If you lost countless nights of sleep growing up thanks to the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books written by Alvin Schwartz, you know just how crucial the artwork by Stephen Gammell was in planting the seeds deep in your psyche that would later grow into terrible nightmares.
You’re also probably aware that the books were re-released a handful of years ago, complete with brand new, far less haunting artwork. This did not go over well. Fans were clearly outraged. And, as it turns out, that intense disapproval had an impact. The publisher of the books, Harper Collins, has re-released the books yet again, but this time they have Gammell’s original artwork restored.
Attics can be wonderful, beautiful things. Sometimes they are repositories of worthless junk, but more often they have such wonderful stories to tell. They are full of boxes. Some contain toys from childhood. Others hold certificates, pictures, and correspondence. Still others contain mementos and heirlooms of events both obscure and infamous. There are such stories to be learned, if one can only gain entry and do some research.
That is how it could be for Doctor Who. With 52 years now passed since the show began production, what stories can its artifacts and ephemera tell us? We know the exoteric truths of the show’s production from its primary artifacts — the episodes produced by and shown on the BBC. Surely, there must be more than that. What were the stories, the images, the ideas that never made it onto those tapes? What did time or budget make impossible? What was merely deemed to be poor creative choice?
These are the motivating themes of a new book, Doctor Who: Impossible Worlds by Stephen Nicholas and Mike Tucker. It proposes to take us into the Doctor Who production design department to show how the core ideas of the series transformed from imagination to television drama for over 50 years. In this, it succeeds more than it fails and provides the reader with some rich visual insight into the history of Doctor Who.