We had originally proposed including 'Bernice Summerfield' as the final companion and getting someone to 'play' her in some pictures, creating a fake childhood, again with pictures, but this idea didn't seem to gel and we would have had to have spent money to get photographs taken! We then thought that, if we were covering Bernice, we really ought to cover the other non-TV companions, and that to omit all of these 'peripheral' companions entirely was not really doing the subject justice.

As I mentioned, researching the photographs was very tricky. Basically we had to scour photographic archives and agencies for pictures (each time paying a search fee) and then, when we found some images that we wanted to use, we had to negotiate a reprint fee which was anything from GBP 100 up to GBP 1000 depending on the agency and the number of pictures of theirs that we wanted. I was very pleased that we managed to obtain several rare and exclusive shots for the book, that have never seen print before (or since). I was less pleased with the extortionate price that some places were asking resulting in us simply not being able to use their material.

The biggest problem with this book was the title and once we had that, the cover design. None of us really liked Mini-Skirts To Baseball Bats and yet no-one could come up with a title that worked. I remember sitting in Virgin's reception one afternoon with Peter and Rebecca Levene (who was at that time the books' assistant editor) brainstorming titles. For my money, the best one came about when we slipped into 'silly' mode and were considering the number of 'girlie' photographs that we had turned up for possible use in the book. 'We don't want it to end up looking like Penthouse,' said Peter with a smile, leading to a rush of suggested titles like Who-fair and others which I now forget. Finally someone - I think it was Rebecca - came up with The TARDIS Club which I really liked. It's root was, I suppose, Club International, but I thought that the title had a nice ring to it and said everything about the book that we wanted to say: it was about people who belonged to an exclusive club, that they had all travelled in the TARDIS. We even came up with a marketing ploy: give away membership cards to 'the TARDIS Club' with the book, and send 'members' on request some additional material that was not in the final printed book - brilliant!

Peter and Rebecca, however, were not convinced and so we all went away to think of even more new titles. In the end, the simplest title was felt to be the best and so Doctor Who: Companions was chosen. We even discussed whether it should be Companions or The Companions. Titles are a serious business and always seem to give us trouble.

The cover of the hardback edition was to prove far more problematical. Mark had an initial idea of using the 'morphs' concept and changing Susan into Ace, first to last. We created the images and he produced a rough cover design. Virgin didn't like it. My idea was to use a montage of companions standing around the Doctor Who logo (there had been a cover for a recent edition of Radio Times that had featured stars from the BBC soap opera Eastenders standing around the 'Albert Square' street sign that partly inspired me) and several sketches were produced to show the sort of thing we were after. Unfortunately, when Virgin discovered the cost of developing a computer-manipulated image that would be of sufficient quality for the book, they quickly asked for something simpler. We then suggested commissioning an especially taken photograph for the cover, featuring maybe Sophie Aldred and Carole Ann Ford by the TARDIS. As Sophie was working on her own book (called Ace!) at this time, and there was a photographic session planned to source the cover material for that book, it was at first thought that we might be able to use the same session to create a second image for the cover of Companions, but after consideration, Peter felt that our proposed cover photograph idea was too similar to that being suggested for Ace! and so could we think again.

Time was very short by this point, and so Mark, who was also the designer on the book, opted from a cover not dissimilar to that he had created for Timeframe: a central title-box with the images placed discretely around the outer border. Unfortunately, it ended up looking something like a trading card album. It wasn't nearly as striking as we would have liked and, to my mind at least, was the weakest part of the whole book. This was why Mark and myself wanted to go with a different cover for the paperback edition and I think that what Mark came up with for that release was infinitely better.

Virgin produced a blad for the book ... an 8 page sampler.

Companions is a book that I'm pleased with. I hope that we managed to cover the subject well and that there was a lot of new information in the book for die-hard Doctor Who fact-o-philes - for example we set out to include the original BBC character outlines for everyone and, for the most part, succeeded. We also managed to negotiate the use of some cracking photographs and the internal design was simply superb.

One final note on those photographs. We really did try to choose pictures that showed the various actors and actresses in a good, if slightly risqué, light. The only 'nudie' shot that we ever intended to use was of Katy Manning with the Dalek. As Peter commented when asked as to his view on the matter: 'How can we not use it?' The fact that some of the other images turned out to be slightly more revealing than intended was totally unintentional and apologies have been made. Just one of the perils of writing a factual book.

During the publicity for the book I managed to achieve an ambition at the time, to appear with Zig and Zag on the Channel 4 Breakfast show, The Big Breakfast.