Review: Doctor Who: Books: Behind the Sofa
(The final version features different mini-pics on the cover)

(The final version features different mini-pics on the cover)

Edited by Steve Berry

Gollancz, October 31st

A selection of celebrity memories of Doctor Who

Sitting on my desk is Drabble Who, a small book that came out to mark Doctor Who’s 30th anniversary, edited by David J. Howe and David B. Wake. It was a collection of “drabbles”, 100-word stories or anecdotes about Britain’s favourite Time Lord, released to raise funds for the RNIB Talking Book Fund. It’s one of those bits of ephemera which a few might recall, and I dip into every so often (Howe’s own entry sometimes seems very prescient!).

The idea of an anniversary book for charity has thankfully not been lost. Behind the Sofa, released twenty years later for the show’s 50th anniversary, is in aid of Alzheimer’s Research UK, but is much higher profile, with its initial edition crowd-funded through editor Steve Berry’s sterling efforts, and now picked up by Gollancz for wider distribution in an expanded version, featuring a number of new entries. It’s likely to be one of the few among the plethora of books released around now that actually comes down off the shelf in years to come, much as I have returned to Drabble Who.

It’s a fascinating insight into the way people remember Doctor Who – from Sir Terry Pratchett’s forthright introduction (which won’t do the egos of some of the classic Doctors much good), to Polly Adams’ open admission about when she was proudest of her father, or Bernard Cribbins’ recollections of coming up with the idea of the paint gun zapping a Dalek. Some of the names of the “celebrities” may be unfamiliar – there are a few “fan celebrities” in here – but the vast majority will be instantly recognised: Berry hasn’t just got members of the cast and production teams from across the years, but people from the wider entertainment world who share a love of the series.

And that’s the other thing that comes across from this: if anyone asks you why people love a show that has the faults that even the most uncritical fan has to admit exist, point them in the direction of this little volume. Even Michael Grade has good things to say about it (okay, the new version, not the one he tried his hardest to axe permanently).

Ben Morris’ illustrations bring back memories of the little Frank Bellamy pictures that accompanied some of the 1970s programme listings in Radio Times – sometimes capturing the person interviewed, other times the topic of the piece.

Verdict: With 100% of the royalties going to Alzheimer’s Research, this is a book that should be on every Who fan’s shelf: it will make you chuckle, and occasionally find a bit of a grit in your eye. Highly recommended. 9/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order Behind the Sofa from Amazon.co.uk

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