03 November, 2011

Sex in Space

The Prison in Space is an unmade Doctor Who story from Patrick Troughton's last season that has survived as a complete set of scripts. These scripts have just been published as a book by Richard Bignell under the Nothing at the End of the Lane imprint.

The four-part serial was conceived as a light-hearted comedy story, a broad satire of the battle of the sexes. Commissioned in April 1968 from the experienced television scriptwriter Dick Sharples, for a time during its development it was intended to write out Jamie and introduce a replacement male companion. The story is especially remarkable because it came so very close to being made. A director, David Maloney, had been assigned, design work was underway and casting was in progress by early October 1968 when producer Peter Bryant decided the story was not working out. Its replacement was The Krotons.

Early this year, Richard Bignell asked me if I’d like to write a review of the story as part of the supplementary material to be included in the book. I had previously written a piece for Richard’s first Nothing at the End of the Lane script book, Farewell Great Macedon, and eagerly accepted the opportunity to contribute to the follow-up volume.

My two-page review, entitled ‘Sex Crimes’, is a fairly scathing of the dreadful sexism prevalent in the scripts. I do however praises other aspects of the story, such as continuity references to an earlier televised story, the strong characterisation of the Doctor and Jamie, and the highly imaginative opening sequence. I wrote my piece in isolation from other contributors and it wasn’t until I received a copy of the finished book that I saw that my review was one of two - the other, by Jonathan Morris, is more forgiving of the story’s shortcomings and effectively provides some balance to my criticisms. This seems to have been more good fortune than design as I gather that Jonathan was equally unaware of what I'd said in my review.

In addition to mine and Jonathan’s critiques, there is also a 'Time Team' feature in the style of Doctor Who Magazine's popular and long-running column, reuniting the original line-up of Jac Rayner, Peter Ware, Clayton Hickman and Richard Bignell - though it should perhaps be noted that Clay is suspiciously slumbering throughout the group discussion!

Also included are Brian Hayles’ original storylines for the Ice Warrior story Lords of the Red Planet, which was scrapped in favour of a different serial - The Seeds of Death.

The highlight of the supplementary material is in my opinion Andrew Pixley’s article ‘Winds of Change’ which examines month-by-month the behind-the-scenes work on the writing and production of Troughton’s turbulent final season throughout 1968.

The Prison in Space script book offers an invaluable insight into what was so very nearly a produced, televised Doctor Who story. It is available to purchase here.