A Book Of Monsters

A Book of Monsters

Doctor Who: A Book of Monsters was originally conceived as a ‘sequel’ to Doctor Who: Companions. The format of that latter title - full page pictures of all the companions, interviews with the artistes who played them and details of their creation and development through scripts and character outlines - seemed to lend itself well to a number of different subjects.

Unfortunately, Virgin (who published Doctor Who: Companions) turned down the proposal for a book looking at the monsters. This left me with a bit of a problem. As Virgin were about the only people who could publish licensed Doctor Who books, I couldn’t exactly take it anywhere else.

Fortunately for me, the BBC then started to take an interest in Doctor Who. I first approached them in January 1996 with a view to writing a proper ‘making of’ book for the new Doctor Who film which had just been confirmed. I had spoken with Philip Segal’s office in America and they seemed keen on the idea, but the BBC were less enthusiastic. Ultimately, the idea of doing an illustrated book on the film fell foul of some sort of rights problem over the photographs. I never did get to the bottom of what the problem was, but the final word was that BBC Publishing were not willing to commit to an illustrated book on the movie.

They were, however, gearing up to publish some Doctor Who books - Gary Russell’s novelisation of the movie and a script book - and by coincidence, they were also launching a new range of filofax inserts, collectively called TX-Files, aimed at the younger market. They asked if I would write a Doctor Who insert - and that’s another story.

Never the less, seeing that I was in touch with the appropriate people at the BBC, and, having a proposal for a ‘monsters’ book ready, I felt that I had nothing to lose by offering it to the BBC. I did - they liked it - and I was asked to do the book.

As usual, the title was a very late decision. I wanted to call it Doctor Who: Monsters but there had already been a book published with a similar name (Doctor Who: The Monsters by Adrian Rigelsford, illustrated by Andrew Skilleter), and everyone was keen to avoid any connection. We all wanted it to have the word ‘Monster’ in the title somewhere, but no-one could come up with something that worked.

In the end, the book was named by someone in the BBC’s publicity department! When putting together the initial publicity material for the BBC’s launch of Doctor Who titles, they called it A Book of Monsters. What a great title, and so Doctor Who: A Book of Monsters it was.

Although I had always wanted to do a book about the monsters, and the ideas had been in my mind for some time, a large part of the process of crystallising them came when Reeltime Pictures recorded the documentary video I Was A Doctor Who Monster. I assisted behind the scenes on the release, providing initial reference material and contacts, and, during the recording, I helped to ‘prime’ the interview subjects, reminding them of what they had done, and generally helping to keep them happy while they waited for their turn before the cameras.

The material recorded by Reeltime was of great help when researching the book, and they were kind enough to allow me to use quotes and information that were not included in their final video. Other information came, as usual, from wading through BBC paperwork, and also from tracking down and speaking to others involved in the creation of the monsters. I was especially pleased to speak with Martin Baugh, a BBC costume designer who designed, amongst others, the Ice Warriors, the Yeti and the Quarks. We even managed to find an original colour design drawing of a Quark, and I made sure that this was included in the final book.

I realised that to try and cover every Doctor Who monster in detail would be an impossible task, and so I simply chose some of my particular favourites and concentrated on them. Of course all the popular monsters were featured as well: Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans etc.

By way of a nod to the incredible debt that Doctor Who owes to the monsters, I included at the back of the book a complete A-Z of all the monsters, which features photographs of all but a handful. This section was a nightmare to research (it also lists all the people who played them, which stories they appeared in and so on) and several people had a hand in making sure that nothing obvious was missed (special thanks to Steve Walker, Andrew Pixley and David Brunt). Having said that, I’m sure that some less-than-friendly reviewers will take great joy in pointing out what they consider to be omissions.

After the text was completed, the book then went through the most intensive design and layout procedure that I had experienced to date. For the first time, the book was designed and prepared totally on computer (all previous books had relied on the printers to place and correctly size the images, based on detailed instructions from the designer) and an incredible number of images were included. Despite my aversion to cut-outs, these feature quite prominently in the book, but there are also heaps of pictures presented as nature intended. The overall effect is a very colourful, busy, and eye-catching book. I think it looks stunning, but then I’m biased.

Everyone involved seems very pleased with the end result, and there is even talk of a Monsters 2 if this first volume does well enough. As usual, I’ve done my best - I hope you like it. In fact I hope you like it so much that it sells well enough to convince the BBC that this sort of book is a good proposition for the future, and that more factual books will be published as a result.