(2006) Nick Griffiths, Gollancz, £12.99, hdbk, 261pp, ISBN 978-0-575-0-7940-3
This is a memoir, in the style of Fever Pitch, from a former journalist with a life-long love of Dr.Who. In an immediate attempt to get out from under the long, dark geek/nerd assumptions the blurb on the back proclaims his other interests, but they don't really feature much in the book itself. One of them is a love of Interpol . I have never really thought about Interpol much (although I'm sure they do a marvellous job) and you don't hear much about them these days (perhaps they should sack their press agent?), and for anyone to declare themselves keen on a multi-national police force seemed rather odd. I mentioned this to a friend and he informed me that Interpol are a current American band whose music is of a similar style to Joy Division, which finally made sense as Nick is a music journalist. Then, over two hundred pages into the book, a throwaway reference reveals that Interpol is some sort of computer game like Solitaire. Oh well...
Nick Griffiths likes Dr.Who and music, so for me the book rather falls between two stools. I am a big Dr.Who fan, probably an 8 or 9 on Nick's home-made scale, while he claims to be around the 3 or 4 mark (although his set of 9 Tom Baker bathroom tiles and replica Voc robot mask would imply a higher score). I am not into music. So while he is talking about Dr.Who, I am there; when he is being nostalgic for his childhood or going through the traumas of boy/girl relationships (surely common to most human beings), or even when he is telling an anecdote about pigs and their testicles - I REALLY did not need to know, thank you very much - even then I am still in. When he talks about David Bowie, I am not. And someone who is into music would probably feel the same about the Dr.Who bits.
So, with that understanding, I shall continue this review from a fan perspective. And the problem with this book is that there isn't enough Dr.Who in it (but, then, you can say that about a lot of books - Jane Eyre is very disappointing in that regard as well). And what there is isn't particularly new or insightful either. This book seems aimed towards the new fan or nostalgic casual viewer of a certain age (i.e. 35-40) if, indeed, it is aimed at anyone in particular. Nick recalls watching the show on broadcast; Nick watches a few again on video and finds them less impressive than he remembered; Nick tries to get his family to watch some old stories; Nick meets some of the actors from the show, feels awkward and does not know what to say -- well find me a fan who couldn't tell you a similar story!
Now, although it is not mentioned on the back of the book (which is strange as you would think it would attract some fan interest) Nick Griffiths writes about Dr.Who for the Radio Times. He wrote the 16-page supplement that accompanied Paul McGann's solo appearance in 1996, and he has been involved in the coverage of the new series from 2005 onwards. This, you would think, would lead to some interesting stories and insights but, sadly, no. It is all rather lightweight. And that rather sums up the whole book for me. It is a light read in a Summer garden. You might get nostalgic, or recall some similar moments in your own life, but it won't make you think too much. "Advice you say? I never give it!" so said the original Doctor, William Hartnell, but I'll give Nick and his publishers one freebie: Dr.Who started in 1963, not 1962, and if you can not get that bit right on the blurb on your book right before it hits the shelves, then that's where most Who fans will leave it.
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