Written and painstakingly researched by veteran Doctor Who journalist Marcus Hearn, The Vault strikes an impressive balance: for long-time fans of the show, there's tons of information and context that you might not have known or considered before. But for neophytes, who've barely watched a few episodes of the recent series, Hearn provides an accessible, easy-to-understand primer on the show's long history.
Not only that, but it's an amazing art book, with pretty much every page featuring concept art, set photos, promotional materials and photos of weird tie-in products, many of which I'd never seen before.
The history of Doctor Who has been full of near-disasters (and actual disasters), and the show has had its ups and downs throughout the past five decades. Hearn takes the show year by year, from 1963 to 2013, touching on each episode (and providing a handy episode guide for each year) — but also occasionally goes on neat digressions, about subjects ranging from the show's changing VFX teams to the use of music in the show.
Thanks to lots of access to production documents as well as interviews with the show's creators and actors, Hearn is able to fill in a lot of detail, especially about the classic series, in a way that makes you feel like you're actually watching the production team struggle to get something on the air every week. He explains the show's changing format — and its changing fortunes — in a really simple, easy-to-understand way, while packing in a fair bit of detail.
But the main reason to pick up The Vault is probably the pictures, as you can see from the selection below. There's early costume designs for all of the Doctors after Jon Pertwee, showing how their looks evolved on their way to the screen. And you can see really nice photos of the actual screen-used props and creatures, from the 1960s as well as recent stories like "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" (the animatronic dinosaur prop has to be seen to be believed.) You'll pick up on lots of details that you never would have seen, even in HD.
So here are 10 things you probably never knew about Doctor Who:
1) The creation of the Daleks involved actual violence
There was lots of conflict behind the scenes in the early episodes of Doctor Who, especially during the first Dalek story. And Dalek co-creator Terry Nation had an argument with script editor David Whitaker that actually turned into a fistfight between the two men. And the director of the first Dalek story, Richard Martin, was "sweating to get the programme done" when producer Verity Lambert interrupted him to complain about a hat that one character was wearing. Martin slammed his hand down so hard on the table, he broke his little finger.
2) Doctor Who almost recruited a joyful sexologist
In the mid-1960s, the show decided to enlist a scientific advisor to keep the stories scientifically plausible. This wound up being Kit Pedler, who co-created the Cybermen, but for a while a leading candidate was Alex Comfort, who later wrote The Joy of Sex.
3) Peter Cushing played the Doctor more than twice
We've probably all seen the two movies where Cushing plays the Doctor — but he went on to play the time traveler again, in a radio show produced by Stanmark Productions. They recorded a pilot, "Journey into Time," written by Malcolm Hulke in 1966 — but no further episodes were recorded.
4) William Hartnell would have fought more against regenerating
Actually, in real-life, the show's original star, Hartnell, did fight against the idea of being replaced by a new actor (as the featurettes on the new "Tenth Planet" DVD make clear.) But the script for his final episode also includes lines where the Doctor fights for life. Right after he confesses his old body is "wearing a bit thin," the Gerry Davis script has the Doctor exclaim, "No, no, I can't go through with it — I can't. I can't. I will not give in," before he finally collapses and is bathed in a strange glow.
5) Patrick Troughton would have had LSD flashbacks
When Troughton replaced the show's original star William Hartnell as the Second Doctor, there were some weird ideas. Like him playing the Doctor as a sea captain, or in blackface with a turban. But there's also a memo from the production team (reproduced in this book) which suggests that the Second Doctor could return to the idea that the Doctor was fleeing a galactic war (something that was suggested for the First Doctor, when the show originally began), and that he could be suspicious of any new technology or science as a result. And they wrote:
He is the eternal fugitive with horrifying fear of the past horrors he has endured (these horrors were experienced during the galactic war and account for his flight from his own planet.) The metaphysical change which takes place over 500 or so years is a horrifying experience — an experience in which he re-lives some of the most unendurable moments of his long life, including the galactic war. It is as if he has had the L.S.D. drug and instead of experiencing the kicks, he has the hell and dank horror which can be the effect.
Needless to say, LSD flashbacks (and PTSD generally) were not part of Troughton's performance in the end.
6) An alternate Second Doctor had a crazy mullet
The Sky Ray Ice Lolly company wanted to produce a series of picture cards, narrating an adventure with the Doctor and the Daleks, in the mid-1960s. But they didn't have the rights to Patrick Troughton's likeness. So they came up with their own character design for a different Second Doctor — who sports an insane mullet. The original character sketches are in Hearn's book, along with a bunch of the picture cards — and they're quite horrifying.
7) Fraser Hines, who played Jamie, donated a Doctor Who-themed pig
Hines was endearingly into embracing his fame as the Scottish sidekick, while Troughton avoided the limelight most of the time. Hines released a Doctor Who novelty record, and did tons of appearances — and donated a pig named Whoey to the Chessington Zoo.
8) The Master and the Doctor would have been the same person
If Roger Delgado hadn't died in a car accident, the evil Master would have appeared in Jon Pertwee's final story as the Doctor. And we would have learned the truth about the Master — for years, fans have surmised this would have been the revelation that the Master was the Doctor's brother. But writer Robert Sloman reveals in Hearn's book that the Doctor and the Master would have been revealed to be two sides of the same person, with the Master as the id to the Doctor's ego. That's why the Master can never kill the Doctor. "They are the same character," says Sloman. "It's a terrible, deliberate pinch from Forbidden Planet, but the explanation is that he's the same man, divided."
9) The majority of the classic show's viewers were adults
BBC researcher Samantha Beere did a study in 1990, which looked at past audience research — and found that the earliest figures, from 1976, showed Doctor Who watched by 44.1 percent children and 55.9 percent adults. This went up to 78 percent adults in 1986 — contradicting the notion that Who was always primarily a children's show.
10) Russell T. Davies designed the new series to be "really noisy"
Because when the new Doctor Who came on the air in 2005, it was up against variety shows on the other channels, which always had a lot of loud music and over-the-top talking. So Davies wanted people flipping channels to hear equally loud, brassy music and sounds on Doctor Who, so it could compete.