BBC Books, out May 2nd
A handy one-stop guide to all things Who…
Cavan Scott and Mark Wright’s fun volume isn’t meant to be a replacement for the exhaustive Encyclopedia compiled by Gary Russell, nor is it an examination of the themes within the series, as seen in the About Time books/TARDIS Eruditorum etc. For those with a long memory, it’s an update of Justin Richards’ Doctor Who Book of Lists which appeared in the wake of the Paul McGann TV movie, when BBC Books was at the height of its non-fiction tie-in splurge.
If you want details of which stories were divided into parts and which into episodes; if you’re stuck in London and decide to go on a tour of the Underground to see where the Great Intelligence was at work in 1968 (or whenever it was); if you were intrigued by the book Clara found in the TARDIS library and want to compile your own history of the Time War, based on the information we’ve learned so far – then this is the book for you.
It sensibly treats Doctor Who as one show, without the increasingly irrelevant divide between “classic” and “nu” Who, and equally sensibly doesn’t just present all its many lists in chronological order – some are alphabetical, leading to a reference to the McGann movie (simply known as Doctor Who here) sandwiched between the 1977 tale The Face of Evil and the very first ever episode (with a Matt Smith and David Tennant story on the far side of those).
There are some terrific illustrations courtesy of Ben Morris (which I’m a little surprised don’t get an acknowledgement on the title page), some of which recreate publicity stills, others key moments from the show’s history. There’s only one that I had really had to look at hard to work out who it was meant to be. The illustrations of the different Cybermen are a particular highpoint.
Writing books of lists is not an easy task – you have to ensure that each section packs its own little punch, since people may just dip in to find that piece of information, but someone who chooses to read it straight through shouldn’t get bored. Scott and Wright (whose forbears make an appearance in a recent Doctor Who novel!) develop an easy-going conversational tone (we can discover “the exact number of companions [the Doctor] has snogged”, according to the introduction), and while keeping loosely connected information together under various headings, throw in more than a few surprises along the way.
Verdict: A celebration of all things Who – highly recommended. 9/10