Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Prison in Space (Nothing at the End of the Lane, 2011)

It's an odd mix, this second script book from the team behind "Nothing at the End of the Lane", the excellent, if occasional, Doctor Who history/restoration/archive magazine.

On the one hand, the scripts for the failed Troughton story, 'Prison in Space', is presented over hundreds of pages, with every page lovingly scanned in, as is, at the rate of one page to...well, one page.  Presumably this is for reasons for verisimilitude, and archive telly fans are notoriously anal about exactitude.  
Speaking personally, I would much rather see each page typed out on a PC and everything run together (in the style of pretty much every other script book ever) possibly with annotations running alongside.  That would lessen the unnecessarily huge page count, allow the cost to drop (from its current, steep £17 for a Lulu paperback) and make it considerably more readable.

But I digress.  Alongside this very precise exactitude, and unwillingness to make any allowances for the 21st century, the publishers have decided to go down the same path as early Big Finish audio releases and pretend that, in some way, this discarded script was in fact never discarded but, rather, is a part of Doctor Who in the exact same way as, for instance, The Dominators.  As a result, the script gets the Time Team treatment, which is pointless but harmless and occasionally amusing, as the four - generally interesting - participants act as though 'Prison in Space' is something they can see on screen together and not just something they've all read separately.

Of far more interest, though, is the wonderful Andrew Pixley's piece on a year in Doctor Who, which serves both to frame the circumstances surrounding the abortive attempt to bring 'Prison' to screen and to show that the eventual breakdown in communications stemmed - as it tends to in real life - from a series of stubbornnesses (sic) and misunderstandings on both sides.

Other than that, the book contains a reasonable review of the script by Jonny Morris, a somewhat erratically proofed article by Richard Bignall, and an excellent, if necessarily brief, look at two other rejected scripts (both in a far less advanced state than 'Prison' when cancelled).

All in all, this - like 'Farewell Great Macedon' which preceded it in this script book series - is an intriguing look at a lost story though, unlike that earlier Hartnell script, I very much doubt anyone is ever likely to describe this as a 'lost classic'. 

Away from the content of the main script, though, there's a mixed bag of supporting articles and the book in general is somewhat over-priced for what it contains.  Still, all fans of the show should thank Richard Bignall et al for taking the time to bring this to print - I very much prefer that it exists than if it did not.

Now if they could turn to some more modern scripts - Chris Bidmead has at least one which I'd love to see in print...

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