Sunday, June 09, 2013

Recent Books

I want to talk about a couple of recent books which I got hold of ... both self-published by fans of Doctor Who and both very different.

The first is the second of Keith Miller's compilations of his old Doctor Who Fan Club magazines and newsletters. This is The Official Doctor Who Fan Club: Volume 2: The Tom Baker Years, and what it covers is pretty self-evident from the title.

In the first volume, we were presented with Miller's love affair with the programme, aided by production secretary Sarah Newman, and his encouragement by the BBC to run a fan club - even as far as printing up and mailing out the newsletters for him!

Here we see the shattering of his interest, as the show changed hands (Barry Letts gave way to Philip Hinchcliffe and then to Graham Williams) and the BBC's legal department got all heavy handed on a young fan.

The additional letters and correspondence are sparser here, though the set reports are welcome, and it's good to see that Elisabeth Sladen at least was a sympathetic ear. But the overall feeling is of loss of interest and drive precipitated by an increasingly distant BBC, and also by the, perhaps in hindsight, inevitable interest from the BBC legal department about the legality of publishing a fan magazine in the first place.

The book is, as was the first volume, a marvellous archive of the period, and Miller's magazine Doctor Who Digest, was certainly one that I looked up to at the time, and tried to emulate with my own early fanzine efforts.

More details about the book can be found here:

The second book is a, frankly, impressive and amazing tome called Time & Space Visualiser, and it has been put together by the talented Paul Smith - I have raved about his earlier work on the Wonderful Book of Doctor Who 1965 and the pastiche Radio Times Special for the new incarnation of Doctor Who from 2005 onwards. Plus he did the Signature Collection books for Telos :)

The book is a collection of full colour graphical representations of facts and figures about Doctor Who. Now many books have published lists of viewing figures and AI ratings, transmission dates and times ... and so on - fundamentally the building blocks of a reference work! - but what Paul has done is to take these, and many, many more views of the show, and build graphical images around them. These are not pie charts or bar charts (though there are some like that here), but wonderful artistic representations of the figures.

Some examples picked at random: Charts of 'Writers and directors ranked according to popularity of their stories amongst fans'. This uses results from a 'Dynamic rankings' website to present the information as a barchart of coloured pencils (writer) and batons (director). We can see that Neil Gaiman is the most popular writer (followed by Phil Ford, Robert Shearman and Richard Curtis), while Hettie MacDonald is the most popular director (followed by Adam Smith, Toby Haynes and Nick Hurran).

'Significant Heights and Depths experienced in Doctor Who' looks at just that, with some lovely silhouette graphics. The lowest is the Silurian Base in Derbyshire (-250m), and the highest is the Det Sen Monastery (4,600m).

'The Dominance of the four-part story in Classic Doctor Who' explores that subject ... we can see that there are close to 100 four part stories, as opposed to 1 one part story, and 1 fourteen part story. Interesting facts here include that Four parts is the only story length that every Classic Doctor had!

And finally: 'Relative contributions of authors and artists to the Target range of Doctor Who novelisations' - this presents a bookshelf graphic, and cover sketches in relative size to show the stats. Thus Terrance Dicks has most as writer with 65 stories; Ian Marter is next (9) and Malcolm Hulke is third (7). On the cover artists: Andrew Skilleter did most (42), with Chris Achilleos next (28) and Alister Pearson third (23) - it notes that Pearson did a further 48 covers as reissues.

As you can see, the content is diverse and simply overflowing with facts and figures, numbers and charts - all fascinating to see in themselves, but also providing for thought provoking moments of realisation, when you discover that more episodes of Doctor Who have been transmitted on December 25th than any other day of the year!  Or that it would take you 231 days to watch the entirety of Doctor Who at one story a day, or 15.1 years to watch them all at one episode per week!

The book is available from Amazon here:

And in the USA it's here:

Although it is fairly expensive, this is a full colour, 120 page paperback that has been produced with such love and care by Paul, that if you can afford it, please buy a copy!

More information and some selected pages can be seen on the Wonderful Books website here:

No comments: