BooksDoctor Who

Doctor Who: A History Of The Universe In 100 Objects by James Goss and Steve Tribe (book review).

‘Doctor Who: A History Of The Universe In 100 Objects’ is a curious book that tells the history of the ‘Doctor Who’ universe, a little different to our own, via a selection of items as obvious and esoteric as you might expect. The result is an often enjoyable read that contains much irreverent information.


It’s understandable that James Goss and Steve Tribe wanted to do something a little different to their other large hardback Who book ‘The Doctor: His Lives And Times’. While that title felt like the Peter Haining books of yesteryear, this title is a little more off-the-wall with enough nods and winks to keep older fans chuckling. Using the BBC Radio 4/British Museum based programme ‘A History Of The World In 100 Objects’, the book begins ‘before time’ with the Urns of Krop Tor as featured in ‘The Impossible Planet’ and ‘The Satan Pit’. Each chapter relates a section of history, the Doctor Who story associated with it, some behind-the-scenes information and any other pieces of trivia that the authors thought to throw in.

The lightness of tone is immediately felt when the second object turns out to be ‘Tegan Jovanka’s Lipstick’ and the events of ‘Castrovalva’ are related. A lot of the chapters feature an object then refer to the instances of that object’s appearance. A discussion around ‘The Doctor’s Pipe’ illustrates when smoking was featured on the show, another chapter looks at which ‘Doctor Who’ characters have had tattoos. The trivia contained within is fun and the book enjoys drawing connections from across the ‘Doctor Who’ universe.

Sometimes, it feels like the supporting information is a little strange. For example, the book goes out to point out the terms that practicing Satanists use for a pentagram. Imagine your ten year-old telling you that on Christmas morning! But, overall, the facts and observations are in tone with the book’s playful nature. It’s worth mentioning the illustrations provided by Peter McKinstry, which are evocative and appropriate.

‘Doctor Who: A History Of The Universe In 100 Objects’ is clever without being patronising and funny where it matters. As a ‘history’ of the ‘Doctor Who’ universe it is not the same as Lance Parkin’s ‘A History’ that attempts to pull together all the Doctor’s travels into a chronological order, rather Goss and Tribe have sensibly chosen objects that they believed had great relevance to the show, were amusing or could tell a good story. Worth taking a look if you’re an old or new fan.

John Rivers

January 2014

(pub: BBC Books/Ebury Publishing. 256 page hardback. Price: £20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84990-481-0)

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