Fiction Reviews

Now We Are Six Hundred
A Collection of Time Lord Verse

(2017) James Goss (illustrated by Russell T. Davies), BBC Books, £9.99, hrdbk, 118pp, ISBN 978-1-785-94271-6


A gentle collection of charming, funny and whimsical poems that celebrate the joys sorrows and wonders of the Time Lord's life. Written by Dr Who author James Goss and illustrated (rather well) by the former Dr Who Executive Producer.

Do you suppose
An Adipose
Grows and Grows
The more it Knows?

I have reviewed a Doctor Who cookbook, and there are colouring books out there, and other titles outwith the regular book adventures, but how else can the BBC cash-in on the Doctor? How about a book of poems with illustrations by Russell T. Davies?

In the blurb at the end of the book it is stated that this is Goss’ first book of poetry, and possibly his last – we can only hope so, for he is dammed by his own words, or verse in the poem 'Said Alice' with lines like:

My poem’s not neat
And some of my rhymes
Are terrible crimes

As well as:                                                  

Some people should not be allowed near poetry

And while the current Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy can get away with rhyming Joan Armatrading with armour-plating, I have to wince and squirm and make retching noises at a poem that rhymes 'Yeti' with 'bet-ty' several times.

So what do you get for your almost tenner? A Beforewords and an Afterwords, and a Postscript poem called 'Verity' – guess who that is about! And a whole lot of poems – 50, in fact, excluding the 'Verity' one, ranging in subject matter from the various incarnations of the Doctor, his many enemies including Daleks, Yetis, Davros, Cybermen, Ice Warriors, The Master, and there is even a poem about the Master’s beard! Companions also get a look in, of course, with poems devoted to Jo Grant and Adric, and not surprisingly (with a nod towards Snoopy) there is even one about K9, and another that references all the companions.

The collection starts with 'Full Stop', a poetic comments about each doctor which is, frankly, pretty poor, with lines like:

When I was Two
I was barely through


When I was Four
I hated a bore


When I was Eleven
I totally got Even

While many of these poems riff off A. A. Milne (they are nowhere near good enough to be said to be ripping him off), in some of them the connection with the Doctor is so slight if it were not for the accompanying illustration by Russell T. Davies there would be no connection at all.

Are they any good? Well, you have to read the first ten to reach page 26 and a poem called 'The Hard Stair' about the Sixth Doctor and his fear about becoming the Valeyard that is halfway decent; although as a Second Doctor fan I did like summing-up poem 'Goodbyes' and 'The Companion’s Lament' about (I’m assuming it is from the viewpoint of a female companion like Jo Grant or Sarah Jane) her thoughts on some of the instructions or commands or explanations she received from the Doctor. Passable are some of the poems that give a potted history of a companion, like Jo Grant, or the Ninth Doctor, but I can really do without a poem about a dormouse and the War Doctor.

At the poetry reading bash at Fantasycon this year, Cardinal Cox triumphantly ended the readings with his poem 'Fit for Work' about blind, one-handed, wheelchair-bound Davros being found fit for work and taken off benefits and forced to look for work. That was funnier, and more creative than anything you will find here.  Whovians, of course, will love this book, for them it is critic proof, and it probably will sell enough copies to fill one of the many rooms in the TARDIS: even the library, perhaps.

Standard of the poetry aside, the illustrations by Russell T. Davies are a delight. I don’t buy any Doctor Who magazines, but surely there’s room for a little Doctor Who comic strip somewhere in the vein of Andy Capp or The Perishers or Peanuts?  I can just imagine the Doctor as Andy Capp, and River Song as his long-suffering wife – how about a book like that, eh BBC?

Ian Hunter

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