Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: Doctor Who Memorabilia (Paul Berry)

Being the voracious collector that I am, when I spotted this new book from Paul Berry being mentioned on various Doctor Who sites, I had to pick up a copy. Unlike several other Doctor Who merchandise-based endeavors, I had nothing whatsoever to do with this one, and so came to it completely fresh. The book doesn't even reference any of my own previous books or works on the subject (which I thought a little strange, as something like this really cannot exist in a vacuum, or perhaps it can?) although a copy of Doctor Who: The Sixties is shown along with other factual books, so I was interested to see what approach the title took.

Getting the most obvious thing out the way immediately, this is not and is not intended to be, a comprehensive guide to Doctor Who memorabilia and collectibles ... if anything it's a sort of 'starter' book, breaking the subject down into categories and then presenting pictures and a narrative to some of the items released in those categories over the years. Thus we have Books; Toys, Models and Games; Audio Visual; Comics and Magazines; Sound; Cards; and Collectors' Items. Thus the book doesn't touch on things like Clothing or Confectionery, Computer items or Sundries (Posters, Stationary Items, Postcards, Mail Items etc) ... but then with only 96 pages to play with, something had to give somewhere.

The text provides a basic overview of each of the areas chosen, and explains that the book really only covers up to the end of 2004, so just before everything exploded when the show returned in 2005. This would seem to be a sensible cutting off point, but perhaps disappointing for anyone coming to the book in the light of the new series, only to find that it doesn't cover what has been released for later Doctors. To be fair, there are some more recently released items pictured, like a bust, a WETA statue and some of the Character Options figures - but these are all releases of characters from the first eight Doctors' eras ... there is nothing from the ninth Doctor onwards.

The text is straightforward and charts the notable releases through the years in each category. I didn't notice any major errors, but there are a few little blips For example, mention of 'a one-armed Davros' from Dapol as being inaccurate ... it was the two-armed Davros which was the incorrect one. The Magazines section claims eight different titles being published at the time of publication but seems to list six: Doctor Who Adventures (stopped in June 2017 - they were not to know this one!); Battles in Time  (stopped in May 2009); Monster Invasion (stopped in April 2013); Doctor Who Insider (stopped in October 2012); Doctor Who DVD Files (stopped in October 2014) and The Doctor Who Figurine Collection (still ongoing) ... The actual current magazines being published in 2017 are: Doctor Who Magazine (and also The Essential Doctor Who range and the Special Edition range also from Panini); Doctor Who Adventures (though this stopped in June 2017 - this month's is the last!); The Doctor Who Figurine Collection; and of course all the different ranges from Titan Comics. There's 3rd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Doctor ranges, but also other things like the Summer Specials and so on, but we can perhaps call those 'one-shots'. So that's something like 12 different ranges being currently published!

In the Audio section, Berry claims that a 7" release of the Doctor Who theme was the first piece of bona fide merchandise ... I hope he means the Eric Winstone cover which was released in January 1964, with the Radiophonic Workshop's version following in February of that year? Unfortunately bona fide isn't defined ... but I think I'm right in saying that neither of these releases were licensed by the BBC as they didn't own the music - Warner Chappell have always owned and control the rights to it. Indeed, whether something is licensed by the BBC or not is not really a means to define what is 'valid' in terms of Doctor Who merchandise anyway ... several things have been licensed by their legal owners, who happen not to be the BBC, and this in no way diminishes their validity as a genuine collectible, and other things don't even need a license to be done in the first place - indeed this very book states that it is 'unofficial'. As I say, the book doesn't talk about or define this element at all, which is probably wise.

The section on Cards talks about the BBC's 'character cards' being sold and sent out by the Doctor Who office at the BBC during the eighties, but doesn't point out that these cards had been available since the sixties for all manner of TV shows, and indeed Hartnell, Russell, Ford and Hill had them available. These may well be the actual first examples of Doctor Who merchandise as the images on those for the initial TARDIS crew are all taken from the first story. Unfortunately no actual release date for them is known.

In the Collectors' Items section, it's notable that the Robert Harrop statues are not mentioned - these are primarily of characters from the classic series, and started production in 2015, so it's strange that they're omitted.

Overall this is a really smashing little book, providing a concise overview of Doctor Who collectibles. It's puzzling why the main title calls it a guide to 'Memorabilia' as this usually refers to props,scripts, autographs and other unique items rather than mass-produced ephemera, but this is a minor point.

The reproduction is good, if a little heavy on the colour side, and the book is nicely printed and bound. All in all, if your starting out collecting and want something to guide you a little through the classic series items, then this is a good starting point.

By Paul Berry
£14.99 Amberley Publishing

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