REVIEW: "Doctor Who--The Book of Lists" Book

by Zepo
01 May 1998

RATING: 5 (of 10)

Justin Richards and Andrew Martin, _Doctor Who--The Book of
Lists_, (London: BBC Books, 1997).

[Image of Cover]

     The first non-fiction paperback to be published by the new
BBC Books imprint is Justin Richards and Andrew Martin's 
_Doctor Who--The Book of Lists_.  I consider myself to be one of
the target audience members for the book.  After all, I am the
kind of person who enjoys researching information about the
program in explicit detail and the cover clearly states that the
book is "The Doctor Who Trivia Buff's Essential Companion."  So I
decided to have a look at this new offering.
     The book's concept is a simple one.  It echoes the numerous
"book of lists" paperbacks that were so popular in the 1980's.  
The writers simply selected a few, most often trivial, points and
created a list of all of the mentions or instances such an occurrence
in the series took place.  A solid example of such a list would be the
one called 'A Holiday for the Doctor' in which stories are listed
where a regular cast member does not appear.[pp. 63-65]  The book is 
broken up into four sections each dealing with a separate part of the 
program: production, narrative, trivia, and the basics (a listing of 
stories and actors).  The concept for such a book is simple, but when
researching a program that ran for 26 years the search is not always
     There are a few lists that stand out as being rather
interesting or helpful.  One would be 'Here We Go Again' which
lists the reuse of original footage within the series itself.[pp. 
48-50]  Another is 'You're Serious Aren't You?' which lists a few 
pages of in-jokes that can be found in the series.[pp. 51-53]  Yet 
another list is helpful if one enjoys gathering information about the 
Doctor Who universe for use in such things as creating a setting for 
a role-playing game or perhaps giving one's self a try at writing a
piece of fiction within the Doctor's universe.  The list called
'Praise the Company' lists the names of many of the corporations found
in the series and the stories that they were found in.[pp. 96-97]
     However, some of the lists seem to fail themselves.  The
list dealing with continuity contradictions entitled 'I Know What I
Said' leaves out what the book improperly calls the "three
destructions of Atlantis" probably one of the most famous instances of
them all.[pp. 123-125]  Even if fandom in general is familiar with 
the three cases for the existence of Atlantis, there is no reason to 
leave it out of the book. There are other incidents where a list 
includes a rather dubious inclusion such as in the previous mentioned 
list 'A Holiday for the Doctor.'  That list incorrectly includes 
Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant as not having appeared in the first 
part of "Revelation of the Daleks" simply because they only appeared 
in film shot on location rather than in studio work.[p. 65]  The 
offering entitled 'I Took Lessons from John L. Sullivan Himself' 
itemizes people that the Doctor has physically assaulted, but the 
list does not complete itself as it simply ends with "various people 
get the Third Doctor's chest-pinch thing--Stahlman, Leeson 
etc..."[pp.144]  This is not nearly the only case in which the book's 
lists are incomplete.
       By having incomplete lists allows the book to fail to some 
degree.  The authors, however, try to cover up the many flaws or 
missing elements in their research by adding the following to the 
book's introduction:

               It is also worth noting that the lists 
          are not necessarily exhaustive--for example,
          in our list of beverages featured in Doctor
          Who, we may well have omitted a couple of 
          sequences (by accident or design).  Our 
          objective for this volume has been to 
          entertain rather than slavishly enumerate.
          And part of the entertainment, of course,
          is in spotting the omissions!  Lists with a 
          relatively low, finite number of entries
          (actors who have appeared with most of the
          Doctors, for example), we have of course
          striven to make definitive, exhaustive, and
          correct.  Doesn't mean we've manage though.

     I have a few inherent problems with a book that reports on
its front cover to be "the Doctor Who trivia buff's essential
companion" yet fails to deliver what it promises.  A book of
lists should be complete, exact, and properly correct.  Likewise
I look for a sensible approach to the canonicity of what should
be included but cannot agree with the authors on that point
either. The introduction has the authors state "we do not treat
anything other than the Doctor Who TV series as 'canonical.'"  I can
agree with such an approach, yet they also include the made- for-TV
film which they call "Doctor Who: The Movie."  Simply by name alone,
including "the movie" as part of the "series" makes no sense.  The
authors also include the unbroadcast story "Shada" in a few lists such
as on page 95.  Overall, _Doctor Who--The Book of Lists_ can be a
somewhat interesting read at moments, but overall it is a lot
less than what I had hoped for.

(c) copyright Zepo, 1998.

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