Virgin Books
Who's Next: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who

Authors Mark Clapham, Eddie Robson and Jim Smith Cover image
ISBN# 0 753 50948 2
Publisher Virgin Books
Published 2005

Summary: A guide to the classic series, internet and radio broadcasts and TV specials.


Another Doctor Who TV Guide, how wonderful... by Joe Ford 7/2/06

Good God NOOOO!

I shouldn't be reviewing this book and in ordinary circumstances where I am not dating an evolutionary throwback, I wouldn't be. I was waiting in an airport lounge whilst my gorgeous and none too bright (in the field of Doctor Who) boyfriend Simon spotted this giant volume and thought it would be an ideal surprise to see me through the plane trip. Bless him. I spent an agonising journey smacking the book against the window and cursing at the sheer dumb-faced stupidity of it all. I take this Doctor Who stuff far too seriously.

Why on Earth do we need ANOTHER book that takes us through the entire Doctor Who television legacy? If we take a journey back through the years we have The Programme Guide (an indispensable book at the time, with synopsis for every story!), The Terrestrial Index (with some brilliant facts, notably about which actors appeared in which story), The Television Companion (with its host of diverse reviews for each story), the Handbooks (ratings for each episode, behind the scenes of each Doctor's era, a from script to screen focus on one story from each era with contributions from the directors, producers, actors), The DisContinuity Guide (with its hilarious list of bloopers and choice lines dialogue, both good and bad) and more recently the About Time series (which examines every single story with intelligence and maturity, tackling the stories influences, its themes, its continuity...). So let's take a closer peek at what Who's Next offers us that will give us a spanking new perspective on the TV series...?

The categories are as follows:

Writer: ) These

Director: ) are

Notable Cast: ) self

Producer, Script Editor: ) explanatory

Doctor Who?: Which goes into little depth about the information we receive about the Doctor, his boasts and achievements.

Other Worlds, Scary Monsters, Villains: Another obvious category, telling us a little about the worlds, monsters and villain that appear in each story.

The Plan: What is the villain's plan? How is it defeated? (What is the point of watching the stories?)

Science/Magic: Technobabble and educational bits. But quickly described and not dwelled upon.

Things Fall Apart: Like the goofs section of The DisContinuity Guide, only not funny and full of bizarre and pointless digs (For example in The Dominators: The Dulcian costumes are appalling, toga-like affairs and the actors playing them are pretty awful throughout... many of the observations have a similar pub humour feel, like the authors had got together, had a few drinks and threw together the book out of all their digs and praise. It pains me to admit it but if I were to write a book about the TV series it would probably be full of amateurish digs like this).

Availability: Telling you new fans how to get hold of their recommendations (or not).

Verdict: A review of each story in a few paragraphs.

It is entirely possible that the reviews section is responsible for my venomous reaction to this book as I rarely agreed with anything the authors said and the fact that the biggest section for most stories was the reviews enhanced the feelings that the writers did not want to write a book that allowed fans to look at the series in a new light but get their review in print and on the shelves. Periods of the show are given a real slating (season five, season thirteen, season seventeen and the entire Colin Baker era) whereas other periods are near toe-lickingly perfect (season seven, the Peter Davison era... oh vomit, the Sylvester McCoy era). What's more, the reviews don't feel especially fresh, with old observations being unearthed (Robots of Death is beautifully executed, the guest cast in Snakedance is great, Timelash is rubbish, Survival has a mature script... I could go on) and little that is new added to make this feel any different from the hundreds of other reviews that have been written.

And that is the primary problem with a book of this nature; everything has been said about Doctor Who the TV series. Again and again and again. If you aren't going to bring a unique perspective to the Whoniverse then don't bother. That is why I, personally, enjoy reviewing the books and Big Finish audios more: less has been said about them and it is easier to have something worthwhile and interesting to say. When Who's Next skips from the TV series into the webcasts it actually becomes a good deal more interesting. Unfortunately that is the last ten pages or so of a 400 page book.

Something observations made during this book:

As you can gather from this tasty selection the book is not geared at adults (and if it is... shame on you!) but children who might be interested in the new series. However, I fear even some children may feel patronised by the intelligence of the material. The book starts off quite promisingly in the Hartnell era with some longer paragraphs of information as though the writers were really interested but the book peters out after Pertwee with only a few, simply written observations on each story. What's more, the writers' own opinion of each story seeps into the "factual" material and in some places it feels like they just couldn't be bothered to study some stories in any kind of detail at all. I have since spoken to one of the authors on Outpost Gallifrey who admits this is supposed to be a quick, easy guide for anybody... I guess I just like my books to have a little more depth to them.

So the question remains if this book is a glimpse at the wonderful history of Doctor Who for spanking new kiddie fans that might be attracted to the New TV series... why the hell couldn't they just look at any of the other sources that are available?

Feel free to enjoy this book but it is merely a regurgitation of old information in a less interesting package. What a scrooge I am.