Exclusive Interview: John Ainsworth, Editor of Doctor Who: The Complete History

Doctor Who: The Complete History, an encyclopedic collection of books released fortnightly from Hachette, launches in less than a week across the UK – and what better way to celebrate its impending release than a chat with John Ainsworth, editor of the series?

The first issue, priced just £1.99, focuses on four Tenth Doctor stories – Gridlock, Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks, The Lazarus Experiment, and 42 – before subsequent issues cover all twelve Doctors in glorious hardback editions: these build up to an in-depth (and dare we say, definitive) 80-issue set with great spine art to display proudly on your shelf.

John gives us a taster of what to expect…

Kasterborous: Where did the idea first come from?

John: Panini UK’s Managing Director, Mike Riddell and Managing Editor, Alan O’Keefe originated the original idea for what has become Doctor Who – The Complete History. A licence was negotiated with the BBC to publish a Doctor Who partwork that would draw on the large archive of material previously published in Doctor Who Magazine and Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition.

DW Complete History #5

The concept was handed over to the editorial team of Doctor Who Magazine, of which I was a part, and we came up with the idea of basing the partwork on Andrew Pixley’s Doctor Who Archive features, but revising them and updating them where appropriate, as well as including additional new material.

K: This seems like such an obvious (but brilliant) idea – in fact, it’s my ideal partwork. But why do you think something like this hasn’t been done before?

J: It’s quite a mammoth undertaking. Certainly there had been a steady demand to collect together and republish Andrew Pixley’s Archives in a consistent format. However, as is clear from the number of volumes that we will be publishing, this was never going to fit into one single book.

I think the partworks format is the ideal way to publish this material and make it accessible to a whole new audience as well as appealing to the more seasoned fans who will be familiar with the material from its original publication.

K: There are sections on Publicity, Merchandise, Profiles… How did you decide the contents?

J: For both the Merchandise and Publicity sections, we have tried to keep the focus on the individual story being featured. So, for example, for Robot (1974), we list any merchandise specific to that story such as the DVD and VHS releases, plus any merchandise that features the robot, such as jigsaws and action figures.

DW Complete History Publicity Gridlock

Similarly for publicity, we look at how and where each individual story was promoted – for some it’s only a mention in Radio Times, for others there are trails, interviews on chat shows, and press screenings.

K: Have you uncovered any previously-unseen images, and have you learnt any new information yourself?

J: All of the Archives are being revised and updated with new and corrected information to lesser and greater degrees. For some, this means almost a complete re-write; for others, just some minor tweaking – but certainly the intention is to include anything new that has come to light since the original publication.

For the photography, we will certainly be publishing some rarely seen material and possibly some pictures that have never been seen before.

K: Have you faced any challenges when tackling missing episodes? Lack of photos, for instance? Many episodes from The Daleks’ Master Plan, for example, have little visual records… although I’m sure you could use some images from our comic adaptation.

J: Some of the stories are indeed poorly represented by photographs, but for many we do have the actual episodes from which we are now able to take good quality ‘grabs’, and there are also the ‘telesnaps’ taken by John Cura. Some of the stories from the 1965/66 series are going to be our toughest challenge in terms of illustrating them, as there is very little imagery, but we have made allowances for these.

K: Do you think extensions are possible?

Profile - Peter Capaldi Complete History


J: An extension of the partworks is certainly possible. If there is sufficient demand I can’t see why it wouldn’t continue as long as there are stories available to cover.

K: What would you say to anyone skeptical about partworks?

J: Well, that depends in what way they are skeptical. I would remind anyone worried that this isn’t just a lot of reprinted material that they already have in back issues of Doctor Who Magazine, that these are revised and updated. They are also accompanied by brand new material in the form of story introductions, specially researched profiles of the main cast and crew, introductions to each story and series, plus some fantastic illustrations and covers.

The whole series will build to make up an amazingly detailed and consistent history of the making of the series that is also a visual treat.

Thank you very much, John!

Doctor Who: The Complete History launches on 9th September, with further hardback books released every fortnight. Find out more, including how to subscribe, by heading over to their official site.


When he’s not watching television, reading books ‘n’ Marvel comics, listening to The Killers, and obsessing over script ideas, Philip Bates (Kasterborous' former Editor) pretends to be a freelance writer. He enjoys collecting everything. He is the co-founder of The Doctor Who Companion: http://thedoctorwhocompanion.com/

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