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Through the Magic Door

Its enigmatic title promises mystery – yet Doctor Who is perhaps the most forensically documented TV series of all time.
The Doctor’s name is revealed on page 42 of the very first reference book about the series, The Making of Doctor Who (1972). This algebraic moniker was later seen in the Tomb of Rassilon in The Five Doctors (1983).
David Tennant, Russell T Davies and John Simm with the first edition of Russell’s 2008 book The Writer’s Tale.

Over the years, Doctor Who has borrowed liberally from such literary lions as Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll and JK Rowling. But when it really mattered – in the climactic moments of the show’s 50th Anniversary Special, with the whole world watching in 96 countries across six continents – writer Steven Moffat reached for an even more seminal text: namely, the second edition of The Making of Doctor Who by Terrance Dicks (Target, 1976). For it was there that the former script editor first asserted that the Doctor is ‘never cruel or cowardly’ and that ‘he never gives in, and he never gives up’ – tenets underlined on screen by David Tennant and John Hurt in The Day of the Doctor.

Steven Moffat isn’t the only writer to have been inspired by that book and others like it. Neil Gaiman bought the first edition, co-written by Dicks and fellow Who script veteran Malcolm Hulke, in 1972 and “read it a hundred times before my 13th birthday”. The young Mark Gatiss, meanwhile, would spend hours gazing at The Doctor Who Monster Book (1975), trying to fathom the significance of a cable snaking out of the TARDIS console. The significance being, of course, that it was a rehearsal shot – and in 1975, we weren’t used to seeing behind-the-scenes images of Doctor Who. It wasn’t the sort of thing they printed on Weetabix cards and ice-lolly wrappers.

A spread from The Doctor Who Monster Book showing the mysterious cable that baffled the young Mark Gatiss.

Whereas previous Doctor Who books, such as 1964’s The Dalek Book and the World Distributors annuals, had expanded the series’ fictional world, The Making of Doctor Who was – in the words of Jeremy Bentham, the man with as good a claim as any to being Doctor Who’s original historian – “the first time you really got an appreciation of the people who made the show”. “It was the first book to reveal some of the magic under the covers,” agrees fellow Who scholar David J Howe. “As an 11-year-old, it was the first time I realised the show had scripts! It was fascinating.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

The latest Special Edition of Doctor Who Magazine is devoted to the many non-fiction books based on the series. This comprehensive guide traces the history of the series’ reference works, from the very first episode guides compiled by Doctor Who story editors for their colleagues in the 1960s, to the fanzines of the 1970s, the first authorised books based on the series and the plethora of books available today. Exclusive interviews, behind-the- scenes features and numerous rare photographs tell the whole story, from the black-and-white days of Doctor Who to the 2017 series starring Peter Capaldi.