Harper Collins

Authors Philip Segal with Gary Russell Cover image
ISBN# 0 007 10591 6
Publisher Harper Collins
Published 2000

Summary: Details the complete development of the telemovie, with interviews with cast and crew.


Talkin' 'Bout My (Re)Generation by Andrew Wixon 16/11/00

Well, after a gestation period seemingly nearly as long and painful as that of the movie it documents, here it is, the full, no-hold-barred behind-the-scenes story of the McGann TV movie with the Pertwee logo (referred to hereafter as the TVM).

The first thing to be said is that it's a jolly nice looking book, stuffed with the de riguer photos, production sketches, memos, and so forth that we've come to expect from a large-format Who book. An interesting stylistic touch is the way that Gary Russell's narrative and filling-in-the-blanks material appears in plain grey type, while Phil Segal's own contribution is emboldened (that should make dividing up the libel writs easier).

As far as content goes, well, there's three main sections (though the book isn't organised as such), one covering the boardroom discussions and network passing-the-parcel of the early 90s, one concerned with the infamous 'Leekley bible', and finally one going into almost excruciating detail over the development of the TVM. There's an 'artiste's commentary' of sorts from Sylvester McCoy, Daphne Ashbrook, Yee Jee Tso and Geoff Sax here too. There's also a brief round up of the TVM's reception, a reproduction of the Beeb's current statement vis-a-vis the show, and, rather bafflingly, an afterword from Nick Courtney whose role in the movie I can't quite recall. Maybe one of you will be able to refresh my memory.

Of these, the first is by far the least gripping. It's very easy to lose track of which exec works for the BBC and which for CBS or Fox, even without going into the politics of BBC TV and BBC Enterprises. There's some interesting stuff on the end of Season 26 and the abortive Season 27, though, and especially on Lost in the Dark Dimension (for those of you who remember it).

The Leekley bible is fascinating. In many ways it's become a sort-of Satanic Verses of fandom, but it's a genuinely original and even exciting take on the show, even if some of the ideas are wildly bizarre and/or derivative. The Cyb sketches have to be seen to be believed, while the concept of Barusa (sic) inhabiting the TARDIS core sounds like a bit of a raid on seaquestDSV. The script outline here is a retooling of The Gunfighters (remaking classic episodes was a key element of the bible). Ultimately, though, Leekley's vision is that of DW reshaped in the image of Sliders or Quantum Leap or even The X files.

There aren't many surprises in the account of the Vancouver shoot, but there's enough detail to keep Andrew Pixley happy for days. Segal is very honest about the places where the TVM falls down and the problems the shoot encountered. Reading between the lines, it's a miracle the TVM turned out as well as it did, and it's not really surprising we've had no other new DW since 1989. It's worth buying this book just to get a better understanding of the realities of TV (especially international TV).

It's not perfect. A right-to-reply for some of those Segal criticises would have been reasonable, although the lack of contributions from Paul McGann and Eric Roberts are more understandable. If nothing else, there are enough surprises here to make the purchase worthwhile. Did you know the BBC wanted another old doctor, not McCoy, to regenerate into McGann? Or that Segal approached the BBC about using an old companion in the TVM? The roll-call of actors auditioning for the eighth Doctor's role is fascinating (Paul Cornell will doubtless get a little warm glow upon learning that not one but two Buffy regulars make the very, very, very long list). And just what is Harry Van Gorkum's tiny claim to a key role in Who-history? If you don't know, but would like to, buy this book.