The Television Companion: Volume One (The Unofficial And Unauthorised Guide To Doctor Who) by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker (book review).

Don’t know what to get the ‘Doctor Who’ fan in your life for Christmas? Replica scarf, as modelled by Ingrid Oliver in ‘The Day Of The Doctor’? Official John Hurt War Doctor bandolier (may not exist)? David Bradley anniversary Hartnell whiskey glass? Or perhaps they need a good grounding in the original series, in which case look no further than David J Howe and Stephen James Walker’s classic ‘The Television Companion: Volume One’.


The premise of ‘The Television Companion’ hasn’t changed since its original release in 1998. Provide each story detailed with a brief breakdown of the title, plot, cliff-hangers, trivia and a small critique. Given that classic Doctor Who’ has some 150-odd separate stories, it is the economy of detail that makes ‘The Television Companion’ a useful and important book. ‘Volume One’ covers the first three Doctors, taking us from 100,000 BC to Metebelis 3. Which, judging by the costuming in both stories, begs the question what actually changed in those eleven years? During the tenures of Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee, the show metamorphosed not once or twice, but four or five times and did so once again when the Fourth Doctor came along.

‘The Television Companion’ does a great job of succinctly explaining these changes and framing each season and story in context. Particularly fun are the ‘Things To Look Out For’ and ‘Popular Myths’ sections which bring something new to each story. The critique sections are also amusing, containing a lot of fanzine review material. If you want to know what new series writers like Gareth Roberts or Robert Shearman thought about a story, you can find it here.

Howe and Walker’s own contributions are largely agreeable, though sometimes I found myself challenging their views. For example, I’d rather watch the ‘Enemy Of The World’ now than ‘The Ice Warriors’ (episode one of the Whitaker/Letts story blows away anything from the latter story, in my opinion), yet the authors believe ‘Enemy’ is the duff story from Season Five. Maybe their opinions will change? They also seem to think ‘Death To The Daleks’ is the best story of Season Eleven, have they SEEN ‘The Time Warrior’?! However, this is all part of the fun of being a ‘Doctor Who’ fan, the book is as much for disagreeing with as it is for referencing.

One minor gripe is that the book has the occasional mistake. Turn to page 29 and you’ll find a letter referring to the ‘Cave Of Skulls’ from November 1964, instead of 1963. Yes it is small, but it’s still irritating in this ‘revised and updated version’. As a reference guide, it really could do with better proofing.

There’s a lot to ‘Doctor Who’, however and a few mistakes can’t really stop you enjoying a fantastic guide to the show in its infancy and how it grew up. Buy this for the young fan in your life who wants to discover more about the show or the older viewer who wants to read ‘Who’ trivia while sat on their loo with or without a yeti, in or outside of Tooting Bec. It’s still a great guide to the programme.

John Rivers

November 2013

(pub: Telos. 496 page indexed small softcover. Price: £15.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84583-076-2)

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