Candy Jar, out June 27
An overview of fifty years of the Doctor’s companions – in all media…
There have been various books about the companions in Doctor Who over the years; Virgin produced one shortly before the TV movie in the mid-1990s, and the Radio Times provided their own comprehensive guide not that long ago. Frankham-Allen, better known as the force behind the revival of the Steampunk series Space 1889, has to work simply with text, bar a few minor illustrations scattered throughout.
The book sees each of the first seven Doctors receiving a chapter about their televised adventures, alternating with one about the “Expanded Universe” – their spin-off stories – while the more recent Doctors’ TV stories are dealt with consecutively, followed by the expansions. The material about the on-screen tales has clearly been well researched, even if it seems as if some fan theories are presented as facts from time to time (Victoria’s appearance in The Two Doctors being a particular case in point).
The Expanded Universe sections should be the volume’s selling point: while books like Ahistory have examined the plotlines of the New Adventures and their ilk, not since the three volumes of I, Who (some years ago) has anyone looked at the characterisation in them. Frankham-Allen throws up some interesting facts, but there’s not a throughline – for example, there’s a comment about Steven Taylor potentially being the first gay companion, following his appearance in The Empire of Glass, but no discussion of this with reference to his fellow TARDIS traveller, Big Finish companion Oliver Harper (whose secret revolves around his sexuality).
There are some odd omissions as well: we learn a lot about recent comic strip companions (including for some reason, the crew of Picard’s Enterprise, although no mention is made of the flashback to the fourth Doctor’s adventure with the original Enterprise crew in that series), but there’s no sign of Mrs Wibbsey or Mike Yates, the Doctor’s companions in three series of audio adventures. Add to that fourth Doctor companion Sharon – the first black companion – being dismissed in a brief paragraph, and it’s clear this isn’t a comprehensive look.
However, that’s not to knock the amount of work that has clearly gone into this book. Frankham-Allen, however, has been let down by the treatment of his manuscript, which appears to have been spell-checked but not otherwise copy edited. It’s a real shame, because with proper care and attention, this could have been an indispensable guide. 6/10