The Unofficial Doctor Who Big Book Of Lists by Cameron K. McEwan and Andrew Skilleter (book review)

May 29, 2015 | By | Reply More

‘The Unofficial Doctor Who Big Book Of Lists’ by Cameron K. McEwan shouldn’t be confused with ‘Doctor Who: The Book Of Lists’ by Justin Richards and Andrew Martin. After all, the latter was published in 1997 and since then we’ve had a whole ten years of new ‘Doctor Who’ to enjoy so there should be plenty of new material to plunder.


Keeping the retro theme going, McEwan has teamed up with veteran ‘Doctor Who’ artist Andrew Skilleter to provide the book’s numerous illustrations. Skilleter’s work on books like ‘Cybermen’ and his iconic cover and poster for ‘The Five Doctors’ have been rightly lauded by fans for many years, so it’s great to see new artwork from him.

The book itself is an irreverent look at ‘Doctor Who’ in the form of a number of lists, many of which originally appeared on McEwan’s website ‘Blogtor Who’. For example, ‘Height Of The Doctors’ or ‘Stories Featuring Gallifrey’ are subject material. These lists are as McEwan points out, based on ‘fact’. Which is fine, until he presents the reader with a list of ‘Underrated’ stories which isn’t ‘fact’, but rather his ‘opinion’. The book is at its best when it sticks to trivia such as ratings, which for the some Who fans will, in themselves, be quite interesting.

Skilleter’s artwork is for the most part well drawn. His likenesses of Tennant and Smith on the front cover seem to have escaped from a ‘Radio Times’ Christmas front cover. The bigger problem perhaps lies in the use of the imagery. Most independent ‘unofficial’ publications tend to shy away from using visuals connected with the show, the TARDIS for example, especially the Daleks, as these have to be licensed from Terry Nation’s estate to be used by BBC Worldwide. It is surprising then to see this ‘Unofficial’ publication use the imagery so abundantly within the book.

While McEwan may believe he has enough friends within the ‘Doctor Who’ world and the BBC to prevent any major copyright claim being made against him, I struggle to believe the same is true for Disney and Lucasfilm. Imagine my surprise when I came across a double page illustration of Boba Fett by Skilleter in the book, accompanying an article on ‘Doctor Who’ actors who have also been in the ‘Star Wars’ movies. I’m not sure how many times you say ‘Unofficial’ on a book, a more litigious American firm may have a different view on acceptable use.

Overall, ‘The Unofficial Doctor Who Big Book Of Lists’ is pretty inoffensive toilet reading material, any ‘Doctor Who’ fan can pass some time on the loo or train with it and be entertained. There have however been a couple of similar books in recent years and ‘Who-ology’ by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright kept springing to mind. Personally, I preferred ‘Who-ology’s illustrations and in fact dug that book out after reading the ‘Big Book Of Lists’.

To be honest, McEwan does write amusingly and there were some descriptions that tickled me, but other books have done this before and done it better. You may illicit a thrill from reading it due to the potential for Disney’s lawyers to get hold of it and then you may never see it again. I’m not sure that you would miss it all that much.

John Rivers

May 2015

(pub: Racepoint Publishing. 256 page paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-63106-042-7)

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Category: Books, Doctor Who

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