Review: Behind the Sofa - Celebrity Memories of Doctor Who / Editor: Steve Berry / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: October 31st
Everyone, it seems, loves Doctor Who. Or rather, everyone, at some point or other, has loved Doctor Who. This warm and charming book, an updated and expanded version of an edition first published last year, is a timely reminder, with the Fiftieth Anniversary celebrations upon us, of just why this show remains so important and special to so many people after five decades.
It’s easy to forget just how hugely influential Doctor Who has been since it flickered onto TV screens on a cold November night in 1963, how those first images of the impossibly-huge Police Box, a mysterious and grumpy old man and his unearthly granddaughter along with that pulsating radiophonic score fired up the imaginations of viewers young and old and in many cases seared into place a lifelong obsession. Because Behind the Sofa is all about obsession as the great and the good, the well-known, the infamous and the ‘who’s that again?’ recount some of their earliest memories of the show, the moments that remain imprinted on their memories, close encounters with the stars and random memories of books, toys and games long since lost or destroyed. New to this volume are entries by the likes of Girl in the Fireplace actress Sophie Myles (she didn’t understand the script), K9’s voice John Leeson (memories of scrabbling around on all fours in rehearsal room floors), Mel actress Bonnie Langford (screaming in the key of E), Bernard Cribbins (that Dalek Invasion of Earth anecdote again), Richard Madeley (remembering the first episode), Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs (refusing to go to Sea Scout camp as a boy for fear of missing an episode of Planet of the Daleks) as well as luminaries such as Mat Irvine, Lindsay Duncan, Ben Aaronovitch. Old favourites from the first edition are still there, of course, including comedian Rufus Hound’s tear-stained epiphany in a hotel room watching 2008‘s Silence in the Library two-parter, author Daniel Blythe’s tear-jerking farewell to Lis Sladen/Sarah Jane and DJ Jo Whiley’s admission that she was once a member of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society and, like many of us, spent happy hours watching ropey fourth-generation VHS copies of old serials in the years before official video releases from the BBC.
It’s not just the household names who hold Doctor Who close to their hearts so don’t make the mistake of skipping past entries written by obscure writers, journalists and cryptozoologists. Everyone’s got something interesting to say about Doctor Who, everyone’s got a special memory and, it seems, every moment of the show’s long history is dear to someone. In a year when new, glossy souvenir books and dense analytical volumes are appearing week after week, Behind the Sofa, with 100% of its royalties going to Alzheimer’s Research UK (sufferer Terry Pratchett provides a new introduction) is in reality the one book your conscience pretty much obliges you to buy. Good-natured, up-lifting, amusing and heart-warming, it reminds us how far we - and Doctor Who - have come since 1963 and that, a little over ten years ago, a book like this just wouldn’t have been possible. Essential reading.