Review: Companions – Fifty Years of Doctor Who Assistants – An Unofficial Guide / Author: Andy Franklin-Allen / Publisher: Candy Jar Books / Release Date: Out Now
Companions: Fifty Years of Doctor Who Assistants is a brave attempt at tackling the stories and motivations of the Doctor’s most valued friends. It is an intense and almost scholarly work, but also a firmly engaging and enjoyable read for fans of the show.
The author has gone full tilt at the issue, tackling both the on-screen characters and those found in other media. It’s written in a friendly and very chatty style, making the book feel more like a very long and highly geeky conversation rather than a reference tome. The lack of a proper index or bibliography also adds to the feeling that this is an extended rant. However, as explorations into the nature of the companions go, this is a strong one; we get multiple motivations and ideas as to why someone would travel with the Doctor for each companion. The author valiantly tries to explain the show's many inconsistencies and has a jolly good try at trying to untangle the continuity mess that is The Two Doctors. The Eighth Doctor is also handled particularly deftly, and it’s nice to see Charley and Crizz take centre stage for a while.
A minor niggle is that the book separates the spin-off media into a section called “Expanded Universe” (a term borrowed from Star Wars) and makes various assumptions as to which TV stories are more valid than others; given that the show’s producers refuse to apply the restrictive and pointless notion of canon to Doctor Who, this approach is often grating and unnecessary, especially as the distinction hardly seems to matter.
The assistants of later incarnations of the Doctor also get quite a bit of coverage, mostly due to the complicated relationships they have with the show’s Time Lord and each other. A lot is made of the Sarah Jane Adventure’s episode, Death of the Doctor throughout the book, as this episode does contain some insight into the future of various companions.
Companions: Fifty Years of Doctor Who Assistants is a thorough and fun read for the die-hard Doctor Who fan; if you’ve spent ages debating exactly how many grandchildren Jo Grant has or what exactly happens to poor Peri, then this will thoroughly entertain you. It will leave casual fans cold, however, and should not be approached by novices.