Non-Fiction Reviews

Doctor Who
The Book of Whoniversal Records

(2017) , BBC Books, £25 / US$34, hrdbk, 223, ISBN 978-1-785-94219-8


Out last year (2017), just in time for Christmas but still of interest to Whovians, was this full colour, heavily illustrated, indexed companion to the series, boasting a 3D effect cover with a swirling clock face and a TARDIS, rather like the title credits for the show, and a little blurb that says this is the “Official Timey-Wimey Edition”. The back cover asks important questions like: What is the deadliest weapon in the universe? (What is) The most dangerous stunt ever performed on Doctor Who? (And what is) The Doctor’s greatest weakness? Earth, and humanity, I am guessing, but it is only a guess, the answer to those questions and a whole lot more can be found inside.

After an introduction, the book is split into ten chapters, covering things like; The Doctor, Alien Worlds, Destruction, TARDIS, Earth and Humanity (could I be right about the weakness question?), Daleks, Companions, Technology, Monsters, and Words and Pictures. The chapters are followed by an index and acknowledgements.

The very first chapter on the Doctor himself asks various questions about him as a Time Lord, his role as Presidents (yes, Presidents) and there are various facts and figures about the actors who have played him, and things like “falling”, “stunts””kissing”, “friends”, “sporting achievements” his involvement in the Olympics, and so on.

Likewise the next chapter on Alien Worlds considers the worst planets, the best places to go on holiday the most improbable worlds, Gallifrey, fuel sources and hazards and much more. Not surprisingly, the chapter on Destruction is a biggie looking at the first person to die in Doctor Who to the first person the Doctor killed, to explosions and weapons and screaming, but sometimes screams can be a weapon too. Naturally this section also looks at the Time War and the War Doctor, but we do get some facts and figures from behind the scenes looking at special effects and censorship, even the worst on-set accident.

The fun goes on and on, and this book is beautifully illustrated throughout, ending with a list of award nominations in various categories, although I can’t seem to remember any mention of the stage play I saw back in the day starring Jon Pertwee, so I’ll just need to scour the pages again, but maybe that was an unofficial version, rather like the two Peter Cushing films involving the Daleks.

The Second Doctor played by Patrick Troughton was my Doctor, so I’m chuffed to see that those who played the Doctor, name him as their favourite, and as Colin Baker remarks, if Troughton had made a mess of things there never would have been a Third, or Fourth, or Twelfth. Sadly, he’s also the Doctor with the most missing episodes, including the story ‘Fury from the Deep’ which I remember scaring me big time as a child and was also the first story that featured the sonic screwdriver. I was also chuffed to see that his companion, Jamie, played by Frazer Hines, was the companion who had appeared in the most episodes, although the late Elisabeth Sladen appeared more times as Sarah Jane, but that includes her spin-off adventures with K9 and in her own series.

It is not surprising that the old Doctors feature more heavily that those from the rebooted series. Christopher Eccleston only made one series after all, and Paul McGann, the lost in limbo Doctor, was only in one extended episode, or TV movie, although he has featured in books, audio adventures and a very short television/YouTube episode linking him to the War Doctor. As with all records, they are there to be rewritten, and with the demise of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and the appearance of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor, expect a future edition with new records in a couple of years time. This does what it says on the tin, and is a must-buy for Who fans everywhere as a reference book, an argument settler, and a source of facts if you happen to be running a Doctor Who quiz night.

Ian Hunter

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