BooksDoctor Who

The Doctor: His Lives And Times by James Goss and Steve Tribe (book review).

If I was nine years old and I received ‘The Doctor: His Lives And Times’ by James Goss and Steve Tribe for Christmas, I would have been overjoyed. Here’s a book that is not only full of memories about the show, but also has great fun in relating the Doctor’s adventures to us via a selection of mocked-up documents, such as the Doctor’s school report, newspaper clippings from Sarah-Jane Smith or Mickey’s blog where he moans about Rose and himself.


It’s a well-known conceit if you’ve been around ‘Doctor Who’ books for a while. David Banks’s ‘Cybermen’ and Adrian Rigelsford’s ‘Doctor Who: The Monsters’ were both built around this sort of material. It has a wider heritage, too. The mock pharmaceutical ad suggesting you use ‘Terminus Incorporated’ wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Goodies or Monty Python book from the seventies. It’s great fun and is perfect for diving in and out.

The anecdotes and memories in the book, presented Doctor by Doctor, are a compilation of old interview snippets and new short pieces about different stories. For example, Donald Tosh is invited to write about ‘The End Of The World’, Colin Baker explains his love for ‘The Empty Child’ and ‘The Doctor Dances’. These new pieces are frustratingly short, but intriguing nonetheless. They provide a short, unique perspective on stories, perhaps previously unknown to most readers.

Which brings me to the other recollections that make up the majority of ‘The Story Of Doctor Who’ sections. At the back of the book, Goss and Tribe have written-up what seems to be a comprehensive list of sources, however they have made the decision not to attribute individual sources to each quote. Therefore a quote may easily come from ‘Radio Times’, ‘Gay Times’ or even fanzines like ‘Tranquil Repose’ or ‘The Frame’. This irritated me. While the collection of these quotes into a chronological order, more or less, is admirable and a good reason to buy the book, it does seem a bit disingenuous to not give credit to those who conducted interviews, especially those from fanzines who were doing this for love not money.

A final mention should go to the book’s design, which is largely fantastic. The creation of the mock pieces and the ‘scrap book’ approach will give readers hours of fun pouring over the detail. The hardcover presentation was excellent and feels well-worth the price of the book alone. Now that the ‘Doctor Who’ excitement of 2013 has calmed for a while (at least until August – ‘Do YOU know how to fly this thing?!’), you’ll probably be able to pick up ‘The Doctor: His Lives And Times’ for a little cheaper. The book makes a good present for the younger fan who will enjoy learning more about what was going on behind-the-scenes, while older fans will equally get a kick of the jokes. It just needed a little more consideration over the material it used and how it was presented.

John Rivers

December 2013

(pub: BBC Books/Ebury Publishing. 256 page hardback. Price: £20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84990-636-4)

check out website: www.eburypublishing.co.uk

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