Since Doctor Who returned to our TV screens in 2005, it has become a runaway success so it’s astonishing that this unofficial DW episode guide appears to be the only one currently available for the new series. It’s not even a British affair; the two authors are Canadian, and the book is published by the Toronto based ECW Press.
So is it worth shelling out for? TV episode guidebooks usually fall into two categories. There are those that are just ego trips for the writers, full of bombast and nit picking, with little in the way of episode plot, trivia and facts. The other type gives you an overload of detail and facts on each episode, with just a small amount of criticism. ‘Who Is The Doctor’ falls somewhere in the middle; well researched in it’s episodic facts and figures, but also weighed down with lengthy criticisms. This book covers in detail the first six seasons, plus all the specials, whilst articles known as Psychic Papers provide actor and writer biog’s, plus other information concerning characters and events from the Classic Series which link through to nu-Who. There’s an opening essay on the history of the programme from it’s beginnings in 1963 up to 2005, but I would like to have seen an essay on how original show runner Russell T. Davies overhauled DW, and his thinking on how to present it to a 21st century audience, with the influences of modern television drama presentation.
It goes without saying that Doctor Who now looks absolutely astonishing, with a lavish production design courtesy of a budget that the Classic Series could only dream of, and our two authors are over the moon about it. But in the end it all comes down to the writing; all the CGI effects in the world can’t hide a lousy script. The reviews of season one (the only one I have watched in full so far) are mostly gushing with high praise; only the third episode ‘The Unquiet Dead’ gets a real thumbs down. But having had a sneak look at some of the later season reviews, I can reveal that it’s not acclaim and adoration all the way. Thank goodness for that; it could get very wearing otherwise. The book does assume that the reader has a complete set of DW DVD’s of all the featured seasons and specials. If you’re reading this book not having watched the episodes since their original TV broadcasts, you could find yourself having problems trying to remember it all!
I do wish however that they could have enlarged slightly on plot synopsis, and also included full reviews on the show’s two spin-offs, ‘Torchwood’ and ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ oh, and an index would have been nice. Despite these slight grumbles if you are a fan of nu-Who and just want to know more, then this book comes highly recommended.