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Doctor Who: From A to Z

By Gary Gillatt

Book review by Paul Scoones

This book gets my award for the most deceptively titled Doctor Who title ever (how many people go to buy it thinking it's an encyclopedia?), but it's also a strong contender for the best factual book about the series as well.

Far from being a dry guide to the history to the series, Gary has selected twenty-six aspects of the series and written an essay on each. Like a magazine, these chapters are best dipped into; to read from cover to cover would be a feat, not because of the length but because Gary's packed in so much thought-provoking material that each chapter really needs to be savoured.

We always talk of Sydney Newman as the creator of Doctor Who, but Gary takes a fresh look at what we know about the origins and identifies another, uncredited individual as the man who came up with most of the initial ideas.

There's a very informative look at the impact and lifespan of so-called ‘Dalekmania’, revealing that by the time the BBC responded to the fad, it was already over. The long-held idea that Christopher Bidmead introduced ‘hard science’ in Season Eighteen is given a shake-up and a rather embarrassing revelation comes tumbling out.

Most poignant for me is the section dealing with how Tom Baker and the fourth Doctor are the same character - something I discovered for myself in January 1997 but have never seen spelt out with such directness and clarity elsewhere.

With all the Doctor Who non-fiction now on the market, it is very easy for the reader to become jaded, but for an entirely fresh and no-holds barred look at what really makes the series tick, this book is utterly indispensable and thoroughly recommended. [5/5]

This item appeared in TSV 56 (October 1998).