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The Completely Useless Encyclopedia

By Chris Howarth and Steve Lyons

Reviewed by Paul Scoones


The Completely Useless Encyclopedia is accurately described by its title. It is not in the league of the Programme Guide or the Handbook as an indispensable reference work. As an encyclopedia it may be useless, but authors Howarth and Lyons have nevertheless produced something well worth reading for its sheer entertainment value.

The book takes a highly irreverent look at aspects of the series from a fan point of view, giving as much space to the associated paraphernalia as the programme itself. The entries include such headings as 'Bedroom scenes', 'Dalek diet', 'Girl Illustrated', 'Goodies', 'Inside Nicola Bryant', 'Kklak!', 'Nyssa's Skirt', 'Quarries', 'Transvestitism' and 'Vaseline'. BBC Video, the annuals, Doctor Who Magazine, Radio Times, Boxtree Books and even Virgin Publishing itself all come in for some occasionally well-deserved scathing comments, but whilst the book is at its funniest when poking fun at some of the shoddiest television moments and pieces of merchandise, there are moments of praise as well. Howarth and Lyons are critical yet clearly devoted fans of Doctor Who, and this book is best viewed as a highly original celebration of the show in all its mediums.

It is not a book best read cover to cover, but instead one to flick through and dip into at random. Do not however make the same mistake as I did by attempting this in public, as like me, you'll find yourself struggling to control your laughter at such entries as 'Hadron Energy' or 'Longleat'. The arrangement of the information may be haphazard but the research is sound and the accurate observations on the television episodes, the novels, the magazines, videos and fandom are priceless. Meanwhile I'm resolving to pay close attention to the list entitled 'Ten Silly Things That Fanzine Editors Do'.

Original cover

This item appeared in TSV 49 (November 1996).