Let’s face it, there’s really no shortage of books and magazines chronicling the history of the tidal wave of merchandise released since Doctor Who first appeared on British television in the cold winter of 1963. The show has spawned literally thousands of collectable items, from the early push along Daleks, anti-Dalek destroyers and Give-a-Show Projectors of the 1960s Dalekmania craze, to the wild-haired dolls and jigsaws from the 1970s and 1980s (when the show was enjoying something of a second wind of popularity) and more niche products such as limited-run figurines and statuettes created for older fans with bulging bank balances when the series fell off air in the 1990s and beyond. Then there’s the comics, books, annuals, videos, DVDs and CDs – the list is endless and even though the merchandising for the modern series has tapered off significantly in the last few years, Doctor Who is a property with an almost limitless capacity for commercial exploitation.
Paul Berry’s fun – if slightly lightweight and inessential – book doesn’t concern itself with the tsunami of material issued since the show returned to our screens in 2005 on the basis that, due to the sheer volume of product released and its wide availability, most of it isn’t the domain of the serious, dedicated collector. Doctor Who Memorabilia focuses largely on merchandise issued during the run of the ‘classic’ series, page after page beautifully illustrated (in full colour) with memory-jogging images of books, toys and assorted Time Lord tat long since broken, lost, mutilated or randomly cast aside. If you’re a long-time fan of the series (or just fairly ancient) then scarcely a page will go by without a cry of ‘Oh I remember that!’ or ‘I used to have one of those!’ That’s really the joy of the book because Berry doesn’t attempt to ascribe any particular value to any of the items illustrated beyond telling readers that some are quite rare, some are worth a lot of money and some are harder to find than a plot in a Steven Moffat script. Indeed, the text content across the entire 98-page book is pretty perfunctory, efficiently if unspectacularly rattling through the history of the merchandise covered in each of its seven chapters and you’ll probably have read the book from cover to cover in less than half-an-hour. You will, however, probably pore over the pictures for ages; old book covers, rare books covers (the covers for the Japanese editions of the Doctor Who novelisations are nothing less than disturbing), long-forgotten VHS and annuals covers and beautifully-detailed action figures and display models.
Doctor Who Memorabilia is a handsomely-presented exercise in nostalgia and that’s never a bad thing. There’s nothing much new here, nothing we’ve not seen or read about before but this is, despite its shortcomings and its lack of real ambition, an attractive and handy little Doctor Who time capsule. Whether it’s worth fifteen quid to add to your collection, however, probably depends on how much of a Who completist you are and whether you can bear facing up to the terrible reality that many of the items pictured are destined to remain nothing more than memories for some and pictures on a page for many more.
DOCTOR WHO MEMORABILIA – AN UNOFFICIAL GUIDE TO DOCTOR WHO COLLECTABLES / AUTHOR: PAUL BERRY / PUBLISHER: AMBERLEY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW