Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: Doctor Who Impossible Worlds

One of the great things about Doctor Who these days is that it is popular enough to sustain the sort of lavish, large format art book which, as a publisher, I can only dream of producing.  And this year, the must have book for Christmas is Stephen Nicholas and Mike Tucker's Impossible Worlds.

The book is indeed a lavish art book, but it really needs to be seen to be appreciated fully. What impressed me first was the lovely cut-out hexagon on the cover, through which the front endpaper can be seen, printed with the TARDIS console. This sort of paper engineering costs a fortune, and the heavy stock of the cover is also of great quality ...

But onto the book itself. Stephen Nicholas has been the supervising art director for Doctor Who since the show returned in 2005, and so has access to an incredible array of designs and artwork for the show, each depicting the development of ideas, monsters, sets and spaceships which have then appeared in all their glory. Mike Tucker runs a company called The Model Unit, which specialises in detailed model work for film and television - and some of their work is so good that you would never know or realise that it was a model in the first place!  Together they have split the book into sections, each looking at a different aspect of the show: The TARDIS interior, Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, other Monsters, Tools and Devices, and alien planets; and in each case, there is a brief look at some of the elements from the classic series (*Disclosure here as I helped with sourcing some of the sketches and designs which are shown*) followed by a more comprehensive and detailed look at how the new series dealt with the elements.

Thus we get gorgeous sketches and artwork of Daleks of every persuasion, showing their internals and externals, ideas for  how they open,  what variant weaponry they should have, including Davros, Emperors, Supremes, Genesis Ark, Control Rooms ... it's an impressive feat and is repeated with the Cybermen, where some of the early abandoned designs are just nightmarish ...

It's a brilliant book to flip through, to soak up the talent behind the props ... the ideas which didn't make it ...  Personally I'm really fond of an artist called Alex Fort, whose designs never seem to make it to screen, but are the most original and artistic perhaps of them all. His Cybermen and Silurians are inspired ... maybe one day we'll see some of his visions on screen.

Oh, and if all that wasn't enough, there's a folder in the back containing several full colour art prints of some of the designs - incuding of the Zygon Control Room (or something) from the yet to be transmitted episodes on television ... lovely stuff!

At £35, the book might seem expensive, but it's far more worthwhile than many of the aimed-at-kids picture books which are also being produced at a rate of knotts. Plus, if you shop around you might find it cheaper, or, next year, as with many of the other books released on the show, it might appear in a cheaper edition in W H Smith or The Works, or from The Book People ...

Top marks from me for this, then. A brilliant look at the art and concept design behind the show, highlighting just why Doctor Who is consistently one of the best looking shows on television.

And you can listen to Mike Tucker talking about the book, on Sam Stone's THE STONE TAPES Podcast here:

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